Courtney is the Host of “The Free Speech Podcast.” Here we talk about her life, work on the podcast, and views.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Just to give an idea to the audience here, what is some relevant background from early life into the present?
Courtney: I grew up in the United States, more specifically in the South. My upbringing was in a seemingly nonreligious household, that had its fair share of dysfunction. In high school, I tried on Christianity and thought that I agreed with its tenets, but within two years’ time, I left it behind. I had too many questions and the answers I was provided, if I was given any, weren’t satisfying. I have always been known to ask deep questions, from a young age, up into the present. Oftentimes, I find that by asking questions that are interesting to me, questions that are deemed taboo, off-limits, or controversial, the responses and in turn the relationships that I build are full of depth, complexity, passion, and thought. That isn’t to say that I haven’t gotten my fair share of hate, disconnect, or loss of relationships, but I find that the meaningful conversations trump the shallowness of the lost relations.
Jacobsen: What differentiates the American-specific orientation towards freedom of speech and the more internationalist frame of freedom of expression to you?
Courtney: The vast coverage of freedom of expression is unique to the United States. In my opinion, it is this set of rights that distinguishes us from the rest of the world. Freedom of speech is the epitome of American values. On an international scale, a lot of countries seek more control over their people in this regard.
Jacobsen: Why found The Free Speech Podcast?
Courtney: The Free Speech Podcast is founded on the premise that ideas are not sacred, they should be questioned and discussed at length, but with tact, civility, and reason. The core elements that underpin The Free Speech Podcast are Enlightenment values that I feel are necessary for civil discourse, progress as an American society as well as globally. The Free Speech Podcast is a safe place for unsafe ideas, a place to express your opinion without fear of aggression, ad hominem attacks, or belittlement. I feel as though this is missing from the public discourse found on social media sites where it’s easy to lay behind a computer screen without real consequences for our comments. People are apt to typing messages that more than likely wouldn’t be stated if people were face to face. So, I want a place that people come to see, engage, and participate with reasonable discussion about difficult topics that sometimes, maybe even most of the time, don’t have answers.
Jacobsen: “The Art of Debate and How it Can Help Relationships and Anxiety” was the most recent episode or recording prior to the interview. Why this topic?
Courtney: Debate is often misconstrued or is tossed around with a negative connotation to the word. People shy away from it for fear of rejection, ostracism for the wrong idea, and the confrontation assumed to come with it. I want to highlight how this is a horrible misconception of debate, and though it can be portrayed as a winner/loser style, it has the potential to enhance our relationships and our mental health. Debating ideas gives courage, confidence, and the skills to manipulate words into meaningful sentences and arguments to attempt to articulate a perspective or point, using the evidence gathered through research.
Jacobsen: How can debate help with anxiety and relationships?
Courtney: In honest debates, people change their minds in the presence of good evidence. This can be powerful to the everyday person who may struggle with communicating their wants or needs, how they feel, why they feel the way that they do, and how to reconcile counter arguments in a productive, civil, and meaningful manner. Debating, at its core, is centered on impeccable communication skills. Communication skills are proven to be crucial and critical to successful relationships, whether that’s spousal, friendship, parent/child, etc.
Debate, in the case portrayed in the most recent episode, gave Penny the courage, skills, and platform to face her anxiety head-on. I have found that facing our fears, within boundaries, we are able to push ourselves beyond the limits we set for ourselves. We have the ability to curtail negative emotions and behaviors by growing beyond our superficial limits that we set.
Jacobsen: If we’re looking at the epithets floating within mostly the online sphere, we can observe the two major ones with two distinct streams of thought. One is “Social Justice Warrior” or SJW. Another is “Free Speech Warrior” or FSW as a logical complement to the first. Epithet-ism pervades modern discourse on all or most sides. Why?
Courtney: Humans have evolved to find patterns within people, our environment and ourselves. Boiling down political positions into these epithets are a natural way to make sense of our world. When ideas become too complex, people boil them down to bite-sized pieces that are easier to digest. Unfortunately, this can be a detriment to understanding others who differ from us. We put people into boxes based on a political perspective, ideology, race, religion, etc to make sense of them, instead of engaging with them personally. At our evolutionary roots, this goes back to our tribalism nature, our ability to identify threats quickly, and to know who or what we can trust.
Jacobsen: How can an emphasis on freedom of speech, in particular, and freedom of expression, in general, in a podcast re-invigorate a core internationalist value?
Courtney: I believe wholeheartedly that the most effective way to have progress, in any sense of the word, is to have a marketplace of ideas. Competition for ideas will drown out the ones that don’t hold up against scrutiny, and the most logical and sound will prevail. So, in order to keep this value alive, we must celebrate it, entertain it, engage with it, and create it. Freedom of speech (thought) is the most precious right we have in keeping our autonomy.
The podcast is an homage as much as it is a creative endeavour to uphold this core right.
Jacobsen: What topics seem more out of bounds for the more left-oriented folks? What subject matter seems more off-grounds for the more right-shifted people?
Courtney: From the left-oriented folks, I have found that conversations on topics such as criticism of Islam, nationalism/patriotism, gun rights and border security are emotionally charged and oftentimes extreme.
Right-oriented folks tend to shy away from conversations concerning Universal Healthcare and Income, higher education (specifically free education), secularism, and lack an openness on the topic of abortion.
Jacobsen: Should we remove or keep the epithet-ism ongoing at the moment? In either case, why does this labelling become a widespread default in a Computer Age among individuals from all backgrounds?
Courtney: To circle back to the previous question on the pervasiveness of epithet-ism, we can learn how to shy away from these contrived boxes we use to simplify the world, but our nature based on our evolution will mostly side with compartmentalization. This is both a downfall and an asset.
We naturally put people into boxes, seek to hear news that we agree with, and engage with others who are like-minded. We’re also engaging in the Computer Age on social media, where the companies are begging for our attention. They are constructing platforms that feed us the news in ways that we want to hear it, maybe even what news we are exposed to, encourage the creation of groups and hashtags to further a particular topic or people, and show us ads that are designed to specifically target us. This can be an incredibly strong force acting against diversity of ideas, organic gathering of news and research, and seeing people and organizations that differ from us.
Jacobsen: Any recommended authors or podcasts?
Courtney: Some of my favorite authors include Peter Boghossian, Carl Sagan, Steven Pinker, Robert Sapolsky, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, Paul Bloom, Yuval Noah Harari, Jonathan Haidt, and J. K. Rowling,
I suggest the Joe Rogan Experience show, Unregistered Podcast with Thaddeus Russell, Sam Harris’ Making Sense, and Rubin Report with Dave Rubin.
Jacobsen: Any final feelings or thoughts in conclusion?
Courtney: I want to make it clear that the most reasonable, deep, and meaningful interactions happens between humble, intellectually honest people who are at ease with being proven wrong, learning, and growing.
Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Courtney.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.
Do not forget to look into our associates: Godless Mom, Nice Mangoes, Sandwalk, Brainstorm Podcast, Left at the Valley, Life, the Universe & Everything Else, The Reality Check, Bad Science Watch, British Columbia Humanist Association, Dying With Dignity Canada, Canadian Secular Alliance, and Centre for Inquiry Canada.
Other Resources: Recovering From Religion.