“This happened in a red enclave, in a red hamlet, in a red town, in a red county. I need these people to understand that this could happen anywhere.”
New York Post columnist Karol Markowicz was a self-described “New York supremacist,” having spent all of her life in the Big Apple. But she uprooted her family to Florida after the coronavirus pandemic opened her eyes to what she saw were “Soviet patterns” across American culture.
“I saw very clearly, for the first time, that even free people can act like authoritarians and turn on their neighbors at a moment’s notice,” says Markowicz.
She considers these patterns part of a larger cultural revolution sweeping the nation, in which woke institutions are increasingly separating children from their families, whether it be through the indoctrination of gender ideology, critical race theory, or pandemic measures.
“If parents see this kind of thing going on, where somebody’s asking their kid to keep a secret from them, I think they should imagine for themselves what else is happening,” says Markowicz, who is the co-author, with Bethany Mandel, of the new book, “Stolen Youth: How Radicals Are Erasing Innocence and Indoctrinating a Generation.”
“The woke are a very small segment of the population. And yet, they’re able to control so much, and they do that through this forced conformity,” says Markowicz. “When we treat kids like little adults, we instill all of our problems and issues on them. And that really does mess them up going forward.”
Jan Jekielek: Karol Markowicz, such a pleasure to have you on American Thought Leaders.
Karol Markowicz: Thank you so much for having me.
Mr. Jekielek: I’m really enjoying reading your book. I’ve done a lot of interviews related to woke ideology, to gender-affirming care, and to disastrous Covid policy. You put all these themes together into a book, which I really appreciate. Please tell us about how you first learned that all these things are related.
Ms. Markowicz: It was definitely Covid that opened my eyes to a lot of what was going on. I started to see patterns across our culture that I thought were part of a larger cultural revolution that is happening in the United States. Things like during COVID, you weren’t allowed to speak and say what you really thought. You had to conceal your actual opinion, lest you be shunned by your community and neighbors, or worse, you could be fired from your job.
It reminded me very much of the stories I heard from my family. I was born in the Soviet Union, and the stories that I heard from my parents and from my grandmother suddenly resonated in a way that they never had before. I recognized things that were going on in American culture that were very similar to those Soviet stories.
While I had always dismissed the idea that any part of American culture could be Soviet, I saw very clearly for the first time that even free people can act like authoritarians and turn on their neighbors at a moment’s notice. My co-author Bethany and I started throwing stories around that we were hearing. We didn’t necessarily have an overarching theme, other than bad things were being done to children, and we needed to say something about it.
The original title of our book was, Keep Your Village Off Our Children. When we were writing it, that is what we were thinking. We saw that Covid had exposed so many different ways that kids were being targeted for indoctrination and treated so poorly in our society, that we felt like we had to say something.
Mr. Jekielek: On one hand, there’s the whole idea that children are little adults and should be taught about adult things as early as possible, and all boundaries should be removed.
At the same time, during Covid it was the children that were subjected to the most harsh restrictions and the greatest boundaries. I subscribe to this idea from Scott Atlas that adults use children as shields for themselves. How do we square these two things?
Ms. Markowicz: That’s the problem here. Adults use children for their own purposes. I don’t know that they use them for shields. Did the adults think that the kids were particularly dangerous? I’m not sure that they did. It’s just that the kids were easier to control.
That’s the whole problem with this ideological push at children. Kids are much easier to persuade than a full grown adult who has their own ideas and concepts and thoughts. If you start the indoctrination early, you can ideologically capture most children. You can feed them ideas throughout their schooling and make them believe what you want them to believe.
What Americans might not realize is that this has been done many times in the past. It’s not a unique thing that is just happening right now. The only unique part is that it’s happening in a free country where you get to hear about it as it’s happening. With a lot of the places where these revolutions have taken place and where kids were targeted for this indoctrination, people can say, “I didn’t know about that.”
The reason we wrote Stolen Youth is that you won’t be able to say you didn’t know. We’re telling you that this is happening. We’re telling you this is going on in your kid’s school and at the library and at their pediatrician’s office and everywhere else. You can’t look away, and you have to fight back.
Mr. Jekielek: One of the examples you bring up a number of times is one of those things that you’re not supposed to talk about—what happened in Nazi Germany, and how children’s perceptions of Jews changed, specifically because of this indoctrination. Please tell me about that.
Ms. Markowicz: There’s so much evidence that what the kids pick up in society as it’s being pushed on them really does resonate. You might believe that you can just fight back against this indoctrination at home. In free places you might be able to do that to a larger extent. But in places like Nazi Germany, this was uncontrollable.
They were picking up the idea of anti-Semitism in their schools and in their culture as a specifically targeted viewpoint. You had that generation of children growing up and being far more anti-Semitic than previous or post generations. The fact that they were pushing these ideas on them was extremely important and it resonated.
I also talk a lot about the Soviet Union in the book where kids were seen as the ultimate revolutionaries. They were the ones who were going to carry forward the bright future. The targeting of children was not accidental, and the breaking up of families was not accidental.
They tried to separate kids from their parents for indoctrination. But even in the Soviet Union, they had to be sly about it. They couldn’t say, “These are our children now. These children belong to all of us,” which Joe Biden said recently. He said, “These are not your kids. These are our kids.”
Joe Biden: There’s no such thing as someone else’s child. No such thing as someone else’s child. Our nation’s children are all our children.
Ms. Markowicz: Even in places like the Soviet Union that idea would have gotten pushback. So, they couldn’t do that. They had to say that we’re all in this together and we’re going to help you raise your children. It’s not about separating you, it’s about us growing together.
Mr. Jekielek: At one point, parents were instilling values onto children, and that changed to being friends with children, andthen, being equal with children. It’s a very different mentality of upbringing.
Ms. Markowicz: It seems like we’re raising kids based on some book that we haven’t finished reading. It’s like we just keep throwing out theories and philosophies of parenting that we can see aren’t going to work out. There was a story recently where a doctor said that a child had come to his office with the mom and had a sore throat. The doctor said, “Okay. I’m going to check your throat. Open wide.” The child refused to do so, and the mom said, “It’s his body, his choice.” The doctor was like, “What? I need to check the kid’s throat.”
But this is the natural progression of this thing where the kid’s in charge. They get to tell you what they believe and what they think, but you are the parent. Kids need parenting. Something that I think parents take for granted is how much kids need them. They need parents to show them the way. They need parents to teach them. Parents are really abdicating that duty and it’s going to have bad repercussions.
Mr. Jekielek: There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Some kids are just incredibly responsible from a very early age, and it almost makes sense to have that relationship with them, of course, with some boundaries, But they are already developing their own boundaries. There’s other kids who have none of it, like zero.
Ms. Markowicz: Yes. Look, I have three kids. They could not be more different. They literally seem like they have two different parents. All of them were born the way that they were born, that’s true. But we have helped shape their responses, if not their personalities. Sure, some may still have the personalities they arrived with.
But the goal is to raise resilient children who can go out into the world and not feel a level of anxiety that debilitates them, or have them be extremely worried about climate change in college, where they feel a level of worry that prohibits them from living their full lives.
When we treat kids like little adults, we instill all of our problems and issues on them, and that really does mess them up going forward. But it seems like the parents are just as ideologically captured, like the story about this mom, where they have stopped thinking reasonably. That should concern all of us.
Mr. Jekielek: The people who believe in this ideology would say that we all do indoctrination, “Karol, you’re indoctrinating kids with your ideology. I have a better ideology. I want them indoctrinated with mine. That’s just a fact. Aren’t you indoctrinating your kids?”
Ms. Markowicz: I’m sure I’m influencing them. Listen, I would love to indoctrinate my kids. It isn’t reasonable that kids will follow everything that a parent tells them, but when you have every force in society pushing them in one direction, that’s very powerful. The idea that you should be able to indoctrinate my children is one that I find abhorrent. No, you can’t indoctrinate my children.
You’re not their guide. You are their teacher, and you are their doctor. You don’t get to implant ideas into their head that I then need to cancel out at home. I have to say that my kids do move through the world because of my indoctrination, or whatever you want to call it, my teaching. They do move through the world being very aware of when somebody is trying to convince them of something.
My older two come home from school and they will say, “I heard this in class today. Is this something I need to think about or that you are worried about?” I jokingly call them the woke police, because they’re very aware when a concept is being pushed on them or when they’re getting someone’s opinion and not fact. That’s good. I want them to be aware.
Bethany, my co-author, and I are on very different paths. I have three kids. Until recently, they were all in public school, but now one is in private school. She has six kids and she homeschools them. She pre-watches their movies, and she pre-reads the books. I don’t do any of that. I give them a longer rope and I say, “I trust you. I want to hear what you’re learning out there.” But I provide the foundation at home, as we both do.
She would say that no matter how much she protects her children, she can’t protect them from this woke mind virus in every way. At the pediatrician’s office she says, “I homeschool them and we do everything outside of the culture.” But she still needs to take them to the doctor. If you have a pediatrician who has been ideologically captured, which many of them have been, you’re going to run into some issues.
Mr. Jekielek: Yes. It’s interesting. I like how you want to inoculate them with some level of this vocalism so they can actually see for themselves. You made a very, very interesting distinction with the whole perception of what you’re supposed to believe. This is the perceived consensus which is pushing in a certain direction, and you’re being taught that this is exactly how it’s supposed to be, as opposed to, “I’m going to give you the skills to evaluate these things,” which just sounds exactly like what you’re doing.
Ms. Markowicz: That’s definitely the goal, to give them the tools to evaluate what they hear out in the world. But I would also say that this new wokeism, as opposed to liberalism or the old Leftism, walks such a narrow line that you have to parrot the words in exactly the right way. You need to have the ideas very specifically outlined. You can only speak about them in a certain way such that you can’t say, “I’m not racist.” You have to say, “I’m anti-racist.”
I don’t have that rigidity with my kids. I want them to explore their own ideas, and have their own thoughts, and have their own concepts. That used to be the goal. We wanted our kids to have a wide range of opinions presented to them where they could pick their own and learn on their own. Now, we don’t have that, because everybody has to think the exact same way under this woke regime.
Mr. Jekielek: Please explain where you’ve come from, and what are some of these ideas that your parents taught that made you think this looked familiar.
Ms. Markowicz: I was born in the Soviet Union and came to the U.S. as a small child. I wasn’t quite two yet. I grew up in Brooklyn and I lived in New York for most of my life with some little gaps here and there. I was a lifelong New Yorker. We were going to raise our children in New York. Then, a little over a year ago, we made the decision to move to Florida, which was a startling decision.
We had just built our dream home in Brooklyn. We really did have a plan to spend our lives there. But we felt like New York had lost its grip on reality, particularly under Covid, but also with lots of other issues around Covid. It wasn’t just Covid, but that did play a large role. We felt like Governor Ron DeSantis in Florida was doing some really normal, sane policymaking that we appreciated.
We made the move, which was very public, because I’m a New York Post columnist, and again, a New York supremacist. The idea that I was leaving New York was big, and people wanted to hear the story, so it’s been amazing. It’s just been really freeing, and our family really found a way to be free.
Mr. Jekielek: You were reporting during Covid. That’s when I started reading you more, because I thought you were ahead of the curve and very thoughtful. What did your parents teach you that made you more aware of what was happening? I’m sure there was some moment when you were speaking about what was happening, but the people around you were saying, “What are you talking about?”
Ms. Markowicz: There were quite a few moments. I would see things on Facebook groups. My very liberal neighborhood suddenly was no longer interested in providing education to the poorest members of society. They didn’t care at all that kids in poor neighborhoods all over New York City did not get to go to school. In fact, it became part of their philosophy to keep them out of school.
Meanwhile, with their own kids, they sent them to private schools, which were obviously open. Public schools were very dangerous, but private schools were allowed, or they got them a tutor, or they moved to their beach house and sent them to the school there. But they didn’t say a word for the poor kids all over the city. That was a very Soviet moment for me. You said one thing, but you believed something else entirely.
Also, the telling on your neighbors. People would call the police and say, “There’s too many people in this backyard.” They seem to enjoy it so much. It was really full of zeal. Another thing was the shutting down of conversation when somebody would say, “I think schools should open.” I didn’t understand why liberal Europe had schools open, but in America, it became an idea that only Donald Trump supporters believed in.
Basically, they would say, “You’re a rightwinger.” They would kick them out of the club and this person would say, “I’m a lifelong liberal. I believe everything you believe. I just don’t understand why we can’t open the schools.” They would get seriously harassed. Some people got fired for these beliefs. It was a really serious time. But then, crime started to spike. New York had been doing so well for so long, that we all expected that to just continue.
When it didn’t, it was like they refused to accept it. They refused to admit that crime was going up. You would see posts, “I’m afraid to walk around by myself after dark, or my teenager’s cell phone got stolen at the local subway station.” They would get comments like, ‘No. Don’t believe the Right-wing media about crime.” But the stats are the stats.
They would say things like, “Look, in the 1990s, crime was higher.” But that was during an extremely bad time in New York City history. By 2020, we had 20-plus years of relatively low crime in New York City. You’re just going to deny that over ideology? You’re saying this doesn’t exist, because you’re on the side wanting to pretend this doesn’t exist?
I just saw the conformity that I had heard about my whole life where you had to believe and you had to make a spectacle of it, which I address in the book. I talk about stolen youth a lot, and where the spectacle means survival. It’s part of what makes these totalitarian societies thrive. For example, when the George Floyd killing happened there were these riots, and everybody put Black Lives Matter signs in their window.
I thought to myself, and I say this in the book, “Black Lives Matter is a really uncontroversial idea. When you’re putting the sign in the window, who are you talking to in your ideologically homogeneous neighborhood? Who are you trying to convince with your sign?” Of course, they’re not trying to convince anybody. They’re trying to say, “I’m on the team. I’m part of this, and please don’t come for me. Look, I have the sign in my window.” That felt very Soviet to me.
My grandmother’s father, my great-grandfather, was killed in Stalin’s Gulag. But when Stalin died, my grandmother and her sister made a scrapbook of his glorious life, because that’s what you do when the spectacle is what matters. I saw it in so many different ways, and then I couldn’t unsee it.
Mr. Jekielek: Did you ever have this situation in your family, where it was treason to talk about things from inside the family, outside of the household? Did you grow up with that?
Ms. Markowicz: I didn’t have that. My parents were not afraid of what I would say outside of the home. My kids are 13, 10, and seven. Recently, and I don’t remember what it was exactly, but we made some kind of gender joke. My seven-year-old says, “I want my nails painted like my sister.” He’s joking. I’m joking. Everybody’s joking. But I said, “No, in this family we follow really strict gender roles and I wouldn’t let you do that.” We were just playing around.
My daughter says to him, “Make sure not to say that outside the house. Don’t tell anybody mom said that.” It’s funny because I don’t worry about that. Why is she worrying about that? Why is she worrying that somebody might take our jokey family behavior and do something bad with it?
Mr. Jekielek: Something that you mentioned earlier was this zeal with which some people were doing that so-called tattletaleing on others. It empowers these obsessive people that typically don’t have a lot of power, but suddenly they can become the people who are the enforcers. In every communist society, those people are the people that rise in the communist ranks. When I saw these people doing the tattletaleing with zeal, what is that? Why the zeal?
Ms. Markowicz: Yes. They had been waiting for their moment to tell on their neighbors.
Mr. Jekielek: Isn’t that so troubling?
Ms. Markowicz: It is. Before COVID, I wouldn’t have thought that I would see that in American society, and it is troubling. It’s troubling how quickly and how easily so many people fell into that and did tell on their neighbors and tried to get people fired for the wrong opinion and called people’s jobs. Yes, it’s unbelievable that happened, that it is happening in America, and that people are standing for it. The woke are a very small segment of the population, and yet, they’re able to control so much. They do that through this forced conformity.
Mr. Jekielek: This idea is that freedom is only ever one generation away.
Ms. Markowicz: I always felt so lucky to be here. I obviously still do, but I feel like there’s a really troubling trend happening in American society. You’re right. It isn’t something that we should just dismiss or not worry about. This could all end tomorrow. This is already one of the longest running experiments in democracy and freedom in world history. I think it may be the longest. I don’t think anybody has beat us. It could end tomorrow, and we can’t let that happen.
Mr. Jekielek: It can happen with elections and it has happened all around us. You can look at Venezuela where this really thriving free society voted itself into a totalitarian dictatorship.
Ms. Markowicz: There is that joke, “You can vote yourself into it, but you are going to have to shoot your way out.”
Mr. Jekielek: You and Bethany have this comprehensive picture of wokeism. What is it? You reference all sorts of people who have done excellent work.
Ms. Markowicz: Wokeism is the combination of Leftist ideology with this forced conformity. Old Leftism definitely tried to push its agenda, and did so successfully at the college level. But the new wokeism won’t allow any room for conversation. It’s like Leftists would not be able to argue with Leftists about different perspectives. Wokeism walks a very narrow path.
The joke is that with the new wokeness you might get a women’s studies degree, but you can’t define what a woman is. That’s important. It’s something that the old Leftists would be shocked by. Now, the woke say they are not sure what a woman is, and they are not sure what it means to be a woman. They cannot define it.
The feminists of the sixties and seventies would find that shocking. That’s really the difference between old Leftist ideology and this new wokeism. Also, the discussion of equality versus equity is another great example. The old Left used to be for equality, whereas equity is the buzzword of the woke.
It’s not about equal opportunity, it’s about equal outcomes. Anybody who has ever lived in a communist country can tell you equal outcomes are not a thing. It does not happen. It is impossible. Some people will have different outcomes than others, and that’s just how it goes.
Mr. Jekielek: I noted some themes as I was reading. One of them has to do with the preposterous medical prescriptions for children.
Ms. Markowicz: Yes. What we’re doing to kids medically is a gigantic problem, specifically for boys. We’re way overmedicating them and we’re taking away the natural way that boys behave. Again, I have a girl and two boys, and they are different. They’re not the same. My girl can sit for hours and read, and my boys would destroy half the house if they had to sit for hours and read, and they all come from the same parents.
The overmedication of boys is a big problem. You are seeing this use of medication on kids enter into the gender ideology debates about what is acceptable to do to children, and whether it’s okay to stop their puberty or give them hormone treatments. It’s wild because it has only been recently that we’ve begun to say this is not okay. Hormone treatments for kids had been prevalent for any kid presenting as gender dysphoric for a long time. Now, it’s finally being challenged and challenged fairly well. It’s amazing to me that we’ve let it get this far.
Mr. Jekielek: In Europe, on the gender medicine side of things and Covid medicine side of things, there were many more science-based policies created, but for some reason we didn’t know about them over here.
Ms. Markowicz: We knew about them. We just chose to full on ignore them. It’s crazy to me to give Europe credit for something, but they did so much better than us on Covid. I was just astounded that so many countries in Europe never masked children at all. When the vaccines arrived, they said, “No, kids don’t need this.” Which is what I was saying, and that was considered a really far out thing.
I was actually pro-vaccine. I just thought kids didn’t need it. I don’t know that I would be pro-vaccine if I had to do it over again, but I was then. It was already so obvious to me that the risk of a poor Covid outcome was zero. You can’t reduce it any lower. It’s not like you can make zero less. Yet, Europe figured this out fairly quickly. They’ve also really inoculated themselves from a lot of the wokeness.
They are a very liberal continent. Most of the countries there are fairly liberal, but that’s the whole thing—they’re liberal, they’re not woke. They’re not in the grips of a mania, this ideology that is really manic. They’re not having the same kinds of issues that we are. Their gender dysphoria numbers are nowhere near ours, which just shows that it’s a social contagion, and it’s not something that is happening naturally.
Europe is very accepting of transgender kids in general, and yet they’re having a far lower instance of transgenderism in their children than we are. People on the Left in America should wonder why they used to follow Europe on everything, but now they don’t. Nobody’s allowed to even ask these questions.
Mr. Jekielek: Also, the shift is now accelerating away from this whole gender-affirming care idea where you can’t have anything different from the norm, which is to affirm, affirm, affirm.
Ms. Markowicz: Europe is moving away from that, and Britain for sure is moving away from it, because it didn’t work.
Mr. Jekielek: It caused huge problems and they saw that.
Ms. Markowicz: Yes. It’s causing huge problems here and we’re not doing anything about it.
Mr. Jekielek: The third theme that I noticed is this general idea that parents should be excluded from decisions about their children, and this is actually an okay thing somehow.
Ms. Markowicz: Yes. That should scare parents. We used to believe that if somebody is asking a child to keep a secret from their parents, that person is doing something bad. But we’ve gotten to where that has become acceptable, where parents don’t need to know what the child is doing in school. If the child has decided to become a different gender in school, to go by different pronouns, and to dress up as the opposite gender, that should motivate parents to understand that there’s a bigger issue at play here.
The separation of the family is what happens in these kinds of revolutions. If parents see that somebody is asking their kid to keep a secret from them, they should ask themselves what else is happening? If this is happening, what else is going on out there?
Mr. Jekielek: Is this a cultural revolution?
Ms. Markowicz: Yes.
Mr. Jekielek: It really doesn’t feel like it. We’ve seen them in the Soviet Union, and we’ve seen them in communist China. And yes, it was the young people. Mao’s Red Guard were young people putting the older generation who were not living according to the rules through the ringer.
Ms. Markowicz: It is a cultural revolution happening here, and it’s ve