Videos by OutKick
The Daily Wire co-founder Ben Shapiro stopped by for a conversation with OutKick.
In this conversation, we discuss the Left’s control of major institutions, the overtaken institution that Ben fears most, and whether social media is still worth fighting for. Later in the interview, I ask if he could envision ever selling The Daily Wire.
Shapiro’s news book, The Authoritarian Moment: How the Left Weaponized America’s Institutions Against Dissent, is available today.
Bobby Burack: Your most recent book discusses the events, both actual and possible, that could destroy America. Do you believe that the Left’s takeover of our structural institutions is the most significant problem that our country faces?
Ben Shapiro: I really do think it is. And the reason is that, in order for us to even have common conversations, in order for us to consider ourselves members of the same body politic, we do have to have neutral institutions that are open to everyone, in which we can all engage.
We’ve watched over the course of the last several decades, accelerating in the very recent past, the takeover and normalization of searching for neutral institutions on behalf of radical Left-wing viewport. That’s because there are a lot of people in institutions who were holders of the belief that these institutions should remain neutral and should not be political. Yet they didn’t have enough wherewithal to fend off the aggressiveness of the radical Left.
It turns out that all it takes to renormalize any sort of institution is a hardcore 20% of people who are aggressively seeking something. The middle, which tends to not want to be involved in the concept, tends to bend over backward to please that 20%. And suddenly, the entire institution is nearing the priorities of the other small minority of people who are within the institution.
When that happens, then people begin to feel more and more as if they have been shut out of all the institutions of power. The reaction to that can also be terrible and ugly. So you end up with this sort of ping pong back and forth where people renormalize institutions in radical ways. People react to normalization in sometimes radical ways, and then the institutions reorder in reaction to that and we end up with a spiral down to oblivion.
Burack: Now that you have finished writing this book, which institution causes you the most concern?
Shapiro: The education system has been renormalized for so long that I think there’s actually a pretty good push back in motion. Not just on the public school level, but in terms of homeschooling and private schooling. I think, increasingly, you’re seeing people attempt to fight back in terms of local school boards, and that’s been an ongoing process for the last several decades.
The one that shocks me most, because it’s new, is the takeover of corporate law. The mobilization of corporations against people who dissent politically. The attempt to turn corporations into weapons on behalf of equity or Ibram X. Kendi’s anti-racism has been extraordinarily fast.
Its power is astonishing. We’ve not begun to see the ramifications of it. I mean, what happens, for example, when credit card companies start saying, “You can’t use our credit card in order to access certain services because we deem this service off-limits”? We’ve already seen some credit cards doing this at certain gun shops.
But let’s say that they do this with regard to giving money to charitable institutions or donations to politicians. Or, and this is an idea, what if they look at your business and say your business is operated, along Yelp lines, by somebody who has been reported as a possible racist and therefore no one is allowed to use that credit card at that particular company? This could get really ugly, really quickly.
Burack: There’s such a fight right now over these tech companies. But is the Right making a mistake by focusing the culture war on Silicon Valley? Every time they complain about Twitter and Facebook, it keeps the fight in Silicon Valley, which is Leftist territory. Nothing happens. The Right keeps losing the battle over social media.
At this point, should the Right move on and try to focus on battles they can win? They’ve lost this one.
Shapiro: So, this is a good question. The problem is that there are a lot of systemic advantages to Twitter and more so Facebook. Facebook is very well entrenched in the system. Facebook has an enormous number of eyeballs. You could theoretically create an alternative, and it certainly should be done. I mean, obviously, if you don’t like doing business with someone, you have the ability to start another company. But here’s part of the problem: when conservatives have done that, the Left has just moved on to more fertile and more dangerous grounds.
For example, Parler was created as an end-around to Twitter. And then after January 6, Amazon Web Services, which is supposedly a neutral service provider, just de-platformed Parler. So now, the idea would have to be to build my own Amazon Web Services. Well, now you’re talking billions of dollars in the enterprise. Those businesses were built long ago. Amazon Web Services represents like 40% of all data services in the United States. So you go from creating an alternative to Twitter to now having to create web services.
In order to even compete at the top level of the iceberg, you have to rebuild from the bottom of the iceberg. That is a pretty systemic disadvantage, which is of course why conservatives keep fighting back on two grounds.
First, is national defense in some cases. And this is why I keep saying the Democrats should not be pressuring Facebook to take down information. Stop that now. That’s where we need to be fighting. The fact that you now have the media and the Democrats pushing to police Facebook is ugly authoritarianism. We need to be pushing back on that level because that actually is, in some cases, government-sponsored action. We have the White House telling Facebook to take things down. Now you’re looking at Facebook as an agent of the government. That’s a First Amendment case.
That’s one thing. The other thing people have been doing is talking about revising Section 230. In Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, there are some basic provisions that could be done that would help. For example, I think there’s a catch-all provision of Section 230 that says something like, “these platforms can remove pornographic or criminally violent material or anything otherwise objectionable.”
If needed, you get rid of the provision that says “anything otherwise objectionable.” I know there’s a proposal to do that. This would basically force these giant social media platforms to stop taking down political material, and it would replace that with liability. At that point, the government can yell and scream all they want.
What basically happened is that the government has reversed what Section 230 was supposed to do. Section 230 was supposed to allow for this fruition of wide-open conversation and simultaneously allow people to take down pornography or spam that was going on in the comment section. Now, the Democrats have basically told tech companies that they are going to allow them to have this immunity, but only if they police content to the exact extent in which they want, which is precisely the opposite of why Section 230 was established in the first place.
Burack: In recent interviews, Tucker Carlson and Jesse Kelly told me that they would not want to send their kids to college. Michael Knowles, whom you know well, said he’d only send his if they were majoring in a STEM field.
Do you want your kids to go to college? You also hire employees at The Daily Wire. Do you value college degrees?
Shapiro: If my kid wants to major in a STEM field, then sure. Go to college. If my kid does not want to major in a STEM field and actually learn something valuable, I think there are better options than college.
Look, I’m well situated, thank goodness. I’d rather give my money to my kids to go start a business of their own, or to get involved in somebody else’s business, or find an apprenticeship than spending four years in a liberal arts college. That doesn’t seem like a particularly good use of money.
Again, that’s not an argument against all college degrees. I think that if somebody doesn’t have an apprenticeship opportunity, then college can be very important for them.
The problem with colleges is really a problem with businesses. Businesses need to stop screening for college degrees. The reason that businesses screen for college degrees is because we’re not allowed to give IQ tests for employment in this country. And so instead, it goes through this convoluted process whereby we give everybody the sort of rudimentary IQ test which is the ACT or the SAT. And then they go to college, and then we look at their college degree and we say, “Oh, because he went to Berkeley, he’s smart. Oh, he’s also probably smarter than the guy who went to the local JUCO. “
Well, the problem with that, of course, is that now you just subjected him to years of indoctrination and years of debt. And you could have just given him that job right out of high school and let him learn how to do it. Honestly, I’d rather hire somebody straight out of high school, with a strong ACT or SAT score, before they’ve been run through the wringer at college and learned a bunch of stupid nonsense that they need to now unload.
Burack: Do you and your business partner, Jeremy Boreing, plan to keep The Daily Wire independent, or could you see a scenario in which the company is bought or merged with another?
Shapiro: It’s hard for me to imagine us being bought out. I can’t really envision that scenario unless we were to try to go public. But as a general sort of business strategy, we have to maintain our editorial independence, and the last thing we want is some sort of outside board sitting on top but dictating what we say and cannot say.
The Daily Wire’s independence is the most important thing. We’ve built this business from the ground up. I mean we had a $4 million investment. We built this company into a very large company with almost 200 employees and a huge number of subscribers. And, thank God, it does really well.
It’s interesting if you go back to our original business plan, we did count on solid growth in terms of daily web traffic but did not count solid growth in terms of subscriptions. And we really, really underrated the podcast business. I remember looking at the original stats, and we were, “Well, it’d be great if my show could get, like, 30,000 downloads a day. That’d be amazing.” And now, I think last time I checked, it draws around 2 million downloads and views.
So, one of the things that we pride ourselves on is our ability to move quickly without having to be bogged down with boards and without having to worry about censorship. Anything that threatens that, we are against.
So, I really can’t envision us being bought out.