No Safe Spaces for Old Men

Adam Carolla and Dennis Prager’s Free-Speech Warning Shot

I saw the No Safe Spaces movie. In this conservative documentary about the importance of free speech, talk-show host Dennis Prager and lad-mag TV star and podcaster Adam Carolla spend a lot of time walking in slow-motion toward the camera and sucking on cigars. They make a persuasive case that today’s college students are fairly intolerant of non-woke opinions. They provide an intermittently amusing and also chilling reminder that the First Amendment rests on somewhat precarious footing and that our civics education has gone to hell. But I’m not entirely persuaded that America is in as much danger as No Safe Spaces claims.


NO SAFE SPACES ★★★(3/5 stars)
Directed by: Justin Folk
Running time:100 min


 

No Safe Spaces is at its best when it presents actual evidence of its thesis that kids today don’t respect the First Amendment. There’s some frightening footage of an anti-Ben Shapiro protest at UC Berkeley and of a Toronto college teaching assistant’s railroading at the hands of a moronic super-woke academic committee. Most effectively and prominently, it features a long and effective retelling of the Bret Weinstein saga.

For those of you who observe online flame wars as a hobby, you’ll already know that Weinstein was a liberal lecturer at Evergreen State College in rural Washington. Evergreen has a tradition of a day, based on the ideas of a radical Harlem Renaissance playwright, where black students disappear so white people can specifically feel how much they contribute to society. A couple of years ago, the black students informed the white students that the black people would remain on campus and it was the duty of the white students to disappear. Weinstein rightly declared this an illiberal tendency. Students protested him and forced other students to denounce him, Gang Of Four-style. And then the college fired him. They deserved to pay ten times the $500,000 settlement that Weinstein eventually received.

Your tolerance of No Safe Spaces may vary upon whether or not you think this is an isolated case, or a harbinger of a left-wing Big Brother future. Prager and Carolla think it might be the end of freedom. I’m not so sure.  Woke culture is mostly ridiculous, and violent protests against righty gadflys like Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter are completely ridiculous. But it’s not like people are actually being canceled because of their ideas, expect for maybe Milo, but one could safely argue that he cancelled himself by being a huge jerky weirdo. In the end, Ann Coulter still gets to appear on TV, as does pretty much everyone else. No Safe Spaces also prominently features the voices of Van Jones and Bill Maher, hardly fascist sympathizers, reflecting the movie’s central thesis that speech should be free. Not everyone agrees, but enough people do.

No Safe Spaces weakens its case with lame cartoons interspersed thoughout, including a bad Schoolhouse Rock parody where Antifa riddles the First Amendment with bullets, and a superhero cartoon called “Social Justice Warriors” that’s about a thousandth as funny as the Robert Smigel and Adam McKay-written X-Presidents cartoons to which it’s indebted. Meanwhile, the rich get richer. Ben Shapiro and Jordan Peterson, two of the major victims of this movement according to our documentary hosts, make a lot of money and have careers that many politically-correct pundits would envy. Peterson gets a custom-tour of Carolla’s personal garage, where they gawk at vintage sportscars. The movie ends with Prager conducting the L.A. Symphony Orchestra and Carolla driving fast around a racetrack. These dudes are not gulag-bound anytime soon.

For the screening, my “safe space” was a comfortable recliner in a fancy walking-mall multiplex in the southwestern suburbs of Austin, Texas. At the time, this film was, apparently, the number-one doc grosser in the country, despite only playing on 300 screens. There were six people in the audience midday pre-Christmas, four of whom applauded at the opening credits, so I assume they know someone who worked on the picture. In any case, that’s about what you expect for a movie whose projected audience is people who legitimately believe that the progressive left is about to set the world aflame. Millions of those people exist, but they tend to watch such material on Twitter, and Twitter is about as unsafe as spaces get. Maybe that’s why they’re so worried.

This concludes my review of the No Safe Spaces movie.

Neal Pollack

Book and Film Globe Editor in Chief Neal Pollack is the author of 11 semi-bestselling books of fiction and nonfiction, including the memoirs Alternadad and Stretch, the novels Repeat and Downward-Facing Death, and the cult classic The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature. He's written articles and humor for every English-language publication except The New Yorker. Neal lives in Austin, Texas, and is a three-time Jeopardy! champion.

3 thoughts on “No Safe Spaces for Old Men

  • January 6, 2020 at 12:34 am
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    Have you watched “shadow government”???,what is your response to that movie if you have seen it ???

    Reply
  • January 16, 2020 at 1:36 am
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    Very good and fair review unlike too many I’ve read. I would warn against ignoring incrimentalism though.

    Reply

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