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Razib Khan's Unsupervised Learning

Oct 22, 2021

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This week on the Unsupervised Learning Podcast I’m joined by author and journalist Kat Rosenfield. She has a new novel out, No One Will Miss Her, is a co-host of the Feminine Chaos podcast, and a contributor at various places, like UnHerd and Newsweek.

We first talk about Andrew Cuomo (the former governor of New York), Al Franken, #metoo, and how the dynamics of fame, power and identity play into the media narrative around sexual harassment, as well as cancel culture more broadly. Kat believes the phenomenon is best understood by examining the waves of periodized reactionary movements which generate a push-pull of cultural signaling between the two extremes of the political spectrum. She believes that the ebb and flow will crest, but remains cognizant of the domination of the culture-warrior left in the emergent multi-billion-dollar diversity-and-inclusion industry that operates independently of the political institutions. 

I do wonder if the tactic may be self-limiting and end up backfiring, as the left may actually be more at risk from it than their conservative counterparts. The left relies on institutions like the press to secure its dominance, but as respect for those institutions collapses due to polarization, their sway will weaken.

Kat and I both agree that the trend towards guilt by association is high-school-level drama, while the role of social media as a panopticon and litmus test of beliefs is a disturbing trend. We discuss how shifting ideological baselines means that maintaining a consistent stance on any given issue may end up pushing a person out of one coalition and into another. 

Kat explains her experience as an independent journalist watching a marked shift in reporting and journalism over the last several decades.  She notes that the emphasis on accreditation, rather than on-the-ground experience, has come to dominate hiring practices, limiting the diversity of opinions presented and creating a more insular bubble around the profession. Her own immunity from the woke fashions may have to do with the fact that her social circle does not consist of always-online journalists, but more “normal” people.

As we conclude, Kat talks about her experience collaborating with Stan Lee and her new book No One Will Miss Her, a thriller centered around the murder of a woman and her ties to a social media influencer - coming out in October. With its opening chapters set in October, it may just be what you’re looking for to cozy up to as the nights grow long and the cool weather of autumn settles in.