Reason Podcast

The Social Justice Warrior Handbook: Podcast

Nick Gillespie interviews Lisa De Pasquale about her new parody book on outrage culture.


"That victimhood mindset [really bothers me]," says Lisa De Pasquale, "and if you truly want to empower women, the last thing you should do is tell them that, no matter what you do, you're always going to be a victim of the patriarchy or the victim of Hollywood not giving you enough money or not being as pretty as a model."

Lisa De Pasquale is a conservative commentator, former CPAC director, and author of The Social Justice Warrior Handbook: A Practical Survival Guide for Snowflakes, Millennials, and Generation Z.

Reason's Nick Gillespie spoke with her about how outrage culture has become a cottage industry, the selective feminism of feminists, how social justice warrior elements are leaching into the right, and what, exactly, "Millinneal Pink" is.

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This is a rush transcript. Check all quotes against the audio for accuracy.

Nick Gillespie: This is the Reason podcast, and I'm your host, Nick Gillespie. Please subscribe to us at iTunes and rate and review us while you're there. Today I'm talking with Lisa De Pasquale, whose latest book is 'The Social Justice Warrior Handbook: A Practical Survival Guide for Snowflakes, Millennials, and Generation Z'. Lisa, thanks for talking with Reason.

Lisa de Pasquale: Hi, thanks for having me.

Gillespie: I also want to point out, upfront, that I'm in the acknowledgment section of this book for helping to inspire you, and so are other people, ranging from Ann Coulter to Greg Gutfeld to Kat Timpf to God, who I think is really slumming. I think it's fair to say that, but yeah, this is a very funny book. I was reading it, and it's like a 'Preppy Handbook,' but for people who want to become social justice warriors. It's a pretty funny satire. What prompted you to write this book now and in that format?

Pasquale: Well, for me, I didn't want to write anything that was 'snowflake this' and 'snowflake that,' just because that's not my personality. I don't think the book comes off as mean spirited, which I'm certainly not. You're right to bring up the 'Preppy Handbook' because if you remember that from the '80s, it was something that made fun of with preppies, but they also embraced it, because they're just like, 'Yeah, you know what? That is kind of us.'

That's what inspired me to write this book. I think you'll also see that there's a lot of things that the social justice warriors do. They have a timeline that they go about doing things. It's not just people on the left. I mean, there are people on the right that tend to have some of the same behavior, particularly in an outrage culture.

Gillespie: Yeah, okay, well, so talk a little bit about that, in terms of how do you define "social justice warrior"? Because it's partly the actions, but it's also the content of the thought behind those actions. As you were saying, 'we're in an outrage culture.' How do you define 'social justice warrior'? Then, how do you see the extremes of versions of that on both the right and the left?

Pasquale: Sure, well, to me, social justice came out of the fact that they're standing up for gays, transgender, women, people of different races, and now it's devolved into just being outraged at little things because, for the most part, we do have equality in the United States. Where there are really problems, they're outside of the United States, but they want to confine it to the U.S. Part of that is because of the outrage culture. We've created media, jobs, and just becoming famous from being able to identify something that you're outraged about. When you monetize that … I think it was Gavin McInnes that said it, 'When you monetize it, you can find it under a rock.' That's what we're seeing now, I think, from both the left and the right.

Everybody knows that the left's examples, when it comes to this ad has been on Breitbart or that, but on the right, one of the things that disappoints me is seeing so many of my fellow conservatives or libertarians that buy into that. They go to events, where there'll be a protest and maybe someone clocks them, and they use a video of that to elevate themselves beyond actually contributing something to ideas or to a political philosophy. It's disappointing to see, because people that I've always looked up to, people like Ann Coulter, I don't think she's ever done that. I mean, you don't see her retweeting the haters. That's something, I think, a lot of people on the right now fall back on.

Gillespie: Well, let's get to that in a second. Describe your politics a little bit more because you're friends with Ann Coulter, and you've done a lot with her over the years, in terms of bringing her to CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Committee Conference annually, which you used to organize before you had a falling out over participation by gay conservative groups. You were in favor of bringing in conservative gay groups. CPAC was not. You're not exactly a typical conservative, but you identify as a conservative. Describe your politics and where did they come from?

Pasquale: I guess you could call me politically fluid.

Gillespie: Okay, very good, yeah.

Pasquale: Sometimes I'm a conservative. Sometimes I'm a libertarian. When I was at CPAC, for me, I always invited you to speak, I think, whenever I could. We had people like Tom Woods and Ann Coulter and even the gay groups. For me, CPAC, and this is one of the things that I give David Keene, who founded ACU and CPAC credit for, is that he looked at CPAC as a time for everybody on that spectrum to come together and fight, similar to the joke about libertarians. You get more than two libertarians in a room, they're gonna have a disagreement. That's how CPAC was. We had Sam Donaldson, and we had people that were willing to debate on the left; Arlen Specter and those types.

Toward 2011, 2010, there were some people on the CPAC Board that wanted to control the movement, or control the event, a little bit more. That's when I started, I think, getting a bullseye on me because I wanted it to continue to be that haven for everyone to come together. That's when I really started looking inward, in that, what does it mean to be a conservative versus being a libertarian? For me, the social issues was really where it differed for me. At the time, I actually wasn't a Christian, so I probably was really more on the libertarian side.

Gillespie: What do you mean? When you say the dividing line for you between a conservative, and a libertarian has to do mostly with social issues then? Is that being pro-life? Is it being against gay marriage or pot legalization?

Pasquale: Yeah, I mean, I guess, probably social issues isn't the right way to say it. I guess, in the terms of CPAC, it was more on gay marriage and just acceptance of gays, particularly, into the movement. On the economic issues … I mean, it did become clear. I'm not smart enough to have realized it at the time, but looking back after attending five or six CPAC's and then running five or six CPAC's, here's supposed to be an event that was the conscience of the right, and every year we're having the same speakers talking about lowering taxes and getting rid of federal regulations, and that sort of thing, and nothing changes. Even these same people don't actually do anything beyond platitudes and sending out fundraising letters.

Gillespie: In a way, they're like social justice warriors, where it's more about being seen, being outraged, and making the right talk. Thinking about the issues about equal rights for gays or marriage equality between conservatives and libertarians, that reminds me of when the National Review had its 50th Anniversary dinner, and this would have been in 2005.

It was in this giant building. I don't know if you were there in D.C., but it was funny, because I noticed the Reason Table. They did invite us, which was nice. Libertarians were in the room, but we were about 15 rows behind the Log Cabin Republicans, which at that time was the premier gay rights group for conservatives. I was like, 'Okay, that's about right. Conservatives are more comfortable with gays who are against gay marriage than they are with libertarians, who might be straight, but are in favor of gay marriage.'

What are the social justice warriors that bug you the most on the left? Then maybe we can talk a little bit about the right. In the book, and this is a sense, I actually found I was laughing out loud reading the book, and you talk about feminists broadly … Pardon the pun. It's unintentional, but you mention, when you're saying, 'Okay, if you want to be a feminist, don't just act; ovary-act,' as in ovary and overreact, in which I think is pretty funny.

Then you talk about how feminists can get upset at people for treating women like sexual objects and ignoring them as sexual objects, which brought to mind a famous Lena Dunham flap, where she was in a room with Odell Beckham, Jr., the football player. She, in an interview, talked about how he clearly didn't see her in sexual terms, because she wasn't his type of hot bodied or whatever. It caused a problem, and it illustrated the point. Are there specific social justice warriors, individuals, that just get under your skin on the left, then? Who are they, or what is the general type that just really inspired you to write this?

Pasquale: I'm glad. Bringing up Lena Dunham, she's definitely high on the list, particularly for that story. Probably for me, feminists, just being a woman and being on the outside everything that they think is good. I mean, I'm 40. I'm childless. I have had a pretty good career. I'm not a standard body type, so there's all these things that they claim to be the pinnacle of success for women, but there's no way they would ever promote me. One of the hashtags going around on Twitter was "Amplify Women." They were trying to promote Hillary Clinton's book. Lena Dunham, in particular, because she's someone that grew up, a very privileged life, but is continually wanting to make herself the victim. It's slumming it, politically slumming it.

It really bothers me, because it is going back into that victimhood mindset, and if you truly want to empower women, the last thing you should do is tell them that, no matter what you do, you're always going to be a victim of the patriarchy or the victim of Hollywood not giving you enough money or not being as pretty as a model, and that sort of thing.

Gillespie: Let me ask you with Dunham, did you watch 'Girls', which concluded its, I guess, it was a five or six season run, or however many it was? I watched the show. I read Dunham's book, which I thought was terrible because it was unfocused and thrown together. The depth of her thought, when she's writing about serious issues is just not interesting. She doesn't know that much and doesn't seem to mind that she's incoherent or ignorant on a lot of topics she wants to discourse on, but 'Girls' by the same token, I thought it was … I found it to be absolutely riveting. It was such a damning portrait of millennials. Everybody in the show was self … What do you do with something like that, where she seems to be as an artist in that show? I mean, she was painting a nightmare image of her generation and of her people, and yet she doesn't have that critical distance when she's off set or off camera.

Pasquale: Yeah. I actually really liked the show 'Girls.' I didn't see the last season, but watching it from the beginning, I think you're right in that it was really holding up a mirror toward that millennial generation, and the things that they wanted to say are so empowering, like sleeping around or not really having a job. I mean, you could see these characters are miserable in that life that they claim is so empowering.

To me, it was more of holding up a mirror to their generation than actually trying to be empowering. I don't know how much Judd Apatow had to do with the writing, if that was why it was so different from the book, or if the book was just stream of thought. Let's get a book out, so we can have a best seller. To me, it reminded me a lot of 'Sex and the City', in that 'Sex and the City' tried to do the same thing, in that, let's show these women, sleeping around like men, and doing this and that and all the things that drive conservatives crazy. Then, at the end of the show, everyone got their happy ending, and everyone was happy about it. It ended in a traditionally conservative, family values-type of way, even if the journey was a little different than what people would want.

Gillespie: By the time 'Sex and the City' was done, I was really hoping that, the last episode, they would all be wiped out in 9/11 or something like that. God, forgive me. I'm on the same page as God, literally, in your book, so I think I have a special in now. You talk about other things, like the concept of the color Millennial Pink, and you talk about how it's not pink on steroids, which was a Gen X thing. Everything in Gen X was taken to the extreme. I mean, it was Mountain Dew Code Black and stuff, and the X Games. 'Millennial Pink,' you're right, 'is pink on pot. It's mellow, dusty, faded, and co-opted as our own. Best of all, it's suitable for all 63 genders.'

I guess to go back to … You mentioned Gavin McInnes, the co-founder of Vice, who also had drifted into alt right type of perspective or positions on things, and he now is the head of a group called The Proud Boys, who are unrepentant in their defense of Western Culture, as they define it, and all of that. You talked about monetizing things. Is that what's driving so much of this? It's not monetizing in that, yeah, you can sell pussy hats at the Women's March on Washington, but that you can get a place, you can get a microphone somewhere. What is going on? Why is social-justice-warrior-dumb becoming such a big thing right now?

Pasquale: I think part of it is just … I mean, probably going back to the Andy Warhol 15 minutes of fame, in that, social media, here's this tool where everybody can be famous. You see people on Instagram just posting photos of their daily life, and you see instances of someone being offended by a man being in a movie theater for 'Wonder Woman'-

Gillespie: Or a women's bathroom from the right. That was-

Pasquale: Correct, and actually, from the right, a man insisting that he go to a theater to watch what's supposed to be a fun, women's only showing. I mean, I like the guy that did it, personally, but I mean, it was clearly a stunt. I'm annoyed by all the stunt-driven politics, and the social justice warriors certainly represent that, and conservatives are getting involved in that way, when I'd rather see conservatives get involved on free speech issues and not get into the boycotts and to the fire this person for saying that, but that seems to be what they're learning from the social justice warriors. Part of it is because the social justice warriors have been so successful in using those tools.

Gillespie: Well, Donald-

Pasquale: And-

Gillespie: Yeah. I'm sorry, go ahead.

Pasquale: I was just gonna say particularly, well, it comes to millennials, you know when you talk about Millennial Pink and all of that stuff. A lot of it is that I don't think they have their own yet and so they're going back to that protest boomers culture where it's like we need to feel like our generation has a thing. Making the world a better place and less racist and less sexist and more accepting. I think they're trying to make that their thing. It's just that those problems aren't as big as they've been told they are.

Gillespie: Well, that's a huge irony for all of this, which is that, and you mentioned this earlier by virtually any measure where we're far from perfect, but we're so much less racist, sexist, homophobic, whatever you wanna say. America is such a much more tolerant and accepting society. Is it just … and this is something conservatives say, libertarians say. I think a lot of liberals say that millennials have grown up as these gentle snowflakes that have to be kept from all sorts of bad news or callus producing work. Is it … Do you think millennials are a breed apart that they … this is I guess an ongoing complaint that the generation after you or two generations after you is always soft and weak and privileged and entitled, but is there something different about millennials that reflects poorly perhaps on the people who raised them?

Pasquale: Yeah. I guess most of them were raised by boomers, but I guess you can probably say the same about Generation X. I don't know if it has to do with … There's such an insulated generation in that because of technology and social media, there is so much focus on them and then aside from that, I think being separated from any real troubles. They haven't really seen some big fight like whether it's the Cold War or Civil Rights in the '60s.

Gillespie: Right. Or WWII certainly, but-

Pasquale: Yeah, so-

Gillespie: By the same token, have they been knocked into shelter by, when you think about it that the major event for the millennial generation, which are people born between generally 1981 to 2000. Then Gen Z is the 2000 and on, but is 9/11? Two wars that are still essentially going on in Afghanistan in the Middle East and Iraq, a terrible economy. I mean the entire 21st century has seen sub-average, subpar economic growth. The housing collapse. I mean perhaps … It's a weird paradox, too. Life keeps getting better. I mean our phones get better and better, TV streaming. Medical interventions all get better, but it is also a dismal time it seems.

Pasquale: Yeah. I think part of it is they are removed from the war. I mean there hasn't been any sacrifice on behalf of their generation, unlike a generation that went through a war like WWII generations or boomers with Vietnam. There hasn't been really any sacrifice. Most of them don't know someone that has died in Iraq or Afghanistan or any of the other dozen countries we're in. I think on that side, there probably hasn't been sacrifice and then on the fact that the job market and the economy isn't doing as well. There hasn't been as much sacrifice because a lot of it I think is still subsidized by their parents. I mean there are people in their 30s that are still on their parent's cell phone plans and then-

Gillespie: That's disgusting.

Pasquale: Certainly you have to at least … Pardon?

Gillespie: What would the founders say? What would the founders say? You got off the parcel post plan, family plan that Ben Franklin pioneered, but by the time you were 20, if you lived to be 20, you know?

Pasquale: Yeah. well, and I think it's those types of adult markers that kids are just not, or even if young adults, they're putting off more and more. I mean whether it's buying a house and getting off your parents cell phone plan. There's milestones put back further and further.

Gillespie: Just to stick up for that. I say this as somebody. I was born in '63, so I'm late baby boomer, and I always want to blame the baby boomers for everything and also the greatest generation 'cause they raised the boomers, but my parents were born in the '20s. They started working for real in their teens. I was going off the college when I was 17 or 18 and I didn't really start a career job until I was 30. Maybe it's a sign of wealth that we can afford these extended childhoods now. It may not be all bad, but having said that, are conservatives here?

Well, first off, give me a sense of Donald Trump. What is your sense of Donald Trump? In a way he has given aid and comfort to social justice warriors. He's giving them a reason for being. He's the embodiment of virtually everything they're fighting for, but and is that true? What about the attacks on him from a lot of conservatives? Grabbing women by the pussy is not conservative dogma. Does he make you uncomfortable or do you think overall his presence is actually kind of deconstructing of the whole social justice warrior paradigm?

Pasquale: Yeah. Well, I mean my last CPAC, CPAC 2011, he was a surprise speaker at the invitation of GOProud, the gay conservative group that was later banned. When I introduced him, they had asked me to put in a line about 'and if he decides to run I think he can win.' At the time I thought, sure, why not.

Gillespie: Because it couldn't possibly come true. That's insanity.

Pasquale: Yeah.

Gillespie: Yeah.

Pasquale: The funny thing is I did vote for him, but whenever he accepted the nomination, I was sitting in my chair alone in my house laughing. I couldn't believe this actually, it happened. I think anyone that tries to say Trump is a conservative because of this or that. I mean it's hard to pin him down on any one issue and that's, I think, largely because he's had a career outside of politics. I mean most people are not very … like me. They're very fluid when it comes to their political beliefs, but also most people don't get to be in charge of government.

For me, I think ultimately he's good for politics and this is something as I've written before that I think particularly for libertarians, I think he's good because he's totally busted up the two party system. I mean, he used the Republican Party as a vehicle, but certainly isn't aligned with them on lots of things. There's been some good things that he's done. There's been some good things that conservatives don't like, but I don't think liberals are ever gonna give him credit. He could want to … I'm trying to think like what. He could make abortion on demand up until birth, tax subsidized, and liberals would never give him credit just because they work better, I think, when they have a common enemy. Right now Trump is like you said, they're perfect enemy. I mean it's a rich, white guy who marries models, has beautiful children, so there's like that nepotism angle. He's perfect.

Gillespie: Are conservatives just boring old trolls at this point, though? I mean because, and we talked about this a little bit. The world is becoming more mixed and more mongrelized. It's partly because of technology including things like airfares are relatively cheap. I think more people have passports then they used to and you just see a lot of different things. Pot is being legalized everywhere. The country's getting more secular. By you becoming an active Christian, you're bucking the trend really. Even if … By all accounts, Millenniums are much, much more liberal and much, much more democratic. Vote for Democratic candidates than previous generations. Although they are less partisan than older generations in many ways, but is there a future for conservatives? Because it seems as if they … Among younger generations, they're dying out.

Pasquale: I think there is, as they start to embrace ideas particularly the ones associated with giving power to people into unchaining businesses and particularly on the local level. I think that we've probably become too personality-driven and maybe I say that as someone who isn't a famous personality.

Gillespie: Right. Or anyone who lacks any personality whatsoever.

Pasquale: Yeah. Exactly.

Gillespie: You know-

Pasquale: What is someone like me supposed to do?

Gillespie: But I hear you. I hear ya, sister.

Pasquale: I'd like to see that. The problem is is that people like Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity and Tomi Lahren and those types. I means they sell books or get eyeballs or get retweets or whatever because they are to the extreme I think in their language. Not that I think they necessarily have extreme views, but I think are more extreme just in their language.

Gillespie: Are they the right-wing Social Justice Warriors that you are like you're rolling your eyes at or you're saying, come on already. I mean.

Pasquale: Yeah. I don't think Hannity, but I think with the younger people the ones that are more stunt driven that go to events to try and disrupt them like The Shakespeare in the Park or wanna say 'well, how dare you call me a White Supremacist.' I'm a Jew or I'm a Asian or this and they use that to bolster their cred. I'm just not that person. I mean there's not a day that goes by where I don't get an email or a tweet that after being on TV 'saying well, you're chubby. You're this or you're that,' but one of things Ann Coulter told me is never repeat the awful things people say about you. Now I see, on the conservative side, everybody wanting to use the negative things that the left says about them in order to say 'look, I'm a victim. Support me.'

Gillespie: Where do you think is a victimhood of course is a … I guess it's one of the longest-lived stances that people take and … Where does the fetishizing of victimhood come from in your estimation and what might be done to … and this isn't to say just ignore actual outrages against people, but that first response of 'okay, I'm a victim. Love me I'm a victim.' How you combat that and how do you turn that around both on the right and on the left because as you've noticed we're in a outrage culture. Things are very polarized. What's happening as people move further and further to the edges, they're also leaving more people behind. I don't … I think fewer and fewer people probably see themselves as represented by Fox News or MSNBC. How do we combat that gesture towards being a victim and hence having something meaningful to say?

Pasquale: First of all, I'm stealing fetishizing victimhood so look for that. I think part of it, if you look at … Twitter fights or social media fights or some of the viral YouTube videos of the stunts, whether they're on the right of the left, you can see that that's its own niche market. A good way to test this is think of like a Twitter fight that you've recently seen. Then at the next barbecue, tell someone about this Twitter fight and have them look at you like you're crazy explaining the big drama and they have no idea what you're talking about.

To me, it's similar to the 2016 election where people just didn't know that there was this swell of anti-Hillary sentiment. I have to believe that if Twitter and that sort of stunt-pulling politics is gonna become niche, then there has to be this whole other world that is paying attention on a different level. As far as you know stopping it, clearly if you want to send a message, that we want less stunt and more ideas and funny stuff, you have to buy the 'Social Justice Warrior Handbook.'

Gillespie: That seems, yeah.

Pasquale: That's the clearest method.

Gillespie: I'm clearly step number one and it might be end … that's the only step you need to know … needing 12 steps that was always, let's condense it to just one. Let's buy Lisa De Pasquale's latest book 'The Social Justice Warrior Handbook: A Practical Guide for Snowflakes, Millennials, and Generation Z.' It's a very funny, very insightful, warm-hearted parody that takes aim at outrage culture. Lisa, I want to thank you for talking to Reason.

Pasquale: Thank you.

Gillespie: All right and this has been the Reason podcast. I was your host Nick Gillespie. I hope to be again in the future. Please subscribe to us at iTunes and rate and review us while you're there. Thanks for listening.

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