In this episode, Katie Herzog, co-host of the popular podcast Blocked and Reported, joins High Noon. Herzog is a frequent contributor to Bari Weiss’ Substack page, where she has published a series of reported pieces on how ideology is infecting medical schools and hospitals, including the elimination of teaching about biological sex and pressure on medical researchers to stay away from “controversial” topics.

Katie and Inez also discuss and debate the relative dangers of the woke left and authoritarian right, how the two political parties fail their voters, and whether the current cultural moment is indicative of a deeper turn away from liberalism or an intense but trendy moral panic.


TRANSCRIPT

Inez Stepman:

Welcome to High Noon, where we talk about controversial subjects with interesting people. My guest today is Katie Herzog, reporter and co-host of the popular podcast, Blocked and Reported, along with some other guy that we won’t name. She’s also a crucial contributor to Bari Weiss Substack, where she’s written a remarkable series of reported pieces on what we might term the creep of unscientific wokeness into the medical field. And we’re definitely going to discuss that today. But for those in the know, the most important thing that you need to know about Katie is her position as a linchpin in the radical anti- dog-neuter resistance. Katie, welcome to High Noon.

Katie Herzog:

Thanks for having me. That’s a great introduction.

Inez Stepman:

Before we get to the critical question of dog neutering, I really want to out with this series of reports that you’ve written for Bari Weiss’s Substack, which, by the way, is completely the new New York Times, on what might flippantly be termed woke medicine. You’ve been writing about this subject. You started back in June with a piece called What Happens When Doctors Can’t Tell the Truth? What made you decide to start reporting on what’s happening in med schools or hospitals? How did you get the idea to start looking into sort of the medical field with regard to wokeness or whatever we want to call it? I hate that word, but…

Katie Herzog:

Yeah. So this story really originated with Bari. She came to me and she was just looking for a reporter to follow up on some tips that she’d received. I believe the first tip was, Bari… She been working on a series about what’s happening in education, which I agree with you, the term wokeness is terrible, but it’s also sort of the best shorthand we have to describe what’s going on.

And when she was reporting on education, she’d found this, basically a private Zoom group of descenders. And the same thing happened with medicine. So she got a tip that there were these doctors from all over the country, some of them who work in community health, some of them who work at the top medical institutions in the country who were getting together in secret and discussing this and talking about tactics and what’s going on in their institutions. So that’s really where the series started and we just broadened it out from there.

Inez Stepman:

So that first piece back in June dealt primarily with doctors being silenced or coerced in some way around topics of race, and we’ve seen race become a factor in medical decision-making in the last year or all the way up to the level of the CDC, which initially considered it among the factors for distributing vaccines or who would have access to vaccines first. I think they ultimately dropped that that guidance, but they were thinking about it.

And then Vermont, the State of Vermont actually did adopt a guidance that essentially prioritized vaccines based on race, based on this kind of justification that people of color had been oppressed over time in the past. And therefore this kind of active discrimination was necessary to rectify that oppression. This isn’t just a matter of a few young people in the field, is it? It seems like it actually has gotten pretty high up. Another one of your pieces is on a lecture that was given at Yale Medical School, I believe. Right? So this has gotten into the medical institutions.

Katie Herzog:

Yeah. It’s interesting, there does seem to be this generational divide where you have younger people in particular really pushing this ideology, but it’s not just a bunch of kids. People are listening to them. Leaders are listening to them. In the first piece I wrote about a woman who she’s now the… What is it? She’s the New York City chief medical officer for the health department. I don’t remember her exact title. And she wrote a piece for the Boston Review advocating for, her name is Michelle Morris, advocating for race-based admission. So people would be prioritized for healthcare based on their race. So this is not coming from nowhere. This is coming from people with actual power.

Inez Stepman:

Yeah. That’s what’s really scary about it, is the way it’s been institutionally embraced. Which I guess is kind of the story more generally in newsrooms and boardrooms. But the last piece that you wrote recently, instead of dealing with race, it deals with biological sex. Which is, in some way, even more scary, right? Because even though there are, and you mentioned, for example, delivery complication rates between black women and white women, there are some limited instances where race is relevant, medically, there are a lot more where biological sexism kind of important with regard to actually delivering care.

So I’m going to quote you interviewing a doctor. So, “This hypersensitivity is undermining medical training. And many of these students are likely not even aware that their education is being informed by ideology. Take abdominal aortic aneurysms”—I’m going to butcher a lot of these medical terms. Lauren says, “These are four times as likely to occur in males and females, but this very significant difference wasn’t emphasized. I had to look it up. And I don’t have the time to look up the sex predominance for the hundreds of diseases I’m expected to know. I’m not even sure what I’m being taught. And unless my classmates are as skeptical as I am, they probably aren’t aware either.

“Other conditions that present differently in a different rates in males and females include hernias, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, and asthma, among many others. Males and females have different normal ranges for kidney function, which impacts drug dosage. They have different symptoms during heart attacks. Males complain of chest pain while women experienced fatigue, dizziness, and indigestion. In other words, biological sex is a hugely important factor in knowing what ails patients and how to properly treat them.” So that does not give me enormous confidence if I have a heart attack and go into the hospital.

Katie Herzog:

Right. This was actually a medical student I interviewed who’s at the school in the University of California system. And what she told me in this piece over a series of a bunch of interviews was basically that her instructors, when they talk about biological sex, so not just gender, but when they talk about biological sex, their students will complain.

So at the school, they have some sort of internal messaging system. And the last year, of course, was all mostly done online because of COVID. And so these students, while their instructors were lecturing, or while they were watching these pre-recorded lectures, would give real-time feedback. And so these instructors were essentially being shamed. And she provided me with a bunch of apologies written and audio recordings of apologies of instructors just sort of like almost bereft that having what they think was offended these students.

And it is. It’s definitely troubling. There’s this conflation of sex and gender. And it is, I think, totally possible to be respectful of people’s gender identities while still also acknowledging the reality and the necessity of biological sex, especially in medicine.

Inez Stepman:

Yeah. It seems like medicine would be the one field where this absolutely has to be recognized, right?

Katie Herzog:

Right.

Inez Stepman:

For the sake, many times, of people. Especially if you, for example, don’t immediately present as the biological sex that you were born there, your doctor needs to know that unless he or she misdiagnosed you with something that’s more common in your biological sex than in the sex that you’re presenting as-

Katie Herzog:

Right. And one thing to note here. Medical records should indicate biological sex and as well as gender identity, if that’s necessary, but they should indicate biological sex. And they don’t always. Sometimes, biological sex as reflected as someone’s chosen gender identity.

So there was a case in 2019 where a trans-man went to a hospital, he was complaining of stomach pain. The nurse assessed him as obese and thought he was in pain because he’d stopped taking his medication for hypertension. Didn’t realize that this patient was actually female. And it turned out that he was pregnant and in labor. By the time they figured out what was going on, it was too late and the baby had died.

This was written up in the New England Journal of Medicine and the authors of this piece said that this guy was… He didn’t know that he was pregnant, but he was just absolutely devastated to find out that he was pregnant and that he’d lost this baby that he actually really wanted.

Inez Stepman:

You said that was written up in the New England Journal Medicine. That’s another element of this we’re seeing, and not just with regard to medical journals, but generally scientific journals. We’re starting to see research be avoided on some of these issues that might trigger some kind of backlash online or from younger medical students, right? And we’re seeing retractions when something does get published that seem at least politically motivated.

I know you and Jesse talk a lot about… And recently on your podcast, you’ve been talking about scientific journals issuing those kinds of attractions. What are the long-term consequences when even… So, in the piece that you’re talking about this a medical student, Lauren, she’s saying, well, I can go and look up that there are these ways that various, either medicines or conditions affect the two biological sexes. I mean, what happens when there isn’t any research or any new medical journal pieces being put out about those kinds of medical differences and it just doesn’t get it? There will be nowhere to look it up.

Katie Herzog:

Right? That’s one of the ironies here, is that for decades, women have been arguing that our health concerns have been ignored because oftentimes, for instance, when pharmaceutical companies are developing drugs, it’s harder to test drugs on women because there’s more variability because of our hormone cycles. And so for decades, women have really argued that there needs to be more attention paid to what are essentially female health problems. Just things like heart attacks.

I didn’t know until relatively recently that females present with different symptoms in heart attacks than men do. You think of it like someone grabbing their arm and that would be the that would be an indication of a heart attack, having that sort of pain right there. That’s just not how it manifests in women or in females. And these are things that women have fought for years. And now there’s this trend where people are just hypersensitive to any sort of perceived offense. And so they’re avoiding actually talking about these issues.

And one of the retractions that I read about it was not actually a retraction, but this was a paper published in the journal PLOS ONE by a woman named Lisa Littman who was then an associate professor at Brown. And she wrote an article on what’s what she termed rapid onset gender dysphoria. So this is a population of typically natal females, typically adolescents and teenagers who present, all of a sudden, with gender dysphoria, something that, for deeply trans-people or deeply dysphoric people, typically presents earlier in life.

And she wrote this piece about this emerging population that most of us, I think, at this point are aware of where you’ll have a cohort of teen girls who all at the same time decide that they’re transgender. Maybe that it’s a peer group or maybe they spend a lot of time online. And Littman did this study and there was such an outcry about this, that Brown retracted a press release in the journal PLOS ONE. They didn’t retract the paper, but they investigated paper and then made these minor corrections to the paper, sort of all cosmetic. And she got a ton of heat by that. She is no longer at Brown. She lost her contract with the state agency after this conflict. And really, there was nothing wrong with her work. It was just activist pressure led to all of these consequences for her.

Inez Stepman:

Yeah. That’s really scary. That’s what scares me when it does infiltrate what we might consider the “harder” sciences, right? And Katya Sedgwick, my friend who writes often for The Spectator, she wrote a piece. And she comes from the former Soviet Union. She immigrated here. She wrote a piece saying, actually in this small way, there are many ways in which even this current moment in the United States is much better than the former Soviet Union, don’t get me wrong. But she said in this particular way, it’s actually kind of worse because the Soviet Union was still very invested in having planes stay up, right?

Katie Herzog:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Inez Stepman:

They didn’t have this enormous font of wealth the way the United States does and this sort of security that that wealth and prosperity and, in this case, access to the miracles of modern medicine will just continue without the necessary research. So she said, yeah, you had to tow the political line in all kinds of places in life. If you were writing equations, in some way, you had a little oasis away from that. Unless you went ahead and actually engaged in politics, you were kind of left alone to write your equations or to do medical research because they simply aren’t as high as sort of wealthy and decadent as the United States. So they couldn’t afford to have all that stuff go to crap very quickly.

Is this going to undermine trust in your family doctor, in medical institutions, going forward? I mean, what is this going to do to, you mentioned patients who are going in, sometimes older patients, and being berated about being asked whether they’re a man or a woman. What is this going to do to trust, going forward, people actually utilizing medical care?

Katie Herzog:

Yeah. I think that’s a problem. And we’ll see how far it spreads. I think we’re just beginning to see this emerge right now. For instance, I talked to a student at a top medical school on the East Coast and she told me that her mother was an immigrant. And her mom doesn’t speak very good English. And if a doctor… So she already has trouble absorbing information from her doctors. And if her doctor is asking her what her pronoun is, it’s going to be confusing to her. And not just confusing, but kind of insulting.

And this is something that some doctors are advocating for this pronoun declaration. Because there’s a small minority of people who have alternate pronouns or present in some gender non-normative way. And so in an effort to be hypersensitive to this one small population, we’re spreading this narrative or spreading this ideology to all populations.

I don’t know at this point how widespread this is, but, for instance, the Washington Post in February published a column by a young doctor or a resident who said this, who said, “It’s really important to ask my patients their pronouns and to tell them my pronouns, to announce my own pronouns to them. They don’t like it. A lot of them, most of them, don’t like it and are offended by this, but it’s important to do it anyway.”

Inez Stepman:

Yeah. Maybe it’s a bias from where I live in New York, but I don’t know if it’s that unusual because it seems like even in practice, it’s pretty widespread. This is a little bit personal and embarrassing, but I went to the gynecologist for something routine and I had to put on a gynecologist form that I am in fact female.

Katie Herzog:

Yeah.

Inez Stepman:

This was a little absurd given what I’m there for. Right? But that’s not a huge deal. But when you’re talking about questioning patients about things like that… I’m anecdotally hearing, for example, that some of my friends who are parents, they’re worried about their kids being questioned because they’re finding that when they go into the pediatrician for well wellness visits, that the pediatrician is asking their four or five-year-old kids, are you a boy or a girl?

Katie Herzog:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Inez Stepman:

They’re starting to think like… I mean, they want to access the care, but they are starting to feel nervous about taking their kids to the pediatrician. That’s certainly not what we want, right? We don’t want people not going to get medical care because they’re either offended or just feel uncomfortable with the way that the medical system is dealing with some of these issues.

Katie Herzog:

Right. And I think also, last summer after the death of George Floyd and there were these mass protests, and then after months of having the public health establishment tell us, we need to stay home you need to stay home for our frontline workers, we need to keep these people safe, to have 180 degree messaging coming out after the death of George Floyd, where these public health people and doctors and nurses and other people in the field are saying, no, you need to go out and protest.

And so I think that that mixed messaging really does lead to a lack of trust. And a lot of people now are talking about this sort of crisis of trust in institutions. And I don’t think these public health people, at a time when we should be able to trust these institutions, especially because of the pandemic, I don’t think they’re doing anything to inspire it.

Inez Stepman:

Yeah. That to me has been one of the tragedies of the pandemic. And I also pinpoint what you just said is basically the moment that I think this lost control of the pandemic and when pandemic mitigation measures became fully ensconced as part of the culture war and became fully political was that moment in the summer where you had official medical boards, not only doctors individually, but the CDC and people representing those institutions going on TV saying, after telling people for months that they couldn’t even gather in small groups, for example, to celebrate the life of a dead loved one and a funeral or a wedding, they were telling you you couldn’t gather in even small groups, they suddenly endorsed gathering in very, very large groups because that was the correct political cause. I saw it happen in lifetime. People…

And I’m on the right, obviously. So a lot of my friends are on the right and I saw it happen in lifetime. Even people who had not necessarily been, let’s say, in some of the early protests against masks and lockdowns and all that, were suddenly… They were like, I’m not doing this anymore. If these institutions are endorsing these protests, this whole thing is political. And I no longer trust those institutions. It seems like that’s only going to get worse if these institutions, like the reporting that you’re doing, doubled down on what are essentially political issues rather than actually sticking to their lane, quote unquote, and actually providing unbiased medical advice and care.

Katie Herzog:

Yeah. It’s very bad messaging. I don’t know who was giving this. Or they’re taking their advice from Twitter? I don’t know. It’s terrible messaging.

Inez Stepman:

Do you think that, I guess… Obviously there will be an impact on how much people trust going forward?, not only at the individual level going to the doctor, but even… I’m really afraid that if we’ll have another pandemic, nobody will listen to any of the institutions, not even a little bit, after that performance. It seems like this is sort of the dynamic going beyond the medical field now, but in a lot of the institutions, right? It’s a similar dynamic in the newsrooms or Bari Weiss forced out by essentially complaints from younger…

There’s a generational dynamic you referenced in the beginning of our conversation where younger reporters are trying to impose this liberal vision on people, let’s say you are my age and then up. That seems like that’s also happening to some extent in corporate boardrooms, it’s happening even in government agencies, the difference between the people working for the Biden administration now in these various agencies that are, whatever one thinks about Biden and what his actual positions are on some of these issues.

Some of his people who are working in the agency is for the Biden administration, a lot of them worked in the Obama administration and they are considerably more… Well, even the same people have totally different priorities that have more to do with “racial justice” or redefining sex in the law, for example, you’re seeing, essentially, an entire generation of people as they gain more power in these institutions.

What is the end point of this? Do we need to sort of circumvent them and build something new? Is there any hope of… I mean, I would like to rescue Yale Medical School. It seems to me that that’s pretty as far as institutions go, but it’s a pretty important one to try to take back from the folks who would politicize it in this way.

Katie Herzog:

Yeah. There has been, all across different industries, these attempts to sort of subvert the hierarchy. And I kind of get that. Historically, medicine has been extremely hierarchal. There’s lots of power and balances. This is happening in lots of different fields. I sort of understand the impulse there. But what’s the problem to me is that despite what these, I’ll just call them kids, I’ll be condescending and call them kids, what these kids are trying to do, the adults are not standing up and saying, wait a second. No.

And just these pieces that I’ve been reporting, it is incredibly difficult to get people on the record or people to come out as opposed to these policies, because they are scared for their livelihoods. And if you have… So I have tons of anonymous sources, some of whom are very important people, but if they’re not willing to put their names to their complaints, basically, I’m not sure how anything is going to change.

And I completely understand it’s a self-protection measure. You don’t want your name attached to these complaints. You don’t want to be the one person who comes out and says, wait a second, things are going off the rails. But without people willing to do that, I don’t see how things are going to change.

Inez Stepman:

Yeah. There does seem to be sort of a crisis of… People are willing to say anonymously that this is crazy, that a lot of what’s happening is crazy, but how to inspire people to be… And I understand it’s you’d be the perfect person to ask this question because, for me, one, conservatives are kind of pre-canceled, right? Like the Twitter mob almost doesn’t care as much, for example, about conservatives, because we were just often in the corner. We have our own sort of institutions and networks.

In some way, the cancellation fire is strongest for people who are, like you are, on the liberal left or who were in some of these liberal institutions like the New York Times. Right? You yourself started out getting a lot of this kind of heat after writing, I think you were writing for a [Alt 00:23:42] Weekly in Seattle, right? And you wrote a piece about detransitioners, right? People who had undergone some kind of sex transition and then decided that wasn’t for them and transitioned back.

So you went through… So what was that experience like in terms of the backlash you received and then how do we get more people to go through that experience and come out on the other side?

Katie Herzog:

Yeah. So I wrote a piece in 2017 for The Stranger Seattle’s Alt-Weekly called The Detransitioners. And as you said, it was about people who transitioned from one gender identity or sex to the other and then transition back. They changed their mind, essentially. And at the time, a lot has been written about the detransitioners now, and it’s not that hard to find the transitioners, but at the time, this wasn’t something people were really talking about.

And the piece was… When I read back on it now, I’m sort of embarrassed by all of the hedging that I did because I really went out of my way to make sure people knew that I think that trans adults should have access to healthcare, that laws banning transition or bathroom bills are bad. I still believe that, but I really hedged. Half the piece was probably sort of reassuring people that I had the correct politics on this, even though this wasn’t an opinion piece. But it was thoroughly reported. It was fact-checked. I had trans-sensitivity readers.

And then after it came out, not thinking that this was going to change my life in any way, there was this just this huge outcry and a lot of it was online, of course, but it also went offline. And so, I guess, the first sort of weird thing was that people started making flyers and putting them around Seattle, calling the peace transphobic and the paper transphobic, somebody burned stacks of the paper and sent me a video of it. People put stickers around Seattle calling me transphobic.

It just got very bizarre very quickly. I lost a bunch of friends. I sort of became persona non grata in Seattle’s community. And so it had this really major impact on my social life. It was a very stressful experience. Ironically, it was good for my career. It was probably the best thing I could’ve done for my career because it gave me a name that I really didn’t have before. I’d been a freelancer writing mostly about climate change until then.

And so there’s sort of this irony that sometimes when you attempt to cancel people that has the opposite of the intended effect. But for me, four years later, I can say that it was a good experience and it was a terrible experience at the time. But out of far from the sort of acute stage of it, I can say that this changed me in some really fundamental and important ways. I became much more skeptical as a reporter. Much more empathetic towards people who are blamed for things before the evidence comes out.

But not everybody is going to want to go through this experience. Not that I wanted to go through this experience. But not everybody’s going to benefit from that. There’s something about being in the media where you can sort of create a brand for yourself. And now with platforms like Sub-sec and Patreon become independently funded so that you don’t have to rely on institutions who might not be willing to publish you because staff members will complain.

So for me it hasn’t been it hasn’t been all bad, but I think for a lot of people who aren’t working in fields like media, who are working in fields like medicine, or working in tech, or any corporation or government, there’s very little upside to sticking your neck out. And that’s really a fundamental problem here. We need some sort of not mass uprising that’s too dramatic, but just some sort of… There’s power in numbers, right? The more people who speak out I think the more effective that will be at exposing this ideology as a creep to different institutions.

I also think, though, that there are all sorts of trends in human behavior and over time, and I think this is one of them. And trends end at some point. So I don’t think that this is totally an existential crisis. I think that this will end. How it will end, I’m not sure, but I think that… And also, we’re seeing a lot of backlash now. Like the woker the left gets, the more reactionary the right gets.

And that’s also a problem. As you mentioned, I’m a liberal and I’m opposed to many of the laws coming out of conservative state governments. And I think that they are a direct result of this woke ideology on the left. How this ends, I don’t have a crystal ball. But I hope it is peaceably and quickly.

Inez Stepman:

Well, we can all hope that I’m probably considerably more pessimistic on that score. But perhaps that’s just the difference between being liberal and being conservative on the [crosstalk 00:28:45] about the entire state of humankind always. So it doesn’t surprise me as much to see us descending into those. But as you said, there’s no way for a lot of people… In a field like medicine, you need the institutional backing, right? And there’s sort of a requirement for it in a way that isn’t necessarily in media, right?

I do think gatekeepers and media have a purpose. And part of what we’re seeing is as those gatekeepers through a way their institutional credibility, then you have the sort of this thousand flowers bloom effect, which is many, many upsides, and also has the downside that we’re not working with a common pallet of facts. Oftentimes, we have totally opposing, not just worldviews, but worlds that are sort of reflected in these various small D democratically or dispersed media sources. But in a field like medicine, you don’t want to let a thousand flowers bloom in terms of people calling themselves doctors, right?

Katie Herzog:

Right.

Inez Stepman:

I think the field is more difficult in that way. But you say that there are essentially these Zoom groups. It sounds like the Zoom groups have to start becoming real, organized groups. And maybe that’s one potential way forward, is these people need… They already seem like they’re finding each other in their various wink, wink, nod, nod ways to do. Like in the Bay Area where I grew up, if you were sort of center or right of center, you would put an American flag on your car and that became, probably something similar in Seattle, that became a symbol that was sort of plausibly deniable to let other people know that you were at a different political orientation than those around you.

But people find each other in these ways. I mean, how do we maybe encourage them to formalize some of these groups so that it’s not just one person speaking out risking their credentials or risking their journal articles being retracted or whatever?

Katie Herzog:

Yeah, that’s a good question. I think there’s opportunity here in academia in particular because of tenure. Especially in public institutions, academics are really very protected in terms of their ability to say what they want without getting fired for it. There are certainly attempts to get them fired, but oftentimes there’s recourse. So I would like to see academics, particularly tenured academics, speaking up because those are the people who, obviously have a lot to lose, but they also have this sort of built-in protection that most of us in private industry or in the public sector don’t have.

Inez Stepman:

Yeah. I guess I just keep coming back to this question of how do we support people, both financially and personally, right? Because it’s not just the financial. The reason that so few people in academia do speak up even though they have tenure, isn’t just because they’re afraid that there’ll be a Twitter campaign to get them to canceled, it’s because the people, their colleagues, their friends, their social network, will abandon them or think that they’re a terrible person or an immoral fascist or whatever it is. I feel like that half is almost as powerful, obviously, like the financial piece is probably the most important piece, but that second half…

Katie Herzog:

It’s huge. It’s huge. The social pressure to conform… I mean, I think we saw this a lot last summer during the George Floyd protest where you just had… Like in my own social networks, people who I know were fundamentally apolitical and basically uninformed getting sort of all in going all in on defunding the police and all cops are bastards sort of overnight. Some of which, I think, they probably believe and sometimes it’s just there’s this external pressure to conform to a narrative and you don’t want to be the person who doesn’t put up the black square on your Instagram.

And we saw corporations being called out by their employees or their customers for issuing statements in support of George Floyd that weren’t strong enough. Right? So this is a major issue is, when every sort of external social element is telling you to act a certain way, how do you be the person who does the opposite? And I think it takes certain personality types who are going to be willing to do this and not everybody has that.

Inez Stepman:

So here’s maybe where we will disagree a little bit, because… I guess the question I would ask is why do you think that ratchet, that sort of soft culture pressure only goes one way? And I think that would cut against your thesis a little bit about this being essentially a trend or, as I see it, more as the result of institutional power of the left, the cultural left specifically, that creates this thing that we can’t easily identify, right?

They were all like fish in an ocean don’t feel the water kind of thing, but when all of I mean… The academy has been very far left for a very long time, overwhelmingly. There’s all the studies done on the 0.1% or more like 1%, actually, of for example, sociology professors or whatever who identify as Republican or Conservative in those institutions. So that’s been a complaint at the right going all the way back to William F. Buckley 70 years ago.

But I think as the academy has become, not just left, but one particular stripe of the left where you see people even in the central left the liberal left starting to feel that pressure from their own left. I think that has effects in the kind of ripple effects in the other institutions. Right? So my field is K-12 policy. I can tell you the predecessors of this started in K-12 schools. I know you and Bari are interested in sort of tracking “wokeness” in the education system.

But it started even 20, 30 years ago, already. This is not something that happened just since the protests around George Floyd. I guess the challenge to your flash in the pan theory would be… Which, to give its due, is totally possible these things happen. We had had moral panics before. But I guess I see this as a more worrying thing that has the potential to last a lot longer, because it’s got so deep into all of these institutions that then create that water is wet kind of feeling for everybody. And as you say, it pushes the apolitical or the non-activist type of people, you have to conform in order to be considered a good person.

Katie Herzog:

Right. Right. Yeah. And I think education, if we look at education schools and universities, that’s probably the root of a lot of what’s happening in K-12 in public institutions right now, is that these ed schools have been from, I’m my mom taught, and an end school. So I know a little bit about it really have been… They basically attract a very small sort of ideological students and they indoctrinate them.

I’ve interviewed students at the University of Washington Education Program and they’ve told me the schools are all about social justice. They’re not talking about anything except for social justice in these schools. And if those are the people who are teaching the next generation of students, well, then the next generation of students will be indoctrinated into this ideology as well. Yeah. I think

Inez Stepman:

That’s really what we’re seeing in surveys. And we’ve mentioned already several times the idea that this is sort of a generational divide. But we’re seeing in surveys that if you pick your sort of woke statement of the day about sex and gender, about race, about any of these hot button topics, and you can staff the generations in terms of the majority of millennials and Gen Z tend to agree with some of these statements and surveys and the majority of Gen X and above with, I think, people like us may be on the cusp of it, right? The sort of older millennials.

Katie Herzog:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Inez Stepman:

But you do see that… And I think that’s exactly the effect of it jumping from the academy and the ed schools to… There’s going to be an entire generation of American voters and professionals in all of these fields that believe these things. Which is why I tend to think that it’s not going to stop. It’s going to get worse. And then even if we do succeed, for example, in pushing some of these ideas out of the education system, however that battle is sort of waged and won, we still will have to contend with this huge demographic bulge of people who grew up seeing these ideas basically unimpeachable.

Katie Herzog:

Right. I think it really also… It kind of comes down to where you live. It’s not a state by state thing, but I think even more granular, just sort of a district by district level. Because the education that you’re getting in a small town in Texas is probably not going to be the same education that you’re getting in Seattle, Washington. And then we can see this just with districts and states pushing back on CRT in education.

So I think that’s also sort of this interesting dynamic coming out of this, is we already live in this incredibly divided country where everything feels like it’s red or blue, it’s like team sports. And so if you’re in a school district in San Francisco, you’re maybe learning that there are 17 genders and that race is the most important thing about you. And if you’re in some district in Texas, you’re learning sort of the opposite.

So we’re also going to be raising students to, like all of our cultural issues, are also going to be filtering down into the next generation in terms of what sort of education people are receiving in there. And it also depends on what’s going on in the federal government. I’m a Biden voter, I was happy to vote for anybody to get Donald Trump out of office, but I was also concerned about Biden, even though he was the least woke candidate of the Democrats, of him incorporating some of these ideas into the federal government.

And it is happening. We can see it happening. We can see it happening in his policies. But we don’t know who’s going to be the president next time. Is the president going to be a… Maybe it’ll be Donald Trump and we’ll see the opposite things coming out of the federal government.

Inez Stepman:

Yeah. I guess I’d love to ask you maybe how you feel about supporting Biden, not in sort of partisan way, but because I followed this kind of discourse during the election, for example, from folks like Andrew Sullivan who clearly, and you who clearly see the danger of one particular part of the left taking over but are also concerned or equally concerned or more concerned about that on the right.

So I didn’t vote for Trump in 2016 even though I’m a lifelong, basically, Republican. Decided not to vote for him. Didn’t like him. And just wrote in, I just wrote in a dead guy. I didn’t vote that year, basically. And then wrote a piece about why I did vote for Donald Trump in 2020. And a lot of it was exactly the institutional backing for the woke left versus for Donald Trump. Whatever you think about to the extent that a crazy right wing exists, I just don’t see them having the kind of institutional power, and therefore they don’t worry me as much like the some of the more extreme parts of the right, even in the Donald Trump administration, and even Donald Trump himself as president was opposed by everybody who worked in his own agencies, was opposed… Of course, that the media was fanatically and counter productively opposed to Donald Trump to the extent that they blew all their credibility on it.

Katie Herzog:

Sorry, Moose just woke up. Let me let them out. Give me a second. Unless you want to see him.

Inez Stepman:

No, I do want to see him.

Katie Herzog:

Moose, come here. Come here. Come here. Come say hi. Come say hi. Come here.

Inez Stepman:

Moose, for listeners, Moose is Katie’s a Twitter famous golden doodle, right?

Katie Herzog:

Yes. And Moose’s testicles were written about in the Washington Post today. So he’s very proud.

Inez Stepman:

Yeah. So as I mentioned at the top and in the bio, Katie has not neutered her dog. And this has… She’s written about that decision very interestingly. I know it’s a strange recommendation, but I highly recommend the piece that Katie wrote about her decision not to take her dog to the Snip Snip.

Katie Herzog:

How could you take these balls away? I mean, just look at this precious guy.

Inez Stepman:

Aww. No, but I guess that was the rationale. And I’m wondering how you feel about the Biden administration thus far? As it seems to me that even though Biden himself has made relatively few nods in the sort of rhetorical level, the people actually running all of the agencies, you had a proposed rule that is now delayed because there were so many comments submitted in opposition, but a proposed rule to give out grants on the basis of schools implementing critical race theory, we’ve seen Title VI and Title IX, the definition of sex rewritten by sort of executive fiat, which is these dear colleague letters. I mean, we’re seeing lot of the Biden administration output has been, I think, more on the subject of racial discrimination and sort of the gender wars.

Katie Herzog:

Yeah. I certainly was conflicted about voting for Biden and not so conflicted that I didn’t do it. But to me, this issue is very important. Obviously it’s important. I write about it all the time. I think about it all the time. But it’s not the only issue. I’m also concerned with not just wokeness in medicine and in our healthcare system, I’m more concerned about the fact that so many millions of Americans don’t have access to healthcare now that Biden has fixed that.

And so for me, my politics are more than just these cultural issues. And in fact, I wish that these cultural issues were totally separate from the government. Obviously, that’s never gonna happen, but it bothers me to see these adopted by these cultural issues to become fodder for, basically, campaigns. So things like infrastructure, things like… And not Trump’s pretend infrastructure wait for everything goes to shit, but the actual infrastructure bill. Trying to get people insured. Working on housing and things like that.

To me, there’s just bigger issues than this one thing. Do I think that Biden will usher in some woke apocalypse? Not entirely. It’s sort of the darker moments of the night. Maybe I have those thoughts every once in a while. But I try to look at politics as just sort of bigger picture. And for me, the reason that I’m a liberal is because I think that the government has an obligation and a responsibility to care for our most downtrodden and our poorest citizens. And I just see Democrats doing, or at least trying to do, a better job of that.

I’m not so dogmatic that I think that Republican policies couldn’t, in theory, do just as well, but until they prove themselves just as effective or sort of harnessing the public sector to cure things like poverty. And if you guys can it out, I will become a Republican. But I just don’t see that happening. And so to me, it just came down to what is more important policies on climate change, policies on healthcare, or these cultural issues. For me, these other things just end up being more important.

Inez Stepman:

It’s interesting because that makes you, I think, one of the very rare band of voters who are actually prioritizing what might be called traditional political issues or economic issues over the culture work, because it seems like the polarization is happening in the opposite direction where you have people going with their vote on the cultural side of things, even if they disagree with economics. I think it’ll be really interesting to see if we get a non-woke Bernie style candidate.

Katie Herzog:

Sure.

Inez Stepman:

Because [crosstalk 00:46:07]-

Katie Herzog:

It could be Dr. Carlson.

Inez Stepman:

Yeah.

Katie Herzog:

Yeah. You mentioned a second ago… So I think you’re right about one thing and wrong about one thing. I think it’s true that Progressives, Liberals, do have this sort of cultural power right now in a way that, for instance, after 9/11, we didn’t have. Much more conservative… There was also deep pressure to conform after 9/11 and to jump on this sort of jingoistic nationalistic bandwagon.

But Republicans do have a lot of power in a lot of places. Courts in many places are dominated by Republicans. If you want to get an abortion in Georgia or Texas… I don’t know how you feel about that particular issue. It’s something that’s not top of my list of important things, but I do believe in a woman’s right to have an abortion. That’s going to be a lot harder to do in some of these states.

So, again, I think it really comes down to where you live. And we oftentimes have the perception that, I think, that the culture is for sure. Like American culture right now, I think, dominated by progressive values, Hollywood, the media, academia, publishing, but Republicans still do… I mean, the Supreme Court is dominated by conservative. So I don’t think it’s quite true to say that liberals that have all the power that we have taken over all of these institutions. Because the ones that are the most important, which I think our government, are oftentimes still dominated by conservatives.

Inez Stepman:

So I agree with you to the extent that I think Republicans still have traded power back and forth with Democrats or even the progressives in terms of pure politics. I guess that’s been the critique from a lot of people on the right including me, which was basically that we put all of our chips in sort of raw political power, winning elections and then implementing tax cuts or sort of Republican economic goals, and we forgot that, actually, what really moves the culture over time is academia, is Hollywood, is all of these cultural institutions. And so that’s been a critique on the right for me among other folks, that in fact that was a huge mistake, right?

Katie Herzog:

Sure. I mean, I-

Inez Stepman:

To put all of our chips in the purely political means that we’re always losing continually on these important cultural issues, but we’re losing slowly and over time in a way that a frog’s boiled in a pot.

Katie Herzog:

I guess the question is just what has more impact on people’s daily lives. And again, I think it really comes down to where you live. I live in a blue state, you live in a blue state, our experiences during pandemic are going to be very different than the experience of somebody living in Florida.

Inez Stepman:

That’s true. We do still have federalism and there are still, certainly, Republicans that have historic, actually, dominance in state legislatures. And that’s been the case for the last decade or so. Actually, it started really with the waves of 2010. But, again, because Republicans, I think had lost a lot on the national level, so they invested a lot politically in state legislatures, I think you might see [crosstalk 00:49:20]. Democrats figure out that actually that can be a battleground, too.

Katie Herzog:

Yeah. I think Republicans are, in many ways, better at politics than Liberals are. This is one [crosstalk 00:49:31]-

Inez Stepman:

We’re at better culture, you’re better at politics.

Katie Herzog:

That might be true. And something I think is really funny, just observationally, every Liberal or Progressive, even, is just convinced the Democratic Party is really, really bad at politics. And every Conservatives are convinced the Republican Party is really, really bad at politics. And I think that probably the truth is they’re both really bad at politics.

Inez Stepman:

Yeah.

Katie Herzog:

I also think that this breakdown it’s a handy shorthand to talk about Conservative and Liberal, but I also think things are really changing. And that’s not really a…

Inez Stepman:

I agree.

Katie Herzog:

The metric doesn’t really work as much. I see things as sort of more like, are you an authoritarian or are you a libertarian in sort of the way that people are thinking about the role of government and the role of culture right now?

Inez Stepman:

Yeah. I think that’s one access. I also think what we’re seeing is the biggest group of undecided voters, which is why I said, as a conservative, I fear the anti-woke Bernie, right?

Katie Herzog:

Yeah.

Inez Stepman:

I actually think that would be a really potent and successful political force in America, meaning universal health care, raising the minimum wage, which are things I disagree with on an economic basis, plus a sort of center-right cultural sensibility and push back against so. If the democratic party were to run somebody like that, I feel like that would be very difficult for Republicans to win. I think there’s a huge opportunity.

And the flip side, I think, if Republicans ran somebody who was more flexible on economic and, for example, added universal healthcare to… These are things I disagree with as a policy matter, but I’m just trying to think strategically that one of it would be really, really difficult to stop. And Bernie [crosstalk 00:51:17].

Katie Herzog:

Yeah. I think Bernie himself wasn’t particularly woke. His staffers certainly were, but he himself… And Bernie, I think besides the fact that Bernie is old and he’s from Vermont, he hasn’t gotten much done in his political career. The stink of socialists, I don’t think… I think liberals really overestimate how well that term goes over in most of America.

Inez Stepman:

Yeah. For sure. Bernie is himself an interesting case in this because, in 2016, he was notably not as woke. And then when he ran again in 2020, had seemed to reverse his positions, for example on immigration over time, reversed… He paid a lot more lip service. You could tell it’s still not what motivates his little matters of heart, right? Obviously, his bread and butter are still class and economic issues, but he paid a lot more lip service to it. And I think that’s indicative of where the Democratic Party is going. But we could talk, we could argue about how the Democratic Party and the Republican Party are failing everyone for a long time.

Katie Herzog:

I think we can agree on that. They’re both terrible.

Inez Stepman:

Yeah. There’s the common ground. But, Katie, thank you so much for coming on to High Noon. You can follow Katie’s work by subscribing to her podcast and the Patreon for it. Patrion, Patreon, I never know. As well as, I hope you’ll be writing more pieces for Bari Weiss Substack. And her reported pieces on the medical industry and medical field have been really, really eye-opening, I highly recommend those, as well as her pieces on doc neutering. Katie, thank you so much for coming on High Noon with Moose, as well.

Katie Herzog:

Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.

Inez Stepman:

And thank you to our listeners. High Noon with Inez Stepman is a production of the Independent Women’s Forum. As always, you can send comments and questions to [email protected] Please help us out by hitting the subscribe button and leaving us a comment or review on Apple Podcasts, Acast, Google Play, YouTube or iwf.org. Be brave, and we’ll see you next time on High Noon.