The last week of every month, High Noon: After Dark features Emily Jashinsky and Inez Stepman on the news of the past weeks. This month, Emily and Inez discuss whether the attacks and accusations against Elon Musk are working or lifting the veil on a rigged system for ordinary Americans; if redpilled tech bros passed over by woke quota systems can revive a future for American innovation and competence; and the left’s uncomfortable relationship with democracy.


TRANSCRIPT

Inez Stepman:

Welcome to High Noon, where we discuss controversial subjects with interesting people. As always, at the end of the month, we do a bit of a news docket type episode with Emily Jashinsky, who is the culture editor over at The Federalist, a shaper of intrepid young minds over at Young America’s Foundation, host of Rising on Fridays, general cultural milieu person, and last but certainly not least, she is a fellow here with us at the Independent Women’s Forum. She is a girl about town or at least about podcasts. She joins us every month at the end of the month. We’re going to talk through some of the things that we thought were interesting this month.

Emily, I feel like last time we did this, we were kind of uncharacteristically optimistic because this is when Elon Musk’s bid for buying Twitter had gone through. I was like, “I am really shocked that happened.” Well, it seems like there’s a bit of an Empire Strikes Back vibe going on right now. Obviously, we have the allegations against — the #MeToo allegations against Elon Musk, based on this $250,000 payout to a flight attendant. There seem to be some issues with the deal itself. Something about it that I don’t understand and proudly refuse to learn how to understand. About the platform itself and how many —

Emily Jashinsky:

You’re a lawyer.

Inez Stepman:

— and whether or not they report the percentage of bots to some government agency. I don’t know. But Emily, are you still relatively optimistic? Do you think this is going to go through? Are these attacks going to work or they are just… Is the timing of these attacks so obvious that, at this point, even somebody who’s not terminally online, is not really interested in any of this stuff, has a healthy skepticism of the timing of this kind of stuff?

Emily Jashinsky:

Well, it’s interesting because Elon Musk already had plenty of, I guess, skeletons or luggage to bring with him into the deal. And so I don’t feel like I’m less pessimistic. I think it’s actually happening exactly as you expected it to, which is to happen in fits and starts and hit all kinds of obstacles and then sort of become a question of like, well, I guess we’ll just see what happens. But you, I think, were prescient in saying this isn’t just going… The money here is not just going to let Musk steamroll his way into the building. It’s not just going to be somebody like Elon Musk saying, “Here’s the cash. Now, give me the keys to the kingdom.” That’s clearly not what’s going to happen, and it hasn’t been what happened.

So I think it’s still… If Elon Musk really wants to buy Twitter and be in charge of Twitter, I think he will absolutely be in charge of Twitter. I think he will buy Twitter, and I think he will exert as much control as he wants. I think he’s already proven that he will take the arrows he wants to take. I think people are reading into his Twitter messages, which are clearly, I think, calculated business maneuvers every time he tweets something relevant to Twitter, and even when he tweets things like that he likes chocolate milk. I think it’s trolling a little bit. He’s in the middle of a multi-billion-dollar deal, and I think trying to signal that it’s not his everything and that he still has a massive, massive empire outside of Twitter.

So all that is to say, Inez, I feel like I’m in the same place, which is kind of cautiously optimistic that his interest in Twitter, whether it works or not, will at least send a signal at worst and at best will give him an opportunity to model how to run a company better with little regard for the silliness that we get bogged down in now. But I actually really think, looking back on that last podcast we did — and by the way, this is how I keep track of time. I know it’s the end of the month every time Inez pings me about the podcast, so it’s helpful. It’s a good way to keep time. It’s sort of like the ancient Mayans. But Inez, you were — I think, actually, you predicted exactly what we’re seeing unfold.

Inez Stepman:

Oh, I don’t know. I predicted it wouldn’t happen at all, so I feel like I was overly maybe pessimistic.

Emily Jashinsky:

But it really could. I mean, it seems like that’s a more plausible outcome right now.

Inez Stepman:

Look, one hopes that a person still has to be smart and competent and a little bit ruthless to actually make billions of dollars. I mean, one hopes, right? That’s the hope is that, in fact, if somebody like Elon Musk has billions and billions of dollars, that he is used to dealing with setbacks and used to dealing with even this kind of opposition. This is not his… Obviously, he’s not new to the spotlight. He’s just new to this particular kind of spotlight. I’m sure it’s not the first time he’s dealt with this.

I guess the second part of my question, though, with how this goes through… Even if it does go through, but if it doesn’t as well, what does this do to already tenuous trust in the game not being rigged? Like, first of all, if the richest man in the world can’t buy a company because he has said some things that stepped out of line with the dominant narrative, what hope does that leave for the rest of us? But on the flip side, on the optimistic side, do you think that people are going to be… These attacks seem to be so transparent in terms of the timing, right? Even they’re starting to write up in New York Times, Wall Street Journal, places like that, of problems with Tesla, problems with his companies, all of this stuff, which might all be true. I’m not saying that it isn’t. But is this so transparent as to be kind of a red pill in itself? For people who maybe aren’t like in our circles or spending a lot of time on Twitter or watching Rising or places like that.

It seems like this really broke into the mainstream because of who he is. And then now, correspondingly, the people who are watching this on the mainstream… Are they going to acquire that deep skepticism that allows us to have the kind of conversations that we did last time about whether or not he’ll even be able to make this deal happen? Is this going to redpill the normies, right? Watching him suddenly… Immediately, a #MeToo allegation comes out about him. Whether true or false, it’s certainly been around for years, and nobody was interested in putting it into the public until just now. Is the final straw for a lot of people who maybe do still have some faith in media and the system more broadly?

Emily Jashinsky:

As you and I have been talking about, #MeToo redpilled a lot of normal people for years, literally, at this point. And so anytime I think it resurfaces, especially towards somebody who — we should not let it be lost — is at the caliber of hosting Saturday Night Live… Saturday Night Live isn’t what it once was, but for them to select you as a host, I think, says something about your stature and popular culture and your appeal outside of just our political conversations or our entertainment media conversations.

So I think what will be interesting… And while you were talking, Inez, I was pulling up a passage from a Scott Lincicome piece in The Dispatch where he says… He’s commenting on Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter and basically saying, listen, the New Right has just completely destroyed itself. And I’m paraphrasing. I will read the exact quote. He says:

 “The alleged impossibility of such changes in fact was a core part of the new, quote, ‘conservative’ argument for regulating Twitter, Facebook, Google, Amazon, and other tech companies allegedly biased against the right’s views. The brute force of government was required in this special case because, quote, ‘free markets’ simply couldn’t solve the problem of ultra-powerful tech giants. Things like, quote, ‘network effects’ and the uniformity of liberal thought in Silicon Valley. So the argument revealed libertarian arguments like just build your own Twitter to be laughably naïve.”

Well, I don’t think it’s that laughable because Elon Musk is now having to prove the case in one direction or the other by taking the arrows. If he takes the arrows and goes down, you see that even somebody… It’s not just Parler that can’t compete with Twitter. You can’t even let Elon Musk with his billions of dollars and overpaying and overvaluing Twitter… You can’t even let somebody who is going to overvalue your product or your company in the gates because he’s heterodox on a variety of political questions. On the other hand, if this goes through and Elon Musk makes moves to improve Twitter, at least in the direction of free speech, and all is well in the world, it still shows that he had to face #MeToo allegations. He had to face a brutal media slog that didn’t come out despite the fact that he was taking corporate welfare in the years before he decided to move into the Twitter space. That he was a public figure that was getting not just tons of government money, but billions of dollars in private funding.

He’s a public figure for all this time and his interest in Twitter is what makes him face all of these barriers? That’s a signal to anybody else who wants to take any other platform in a heterodox direction or in a normal, sane direction and push back on wokeness that this is what it takes. You are going to have so many arrows, you will basically be, in Monty Python, the knight who has no arms or legs by the end of the battle. So I do think that this experiment is still playing out, and we’ll learn more as it plays out in either direction, but the bottom line is the whole case study proves that it’s virtually impossible just to get in the door even if you’re a liberal billionaire like Elon Musk.

Inez Stepman:

There’s a real benefit to having that reality be in the open, I think. Or at least more in the open than it has been. In the sense… Like, I felt the same way about the… I got ratioed initially and then I think a lot of people came around to my take. Because I tweeted it twice. The first time I tweeted this take, I got completely ratioed, and the second time, more recently, everyone was like, “Oh, yeah, you’re totally right.” And that was on the Disinformation Board. I was like, actually, I think there’s an advantage to having this in the open because, if you think that this kind of activity is not happening in the federal bureaucracy, then you’re naïve. It is happening whether or not there is something called the Board of Misinformation and whether or not Nina Jankowicz is the target for it. Indeed, actually, after the demise of the board, The National Pulse, which is Raheem Kassam’s outlet, is reporting that, actually, Nina Jankowicz is… It’s not even the end of her career. Nina Jankowicz’s consulting firm is still being paid for the same work. They just took the name off it.

Emily Jashinsky:

This has benefited her career immensely. She was a very low-profile liberal tech writer, and she will now probably get a cable news contract out of this, let alone more consulting business.

Inez Stepman:

Yeah. And the fact that the government is still doing this. I mean, I guess we do get the satisfaction of knowing that this particular brand of millennial girl bossery is universally mockable or nearly universally mockable. I guess we do have that benefit, but the actual work is still going on. And so I think there is an advantage to having that kind of systemic — I want to call it corruption even though it may not be corruption in the legal or technical sense — but that kind of systemic corruption be so clearly revealed.

Inez Stepman:

But this whole episode with Musk, I think, is also raising the possibility that… and I really wanted to ask you about this because you are the resident tech-centric… in sort of a negative way; as in, that you think that technology and social media and all of this has really accelerated, to a great degree, a lot of our problems. You’re very much all in on the hyper-novelty thesis, which is like Bret Weinstein and… And so I was curious what you think about what really does seem to be some energy in the tech world around… Because you saw it with that Musk tweet when he was literally like, if we keep going with this woke stuff, we’re never going to reach Mars. And I don’t really… I mean, I do care if we reach Mars. I think it’d be cool. But on the list of priorities of our problems right now, I wouldn’t say that my primary problem with wokeness is that we might not reach Mars.

But I think that sentiment is spreading maybe in the tech community, and it’s combining with this interesting other phenomenon, which is the more the preferential hiring on race, sex, gender identity continues to happen, the more you have competent, mostly straight white men or Asian men in this business who are going to be passed over who have real competencies and are not technically political people… There’s going to be more and more of those people who have a vested interest, who really dislike the way that society is selecting against merit…

My friend Jeremy Carl over at the… So he wrote a piece over at The American Conservative called Towards a Republican Counter-Elite, where he a little bit… He kind of… And I’m not sure I agree with the conclusion of the piece, which is kind of like, don’t put your faith as much in populism, put your faith in the failed… essentially, the people who would have succeeded in a meritocracy, into the elite, but then get… They get passed over. They don’t get those top jobs. They don’t end up being able to get start-up cash or whatever it is. Where do you think that phenomenon is going? Do you think that the tech bros could actually be a serious force for good in the battles or do you think that they’re just too transhumanist, utopian, to… They have too rosy a view of the human future to really be an ally for people who are concerned about the direction of the country.

Emily Jashinsky:

I think the tug of war between the transhumanists and the alarmists or the tech skeptics within Silicon Valley and Big Tech itself is probably the most consequential tug of war. More so than what we see on Capitol Hill or in media. Because if you watch… The documentary that really opened up a lot of people’s eyes to this was called The Social Dilemma. It was on Netflix, and it was from Tristan Harris. He was a huge part of it. He runs… I think it’s called The Center for Humane Tech. I think it’s called The Center for Humane Tech or Center for Ethical Tech. Something like that. He was an ethicist at Google. He worked in other places, but he was working on Gmail for a while. And then he founded this nonprofit to combat tech’s unethical practices that are intentionally… Basically, running these platforms where we’ve transferred these huge swaths of political and cultural life onto, like, slot machines. And so that’s where the most interesting energy and momentum has come from in this entire question of tech ethics. It’s from former tech employees and people who are still in that milieu, as you might say, Inez. Running in those circles and talking to people —

Inez Stepman:

You’re calling me out for my French.

Emily Jashinsky:

Yes, your French. Talking to people in those circles. By the way, I just realized… since Inez and I are on video… that she’s drinking a LaCroix, and I am drinking a pre-mixed Negroni because I ran in the door, and I had had a very long day, so I poured this delightful bright red Negroni.

Inez Stepman:

I do believe that you are fancier than me right now because I call it a LaCroix, first of all.

Emily Jashinsky:

Well, just because you were speaking French. You were speaking French so I thought I would jump in. Actually, you usually drink Campari in your Aperol spritzes. That’s Inez’s little thing.

Inez Stepman:

Yeah, subbing in Campari for Aperol. I feel like once you go Campari, you can’t go back.

Emily Jashinsky:

But to your point. I do think people who have been in the tech industry understand more than anybody else how bad it is because they’ve intentionally designed it to be bad in a more… in a different time when we were still basking in the glow of what was considered objectively to be progress. The Obama years. The end of the Bush administration. The Obama years. A lot of people were working intentionally to make us spend as much time as possible on Gmail, on Twitter, on Facebook. That was considered a good thing that would bring us all closer and would tighten the bonds of human connectivity. We now know that’s really not natural in a lot of ways, and it’s hyper-novel in a lot of ways, as you say, Inez, that has been unhealthy and that we have struggled to overcome and turn into the glass being half full instead of half empty. I think they are the ones that understand this. The more that they understand this and act as whistle blowers, I think you see them… Even the Project Veritas leaks that have come from tech, even the leaks that have gone to Breitbart from tech. It’s not just what Tristan Harris is doing, but it’s other signals just that people in the industry are starting to recognize that they’re basically peddling something much, much, much worse than cigarettes, but sort of similar in concept.

That’s where it gets interesting, but… and this is to your point… the last thing I will say is, if you are doing that but you’re unmoored from any virtuous moral foundation — and so what you want to do is just help us progress as a culture and be equitable in this fuzzy sense that might include promoting a version of equity that’s not actually about equity or equality or promoting a version of sexual progress that’s actually regression… anything like that —  if you’re unmoored from reality and truth because you are fundamentally postmodern, your efforts against tech, the lack of ethics in tech, and your efforts maybe even against transhumanism… For instance, it’s really important, I think, to see the transgender campaign, the transgender agenda, as a part of the transhuman agenda. But I think you would have a really hard time convincing a lot of people in Silicon Valley of that. This just brings us back, Inez, to my fundamental and your fundamental, I think, cynicism. Because if you don’t have that foundation, nothing positive is really going to grow. The positive stuff that grows might be in the right direction, it might mitigate harms temporarily, but in the long run, it’s still to be determined. Unless you understand that there is truth and there is God and there is beauty, good luck.

Inez Stepman:

I mean, look. Some of these guys, I think, really are trying to… They’re attempting to create something that is more human and worthy through technology. I think they’re really trying to put technology in service of something that does have more, more meaning, more vitality, in some way. But I just don’t know if that’s possible. Look, they’re launching new stuff. They’re building new things. There’s this magazine, Return Magazine, which is going to be focused on some of these problems. It’s going to have, I think, some interesting writers.

There is the element where these folks are just outside of the political bubble. I think, in some ways, that’s a really good thing because the sort of… Not to be graphic here, but the circle jerk on Twitter between [inaudible 00:21:27]… It can get really intellectually masturbatory, to continue to the… We got Elon Musk with his propositions for hand jobs for ponies. No, but it does get very, I think, intellectually obscure. Even though it actually is hitting on some important problems in our society, it’s like, go talk to 20 Americans and tell me what they think about monarchy, right? [inaudible 00:22:04] This is not a pragmatic… There’s no pragmatic contact point with our politics. I’m not sure that the tech stuff does either, but as you say, what they do does tend to directly impact people’s lives at least several years down the road. Just because of how powerful that sector is. Not just in our economy but in our lives.

I mean, I think they’re out of our bubble and that’s a good thing. I think they might be in their own bubble. In some cases, even something like a hyper meritocratic system can have its own really, really deep divisions that are sometimes unhealthy or have to be mitigated by other goods. Which is not to say that meritocracy… I’m very much… I am a meritocratic. I think it’s good that we select generally for positions of power on meritocracy. Part of the problem has been selecting on ideology like wokeness. We have ended up with an incredibly incompetent elite. Not just an elite that you and I disagree with in terms of their ultimate goals, but a total inability to do basic things. We see that in the food shortages. We see that in the baby formula shortages. We see that in the withdrawal from Afghanistan. The inability to even conduct basic… whatever… jobs of an elite and a political elite. They can’t do it because they have hired, at this point, so aggressively for ideology and not for meritocracy. So I’m not arguing against, generally, meritocracy.

In some sense, the tech world is a meritocracy and, in California, there’s a corresponding kind of underclass and such a huge polarization between the tech world and like the rest of California. It seems to me that, too often, the kind of mentality that these guys have is, oh, well, we’ll just give them UBI. The people who are left behind or don’t understand what the crap we’re talking about with all of this tech stuff. These people, we’re just going to… We’re going to give them UBI. We’re going to give them… Whatever. I think, often, that very optimistic view of human nature and of human progress, and that kind of Promethean vibe gives me pause oftentimes when I sort of enter into these tech spaces. But that might be my deep bias from growing up around these people. Most of them… This is within a… This is a subset of them. Maybe they do hunger for more important things, more meaningful things. Maybe their competencies can be applied towards those things in a meaningful way.

Emily Jashinsky:

Well, we all hunger for those things, but their job is to numb us from having that hunger. And so they’ll promote UBI while also insisting that everybody have a slot machine in their pocket at any given time with an endless scroll function with fortunes to be made on Robinhood, with items to buy from China for nothing on Instagram. So it’s sort of like, yeah, we all… Humanity persists. Nevertheless, humanity persists. We have our human instincts and our human urges, but they will sate us with pornography. An endless supply of pornography that gets increasingly violent. It distracts us from where that hunger might otherwise take us.

And so that’s why I think… There are certain things that are just so important… small things that might seem like small things… that are so important for people, consumers, to pay attention to. Because we’re in uncharted territory here. I think there are things that can be done legally, but as consumers, we have to understand. There has to be 20 more versions of The Social Dilemma because these people do have… They do share every human hunger, but when they are also invested in Bumble and Tinder and every other swipe, post sexual revolution, libertine app… They’re literally invested in those. Some of them work in them and some of them just work really hard to normalize them. When your technology is fundamentally an investment in libertine sexual culture from pornography to dating apps, and materialism from Instagram to Amazon, you may have that creeping hunger and, if you’re really wealthy, you might have the freedom and liberty to divorce yourself and your children from the phones and to tell your nanny not to let your kids anywhere near the phones and to make sure that they have a nanny to pick them up at the movies and don’t need a cell phone. You may be able to incrementally defeat it, but you are invested in and actively normalizing the numbing agents to make that hunger go away. And that’s what’s scary.

I think when people talk about, for instance, birth rates, that’s why they’re saying… Like, we are depriving ourselves. We are numbing ourselves away from the will to live. I mean, suicide rates are on the increase in a lot of age cohorts including the youngest people, because it’s like… The despair in a time when it’s never been easier, time and place where it’s never been easier on paper to be a human being, is so high. We’re losing our will to exist because we’re post-truth and we numb that pain with tech. Literally with tech. With processed food, which is tech, and with phones that is tech. And wow, do I sound like the Unabomber right now.

Inez Stepman:

Emily Kaczynski here on the… Hey, at least you still kept the Polish pronunciation of his name, which you didn’t. My parents were like, Emily Jashinsky.

Emily Jashinsky:

Jashinsky, yeah. That’s right.

Inez Stepman:

No, no. She’s American now. [inaudible 00:28:34] I mean, I think what you’re saying is true. I think maybe there’s a contingent of people in tech who will recognize that, but they… Instead of wanting to dial back the hyper-novelty or whatever it is, they want to find a way to recognize these problems within a technological space. Now, maybe that’s impossible, but I really shouldn’t say much more about it because I understand so little of the actual products that these guys are talking about. When I talk to somebody from tech… James Bellos is a friend of mine. Every time he says everything, I’m like, “One sentence of that was profound and I want to think about it and the next 10 sentences, I have no idea what you’re saying. No idea what you’re saying, dude. I have no clue.”

Emily Jashinsky:

One thing to consider, Inez, is that you’re simply very old.

Inez Stepman:

Yeah, that’s true. But it’s deeper than that, unfortunately. I wish I could just not think about it, but I do think that it’s… We all use this stuff. Eventually, whatever they come up with becomes a part of our lives two to five years later, or if you’re like me, six and a half years later because I consciously try not to adopt every new advancement until it becomes impossible and then I end up on it. I have some hope that all of this meritocratic talent… Because even broadening it beyond tech. It seems like, in every institution, there’s a lot of people, whether that’s in media or in large corporations or in tech or even in the arts, it seems like we’re pushing out so many people who actually have talent.

Because I used to mock people in DC on the right all the time for saying that conservatives are the new rebellion or that it’s cool to be on the right now because we’re rebellious. That always seemed to me to be a lot of cope. It was just not true. Every time I went to one of these kind of panels where they would talk about that and they’d be like, “Oh, well, the youth is going to rebel into conservatism.” I was always like, that’s not true. That the truth is that we’re all completely nerdy and dorky and uncool and that’s why we are actually interested in these subjects whereas actually cool people usually are not.

Emily Jashinsky:

Yeah. You can’t define… It depends on how you define conservative or liberal. If you’re a hack media… Let’s just say you’re a hacky media reporter who calls Joe Rogan a conservative, then yes, conservatives are awesome, and we have finally become the rebels. But that’s really not the appropriate definition of conservatism.

Inez Stepman:

I’m wondering if these kind of passed over… Let’s call them passed over competence in various fields. If they actually can create a… I’m going to double up this word, but create a creative revival, whether that’s in the arts or in tech or whatever it is. Because, finally, the revolution is kind of reaching the center. The revolution is reaching… Not just in the center of the political spectrum, but reaching into people who really do just want to do a thing really well. They just don’t want to have to think about politics. They’re not ‘conservative,’ quote unquote, in the sense that they agree on a bunch of political issues. But they are being pushed out of doing the thing they want to do. Just to loop it back to Elon Musk for a moment. He wants to go to Mars and he’s starting to see that that project is going to be interfered with by the political order and therefore he’s investing himself in the political order in a way.

So I’m wondering if that phenomenon, however it turns out for Elon Musk in particular, if a lot of these competent people… And guys. Let’s be honest. They’re mostly guys, right? A lot of these competent guys are actually going to build stuff that… It’s going to attract talent to the center and the center right in a way that I definitely don’t think was there even a couple years ago. Let’s say five, 10… 10 years ago in DC when those panels were talking about how being on the right is going to be the cool Renaissance. I didn’t actually see it happening. Now, I kind of see the beginnings of it starting to happen in a more substantial and interesting way.

Emily Jashinsky:

So two places, off the record, that I’ve heard people are concerned about this just over the last, I don’t know, 10 years were the Democratic Party and Hollywood. And in Hollywood, they have implemented these quotas in writers’ rooms. If you wonder why some of the shows just don’t… They just don’t hit like they used to. Comedy shows in particular. It may be because there are people who are simply not qualified at all. It’s not their fault that they’re not qualified, but just are not qualified at all, don’t have experience, don’t have maybe the same level of talent because the pipeline hasn’t yet been developed. There haven’t been as many opportunities or as much interest… For instance, you’re always going to have more men interested in writing comedy than you are women. And so when you institute a quota, you may actually just be harming your talent. You can make the same argument in a lot of different cases, but yeah. I heard that immediately. Within the last 10 years form those two groups.

And so I think you we’ve seen some of that go to Substack in media, for sure. I mean, Matt Taibbi not being… or Bari Weiss not being able to exist without getting publicly flogged by her own colleagues in the press every single day at The New York Times is an incredible case study. She does great reporting from people who wouldn’t fit in mainstream media and wouldn’t be able to publish what they publish for her on Substack in mainstream media. I think Matt Taibbi has done reporting that should absolutely be published in Rolling Stone but won’t be on Substack. So I definitely think it’s been there, and I think that’s sort of shaken some of the legacy media a little bit. It’s shaken them up a little bit. I feel like we’re possibly in the midst of an adjustment process. We’ve talked about this many times, Inez, that right now might be the middle phase or the early middle phase of a great adjustment where we return to some semblance of cultural sanity.

But every time I actually think that… Elon Musk is a good example. Returning Twitter to the First Amendment standards for what is acceptable and what isn’t. The freak out from the elites and the establishment. They have so much power, they have amassed so much power, they have hoarded so much power intentionally, that I feel like we may have already lost the race against the clock. And that doesn’t mean you won’t — and your grandchildren and their grandchildren won’t — be able to live happy, healthy lives, but it won’t be the same path towards living happy, healthy lives in America as it was before. That is really pessimistic, but that’s where I land on these types of questions. And I remember in… It must’ve been 2011 or 2012. Our GW YAF chapter hosted S. E. Cupp at school for a talk, exactly like what you were saying, Inez. This is 2011. Conservatives are the real rebels on campus, I think is what it was called.

Inez Stepman:

[inaudible 00:36:20] That stuff always read as… That word was around then, but cringey to me. It always read as kind of thirsty for a little bit of mainstream coolness or whatever, which is the same reason Republicans always go for… Whenever a celebrity says anything vaguely right of center, all of a sudden, all the conservatives try to get them to run for president.

Emily Jashinsky:

Ted Nugent! Yeah, no, a hundred percent. This is the… Yeah, so, I remember hosting that then. And it’s true, right? If you are actually… The coolest place to be right now intellectually is rebuking and seeing how completely stupid and brain dead our elites are. That’s actually really always been the coolest place to be. Even when it was cool to like Obama, you were much cooler if you liked Chomsky and not Obama. It’s always sort of been there, but on the right at least, there’s such a huge difference… Joe Rogan is a really good example. There’s a difference between being Joe Rogan… Combating puberty blockers for minors is not a conservative position. It’s a normal, centrist position. Now, conservatives will create common cause and will find common cause with people like that, but that doesn’t put you on the right. It puts you flat in the center.

I think it’s almost like… I think it’s always been cool and heterodox and contrarian to be on the right by those standards. I think David Mamet is extremely cool because David Mamet wrote Glengarry Glen Ross and did not give any… He did not give an F. He did what he did. He’s always been conservative and a very mainstream conservative. Not even a weird libertarian conservative. So I think it’s always actually been cool. I think it is still cool, but it’s not the cringe definition of what it actually… the cringe definition of conservatives are suddenly the real rebels on campus. Is there truth to it? Yes. Is it going to change the culture? I don’t know except for the fact that Joe Rogan and… I don’t know… Tim Pool and other people who are contrarian but aren’t conservative will at least bring us back… will at least help shift public opinion back to the center on some questions if even they don’t bring it all the way to the right.

Inez Stepman:

As much as I know deep in my soul that 2012 contained all of the seeds of the problems that we have now, even I get seduced by this call back to normalcy. That actually we can… Maybe we can just reset back into 1999. And maybe that would be okay. I mean, things seem so bad all the time that it just seems like a really appealing thing to try to reset to 1999. I don’t know if that’s possible. Most days, I think that’s not possible and we’re actually going to have to solve some of these underlying problems of meaning, of economic structure, of cultural structure, institutionally. I tend to be in the camp… These problems will need to be tackled, but they’re so difficult to tackle that even I get… I hear the siren song of let’s just go back to 1999.

Speaking of 1999, we may see the reentry now in a huge way. The big thing that happened this month, of course, is the leak of the Dobbs opinion. In a way, how do you think this kind of very 1999 issue… Because it was sort of illegitimately taken out of public discourse in 1973 and in the intervening almost 50 years. How do you think it’s that this issue is going to hit the… Assuming that there is some kind of, at least, drastic narrowing of Roe, if not overturning. How is this issue that Americans haven’t been able to really politically grapple with for 50 years going to drop itself into our current heated culture war discourse?

Emily Jashinsky:

I think it’s been really interesting since the leak to see how much our conversation about abortion has shifted from what it once was. In a good way. To see the left flailing at realizing this and, again, pinning it all on right-wing, fundamentalist Christian disinformation has been fascinating. Like you said, Inez, it’s really highlighted how the Supreme Court did illegitimately move this conversation away from the public and obviously into the courts and into our legal system and then to a very different, I guess, litigation between… States were working on anti-abortion laws as opposed to just actually having any ability to have the public ban abortion through voting or whatever it is.

All that is to say, now that we’re actually talking about it and the technology has advanced here… I’m going to say something pleasant about technology. Now that we’re actually saying it and Democrats have just because… I actually don’t think it’s been helpful for the pro-abortion left, in this very myopic sense, to have had this conversation taken away from them because, in the shadow of Roe, they radicalized. They radicalized immensely. And so I think you’re going to have a hard time convincing most Americans to ban abortion before 12 weeks. That is not where our law is right now. It is legal in so very many states, in heinous ways, after 12 weeks, and the more people are learning about that because the conversation has been kicked wide open in this era of new media. It’s not just that the news camera has to catch a sign that has a very graphic picture of an aborted baby on it and that somehow makes its way onto the nightly news, or you see it by chance as you’re driving through town and pass the courthouse. That’s not what it is anymore. It’s in your social media feed. It’s much more advanced. Democrats aren’t saying safe, legal, and rare. So that confluence of factors of new media and the left’s radicalism has the effect of shattering people’s conception of what they supported. If you support the mainstream Democratic position on abortion, you support a very radical policy.

And so I do think… I’m not optimistic that suddenly everyone’s going to be like, wow, yes, life begins at conception, but I am optimistic that people are seeing how deeply evil this is after a certain… and obviously evil it is after a certain point in the pregnancy where Democrats are now saying, as I read in The Intercept, we need to bring back the slogan, abortion on demand with no apologies. That is the honest position from the left, but if that’s what you’re going back towards in your effort to defend this agenda, you are only going to be helping the right and the anti-abortion position.

Inez Stepman:

You know what occurs to me? I think Philip Hamburger was one of the first people to… or at least one of the first people I read that laid this out… this concept that I’m about to touch on… out in a more explicit way. But it’s interesting. The left obviously has a very fraught relationship with small-d democracy and democratic input. The way they’ve kind of dealt with that, it seems to me, is to be very much in favor of structurally, for example, plebiscite. Basically. I mean, California is basically a direct democracy. You need 50% plus one to put an amendment into the constitution, which means everything is baked in. The mass of California spending is already basked into the constitution.

Emily Jashinsky:

And things are going great in California, by the way.

Inez Stepman:

Yeah, wonderful. There’s also constitutional amendments about how many rounds are in a boxing match. Are allowed in a boxing match. It’s just this massive document that totally dispenses with a lot of, for example, the virtues that the founders saw in genuinely republican or representative government. Having some kind of mediation between popular will and policy. But at the same time, they don’t want a lot of these really important issues that are political with the capital P… What could be more political than something like abortion? What could be more political than, for example, the laws that we have regulating our elections and who can vote. I mean, these are very political issues. And so the Democrats… I shouldn’t even say Democrats. The left generally has been able to do this weird jujitsu where they’re in favor of expanding the franchise of 16-year-olds, but at the same time, they don’t want… They want what we are able to vote on to be very, very tightly constrained by the opinions of what really has to be called these days a ruling class.

On abortion, it’s the Supreme Court that has illegitimately… and I use that word illegitimately because… I mean, hell. Even Ruth Bader Ginsburg before she got on the Court acknowledged that Roe has very little basis legally. The constitutional structure of Roe is very highly criticizable. It’s very shaky. Akhil Amar, who’s also on the left, he’s criticized it. There’s plenty of prominent people, even my professor, I think, in law school who had worked for the Obama administration, but he acknowledged that Roe was a bad decision on the merits of the law. So in this sort of illegitimate way, they just yank that issue out and maybe now it’ll be restored to politics.

But there is this sort of push-pull thing where they want more people to vote all the time and higher turnout and they complain even though — like in Georgia, they complained about even though there was huge turnout in Georgia despite the, quote unquote, the ‘Jim Eagle laws’ as Biden would say. They want a high turnout, and they want lots of people voting and they want to expand the franchise, but they want to constrain the issues that they can actually weigh in on. Whereas for example, when people chose Donald Trump, that was unacceptable, and it justified the fact that Trump was outside of this essentially ruling consensus on a handful of issues like foreign policy and trade. That made him illegitimate to the point where our intelligence apparatus felt justified in circumventing some very, very important not just laws, but principles of republican government in order to thwart Donald Trump. So there is this weird tension where they want more people to vote all the time, but they want them to vote only on a preselected slate of acceptable views and issues for a very small percentage of the population.

Emily Jashinsky:

And they also want to take away agency through the administrative state and through the surveillance state. Whether it’s surveillance capitalism or the government’s official surveillance apparatus. They want to take more agency away and they want to intimidate people into compliance and take away that sense of freedom both through the private sector and the public sector. Because they fundamentally do not trust the people even though they really think they do. I think it is actually a very serious ideological inconsistency because the rhetoric is all about democracy, democracy, democracy, but when you have a surveillance state like ours… which, by the way, they support increasing. You mentioned the Disinformation Governance Board. We don’t actually know what they really wanted that to do. They don’t really know what they wanted that to do. But any infinite, not fully articulated new government agency focused on combating disinformation is going in a negative direction, which everyone sort of knows intuitively at this point.

So all that is to say you’re right. I think the broader point from my perspective is that the media… They’re in total control of our institutions. This gets to your last subject matter. Your last big question. Their control over all the institutions is not doing them a whole lot of favors anymore because what’s happening in their power in this monopoly is that their intellectual output is becoming a lot lower quality. The rest of the public that doesn’t exist in that monopoly or in support of that monopoly is going to eventually see that. When every institution is convincing you that this thing that you think is democracy is democracy and they aren’t challenging it and they aren’t offering alternative perspectives, you’re becoming increasingly out of touch with reality.

So I think this is another really good example. It’s not as though there aren’t ideological inconsistencies on both ends of the spectrum and everywhere in between, as we both know, Inez, but there is an acute effect happening for the side that does own every institution because it’s insulating them from criticism and making them a whole lot worse. And I think this is a good example of how caught off guard they are when democracy actually reigns. They don’t like it. They’ll find a million excuses to explain. From disinformation, which is how they explain Hispanic voters shifting right, to capitalism. Whatever it is. Racism.

Inez Stepman:

Russia.

Emily Jashinsky:

Russia, yeah.

Inez Stepman:

Again, I am… To some limited… I’m pessimistic about the system, and we’ll see which way the Musk thing goes, but I am… I do actually sense that there is something shifting where that power, whether it’s in media or in tech or in Hollywood, or in… There really is something happening to that power that’s making it more brittle. You can’t really overuse… More importantly, you can’t overuse that kind of power in a way that’s nakedly incompetent. I’d like to think that the reason that people are sort of waking up to the way that our system actually works is because of some sort of ideological or deeper attachment to principle or freedom or the American way of life in the past or any of that, and some of that might be true, but I do think we can overlook just the force of sheer incompetence. When people get really frustrated that things stop working, and we are coming perilously close to stuff just not working in the USA. Parents can’t get baby formula at Target.

Emily Jashinsky:

The infrastructure bill. Biden tied an infrastructure bill to a radical agenda, and a lot of the infrastructure didn’t pass because of that. Some of it was saved for the Build Back Better bill because they couldn’t agree on whether infrastructure was human infrastructure or just freaking bridges and roads.

Inez Stepman:

And that’s the thing about all these bills and how they get named. The left has been very effective in the past at smearing the right as basically against these kinds of basic competencies like building bridges when, in reality at least most of the time, the right was saying bridges are only five percent of what you’re spending on. But I do think that once fundamentally… I mean, the American middle class is just not used to shortages. I think the American middle class is going to suffer for 100 years like Russia is, right?

Emily Jashinsky:

No, you’re right.

Inez Stepman:

They’re not used to it. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe they will.

Emily Jashinsky:

I actually think you’re right about that. But the question of if it’s ever corrected to a sort of fulfilling, healthy, wonderful thing is a different question than whether we have some fundamental freedoms and sanity back. I actually think you’re probably right about that. People have never existed in our system of government, really. And it’s produced pretty good results so far contra what I think Patrick Deneen or others would argue. Reasonably so. It’s a good argument. But I still think, relatively, it’s been good.

Inez Stepman:

Well, competency seems to have a destructiveness all of its own. But Emily, thank you so much, as always, for coming on High Noon and chatting through these things with me. You can catch these After Dark episodes where, usually, Emily is not the only one drinking Campari. You can catch those every last Wednesday of the month. Emily, thanks again for joining us every month here.

Emily Jashinsky:

Inez, the only thing I would say is please introduce me in the future with my full title, which is Senior Fellow at IWF.

Inez Stepman:

Senior Fellow at IWF. Well, your route to the chrome caucus is just getting shorter and shorter, Emily. Those old jokes are going to… They’re going to hit different from the other side of 30.

Emily Jashinsky:

But, you know, Inez, you will always be the same exact amount older than me. You can never truly close that gap. So enjoy. Enjoy it.

Inez Stepman:

I milk the crap out of the two weeks that I’m two years younger than my husband instead of one. I’m an expert at milking that. I’ll find out a way to do it. Emily, thanks again for coming on.

Emily Jashinsky:

Thanks, 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. With the exception of the latter, all platforms that Emily thinks are destroying our world and our humanness. But in any case, be brave, and we’ll see you next time on High Noon.