The Federalist Culture Editor Emily Jashinsky returns to the podcast to talk through the most important issues of the month that might have flown under your radar. The ladies discuss how some of the policies inserted into budget-busting bills like the infrastructure package have huge culture war impacts that are not immediately clear from the normal dollars-and-cents analysis.

Emily and Inez also discuss a major concession from The New York Times: that there’s a backlash against sex-positive feminism building among young women who feel they’ve suffered the consequences of a no-questions-asked sexual culture.


TRANSCRIPT

Inez Stepman:

We’re going to do something a little bit different here on High Noon today and in some episodes to come. Every month, we’re going to be recording with Emily Jashinsky, who is a colleague of mine at IWF, as well as the culture editor at The Federalist, and she also works at YAF, Young Americans for Freedom, where she raises up the next generation of intrepid journalists on the right.

Emily Jashinsky:

Don’t scare people.

Inez Stepman:

So every month we’re going to do a kind of docket episode where we’re going to discuss what we think are the most important stories of the last three weeks to a month that you might have missed, not because they’re day-to-day unimportant—they might get a day or two in the headlines—but because they represent some kind of turning point, I think, in the ongoing battle for… Is it too dramatic to say America’s soul?

Emily Jashinsky:

It is not. It would’ve been too dramatic, what, five years ago?

Inez Stepman:

Right.

Emily Jashinsky:

But here we are.

Inez Stepman:

Here we are here, we are talking about the battle for America’s soul. But we are going to be doing this once a month, and we hope that you enjoy this regular segment in addition to the interviews that we normally do on High Noon. So welcome, Emily.

Emily Jashinsky:

Lucky you. Thanks, Inez, and thank you to all of your listeners for staying tuned. You’ve had some really big interviews.

Inez Stepman:

I’ve been surprised at how much I like interviewing people. I always consider myself somebody who likes to talk too much, so it’s been great to actually listen to other people talk for a change.

Emily Jashinsky:

This is why women can’t do podcasts together.

Inez Stepman:

That is what I hear, also because our voices sound the same, apparently. And by us, I mean all women.

Emily Jashinsky:

All women.

Inez Stepman:

All women’s voices sound the same.

Emily Jashinsky:

I don’t know. The new thing that people are telling me, mostly in YouTube comments, is that they think I’m deliberately lowering my voice like Elizabeth Holmes to garner male respect. And I sort of wish that were the truth-

Inez Stepman:

See?

Emily Jashinsky:

… but I’ve always sounded like this.

Inez Stepman:

You always want what you don’t have, because I am a person who seriously considered lowering my voice for male respect because I am a soprano one, so my voice is very naturally high. And in my head it sounds very serious and studious and academic, but then I go back and listen to myself, and I sound like a little girl.

Emily Jashinsky:

Well, nobody likes to listen to themselves, so that’s entirely fair. But I am not Elizabeth Holmes, no matter what your ears might be telling you.

Inez Stepman:

Yeah, I guess I need to pick up a heavy cigarette habit in order to rasp my voice up appropriately.

Emily Jashinsky:

I’m honestly surprised you don’t have a heavy cigarette habit.

Inez Stepman:

Strange, but true. Anyway, we are going to be talking about a number of subjects today, but they’re all going to revolve around this idea of the culture war and to what extent that is actually kind of the underlying fault lines even when we’re talking about seemingly non-cultural topics. In the news for the last few weeks, and who knows how long it’ll continue to be in the news, are the budget fights, traditionally 2010, Tea Party style, budget limit, debt limit raise fights. We’re talking about a $3.5 trillion infrastructure package, now maybe a $1 trillion infrastructure package.

Emily Jashinsky:

No. It won’t. It won’t.

Inez Stepman:

Well, trillions in infrastructure, and we are talking about raising the debt limit, and we are talking about various, as the left would call it, investments in the country’s future. And I think too often, we really talk about fiscal issues as though they are totally divorced and totally separate from the culture war, but we’re going to talk a little bit about what’s actually in this package and why, as I was telling Emily just before we came on the podcast, I would really prefer to just put $3.5 trillion in a giant bonfire and light it on fire. As bad as that will be for future American taxpayers, it will not be as bad as some of the things that I think that are being advanced in this bill. But Emily, why don’t you tell us initially, since you wrote about this extensively at The Federalist, what are some of the things that people might not expect that are in this package? If they’re thinking infrastructure, what are some of the things that you think are the most pernicious elements of this?

Emily Jashinsky:

Universal basic income for illegal immigrants, which is a real thing that this bill does. It’s under the very false label of an expanded child tax credit, which no serious person in the media should use as a label for what the policy actually is. It is direct cash payments to parents with no means testing that, actually, illegal immigrants will qualify under the language that’s currently in the bill. Maybe that’ll change, but whether or not that applies to illegal immigrants, that is an incredibly radical policy that will really, really change our relationship fundamentally with the federal government if parents are relying on monthly direct deposits into their bank accounts from the federal government, all parents. It doesn’t matter. It’s all parents, and that’s a huge, huge change for us as a society and as a culture.

And so while we’re debating the price tag of a bill like this, it’s in the context of infrastructure negotiations. So it’s easy to sort of gloss over it and be like, oh, okay, well, maybe we’ll spend a little too much on bridges. That’s not what’s happening in this bill. That’s not what people are upset about. This bill would transform the country just with that one policy that is essentially a universal basic income because, again, it’s for all parents. It’s not qualified, and don’t think that they won’t be adding conditions to it later. Even if there aren’t conditions now, this is the same federal government that is using OSHA’s emergency authorization to implement a vaccine mandate. Once you grow the size of the federal government, you allow it to be used in myriad ways.

Just quickly, there’s also universal pre-K, federal leave, federal family leave, I should say, and federal medical leave as well, which is another entirely different thing, but serious thing. And in addition to all of those items, there’s free community college. This is really like birth through… This is Life of Julia, and here it is in an infrastructure reconciliation bill. And yeah, so free community college, and it just keeps going. And the question, then, what’s interesting? What’s most interesting to me about this is that the democratic establishment, which is not usually on the same side as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders, this is Joe Biden’s bill. Build Back Better, $3.5 trillion. This is Joe Biden’s bill. So the democratic establishment, Bernie has won the center, essentially.

Inez Stepman:

It’s interesting because, in some sense, this is the most popular thing that Biden could do. If we think about how polls have shaken out in the last year or so, some of the most popular items that Joe Biden promised might be things like infrastructure spending, might be these sort of budget-busting bills. And that’s why I think it’s so important to unpack them and look at what’s actually inside. You mentioned the preschool extension. That is something that sounds like, I think, for a lot of Americans, sounds very positive, right?

Emily Jashinsky:

Yes.

Inez Stepman:

But if you look at what’s going on around the country right now in K-12 public schools, we are having a battle over what we are going to teach our children, for example, with regard to critical race theory, with regard to how they’re going to feel about the country in which they are citizens. And so my colleague and president of IWF, Carrie Lukas, had a great piece about this, pointing out that we’re having this big fight about indoctrination in the K-12 system, but what this bill does is extend that indoctrination down into preschoolers.

These two issues—the economic and the social sort of battles, or the culture war—they are wrapped together in a certain sense because, in many ways, when the government advances its position, for example, into preschool, or into family leave, or into some of these areas of American life, that superficially a lot of people say, “It’d be great to get an extra few thousand bucks towards things that I really need.” And people really do have economic struggles, and they look to the government to try to fill some of those gaps.

And there’s even folks on the right who think that we need to look at it that way in order to strengthen families, for example. And the gap between that theory and what is actually going to happen as essentially the woke bureaucracy implements some of the provisions of this bill is going to be extreme. And I think we’re going to find that even if you care primarily, and even if you care exclusively about the culture war aspect of this, these bills are going to be just fueling the enemy.

Emily Jashinsky:

It’s like taking a Prius and turning it into a pickup truck in terms of its ability to bulldoze the remnants of a healthy culture. That’s what you’re doing when you expand the size of the federal government. We want to expand it at a time when its stewards have proven to be less capable than perhaps ever before and less in touch with local needs than ever before. The point about teachers from you and from Carrie is very well taken, because we’ve seen a total lack in opaqueness in schools, and we’ve seen the corruptions of teachers’ unions. We would be very silly to not think that universal pre-K would be corrupted by the very same forces that are currently corrupting, I would say, even less vulnerable systems. And so yeah, it’s like hand over the keys to a bigger vehicle to bulldoze the culture.

So someone I really like and who is much smarter than me, Lyman Stone, wrote in terms of… I think this was about the Romney child tax credit policy, which was direct deposits on a monthly basis for most parents, not all parents. And it did have some strings attached that conservatives, I think, would support, although not a marriage requirement. He mentioned this really great hypothetical case of a woman who was driving Uber who, because of that $300 payment, would then be able to spend a few extra hours with her children. And that is absolutely the best-case scenario, but I don’t think conservatives should throw the baby out with the bathwater when it comes to the very real principles we have about the counterproductive effect of welfare in communities and the dignity of work.

And those are the grounds on which Senator Rubio, and I think Senator Lee, protested the Romney proposal, something they’ve worked on immensely hard, which is some sort of child tax credit which they got into the 2017 tax bill. We are not wise to throw all of that out the window, because those are very real, very corrupting effects. And just because we feel like we’re in a state of emergency… And I agree with that. I think we are in a state of emergency. I think you would agree with me, too. It doesn’t mean that’s going to play out differently.

Inez Stepman:

It’s interesting because there have been… And I’ve kind of wrestled with this myself, talked to Alex Kaschuta about this on her podcast. There’s been a critique of capitalism from the right that says capitalism essentially atomizes us. It further weakens those bonds between communities and families that are so critical to not just all the social conservative goods, but really to human flourishing and to happiness and meaning. And sometimes the answer to that has been, well, we need to move any more big government or socialistic direction with regard to taking care of the economic problems that are feeding these cultural problems. And I agree with the second part of the sentence, but not the first.

Emily Jashinsky:

My Siri just went off. Inez triggers—

Inez Stepman:

They’re spying on us. No, but the second part of that sentence I think is very true, but the first part, the premise, I just don’t agree. I don’t think, to the extent that capitalism has been responsible for some breakdown in the family and increasing alienation, it hasn’t been because of the structure of capitalism, it’s been because we have gotten much, much wealthier globally, and of course, especially within America. And family and community is not always pleasant. There’s a reason that people often do move away from their families or separate themselves from their families in some way because, even in a non-abusive, for example, situation, in a normal situation, it can be very painful or non-idyllic to have that kind of interference with what you want at any given time. It’s not necessarily a pleasant experience.

And to some extent, the wealth created by capitalism has, quote unquote, freed us from that. But what I don’t think follows at all from that analysis is that if we create more big government structures surrounding the individual, that that’s actually not going to make the problem worse instead of better. Allowing the Life of Julia, the cycle of cradle to grave dependence on the government in various ways does not… And here, I’m not just talking about, for example, welfare programs. I am absolutely talking about what I would characterize as welfare and self-dealing by a managerial class, by the way, like student loan forgiveness. Sidebar. So it’s not just welfare for the poor, it is welfare very much for the upper middle class.

Emily Jashinsky:

And you had a great essay on that. What was it in? The American Mind?

Inez Stepman:

Yeah, The American Mind, writing about how loan forgiveness is welfare for the upper middle class. So you can check that out. I’m not going to elaborate on the argument any further here, but I just fundamentally don’t agree that the solution to the atomization created by what I think is not necessarily directly capitalism, but wealth as a result of capitalism, is to then make sure that there are even more government structures upon which individuals can depend instead of their families.

Emily Jashinsky:

Well, this is the problem. And I think people forgot about this on the right when it seemed to not be an issue, and it seemed to not be an issue because people weren’t paying attention and because government is a reasonable and easy scapegoat. But I think this is part of the problem on the right, which is that unfettered capitalism needs to be fettered. There’s a… What’s the word that I’m looking for? I’m forgetting the word. Maybe it’s because we’ve each had a glass of wine, but the sort of epitomatic capitalist believes that we need to tend to the weeds. We need to pull the weeds in the sort of garden of capitalism. We need to tend to the garden, we need to tend to the weeds, and there should not be a system of cronyism.

And there should not be a system where the government is enabling oligarchy, essentially. That’s not capitalist. That might be Randian. And we can get into a semantic game about who owns the true definition of capitalism, but I don’t think that’s capitalism as the American right has ever, the mainstream of the American right, has ever really argued. I think there are people who have erred too far in one direction or the other, and I would say particularly the other. There are a lot of Republicans who love the regulatory state. But that’s not really the… But it was easy to forget about when the standard of living seemed to be increasing rapidly. I guess we lost track of how quickly these rapid sort of technological advances were also just changing the way we interact with each other as humans on a very fundamental level, in the scope of human history.

This is my favorite. I had Robby Soave on The Federalist podcast and I love Robby. He made an argument that frustrates me, which is that, “Well, listen. There have been fears of technological changes since the wristwatch and the mirror and all of these.” It was like, well, yeah, in the scope of human history, all of these things are kind of new to us. If you look at how slowly we evolve and how new the printing press is in the scope of human history, we are actually adapting to… This is a sort of slow industrialization, which feels slow to humans because it goes back centuries. But humans have been around for a very long time without any of those things, and so our lives have changed in ways that human beings have never experienced in a very short time.

And it is due to capitalism, and it’s partially due to a system of cronyism, but capitalism has also increased our lifespans. It’s decreased poverty. It’s done all of these very good things. And so capitalism and government are two sides of the same coin. They enable the best and the worst of humans to emerge and to interact, but that means they also should be tempering each other. And I think we’ve erred too far on the side of the wealthy and the powerful, which is a problem that our system of Republican government is supposed to correct.

Inez Stepman:

And in many ways, the more large and complex government gets, the more it is easy [inaudible 00:18:28] to capture… I’m good… by interests who are able to then be part of… I think the old-fashioned story would be to say that there’s a lot of friendships between the regulators and the regulated, that there is a somewhat incestuous relationship, a revolving door. So that’s not new analysis, but the reality is in some ways, to me, even worse or has developed. And the reason that I do think that we’ve crossed out of meritocracy and into a more oligarchic-type system is how this particular… And people think of them as totally separate entities, and they’re not. They are functionally the same group, not the 1%, not the billionaires. Jeff Bezos doesn’t worry me nearly as much as the next 10% underneath him having a completely uniform cultural outlook, overwhelmingly. These are your upper-class professionals. What Michael Linden, before him, Burnham called the managerial class-

Emily Jashinsky:

That’s really interesting.

Inez Stepman:

… folks who, for example, and a lot of them, they do all of these things in the course of their career, are in C-suite of large American corporations. They are working as part of the regulatory state in the administrative state that now governs whatever part of our affairs are kept out of the courts, which governs the other half of our affairs, and then also in academia. And that to me is the much more concerning revolving door, a larger revolving door. And the fact is that a lot of these big-government policies are essentially putting their finger on the scale in favor of that class of people in a variety of ways.

And I talked about student loan forgiveness, but I would argue that, for example, the way that the paid leave debate has taken shape, it always uses, as a totem in front, women who are working multiple jobs, who are struggling, who don’t have any time off. But in reality, when you look at some of these proposals, the largest beneficiaries are women who already have access to some amount of paid leave in corporations and will allow corporations to offload those responsibilities, essentially, onto the taxpayer. That’s actually not a benefit, or at least only an incidental benefit, to the class of people who’s being advanced as the face of the policy.

It is, in fact, mostly a benefit for, essentially, dual income, upper-middle-class to upper-class professional people, once again, who are the people who both know and rotate in and out of these same three poles of government agencies, corporate America, and the economy. To me, that is so… If we think about, for example, this infrastructure bill, or so much of fiscal policy, if we think of it through that lens, it all starts to make so much more sense to me.

The political landscape makes so much more sense to me when I think that the actual constituency of the Biden administration is upper-middle-class professionals, not the 1%. That 10% or 15% of people who operate in those circles, and by the way, have a monolithic cultural view that they use all of the tools of corporations, agency government, and the economy to force down the throats of what is not even really half of America at this point, is the vast majority on a lot of these issues, the vast majority of Americans.

Emily Jashinsky:

I love that Inez is from Palo Alto and is somehow-

Inez Stepman:

That’s why I feel this way.

Emily Jashinsky:

… more in touch with the values of middle America, of much of the political establishment. Also, I have to say, when I got my wisdom teeth removed, I had dry sockets on all four wisdom teeth. It was miserable. And I went back to my dentist and I asked for an increase or a renewed prescription of the painkiller that had been just allotted on a normal basis because of the four dry sockets. And the way that he rejected me felt so similar to the way that you rejected me when I asked you if you wanted another glass of wine just now.

Inez Stepman:

I’m just still drinking the first one. We’ll get there.

Emily Jashinsky:

Oh my gosh. Europeans. So what I was going to say is that-

Inez Stepman:

First, you said I was a woman of the people. Now you’re calling me a European elite. I mean, which is it, Emily?

Emily Jashinsky:

Well, I think we’ll find out. That’s the test.

Inez Stepman:

In the course of this podcast. But I do want to move a little bit from the substance of this bill. I think we’ve both laid out why we think that these types of programs are actively pernicious, but how should we talk about stuff like this infrastructure bill? Because on the one hand, there’s what I increasingly feel is sort of a stale libertarian recital of the debt clock we’re going to collapse into. And it may very well be true this time. I don’t know. Right?

Emily Jashinsky:

Yeah, seriously.

Inez Stepman:

But I just don’t feel that is very convincing to people when they’ve heard it. One, they’ve heard it so many times before. And two, essentially, I think everything else just feels so pressing right now that what may happen 5, 10, 20 years down the line in terms of our fiscal sanity is just not top of mind for most people right now in terms of the issues they’re confronting.

Emily Jashinsky:

And should it be? That’s the question.

Inez Stepman:

And I think that’s a very defensible position, by the way. I think it’s a totally defensible position to say that, “We know we can’t keep stacking debt forever, but we have to take care of some of these other issues before we take care of the debt issue, because they are way more pressing to the future of the country.” And then of course we know in poll after poll that the debt ranks near the bottom, that people are not particularly receptive to arguments about the debt. And add on top of that, the profligacy of both parties gives very few people a leg to stand on in terms of, especially politicians, in terms of any kind of principled advocacy to draw down spending.

Emily Jashinsky:

The Trump administration cut taxes and then raised spending.

Inez Stepman:

That has been the Republican formula.

Emily Jashinsky:

That’s how they do it.

Inez Stepman:

The Democrats like to raise taxes and spending.

Emily Jashinsky:

Yeah. The best of both worlds.

Inez Stepman:

Right. But how should we talk about these issues? How do we connect with people in a way that recognizes the legitimacy of their position to downplay the importance of that debt clock number, and yet still get across that, even if you don’t care about the debt, there are things in this bill that you should not be closing your ears to when we talk about, because… And by we, I don’t mean you and I, Emily. I mean, generally, we as a people. I’m not that narcissistic. Listen to us, folks. No, but we as citizens talk about that even if you are deprioritizing debt right now in terms of the issues facing the country, how do we talk about this in a way that actually sparks people’s attention to actually pay attention to not just the number at the end of this bill, but what is going into it?

Emily Jashinsky:

Yeah. I mean, that’s the question. And I think so far, Republicans are sort of failing the test, but I think the reason for that is that they mostly feel that resistance is futile, that there’s really nothing that they can do that’s going to… I mean, except for maybe increasing pressure on Manchin and Sinema, there’s really nothing they can do. They’re sort of in the hands of Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema right now. And that’s the only vehicle they have for really putting a wrench into this process. But this entire question is, stop talking about spending. Stop talking about government money. Stop talking about all of these things. It’s not to say they’re not important, but people’s priorities right now are different, and you need to speak to that not only because it’s politically expedient, but also because it’s correct.

And you can talk about the cultural emergency that we’re in without also… Inez and I are generally on the same page about a lot of this. When you’re in an emergency, as we were talking about the welfare state, it doesn’t mean you throw the baby out with the bathwater and suddenly say, “This is emergency. Let’s bring back the great society and scale it up massively.” Nobody’s saying that, but you can walk and chew gum at the same time. You can say, “What they’re doing is bulldozing our culture as Americans. They’re bulldozing things that we love and that we cherish and that have lifted us.” And this optimistic talk doesn’t work very well right now, but there’s also a negative side to this coin, which is that they want the government, especially… You may have different thoughts on this, actually. I’m curious.

In the age that we’re increasingly aware of the surveillance state, that the Biden administration wants this definition inflation, where we define domestic terrorists as people who say crazy things at school board meetings, or people who don’t even say crazy things, they say perfectly reasonable things about critical race theory at school board meetings, when you’re participating in that sort of definition inflation, it’s in the service of increasing the domestic surveillance state. And giving government more power over the intimate parts of our private life is not going to be popular widely. It may be popular with some people, the people for whom the continued COVID state appeals to.

Inez Stepman:

For the people who set the policies and determine who’s a domestic terrorist.

Emily Jashinsky:

Oh, yeah. Oh, of course.

Inez Stepman:

Right? Which-

Emily Jashinsky:

For big tech, which Mark Zuckerberg talks about how Facebook, within the next five years, should be considered a metaverse company, not a social media company. He wants people to be worshiping, literally having their church services on the metaverse. The best way to think of it is virtual reality, or a virtual reality that you could carry with you kind of on a Google Glass, that sort of thing. And so why is that? Because Mark Zuckerberg makes more money the more time we all spend on his platform.

And so that’s why Facebook has ads for Section 230 reform in all of the newsletters, all of the Playbook or Axios. That’s why they boast about it: because they’re able to withstand the fallout from political control. Their potential competitors couldn’t. But big government and big business are always in bed together, and it benefits the powerful people to have more and more control over our lives. It’s not the opposite. And that’s where we’re heading. We’re hurtling in that direction.

Inez Stepman:

I think it’s one step closer than that. It goes back to the fact that the people in big government and the people in big business have functionally the same cultural opinions.

Emily Jashinsky:

Yes.

Inez Stepman:

And so it’s not just that they have a financial interest, although they do. And again, we’re not breaking any new ground here. It’s true that big businesses can-

Emily Jashinsky:

Speak for yourself.

Inez Stepman:

No, that’s part of it, that big business can withstand regulation better than a small business. That’s true, but it’s incredibly important in a time where literally the people in the regulatory state and in the big business community have totally aligned views on something that isn’t directly about making money, that is about tamping down the range of acceptable opinion that can be shared in the public square, and of essentially setting the boundaries, both whether that’s surveillance state from the government side or censorship from the big tech side, setting those boundaries of debate in such a way that makes sense to these folks who are all essentially culturally similar.

It is a monoculture. And in fact, they are using the fact they agree on those issues, some of them more genuinely and some of them less genuinely and more for self-interest so that we’ll ignore the fiscal side of what’s going on, but more or less genuinely, they are using their agreement on these cultural issues and their alignment in jamming that cultural perspective through government and through big business down on the rest of the American people, they’re using that as the basis of their ongoing and very cozy relationship, as opposed to, they might differ about this regulation or that regulation. And they’ll work out those differences friendly and behind closed doors, for the most part.

Emily Jashinsky:

If you’re a libertarian or a conservative who still thinks that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was an encroachment on individual liberty, then you should wait for what happens now that we define racism. And well, I mean, we can’t actually even define sex. We can barely define race. Wait until what happens now, when there’s this progressive or bigot binary formulation on the people that control all of the levers of power and culture and in government. The reason they all agree, generally, is because academia gradually produced more and more people in each generation that believed in this very radical formulation that if you are not fully progressive on every question of race and sex and sexuality, then you are necessarily a bigot.

So that actually persuaded a whole lot of people because it was coming from the professors with this Foucault-based justification, and they could read all about power and otherness, et cetera, et cetera, from all of their professors, and so they thought that was what was true. And it hit a point of critical mass in our society where that old maxim, wait until they go out into the real world, it proved wildly untrue. They are shaping the real world. They have shaped the real world to their ends. And when you have this progressive or bigot binary idea, people are either going to be persuaded because nobody wants to be a bigot, or they are going to be intimidated into submission. And that is what has happened in our culture. The rest is all yours, Inez, by the way, as she’s pouring her glass of wine. We’re drinking Chardonnay, for those who were curious, but-

Inez Stepman:

Very classy.

Emily Jashinsky:

Very classy. It’s an unseasonably warm October day here in the District of Columbia. But that’s sort of how they took over the culture. It’s how they ended up controlling not just the fringes of the ivory towers, the dusty corners of those ivory towers where you would throw the feminist professors. Well, that increasingly became everybody because nobody wanted to be a bigot. And that’s the postmodern or post-structuralist idea of what racism and sexism are, and so gradually enough, people came from those colleges, filtered through our system of higher education, because they were told they had to to be a productive human being, and they entered the workforce. And now the workforce, our C-suites, our newsrooms, and our boardroom are controlled by people who all think the same way as you just said, Inez, and that’s why we’re in a really dangerous point.

And maybe this is the segue, but that’s what could inspire the backlash. When you are teaching children that hard work is a racist concept, you’re going to have parents coming to school board meetings around the country, and thank God that’s what’s happened. But that’s the question going forward, is the sort of boomerangs because there’s this, I think… The example I always use. Why is Jordan Peterson’s book a runaway, shock, bestseller? Because there is a sort of understanding that we are fundamentally being nudged further and further away from our humanity and from what we need into a very dangerous space.

Inez Stepman:

Let’s pivot here to the other item on our docket. This is a piece that got a fair amount of play and some response, but I think because, again, day-to-day issues tend to take precedence, some of you might have missed. And this is the piece in The New York Times about, as you say, the backlash and what Gen Z women.

Emily Jashinsky:

Yes.

Inez Stepman:

I don’t think millennials count as young anymore. That’s why we have wine.

Emily Jashinsky:

Well, not millennials of your age, Inez.

Inez Stepman:

Elder millennials.

Emily Jashinsky:

I’m a whippersnapper.

Inez Stepman:

But in any case, aside from who is decrepit and who is not-

Emily Jashinsky:

It’s you.

Inez Stepman:

No, but there was this really interesting piece, and Emily, you had a great response to it over at Rising where you frequently fill in as a host over at Hill TV. You did your radar around this issue of sex positivity and what the backlash taking shape might actually look like. Can you fill us in on that? And then we’ll take it from there.

Emily Jashinsky:

Well, the ACLU column you mentioned, or I’m sorry, The New York Times column you mentioned came from Michelle Goldberg, who is one of the staunchest contemporary feminists in the corporate media, and has been for a while. And she basically wrote about how Gen Z is rethinking the concept of sex positivity because they’re finding out that it’s not so positive, that it has all of these consequences and repercussions that aren’t good for their psychological health. And it followed up and mentioned a Buzzfeed story from about a month or two ago on how sex positivity is sort of falling out of fashion with Gen Z. And that piece was much better even, and there’s nothing wrong with the Goldberg piece. Well, there’s a couple things wrong with it, but it was a much deeper dive into this phenomenon.

And it quoted a young girl talking about Sex and the City and girls, and saying, “HBO really did a number on us,” and how this sort of idea that women can have sort of… I shouldn’t say meaningless, but sort of hedonistic sex where the goal is pleasure and not emotion or serious emotion, will be empowering. It will be liberating. It is the height of feminism. And that turned out not to be true for so many women, obviously, as conservatives stogy, puritanical conservatives have been saying-

Inez Stepman:

Now who’s decrepit?

Emily Jashinsky:

… yeah, right, from the beginning. And I mean, come on. And so Michelle Goldberg’s column said, “Somehow sex positivity merged with porn culture to create a world that women are unhappy.” And it’s like, well, maybe the sex positivity had something to do with the proliferation of an intense porn. And I’ll also add, this is why I kind of dubbed what is emergent, but not fully formed, a feminist realignment, because Michelle Goldberg, the column before she wrote that one, rebuked the ACLU for changing Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s famous quote about abortion to make it gender-neutral, because RBG said that because women had a very unique and specific experience with reproduction and abortion.

And so to change it sort of dilutes the importance and the meaning of that. It’s kind of exactly what feminists have done with Title IX, where we see trans athletes in certain places trouncing women who have worked hard for years and years and years to become great at track, let’s take the Connecticut example, or just great at their sport. That’s why Title IX exists. That’s why feminists fought for Title IX. And you’re obviously turning back the clock when you dilute that. And the point of this all is to say, if we can at least talk about this without being called a bigot for not using gender-neutral terms, then we can really open the door wide open to say that perhaps sex positivity is something that really hurts women.

And the Jordan Peterson example is a very, very instructive one. I was kind of shocked by the reaction to the Rising monologue that I did on this, because there was a lot of people saying, “Yeah. Yep. So true.” And that’s kind of, I would say a left-of-center, progressive audience. But I really think there’s something happening, because people who have women’s best interests at heart, whether it’s the COVID situation where now a lot of women actually really are saying openly they’d rather be working from home or rather be working less because they had that experience, whatever it is, I really think people are starting to question things, and that’s been interesting to watch.

Inez Stepman:

Yeah, I guess we’ve gone back to our normal roles, which is you are the more optimistic, and I am the more pessimistic side of this because, I mean, to some extent, I’ve seen this alignment between some of the conservative critiques of, say, the hookup culture and the left increasingly coming to terms with the fact that what might be called F boy culture has actually been great for F boys and not for… This is a family podcast.

Emily Jashinsky:

Did you watch FBoy Island on HBO?

Inez Stepman:

I did not. I’ll leave that to the culture editor.

Emily Jashinsky:

FBoy Island proves this point. Don’t watch it. It’s bad. It’s terrible, but it does prove this point.

Inez Stepman:

But I think there is sort of alignment on discussing the problem. And I think actually, what’s really happened is a certain generation of feminists, particularly boomer feminists, have sort of faded out of the conversation, because the original sexual revolutionaries, or at least shortly after the sexual revolution, people who came of age shortly after the sexual revolution, in a very real sense, nobody had lived in a culture where casual sex, and I’m not going to call it premarital sex because that’s vastly-

Emily Jashinsky:

It’s a distinction.

Inez Stepman:

That’s a totally anachronistic term now. But casual sex was the norm. Nobody had lived in that. And so I think there were all of these promises made by the sexual revolution particularly to women, but to men as well, that it was going to bring us happiness and bliss. And a lot of people really believed that and fought for it, and what we’re seeing now is that alignment between, I think particularly millennials and Gen Z, who really were the first two generations that wholly grew up with this as the norm and came of age with the sexual revolution as the norm, as the dominant paradigm, saying, “Wait a minute. This is not great. This has a lot of consequences that are really negative.” But I guess where I’m pessimistic is that I don’t know that that backlash will necessarily be healthy or productive-

Emily Jashinsky:

Explain.

Inez Stepman:

… in the sense that… The example that you used, Title IX. In many ways, the way that we’ve warped Title IX and the kangaroo courts that we’ve constructed for mostly men on campus in terms of the legal liability and trying to replace social norms, pre-sexual revolution social norms about sex with this legalistic contour about consent, that is an attempt to put the genie back in the bottle by legalistic means. So I think it springs, actually, the total abuse of Title IX and of this totally heinous abuse of due process and all of the attendant problems with the way that Title IX is enforced now on college campuses.

That is, in many ways, a direct outgrowth of a recognition that there is something wrong with hookup culture and that a lot of women are walking out of it, regretful and upset, but it just looped right back into the progressive narrative, which is, well, if they’re regretful and upset, it must be because they didn’t really consent or because the men were at fault.

Emily Jashinsky:

Or because of porn, like Michelle Goldberg says.

Inez Stepman:

Right. And I just wonder, even if the porn explanation has more merit than, say, the consent box to try to explain why this feeling that so many women share about this hookup culture sucks, and having to invent a sexual orientation, called demisexual, for actually wanting an emotional connection with your sexual partners. It’s an orientation now.

Emily Jashinsky:

Demisexual.

Inez Stepman:

Welcome to the LGBTQ community.

Emily Jashinsky:

It’s their world. We’re just living in it.

Inez Stepman:

No, but we can agree on the problem all we want. And this is similar to what you’ve said sometimes about the populous left and the populous right. They both see the problem we were discussing in the first half of this podcast about this managerial class, or some of the old school Marxists will just put it in terms of Marxism, but I think that the managerial class is the best possible explanation for it. But they see this oligarchy and they agree that it’s a problem, but their solutions and their underlying values are so radically different that the establishment, more often than not, ends up winning those battles because there is no obvious alignment on what the solution will be.

And I worry that this kind of awakening among young women that this culture is bad could just as easily, if not more easily, feed into a kind of extremism that, for example, blames men for the situation between the sexes right now, or blames whatever latent conservative prejudice hiding behind every… It is really funny to listen to people sometimes, particularly like New York Times columnists who really see Christian conservatives behind every tree. And they see Christian conservatism as such a dominant force in the country, and I just look around myself and wonder, what planet are you living on?

Emily Jashinsky:

Yeah. Yep.

Inez Stepman:

But that reaction could just as easily, I think, feed into something tyrannical as it could into a genuine conversation between left and right about the downsides of the way the sexual culture is constructed.

Emily Jashinsky:

Well, and so this is why one way that I frame it sometimes is as a race against the clock. And I’ve used that description probably most often to talk about what you just mentioned, which is the realignment between the right and the left. And that is to say, can there be a realignment? Can there be a populous consensus if there is not consensus on the American Project? And I don’t think the populous right and left actually have a consensus on the American Project, and I think it’s a huge obstacle to an actual realignment. And in this case, we’re talking about a feminist realignment. I think it’s a race against the clock in that… COVID is a good example. Conservatives seem to feel like they had the wind at their back when Biden announced his vaccine mandate. This is what’s going to win the midterms.

This is what will do Biden in. This is a huge boon for conservatives who are trying to persuade Americans that the left is not for them. No. I think that is a huge mistake, because I think this was happening before the pandemic, but I think the pandemic really accelerated this desire among a subsection of the public, probably… I mean, I don’t know, we’re talking like 30%. We’re not talking half. We’re not talking a majority, but a big chunk of the public who actually now craves government control over their intimate personal decisions because they live in this sort of postmodern muddle.

Inez Stepman:

Can I jump in just to—

Emily Jashinsky:

By all means. By all means.

Inez Stepman:

… one thing? I think it’s not a desire to control their own decisions, because their own decisions align with-

Emily Jashinsky:

It’s distrust of their neighbor.

Inez Stepman:

It’s to control the deplorable’s decisions. It’s to control-

Emily Jashinsky:

That’s a good point.

Inez Stepman:

… the people, I think fundamentally, who no longer trust the institutions. And I think what we’re seeing is a doubling down on the institutions by the people who, frankly, agree with the world view of those institutions, and increasingly are totally fine with using those institutions even more aggressively than they have in the past 30 years, which by the way, is why initially when some of these institutions started to go woke in the public eye, I’m thinking here of The New York Times and Bari Weiss leading The New York Times, and then the firing of… What was his name? Donald… There was—

Emily Jashinsky:

Oh, Don McGahn.

Inez Stepman:

Don McGahn.

Emily Jashinsky:

Not Don McGahn. I’m sorry.

Inez Stepman:

No. This is a different guy.

Emily Jashinsky:

It’s very different. Actually, somebody made that mistake recently, and I corrected them. His name was Don McNeil.

Inez Stepman:

All I remember about his name is that he said, “I don’t go by Don. I go by Donald.” So it’s-

Emily Jashinsky:

Donald McNeil.

Inez Stepman:

… Donald McNeil. But how those things played out, it was very instructive to me that essentially the woke left has consolidated power within institutions that were already left-leaning for, in The New York Times’ case, for a century. But in other cases are bastions already of the left in a certain sense, but not of the radical woke left. And that’s where their initial, I think, final end game stage was focused, because I think that that’ll make it much, much easier to implement or to use those institutions than to control the neighbor’s actions. But-

Emily Jashinsky:

So I don’t want to speak in universals, but I think that’s true. I also think what I originally said is true because, if you look at the weird worship of the CDC and the just blind adherence to CDC guidelines as though they are capital S science, I actually really do increasingly think people, and for good reason, don’t trust themselves, don’t trust themselves as family units, don’t trust themselves as members of a community. They just don’t trust themselves to make decisions without sanctioning from the federal government. And I think exactly what you said is true for a proportion, and I don’t know how big the numbers are, but I do generally think the point stands that Republicans are deeply unwise to underestimate the proportion of the public that craves that control, whether it’s because they don’t trust themselves or because they don’t trust their neighbors.

And to that extent, this really does become a race against the clock. Can this boomerang to affect enough people to say “Listen, casual hookups without commitment is going to hurt women.” Can this boomerang to enough feminist women, center-left women, apolitical women, who say, “I was sold a bill of goods that was totally false,” and reject that premise, which by the way, the Democratic party on the left dogmatically embraces. That’s why the Michelle Goldberg back-to-back columns were remarkable, literally. So it’s a race against the clock. Can there be enough Michelle Goldbergs to sort of stem the tide to the point where, before the point, it becomes impossible to resist and to do anything?

I’m not even trying to bring this full circle in a poetic way, but that’s why this bill is important and should be important to cultural conservatives, heterodox thinkers, is because this is a huge step towards government intervention and elite intervention in the culture war, to their own benefit, to their own benefit. And that’s a good example of how the race against the clock is about to be more in the favor of elites than it is of normal Americans, and that’s why people have to be sort of vigilant.

Inez Stepman:

Well, that was even more poetically appropriate than I think you realize, Emily, because the reason I called this podcast High Noon was because I do, in fact, believe that that clock is running out on a whole host of subjects.

Emily Jashinsky:

Is it a cinematic illusion?

Inez Stepman:

So it’s both. Actually, there’s three layers to this, in case anyone’s actually interested in this.

Emily Jashinsky:

Please explain. Have you ever explained this on the podcast before?

Inez Stepman:

I did an intro, but this is my thinking. The primary what I want people to understand about the name of the podcast is that I think we are at high noon. I think that clock that you were so poetically referring to is running out, and the generation that you and I are in still, decrepit or not, may very well be the last one that really remembers both worlds-

Emily Jashinsky:

I think that’s true.

Inez Stepman:

… that remembers an America before this ideology really took full control and full power in our institutions.

Emily Jashinsky:

You say ideology, but I also feel like the ideology is downstream of the technology. Because in the Buzzfeed piece about Gen Z, it was talking about how the sort of Tumblr feminism really did them in, and the way that social media sort of incentivizes radicalism, especially as it’s perpetuated by the pan-institutional cultural leftism, I feel like the ideology is downstream of the technology.

And to your point about our generation being the last generation to really remember that, it might sound laughable to some Xers or to even some boomers who grew up with television instead of radio, Greatest Generation, but having the world in your pocket at every given moment, millennials really are the last generation that knows what it’s like to live without the smartphone. And the smartphone was the most trans thing of all, because we used to have to go to a little corner of our house and dial up the internet. But having it all in your pocket and having social media on it is a totally different world.

Inez Stepman:

This is actually one of the things I want to press you on, perhaps in a future episode, a future docket episode with Emily Jashinsky, we will push her on, a little bit on that connection between social media and exactly how consequential some of these technological changes are. Because I’m convinced they’re consequential, but you’re going to have to keep convincing me that they are the upstream factor as opposed to a accelerant.

Emily Jashinsky:

Let me say one thing before we close. I think I brought this up before. There was a great, actually, Jacobin essay that went just disastrously wrong in a few parts, but about the rot of the ruling class. And I was reading… We’re both big Paglia people, Camille Paglia people. And we actually did a whole podcast once on Camille Paglia, but I was reading this essay. I think it was called Junk Bonds and Corporate Raiders. It was a book review from 1989, I think, where Camille Paglia goes into this whole thing about how the 1980s represent the both material junk bonds and the ideological junk bonds.

So the material junk bonds on Wall Street is what you’re seeing, but you’re also seeing the ideological junk bonds of post-structuralism. And I, of course, think that the reason our ruling class pushes en masse these apps on us and social media on us and smartphones on us without any regard for their addictive properties is because of post-structuralism, because of secularism that’s downstream of post-structuralism. So we would agree on that, and that’s just my brief explanation and self-defense.

Inez Stepman:

Well, tune in next time to our docket episodes to find out, one, whether Emily is right that technology is the critical difference between-

Emily Jashinsky:

Accelerant.

Inez Stepman:

I also think it’s an accelerant. So we’ll see. We’ll work this out. We’ll work this out next time. Plus, I will tell you the other two meanings of High Noon. Those are-

Emily Jashinsky:

Ooh. Oh, wait, did I cut this short because I went on a sort of tangent?

Inez Stepman:

Well, now I’m not sharing them.

Emily Jashinsky:

Okay. Well-

Inez Stepman:

Next time.

Emily Jashinsky:

And people, Inez, should comment. We’re drinking a Chardonnay now. People should comment what we drink next time.

Inez Stepman:

Yeah. Send that to [email protected]

Emily Jashinsky:

Or put it in a five-star review.

Inez Stepman:

That would be even better. If you put it in a five-star review, we will drink whatever alcohol you put in the five-star review.

Emily Jashinsky:

We can’t drink tequila because I’m allergic.

Inez Stepman:

Okay, anything but that. Well, thank you so much for tuning in to High Noon. As always, be brave, and we’ll see you next time.