John McWhorter talks with Bill Kristol

January 11, 2022 • 1:15 pm

Here we have conservative writer Bill Kristol speaking with Columbia Univesity linguist and writer John McWhorter. This is part of the “Conversations with Bill Kristol” website, and there the video is divided into two non-overlapping moieties. But just watch this one 71-minute video starting at the beginning.

McWhorter, always eloquent (does he ever say “uh” fluff a sentence?), is especially eloquent here in parsing the current meaning of “wokeism” and analyzing how it plays out in society—as a nefarious phenomenon. In fact, he pretty much gives up on academia as a venue for those seeking the life of the mind.

Kristol is a good interlocutor, not dominating the conversation but raising questions that draw out McWhorter.  I find it heartening in that we have such honest people on our side. What’s depressing is McWhorter’s claim that only black people like him are capable of overthrowing wokeness. That makes me feel impotent, but surely white people can push back—at least by rejecting the claims and epiphets of the Woke. And he does have a message for non-blacks on how to counter Wokeness—starting about 49 minutes in.

People call McWhorter “white adjacent”, “useful idiot” or any of the names that the Woke hurl at their opponents to demonize them.(At about 39 minutes in, listen to how abysmally McWhorter has been treated by his black Columbia University colleagues.)

I call him thoughtful and honest. Let’s put it this way: if he was seriously setting back equality, would the New York Times give him a biweekly column?

I don’t recommend many longish videos, but I think this one will hearten you at least a bit.

9 thoughts on “John McWhorter talks with Bill Kristol

  1. The only use of “woke” I’ve ever really approved of was back in 2016 when arch-conservative Bill Krisol (son of neo-conservatism cofounder Irving Kristol) came out as a never-Trumper and began tempering some of his more extreme right-wing views and became known ever afterwards as “Woke Bill Kristol.”

    Hearing that moniker always gave me a kick.

    1. I don’t know that much about Kristol’s past ideas but he’s a founding member of The Bulwark (now shown as Editor-at-Large), a Never Trump group whose writing is uniformly good, IMHO. I suspect I wouldn’t agree with his positions on social spending and such but, at this point, he’s definitely one of the good guys.

      1. Ramesh 2.125% Denisovan/Neanderthal, 0% Puerto Rican

        McWhorter’s article today in the NYT on Spielberg’s film of ‘West Side Story’ is marvellous, not just in terms of dissecting the critics who lambast the film and the original Bernstein/ Sondheim score/lyrics, but in terms of its musical detail. When I saw it on the big screen not long ago, I was enthralled by the wit of the film, and what seemed to me to be its historical verisimilitude.

  2. Eeeh. I’ll watch b/c I like McW. – so thank you – but I’ll skip over whatever Kristol says. I don’t believe in forgiving any of the architects of the Iraq War and he was waaay up front there. As well as being a pundit who has been UTTERLY WRONG on pretty much anything he’s ever said. And lauded for it. Kristol is a scumbag’s scumbag and should shrink into the obscurity he so richly deserves.
    McWhorter is great though.

    Being anti-Trump (Cheneys) or anti-woke, or even being an atheist won’t save somebody from my judgement. It just means the person isn’t 100% horrible, just 99%. Let’s not hold these bastard scoundrels up as laudable. I’m a lefty and like plenty of conservatives (Douglas Murray, Nial Ferguson, David Frum even) but many are so over the line as I see it.

    ps I hope you’re feeling better after your black ice adventure yesterday. Take care!

    1. It’s your loss if you stop up your ears every time Kristol says something: it’s the intellectual equivalent of a child putting their finger in their ears and yelling “NA NA NA NA”! For one thing, you won’t be able to hear what Kristol is asking McWhorter.

      I think it’s ludicrous to say “I”m not listening to X because I don’t agree with everything he says.”

      Grow up, please.

  3. Thank you for pointing this out….I listened to all of it.

    Absolutely no surprise that Black colleagues at Columbia treat him as they do. If you, a minority, swim the tide against any minority group’s diktat, you will pay a price.

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