‘I want you to walk into a bar and order yourselves a full-bodied opinion,’ Dave Rubin writes in his new book. It seems the podcast host’s habit is more along the lines of glancing over to the next stool and saying ‘I’ll have what she’s having.’
Don’t Burn This Book: Thinking for Yourself in the Age of Unreason is currently sitting in 12th place on the New York Times nonfiction bestseller list. Reviews, though, have not been particularly kind. ‘Despite its provocative title, it’s hard to imagine anyone being so angered by a book loaded with the same milquetoast arguments that he’s been hammering for years,’ wrote Anthony L. Fisher in Business Insider. ‘Don’t Burn This Book is not a serious work. It is, in fact, extremely lazy, bearing all the hallmarks of a project that was knocked together over a few wet weekends,’ wrote Ben Sixsmith in these pages. ‘Rubin loves to talk about “ideas” as an abstraction, yet he does not love to talk about ideas themselves.’
To be fair to Rubin, there is one interesting idea in the book that caught Cockburn’s eye, on page 14.
‘If you want a world where people are judged equally by their actions, rather than by their immutable characteristics such as race, gender, or sexuality, then — woohoo! — you’re already on the right track. You’re awake, rather than “woke”,’ Rubin writes. ‘Getting to this point isn’t easy. In fact, it usually takes years of hard labor because our factory settings — everything the system teaches us to believe — are programmed into us from a young age.’
‘Factory settings’, Cockburn thought. ‘Where have I heard that before?’ Then it hit him.
‘Like most Americans, I developed my politics through osmosis. You absorb what you grow up around. I call this unexamined position “factory settings”. Factory settings are the default beliefs installed when you were a child.’
It could be a coincidence, right? You’d be forgiven for giving Rubin the benefit of the doubt…unless you’d heard his appearance on Phetasy’s Walkins Welcome podcast in June 2019:
BP: ‘I joke that, um, and everyone’s like “I don’t buy this shtick that you don’t know anything”, but I really didn’t know anything, unlike you, I didn’t come from a PoliSci background, I didn’t have an ideology, I call them “fac-”, in the book I’m writing it’s called “factory settings”, I was born into a Democratic liberal home…’
DR: ‘So I love that!’
BP: ‘…I never questioned anything, and then I was high and drunk until I was 35 years old!’
DR: ‘I love that you’re calling that, I love that you’re calling that “factory settings”-
BP: ‘Because it was!’
DR: ‘Because that’s so right, and it’s so interesting, because I’m writing my book too and I’m not gonna steal “factory settings” obviously-‘
BP: ‘Please don’t!’
DR: ‘But- but I have been writing about that concept, that the default position of young people, if you’re roughly our age, was that the left is good and the right is evil, the default position, “the left cares about poor people, and the left cares about minorities, the left cares about gay people, Republicans care about war and money” and all these things, and so what you’re calling “factory settings”…you’re so right about that, and showing people that that’s not true…that is why they’re coming after me so hard, because I- it is my belief, and I could be wrong, and this is where I think there’s a split, say from me, the Weinstein brothers and Sam Harris, I think they still think you can, you can reorganize the left from the inside and maybe something good will come out of it. I see literally no evidence. At every turn where the left could have gotten better, “oh Trump’s president, maybe we should rethink what we’re doing,” no.’
Someone sent me this. Here's Bridget Phetasy discussing a book she's writing about ideological "factory settings", and Dave Rubin saying that it's a great phrase. "I'm not going to steal factory settings!" he emphasises. "Please don't!" she laughs. All very pleasant. pic.twitter.com/fTnZ25R1Lo
— Ben Sixsmith (@BDSixsmith) May 7, 2020
After leafing through the references section of Rubin’s tome, Cockburn was a little put out to see no reference to Phetasy — let alone The Spectator!
Rubin told Tucker Carlson that he finished his book in July 2019: for those of you counting, that is one month after his appearance on Phetasy’s podcast. At the time, he tweeted ‘My book, to be published by @penguinrandom, goes on presale tomorrow. I’ll be signing every copy purchased tomorrow and the first thousand will be numbered. Title, cover and more unveiled at 6:30 est tomorrow! #tomorrow.’
One Twitter user, Chris Bustin, replied ‘I hope @BridgetPhetasy’s term, “factory settings,” gets a plug in your book!👍’
Chris…I have some terrible news…
I hope @BridgetPhetasy’s term, “factory settings,” gets a plug in your book!👍
— Chris Bustin (@ChrisBustin13) July 29, 2019
There is also a magnificent irony about the central role Phetasy’s line is playing in the extensive PR blitz for Rubin’s book on learning to think for yourself.
‘This is just “factory setting thinking”,’ he told the Modern Wisdom podcast on April 30.
“This is just factory setting thinking… it is your job to update your system”@RubinReport on the dangers of being unable to create an opinion without media bias.
Full length podcast now live 🚀
— Chris Williamson (@ChrisWillx) April 30, 2020
On his January 30, 2020 appearance on the Daily Signal podcast, Rubin makes three references to ‘factory settings‘…and not one to the phrase’s origin.
In the typo-strewn ‘about’ section of his website, Rubin describes his personal journey:
‘Like most American’s Dave spent the majority of his adult life subscribing to a certain Lefty political narrative which is fed to all of us through the cultural, political and media machine. Fed up with these “factory settings” and click-bait news, Dave decided to open up about his awakening, for all to see.’
There are quotation marks there, but no sign of who he’s quoting. That’s not the case for the description of the January 23, 2020 episode of his podcast, the Rubin Report, where the guest was none other than Bridget Phetasy:
‘Bridget discusses how she responds to criticism that she is a grifter. She describes the two types of Trump derangement syndrome and why both are dangerous. Bridget also gives her thoughts on what she calls our “factory settings”.’