Heather Higgins: How to Counter Runaway Narratives and Big Tech Censorship
“If you’ve lived in Communist China, if you’ve lived in a repressive society, where only permitted, allowed thoughts are tolerated, then you see this for what it is. Whether the mechanism to get there is the same or different, you see the outcome,” says Heather Higgins.
How did we get here and what would it take to reunify America?
Today, we sit down with Heather Higgins, CEO of Independent Women’s Voice and Chairman of the Independent Women’s Forum.
This is American Thought Leaders, and I’m Jan Jekielek.
Jan Jekielek: Heather Higgins, such a pleasure to have you on American Thought Leaders.
Heather Higgins: It’s a pleasure to be here.
Mr. Jekielek: You wrote a really interesting op-ed recently in RealClearPolitics. I was very interested in it because I’ve been watching this kind of narrative develop in social media and in the mainstream media linking the people that were involved in this breach at the Capitol and everything that happened there, and other Americans, perhaps peaceful protesters and perhaps beyond that. Tell me about what you’re seeing.
Ms. Higgins: Absolutely. For anyone who’s watching, let us stipulate upfront: we are very clear that what happened in the Capitol was appalling. The rioters behaved in hideous ways. And the more evidence comes out, the more it is clear that it wasn’t just over-enthusiasm. It was by nut jobs in Viking horns and spears, but there were actually people there with bad intent. And everyone has condemned that, as they should.
The concern is that if you watched just over the ensuing four or five days how rapidly the narrative shifted, almost in lockstep, and you could watch the escalation of guilt and blame, where it was not apposite, being extended. So it started with Trump and what Trump said, and when you went back and looked at his words, he hadn’t said anything that was incendiary in and of itself. He actually called for [being] peaceful, etc.
Then the narrative became, “well, he should have known,” which then became, “should have known” became, “incited,” which then was, “anybody who supported him should have known that this sort of thing was likely to eventually happen”—which I would dispute. Then anyone who supported him was, in fact, an enabler of this.
And that then morphed by the fourth day to people who have been silent and not critical of Trump were also enablers because of their silence. They hadn’t signed on to the anti-Trump forces that wanted to condemn him all the time. So they were responsible too. And then we finally saw the analogies to conservatives as Nazis.
This has a purpose. It is in order to do several things. It’s in order to make sure that nobody ever questions whether or not there might have been some issues with election transparency that we ought to be addressing to make sure that elections are trusted in the future. And it’s also to extend blame to anyone who is on the right by dint of simple, extreme, and far-fetched association to a standard that nobody else would be held to. And to try and discredit their ideas and force compliance and going along with the agenda, whatever that happens to be, it’s coming up next.
Mr. Jekielek: As I understand it, and we were just speaking the other day with John Solomon about this, there’s an investigation happening to figure out what actually did happen, what planning was there, what spontaneity was there, all these types of things. And presumably, that will give us some answers so we can make some judgments. The incredible thing is how quickly judgments were made.
Ms. Higgins: Never let a crisis go to waste. It was an opportunity to shape a narrative. And if the people who were the rioters thought they were helping President Trump or the conservative cause, they could not have possibly been more mistaken because it’s hard to imagine anything more damaging because we know how the left treats it when there are rioters that go along with protesters.
We saw that all summer long, which I suspect actually emboldened the people who broke into the Capitol because they looked at Portland and Seattle and all of the riots that had accompanied protesters. They looked at the dead police officers and people whose businesses have been burned, and the lack of any follow-through or consequence to that. And so they probably felt, “Okay. Rioting is now okay.”
And they didn’t understand that in fact, that’s not the case. The left is very busy when something like that happens in shifting the conversation to focusing on the protesters and the legitimacy of their concerns. They never, ever take responsibility for any association with nor are they therefore embarrassed by what the rioters do. They dismiss it, almost, if you look back at the discussions, and focus instead on the legitimacy of the protesters.
Instead, on the right, they followed a different trajectory. They acted embarrassed as though they bought the idea that this was Trump protesters, the average Trump protester doing this, which it absolutely was not. The protesters were there with their concerns, which whether you agree with them or not, were their concerns, and I think they were something that we should take seriously.
The narrative, however, got very busy conflating rioters and protesters so that Republican leadership and others were acting as though the two were synonymous. And that then enabled the chain of narrative events that you’ve seen.
Mr. Jekielek: And it’s fascinating. We also saw, very quickly, a number of prominent businesses basically saying, we’re not going to contribute to Republicans or specific Republicans. For example, Senator Hawley had a book deal cancelled. Senator Cruz, there was some sort of action, corporate siding against him as well. I don’t know about others, but again, very, very rapidly, and their position was simply, hey, we need to figure out, look at the election integrity.
Ms. Higgins: That is the contention. And people who attended the protests, not the riot, not the break-in to the Capitol, are now feeling very much at risk for their jobs, that they’re going to be lumped in with this too, when they thought what they were doing was protesting in a civil and, what has been all year, celebrated manner. But they don’t understand that there’s a permanent double standard.
Simon and Schuster had every right to behave as they wanted, to behave as an individual corporation. Publishing is not a book monopoly. Josh Hawley is going to make a lot of money for his new publisher, because there is going to be huge hunger, particularly after what’s happened, for books on big tech censorship, which we’ve now seen in spades. So they are at liberty to do that, but that’s not an argument for shutting down speech.
Mr. Jekielek: So that is kind of the broader question at play here, which is, there just seems to be this concerted effort to basically challenge the idea of free speech. How are you seeing this?
Ms. Higgins: Well, you guys are associated with Epoch Times, which started out as a response to communist China and their censorship, and it’s not dissimilar with the whole social credit idea. And even [Alexis] de Tocqueville wrote about this and others have too—you don’t have to have censorship in the form of the government banning something for it to be effective.
You can simply have enough social pressure saying, you can’t get a job, you can’t get a livelihood, you can’t do banking if we don’t like what you say. We won’t put your video up if there’s anything in it that we are going to construe in a way that we think is problematic. And this is one of the shifts that you’ve seen.
It used to be, and it should be, that if you really want to unify the country, you have a level playing field in terms of the rules that apply. It’s never going to be perfect, but at least people know what the rules are, and they feel that if they abide by the rules, they will be treated the same as everybody else who abides by the rules.
And when it came to speech, you were judged by what you say and what you intended to say. If you offended somebody, you apologize, but you aren’t blamed with what I call the listener problem, right? The listener problem, or Scott Adams has called it the observer problem, is when all the judgment becomes the subjective interpretations of the third party.
Then anybody who’s paid attention to any event in our own lives knows that when you’ve got multiple people looking at it, you have multiple interpretations of different people remembering different things that were said, different people remembering different things that happened. And particularly with time, the revision that our own brains make to what we think we know is extraordinary. And the experiments have been done about it.
Memory is incredibly fallible, but it is our touchstone for what we think we know. So who decides what it is that you meant to say? And if it’s not you and your words, and it becomes the subjective definition of somebody who’s looking for reasons to be offended, or to feel scared, or to feel that it was a racist comment, pretty much anything can be interpreted in a way where offence or incitement can be found if you just stretch it far enough. And we’re starting to see that.
What that means is the loss of speech because if you can’t be understood for saying what you meant to say, then you really can’t talk at all. And indeed, it will go one step further, that if you don’t affirmatively affirm what it is that you’re supposed to believe, then that silence, as we’ve already seen with the other, on the riots question, is taken as an indication that you are not truly on board with whatever the approved narrative happens to be.
Mr. Jekielek: It’s interesting that you mention communist China, something that I’ve been looking at for decades. And it just struck me, this is very similar to the system that’s used there. Not entirely, but in some ways, absolutely.
Ms. Higgins: People who are in charge like to stay in charge. And people who have strong opinions and are in charge don’t really like dissent. One of the beauties of the American system is that even if they didn’t like it, they had to stomach it. But now you’ve got this system where all these different institutions, even the ones that are supposed to be open and critical, aren’t.
And there’s huge self-delusion going on. If you listen to the people at CNN or MSNBC, they don’t think they’re biased, which is just sort of a remarkable obtuseness about human nature. I would argue that I have my biases and you do, and everybody does, but at least I try to be transparent about them and aware of them.
They’re oblivious to why somebody would say, “Saying the president said to drink bleach is fake.” He never said that. He wasn’t talking about drinking Clorox. You interpreted that and you cut the video to make it sound like he said that. He didn’t say that. But even something as obvious as that where you’ve got the words, and then you’ve got what he said, which wasn’t what you said. They are pretending as though they’re the arbiters of what is true.
Mr. Jekielek: It’s fascinating, and we’re also seeing—I’ve certainly been really, really disturbed by this—but essentially, journalists advocating for the suppression of basically voices, or media that they don’t like or don’t agree with. It’s just bizarre, isn’t it?
Ms. Higgins: Well, that’s because they’ve stopped being journalists, right? They’re propaganda hats. Because it isn’t about actually exploring the facts, wherever that may take you. It’s about advancing their particular view of how the world should be. And we ignore the things that are uncomfortable and disagree with that, or we derive them or we keep people from seeing them. And then we change the narrative on other things to amplify our perception of it.
It’s very unfortunate, and it’s extremely unhealthy. And you see it semantically, too. There’s a lot of, “We need to unify.” Right? That’s the language now. Well, I think we’re all in favor of unifying. But what does unify mean?
To the average person, having unity starts with the idea that you’re going to give the benefit of the doubt to the other person. You’re going to approach it with goodwill, and you’re not going to read into what they’re saying. Unfortunately, you look at our social media, etc. It is replete with mind reading. So much of the toxicity that comes is from people who assume mal-motive. They assume … what you were thinking or what your intention was when they have no clue. It’s their own projections. But it has nothing to do with that reality.
Unfortunately, what you’re seeing now, and when it is being said that we need to unify, the way that’s coming across in so much of what they write and how they act is, “You need to accept guilt for anything that we can say that you need to accept guilt for, even if you’re not guilty. You need to shut up and you just need to go along with and comply with our point of view,” which is extremely unhealthy.
And you’re seeing it even in places like Politico Playbook, which knows that it’s a left-wing organization. But when Ben Shapiro wrote Playbook last week, they went through the roof because they had given a platform to somebody to make a cogent, reasonable argument that they didn’t agree with. And that violated their idea of, what is it, repressive suppression?
Mr. Jekielek: Repressive tolerance.
Ms. Higgins: Repressive tolerance, the Herbert Marcuse idea. So it’s a problem.
Mr. Jekielek: Again, as you’re describing this, I find myself kind of stunned that we could be in this place. I’ve even seen examples where journalists are arguing that entire media be deplatformed. We’ve already seen the deplatforming of a platform. And actually, let’s talk about that a little bit before we go there. We saw Parler, in what certainly appeared to be a coordinated [effort] within a day or two, suddenly kind of basically disappear from reality.
Ms. Higgins: It was disappeared, right?
Mr. Jekielek: Yeah.
Ms. Higgins: The vortex. It was intentionally disappeared. And it was scary to watch, right, because we now know that it was a lie when they were saying, well, we’re just private companies, and if you don’t like this platform, go create your own. Well, they did. And the response was, we can’t have a platform that we don’t control and agree with. That’s too dangerous. It might give people other ideas other than the ideas that we want them to have.
It was a very good indication, I would hope, for Parler’s lawsuit that these are not just private companies, but they’ve hit the level of cartel, if not monopoly. And we keep talking about how they should be treated as all other publishers. Well, no, that’s not really it.
I think what they really should be treated as is utilities. They’ve hit a level as platforms of being the common carriers of ideas. When the railroad barons, robber barons were being attacked, their response was, well, if you don’t like our railroad service, and the way we’re selectively allowing people on and what we’re charging, you can just go ride a horse.
And the problem that the courts have—I’m pretty sure. I’m not a lawyer, but this is my understanding—that saying somebody could go back to a technology that was relatively antediluvian and not engaged in what was now the common practice was a restraint of access and a denial of service that wasn’t tolerated.
And I suspect that where we may need to end up with these social media platforms, unless they want to break themselves up and start competing with each other, or unless they really want to have neutral bodies—they create these sham bodies to evaluate whether things should be allowed or not. And they’re so lopsided in their construction, it’s pure tokenism. So they would need to agree to go to real, real neutrality in the application of their roles. And they should. I don’t think they will without being forced to, but that is really what is going on there, I think.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, it’s fascinating because this was about at the same time the president was basically deplatformed off of his main messaging method, which was Twitter, which again, I think, unprecedented. I don’t know if it is unexpected, but I think unexpected to many people, and actually being condemned by all sorts of world leaders, I guess wondering if they may be next.
Ms. Higgins: There are many who should. There are many who are up—which is surprising if Twitter actually means it, whether it’s the Ayatollah [Ruhollah] Khomeini or others who violate every single tenant that they say that they’re enforcing. They’re still up. So, hypocrisy is one thing. But hypocrisy doesn’t win you any arguments.
I think that we need to have the collective demand that whatever their rules are, they enforce them neutrally. And if they don’t, then that is a denial of service that is totally unjustified. There ought to be significant damages assessed, because until it starts to cost them in a big way, they don’t give a hoot what we say about how hypocritical they are.
Mr. Jekielek: It’s also interesting, and I was just speaking with someone, communicating with someone, today from the Polish Ministry of Justice. They have this new law being proposed, where they’re going to fine these big tech basically for doing censorship where it doesn’t break their laws. It was a very interesting approach.
Ms. Higgins: I’m not surprised that’s coming out of Poland, right? If you’ve lived under a communist regime, and you understand that all of the postmodern thought theory—your listeners, if they haven’t read it need to really pick up Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay’s book “Cynical Theories,” that walks you through the development of these really circular, pernicious ideas that are going to be so harmful to so many lives.
It’s going to cripple people, and the whole point is to basically tear apart a society. It doesn’t have any, “Where do you go, after you’ve torn it apart,” you just leave it in shreds and keep making it worse, is basically where that theory goes. It is hideous to any idea of helping people enhance their own human dignity.
If you’ve lived in Communist China, if you’ve lived in a repressive society, where only permitted, allowed thoughts are tolerated, then you see this for what it is, whether the mechanism to get there is the same or different. You see the outcome, you know what’s coming. You know what a diminished life that is going to make for so many people.
So the fact that you would find a country like Poland being sensitive to the implications of what these social media companies are doing, even if they are not de-facto governments, they understand that this is effectively the oxygen of liberty right now that they’re trying to cut off the people who aren’t coming out with the right conclusions.
Mr. Jekielek: I want to touch on that. Why is this exactly, the oxygen of liberty? I don’t think that is necessarily obvious to a lot of people, but I want to comment on it. So I was thinking about that. Poland, it’s a growing country. Actually, I would say in Europe, a flourishing country, … it’s generally considered to be one of the very successful countries in Europe, economically and socially.
The question is these tech companies, they have a level of power. I don’t even know how you measure this exactly, right? But they have a level of power that’s, I suspect, greater than many nation-states. I can imagine all sorts of ways that they could enforce that, even potentially on a country, although they may not want to do that, because, of course, it would alarm a lot of people. But how do countries, even in the US, the president of the United States, be deplatformed on the whim of a company, a very big company?
I guarantee you the companies would not have gotten away with it were they deplatforming somebody that was liked by the media, and the dominant political party. It is only because there is this hegemony now between the media world, the arts world, the big corporate world, and a lot of Washington, that they would have been able to get rid of it.
Ms. Higgins: But imagine Twitter and Facebook being run by libertarians, who found Obama repugnant, and found the theories that he was advocating destructive to the future of the country. I don’t think they would have lasted very long; they would have been regulated. In fact, there’s a fairly good argument to be made that a lot of what you’ve been seeing the big tech companies do, they’re doing because they know that the Democrats now control both the Senate and the House and the administration.
Tech censorship is now totally a function of what Democrats decide to do. This is an appeasement gesture to make the left happy. I don’t know the degree to which that is a correct assessment, that people who are in business think that’s a more powerful motivator than people being ideologues. Either way, you get the same result.
Mr. Jekielek: Certainly, there have been a lot of calls, I realized, from Democratic politicians for more censorship.
Ms. Higgins: Look, Jonathan Haidt wrote a marvelous book called “The Righteous Mind.” One of the things that he observed—he wrote it as a liberal Democrat trying to persuade, teach Democrats how to talk more effectively to conservatives—he kept seeing them missing the boat. Part of that was because they’ve got a different set of values that matter to them, that matter to conservatives, so they tend to dismiss the conservative values.
But he also observed along the way, in this book, that when you asked conservatives what liberals were thinking, they were very accurate. But if you ask liberals what conservatives were thinking, they were very bad. He also observed that conservatives tend to be good at figuring out—I think maybe because conservatives think in terms of systems, where if you put something into place, you could have secondary and tertiary consequences—that would be adverse to the goals that you were trying to reach. So they understood incentives and consequences.
Whereas if you talk to liberals, they tend to be unbelievably bad at seeing the secondary and tertiary consequences of the programs they were developing, which is why they’re susceptible to utopian ideas. They’re so caught up in the goodness of their intentions, that they don’t see the bad consequences that are likely to ensue.
I don’t know if Joe Biden anticipated that saying, “For the first 100 days, we’re gonna let immigrants into the country. ” And now you’ve had a caravan. I don’t know if he connected those two, but it was so obvious that was going to happen. Anybody thought of it?
By the way, libertarians are second to liberals in not seeing the consequences of their ideas. Because again, you’re starting with a mental framework, and it’s more important that you achieve that mental framework, such as the utopian idea of free society, and you don’t see where these things can have problems in implementation.
Mr. Jekielek: So fascinating.
Ms. Higgins: It’s a lot of psychological work, apparently, behind that.
Mr. Jekielek: Clearly a book that needs to be read
Ms. Higgins: It is. “The Righteous Mind” is an excellent book.
Mr. Jekielek: So let’s go to this idea that you mentioned. I’m sure to some of our viewers This is pretty obvious, but I don’t necessarily think it is to everybody. You said something to the tune of, “Free speech is the oxygen for liberty.” Right?
Ms. Higgins: It’s one of the points of oxygen. I’m not a political science professor, so I’ll probably not do nearly as good a job of this as other people that you’ll have on your program. But part of what makes our country so remarkable is that we start with the idea that government is from the people and responsible to the people. Then ultimately, the people should be the arbiters—the government is responsible to them.
The government should be responsive to all of the people. People can’t have you be responsive to them unless they’re free to say what they think. People can’t let you know that something’s wrong if they’re not allowed to point out what’s wrong. You would never have had the change in our country that became the Civil War, became abolition, then became the Civil War to get rid of slavery unless abolitionists had been free to irritate the hell out of everybody else, and demand the same rights that our constitution called for everyone else, to be applied to slaves.
You wouldn’t have had the suffrage movement without protest, without the ability of people to say, “This is wrong. We don’t think this is right, you need to hear us too.” What we’ve got now is a group of people who don’t want to hear what the people with protests have to say, because it makes them uncomfortable. Because right now they’re dominant. They don’t want to hear about the ways that if you are a white, lower class male, you’re the only group whose life expectancy is going down. We’ve got a political class in Washington that is utterly indifferent to that fact.
You just had Joe Biden announce a policy to help small businesses that might have well said. “Whites need not apply.” It was horrific, his statement. He did not state it that way. He said, “Everybody else gets preferential treatment. And then basically, if there’s something leftover, you people that we’re ignoring, you might get something too.” As opposed to, again, if you want to have unity, you want to have harmony, you should have even neutral rules for anyone who is a small business, regardless of race, religion, sex, and sexual orientation.
If you need to have some stratification, it should be based on need. How badly have they been hurt? How many employees do they have that are losing their jobs and other criteria that are relevant? That is not what he was doing, because it is now okay to discriminate, apparently, against some groups and not against others. We have gotten into a bizarre upside down world which is once again going back to welcoming discrimination.
Mr. Jekielek: One of the things that I’ve been thinking about with respect to social media, it’s kind of an unprecedented time. There’s this incredible film called “The Social Dilemma,” which I recommend, actually. I think the filmmakers made a great effort to try to be accessible to people of any political persuasion, that basically shows how easily social media can be used to manipulate people, how the advertising might work, and how our behaviors are to some extent shaped by the social media.
So we’re in an unprecedented time. This is what well-meaning people use to justify some kind of censorship. For example, I don’t know what study this was, but there’s some study that says fake news—presumably untrue news, hopefully not just based on political preferences—spreads, a lot faster than actual news. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I believe it could be true.
Certainly narratives can be amplified greatly. People will say there could be really negative things. I think the argument about the platform Parler was that there were discussions held on Parler that were inciting violence or something. There’s a legitimate concern that there’s this kind of reality, basically narratives that could be destructive and run rampant through social media quickly, and there’s no control. What do you make of this idea?
Ms. Higgins: It’s true. It’s a complicated area, and I don’t pretend to be an expert. You can see that social media can both amplify and distort. For example, the decision to suppress the New York Post and its Hunter Biden story, which in various polling that I’ve seen, [if it] would have been viewed by many people, something like 40 percent of them said it would have made a big difference to them had they known in advance of the election about this. They had no idea because they don’t watch Fox or alternative media.
So they were totally surprised by it. It was a completely legitimate true story, which was suppressed on the grounds that it was fake. You see that there is suppression of Parler, which I keep feeling should be called Parler [French pronunciation], because some people are plotting and planning.
Well, there are lots of other examples of people, from Antifa from what I’ve read, plotting and planning on Twitter and elsewhere, and they don’t seem to be as aggressively banned. They’re certainly hateful things that are incitements to violence that get said all the time, the “fine people” hoax emanating from Charlottesville being one of the most pernicious, and yet it gets repeated ad nauseum.
You’ve got this also in the media where Jacob Blake was forever called an unarmed person, when in fact he was armed before the police shot him. So it’s a leaving out of that bit of accurate news that’s a problem. We have never had a doctrine of speech that allowed speech that was in fact inciting to violence.
I think that the standards of what constitutes incitement have become very subjective and non-uniform. I think that is part of what is making people feel that it is not sincere, that it is being used as a tool, not as a sincere effort to make sure there is no violence. [There are] overbroad standards for some and non-action in other cases. That doesn’t mean to say that there isn’t a concern.
You are now living in a world where, even roll it back 15 years when we didn’t have social media, the way you got your voice out was you got op-eds published in the paper. Maybe you could make some videos yourself and try and circulate them. If you go back further in time, people would print pamphlets and circulate them. But there was time.
Now that didn’t stop bad ideas from taking hold. Karl Marx wrote the Communist Manifesto. Adolf Hitler wrote Mein Kampf. They may have taken longer to disseminate, but they still disseminated and they still were incredibly destructive in the effects that they’ve had and continue to have, particularly for the Communist Manifesto and the ideas it generated.
So social media is not unique. But it has always been a thoroughly constitutional problem where I think your best solution is neutral application of roles fairly to everyone, and relying on what was actually said, not the subjective interpretation—that seems quite far fetched to me—of what was said.
Mr. Jekielek: This is obviously going to be an incredibly important issue, probably every day in the coming days, weeks, months to come. I can’t imagine these questions will go away, and the question of what should be done with big tech? Everyone I’ve spoken with [says] the status quo can’t stay the way it is. But what’s the answer? It’s also not entirely clear. The utilities as you suggested, there’s some other regulation.
Ms. Higgins: I personally am voting on the Elon Musk solution, which is that he blows in with his usual genius, far surpasses Google and Facebook and Twitter and makes them all obsolete. He gives them such a competitive threat that they have to clean up their acts. So, Elon Musk, if you’re watching, I’m talking to you.
Mr. Jekielek: Let’s talk a little bit about the incoming administration. I suppose at the time that we air this interview it will be the current administration. We talked a little bit about some policy ideas. You express some displeasure in one of them. What are you expecting from this administration?
Ms. Higgins: I wish I knew. I think there’s going to be internal struggles within it, between the moderate establishment wing of the Democratic Party, who seem to be most of the Biden appointees, and then underneath that there’s a layer that’s the more progressive left. The progressive left is going to hope that Kamala becomes president, sooner rather than later, thinking that she will give them more of what they want, or that Biden will just bow to pressure.
It’s in many ways worse for him if he wanted to be moderate, that … the Republicans lost the two Georgia Senate seats, because now he doesn’t really have any excuse not to go as hard left as his party’s hard left base wants him to go. So their fights are going to be internal, and we will see who wins.
But to answer your question, I expect to see a lot of Trump policies pursued without acknowledgment that they were Trump policies.Trump goes to lift the travel ban, and the same day you find that Biden who had campaigned against travel bans because of COVID wants them to stay in place. Who knew? I mean, if you were voting to get rid of travel bans, because you thought that that was going to be the Biden policy, how do you feel about it?
[It’s the] same thing. He said he’s not building any new wall. He also hasn’t said he’s taking down any wall. So, again, that’s the Trump policy continuing. He’s told immigrants that, “No, actually, it’s not going to be an open door policy, the way we talked about it during the campaign.” All these things are going to cause friction, friction on the left, as much as friction on the right, with a lot of the other things that they do, that they’ve got more agreement on.
Mr. Jekielek: So, in talking with John Solomon the other day, he suggested that there actually will be a need—it’s not going to be a completely unilateral Congress where everything will be decided purely by the Democratic Party—there will be a need for some bipartisanship developing, some kind of consensus. It’s not necessarily that the Democratic Party is more uniform, let’s say, than the Republicans. Certainly in the past, but it’s not, as you just described, not entirely uniform, there’s plenty of internal different ideas.
Ms. Higgins: I think that’s right. I think, unless there were a number of Republicans in the House who voted for impeachment, that was a way of signaling that they’re open for deals and benefits and some status. They will become arbiters of legislation that would have a harder time otherwise, and then they will get the Democrats the ability to say that things were bipartisan. The left tends to be much better about hanging together than the right does. So this is predictable.
Mr. Jekielek: I want to go back to this escalation of narrative that we started the interview with. There’s even been suggestion of some kind of patriot act-like legislation that instead targets internally. Again, I don’t know who it would be. But it’s kind of scary to think about the logical conclusion of the escalation that you were describing at the beginning of the interview what that may look like. Have you seen this narrative?
Ms. Higgins: Tammy Bruce, is the president of Independent Women’s Voice, and she’s got a marvelous term that she uses to describe a lot of what’s going on, and that’s “fear porn.” You almost certainly have a wildly excessive number of troops marshaled in Washington. You have the fear mongering that you need to explore these National Guardsmen’s political points of view and vet them in some way.
You don’t need an eight-foot fence, you need a 12-foot fence, because apparently, people who might be rioting are superhuman in their ability to scale fences relative to other rioters. It’s all about trying to drive fear.
So, look for a lot that fit their narrative. You can’t deal with these people. You can’t trust these people. You can’t reason with these people. These people are dangerous. These people incite violence. These people are nascent Nazis.
It is all a lie. It is all incredibly corrosive. It does violence to any idea that somebody wants unity if they’re talking that way. That is not the way to think about half the country, particularly after they’ve had, until the Capitol, such a great track record of peacefulness. And they still do. The rioters were some fringe group that does not represent the average Trump protester, and certainly not the average Trump supporter and Trump policy supporter.
Mr. Jekielek: Let me think how I should ask this. Do you expect this type of conflation of different types of people for political expediency? Do you think that can actually stick? There’s a lot of people watching this and thinking, “Oh, my goodness, am I going to be tarred here, for just having my own perspective, my own point of view?”
Ms. Higgins: It’s the reason, I think, that conservatives make a mistake in being silent. I understand the reticence and the fear. I would encourage your viewers, I will encourage you, if you are quiet to know that if you actually speak up, you’ll find that there are many, many more people that support you than you ever thought. The fact that you spoke gave them courage to at least come up to you and tell you that they support what you believe. And they think what else is going on is horrible. This is not new.
I grew up in New York City. For decades, the rap of the left is that if you were a conservative, you were heartless and callous and a misogynist, long before this, before Trump. This is not new. They personalize, they demonize, it is part of the strategy that always gets used, and it is ugly and it should be called out for what it is.
I would argue that if you are a conservative, you are that way because you’ve looked at these problems, you care more about the outcomes of policies than just the intentions espoused. This makes for better outcomes for people—and that actually harms them. So the people who actually care about what actually happens to real people tend to be the conservatives, not just the ones who are mouthing the good intentions, and virtue signaling on Twitter.
Mr. Jekielek: So what would be your advice to the Biden administration, in terms of how to deal with this situation?
Ms. Higgins: If Biden is serious about unifying, I think he’s got a fantastic opportunity to do so. It’s going to mean annoying some of his base. It doesn’t mean that he needs to be conservative. I would think, for example, taking the Trump impeachment off the table would advance his own agenda, sort of like a Gerald Ford, Nixon-pardoned moment where we’re getting beyond the division in our country, and we’re going to a place where we can actually talk civilly to one another.
Then trying to be conscious of that and be civil in how you talk to people. I don’t have high hopes, because that isn’t how he’s actually spoken so far. He’s repeated the Charlottesville fine people hoax, which is a smear on not only the president, but anyone who’s a supporter who gets charged with this, because he never said what they said he said.
There are many other things that have been done. But if you were to follow my advice, which I put as a low probability event, I’d say, go blow people’s minds by actually being a unifying president. Go back to the same constituencies that you were so fabulous about supporting, the workers in steel mining communities who have lost their jobs and in coal-producing communities and trying to help them get back on their feet and help industry come in and jump on the line above this division by group and see human beings.
We just had Martin Luther King Day. Follow his advice, judge people by the content of their character and do not fall for this trope of the left, that there’s somehow an authentic black person, an authentic woman, and anybody who doesn’t see themselves first and foremost as part of that left-defined etiology of what that person should think is somehow not legitimately a woman or a member of a group. That’s noxious stuff. If he were to stand up against that, he could go down as a phenomenal president.
Mr. Jekielek: Heather Higgins, it’s so great to have you on.
Ms. Higgins: My pleasure to be here.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.