The radical left wields immense cultural power in America. When a conservative crosses them, intentionally or otherwise, he or she is met with a volley of vile, leftist hatred. The left ruthlessly tracks down any information about the conservatives, their jobs, friends, and family and attempts to cancel them. The left views the loss of livelihood and relationships as the price of dissent.
That’s what happened to conservative journalist Amber Athey.
After Athey made a joke about Vice President Kamala Harris’ outfit at last year’s State of the Union address, enraged leftists harassed her employer, a talk radio station in Washington, D.C., into firing her.
Athey views her experience as just one more piece of evidence that the right needs to fight the left on the same battlefield and cancel them.
“I feel like if all of the cultural signals are that employers and society respond to cancellation attempts, then I don’t see any reason why conservatives shouldn’t try to wield that same power,” Athey says. “I don’t think it’s too far for conservatives to do the same thing back and show them this is the logical conclusion of the societal culture that you’ve created.”
Athey joins the show to talk about how conservatives should fight back against cancel culture, and how the left wields its cultural power.
Doug Blair: My guest today is Amber Athey, Washington editor at The Spectator, senior fellow at The Steamboat Institute, and host of the “Unfit to Print” podcast. Amber, welcome to the show.
Amber Athey: Thanks for having me.
Blair: Yeah, it’s a pleasure. But I think one of the things that I really like about you is you are so outspoken about the woke mob and things like cancel culture and you are actually a victim of cancel culture relatively recently. Would you mind explaining your story, what happened, and where you came from it?
Athey: Yeah, absolutely. I was a co-host on a morning radio show in D.C. on WMAL, which is a conservative radio station, alongside Larry O’Connor and several women. I was on two days a week, so this was a part-time gig. I was on there for six months.
And then during the State of the Union address, I decided to mock Vice President Kamala Harris’ outfit, which a lot of people were doing because it was just objectively not a good outfit. For people who haven’t seen it, or maybe don’t remember, it was that drab brown pantsuit or skirt suit where she was blending into the leather chair behind her.
And my crack was that she looked like a UPS employee. If you’re too young to know, I think most people listening to this probably know that the UPS slogan until about five to 10 years ago was, “What can brown do for you?” So I said, “What can brown do for you? Nothing good, apparently,” because obviously, Kamala Harris is pretty incompetent.
This joke was fine for a few days. Nobody seemed troubled by it because they all understood what the point of it was. But after I got into a debate on Twitter with some pro-child genital mutilation people, like the pro-trans lobby, they decided that I needed to be canceled because I don’t believe that children should be allowed to undergo surgeries or hormone therapy to try to change their gender.
I needed to be removed from the public square, so they went back into my Twitter, started looking for some reason to cancel me, found the Kamala tweet, and decided to completely reframe it as being about her race, which I think says a lot more about them than it does about me because what kind of person thinks that only black people can be UPS employees? That’s kind of racist, I think.
But anyway, they started sending emails to my employers, and The Spectator, The Steamboat Institute both laughed the entire thing off because of course they thought it was ridiculous, right? But shockingly, WMAL, and more specifically, its parent company, Cumulus Media, received a few emails, called me up about a day or two later, and told me that I was fired effective immediately.
I didn’t even get a chance to defend myself. I didn’t get to explain the tweet. They just told me, “Your tweet was racist. We don’t condone racism. You’re out. Goodbye. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”
Blair: I mean, it’s crazy that that happened because the left routinely says vile things about conservatives with seemingly no consequences. And I guess one of the things that I always find so strange is that there’s no concerted response from conservatives other than to call it out and just say, “Hey, that’s weird.” The left never faces the consequences. What should conservatives do? How should we respond to this?
Athey: Yeah. I know that this is probably controversial, but I feel like if all of the cultural signals are that employers and society respond to cancellation attempts, then I don’t see any reason why conservatives shouldn’t try to wield that same power because if you’re talking about preventing people from making a living, people have actually been debanked. For example, the truckers in Canada were not allowed to raise money for their legal efforts because their fundraiser was removed from GoFundMe.
People are being removed from social media, they’re losing friends, family members, being basically unable to participate in society. I don’t think it’s too far for conservatives to do the same thing back and show them this is the logical conclusion of the societal culture that you’ve created.
For example, recently there was this professor from Carnegie Mellon University who, after the death of Queen Elizabeth II, decided to say that she hoped that her death was incredibly painful and that she suffered because she was complicit in colonization, which, besides the fact that it’s not even true, she actually had a great hand in allowing a lot of these colonies to become independent. What kind of sick person wishes death on a beloved matriarch person who has been a force of stability in England for 70 years?
People were complaining about it on Twitter and posting screenshots and replying to her and I just sent an email to the school.
Why are conservatives so afraid to let the people who employ these miserable, awful people know about their behavior outside of those institutions? You’re right that they still don’t face the consequences, even when we do that. This professor received a condemnation from the university, but no disciplinary action. But I think eventually, if conservatives actually do this in a concerted way, and in a group effort, it will start to have an effect on the left.
Blair: Sure. Have we seen any instances where that has happened, where we have successfully been able to, for lack of a better term, cancel somebody on the left for behavior that they’ve done against the right?
Athey: Yeah, I think there’s been a couple. Sarah Jeong at The New York Times was supposed to be an editorial board member and they kind of quietly had her leave the editorial board after this happened.
So a lot of conservatives, I think, didn’t even realize that they had a hand in this, but she had this series of anti-white, anti-police, really gross tweets, and conservatives did the thing, they did the cancel culture, and they tweeted them out and sent them to The New York Times, and were just kind of relentless about it for a couple of weeks. I think it was only a few months after she actually joined that they sort of quietly dismissed her. That was one example.
Then there’s also been a couple of times where I think conservatives sort of mockingly or sarcastically point out old tweets that leftists have that could be considered offensive, such as in the case of Alexi McCammond, who was sent over to Teen Vogue to be its new editor-in-chief, and then they actually successfully managed to get the woke mob to jump on those tweets.
The woke mob started saying that Alexi McCammond, who I believe is half black, was a racist against Asian people, and she ended up losing her job at Teen Vogue.
So there’s smaller instances of this happening, and I think it’s good evidence that if we’re more intentional about it, that it can actually be a successful method.
Blair: Mm-hmm. Then, on that Alexi McCammond note, I wrote about that for The Daily Signal, and one of the things that was so funny about that was the person who accused her of being a racist was then exposed for writing racist tweets in the past. Which gets to my next point, does this system create an “eye for an eye makes the world blind” mentality where now, all of a sudden, it’s just an arms race to cancel more people on both sides?
Athey: I mean, yes, it is sort of a tool of retaliation, but I don’t think that that’s necessarily a bad thing. I mean, when people are actively hurting you and trying to make it so that you can’t support yourself or your family or that you’re not allowed to participate in society, then I don’t think it’s unjust or unreasonable to fight back and try to stand up for yourself.
One of the things that I tried to do in the aftermath of being fired from the radio station was I wanted to give people a call to action. What can you actually do to support people who are canceled? Well, you can tell the company who fired them that what they did was terrible.
And I know for a fact that Cumulus received a hundred times more communications in support of me than they did when I was fired, which, hopefully, the next time someone goes through this at a Cumulus-owned station, the executives are going to think twice before trying to take the easy way out and just fires somebody who is accused of the woke mob of being racist or sexist, or homophobic, or whatever the allegation may be.
Then also, we need to stop funding and supporting the places that do this. The Daily Wire, I think, has done a great job and The Daily Signal has done a great job of trying to create alternative ecosystems for media and entertainment in ways that people can get this content that they so desire without giving their dollars to people who hate them.
Blair: Mm-hmm. Speaking of race and some of the leftist nonsense surrounding race, you’ve been talking a lot about the Rachel Richardson incident recently with [Brigham Young University]. They found no evidence that this particular black athlete had been yelled racial slurs at it. It sort of feels like, though, the demand for hate crimes outweighs the supply. Why is that, that the left continues to do this, even though it doesn’t actually seem like there are hate crimes to cover?
Athey: Well, for them, it’s about power, and more specifically, the power to silence. You cannot hold a guilt trip over people about race or sexuality or gender ideology unless you can have these purported incidents of these people being harmed, right, so they have to make sure that the classes that they claim are marginalized, there’s some proof of them actually being marginalized.
The left does a politics of hostage-taking and guilt-tripping. They like to say that conservative politics are literally killing people and they point to murders of trans people, which are unfathomably low, or they point to police shootings of unarmed black men, which, by a function of how many black men police actually encounter because of crimes, they actually are killed at a lower rate than white men. The list goes on.
But these individual anecdotes are ways to try to lord over the right’s head, “What you’re doing is hurting us, what you’re doing is hurting us, and so you have to stop.” Most compassionate people will immediately respond, “I don’t want to hurt you. I don’t want my politics to harm you. I’m trying to make the world a better place.”
And so, if you accept their framework, if you accept the base logic of their ideas, then your first instinct is to stop whatever you’re doing. That’s how, really, how they get people to fall into their camp. Going back to the fabricated hate crimes is just another way for them to create these incidents that they can use to guilt trip people into accepting their woke and progressive political positions.
Blair: Now, it sort of seems like the left is cultivating this culture of victimhood where your cache comes from how much of a victim you are. It reminds me of Andrew Breitbart’s maxim that “politics is downstream of culture.” I guess my question for you is, what are your thoughts on that maxim? As somebody that writes about culture, where do you see American culture going? Do you see it going in a positive direction? Do you see pushback against this sort of victimhood mentality?
Athey: Well, I think it’s 100% true that politics is downstream from culture because over the past 20 years, we’ve really seen major nonpolitical institutions become aggressively political, and it’s not because the Democratic Party told them to do, it’s because a vocal minority of really aggressive activists actually infiltrated those institutions and started pushing culture in a certain direction.
That culture ended up trickling into our body politic, into Congress, and into the White House. It wasn’t the other way around. Hollywood, higher education, Big Tech, the media, these major institutions went far left, I think, before “the squad” ever existed, or before those ideas ever existed in Congress.
There’s a couple of reasons for that. One of, I think, the reasons is that the people who go into these institutions were indoctrinated through an education system that really pushed those kinds of values because they came from academia.
But then another reason is that, specifically in the corporate world, in terms of economics and bureaucracy, it’s more efficient for people to all believe the same thing. It’s easier to control people if they all believe the same thing, and they don’t want independent thinkers because that makes them unpredictable, and therefore, more difficult to work under you.
So yeah, I think that’s 100% true.
But I see good signs in the culture. I see conservatives for the first time really making an effort to create alternatives to a lot of the monopolistic institutions that control so much of our culture. I see conservatives getting better at boycotts like with places like Disney or Netflix, or some of these other entertainment industries. And I see conservatives using legislative power to push back against institutions that would culturally harm them.
That’s not to say that we’re on the verge of victory or anything, there’s a long way to go, but I think there’s good signs that not even just conservatives, but just normal people who don’t want politics in everything, every single facet of their life, are really fed up with this and are trying to find some other way to live their lives outside of this woke bubble that really encompasses so much of what we do in society.
Blair: As a final note, I want to address something that you wrote in The Spectator that I found very interesting, which was about trade schools versus college. And you wrote, “It’s reductionist and not very helpful to tell young people that college isn’t ever worth their time.”
There does seem to be a very strong push, at least from the conservative movement, that college just isn’t worth it, it’s been taken over by the left, it’s an indoctrination center for people, it’s not actually useful anymore. What is your argument that that’s maybe reductionist?
Athey: Yeah. So, I mean, I speak from personal experience. My father was a plumber his entire life, and really, by the time he was 45, 50 years old, his body was just decimated. He had a lot of doctor visits and medical issues, and really, just worked himself to death, basically, and didn’t make enough money to really justify it, right? And so, I think there just needs to be a little more nuance to the discussion.
It’s not the right solution for everybody to just go enter a trade school. It’s not that simple. There’s a lot of trade-offs that you have to consider when you’re doing that. Not everybody’s going to be like my dad, but it’s a real possibility, and the statistics for workplace injury, death, depression, addiction, suicide are much higher in manual labor jobs. So I think we just need to be realistic with young people about that.
Not everybody should go to college, and for those people, trades might be a good option. For other people, college can be an important tool for them if they shop correctly so that they’re not graduating with hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt, so that they’re going to a school that is not indoctrinating them, or that they’re intelligent enough and prepared enough to resist that indoctrination, and they’re majoring in something that is actually going to bear a fruitful job with stability.
So there’s all different kinds of things that we need to weigh, and I just worry that when conservatives tell people, “College is a scam,” or, “Don’t go to college,” that we’re missing the fact that society still really incentivizes people to get college degrees, and we’re setting people up for failure if we tell all of our offspring to not go to college, right?
Blair: Interesting. Well, that was Amber Athey, Washington editor at The Spectator, senior fellow at The Steamboat Institute, and host of the “Unfit to Print” podcast. Amber, I very much appreciate your time.
Athey: Thank you.
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