This post is a review of Don’t Burn This Book by Dave Rubin. This review was initially posted as a 3 star book review on Amazon.
I pre-ordered this book to help support Dave for all of the wonderful, insightful interviews he has hosted over the past few years. I am grateful for how he has exposed his audience to people who do not conform to the rigid labels conducive to short-form, corporate media: Andrew Yang, Tulsi Gabbard, Michael Malice, Eric Weinstein, Bridget Phetasy, Heather Heying, and countless others.
I currently identify as a ‘liberal localist’. I agree with Dave on many topics, and apparently disagree with him on even more than I previously thought. I am not rating this a 3 star because of our ideological disagreements. Although, I would consider bumping it up to a 4 star if Dave would give me the opportunity to discuss my worldview on the Rubin Report, as described in my book, Lead The Future (New Degree Press 2019) ;).
- The hook of the book is excellent. It grabbed my attention right away and was incredibly humanizing. It set my expectations high and I love it thematically.
- Dave is correct that we should prioritize our friendships over political ideology. The story of his first ‘wake up call’ is the kind of story that deserves to be repeated and applauded. I hope that David Webb and Dave have maintained their friendship over the years; it sounds like David might even be winning their ‘battle of ideas’ but we’ll get to that more later.
- Dave diagnoses the problems of contemporary progressivism and its associated strain of identity politics well. His story is the perfect example of how this type of shaming and resentment hurts well-intentioned people and may, quite intuitively, drive them away from the left.
- Dave uses humor effectively at many points throughout the book. [Although at times, it comes off a bit callous and hurts his ability to persuade his readers (if that’s even his aim).]
- And much more!
- We know who hurt you, Dave! Although it’s unclear who the audience for this book really is (I imagine someone older and more conservative than me…), one of the audiences was definitely any progressive journalist who couldn’t help but read his book. Dave spends arguably four chapters focused solely on ‘OWNING’ and ‘DESTROYING WITH FACTS AND LOGIC’ some imagined, stereotypical-progressive reader. This is most evident in chapter five where he spams the reader with a set of inconvenient facts, without any real analysis for those of us who don’t know what beliefs they’re supposed to be rebutting.
- Dave opens the book by stating that he is a ‘Classical Liberal’. He does evangelize many positions which liberals and libertarians share; localization of drug policy and minimum wage, free speech absolutism, skepticism towards Magic Money Theory, etc. However, later in the book he ‘comes out’ again as what might be more accurately described as a centrist/liberal nationalist, or what I would describe as a ‘Chad Centrist Nationalist’ (Now wouldn’t that be an interesting part of a video title for the Rubin Report?).
- Not passing judgment on Dave’s pivot to a more nationalistic politics, he goes on to make some claims that he barely attempts to justify. He categorically states that the United States is not an imperialist nation, an opinion that you would struggle to find any ‘moderate’ Libertarian would agree with, let alone a genuine liberal. Dave does this by defining imperialism in the most narrow way imaginable, ie. if a state doesn’t have explicit colonial territories, it is not imperialist. He also states, “This aside, much of our foreign military intervention has been good— just look at Korea, Vietnam…where our contribution secured much-needed freedoms.” If you want to claim that US intervention in Vietnam is now justified, you’re going to at least need to make an argument.
- There are quite a few cringe moments in the book. It seems as if Dave either did not seek out feedback from fellow liberals or he did not listen to them. At one point Dave writes, “…the so-called [wage] gap disappears faster than conservative content on Twitter.”(104) He also opens chapter 7 by telling everyone who doesn’t think “America is the best country on Earth…” should “ditch all of your first-world luxuries”. “A socialist dystopia like Venezuela would be an excellent choice, or perhaps a dictatorship such as North Korea. Sure you’ll have to eat out of the garbage…”(127).
- There are numerous other factual inaccuracies throughout the book. He needed editorial help from someone with a broader background in the numerous topics he touched on throughout the book.
- It seems as if he wrote much of this book under the idea he had for “The Ravings of a Right Wing Lunatic” (a title that he mentions he considered at one point) and then tried to re-purpose it as “Don’t Burn This Book.”
- And yes, much more!
- At one point, Dave enters the abortion debate. His position is essentially that abortion should be ‘legal, early, safe, and rare,’ which is actually a common, [secular] liberal position. He lays out his thought process about how ‘he’ would have an abortion if his surrogate child was going to be born with serious deformities, or other quality of life issues. This was a completely missed opportunity to demonstrate the complexity of this debate. He completely omits the reality that it would be the surrogate mother who would be the party having the abortion…what are her rights in the situation? What type of contract exists for that type of thing? Was she at all a part of this conversation? It doesn’t seem like it from the brief discussion in the book.
- In one of the chapters where Dave is mostly focused on ‘owning the progs’, he references two claims which actually have the potential to persuade others to consider his position on how parents should respond to their children identifying as transgender. Unfortunately, Dave does not cite the actual research on the topic to back-up these claims but only the authority of the relevant Rubin Report guest, Deborah Soh. The claims made are “Many children naturally outgrow their gender dysphoria by adulthood.” (61) and “…sixty to ninety percent, completely outgrow the desire [to change gender]. They’re more likely to grow up to be gay, rather than trans.” (61). The latter in particular would’ve been a prime opportunity for Dave to weigh-in on this topic from the perspective of an influential, openly gay man.
- In a portion about the importance of nuclear weapons as a deterrent, Dave incorrectly states that Ukraine is a member of NATO. However, he goes on to make allusion to the intervention in Libya, which is a much stronger argument for his point anyway. He even quotes Obama conceding that the intervention in Libya was a disaster and likely removed incentive for future ‘rogue nations’ to disarm in the future.
- Dave’s practice of taking a month off from social media and screens every summer is genuinely admirable and interesting. He mentions it briefly and ends on a note that is informed by his experience ‘unplugging’ every summer for the past two years. I think that a chapter dedicated to this perspective and sharing more about it would’ve been more impactful, and served similar ends, as his chapter about Fake News. It just wouldn’t have been as inflammatory.
- In general, Dave didn’t attempt to persuade people in ways that were effective which was disappointing as a liberal.
Ultimately, I cannot think of a single person in my personal network who I would recommend this book to. It’s a book for people who want to know more about Dave. If you’re a new fan of the Rubin Report and want to learn more about where Dave is at in 2020, this is likely a good place to start. This book is neither as great as his most tribalistic fans believe nor as bad as his tribalistic haters decree. It needs some work and I’m optimistic that Dave will be open to constructive criticism, “losing a debate isn’t a sign of stupidity or weakness, but a sign of growth if you’re willing to embrace it with humility.” (95)
Dave, if you read this, I am genuinely so happy for you and David. I think it’s wonderful that you two have decided to start a family. That was another aspect of your book that I truly thought was good, although you covered it quite well! I look forward to watching your perspective change as you become a father.
If this review is helpful, please consider tweeting it at @RubinReport. Maybe, we’ll be able to discuss some of these topics on his or ‘my show’, preferably his.
Thank you for reading! If you want to support me on my current adventure, please consider purchasing a copy of Lead The Future, leaving a review on Amazon, joining my newsletter, or helping me to secure speaking opportunities in-person or on media platforms.