As always, the last Wednesday of the month on High Noon is reserved for the docket episodes with Emily Jashinsky, wherein Inez and Emily chat about the stories that caught their attention over the past several weeks as deserving of a second look. 

Stepman and Jashinsky discussed the legacy media’s emotionally satisfying freakout over Republican politicians finally acknowledging that they’re closer to opposition party than free press. They follow up with a deeper and more self-critical conversation about a viral New Yorker “mature hookup app” article, and the extent to which ideologies like radical feminism and sex positivity are coping mechanisms for the terrifying atomization of modernity. Finally, they talk about a new study showing that chemical imbalances probably aren’t responsible for depression, and delve into the controversial subject of SSRIs.

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 talk about controversial subjects with interesting people. And once a month, as always, we talk about interesting and controversial subjects with Emily Jashinsky. Emily is a fellow with us over at IWF, but she is also the culture editor over at the Federalist. She is raising up the next generation of intrepid young journalists over at Young America’s Foundation, and you see her frequently on Rising, you’ve seen her in all kinds of places. So, Emily, welcome back to another After Dark episode.

Emily Jashinsky:

Inez, I am filing a formal complaint because you’ve once again just completely demoted me from senior fellow to fellow, and I am senior.

Inez Stepman:

That’s true. Well, maybe I’m not used to associating the word senior with you because you’re constantly calling me a senior.

Emily Jashinsky:

I think you just think of me as like a senior in college.

Inez Stepman:

Yeah. Yeah. I’m getting to that point where I can’t tell the difference between people in college and in high school, so that’s how old I am.

Emily Jashinsky:

That’s good, though. I won’t go to the joke that I was going to make, but people can sort of fill in the blanks.

Inez Stepman:

Thank you, Emily. I appreciate your respect for your elders. But we’re not just here to talk about how I’m old. We are here to talk about a variety of things that have caught our attention over the last month. And the first thing on this docket of issues is this very illustrative poll, which shows that the Democratic advantage among college-educated voters is now larger than their advantage with white, or I’m sorry, non-white voters, meaning the whole demographics is destiny trained, the coalition coming together for the Democratic Party in perpetuity, that does not seem to be nearly as certain as it once did. And on the flip side, support among college-educated Americans, in other words, the upper-middle-class to professional-class voters, that advantage is solidifying and growing for the Democratic Party.

So Emily, what do you think about the fact that these two conceptions of visualizing who the typical Democratic voter is, what the Democratic base or the left base in America looks like? This seems to be confirming a lot of what you’ve been saying for quite some time about realignment, about the working-class voters basically of all races fleeing the Democratic Party. So what’s your take on this poll?

Emily Jashinsky:

I think it’s really sad, and I understand why people on the right are tempted or do outright see it as good news, but it’s really sad to me, because from a deeper perspective, it confirms what Charles Murray sketched out with data and coming apart. And the logical conclusion of that is only a bad thing because it means that the Democratic Party, basically, if you think about it, is in control. This was a line from Josh Hawley’s campaign. He used it a lot back in, what was that, 2017, 2018? He would rail against Hollywood, Washington, and Wall Street. And he was one of the only Republicans at the time that really understood about campaigning on culture. And when you’re railing against Wall Street and Washington and Hollywood, that’s really cultural. Not to say that it doesn’t have economic or granular policy implications, of course it does, but there’s a cultural populism that you’re tapping into when you list that trifecta.

And the reason I find the poll to be very sad is because if you think of who is in control of Hollywood, Washington, and Wall Street, it is the Democratic Party. And the Democratic Party, as I think this poll bears out, is increasingly completely divorced from a huge swath of the country. And the reason people are fleeing the Democratic Party and going to the Republican Party is because… It’s less because of what Republicans affirmatively offer, and more because of what Democrats are aggressively no longer offering. And I’m not sure the Republican Party will always be a good landing base. The incentives are kind of there now, and we see Republicans start talking about cultural issues. They’re standing up for women’s rights, for instance; they’re advancing legislation that is more pro-worker than pro-business. Nothing wrong with being pro-business, but when you’re being pro-business over pro-worker, that’s obviously the wrong side of the balance.

So we’re seeing them respond to some of these incentives. We’re seeing them respond to more populist positions on, let’s say, Ukraine, depending on who you’re talking to. But all that is to say the people who are really firmly in control of our culture and much of our policy are not just opposed or not just out of touch with a lot of people in the rest of the country, they are opposed to them. They disrespect them. They don’t understand them. They disrespect them. They’re aggressively in opposition to what they believe in and what they stand for. So I get seeing this as good news, because I think it is shifting some incentives in the GOP, but at the same time, it just makes me really sad how we’ve literally come apart as a country.

Inez Stepman:

It also shows how important the opinions of a select class really are, because you would not think that this is a good thing for the Democratic Party. You would think there would be a lot of very loud voices within the Democratic Party raising the alarm about this, considering that college-educated Americans are still a minority of the country, but it shows how much power this professional managerial class actually has, whether that’s in government or whether that’s in the private sector. The fact that they can outweigh far beyond their numerical numbers or… Numerical numbers, what an eloquent phrase for me right there, far beyond their weight. They can pull far beyond their weight within the democratic process. And I think it shows… Actually, I guess I was a little more triumphalist about this, but maybe you’re right.

Maybe we shouldn’t be thinking about it in triumphalist terms, both because of the reasons that you brought up, but also because it is, yet again, a confirmation that we aren’t submitting a lot of issues to democracy. We’re not really submitting a lot of issues to the American people and then really taking in their opinions and then actually transforming it into policy. And I got into trouble on Twitter this week for fighting with Tom Nichols, who’s always fought fair with me, so I’ll give the guy that. No, but I shocked him by saying actually… And I’m not by nature a radical small-d democrat, but I honestly think in the last 30 years, if we had conducted policy by plebiscite, if we just put everything to the vote, like mass popular vote, we would be infinitely better off right now. The decisions [inaudible 00:07:44].

Emily Jashinsky:

Oh, you are too Californian, oh my gosh, with your anti-Republican plebiscite propaganda.

Inez Stepman:

I’m not saying this is the best form of government. I don’t think it is. But what I’m saying is if we had just taken a plebiscite of the American people on every major issue in the last 30 years, and if you just go down the list of all of the mistakes that our ruling class has made, I actually think that it would’ve been a superior outcome for the United States over the last 30 years. And that doesn’t mean that I think plebiscites are the best way to govern yourself. I’m just saying that our ruling class has made so many bad decisions over the course of the 30 years and has no humility about those decisions at all, to the extent that I think, actually… I guess this is the extended version of the Buckley thesis, the top names in the Boston phone book rather than the faculty at Harvard.

I mean, at this point, I think it’s better to have a plebiscite than to have this particular professional managerial blob class making decisions because they have gotten so far out of touch. But speaking of having absolutely no humility, there is this very fun article in Vanity Fair that just came out about… It’s very upset that Republicans may not submit their candidates to the mainstream media during the debate cycle and the election cycle, that they’re talking about maybe throwing some of those debates to conservative media outlets or having their candidates sit down with conservative podcasts rather than going to The New York Times or The Washington Post. So I thought this article was really funny because it just has this overwhelming sense of butthurt to it, or it’s like, “I can’t believe you guys are not listening to us anymore.” But what do you think? You’re the media critic extraordinaire over here, so what do you think about this potential decision by Republicans to just ignore the mainstream media?

Emily Jashinsky:

It’s incredibly vindicating because this is a drum that I’ve been banging for a really long time. And Mollie Hemingway, obviously, I’m not alone in this; others have as well. But this was really clarified during the Trump administration when it was very obvious that, when they had a scoop, the Trump administration almost always was still going to what they would’ve described as the fake news to give journalists that information. This is like behind-the-scenes journalism stuff. People don’t just stumble onto Deep Throat in a parking garage. There are tips and there are scoops given to different publications that you obviously have to present fairly, and you have to do your due diligence and report it out and make sure what you’re being told is accurate. But the Trump administration more often than not was dishing out information, serious information, substantive stories, to the people that it was, at the same time, trying to undercut and railing against as the fake news media.

And what’s interesting to me about that, or what was frustrating to me about that, is if you want to undercut the power of the so-called fake news media, which does not deserve the legitimacy that it has and it doesn’t deserve the access that it gets from Republican politicians, if you really want to undercut their power, you need to give them incentives to reform. And incentives to reform, what do they want? They want access. Of course they want access. They want access. Maybe they don’t want access to Ted Cruz, but they want access to people who are going to tell them dirt about Ted Cruz, which is often other people in the GOP. That was just a hypothetical.

So if you’re going to keep feeding the hand that bites you, you are doing the opposite. You’re empowering an industry that you’re trying to disempower. And are you really trying to disempower them, is the question that I would ask the Trump administration. Or are you more interested in the short-term gains for yourself and your administration? And I think the answer was the latter for a lot of folks over there who just wanted to mess with other people, and to leak against other people, and to get their own names in print, and et cetera, et cetera. So all that is to say, when the RNC pulled out of the official Presidential Debate Commission — they’re still going to do debates, but that happened a few months ago.

Another example. Basically, they were saying, “You have done nothing that we have requested. You have shown no evidence that these debates are going to be structurally more fair. And for that reason, we’re just simply not cooperating with you and we’re going to find another way to put on a fair debate.” So this Vanity Fair story, you get reporters grumbling, saying, “Oh, the Republicans just aren’t talking to us anymore.” Listen. Obviously, there has to be a balance. They lead with this example of a summit that I think Ron DeSantis put on in Florida this last weekend, which I wasn’t able to go to, but I wanted to go to, that was mostly conservative media.

Okay. So if it’s true that generally they’re going to start revoking access for the legacy media when they’ve demonstrated that they’re not going to be accurate, which is why you give journalists access; if you’re going to revoke it, then yes, conservative media is going to need to ask really hard questions. They shouldn’t act as stenographers for powerful Republican politicians. That’s not going to put us in a better place at all. But I think conservative media does a better job of doing that than legacy media does, surely.

So all this is to say, it’s great, because legacy media needs incentives to improve and to be better. Some of them are starting to say, “Well, fine. We don’t need to talk to Republicans. You’re all a bunch of bigoted liars,” but that’s not sustainable for them at all, and they’re in for a rude awakening if they think it is sustainable for them. So it’s a big step to giving media incentives to be fair if they want to have access to Republican politicians, if you want a Republican to come on CNN, if you want a Republican to come on MSNBC, which they really don’t. But if you want a Republican to talk to The New York Times, The Washington Post ever, you should give them incentives. And that incentive would be saying, “I’m going to hold you to standards of journalistic ethics that you claim to be holding yourself to.”

Inez Stepman:

Yeah. I mean, when you were talking, I was thinking about the interview that Jonathan Swan of Axios gave Trump during his presidency. And to me, that was really the gold standard of what I want every president to be subjected to, which is it wasn’t gotcha questions. There was a lot of pushback. That’s the kind of tough interview that people wielding this amount of power should be subject to in a free country. I just want the media to do that to their team. And there’s underlying structural stuff here too, like the AP just changed their standards for talking about, for example, trans issues, and basically excludes half the debate right off the bat by the language that they’re requiring reporters to write about this issue in. You’re not allowed to talk to anyone who uses the word groomer without pointing out in the article that it’s a false term. I mean, that’s not journalism.

And these are obvious points. I mean, everybody listening to this podcast knows that the legacy media, the corporate media, whatever you want to call it, is not unbiased. I don’t think I have very many listeners who believe in the idea of an unbiased media, but I do take your point. It’s actually a good consideration. This does put more responsibility on conservative outlets and independent outlets, frankly, to step up to the plate, to actually give a tough but fair interview, to set a debate in a tough but fair way, where you ask questions that people are concerned about.

But that’s not what has been going on. And I’m glad to see Republicans pushing back and not giving the  — I guess Spencer Klavan would call it the honors — not give the credibility to institutions that have spent the last several decades throwing their credibility in the trash over and over and over again, and are now somehow butthurt and angry that people no longer consider them credible. And while it is fun to watch, I mean, I will admit I have a ton of… I get a lot of —

Emily Jashinsky:

Schadenfreude.

Inez Stepman:

Yah, schadenfreude out of reading this because they’re so surprised. They’re so surprised that after throwing away their credibility for so long, that they don’t have any left.

Emily Jashinsky:

And that’s because the Trump administration talked to them. The Trump administration was leaking to them and talking to them all the damn time.

Inez Stepman:

The Trump administration leaked so much stuff to The New York Times. Yeah.

Emily Jashinsky:

Yeah. Yeah. 100%, and so they had no incentive to actually be better. And if you give them no incentive… I mean, again, I think Republicans — you just mentioned something really important about independent outlets. And I think if Republicans want to close access to the legacy media… I am a journalist. I favor transparency in every single step of the way, transparency for accurate, good journalists. Even the bad journalists, you can give them access and be willing to be transparent with the public, but that means if you’re going to start trying to give incentives to legacy media not to be so craven and corrupt, then invite independent outlets that are doing a good job in.

That means even if they’re ideologically opposed to and are going to ask tough questions, if you really truly believe in freedom of the press and you really believe in the power of the press and the fourth estate, which most politicians, I don’t know that they actually do, but if you’re truly somebody who believes in our system of republican government, then you know how important the fourth estate is, it’s in the first amendment, you know how important it is to functioning as a republican system, then you need to be aware that tough questions are absolutely essential. And the best way to get that is to invite Glenn Greenwald, invite Bari Weiss, invite Matt Taibbi’s outlet, invite independent journalists, invite Saagar and Krystal’s outlet. Invite them in alongside conservative media because they’re fair, and that’s the main thing.

It can’t just be giving access to conservative media. It has to be giving access to people who are just going to be fair. It doesn’t mean they’re going to be voice-of-God neutral, but it means they’re going to be fair, and they can be open about their perspective and their ideology, but they’re not going to lie, they’re not going to be completely corrupt and biased and exclude relevant details and perspectives for the sake of advancing a narrative. So I just think that this is a really important and positive development. It also means that Republicans have to walk that line in the appropriate way. But more importantly, I mean, the number one thing here is the media just needs incentives to actually do what it says it’s going to do.

Inez Stepman:

You mean they have to earn the credibility that they’ve lost?

Emily Jashinsky:

Right? It’s an interesting concept.

Inez Stepman:

Yeah. I mean, I have never even thought about it this way before. They have to earn the credibility and the trust of people who are reading and interacting with their work? What a concept. So for that reason, I do recommend reading this article, because the sheer shock at being held to account for anything is just really amusing to watch. But I want to transition subjects here to something that’s actually much less amusing. It’s like really depressing. This is a New Yorker article that got published a couple weeks ago. It’s called A Hookup App for the Emotionally Mature, it’s by a woman named Emily Witt, and it just details her life in her late thirties into her forties, dealing with dating apps. But it frames it all as this very sexually liberating experience, and how this app that separates things like erotic friendship from romance is so emotionally mature and so much better, and we need an app for that.

I guess what struck me when I was reading this is the realization, and it’s not really a realization, but the reminder that a lot of times sexual freedom is actually the rationalization or the cope working backwards. And I feel like it’s very obvious in this article to anybody who reads it with an open mind is basically… And she even says, at one point, “Basically, I was forced into sexual liberation because the things that I wanted to happen in my life didn’t happen romantically, and I knew my life would not look like my parents’.” And of course, she frames it in a… Here. I’ll read what she said:

“I was 39 and scared by the idea that I would not be reproducing the kind of heteronormative nuclear family I had grown up in. I had wandered the sidewalks in my Brooklyn neighborhood where discarded masks littered the gutters with a sense of having been exiled from my own life. My apartment with its cat and its plants still existed, but was no longer my home. I could get a glass of cold prosecco at my favorite bar, but the people I used to see there seemed to have vanished.”

I don’t know. This article, just there’s so many sad things about it, but I think it was a really good reminder that a lot of times the ideology, and I think I need this reminder because I’m very like abstract and ideas first and consequences downstream from ideas, but this was a good reminder for me that oftentimes that’s not how it works in people’s lives. They respond to things in their lives by rationalizing out an ideology for it. And I think that’s a very human impulse, actually. But I’m curious what you thought about this article.

Emily Jashinsky:

Yeah. The place that you just took the conversation isn’t where I originally was going to go, but it was making me think of something I was thinking of over the weekend. And increasingly, as I have these conversations with people on the right about just people on the left who are doing crazy depraved things or are so lost that it’s just profoundly sad, I have a hard time getting angry or actually even having that visceral sense of hatred anymore because I can actually just really see how easily your mind goes from point A to point B. So if you have been conditioned by every single mainstream institution to see the world through a postmodern lens, then it makes complete sense that you’re going to have all of these mistaken ideas about meaning, and you’re going to have all of these mistaken ideas about marriage and children.

For instance, it’s like when Naomi Wolf wrote that great essay back in… Well, it’s not great. It’s great from the perspective of being clarifying, in The New Republic in like 1995 or 1996, where she said the “pro-choice left and the feminist left needs to be clear about what’s happening in abortion. We shouldn’t pretend that those images that pro-life protestors hold up outside abortion clinics of babies being mangled and dismembered in very graphic ways, we shouldn’t pretend that those are propaganda. We shouldn’t pretend that those are fake. We should acknowledge that’s exactly what’s happening and acknowledge we believe that it’s within a woman’s right. It is more favorable to our argument to be honest about that.”

And it’s interesting, because it’s like, yeah, when you’re floating in this moral relativistic ether, I understand why you believe, and you’re so much more easily swayed into believing things like hookup culture is a hallmark of equality, and hookup culture will make you feel empowered, and children are entirely just a non-necessary, traditionalistic “I can live my life into my fifties and there will be a high probability that I will be happy if I have money, if I have fulfillment in a career that has maximized my potential, but I’m not married, and I have children, and I can travel and I can have a cute little Nancy Meyers farmhouse,” whatever it is. You can see how that all sounds a lot better, but we’re also seeing how it really hurts people in real time. And I think this story shows how sad that is. We’re watching people’s build on sandy foundations and watching that all crumble around us. It is just horrible.

Inez Stepman:

Well, now I’m curious as to what you were originally going to say about this article before I took it down this way. But yeah. I mean, I go back and forth on how direct and angry to get about some of these things, because there is a value, to the point of your example, there is a value of just announcing the truth, even if it’s painful. And even if it engenders as rationalizing pushback, there is a value in hearing the truth, because oftentimes people, even though they push back on you in the moment — like I know I’ve changed my mind about things in this way, where even though I push back really hard in the moment against somebody arguing a particular point, it stuck and burrowed in my head, and I kept coming back to it and working on it and found that maybe a year later, my views on that subject had changed because of that conversation.

So on the one hand, I think there is a value, especially when the consequences of directly speaking the truth are so scary, frankly, in our society today when we’re talking about losing your job, losing your entire social circle for, for example, declaring the truth about biological differences between men and women, something that fundamental. I do think that there’s value in being direct about these things and actually just saying the truth. But I do think, on the flip side, it does tend to engender this very human rationalization pushback, and you can dig people deeper by antagonizing them in that way.

You can dig them further in because, to the point of this piece, this woman who wrote this piece, what is she going to do, at this point, with that information? You can say about this profoundly sad piece, wow, that sounds really sad. This is why young women in their twenties shouldn’t listen to what our culture says about marriage and family. And if they find a good person to settle down with, they should, earlier than our culture permits them. You shouldn’t push aside good life partners because the culture tells you you need to see the French Riviera three more times before you can consider getting married.

Emily Jashinsky:

That’s so specific. It made me laugh.

Inez Stepman:

That’s like a bugaboo of mine, by the way, is the travel as a substitute for meaning. Like travel is lovely. I’ve never been to the French Riviera, let alone three times. I would love to go at least once. I’m not saying that it’s not a pleasant thing, but it isn’t a substitute for some of these deeper questions of purpose and meaning, but —

Emily Jashinsky:

Well, so you haven’t been, so you have no idea. Maybe the French Riviera is a perfectly valid substitute, and as somebody who’s never been to the French Riviera, you have no place in making this decision for others.

Inez Stepman:

Well, I can definitely say that going to Florence in Italy, where I fractured my ankle, is not a substitute for life.

Emily Jashinsky:

I saw Inez a couple of weeks ago with a single crutch that was fastened through her arm, and I thought, “She is old.” Would you trade Jarrett for a trip to the French Riviera?

Inez Stepman:

I mean, it depends. Ask me [crosstalk 00:28:59]. Of course not. No, I really do think that the balance between being direct, and I’m probably very bad at this myself because I do tend to just be blunt and direct, I do think there’s a lot of value in coming at this in an open-minded way with people because, so often, these ideas to, for example, the research that Mary Eberstadt puts forward and she talked about on this podcast, people are grappling with the questions that human beings have always grappled with, except they have nothing to hold onto in trying to answer those questions. What is my purpose, what happens after I die? They have no institutions that used to help people make sense of their lives in that fundamental way, and so I think we do end up with a lot of backwards rationalization that leads to ideologically dumb things.

Like the idea that there’s no differences between men and women, even forgetting for a moment about the whole trans issue, but even in the way that men and women have different sexual impulses, and having a society that actually tries to reconcile those impulses in a positive, productive way rather than, I think, what everybody, at this point, agrees is a unproductive way and is not a good sexual culture between men and women in this country today. So I mean, it’s too easy, and sometimes I’ve definitely failed to live up to this standard myself. But this article was a really good reminder to me that a lot of times these are views that people come to because they are disappointed or because they have confronted things in their lives, or they just haven’t gotten the life that they thought they would, and so they’re building an ideology to try to cover that.

One of the saddest parts of this to me was in the middle, she writes, “Because a romantic rejection could mess up your brain chemistry for months, it’s helped, when deciding with whom to spend time, to know in advance which lane you’re in, what’s reasonable to expect from another person.” So that just made me profoundly sad, not only because of the obvious stuff about you’re slotting yourself into a situation where you have no right, sort of, to ask people to treat you like a full human being in a sexual relationship, that’s what it seems like to me, but then the fact that you have to point to brain chemistry to justify why it’s not a good thing to have your heart broken.

Emily Jashinsky:

Well, and here I wanted to read another passage that goes along with exactly what you’re just saying. “Another friend who lives in Los Angeles and asked not to be named downloaded the app late one night in 2020. She was housesitting at her parents’ home in the suburbs, alone, bored, horny, and wasted, she told me, swiping right on everybody who was a reasonable prospect. Within 30 minutes, she had a flood of messages. She started chatting with a guy who lived three hours away. They moved to video, and he offered to make the drive. By then, it was 1:00 in the morning. She waited, trying to stay awake. He arrived, and busied herself at her parents’ bar, muddling herbs from the refrigerator making cocktails for the two of them. They had sex that night and again in the morning.” It’s just like this girl’s alone at her parents’ home in the suburbs and has sex with a stranger she just met on an app, and the article is presenting that as the quote, “grownup hookup app.” And Inez, to your point, I think it was Blake Masters [inaudible 00:32:34].

Inez Stepman:

Muddled for the cocktails, the 20-something way of having this kind of meaningless hookup is that you have beers in your fridge, but you’ve now graduated to a mature level of hookup because you make the cocktails, and you muddle your —

Emily Jashinsky:

Your parents bought the ingredients and furnished the… It’s just ridiculous. But to your point, I think it was Blake Masters, and I don’t know what context this was in, and I do generally like Blake Masters, he called the left psychopaths, Democrats psychopaths, something like this, and I think, Inez, this is where you and I are going. It is true, I guarantee you, and actually there’s surveys on this, that mental health issues are higher… Self-reported numbers are higher on the left.

And it is true that in the same sense that we affirm, let’s say, gender dysphoria, we have affirmed mental illness or the implications or the consequences of mental illness in ways that have empowered psychopaths to rule based on this affirmation of completely mixed-up ideas. The trans issue is probably the best one. And there’s a lot of talk about the left being demonic and satanic and twisted, and I really gravitate towards that language because I do see something really dark and spiritual happening in our culture, and I think that language does help people consider the spiritual implications of why things are feeling and getting so dark.

But it’s really important, I think, for the right to understand why people are going there. And it’s partially because of a culture that the Republican Party helped construct, which is so completely devoid of meaning, and the structural changes that have to happen are immense for that to be fixed. This is not a battle about policy. That’s not to say policy isn’t part of the battle, but it’s not a battle about limited government, it’s not a battle about… Again, it’s not to say that’s not important, but this is about something much deeper about living in this high-tech world, and by high tech, I mean, literally everything from the printing press on, existing in this high-tech world without entropying and destroying the human race and devolving into Mad Max. This is what we’re figuring out right now.

So to your point, I think we agree on this. It’s very, very understandable for me why people find themselves in this position and why they think, maybe, when you and I talk, that we sound like crazy, zealot Phyllis Schlafly caricatures, and I completely understand that. And I think if you don’t understand that, then you’re probably not going to be a very effective messenger at this point.

Inez Stepman:

Yeah. I think that’s almost probably true, almost certainly true. Yeah. I mean, I think all the language and the… I mean, for somebody who’s an atheist, the demonic stuff makes me laugh, but I do think it’s just different ways of getting at…. There does seem to be something deeper and psychologically messed up about a lot of this. And I just don’t think we have, I know I don’t have, the language to really touch on it. Maybe if you’re religious, you move it into the spiritual realm, but there is something deeper about purpose, about meaning, about life that seems to be at issue here that isn’t, as you say, that isn’t just policy, or even political disagreements, I think, is on the one cent that excludes this deeper level at which we seem to be breaking down.

Speaking of mental illness, there’s a huge study that just got released this month that shows that there is no evidence, apparently, for depression being the result of a chemical imbalance. That’s something that this author in The New Yorker, of course, wrote about, that even romantic rejection messes up your brain chemistry. But it turns out that it’s not clear that depression and some of the more common mental illnesses in this country are linked to chemical imbalances in the brain as it seems to be the shorthand.

And my understanding is actually, with the scientific literature, is that there’s been some skepticism for some time about whether this kind of chemical balance theory is correct, but it just primarily advances the theory, because we know that SSRIs do something dealing with depression, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the underlying cause is a natural imbalance, for example. But I did want to bring up this study because this is something I’ve been getting into trouble [inaudible 00:37:45] for a long time, and I have some admittedly controversial views on it, and I could certainly be wrong.

Emily Jashinsky:

They are controversial, and I think we’re going to disagree on this. Bring it on.

Inez Stepman:

But I think a lot of the mental illness is exactly what we were just discussing, quote, unquote, “mental illness.” I don’t think it’s a biological pathology. I think it’s suffering. And I’m not downplaying that it’s a real suffering in that sense, but I think a lot of it is in response to asking questions that are really fundamental to our existence and are not being satisfied with any of the answers that are given. And I think despair is a natural human reaction to asking those questions and not being able to answer them. So I object to the entire idea that this is somehow a pathology, which is not to say that there aren’t pathologies dealing with the brain.

Obviously, the brain can break in the same way that my leg can break or is broken. Maybe some people will say my brain is broken, too. No, but I do think that there is something deeper than a mere biological pathology going on here. The fact that one in six Americans is on these brain chemistry-altering drugs, I think is indication of what we were just talking about this article, but more broadly than the sexual context, rather than some kind of biological problem that can be solved with a doctor’s office visit or a pill.

Emily Jashinsky:

Yep. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I think we probably actually agree, because… Well, we agree to an extent. I’m trying to think of how to say this. There’s something very real… If you’ve lost your framework for exactly what you just said in this, that despair is part of the human condition, if you’ve lost all perspective on that because you live in a culture of instant gratification where, frankly, our poorest are our most obese. Maybe that seems like it’s off-topic, but despair through human history was often linked to poverty, which was almost always linked to starvation. In the United States of America, poverty is linked to obesity, to diabetes, to an excess, and to seeking comfort from the despair of poverty in the excess. So I mean, I know that seems off-topic, but it’s an interesting little thing.

So I agree on the one hand. Like Freddie deBoer has this great podcast interview he did with Bari Weiss recently where he talked about the gentrification of disability, is what he called it, and referred to all of the girls on TikTok who purport to have tics or seem to give themself tics, which are obviously biologically experienced by people who have autism, in ways that seem just purely designed to gain some sort of identity status and to gain some sort of attention. And actually, now that I’m thinking about this, I actually think that’s what I was talking about in the last subject, when it comes to like, well, we have to understand why people are going in that direction.

Is it abhorrent to try to cash out on somebody’s very serious disability? Yes. But if you have lost all perspective and you lose all sense of meaning and you’re seeking purpose and fulfillment in an identity that makes you different, makes you stand out, and gives you some reason for value so that you can post TikToks informing other people and creating a sense of solidarity with the community and having an in-group status on something meaningful, that’s where this is coming from. So it’s very frustrating to me to watch, for personal reasons, people totally exploit and commodify this label of mental illness and to claim it when they have zero claim to it, but I also think people are making themselves sick, and I think the culture is making themselves sick. And I think to the extent that there is performative disability, 100% I agree with that.

I agree that SSRIs are… There’s something going on with them, that they’re largely… I remember one of the things with one of the… I think it was CHANTIX. It’s one of the smoking medications, or stop smoking medications. There were a rash of suicides when people first started taking it, and the theory was that… I’m not a doctor, so this is not serious medical advice nor is it a commentary on CHANTIX, but it blocks your pleasure sensors so that you don’t get pleasure from smoking, which is a great way, obviously, to stop smoking. If the nicotine’s not gratifying you, then you can more easily stop smoking, but then it also impedes your ability to feel pleasure, period, and so you can sort of understand then —

Inez Stepman:

[inaudible 00:43:10] smoking, your blocking.

Emily Jashinsky:

Right, right, right, right. Yeah. Exactly. So I think we’ve adapted a lot of these technologies really quickly, and I do mean SSRIs as a technology, so I think there’s something off there. I’m not on the extreme end of that, because I do think they’re really, really helpful to people immediately. They do have a lot of consequences that big pharma doesn’t want to talk about, that the left doesn’t want to talk about, that big business doesn’t want to talk about. I do think they’re really important to some people in the near-term. All that is to say, the world that we live in, it’s interesting to see how quickly some people’s depression and anxiety can be cured in studies with exercise. It’s almost as effective as SSRIs. Again, I’m not a doctor, but you could look up this information, almost as effective as SSRIs in certain contexts.

We live way more sedentary. This is hyper novelty, we’re way more sedentary, we eat way more processed food, we eat way more food, we eat different food, we don’t have to scavenge for our food. All of these have so many blessings, but we too often haven’t thought about the downside of them. So I do think that when you have dopamine receptors that we’ve transferred all of our politics and personal lives onto, we are genuinely making ourselves sick. And some of these mental illnesses are really real and serious. They’re not, in many cases, diagnosable autism, but the sickness is very real. If even it’s not as severe as they say, I do think we’re living in ways that are making ourselves mentally very sick.

Inez Stepman:

Yeah. I don’t disagree with anything that you said there. I think my objection isn’t that it’s not real. My objection is that I think it comes from something other than biologic pathology, and [inaudible 00:45:02].

Emily Jashinsky:

Even like young girls who have problems with Instagram because their brains have been rewired by social media to need the dopamine response with scrolling, an infinite scroll, basically.

Inez Stepman:

I don’t think the solution for that is a pill, though.

Emily Jashinsky:

Oh sure. Okay.

Inez Stepman:

Your brain chemistry is dependent on your psychological choices as well. There is an element of will to this, which is not to say that it’s fake or that you can think your way out of these things, but you are, your mental patterns — and this is the whole premise, for example, something like cognitive behavioral therapy — but your mental patterns affect your brain chemistry. Your brain chemistry is not a static thing that you’re… And that’s not to say there aren’t some people born with some actual pathology with their brain chemistry. I’m happy to concede that that’s the case for some small percentage of people. But I think a lot of the people in this case are… And this study shows that it’s not really their underlying brain chemistry that is causing this very real sense of despair and illness. And I think the other problem with treating suffering and despair as though it is somehow aberrant to the human condition, when it’s very much a part of being human is [inaudible 00:46:18].

Emily Jashinsky:

It’s anti-human metaverse stuff. Yes. It’s like you’ll be in your Matrix pod, and you’ll be happy.

Inez Stepman:

Well, it’s not just that. I mean, that’s a whole other point that’s, I think, worth exploring in more depth, but to me, it leads to narcissism when you think that your despair, it means that you’re somehow broken and that you need to have the world fix you because you’re the only person who’s ever experienced suffering and despair — I’m exaggerating for effect here, but that is the underlying impulse. It’s like, “Oh, my brain is especially broken that I can’t deal with this suffering. My brain is especially broke.” I think it makes us think about our suffering as though it’s only happening to us, as though millions and billions of human beings over time haven’t confronted some of these same questions and despaired about the answers.

And I think that really does lead us to this demand that we see across society now where it’s like the world must fix itself around your mental sensitivities or the things that make you anxious or sad or depressed. And I think those two things are connected. Treating it as though it’s something broken about you that you feel despair, I mean, that’s fundamentally… I just disagree with. So my crusade, such that it is, against SSRIs is not even to deny that they have been helpful for some people, I think, especially on the short-term, as you said. There aren’t a lot of good studies showing long-term positive results, and there are huge side effects. So I still think you should be very well-informed by your doctor about all of the consequences of taking these drugs, but it’s not to say that I think they should never be prescribed or nobody should ever take them. It’s just I don’t think they’re an answer to some of these questions, and I think relying on these drugs is not…. It doesn’t solve the problem long-term. It might be a stopgap solution, but it’s not going to solve the underlying questions here.

Emily Jashinsky:

Well, in fact, it creates a problem long-term, because it’s very, very, very difficult to get off SSRIs and can cause people incredible anguish that can involve suicide. It basically hooks you for years and years and years, unless you want to go through a very difficult and very challenging and very risky process of getting off of it. It’s a solution for big pharma because you create basically permanent customers, but it is very difficult for people who benefit in the near-term, then, to wean themselves off of it when they might be better. And to your point, cognitive behavioral therapy is absolutely amazing. I mean, it is truly amazing, and you can absolutely rewire things that feel like they’re misfiring in your brain through cognitive behavioral therapy in ways that rival what the drugs can do. Not for everybody and not in every circumstance, but you can.

And the same thing goes for exercise and religion. And again, people who exercise and have faith and have families and all this stuff and aren’t materialist heathens still can struggle with mental illness. But that is to say just a lot of things that we do in modern life are making us very sick and they can then be reversed by recognizing that they’re a consequence of some of these very everyday things that are a part of modern life, whether it’s what we’re eating, how little we’re working out, if we’re just sitting at a desk all day, and driving to the office instead of walking and working manual labor, whatever it is, we can address them. But we have to recognize that they need to be addressed.

Inez Stepman:

Yeah. I mean, and I would never say that these kinds of problems are limited to those who, for example, don’t have family or a stable family structure or something like that. That’s obviously not true. Although, as you pointed out earlier, it is associated with a part of the political spectrum. Like it is higher in incidence among those who describe themselves as liberal and very liberal than it is… And I tend to think that has less to do with politics and more to do with exactly that kind of family structure that Brad Wilcox and others talk about that is associated with happiness. So it’s not that these two things are totally unrelated, but I would never go so far as to say like, “Oh, this is only a problem for blue-haired college maniacs.”

Emily Jashinsky:

Something I remember, this was back when I worked at Young America’s Foundation in 2015, so my first job out of college. I was doing PR for them, I was their spokeswoman, and it was really in the early days of Ben Shapiro’s viral campus appearances when the pre-woke woke outbreak at Mizzou happened back in 2015 over some racial disputes. YAF sent Ben to Mizzou. And I think it was then, it might have been when he was at Cal State LA, he was talking about… He used to use this a lot in his speeches, and I don’t know if he still does, about how his grandfather did think that he was a robot or something like that and they gave him lithium. They didn’t tell him, “You are a robot.”

And he was talking about this in the context of transgenderism. When somebody who is biologically a woman thinks that they are indeed, actually, a man, you give them some help, whether that’s a pill, or some sort of treatment, or actually just making it easier for them. The affirmation of the negative consequences of people’s mental illnesses or incorrect perspectives is not healthy for them. It’s not healthy for society, certainly, when that affirmation becomes policy and when that affirmation becomes the mainstream cultural message, which is actually what’s happened. It’s not just isolated cases of respecting people’s pronouns here and there so that they would not harm themselves that night or after your conversation, anything like that. This affirmation is now policy. It’s now the mainstream cultural position. That’s not healthy for people who are suffering, and it’s not healthy for our country or our culture, and we’ve definitely gotten to that point.

Inez Stepman:

Yeah. I mean, I guess my perspective on all of this is life is hard, it’s hard enough, and the baseline of life is not contentment. The baseline is not…. I worry about where our baseline is, where our expectations are, because of [inaudible 00:55:27].

Emily Jashinsky:

You are so Slavic. [inaudible 00:55:28]. The baseline of life is an abject misery.

Inez Stepman:

And then I think the expectation is that we’re all going to be happy and that’s the baseline. And I guess in some way that’s very American. It’s the pursuit of happiness. But that’s the point. You get to pursue it. It’s not guaranteed to you. That’s not the baseline for human existence. And when we come into these questions with that baseline, I worry that, again, just that it makes us narcissistic, it makes us more fragile because there is a certain bracing respect of thinking, like, “I’m not the only one to deal with this, therefore I’m not special, and look at all these people in history and alive today around me who are dealing with this despair and questions of purpose and meaning and they carry on.” So there is this bracing impact of not thinking about it as though you’re uniquely fragile or uniquely broken, or that there’s something broken in yourself that you need to fix, which is, again, not to… I want to be really clear here.

It’s not to say that actual pathologies don’t exist and probably need correctives, but I mean, I don’t see how anyone can look at the levels of people who either identify as having one of these milder quote, unquote, “mental illnesses,” not like schizophrenia, but anxiety, depression, and the percentage of people who are on these SSRI drugs. And I do think that this study deals a blow to that universe of ideas where we imagine that a sixth of the population is just mentally broken in a physical way, as opposed to maybe we have a sixth of the population that’s mentally broken because the way that we live and the way that we’ve confronted the questions that every civilization has confronted is, as you said earlier, is making us sick. Life’s hard already. Like the ideological answer on these things, I think, if anything, makes it worse, not better.

Emily Jashinsky:

Mm-hmm. Yeah. I think that’s true, and it’s a good example. You were talking about this earlier of how these things are not thought of as political, but they are. And to me, it is part of this anti-humanism that has no political party. It’s just a consequence of our modernity. It’s a consequence of living in a world that is so tech capable that our comfort is met. Even when we are impoverished, our comfort is met. Our basic material comforts are met. And we are going into a really dark place. That’s why the blue pill, red pill. When I first watched The Matrix, which was very recently — I’d never watched it before because I don’t enjoy action movies because I’m a woman.

Inez Stepman:

The Matrix is not just an action movie. I’m not an action movie fan either, but I like The Matrix.

Emily Jashinsky:

Well, I watched it and I was like, “Wow, this movie is really good, but profoundly damaging.” Although it is, in some ways, like a total, oh, I don’t know, rejection of materialism, it also really shows where we’re headed in the sense that you will own nothing and you’ll be happy. Was that a world economic forum, like a very real thing, not like an Alex Jones paraphrasing of it, like you will own nothing and you will be happy. You are going to just be provided for, your material needs are going to be provided for by a state, life of Julia style, and you will be happy because your material needs are all accounted for, and you can just eat what you want and have access to your state-issued Peloton in your high-rise apartment building where everyone has a little cupboard. As I always say, “What are apartments, if not cupboards, for humans?”

And it’s just like yeah, that’s where we’re headed. It sucks. And people, at this point, though, have been so conditioned to think one way that it’s hard to blame them for finding and expecting their comforts to come from that because we are so far afield from reality. It’s like why the Jordan Peterson book was a massive best seller, like just giving people advice that’s not plain materialism for contentment, not happiness, but contentment, because people know they’re missing it, and that’s the only silver lining. People know something’s wrong, but they don’t quite have the tools to fix it.

Inez Stepman:

Yeah. I guess they expect comfort from their comforts. Yeah. It really does remind you of Brave New World. And to your last point, to wrap this up here, it does make me wonder, again, if because we know there’s something wrong with this, instinctively, we know that there’s something wrong, I wonder if that instinct will fade over time to a Brave New World-type situation where we have to have somebody —

Emily Jashinsky:

That’s the goal.

Inez Stepman:

— come from the outside. That’s why there’s always these dystopian setups often have somebody coming from the outside to observe, and part of what makes it a dystopia is that no one thinks they’re living in a dystopia except for you or the narrator. So coming in from our understanding, it seems like a dystopia, but there aren’t very many great dystopian novels that don’t include that element of nobody actually thinking that they live in this world, in a dystopia.

Emily Jashinsky:

Yeah. And that’s where you’re getting at with SSRIs, right? Like it’s a numbing agent, basically, in a very, very Brave New World sense. And again, we’re not saying that people don’t need them, but some people probably don’t who are on them, but it’s a numbing agent in the same way that Netflix is a numbing agent, in the same way that iPhones are a numbing agent that numb you to your spiritual concerns by purporting to provide all of this materialistic happiness via dopamine notifications from social media. It’s the way that fast food is a numbing agent, the way that alcohol’s a numbing agent. That’s why I don’t like seltzer, because you don’t feel like you’re drinking alcohol. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy a fruity cocktail every once in a while, but you should feel like you’re drinking booze when you’re drinking booze. You shouldn’t just be sating yourself to this endless guzzling of flavorless water. Anyway, that’s a different episode, probably.

Inez Stepman:

Well, next time we will do it over seltzers. Actually, I don’t like seltzer either, but I don’t have a grand philosophical theory as to why I don’t like seltzer. I just figure that it’s I prefer vodka.

Emily Jashinsky:

So Slavic. You’re so Slavic. I prefer vodka and misery.

Inez Stepman:

Yeah, exactly. I’m a firm believer that all mental problems could be solved with vigorous exercise and vodka in the right combination. Please do not take any medical advice from this podcast. Emily, thank you so much for joining us once again on High Noon: After Dark. We do this every month. Our regular listeners will know that every month you can hear Emily and I go through a docket of issues like these. Sometimes it’s more political, sometimes it’s more about psychology, like this time, or some tangential, or at least seemingly tangential, topics that we think say something about where we are and where we’re headed as a society. So Emily, thanks for coming on once again.

Emily Jashinsky:

Thanks for having me.

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.