Sam Harris Can’t Stop Talking About the Debate That “Bored” Him

Sam Harris has a new podcast (“A Conversation with Jonathan Haidt”) explaining why he refuses to post his 4-hour debate with Omer Aziz.  Harris continues to come across as someone who is a) deeply obsessed with his ego and b) is desperately trying to control the narrative.  He spends the first 25 minutes asserting, over and over again, just how wrong Omer Aziz is.  What’s worse is that he actually posts three excerpts from the “secret debate” to prove his point (as he sees it).  Yes, I know this will come as a shock to some of you, but rather than post the whole debate, Sam cherry picked from the debate to serve his objective.

After listening to the excerpts, I would agree that the podcast would be boring. Why?  Because in each excerpt, Harris monopolizes the conversation.  In fact, after listening to the podcast, I paused and asked myself, “Did Omer actually get a chance to speak?”  So I went back and timed their conversion and determined that Sam Harris spoke for 631 seconds to Omer’s 147 seconds.  It’s a rough measure, as I didn’t try to account for the few times they both spoke at the same time, or Omer’s attempts to interject, but basically, Harris talked for over 80% of the time.

In fact, here is a graph that outlines the time each man spoke during the three excerpts (in series).

The Y-axis is time in seconds and on the x-axis, S = Sam Harris and O = Omer Aziz.


While Harris sells this debate as another “experiment” to determine how Aziz could be so wrong about everything, the data sure make it look more like a scolding.

If you ask me, Harris made his situation worse.  If you are going to cherry pick examples from a 4-hour debate to “prove” how right you are, then why not just post the whole 4-hour debate?  The notion that Harris is trying to protect his delicate readers from being bored to death is silly.  A simple disclaimer warning people just how boring the debate is would suffice.  That Sam refuses to post the debate adds to the perception that he is trying to hide something from the other 3 hours and 45 minutes of the debate.

This entry was posted in Sam Harris, Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Sam Harris Can’t Stop Talking About the Debate That “Bored” Him

  1. Dhay says:

    In Harris’ “Throw Open the Gates” podcast he interviews and discusses with Maryam Namazie for a little over two hours. His followers evidently found it boring, because Harris subsequently tweeted:

    Many who listened to my last podcast are demanding their 2 hours back. I am now attempting to build a time machine. Just sit tight…

    So whose fault was it that Harris’ followers found it boring? — apart from said followers probably wanting entertainment instead of intellectual stimulation, or having attention spans too short to cope. At 1:01:15 in there’s the following request by Namazie to move on, Harris’ denial, and Namazie’s very firm and unambiguous firm re-statement:

    Namazie: “I think that this is a conversation that we sort of need to wrap up because we’re not going to reach an understanding soon.”

    Harris: “I think we’re just actually getting to the basis for an understanding.”

    Namazie: “No, I don’t think so.”

    But Harris continued on that same topic, regardless. Then at 1:09:00 Namazie gets very clear indeed that they really ought to move on:

    Namazie: “The issue is, what do we do now, Sam. It’s seven-thirty and we’ve only talked about profiling, and I think our positions are clear. We’re just re-hashing old stuff.”

    Then, at last, Harris does drop the subject of profiling, which he has been hammering for a very long time, and finally moves on to another subject. So, whose fault was it that Harris’ followers found it boring?


    At the end it emerges that Namazie is being filmed, ie the debate (though Harris much prefers to call de facto debates “conversations”) is being recorded at her end. (Harris thanks the person filming.) It’s interesting that Namazie should want to film the debate — did she not trust Harris to reproduce it accurately — and equally interesting that when Harris set conditions for debating Omer Aziz, Harris should insist that Aziz must be without his own recording.

  2. TFBW says:

    Mike, you should colour-code the graph for the two speakers. It would make the data stand out better.

  3. Dhay says:

    Listening to that “Throw Open the Gates” podcast with Maryam Namazie, and to the animated discussion of “profiling” shortly after the hour mark, I was struck by how, with a few minor changes, Sam Harris could have been urging the “profiling” of black people (instead of Arabs or Muslim-looking people), arguing that black people are more prone to commit crime, hence if you want to target crime it pays to concentrate your efforts and resources on “profiling” blacks; and also on interrogating black ministers (instead of Muslim clerics) about their (black) parishioners; and also on families where someone is wearing a baseball cap peak-backwards (instead of a hijab), or whatever is distinctive poor black clothing is in the US.

    That is, with a few changes, Harris could be arguing the benefits and necessity those much-hated stop-and-search powers and practices which the Police use disproportionately often against black people in general, and poor young black people in particular.


    If you want to know how people feel about being the subject of “profiling”, and being stopped and searched “on suspicion”, look at Jerry Coyne’s blog, where he complains bitterly that he regularly gets singled out and “groped” by airport security, indeed it happens (very nearly) every time he boards a plane. While we cannot rule out genuinely randomised chance selection for such a run of “gropings”, I would guess that “profiling” is already in place on an informal basis, and that Coyne is “profiled” and “groped” because of his Middle-Eastern looking large nose.

    Looks like Sam Harris style “profiling” targets the likes of Jerry Coyne.

  4. Dhay says:

    It’s not just Sam Harris who cannot stop talking about the debate that bored him. Here’s the Religion Dispatches article entitled “Is Sam Harris Really a White Supremacist?”

    Harris tweets “Hmm…. “No”? Is that the answer you’re groping for?” though of course he would deny it, wouldn’t he. But the article is rather more nuanced and balanced, and a “No” to just the question forming the title does not nearly address what it alleges of Harris.

  5. Dhay says:

    As regards whether Sam Harris is a “white supremacist”, here’s what the TheHumanist online magazine says about white supremacy, in “Selective Sympathy: Why the World Cared About Brussels (But Ignored Others)”:

    … When it comes to the Western world, major news outlets are founded on white supremacist ideology and diligently nourish the concerns of a white-oriented culture.

    This isn’t to say “all white people hate people of color” or that “all whites” are aligned with the likes of skinheads and those who gallivant in white hoods screaming “White Power!” No. What it means is that there is oftentimes a surplus of value assigned to certain lives and circumstances while a distinct deficit of regard is extended to others. The demarcation between which response a disaster receives is usually dependent on its relatability to whiteness.

    … —what’s evident is that our culture’s “selective sympathy” that marginalizes some incidents while highlighting others is based its proximity to whiteness.

    Whiteness isn’t merely a reference to skin color. Whiteness describes a socially and politically constructed concept. … Whiteness defines itself by demarcating a separation from “others.” Whiteness is both a systemic and systematic ideology based upon beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors that results in unequal distribution of power and privilege that accords a higher regard for the intellectual, behavioral, and inherent value of those defined as “white.”

    Yep, I’d say Harris fits that notion of “white supremacist”.

    I’d also say that for Harris, who greatly values good intentions and apparently values good intentions far higher than good consequences, “white” good intentions and “white” good consequences are systematically accorded a far higher value than non-“white” good intentions and consequences; and that it looks like for Harris it’s OK and desirable for Harris’ children to sleep safely in their bed, with war being fought for him and them far away with ‘imperfect weapons’ (but for the best of intentions, the safety of Harris’ children), because it’s those non-“white” Muslim children who are being endangered in their sleep.

    In addition to whiteness, we must also consider political rhetoric. Post-9/11, a popular tool of political demagoguery has been to appeal to the fear of the “othered” enemy—Islamic extremism. In recent years, the media and political arena have debited the embodiment of that anxiety from Al-Qaeda and transferred it into the vessel of the latest imagined prime evil: ISIS. By virtue of the angst lodged into the US social consciousness fifteen years ago, terms like “terror” and “terrorism” have become forged with the narrative of whiteness and narrowly redefined to chiefly refer to “Islamic radicalism that threatens or harms white lives.”

    No, the author doesn’t name Harris, but doesn’t this just fit Harris to a ‘T’.

  6. Dhay says:

    Dhay > It’s not just Sam Harris who cannot stop talking about the debate that bored him. Here’s the Religion Dispatches article entitled “Is Sam Harris Really a White Supremacist?”

    Religion Dispatches has now published “Is Sam Harris Really a White Supremacist?, Part Two”, which responds to criticisms by Hemant Mehta of that first article:

    While we’re glad to hear that some of Sam’s best friends are Muslim, we don’t see how that makes his arguments any more or less bigoted. Our case is that, no matter who his friends are, whom he works with, or whom he praises, Harris makes dubious arguments about Islam based on a flawed and prejudicial Clash of Civilizations ideology.

    They end up criticising Mehta, too:

    We’ll frame the real issue here in a simple binary, in order to make it easier for some people to understand. Is Islam:
    (A) A dynamic tradition that is practiced, interpreted, adapted, and lived out in a global patchwork of cultures and communities, across the lives of 1.6 billion people?
    (B) A belief system that’s at war with other ideas?

    Though they make a nod to option (A), Harris’ and Mehta’s writings both incline sharply toward option (B). This Us versus Them approach can yield some ugly thinking.

    For example, Mehta writes that, “Harris has been trying to address the matter of how Islam, more than any other faith, is a threat to our civilization.”

    Our civilization”? We’re not sure which civilization Mehta is talking about, but we’re pretty sure that millions of Muslims are active, equal members of the American polity—to say nothing of the other nations Mehta and Harris might have in mind when they drop a term like “our civilization.” Surely Mehta was just referring to strains of militant thinking within Islam, and not implying that anyone who follows Islam is somehow following a creed opposed to “our civilization.” But his language is sloppy, and revealing in its sloppiness.

    Looks like Harris fans piled into the comments on the previous article: “Commenters NB: The comments section for the previous piece was closed due to the numerous posts attacking the authors. Commenting is open below, but RD expects all commenters to address the ideas above and to treat the authors with respect. — eds”

  7. Dhay says:

    Sam Harris’ blog post dated 02 June 2016 and entitled “The Joe Rogan Experience #804” is an embedded video, which is succinctly described by Harris as:

    “Wherein Sam and Joe talk for 4.5 hours…”

    Well, well, four hours of debate is boring, whereas four-and-a-half hours of relaxed friendly chit-chat is not.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.