Antonio is quite the Renaissance man: child of Cuban exiles, journalist, PhD student in physics, Wall Street ace, entrepreneur, Facebook ad pioneer, and Silicon Valley apostate. His NYT bestselling memoir Chaos Monkeys got rave reviews until five years later it got him fired from Apple a few weeks into his job because of a woke revolt. Now he has a brilliant substack. In this episode we dive deep into our Catholic backgrounds, Antonio’s break toward Judaism, and the new Woke religion.
You can listen to the episode right away in the audio player embedded above, or right below it you can click “Listen in podcast app” — which will connect you to the Dishcast feed. To listen to two excerpts from my conversation with Antonio — on how he thinks Christianity is flawed compared to his chosen religion of Judaism, and on how the Great Awokening is very Puritan in nature — head over to our YouTube page.
A reader reflects on last week’s episode with Ross Douthat:
You and Douthat are my two favorite contemporary thinkers, so listening to both of you discuss such a wide range of topics absolutely delighted me. While you two have some commonalities in your respective backgrounds that are obvious — Catholic conservatives educated at Harvard and working in journalism — the fact that you have both endured chronic illnesses never occurred to me. Listening to you discuss the struggle and the pain, and the way that suffering has shaped your respective relationships with God, was very moving.
I was surprised by how little of Douthat’s personal spirituality I knew about, despite having read him for over a decade and obviously being very familiar with his overall interest in religion. But you have a wonderful way of getting your interviewees to open up and of empathizing with them, and this interview was no exception.
One amusing part of the interview, which underscores the complexity of both thinkers, was your discussion of the political landscape toward the end. I typically consider you to be to Douthat’s left, and in most cases that is true. But it was enjoyable to hear you outflank him to the right on the question of wokeism. Obviously you have different audiences, objectives, and temperaments that shape your writing.
I also want to briefly note that I greatly enjoyed the old interview that Johann Hari did of you. Aside from how moving it was to hear you discuss your personal faith journey, it was incredibly engaging to hear you and Hari get into the weeds of political philosophy. Also, amusingly, I immediately picked up on your thicker English accent, which you eventually acknowledged as probable subconscious code-switching.
I was in England at the time and the accent creeps back in. A question from a reader:
I have a background in Philosophy of Religion, with some familiarity with political philosophy. However, Oakeshott is someone who has only come on to my radar since following you in the last year or two. Could you make a recommendation for where to begin reading him? I realize he apparently evolved in his thinking, but just curious of a good place to start.
Read his introduction to Hobbes’ Leviathan. Then the assorted essays in “Rationalism in Politics.” Then try the final third of “On Human Conduct.” For a superb account of Oakeshott on religion (the ultimate focus of my own book on him), try Elizabeth Corey’s study.
Another reader points to a sermon in the midst of the Jewish holidays:
I love your writing and your defense of liberalism. Along those lines, I thought you might appreciate this impassioned, yet measured, advocacy of liberalism from a religious perspective. It’s the Kol Nidre (night of Yom Kippur — holiest time of the Jewish Year) sermon from the chief rabbi at Central Synagogue in NYC, Angela Warnick Buchdal, who is herself a trailblazer in being an Asian, female rabbi. (As a Catholic, I hope you don’t mind the comparison at the beginning of Judaism to the Nicene Creed; not sure how valid that is). Her measured yet clear repudiation of identity politics at 14:34 is particularly good:
Central Syngagogue is a Reform synagogue that is probably overwhelmingly liberal in its membership and “social justice” orientation, so I took this sermon, at the most important service of the year, amplified by the Internet and Jewish Broadcasting Service, as a good sign that more are waking up to the threats from the illiberal left.
Another reader turns to the ongoing debate over Covid:
Last week you wrote, “I am befuddled and maddened by the resistance of so many to such obvious common sense.” I find your position regarding COVID “anti-vaxxers” to be uncharacteristically devoid of nuance, especially in light of your recent interview with Michael Lewis. I think I can help explain the skepticism of at least some of the anti-vaxx crowd.
There are many good reasons to be nervous about getting the COVID vaccines. The fundamental problem is that for those who are 12 and older, we have a one-size-fits-all vaccine policy. This despite many well-documented risks for several segments of our population. I will focus on one segment here: Males between the ages of 16 and 24.
This group experiences an elevated risk of myocarditis — inflammation of the heart muscle — after a second shot of the Pfizer vaccine. According to research conducted in Israel, the risk of myocarditis for this group is between 1 in 3000 and 1 in 6000. Additional studies in the US (CDC) and Canada support these figures.
The CDC has acknowledged this risk by simply stating that the risk of getting myocarditis from COVID is higher than that from the vaccines. Therefore, young men should get fully vaccinated, according to the recommended schedule. Furthermore, they argue, most cases of vaccine-induced myocarditis are mild.
I would argue that this is a grossly irresponsible and dishonest position.
I have two male children, 17 and 21. After the older one experienced a fairly severe reaction to the second Pfizer shot, I decided to do my own research before vaccinating my 17 year old. (Also keep in mind that the younger one has only one approved vaccine option right now: Pfizer.) After presenting my findings to several doctors and researchers whom I know, they all quietly suggested that my son be vaccinated but that the second shot should be taken 10 or more weeks after the first shot, rather than the three-week standard protocol from the CDC. They all agreed that “spacing” the shots would likely reduce the possibility of severe side effects.
Thankfully, and not surprisingly, my 17-year-old son did not experience severe side effects after his second jab.
To mitigate the risk of side effects, why hasn’t the CDC pursued spacing shots or other options (e.g., hold off on vaccinating 12-17 year olds until a non mRNA vaccine is approved for them)? Instead they have adopted a “my way or the highway” position. Furthermore, the CDC has damaged its credibility by shrugging off “mild” cases of myocarditis. According to the Mayo clinic, someone who experiences a mild case of myocarditis cannot play sports or otherwise exert themselves for three to six months. Anyone who knows how to use Google can easily discover the CDC’s blatant dishonesty.
Given my personal experience, I am sympathetic to those who are skeptical about COVID vaccines, if they are concerned about side effects. The vaccines present real risks that the CDC is not properly addressing.
I take my reader’s limited point. But in the grand scheme of things, the CDC’s policy is not, I’d say, “grossly irresponsible.” A final reader ends on a promising note:
In light of the census data that came out while you were on holiday, I am picking up a thread from your essay “The ‘Majority-Minority’ Myth.” Most pundits seem determined to view the data through the lens of white vs non-white and, accordingly, to assert that American politics will be forever transformed on the day that those numbers go from 60-40 to 49-51. You offered one good reason to wonder whether this is really inevitable, which is that the boundary between white and non-white is blurry and getting blurrier every year. I’d like to offer another, in the form of a question: what would be the basis of a political coalition among the non-white?
It should be clear by now that “antiracism” has nothing at all to offer Hispanic Americans and is openly hostile to the interests of Asian Americans. The census confirms what every other data point over the last decade has suggested, which is that those two demographic groups are thriving in America. Why on earth would they sign up for the dismantling of a system that serves them so well?
People love to suggest that the driving factor of our deranged politics is the fear that white people have of becoming a minority, but I wonder if it isn’t at least as much influenced by a certain group of “antiracist” activists sensing that their own relevance is rapidly fading.
The reality is that there already exists a multi-racial majority in this country: the people who have more or less bought into the concept of the American Dream and committed to expanding access to it to all who are willing to sign up. This coalition includes the majority of white people, of Asian Americans, of Hispanic Americans and of a slice of the Black population that is hard to estimate but which may well be a majority of that group too.
Perhaps what we are experiencing, rather than the rage and fear of white people, is the desperation of “antiracist” activists who see one last window to make their case that the whole system is rigged beyond repair before people finally acknowledge the simple truth that the American system, flawed though it is, offers opportunity for all.
That’s my hope too. If the GOP were not a completely batshit cult, its potential to become a multiracial party in defense of a free society would be considerable. But they can’t or won’t see this.