More on Social Media and University Radio Show “Echo Chambers”

campus reform

Screen capture of Campus Reform article title

This is a (sort of) continuation of yesterday’s blog post Which “Echo Chamber” Should I Choose?, since I’ve had a rather “interesting” encounter on twitter this afternoon.

Actually, it began this morning when I read a Campus Reform article called Duke Univ produces ‘himpathy,’ ‘himpunity’ podcast. Having no idea what “himpathy” and “himpunity” were, I clicked the link I found at twitter and began to read.

Marissa Gentry’s article began with:

Duke University’s Peabody-nominated “Scene on Radio” podcast, titled “MEN,” is currently in the middle of its third season, and it revolves around the issues of misogyny and patriarchy.

Okay. Fine and dandy as far as it goes.

Scene on Radio is produced by John Biewen and co-hosted with Celeste Headlee. They each come with an impressive set of credentials, but given the content of Ms. Gentry’s article, it wasn’t exactly a secret what perspective they probably held regarding the topic of their podcast.

The Campus Reform article quotes the show’s content:

In the first episode, “Be Like You,” Biewen and Headlee bring on a transgender guest to discuss privilege. Biewen claims that he is inherently an oppressor because he is a cis-hetero, white, middle-class male. He also states that transitioning from male to female is one of the biggest “betrayals” to the patriarchy that one can commit. (Emphasis mine)

And then there’s this:

“[Celeste] and I will take a similar approach to the “Seeing White” series, which explored the history and deconstructed the meaning of whiteness,” Biewen says on the program site. “With MEN, we’ll be asking questions like, ‘what’s up with this male-dominated world? Is male supremacy inevitable? How did we get sexism/patriarchy/misogyny, and what can we do about it?’”

There really aren’t any surprises here, and the only thing that generally rubbed me the wrong way up to this point was that yet another “expert” was prepared to define who and what I am as a “cis-hetero, white, middle-class male” as if I didn’t have a say in the matter.

I was about to go to something else, but then I became a little more curious about their content. I clicked on the link to the PDF transcript of their second show, which is described as:

Episode Two, “Ain’t No Amoeba,” features Biewen claiming that men were the creators of gender roles for the purpose of justifying an “oppressive, exploitative hierarchy.” He also states that women do far less harm overall in the world than men and that this is an acceptable standard by which to judge which of the sexes is better.

Wow! Men were just totally evil from Jump Street, weren’t we? (that’s sarcasm)

Anyway, it’s 26 pages long, and I figured I had better things to do with my time than slog through their interactions, but then I saw the Bible, specifically Genesis, figured prominently in the beginning of their show:

Celeste Headlee: The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be
alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

Now God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky … so on and so forth, skipping a few lines here….

But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So God caused the man to fall
into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs
and then closed up the place with flesh. Then God made a woman from the
rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.”

John Biewen: The Book of Genesis, Chapter Two. God the Father,
definitely a guy himself, creates Man. Then, apparently as an afterthought,
God makes Woman to give the man company and to serve the man.

Celeste Headlee: Obviously, that creation story was written long after
patriarchy took hold among most humans.

John Biewen: Which happened about ten thousand years ago, as we
learned in the last episode. European and American culture were built on
stories like the one you just read, Celeste, and that says a lot, doesn’t it?

Celeste Headlee: It does, especially since the non-biblical reality behind
the existence of males and females is … quite different from the Adam’s rib

Celeste Headlee: For several billion years after the earth formed, the only
living things living on the planet were tiny organisms that reproduced
asexually. They cloned themselves.

John Biewen: You could say they were female, actually. Then, about 1.2
billion years ago, along came sexual reproduction. Scientists aren’t really
sure why it happened, but there are advantages to sexual reproduction.

I actually stopped reading before this, but I quoted a bit more so my readers could get a better grasp of the perspectives held by Biewen and Headlee.

I’m not objecting to their being atheists, and I also have to say that the Book of Genesis is not a cookbook on how to bake a universe or create human beings, so I’m not going to pit different perspectives on Cosmology or the Origin of Life against each other here.

My big pet peeve is that we have two people who seemingly have read a part of the Bible in English (ignoring the nuances the original languages add), and think they are now experts about how Christians and Jews conceptualize God, that is God is a male, and a Biblical belief in God is, by definition, sexist, patriarchal, and misogynistic.

So I made comments to that effect on twitter and Facebook, and lo and behold, Biewen (or someone at Scene on Radio) snapped back:

scene 1

Screen capture from twitter

In that screen capture, you can see my response to him as well. I also got a reply from someone who, at first, I thought had a more traditional Christian perspective:

scene 2

Screen capture from twitter

The reason I like a more Jewish approach to scripture and faith is that such a perspective is comfortable with more than a little dynamic tension. God can have male and female aspects and also be without gender because God is Spirit.

Okay, okay, you don’t have to believe me, and I’m not evangelizing here. I am saying however, that toes do get stepped on in social media (including mine).

That said, neither Mr. Biewen nor I have been booted off twitter, and really, this is a minor wrinkle, but it does show that if you’re going to quote from the Bible, you’d better have some idea of what you’re talking about first. Biewen and Headlee were just using it as a jumping off point for their podcast, so I suppose giving them an “overdose” of actual theology may have been going overboard. On the other hand they don’t have to care if millions of Christians and Jews around the world take it a tad more seriously, especially considering the sort of “echo chambers” social media and liberal universities supply.

Yes, Virginia. There really are other human beings on Earth besides those imagined on university radio shows, and in spite of our bad press, we really aren’t all evil to the core.

Oh, and it seems like Odessa has more to say to me:

scene 3

Screen capture from twitter

I checked out Odessa’s account to find out why he/she is suggesting I listen to this radio program. At least this person is being civil about it, which I appreciate:

odyssea 1

Screen capture from twitter

I started writing this blog post because John Biewen showed what I interpreted as gross ignorance of the subtly and depth of the Bible, particularly the Jewish perspectives on the Almighty. Apparently though, Odessa (or @Vitaherbalist) is very politely asking me to actually listen to the “MEN” and “Seeing White” podcast series. I’m impressed that this person is being so even handed in addressing me (Biewen certainly wasn’t). I may have to revise my opinions about twitter somewhat.

However, regarding Odessa’s request, about the best I’ll commit to is reading one of the transcripts for the sake of being fair. I don’t think I’ll devote a large amount of my time to attending to opinions I’m unlikely to agree with, even though I do regularly read content from differing perspectives. Yes, I’m sure Odessa hopes that I’ll “see the light.” But as I already said to him/her, I prefer to define myself rather than let some sort of “expert” do the job for me.

16 thoughts on “More on Social Media and University Radio Show “Echo Chambers”

  1. Okay, so as a matter of fairness, I did read the PDF transcript of the radio show Ain’t No Amoeba. Really, after 26 pages of commentary from the co-hosts plus interviews with Sociologists, Psychologists, and other experts, there were very few takeaways. The first was that there was no way to really separate the biological and cultural influences on gender, which isn’t exactly a huge revelation. There are way, way too many variables to account for. Secondly, across all cultures, males are overwhelmingly responsible for acts of physical violence and sexual exploitation/rape. Women apparently display no analogous behaviors across cultures. So women can choose to be anything, and men can choose to be anything but are almost universally responsible for physical and sexual violence. Be that as it may, how does this change anything or make anything better in the world?


    • An example I would give is a recollection of an accepted Catholic intellectual woman saying things would be better in the Church if there were more women who could be listened to rather than hushed and subordinated.


      • I would tend to agree with many of the things I read in the radio program transcript, including how women tend to be superior at math. During World War Two, the term “computer” referred to a collection of women who would use hand-cranked calculators to figure out complex trajectories of artillery fire. Later, they went to work programming the first electronic computers, but unfortunately, the press thought they were just models hired for show.

        All that said, in a world where men are looking for positive role models, all shows like this one can come up with is that across multiple cultures, men are responsible for violent crime and sexual assault. That’s it. That’s our enduring heritage. So where do we go from here according to leftist, progressive thought? I know they wouldn’t suggest the commandments of God to do good, protect the widow and orphan, visit the sick, feed the hungry as viable alternatives.

        A lot of guys, occasionally including me, have a tough time holding our heads above water (metaphorically speaking) in a 21st century digital culture which portrays males as either thoughtless buffoons, or hyperviolent killers, rapists and racists. If Scene on Radio can’t make a positive contribution to male identity, and if they have to tear down men in order to fulfill some sort of progressive imperative, then they’re contributing to the problem and not the solution.


  2. All I know is my whole family is in great pain because my dad is gone. (He died about a year and three-quarters ago.) He was a good model for us, and pleasant to be around. And his dad was a good model before that. (I remember that grandpa somewhat, while he died when I was about five. I remember what it was like to be around him. Peaceful. Confident. Loving.) My dad was artistic and a caretaker of his acreage and very focused on our family. He had been a beloved art teacher in public schools too. He wasn’t a writer, like you, James. (Although he did write me a long poem with illustrative doodles when he was in graduate school.) But as mundane as a day (after another day) can seem, it matters to the kids. Don’t doubt the importance of your presence.

    I don’t think it’s a great contrast to acknowledge what “the left” says and compare that to the Bible saying men are sinners. Just a fact. But many can choose to be outstanding to people around them.

    (And when I think.about it, it does seem to me a lot of what the left suggests is to take care of widows and orphans — and refugees — visit the sick, tend to goodness in society, and feed the hungry.)


    • I’m tired. Insomnia is something I will have to deal with, but it’s not the worse thing. Since I was a teenager, I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety. Men like John Biewen and his much vaunted radio show do nothing but promote white male worthlessness. That’s why I’ll never listen to his radio show, and I would never let Biewen anywhere near my nine-year-old grandson. He has the right to grow up not hating himself.


      • I’ve never listened to the show… not even now. I’ve responded to things you’ve shared about it. I would say you probably shouldn’t listen to it. (I didn’t gather that it was about white men, but men historically.) But you should probably not let either of your grandchildren anywhere near a church, either. The ones that aren’t “health and wealth” make up your own reality “positive” thinking fakes are likely to tell them how terrible they are (regardless of race/skin color). You know, hell and brimstone. Come to the alter. Get out your checkbook. Vote the way I tell you.


  3. I’ve gone and listened to four episodes. I’d recommend the 53rd one. I would hope that if something like that happened to your granddaughter or daughter your response would be that it ma mattered rather than that the thing people should be doing is telling “good” stories (defined as not bothersome).

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Where you said the following, I clicked on your provided link {indicated wording between the >]Duke Univ produces ‘himpathy,’ ‘himpunity’ podcast[<]. Having no idea what “himpathy” and “himpunity” were, I clicked the link …"

    So, that's what you said. Now here are the additional steps I took:

    After that, I clicked on the first red link at that page:
    Scene on Radio podcast

    That took me to another place, where I looked for yet another link:
    Hear Episodes

    From there (linking further), one can choose among episodes. The way it worked for me was that choosing an episode would change pages again, and then I could click on an arrow to begin.


  5. What I typed in for that above post (7:06 pm) didn’t show up the way I typed it.

    I’ll try again to show what I was quoting from you.

    Where you said the following, I clicked on your provided link {indicated wording between the ** symbols below — but actual link to be found in James’/your opening post}:

    “Actually, it began this morning when I read a Campus Reform article called [*]Duke Univ produces ‘himpathy,’ ‘himpunity’ podcast[*]. Having no idea what “himpathy” and “himpunity” were, I clicked the link …”


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