If you turn to Wikipedia to learn about Dave Rubin – the YouTube host and author of the just-published Don’t Burn This Book: Thinking for Yourself in an Age of Unreason – you’ll read the following sentence right up top, even before you get to the part about his childhood and education: “Rubin describes himself as a classical liberal, but he is generally described as conservative and libertarian in his politics.” Turn to the five articles footnoted at the end of this sentence and they’ll tell you that Rubin is a one of many conservatives who, in an act of cynical rebranding, call themselves “classical liberal” and is, moreover, part of a “network” of YouTubers who “play a key role in promoting racist and white nationalist views.” This information is thoroughly trustworthy, of course, because it comes from sources (the New York Times, Washington Post, Politico, NBC, and Variety) that Wikipedia deems “reliable,” and not from publications and websites such as the one you are reading now, which Wikipedia considers “unreliable.” Just a snapshot of the way in which the left-leaning intellectual, academic, and media establishment seeks to preserve its authority and discredit dissent.
Dave Rubin used to be a member of that establishment – specifically, he was one of “The Young Turks” (TYT), a gang of knee-jerk leftists whose YouTube program, you will learn from its Wikipedia page, has an “anti-establishment” point of view and received “a $20 million investment by Jeffrey Katzenberg” in 2017. Note that only on the left can people who’ve been showered with cash by some Hollywood mogul be called “anti-establishment” with a straight face. Rubin’s new book – his first – is, in part, an account of his disillusionment with and ultimate departure from TYT (which, he now writes, “designed the first model of the dangerous outrage machine that produces what we have come to call fake news”) and his journey to classical liberalism. That journey began with the realization that “every debate [on TYT] seemed to end with somebody, somewhere, being called a bigot – just for having a different opinion. Simply put, no matter what the conversation was about, there was always a smear on hand to shame someone into silence.”
One of those somebodies, eventually, was a friend of Rubin’s: Fox News reporter David Webb, who happens to be black and whom Rubin’s TYT co-hosts smeared in 2013 as an Uncle Tom. It was, Rubin writes, “one of the clearest examples of the totalitarian, religious nature of progressivism I had ever witnessed firsthand.” Rubin didn’t exactly rush to Webb’s defense; he wasn’t quite there yet. But he was on the way. In 2014 – yes, it was that long ago, believe it or not – came the now-famous episode of Real Time with Bill Maher on which non-neuroscientist Ben Affleck, trembling with apoplectic rage, called neuroscientist Sam Harris a racist for citing western Muslims’ alarmingly illiberal answers to opinion-poll questions. Rubin, who was watching at the time, recalls his reaction: “Suddenly, everything I’d been thinking privately about the dysfunction of the progressive mind was bursting forth right in front of my eyes.” The next day, to top it all off, the mainstream media came down firmly on Affleck’s side, choosing his inane, “self-righteous moralizing” over Harris’s objective facts. By the end of the Maher show, Rubin had been set “on the course to divorcing the deluded from my life.”
But he still wasn’t finished crossing the aisle. It took a 2016 interview with talk-show host Larry Elder to snap him out of his last remaining delusions. He calls it “the best and worst moment of my career.” It happened this way: Rubin, who despite everything still thought the left had all the answers to society’s problems, asked Elder, who is black, about “systemic racism” in America, “a social theory I presented as fact.” During the next few minutes, Elder, combining undeniable facts with indisputable logic, changed Rubin’s mind on the topic. “I remember being too embarrassed to even look the cameramen in the eye,” recalls Rubin, “because they’d witnessed my intellectual execution firsthand.” But to his credit, he refused to let his producers cut anything out of the show.
Even more to his credit, Rubin forced himself to look squarely at the opinions by which he’d lived for his entire adult life and to admit that he’d been wrong not just about systemic racism but about a whole lot of things. Before he knew it, the sometime lockstep leftist had evolved into a man who considers America “the greatest country in the history of the world,” recognizes capitalism as “a good thing,” views “far-left puritans” as “the greatest threat to our free, pluralistic democracy,” and touts the importance of the family. While serving for a year and half as the opening act on Jordan Peterson’s worldwide speaking tour, moreover, Rubin was transformed from a confirmed atheist to someone who, while still on what seems like a journey of faith, is convinced that religion is a necessary foundation to a free society.
Needless to say, with his conversion to classical liberalism, Rubin became the subject of smear jobs in “reliable sources” like the New York Times and Der Spiegel – which only confirmed for him the readiness of the establishment left to resort to sheer mendacity when the facts aren’t on their side. He also became a role model for many other longtime leftists who, while perhaps not ready to call themselves conservatives or libertarians or even classical liberals, have been disenchanted by the left’s obsession with identity politics, contempt for flyover country, and readiness to take any position on anything so long as it’s the opposite of Donald Trump’s.
This book isn’t just an autobiography. It’s also a sort of primer in classical liberal thinking – something that would’ve been old hat to properly educated young Americans of a few decades ago but for which today’s teens and twenty-somethings, brainwashed by Howard Zinn and postmodernism, have a crying need. Simply and straightforwardly, Rubin spells out – and explains – his opinions on drugs, same-sex marriage, immigration, abortion, freedom of speech, gun control, the trans phenomenon, the minimum wage, foreign policy, the “war on women,” the “wage gap,” and the phony hate-crime craze. For those innocents – and there are many – who think that Democrats are and always have been on the side of the angels while the GOP is steered by greed and bigotry, Rubin provides a handy corrective in the form of a compact history of the two parties. He serves up a damning round-up of “fake news” – from the Covington kids story to the Jussie Smollett hoax to the Russian-collusion lie – that’s been pushed shamelessly by the left in recent years and pays tribute to such heroes of freedom as Brigitte Gabriel and Ayaan Hirsi Ali (while reminding us of the shabby ways in which they’ve been treated by leftist idols like Jon Stewart).
Also honored in these pages is Jordan Peterson, in whose company, Rubin says, he grew into a better person, learned to recognize that life “isn’t just about happiness” but “also about meaning and purpose,” and came to believe that human beings living in free societies need “something rooted in the divine outside ourselves, to safeguard our freedoms.” I daresay that, just as Peterson’s bestselling 12 Rules for Life has helped people all over the world turn their lives around, Rubin’s story of his political journey and his introduction to classical-liberal fundamentals will aid no small number of readers who are itching to leave the left and start using their minds. So if you’re looking for something to hand to the young person in your life who’s chafing at the chains of generational wokedom and in need of guidance, give this book a try. It might just do the trick.