In a little cafe that sits snugly and innocuously amid the hustle and bustle around Montreal’s Guy-Concordia Metro Station, I sat and waited for a public figure, Professor of Marketing and world-renowned author, Gad Saad.
If you’re unfamiliar with professor Saad’s work, he boasts an impressive resume that spans decades, with research on a plethora of topics. But to wrap it up nicely, the descriptor written by Jamie Vernon for episodes of The Joe Rogan Experience, a show that he’s appeared on numerous times, sums him up quite nicely:
He’s a professor, holder of the Concordia University Research Chair in Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences and Darwinian Consumption (2008-2018), and he’s an author, whose books such as The Evolutionary Bases of Consumption and The Consuming Instinct have helped turn Saad into a somewhat controversial, but always informative figure.
It was an interesting conversation, and one I felt fortunate to have. I’d already seen Saad’s appearances on JRE, the world’s biggest podcast, and I was also familiar with video podcast The Saad Truth where he also has conversations with interesting guests on topics that vary widely. Some of those guests include Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, Eric Weinstein, and Professor Jordan Peterson.
So I sat and waited with my coffee, and soon enough, in walked the Gadfather, a title that no one else but Professor Saad could boast so proudly. I had always known that Professor Saad and I lived on the same grounds, as I live not too far from the John Molson School of Business where he teaches, but to sit down and talk with him was an opportunity I had been itching for.
After the formalities, we got right down to the nitty-gritty.
The origins of snowflake culture
Right off the bat, I asked him his thoughts on the current state of culture. I had recently overheard a friend of mine say that it was interesting how a generation of people who were raised on hit animated shows like Family Guy and South Park ended up being some of the most sensitive people imaginable.
These shows in particular do not cherry-pick their targets, especially South Park, which has made episodes with jokes about everything imaginable. From trans people, Trump, AIDS, and 9/11, all the way to showing a cartoon depiction of the prophet Muhammad (which if you aren’t familiar, is generally not a safe move.)
What Saad believes happened is the transformation of victimhood into a form of social currency. “It became all about seeking status through a victimhood narrative. And so the management of hurt feelings became the primordial criteria by which we judge arguments, and judge debates,” said Saad. “Once that switch happened, all those edgy spaces could no longer be edgy! By definition, edgy spaces challenge you, and that became a no-no.”
Saad etches out a great metaphor to better understand how this era of hyper-political correctness came about. It wasn’t so much that a switch got flipped, and all of the sudden we live in the snowflake bizarro world. But instead it was like a massive heart attack. Sure, it happened suddenly and seemingly without warning, but there were a variety of factors, or “arterial blockage” that was festering in the background all along, until eventually, it all struck at once.
“Postmodernism comes along, cultural relativism comes along, then biophobia; the fear of explaining human phenomena using biology, then third wave feminism, and then identity politics comes along.”
“The arteries over time start to get clogged, then one day, you drop dead. And this is what we have now. The death of reason.”
The absolute state of our culture perfectly summarized by Saad in just a few sentences.
The power of satire
We sat and we discussed the power of satire, an incredibly effective tool that highlights absurdity in a topic, all while making people laugh. It causes people to not just laugh at the absurdity itself, but often causes self-reflection, forcing people to assess scenarios they may have already made up their mind on. It gives tired topics fresh perspective.
“When I’m fighting in the public space, satire and sarcasm are very much the surgeon’s scalpel,” stated Saad. “It cuts through the layers of bullsh*t like a hot knife through butter. This is why totalitarian ideologies ban satire, and ban sarcasm. There is no better way to box stupidity than to satirize it!”
Social justice as a whole has infiltrated just about every aspect of Western culture that one could imagine. Over the past decade especially, we have seen tides turn in a dramatic fashion that few saw forthcoming.
The attack on America’s funny bone via the infiltration of social justice in stand-up comedy, as well as the attack on American pastimes like American football really woke up the masses, as people realized that the culture around them was attempting to purge and alienate them from things that they enjoyed.
With this being the case, Saad put forth a kind of call to arms, calling for fellow academics to join him in his crusade against social justice antics, and to speak up against the parasitic thought that has gone viral across Western and developed countries, especially on college campuses.
A call to arms and the tragedy of the commons
“They haven’t queued up,” chuckled Saad. “I think there are several reasons why more professors don’t join the battle, let me give you a few. And I actually do mention these in my forthcoming book” (which is as of now is under the working title The Parasitic Mind.)
Saad illustrates his scenario by bringing up the tragedy of the commons, an economic theory. For those unaware of the phenomenon, basically the tragedy of the commons is an economic problem in which every individual tries to reap the greatest benefit from a given resource.
Saad presents the scenario of farmers who all farm on the same plot of land. Every farmer then agrees that, for the benefit of the land, they take their livestock away from the crop to let the land refurtilize.
The problem occurs when one farmer decides to impede on the agreement, and continues to allow his livestock to use the plot of land, thus benefiting that farmer, while allowing the other farmers to stick to their agreement. The tragedy of commons occurs when “every one of those farmers thinks like that, and they all continue to use the land for their animals.”
“Every single professor says, ‘Yes, I’m all for this fight. But if I cheat on my responsibility, if I remit on my personal responsibility to speak out, while guys like Gad Saad do, I mean, who cares, he’s got broad shoulders!’ The problem is that every single one of them defuses their responsibility, resulting in a tragedy of the commons of inaction.”
Saad’s message here is that if everyone spoke out together in unison, “The problem would be solved incredibly quickly.” But Saad has unfortunately observed that it is “incredibly hard” to break people out of that mindset.
As a fan going into this interview, I mostly knew what professor Saad was about. For a lot of public figures, it’s interesting to try and figure out what their “schtick” is. For Professor Saad, I can easily say, there really isn’t one. There is no added theatrics to his speech. He’s a veteran of academia being able to dissect the issues plaguing it in colorful, interesting and factual ways.
“The other thing is, it has to be part of your innate personality to be physically repulsed, allergic to violations to truth. So I’m literally, psychically injured by the bullsh*t. My wife sees me; she sees how much I suffer when I see the garbage. It is that unique constellation of genes that makes my personhood, that allows me to say ‘I don’t care what the costs may or may not be; I cannot go to sleep tonight knowing that I could have said something, but didn’t.'”
I was hearing what Professor Saad was saying, but I had an itch that I couldn’t help but scratch. A question that was running through my mind as soon as we’d started speaking: “Do you think Dr. Peterson stole the lobster thing from you?”
“No no, not the lobster thing!” laughed Saad. “He might have read some of my stuff of status and hierarchies. But no, not the lobster. I’ll give him credit on that one.” Throughout the entire chat, it was pretty clear that Saad also had a great sense of humour, something that seems to be lacking in a lot of conversations nowadays.
The buzz around Evolutionary Psychology
Saad’s bread and butter so to speak is in his work studying evolutionary psychology, one of the sciences that gets the most flak from progressives.
As per Wikipedia’s definition, evolutionary psychology is a “theoretical approach in the social and natural sciences that examines psychological structure from a modern evolutionary perspective.” Within the Wikipedia article for Evolutionary Psychology itself, Saad’s work is peppered throughout, and is even used as a reference within its footnotes.
I asked him why out of all fields, is evolutionary psychology so constantly shot down? It must have to do with the nature of the research, in which answers are found for behaviours that are beyond the control of the person exhibiting those behaviours.
“Let me start off by saying this, people who criticize evolutionary psychology, I call the detractors of evolutionary psychology the ‘flat earthers’ of the human mind. In other words, to be against evolutionary psychology is about as intelligent as to be against physics or against chemistry. It’s such a breathtakingly idiotic position.”
“There is no other game in town than to know that the human mind evolved through the forces of evolution.”
Saad is right, though it’s easy to see why his work and field of research is so hotly contested by those who don’t approach it with an open mind.
It’s not hard to find critiques of Saad’s work in YouTube comment sections, but it’s who the critiques are coming from that is interesting. As he points out, the criticism he draws isn’t typically related to the validity of the work, but rather to what the work may suggest in a broader scale. Instead of using information gained from evolutionary psychology, people throw it away without fully considering its findings.
Saad has not once backed down from the criticism he receives, and even points to examples of belittling from academic peers of his. He told me a story about going to Stanford, describing it as “one of the meccas of academia.”
“I was invited to give a talk. The night before, I was asked by one of the professors of Stanford, he remarked ‘Oh so you’re a big celebrity.’ and I said well, you know, I do my best. And he looks at me and said ‘Yeah, you know, at Stanford we aren’t really into going on Joe Rogan.’” As if appearing on Joe Rogan is a bad thing” Saad’s 6 appearances have totalled just over 12 million downloads, combined.
Saad has gotten more than his fair share of shaming, yet is still insistent on fighting on in these trying times, where it seems as though culture has polarized in a way that we’ve never seen before. It was inspiring to hear about.
Entering the culture wars
As a young man who has just recently become public in his views against social justice, and as someone who has just recently started their career as a writer for The Post Millennial, I often wonder about what the right approach is to entering the social justice battle.
I know it’s not just me. I know there are plenty of people like myself who during political discourse, be it in the workplace, be it in a classroom, or be it just amongst some friends of friends, simply keep quiet. Living in Montreal especially, there is a heavy leftist bias and social justice mentality that is ever-present in the people around me.
To make opinions public can feel risky sometimes. One never knows when the mob could come for them. I wondered to myself: what advice Saad could have for someone like myself, or others out there who want to be apart of changing the culture around them, but are afraid of the fire and pitchforks that could come along with that?
When it came to helping people join the culture war while mitigating their risks, Saad gave a great piece advice. “The young men who stormed the beaches of Normandy did not get a guarantee that they would come out unscathed. Therefore, we are sitting right here, you and I, in this case, men and women took great risks to defend our rights to stand here.” Saad noted that the analogy was hyperbolic, but the message itself could not have rung more true.
“The battles that we are fighting today may not be storming the beaches of Normandy. But I do come from a place where I ran away from being executed, in Lebanon, during the Lebanese Civil War.” The takeaway being: it doesn’t take much for the battle of our ideas to switch to the battle from house to house.
“Battles require courage. You cannot go to war while being assured that nothing dire will befall you. That’s the reality; there’s no way to mitigate the risk. Now, you don’t have to be a frivolous martyr! You could be strategic as to when to intervene, when not to intervene, how to frame it. In that sense, you can be strategic. But there’s no avoiding it.
If you were wondering if there is anything at all that could “trigger” Gad Saad, he told me what it was, and it related directly to my question of how to get involved in the culture war. “I get quite offended at the endless number of messages I receive from people from around the world saying, ‘I really want to contribute, but I don’t want my name to be available, I don’t want anybody to know.’ So you want to punch the Nazis, but you don’t want them to fight back, you don’t want them to hit you, you want the guaranteed win. It doesn’t happen!”
So there you have it, real talk from the Gadfather himself.