It’s that time again, the end of the month… which means it’s once again Emily time on the pod.

Culture Editor Emily Jashinsky joins Inez Stepman on High Noon this week — in perhaps our most optimistic podcast to date — to talk about Elon Musk’s apparently successful bid for Twitter, Florida stripping Disney of certain special perks in the wake of the company’s political battles against a parental rights bill in the state, and how the pandemic may have killed off girl boss ambition.

High Noon is an intellectual download featuring conversations that make possible a free society. The podcast features interesting thinkers from all parts of the political spectrum to discuss the most controversial subjects of the day in a way that hopes to advance our common American future. Hosted by Inez Stepman of Independent Women’s Forum.


TRANSCRIPT

Inez Stepman:

Welcome to High Noon, where we discuss controversial subjects with interesting people and where I always mess up my own tagline. As always, at the end of the month, we have Emily Jashinsky here. She is the culture editor over at The Federalist. She is teaching intrepid young journalists how to mess with the narrative over at Young America’s Foundation. And of course, she is a fellow with us, Independent Women’s Forum, so she is just everywhere. And now I think you have a Friday show on what used to be The Rising, right? It’s a separate thing now, but it’s on Fridays with Ryan Grim and you. Do you want to say a little bit about that?

Emily Jashinsky:

It’s just called Rising Fridays. It’s a fun little Friday edition of Rising with Ryan and myself because we have so much fun together. We thought we would close the week off having extra fun.

Inez Stepman:

Well, last month we talked about the rise of the Chomskyite, so I guess maybe I should have a little more sympathy for Ryan Grim these days. Inside joke. I highly recommend, actually, that you go and listen to Emily and Ryan. Ryan comes from the left, I would say the Chomskyite left, and in many ways, Emily comes from the populist or at least quasi-populist right. And they find some things to agree on and many things to disagree on. And they’re a great pair, so I highly recommend that over at The Hill.

But Emily, something big has happened since the last time we did this. And actually, since literally yesterday. We’re recording on Tuesday morning, and yesterday the news came through that, in fact, Elon Musk has made an offer and his offer has been accepted. Elon Musk is probably going to be the next owner of Twitter. What do you think about that?

Emily Jashinsky:

Well, I like to think about this in terms of, actually, what you talk about a lot, which is institutional capture because it seems to be….  It’s turning that on its head. Is there a way, with enough bold people with money and resources, that you can, just by showing other people it’s okay to take over these institutions and govern them by our older, better standards that would be neutrality, our concept of…. It’s a private company. It doesn’t have to be subject to the first amendment, but maybe the standards that we have used in the first amendment have litigated through the court system, and our interpretation of the first amendment is the best way to govern the boundaries of acceptable speech.

And so it’s interesting to see if somebody can just say, “It’s okay to do this. In fact, it’s better to do this” — my personal opinion is that Twitter shouldn’t exist, period — but if Elon Musk insists on keeping it alive, I actually think he could model for the rest of Silicon Valley a much, much better way of doing business just by saying, “Hey, it’s okay. It’s okay to have a first amendment free speech standard. It’s okay to make your algorithm public. It’s okay to tell the woke employees no.” So we’ll see, but I think there’s reason to be hopeful about it.

Inez Stepman:

Yeah. I was so cynical that I was certain there was going to be some way to stop this deal, right?

Emily Jashinsky:

Yes.

Inez Stepman:

That some hedge fund was going to bid some outrageous amount of money and that Elon Musk, even being the wealthiest man in the world, was going to be like, “This is completely not worth it,” or that like some bylaw would be invented. I still think probably he will find himself in the crosshairs in his other companies and the crosshairs of agency regulation, and he’s definitely going to have a big target painted on his back after doing this. But I was so cynical, I thought there’s no way that this is going to happen. Some institutional force is going to come in and prevent this from happening. And I say that not because I think Elon Musk is “our team.” I think he has his own visions and ideas, and some of them are very utopian, like much of Silicon Valley.

Emily Jashinsky:

Or dystopian.

Inez Stepman:

Yeah. That would be from yours and my perspective. Yeah, definitely dystopian. I’m not naive. I don’t think he’s totally on our team or anything like that. But, as you said, he has promised to restore free speech, or some semblance of free speech, to a major social platform. That is a threat to the regime because there’s a reason that they ban people who, in their view, or the recent Obama thing, are spreading disinformation. It’s because they want to be able to police the boundaries of the Overton window and of discourse. In a way, they want to replace the old power of the media when there were three channels. They want to get rid of the wild west internet.

I don’t know. Does this make you slightly more hopeful? Because I actually found myself as the queen of the pessimists. I really didn’t think this would happen, I didn’t think it would happen, and it has, or at least apparently has. They are reporting on it in New York Post and elsewhere. Twitter itself is confirming that they’re accepting the bid. I think there are still some closing elements to this bid so there are still places for things to go wrong, but I’m just frankly shocked that it was allowed to happen.

Emily Jashinsky:

I’m surprised by that, too. But it goes to show that he made an offer to Twitter that is ridiculous, in my opinion, but also in the mathematical valuation of what Twitter really is worth. It’s interesting because…. This was in Sara Fischer’s newsletter for Axios this morning. She was saying, “Actually, people are now thinking Twitter is probably more valuable than what its size and profits are,” because there’s so much power in controlling speech, controlling culture, controlling politics, just by owning Twitter. So it might not be super profitable, but it’s extremely powerful, and those two things don’t necessarily always go hand in hand, so the value is a little different. But I agree with you. I think it’s a step in the right direction.

Inez Stepman:

Just to jump in for one moment. The comparison on exactly what you just said, I think, that I heard, was Bezos buying the Washington Post, right?

Emily Jashinsky:

Exactly.

Inez Stepman:

Which just further underlines the fact that Twitter has an opinion, it is shaping the public square much more like the Washington Post or the New York Times than, I don’t know, like an internet service provider, for example, would be the other end of that where there really isn’t a…. Even though they are using…they do have their politics and they are…. But this is an expressive message that is explicitly shaping political and cultural discourse. I thought that was interesting because, yeah, this is way overvalued as a company, but as a method to influence culture, it’s not overvalued.

Emily Jashinsky:

Right, right. No, exactly. Again, it might not be as profitable as it is powerful, but it is extremely powerful. To the extent that I’m optimistic, I do really think — and we’ve talked about this before — it’s entirely possible, and I don’t know the likelihood of it, but it’s entirely possible this cultural pain and discomfort that we’ve felt squeezed into over the last half-decade, if not more, depending on your life and where you come from, is an adjustment period; that we are waking up to the realities of rapid technological change and the cultural and political change that it can cause. And as a consequence of that, we have been in this period without realizing we’re in the fog of war. And so when you realize you’re in the fog of war and you realize that you’re in the middle of something really big, that’s a helpful way to course-correct and to understand that you have to do things. It’s like diagnosing the actual ailment and not just treating the symptoms.

And so I think it’s possible that our institutions, there will be enough cultural support for the Musks of the world to retake these institutions, and not even just ultra-powerful people like Elon Musk, but it could just be happening in HR departments and corporate conference rooms around the country. You don’t have to be a multi-billionaire to say, next time somebody complains and wants to use a racist, anti-racist curricula in their HR training or in a private school or whatever it is, people just start saying no. That takes the wind out of this rising generation of people who have been conditioned, as, Inez, you talk about all the time, to see the world in a very dangerous way. And it takes the wind out of their sails, they lose the momentum and just everyone falls back into sanity.

But I don’t know, I just feel like that’s highly unlikely. And the reason I remain pessimistic is because of Twitter itself. You can restore free speech on Twitter, but it’s only less than half the battle, I would say, when we have gamified our politics on this platform, we have gamified our culture on a platform that is literally run like a slot machine. And there’s nobody talking about getting rid of that. Elon Musk doesn’t want to get rid of that. Nobody wants to get rid of that because it’s addictive and it’s bad for our mental health and it’s bad for us as human beings. So we’re not even having that conversation, and that’s what worries me way more than anything.

Inez Stepman:

Yeah. I guess I’m less concerned about that aspect of it than you are, and this is always the divide of how large a factor — because I think we both agree that it is a large factor — but how large or determinative the technological aspect of this is. I tend to think, for example, that one of the reasons we’ve gamified politics, which I 100% agree that we have. Everything seems, in many ways, to be a LARP. I felt that really intensely on January 6th. And I wrote about it. But how we see this, supposedly the worst terrorist in America and his picture is flashing up on all of the TV screens, and it’s like literally a guy with a headdress on and big horns, and there’re really serious people, talking heads saying, “This guy is dangerous.”

There’s a certain absurdity aspect to all of this that I think is not necessarily driven by Twitter, although it’s accelerated by Twitter, or by social media more generally. I tend to think it has to do with deeper questions of meaning, of humanity. Which, actually, this is one of the reasons I am not…. I was surprised this happened. I think it’s really great that it did, but ultimately, two questions, I guess: one, I’m not sure Elon Musk is our champion, and two — and I’ll go into detail on each one of these points — but, one, I’m not convinced he’s our champion, and two, the whole notion that we would need our billionaire champion to be able to push back against some of these fundamental transformations of American cultural norms and American way of life. That in itself speaks to the deep decay of our politics because these are ultimately political questions.

I’m totally fine that Elon Musk has billions and billions of dollars. Good for him. I’m happy he’s able to make those kinds of billions of dollars, and I’m happy that we live in a capitalist system that allows him to do that, but at the same time, I don’t like the total melding of financial power and politics. Now, I accept that rich people are going to have outsized influence always, and they always have, and throughout our history, but the idea that something as fundamental as freedom of speech in the public square — and I truly think that social media is the equivalent of the public square today, even if it isn’t legally — that the idea that our fundamental rights would be dependent on a billionaire; it’s very much like the company town aspect. I feel like all of us are now in a company town and we just hope that we have a champion among the town owners. That’s not really a republic or democracy, so that aspect of it worries me.

And then further, look, I like the guy, I think he’s really funny. He’s got a great sense of humor and he’s willing to spend billions and billions of dollars to back up his sense of humor, which really endears him to me, in that sense. But he has that utopian Silicon Valley view. And that’s why I think they got so censorious to begin with.

And as I say many times, I grew up in Silicon Valley so I know how these people are, how they think. I think they really genuinely, in the ’90s and early 2000s, they really thought if they connect the world, everyone is going to get along. We’re going to enter a new era of peace and prosperity where, potentially, we’re not going to have to work as much because robots are going to do it for us and we’re all just going to sit around and think and enjoy each other’s company and connect to each other in new ways. They really thought this was going to be this beautiful new era. And instead, they got people literally flinging poop at each other on all of these platforms, which is what anyone who has read Thomas Sowell or, frankly, the Bible, would have predicted. It’s a matter of an understanding of human nature that nothing built by the crooked timber will ever be made straight. These kinds of insights are completely nonexistent in Silicon Valley, and I think completely nonexistent in Elon Musk’s thinking. He has a very positive view of the future. He has almost a boundaryless view of what humanity is capable of. He doesn’t have that constraint view, and that’s why, ultimately, I tend to think that he….

So, one, it bothers me that we need a champion at all, and two, I’m not sure that he’s our champion. I’m very happy he’s doing this, and I’m glad he’s committed to freedom of speech, and I think that’s a good thing. And it’s good to have somebody with billions and billions of dollars who’s committed to that impulse. I don’t think this solves any of the larger problems. I’m still surprised it happened. I still find it takes a little edge off my pessimist and maybe the institution and the institutional forces that you and I are always talking about are not quite as strong as we think they are because, if they were, they would’ve stopped this from going through.

Emily Jashinsky:

Right. Is it a house of cards that looks like a house but is built of cards and so it crumbles as soon as you blow on it? I think that may be true in certain cases, but I think, again, for the reasons that you just said, even talking about Elon Musk himself, this is somebody who’s an ultra-powerful billionaire and has some extremely, I think, disturbing ideas for the direction that humanity should go in and is working to kind of enact them.

And it’s interesting because I don’t think that he…. Okay, so this is a guy whose businesses are built on the back of government subsidies, who’s extremely cozy with the Chinese Communist Party because he has his Tesla business over there. And he’s now going to own what everybody on the right has been screaming for years is a publisher. Twitter is a publisher. And as Inez was saying, it’s not entirely dissimilar from Jeff Bezos snatching up the Washington Post, but I also think that without the cultural appetite for what Musk says he’s going to do to Twitter, I don’t know that Twitter would be worth what he paid for it. If he didn’t think that the culture wanted Twitter to be better and have a more free speech climate, then there’s no way he would’ve paid $42 billion for it, because that’s not what the company is worth, and it’s certainly not what the company is worth outside of that environment. So maybe if there’s a way that I could take the edge off your pessimism in that sense, I do think he’s reacting to powerful cultural forces and wouldn’t just be able to be on the whims of a billionaire without those, which is good because it means there’s still something working here.

But he does have Neuralink. He has all of these — sort of like Inez is saying, utopian — they really think of it as a utopia. I think if you go back and read what they were talking about in the early aughts and the way they were talking about the future, it’s very clear this was sincere. And you would know this better than me in this because you literally grew up there. But it was very clearly sincere.

But it’s, as you say, or as you suggest, godless. And this is one of the biggest things that bothers me about the platitudes of our culture. It’s like we revere the phrase. I mean, self-proclaimed Christians revere the maxim that the moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice. No, it doesn’t! Or when I hear conservatives say, “I believe that people are inherently good,” no, they’re not! People are fallen. We live in a fallen world. And anything that is built by humans, be it a corporation or government, is susceptible to all those things. And you can have a system like ours that understands that and has safeguards, which we used to understand, but again, this is where we’re arriving at the pessimism about postmodernism.

These institutions are ultimately built on sand. Their foundation is in sand and not in stone, and so while we may be able to cling by the skin of our teeth through these times, and maybe we’re treading water until someone throws us a raft and people decide to be pro-human again, we’re heading into a really, I think, dangerous place. And these free speech conversations are good. And maybe this is something that starts turning the tide and we go back in a better direction. I don’t know. But the fact that we’re not even talking about the glaring problems with Twitter, which is a dopamine device, that, to me, is like, okay, well we’re not even talking about the real issue here.

Inez Stepman:

Well, as a fallen human, the one thing about this that has been just undeniably enjoyable is the screaming that is going up around it, and my favorite of which…. I just want to reference something. Obviously, you and I and Rachel Bovard and Vivek Ramaswamy and all these people have always been talking for a long time about why the build-your-own internet thing is not really a solution, right?

But Robert Reich tweeted yesterday, “Musk and his apologists say if consumers don’t like what he does with Twitter, they can go elsewhere, but what else would consumers go to post short messages that can reach millions of people other than Twitter? The ‘free market’ increasingly reflects the demands of big money.”

Emily Jashinsky:

And they’re already talking about how they need nonprofit competitors. It’s unbelievable.

Inez Stepman:

It is really enjoyable, right, to see, for once, the table get turned a little bit. And they’re not even worried about being banned, right?

Emily Jashinsky:

Right.

Inez Stepman:

No leftist…. It’s not yet entered their minds the possibility that they could be kicked off of this platform, right? They’re upset because people who disagree with them won’t be kicked off the platform. That alone. I haven’t seen anybody worried about left-wing accounts being banned or woke accounts being banned.

Emily Jashinsky:

Oh, that’s a good point.

Inez Stepman:

It’s really funny. I’m really enjoying it; I can’t say that I’m not. I think I’m…. That’s my dog.

No, I think I’ve always been optimistic about where the American people are, and I’ve been so pessimistic about the power of institutions to override that, right? That’s why I’m so surprised this went through, not because…. Yeah, you’re right that the underlying purchase wouldn’t make any sense unless he believed that there was this dammed-up consumer interest in having a platform like this, so much so that people were going to these very minor and not-as-well-done platforms as Twitter.

I personally find all of those things…. I think ghettoizing ourselves is not a solution, and that’s what those platforms really are. I had some accounts. I had a Parlor account, but it is…. First of all, it’s boring if you’re only talking to your own, and second of all, it is, in some fundamental way, completely tangential to the actual mainstream discourse in the same way that having…. Until you reach a certain amount of audience and size and, in some ways, most important, interaction with the mainstream, you’re not really entering the conversation in a way that’s anything but self-indulgent, I think.

For example, I think the fact that the New York Times had to run a profile on Chris Rufo, that shows the fact that he…. Even if it’s an unfair one, or although it’s less unfair than it could have been, but — which is why all the leftists started to complain about it because they said it made him look too good. But no, when the New York Times has to pay attention… This was always the bright bar model, right, or even Project Veritas today. We’re going to do the reporting you’re not going to do. We are going to do it in such a way that it’s impossible eventually for you to ignore. You’re going to have to cover it in a biased way, probably, but you’re going to have to let it into that mainstream conversation.

I don’t think those platforms, like the Getters and the Parlors and stuff, they haven’t, and for reasons that Rachel Bovard can explain, they have been artificially capped in a million ways. But still, I think ghettoizing ourselves is not necessarily the answer.

There is this demand, clearly. I think you’re right that it enables this kind of move from Musk. Still, it surprises me because I see all of these battles very much as small-D democratic battles. And I’m not a unreserved, small-D democrat. I take all of the founders’ critiques of mob rule, of unchecked passion of the majority, that tyranny is just… “Democracy is just 51% peeing in the Corn Flakes of the 49%,” in the memorable phrase of…. Gosh, who said that? He’s —

Emily Jashinsky:

[crosstalk 00:24:32] I think that was Thomas Jefferson.

Inez Stepman:

No, I think it was Jonah Goldberg.

Emily Jashinsky:

No, that was definitely Thomas Jefferson.

Inez Stepman:

No. Peeing in Corn Flakes? Yeah, absolutely. It’s in the footnotes of the declaration. No, but these are deep critiques of democracy. Democracy’s not a perfect system. It does produce tyranny of the majority. There are all kinds of counter-majoritarian forces put in our Constitution for that reason, but I think right now, our problem is not enough democracy and not too much. It may be the case that sometimes there’s too much democracy. In fact, some of California’s structures that were built by the Progressives are wildly too much. You can amend the California constitution with 50% plus one, so literally everything is in the constitution. There’s an amendment about how many rounds you can have in a boxing match. There’s just pages and pages and pages of uselessness.

And, more fundamentally, if you take everything to a plebiscite, there is a representative function. You’re supposed to channel the will of the people. This is what our elected representatives are supposed to do, allegedly. They really don’t do this, but you’re supposed to channel and refine it, right? For example, if you put everything up to a plebiscite vote, people will vote for more goodies for themselves and they’ll vote that they don’t want to pay for them, and so there is a function of representative democracy.

All of this to say that I’m not a untrammeled democrat, but it seems to me that our problem is that institutions have way too much power and the people too little from the fact that the courts, which are properly beyond the reach of democracy except in the most indirect way possible, but the fact that they have expanded their role into all of these cultural issues that are not in the original understanding of the Constitution, the fact that they have inserted themselves into politics for so long and have taken on such a huge role, that’s a problem. On the corresponding side, the fact that unelected bureaucrats make a huge percentage of the political decisions that aren’t made by the courts. If you put those two things together, we have so many decisions in the political sphere that are not made directly by the people that we elect. And that is a huge problem. But it goes beyond government. We now have unelected corporations that are wielding their financial power in order to, for example, shape the voting laws of Georgia or shape the education laws in Florida.

And that’s actually where I wanted to go next because we have actually had… in some sense, we’ve had two huge victories in the last few days, and that’s really a remarkable thing given how pessimistic I think both of us are and how we feel on our heels so often. But we had two huge victories, the second of which, after Elon Musk purchasing Twitter, is the fact that Florida went after Disney. The Florida legislature on Governor DeSantis’ pushing, or request, has decided to drop the special carveout, the special district that Disney has had in order to have its park in Orlando. I believe that’s Disney World, but as any of you who followed me on Twitter know, I am not a Disney fan and never have been before for all this political stuff, so I don’t remember which park is in Orlando. But there is one; it’s big. And they have some very, very special, nice tax deal for that entire district.

And the Florida legislature decided that they do not want to extend that special privilege to Disney anymore, which famously, in the past few weeks, Disney has come out in favor of, or rather against what the media calls the Don’t Say Gay bill, which is really just a bill that defines when and in what manner sexual conversations, including conversations about gender identity, can take place, and completely bars them in ages K through three, which seems very reasonable, and then thereafter, requested they be done in an age-appropriate manner, which of course is a phrase that agencies will largely define. So that should be interesting in itself. Nevertheless, this is a very, very popular bill, and another point of hope, I think, on…. This is the hopeful podcast. Another point of hope is that I really think this is one of those instances where people have completely seen through the misleading narrative that the media decided to run with. I think initially, a lot of people agreed that this was a “Don’t Say Gay Bill,” and because DeSantis fought back and because they had to cover him fighting back because he was the governor and he was making press statements and so on, even if they sandwiched his statements in between a bunch of bias, people — I think because he fought back — people started to actually read the bill, they started to actually be skeptical about whether or not it was a “Don’t Say Gay Bill.” Every poll shows, not only in Florida but across the country, this bill is popular; the substance of it is popular. And most encouragingly of all, people are not…. They have seen through the mainstream narrative on this. And I wonder what that does.

Actually, let’s start with this whole setup that has taken me a minute. Let’s start here. Because you are such a media critic, what does that say? I mean, is this a herald for the brittleness of the media narrative? Because it really seems like it totally broke on this issue.

Emily Jashinsky:

Yeah, I was surprised by how it broke. And I actually think it’s a statement probably on…. I’m trying to think of the right analogy, but basically, the new media and old media have been in this tug of war for 15 years, if not a little bit longer than that. And it shows that, I think for the first time, the new media might actually be sort of winning the tug of war. That’s not to say that they’ve won the tug of war but that in the power struggle, the balance has shifted slightly to new media’s side, in these cases where this one was such a massive overreach on the part of the so-called mainstream media. I don’t think that they…. They are so used to just being able to push people around and to say what they want without getting challenged because, hey, it’s just a few people reading The Federalist that are going to get different information, or the Fox News crowd that’s going to get different information. And of course that’s not the case anymore because of the entire… TikTok now has influencers who are breaking this down and popping up in unsuspecting people’s algorithms. And so I think it probably does show that.

And it was a good example also of how they overreached to the point of just infuriating people. This bill does not say that. DeSantis is lying about how the bill never said the word gay. It was such a massive overreach that I think it does show what you’re saying.

And again, I do lump that in together with Musk and with one more thing, which is the RNC refusing — this came out a couple weeks ago — refusing to participate in the presidential debate commission’s circus, basically, which is something that people would’ve thought unthinkable before Donald Trump but should have been fathomable for years. This should have happened so long ago. But all of these things slowly happening — it’s spring. It feels maybe like it’s metaphorically spring, too.

But the real challenge, I think, to what you were saying, Inez, to quickly go back on the point about corporate power, because it affects all of this, the Libertarians would rebut what you just said about Musk and corporate power or Disney. Disney’s a great example. They would say, “Well, if people are upset, if customers are upset with Disney, they can stop shopping at Disney or they can stop investing in Disney.” If investors don’t want to invest in Wells Fargo or whatever company because they said something woke, then they can pull their money out of it. And the question is just, no, and go where? Somewhere else that’s doing the exact same thing?

Inez Stepman:

Why the Reich tweet was so funny, right?

Emily Jashinsky:

Right.

Inez Stepman:

I’ve been using the phrase cultural collusion, but I’m sure there’s a better one out there, but that’s really what it is. There is a monopoly in the sense of political perspective.

Emily Jashinsky:

Well, and it’s anti-constitutional or extra-constitutional, this monopoly is. And that’s where you get into this question where it’s like, well, what do you want people to do? And Rachel made this point in Bright this morning, actually, about a football coach who was privately praying on the sidelines up in Washington state. She was like, “Well, okay, so what do you think people should do if they want to just exercise their faith quietly and privately in a public space? Do you think they should have to sue and put aside 10 years of their life and their reputation and their family’s safety and sue? That’s what people should have to do? That’s not the country that we should live in.

But I do think because a lot of these massive corporations, the way that our investment structure works, it gives them so much political and cultural power because it’s anti-democratic in the market sense, that our market doesn’t feel particularly free anymore, and so where you’re supposed to be able to vote with your dollar or your feet or whatever, that power just doesn’t really exist anymore. And that, I think, has allowed a lot of corporations like Disney to steamroll our culture.

Inez Stepman:

Yeah, I definitely think that’s true. I guess you’re refining something that I was thinking of in the beginning of the podcast, where it’s always clearly been true that extremely wealthy people and extremely wealthy corporations have had an influence on our politics. I don’t necessarily…. I think this is sort of inevitable. I think this is…. And attempts to completely eliminate it are fanciful. It will always be the case that money will buy you a certain amount of access and influence in the political process. And trying to, just like with redistricting, like people…. I just remembered this is my one regretted vote. I voted in favor of redistricting commission in California on the naive assumption that, actually, if we get like citizens to sit on this commission, it’ll make sense and we won’t have these horrifically gerrymandered districts. Of course, that’s not true. You can’t take politics out of politics. All you do is remove it from democratic control in doing things like that.

We have two different things that are new, and one at least quasi-new and one really new, in this relationship between finance corporations and power and political influence. One is the fact that we have enormously powerful multinational corporations that are not completely dependent on the U.S. market or the U.S. workforce. That is the globalist change that has happened.

And the second one is that we’ve seen…. Back in the 19th century, we also had the titans of industry, or the Robert Barons, depending on which side you’re on of that question, that historical question. But they actually had wildly different views. So in a sense, they checked each other. There’s always been this level of influence, but it wasn’t all going in the same direction. And to the extent that it went in the same direction, it was on specifically some matter of business. That’s partially why TR did the trusts busting and all of this. But it’s somehow less pernicious to me to imagine that businesses would agree on a matter of business because then you can either countervail it or not. It’s serving a clear interest. If they’re exercising that interest against the public good, then there will be some kind of reaction from the political sphere that interest will be reined in, right? This is much more pernicious, in a way, and I think it has a lot to do with the professionalization and credentialing that has happened.

What we have is in not just a few rock ’em sock ’em and billionaires at the top who have a lot of influence, but this 20%, 30% of people who overwhelmingly have the same worldview, not just when it comes to business and how they make money, but on everything else — on cultural issues, on things that have nothing to do with how or how much money they make. In a sense, they have a class interest, but that class interest is not related to their class except insofar as they have the power to enforce it. In a way, this completely breaks Marxism. You would think, right, that a class interest would have to do something directly with their class, and this one doesn’t. This one has to do with shared values that have nothing to do with how much money or how they make their money.

That’s really what scares me in all of this is this collusion, and that’s why I think Elon Musk breaking from the fold is really important because these folks largely agree so tightly that it cuts off the possibility that you were talking about, Emily. It cuts off the possibility of a countervailing force, either as a customer or as a voter, either way in either sphere. If you’re a customer and you don’t like how woke Disney is, well, good luck because Hulu and Netflix, they’re also woke, and most of the people who run theme parks — although Dollywood, I guess, is one of the exceptions — most of the people who provide that kind of experience, they’re also using their money for woke causes, and they’re using the company for woke causes.

The easiest way to see this, I think, is in airlines because there is a limited number of them. How many are there? Domestic American Airlines, American Airlines, Delta, Southwest, Alaska Air, United, whatever. There’s a handful.

Emily Jashinsky:

American.

Inez Stepman:

Yeah, American. There’s a handful of them. There’s a limited number of domestic providers in America. Every single one of them was on, as far as I know — I didn’t check for Alaska Air. I can double-check after that. But every other one that I listed was on that Equality Act letter, so in favor of changing the definition of sex in federal civil rights law to include gender identity, which is a very radical piece of legislation. Where are you going to go? You don’t like Delta’s wealth politics. Where are you going to go as a customer? You have no check on that.

And then correspondingly, and in the realm of politics, if these people who, these professional-managerial class who have largely the same opinions and largely went through the same schools, they control the agencies that make a lot of your law, well then, you also don’t have a democratic control over them. You don’t vote for them. It’s not like —

Emily Jashinsky:

[crosstalk 00:40:19] Yeah. Your democratic control is supposed to be your ability to vote in the marketplace. And that’s exactly right. And so that’s what the Libertarians will say. They would say, “Absolutely there’s democratic control on these major corporations.” And then you have to ask, first of all, how? What is it? How are activist shareholders really able to push back on this? And Inez, this is like…so…. There was, what was this, like three weeks ago now IWF launched the new education, the Center for Education Freedom, Education Freedom Center. Am I —

Inez Stepman:

Yep. Education Freedom Center.

Emily Jashinsky:

That’s it. Okay. The right order of the words. And as Inez was speaking — and actually, Betsy DeVos spoke. And when Inez got up, because she’s taking a huge role in this project, I was thinking how daunting it is and how for the entire month since that event, I’ve just been thinking this is so much bigger than anybody realizes. The roots of this are so incredibly deep. We can do so many things. And they’re basically going to be trimming weeds on the surface, and we’re just scratching the dirt when the roots are so much deeper. And that’s what you guys are working on is the deep, deep, deep roots.

But we can talk about the marketplace and we can talk about pushback on all of these things, but if the will of the country to be the United States of America in a constitutional sense no longer exists, then none of it seems to matter. And that’s why, again, we can have these conversations, and we should try — this is what I wrote about Musk — we should try to set these norms to get back to better norms right now while we can, while we still have the will and while we still have that memory of what it was like, the muscle memory of what it was like. While we still have that, let’s go, let’s get back to these norms, let’s set them. But I don’t know that it’ll be…. I don’t know that the time hasn’t already passed to do that.

Inez Stepman:

Well, that’s what scares me is…. So you mentioned the Education Freedom Center. Obviously, a lot of my work in education. The premise of a lot of my work is always this positive side of my pessimistic worldview, which is that, actually, the American people are fairly unreconstructed, right?

Emily Jashinsky:

Right.

Inez Stepman:

It is actually a remarkable thing. The fact that Donald Trump got elected in 2016 is a remarkable thing because every institution went balls to the wall against this. And it shows, whatever you’re thinking about Donald Trump, that shows that the American people are, on the whole, not bought into the same ideology that their elites are. That doesn’t make them conservatives or fellow travelers with you or I or any particular a commentator or writer, so we should be careful not to confuse those two things because, I don’t know, for me, the biggest reminder of 2016 is I really thought after the Tea Party that had the majority of the American people rowing in the same direction as me, and I realized, no, no, no, these folks, they supported the Tea Party for their own reasons. They think about these things differently. I think it’s easy to fall into that trap. But nevertheless, I think that, broadly speaking, the great American middle class and the working class of America are not at all on board with the trajectory the elites want to take us down. At some point, they will be, right?

The long march through the institutions works; it works especially in education. And what we’re seeing is that people, especially younger millennials but really all of the millennial generation, but particularly younger millennials and then gen Z, people…. I hate this like Libertarian argument. Oh, kids don’t learn…. They don’t really learn anything in school anyway, including this narrative they don’t learn. They don’t actually imbibe anything. And actually, they’re just going to rebel against it, they’re just going to rebel against it. And yeah, that’s true for the small percentage of contrarians who are usually saying these things. But the overwhelming majority of people, they do accept the fundamental premises and narratives that they were taught in school.

Now, that doesn’t mean they remember every aspect of it, but you don’t have to. Fundamentally, the narrative ‘America’s bad, it’s been bad since its inception; America’s racist; sex doesn’t exist,’ these kinds of things actually really easy to imbibe and repeat. They don’t require a lot of academic effort.

The fact is that it’s working. If you look at every single poll…. And Eric Kaufman has some great work on this, and I had him on to talk about it, but in every poll what you see is that, actually, indoctrination works. And so I agree with you; I think we have a very narrow window. We may have passed it already, but the premise of everything, all the solutions that I put forward, from school choice, even stuff about universities, the fact that we should draw down student loans or attach political considerations to student loans to try to force universities out of their current track when they are so dependent on public money, the fact that we should use public money….

Essentially, my solutions are always small-D democratic. Push more money and power to people. They will use it differently than the elites have. That’s what school choice is to me. And it’s pushing more money and more power and more corresponding leverage to people on a mass scale, then…. And I think they’ll use that money and that choice very differently than elites have used it, and I think positive, right? But at some point, that will not be true anymore. At some point, we will have enough converted that school choice won’t matter because giving parents money will just mean that they go ahead and use it at completely woker and woker institutions.

Emily Jashinsky:

Yeah, I think that’s totally true.

Inez Stepman:

They themselves have already bought into this ideology. Whether we’ve reached that tipping point, at least with education, I don’t think so. I think the fact that there has been such an enormous backlash — and the fact that that backlash extends not into moderates but extends into Democrats, right? — I think that’s…. We haven’t reached that tipping point yet. But this is really generational. Right now, parents of school-aged children are Gen X and elder millennial, right?

Emily Jashinsky:

Yeah.

Inez Stepman:

When it’s younger millennials and gen Z who are the parents of school-aged children, school choice will operate very differently. And the hope is, the hope…. To keep this on the hopeful track, the hope is —

Emily Jashinsky:

So unlike you.

Inez Stepman:

— that by implementing it now, right, it is early enough that at least we close a pipeline on the other end, right?

Emily Jashinsky:

Yeah.

Inez Stepman:

That we have this generation and a half of indoctrinated Americans; we probably aren’t going to change their minds. If people are truly bought into like the woke stuff — on a mass scale, anyway; I’m not saying it’s individually impossible to change their minds — but we have a generation and a half of people who are bought into this, but this is a large republic. They will be an interest, but not the interest if we close the pipeline. If we gut the institutions now, we close the pipeline, we build new pipelines, new institutions, then these folks will be a minority and they won’t control the political process. But that’s a gamble, and I don’t know if we’ve gone so far and we’ve created so many of these folks that that’s impossible, but I don’t see really any other way forward. There’s not really any other way forward in any kind of small-L liberal or democratic sense. I’m not interested in living under Franco.

Yeah, that’s the question. That’s the terrifying time clock that we’re on; we’re on, we’re definitely on borrowed time. And we have to think about it that way. We have to think about it. What changes can we make now that are institutional and enduring so that we can digest this minority that we’ve already created, this incredibly powerful minority? How do we make sure that they’re a minority and that they don’t control everything, even as a minority? Those are the way that I always think about these questions.

But I can’t let you go without bringing up this one piece in The Cut —

Emily Jashinsky:

Yes!

Inez Stepman:

— which is very much also on things that we like to talk about. It’s called “Losing my Ambition.” It’s by Amil Niazi. And it is talking about what I think is a very real phenomenon, that post-pandemic…. This goes along with the vibe shift and the death of the girl boss and all of these things that we really are seeing a shift, even on the feminist left, of the relationship that women have to ambition, career, and sacrifice vis-à-vis family. What did you think of this article? And do you think that it portends some larger shift in the culture? Or do you think that it’s just, sort of, as many of these first-person confessional essays are, is just part of the larger narcissistic navel gazing, whatever, trend in our essay-writing culture, let’s say?

Emily Jashinsky:

No, I think this actually does portend to change in the culture, and I think it has a lot to do with millennial women growing up, and that’s what this…. We’re seeing the arc of women struggle to exist in the arc of these post-sexual revolution generation, and that’s millennial women. But humanity wins out, which — and by humanity, I just mean evolution and the innate desire to reproduce and to couple and to nurture and all that good stuff.

What’s funny about this essay, which I loved, is that it’s so unself…. The lack of self-awareness is delicious because it’s really, in a sad way, instructive or I think insightful into the culture that this is surprising to this woman because our norms for millennial women were so different that she thinks it’s almost this act of rebellion or this act of, I don’t know, like it’s radical. She’s acting like it’s radical to decide that you don’t need to be the consummate global citizen who’s saving the world one tweet at a time. You can be a homemaker who takes care of children, and you might actually be way, way, way, way, way happier.

And so I think this goes completely to the last conversation we were having. And I try not to be so 30,000 feet sometimes because I need to be more in the weeds on policy and all of that stuff. But for me, sometimes I just look at this and I’m like, we are fighting about humanism. We’re fighting a war, postmodern, anti-human. We’re human beings. It’s not political, but just human beings are fighting to live in a humanist world and not an anti-humanist world. And human beings are just winning these victories here and there.

And again, it’s not to say like…. We are fallen. We have a lot of bad instincts as humans, and it’s the job of our society to temper those and our communities to temper those and our relationships to temper those as best we possibly can, to live in the most peace that we can. But this idea that we should all be, I don’t know, titans of industry, and you don’t need any of the trappings of human life to be happy. It’s not right because it’s not what we’re designed and built to do. And so I just see so many of these battles as being just fundamentally about fighting the dystopia, really. It’s like where everyone is turning away Soma or turning away the blue pill in all of these fights. That’s what it really feels like to me.

And this article shows, I think, how that human side is really fighting in millennial women. I think we saw it in the early days of the pandemic, where the trend was self-sufficiency: baking bread and pickling things and doing all that good stuff. I really think that it shows that we’re fighting to be happy, we’re fighting to do what we want to, what our bodies and our minds want us to do, what actually makes people happy. And this is a good example of, oh, well, it’s kind of winning despite all of the conditioning in the institutional media, academia, everything, Hollywood. It’s winning.

Inez Stepman:

Well, the upside is always that you can’t suppress nature forever.

Emily Jashinsky:

That’s right.

Inez Stepman:

What’s the Horace quote? It’s one of my favorite quotes ever. You can chase nature out with a pitchfork, and yet she keeps hurrying back. The bad news is it can take 100 years.

Emily Jashinsky:

One of the things that gen Z is most terrified about is climate change, and this is like…. Polling shows it feels like an existential weight on their shoulders. It has been psychologically traumatic for them to grow up in a world where they’re being told constantly that humanity is going to be in grave peril in a matter of years unless they step up and they stop something. And again, it’s just this idea that man is so much more powerful than man is, or that man needs to be so much more powerful than man is. And it’s not fun. It’s exhausting. And it’s also predicated on a lie that we can turn the tides. And we can’t! So everyone needs to relax and —

Inez Stepman:

[crosstalk 00:55:09] Yeah, I think that’s really generational. That’s really generational, too. That’s so generational as well. I think that a lot of people think this is just virtue signaling, as in…. And I think it is for people, more or less. Obviously, there are lots of exceptions on both sides, but more or less, people over 35, they kind of know this is BS. And I’m not just talking about the climate change alarmism but just generally this entire woke stuff, they know that Lia Thomas is winning because he’s a man swimming against women.

Emily Jashinsky:

Not all of them.

Inez Stepman:

But what I keep trying to get across to even some conservatives is, yeah, you don’t…. No, younger folks are very sincere in this. It’s a very sincerely-held religious conviction, and so they really do see the Winston 1984 metaphor. They really do see the Party holds up four fingers and they see five. It is a very real possibility.

And if you read literally anything about history, you know that people can be convinced of these kinds of ideologies, that they can sincerely believe in them, and they do, which is really a much larger problem, right? And I think that’s why we’re seeing some of these hopeful defections. They’re mostly from older millennials and gen X who are saying, “Okay, enough. I’ll go along with this BS for a little bit because I want to be a nice person.” That’s the virtue-signaling part. “I’m a good person because I go along with these kinds of ideas.” But at some point, a certain percentage of people were like, “No, I know this isn’t true,” right?

Emily Jashinsky:

Right.

Inez Stepman:

I’m not going to actually have, as you say, the existential weight of the “fact” that the world is going to end in seven years because of climate change on my shoulders. At some point, you’re seeing these defections from, essentially, the folks who were virtue signaling but now are saying, “Okay, there’s a lot that’s not virtuous about this worldview, and I no longer care. I’m going to be courageous. I no longer care what people say, what kind of bad person people say I am for speaking the obvious truths.”

On the younger side of the spectrum, they don’t see these as truths. They have blinded themselves to the truth —

Emily Jashinsky:

They don’t see truth.

Inez Stepman:

— in a fundamental way. They don’t believe truth exists except subjectively. And on top of that is layered an ideology that tells them very non-subjectively what truth is and has absolutely no epistemic humility about it. And that doesn’t make any logical sense, but it doesn’t matter.

Anyway, so we’re ending even our very optimistic podcast on a somewhat pessimistic note, although we had more optimism to go for in this episode than many. I do think that there is a larger vibe shift happening. The question is whether it can be converted into actual strategic victories that’ll allow us to live with this generational handoff in a way that doesn’t destroy everything that we hold dear.

Emily Jashinsky:

And accurate.

Inez Stepman:

Emily, any last words here?

Emily Jashinsky:

I was just going to say, it’s an accurate dose of pessimism, though, because that’s really what it all comes down to. If you have a generation of people who aren’t just going to along to get along because they don’t want to be accused of being intolerant or hateful, but actually fundamentally they’ve been conditioned to not believe in truth and to believe that truth is relative, then you’re heading into a dark and dangerous place. And so we can fix these institutions right now as best we can and set norms and show them the way that it can be done and that things can be better, but you need them to actually buy that, and I don’t know if we live in that world anymore.

Inez Stepman:

Or you need to just take them out of power and outvote them. But thanks, Emily, for, as always, for coming on. We do these After Dark episodes. If anyone doesn’t remember from exactly 59 minutes ago, we do an After Dark episodes every month, at the end of every month. The last episode of the month is me and Emily talking about the issues that we find relevant in the news. So thanks again, Emily, for coming on High Noon.

Emily Jashinsky:

Thank you, Inez.

Inez Stepman:

And thank you to our listeners. High Noon with Inez Stepman, including After Dark, 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 Podcast, Acast, Google Play, YouTube, or iwf.org. Be brave, and we’ll see you next time on High Noon.