The following is a transcript excerpt of Ben Shapiro’s recent conversation with Russell Brand in the latest episode of “The Search,” now available on DailyWire+.
Russell Brand: The C. S. Lewis aphorism or quote that you used reminded me of Sartre’s idea of “bad faith argument” that you’re not entering the conversation in a spirit of good faith, of open heartedness — that already, an agenda is being pursued. And I enjoy C. S. Lewis’s writing, in particular, because he was an intellectual and because he was an atheist and because he became a man of faith. And it was imaginative and redemptive and beautiful and sort of playful the way that he dealt with Christ and God and, you know, comedy actually in “The Screwtape Letters”. I saw some of those videos, and I enjoyed those that you made.
Ben Shapiro: Well, thank you.
Brand: Say, when it comes to something that’s super personal but also intersects with the culture, Ben — like I reckon that you and I would raise our kids different. You know?
Shapiro: I imagine.
Your kids aren’t going to Jewish day school, so yeah.
Brand: They’re not going there, and I don’t imagine that your children smoke cigars yet, for example. Mine are quite heavy smokers.
Shapiro: My son, I don’t know. He’s turning 7 soon.
Brand: With like, say … perhaps one of the most contentious issues — and of course I have to tread so carefully around this subject — when I think of like, I saw something on John Oliver the other day about DeSantis’s pose, obviously I’m aware it’s coming from John Oliver, he’s a comedian I know and deeply admire as a comic. The endpoint of his bit — it was, I guess one of the 20-minute monologue that John does — was about one of the books that’s been extracted from the libraries as a result of the new legislation was like a book about two male penguins raising a chick. And I felt like that’s probably precisely the type of book that would gently introduce the idea that same-sex relationships are acceptable and ordinary and not worthy of generating conflict, a gentle favor, that’s, for me, that’s like a perfectly inoffensive thing.
In my relationship with my daughters, I talk to [them about], you know, I have friends that are in same-sex relationships, and I point out to them there are different ways of being a human being: There’s this way of being a human being, there’s that way of being a human being. I try my best. I try to demonstrate my lack of certainty. Not belonging to a religious faith that gives me a clear, like that I’ve, you know, yielded to and sort of somewhat, like a lot of people probably in our time are building a spirituality as I go, in a W.B. Yeats each house must build their own religion type way, in desperation, in need, but not having sort of the heritage or the privilege or convenience — or however you want to regard having a faith that you can glue your soul to in the word of Lenard Cohen. You know, I approach it from a spiritual, humanistic, loving, revering way; that’s how I approach that subject. And I also have friends that have children who are identifying not as, you know, their born boys, identifying girls. And for me, I feel so sort of sympathetic, nonjudgmental, open about it. I see that as somehow distinct from, again, how these things play out in the culture on Twitter, where there seems to be a great deal of ferocity and judgment on both sides of that argument. I guess that is a question what I’m asking you, Ben. Is your ultimate position that if you’re allowed to raise your children how you want to, other people should be allowed to raise their children how they want to?
Shapiro: So, I would say, within limits. We all, for example, disagree with child abuse. Nobody wants their kids to be beaten, presumably. How you define what you think is a healthy way to raise a child is obviously pretty important because kids can’t consent to being in that relationship with their parents. When it comes to, you know, some of these very dicey issues about fundamental truths, as we consider them — for example, males being male, female being female. The question is to what sort of treatment should be available to a child based on parental diagnosis or based on going to one particular type of therapist versus another type of therapist. These are matters of public concern because, again, you are dealing with children and things get very, very dicey around children, specifically because they can’t consent and make up their own minds on these sorts of things. I would say, autonomy, but within limits. So, the question is always, that’s where the sort of controversy always, lies: what exactly are the limits?
Brand: Where’s the point of intervention? Where are you happy for the state or some other set of values to be asserted? Because for me, it’s almost … at no point do I want to be told. I raise my children how I’m going to raise my children, and I recognize that there will probably be things that people won’t agree with. And I feel quite almost angry, like, I’m raising them. I don’t trust you. I don’t trust your authority.
Shapiro: So, I think as a general rule — as a general overarching rule of the universe — sure, because I think parents are the ones who are closest to their kids. I think that the rubber meets the road when it comes to what we perceive as child health or child wellness, raising kids in what we would perceive as a healthy way or a way that is conducive to their future happiness. It gets very dicey obviously very quickly, and so I think the easiest position to take is the libertarian one, but I’m not a libertarian because, again, I think there’s a lot of situations where active harm can be done to children by a parent, and you do see that. For example, there are religious communities where they refuse to teach their kids math, science, or the “lingua franca,” the common parlance. I think that that’s wrong. I think that parents should have to teach their kids in a society the basic skills necessary for them to get by in life. Right? That’s a thing. Do I think that you should be able to raise your kid in the wilderness and never teach them ever to read, never teach them math, never teach them anything? I don’t think so. I think that that’s actually damaging to the child. So, there are limits, and I think that I would draw those limits probably more closely than you would. And that gets into some deeper issues about governance in general. And I think that all questions of governance have to start with: What do you think is the fundamental point of human existence? That’s where you always start. You have to go very broad to get there. What is the fundamental point of human existence? If the fundamental point of human existence is to — quote unquote — be left alone or to find yourself or to find your individual identity — so I totally disagree with that perspective because if I let my children become who they, they are who they are right now. And they’re very bad little people — because children are, in fact, terrible little people. One of the great lies of humanity is that babies are good or that children are good. Children are not good. Have you ever met a child? Children are miserable and they hit each other and they’re nasty. You have to civilize them. You have to teach them things. We all teach them things. If we let them eat what they wanted to eat, all they would eat is sugar. If we let them do what they wanted to do all day, all they would do is sit and watch TV. You actually have to civilize children.
Brand: I agree that civilizing, socializing, and conditioning are blurred in their boundaries. But with the examples you cited, it’s possible to never introduce them to sugar and never to introduce them to screens — by the way, I’ve failed terribly as a parent on both those fronts.
Shapiro: I agree with this, but what I’m saying is, on a moral level, I think that one of the things I do as a parent and as a person who believes that there are better and worse ways of living your life with regard to pretty much every human topic under the sun, including your sex life. I think that there are better and worse ways to do that. That means that I’m protecting my kids from certain material because I think that kids are incredibly malleable, and I think that environmental influences actually do matter to my kids. I’ve yet to find an area of human life in which environmental impact does not matter to my kids. And so this sort of idea that your kid is going to be who they’re going to be no matter what and they’re going to flourish into whatever they’re going to flourish into and your job is to stand back and let them go, I think that that’s irresponsible and virtually every parent would say the same. They would just draw the lines differently than I would. When it gets to the very hot button issues, that’s where it breaks out into the open, obviously. DeSantis’s point, to take Florida for example, is that they shouldn’t be in public school libraries not because parents should not be allowed to teach their kids but because teachers should not be allowed to teach my kids, which is a different thing. He’s saying out of the school libraries. They can still buy that book on Amazon. The notion that I can’t buy any book I want to on Amazon and it won’t be delivered in the state of Florida is a lie. I can buy whatever I want, and it’s my responsibility to teach my kid. It’s not the job of a teachers union employee to teach my kid what I think are fundamental human values.
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To continue the conversation, check out “The Search,” now available on DailyWire+.