[FULL TRANSCRIPT BELOW]“The nations that had staged successful Marxist revolutions didn't do it on purely economic grounds, but first had attacked the civil institutions, which is just another word for the cultural institutions of the working class.”
In this episode, I sit down with Liz Wheeler, host of The Liz Wheeler Show and author of the new book “Hide Your Children: Exposing the Marxists Behind the Attack on America’s Kids.”
“We've forgotten to protect children's innocence, and that's a key part of the Marxist strategy to destroy our country, is to subvert the innocence of our sons and daughters,” says Ms. Wheeler. “Social Emotional Learning is one of the most interesting parts of how the Marxist ideology is reaching everyone's children.”
What are the key ways in which the far-left takes power, and how have they been successful in re-engineering society? Why might the concept of “neutrality” actually be a trap?
“We’ve fallen for this idea that we shouldn't insert any kind of values or moral order into our society, that we shouldn't use government—[the] just authority of government—to help create this moral order. And because of that, we've withdrawn our values from a lot of these institutions that have been captured,” says Ms. Wheeler. “The Republican Party has embraced libertarianism as conservatism, but it’s not.”
Jan Jekielek: Liz Wheeler, such a pleasure to have you on American Thought Leaders.
Liz Wheeler: Thank you for having me. It's my pleasure.
Mr. Jekielek: I've really enjoyed reading your book, again, very provocatively titled. You're talking about Marxists coming after kids. What is the reality of this situation? What is the meaning of this title?
Ms. Wheeler: The title of the book is, Hide Your Children: Exposing the Marxists Behind the Attack on America’s Kids. People usually say," Liz, really, Marxists? Isn't that just an empty ad hominem that's hurled on cable news? Isn't that just the insult that people use and no one really understands what it means? "
Like many other parents during Covid, whether Democrat, Republican, conservative, or liberal, we caught a glimpse of what our children were learning in school just by peeking over their shoulders during Zoom classes. We saw that they were being brainwashed with critical race theory and transgender ideology, in addition to the good old-fashioned moral relativism theory that says your truth or my truth is more important than the actual truth. I thought to myself at the time, "It seems like this is a concerted series of attacks on our children."
Why is this happening all at once? It turns out the question is less why and more, “Who is behind this?” I realized that this is not particularly new. This is not something that just started happening during Covid. For nearly a century, the Left has been attempting to re-engineer our society. Unfortunately, they have been pretty successful at it.
They've captured four out of the five major foundational, cultural institutions. They've captured the media. They've captured the education system. They've largely captured religious institutions. They've just about captured the judicial system. They've set their sights on the nuclear family, and they have almost destroyed that as well.
You could argue that there's one element of the nuclear family left standing; children. That explains why the Left is going after these children. In my book I name the people and the organizations behind the capture of these institutions and behind the attacks on our children. The people behind these attacks are self-avowed Marxists or have embraced an obvious Marxist ideology.
In the first half of the book, I unpack the reality of what we are facing. I often say that we as conservatives and Republicans refuse to acknowledge the reality of the political enemy that we face. Even if it sounds hyperbolic when you say Marxist, if we refuse to acknowledge who these people are and what ideology they espouse, then we won't fight effectively against them. Therefore, we won't win.
In the second half of the book I offer a solution, and I will admit to you it's different from what the Republican Party offers. I offer a solution for how we can reclaim both our institutions and protect our children for the sake of their individual souls. If we surrender our children to the Left, our nation is done.
Mr. Jekielek: Our viewing audience has grown to be many different people under one umbrella, and there are a lot of Republicans. We know that. Then, there's a lot of people that call themselves politically homeless, and a lot of independents. Why the focus on Republicans?
Ms. Wheeler: That's a great question. I can best describe this by saying that I first identify not as Republican, but as conservative. As conservatives, or as politically homeless, you can just call us common sense people. You can call us independent thinkers. You can call us freedom-loving Americans. There's many ways to describe what we are apart from any party affiliation.
But the way that our political system works is that you join one party or the other, whichever party you share the most values with, so that you can work towards a concerted goal. Even if you only agree with seven out of ten principles of the Republican Party, it's better than agreeing with zero out of ten of the Democrats. The reason I'm critiquing the Republican Party is because of these attacks by Marxists, the capture of our institutions, and the fact that there are now targets on the backs of our children coming from the Left.
It's coming from far-Leftists. It's being embraced by the Democratic Party. Democratic politicians espouse this. We would expect that the Republican Party would push back on this. You would hope that they would be fighting effectively to advance conservatism in our nation vs. allowing this Marxism to seep into our culture and into our law.
But they haven't. They most certainly haven't fought back with any effectiveness against it. One of the main goals of my book is to challenge Americans, regardless of your political affiliation. If you're sick of your children being attacked and if you recognize the chaotic reality that we are living in right now where reality itself is under attack, then we have to ask ourselves, "Who is our most effective fighting partner?” If that effective fighting partner is the Republican Party, since the Democrats have embraced what I would describe as evil, we have to be part of holding the Republican Party accountable for how they are fighting this battle.
Mr. Jekielek: Please give me an overview of what you see happening.
Ms. Wheeler: One of the debates that we've seen in this country over the course of the past six months, not even going back as far as two or three years, but in the past six months, there's been this debate over what does the word woke mean? Can you define the word woke? This has been asked of a lot of thought leaders in the conservative movement in the Republican Party, since we've embraced being the anti-woke party.
A lot of people can't define what the word woke means. They recognize it when they see it. They know that white children are being told that they're racist just because they're white. That's wokeness. If a little girl says, "If you identify as a boy, then you can be a boy.” They identify that as wokeness, but they can't truly define what it is.
In my book I trace wokeness back to its origin. Where did it come from? What is it? How can we fight back against it if we don't understand what it is? I found out that it's the brainchild of a Brazilian Marxist named Paulo Freire.
Paulo Freire had banana views. He was a self-avowed Marxist. He did not believe in objective reality or objective truth. Therefore, when he looked at schools and the education system, he didn't believe that children were being taught knowledge, because he didn't believe that knowledge was a thing.
He said, "Every bit of knowledge is just the prevailing political narrative. It is not because it's right. It's not because it's true. It's just because it has emerged victorious in this competition of political narratives.” He argued that children shouldn't be taught the prevailing political narrative, and that instead, children should be taught to view the world through critical consciousness.
Critical consciousness is essentially viewing the world through the lens of Marxism where everything and everybody is either oppressed or an oppressor. It's the classic Marxist dialectic. This critical consciousness that views the world through a Marxist lens is exactly what wokeness is. It is simply a rebranding or a redefinition of a word, a favorite Marxist tactic. It is a euphemism for this Marxist lens that is now being indoctrinated into our children in school.
When we understand that, and when we see that, it's hard to unsee it. Put that in a box for a second and think about, "What is Marxism?" A lot of people understand Marxism as economic Marxism. You think of Karl Marx and his Communist Manifesto. The simplest explanation is class warfare with the goal of communism, with the working class revolting against the ruling class in order to have collective ownership of everything, with no private ownership of anything.
Honestly, that didn't work out well. It didn't spark a global revolution the way that Marx and Engels thought it would, and therefore it died out. It was relegated to the crazies and the kooks and the universities. It wasn't put into practice until Antonio Gramsci revived it and brought it back to life in the 20th century. He recognized that the nations that had staged successful Marxist revolutions didn't do it on purely economic grounds, but had first attacked the civil institutions, which is just another word for the cultural institutions of the working class.
Gramsci proposed that in order for a nation to be transformed from a free democratic nation into a Marxist or communist nation, before that revolution could happen, you would have to destroy the cultural institutions on which the working class rely. Those cultural institutions that he named are the very same ones that we see modern American Marxists attacking in our society right now. The end goal of communism is the complete deprivation of basic human rights. It results in oppression, tyranny, and death. It de-persons individuals in the countries in which communist dictators prevail. That is evil.
Mr. Jekielek: It emphasizes group identity. That's one commonality of all of these Marxist derivatives, which you describe as wokeness. I've had numerous guests on the show that are looking at this through different viewpoints as we try to understand it. Let’s talk about the nuclear family for a moment. You said the children are one part of the nuclear family that might not be compromised. What do you mean by that exactly?
Ms. Wheeler: If you look at the traditional nuclear family, it has five elements; man, woman, marriage, sex, and children. Throughout human history, that's been the understanding of a nuclear family. In our country for the past 150 years, there has been a concerted effort to destroy the family. Feminism and radical feminism has told women that they're worthless and that they should copy men. That has really destroyed parts of the nuclear family.
It is the same with the attacks on men. That might be one of the most prevalent parts of our culture right now, this cultural attack on masculinity. It is telling men that testosterone is a toxin and that they're essentially rapists if they're not feminized out of it. They are told that their desire to protect and provide for their families and their wives is somehow wrong and marginalizes their wives. This has culminated in the MeToo movement where there has been a legal and social effort to deprive men of due process, and of the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.
It's the same with marriage. We have legalized gay marriage in our country right now, and this is a topic a lot of Republicans and conservatives are uncomfortable talking about. You can even set aside homosexuality for a moment, or the idea that two people can do whatever they want in their own homes.
Just set that aside for a minute. The danger of allowing gay marriage to be legal lies in the ability of government officials to redefine words, because whoever has the power to redefine words becomes the arbiter of truth. Being the arbiter of truth is really just a nice way of describing authoritarianism.
We surrendered marriage to justices on the Supreme Court, who redefined a word that simply cannot be redefined. The institution of marriage existed long before we did, long before our country did, and we surrendered a key part of our freedom.
We also have the sexual revolution that tries to twist and pervert sex which has all these different elements. It's a heavy thing to go through all of these assaults. All of these aspects of the nuclear family have at one point or another been the target of Marxists, not just Leftists and Democrats, but of Marxists.
The last remaining element is children. The Left needs to compromise children because they understand that in a simple debate, Marxism is not going to win over capitalism. If there was an honest one-to-one stating what communism has to offer and what capitalism has to offer, communism is never going to win.
They have to separate children from their parents. They have to distort children's minds. They have to pervert reality by redefining words in order to compromise these children, so that these children, before they are fully intellectually, psychologically and spiritually formed, can be indoctrinated into being permanent neo-Marxist revolutionaries for the Marxist cause.
Mr. Jekielek: One of your chapters focuses on social emotional learning, and I have heard it described as a Trojan horse. Please tell me about that.
Ms. Wheeler: Social emotional learning is one of the most interesting ways Marxist ideology is reaching everyone's children. I had an interesting conversation with my husband right after our two-and-a-half-year-old daughter was born. I asked, “How are we going to educate her? Are we going to send her to private school, public school, or homeschool?”
Every new parent thinks about this. I am a proponent of homeschooling. I was homeschooled myself, and I think it's great. My husband went to public school. He said, "That woke stuff isn't in the public school in our neighborhood. She'll be fine there. You can just walk down and talk to the teacher." This conversation stuck with me because it has been a very common thing for parents to think, “Yes, the wokeness is out there." It might be in California or New York, but it's not in our neighborhood. It's not in my child's classroom.”
Slowly, the eyes of parents across the country have been opened to realize that this is touching their children. Even in the public school that you went to when you were a kid, in that classroom with the same teacher that's been there for 10 years, it's in there. The reason this wokeness is so pervasive is through things like social emotional learning.
What is social emotional learning? It sounds fine. The words are innocuous. They don't have any negative connotations, and it's not subject matter. It's not like history and science. It's disguised as values education, which again, sounds fine.
We want our children to be taught values. We want them to be taught right from wrong. But the question that parents should ask is what are these values? If this is education about values, what are the values?
Each aspect of this Marxist worldview is being packaged with every other subject. You no longer have math, you have math with social emotional learning. You no longer have science, you have science with social emotional learning. You no longer even have gym class. You have gym class with social emotional learning.
This type of values education is about critical consciousness. It's Paulo Freire's critical consciousness, this lens through which they are trying to teach children a Marxist worldview on everything from math problems, to family interactions, to how you behave towards other people.
Mr. Jekielek: Let’s talk about Paulo Freire, because only recently have I realized how influential he was. He's the most cited academic on education in the American system by quite a margin. This has been baked into the education of every teacher in every teacher's college in the country. How did that happen?
Ms. Wheeler: Once Paulo Freire said something that I laughingly confessed that I agreed with. He said, "There's no such thing as a neutral education." When you first hear that, you think, "Indoctrination, that's bad." The more that I thought about that, I realized that he was right. There is no such thing as neutrality.
Neutrality is an idea that Republicans have fallen for. We've fallen for this idea that we shouldn't insert any kind of values or moral order into our society. We shouldn't use the authority of government to help create this moral order. Because of that, we've withdrawn our values from a lot of these institutions that have been captured. Since there's really no such thing as neutrality, the Democrats have simply stepped into that void that we left for them and have hijacked that institution for their own purpose.
Public education in our country was not mandatory until it became mandatory in 1852 in the state of Massachusetts. A lot of people think, “That's not that long ago." The reason that public education became mandatory in Massachusetts was because at the time, there were a lot of immigrants coming to America.
There were a lot of immigrants who were Catholics coming to America. The Protestant politicians at the time wanted to make sure that the children who had been born in other countries knew that America was their homeland. They were given an American civics education, because they would be the next generation of Americans. The politicians at the time wanted children to be loyal to America. They were going to be American first, as opposed to being loyal to their homeland.
They made public education mandatory so that they could indoctrinate children in American values and also in Protestant values. The politicians at the time were Protestants, and they were anti-Catholic. As a Catholic, I laugh about this now, but this reminds us that the idea of indoctrination is actually morally neutral.
Concerning indoctrination we think, "The Left is indoctrinating our children." That is wrong, not because they are indoctrinating our children, but because of what they're indoctrinating our children with. The morality of indoctrination is completely determined by what is being taught.
Public education was created to be an indoctrination system. People on the Right understood that at the time. But then, we surrendered that institution that we had built for indoctrination to someone else. We surrendered it to the Left in this false name of neutrality and in this false idea of the separation of church and state, a misunderstood topic.
Mr. Jekielek: I've heard people say, “Yes, there is indoctrination. On the other hand, there is teaching of critical thinking.” Indoctrination is when you teach someone the specific correct way to view certain things, as opposed to teaching the tools to be able to figure things out. Are you saying indoctrination is the passing on of a particular moral position?
Ms. Wheeler: I've used the term critical thinking my entire life because when I was homeschooled, I always felt that one of the things that set my education apart from my public school counterparts was that I was able to critically think about things, whereas some of them were not. In the course of writing this book, I realized that I should not have been using that phrase, because critical thinking is a Paulo Freirean phrase.
It is describing thinking only through critical theory. It is not the way that you and I would ask, "Are we analyzing this correctly?" When we say critical thinking, we're talking about independent thinking. We're talking about the ability to decipher a problem and not be affected by groupthink.
Critical thinking is a misleading term that seeped into our culture that's actually quite wrong. I challenge my fellow Americans, especially parents and conservatives and Republicans to understand the idea that I'm discussing right now is not new. Let me tell you this anecdote, and it caused me to change my mind. Back in 2016, I spoke at CPAC [Conservative Political Action Conference].
After I spoke, I was in the lobby and an independent journalist came up to me and asked, "What do you believe the role of government is in America? How would you define liberty?" This was a very philosophical question, and I gave a very libertarian response.
I said, "The role is to protect life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Otherwise, it’s to stay out of our business unless someone's inalienable rights are violated. Government should really stay out of our business." Then this independent journalist says, "Do you believe in the legalization of drugs?"
I was caught off guard. I said, "What kind of drugs are you talking about? Like hard drugs?" It turns out that, yes, he was. He was talking about meth. He was talking about heroin. He was talking about fentanyl. He was talking about cocaine. I said, "No. I don't think we should legalize those drugs. That would be self-destructive, and that would lead to a chaotic society."
He responds by saying, "Isn't that a contradiction of your definition of liberty?" I realized that it was a contradiction. It turns out he wasn't a journalist. He was a cannabis legalization activist, which is neither here nor there for the purpose of this story. But that stuck with me, because in a sense, he was right. This idea that freedom is the ultimate end, or that the definition of liberty is as close to absolute liberty as we can possibly achieve is the wrong definition of liberty.
I challenge people to grapple with this. It's a mind-bending question, but to grapple with this question of whether freedom is the ultimate end or whether it is the means to something greater. Grown men dressed as sexualized versions of female strippers and gyrating in front of children, we all know in our guts that is grotesque. It's immoral. It's awful. It's evil.
If freedom is the ultimate end in and of itself, then there would have to be some inherent morality to that. But there's not, which led me to this evolution of how I think about liberty. It must then mean that freedom, if it's not the ultimate end, is the means to something greater. What is that something that is greater? It turns out that the framers of our constitution actually grappled with the same question. This is not something that I invented.
This is not a unique problem that I've thought about. James Madison, author of our Constitution, in the Federalist No. 51, defines the word liberty. He defines freedom as the means to something greater, which is justice. I have read this Federalist No. 51 dozens of times.
Suddenly, as I'm writing this book and researching, I'm understanding it in a completely different way, because I recognized what James Madison was saying. When he said justice, I thought, "This is the debate between the John Lockean view of liberty, and the Edmund Burkean view of liberty.
Edmund Burke was hugely influential on James Madison. Edmund Burke proposed the definition of justice. We would then say, "Great. The definition of liberty is justice." Then what is justice? The definition of justice mirrors Original Justice; capital O, capital J.
He's talking about natural law. I realized that freedom as the tool to achieve moral order in our nation cannot be fully understood until we as a society know that objective truth exists. The definition of words like man, woman, marriage, moral, immoral, right and wrong, truth, liberty, and justice, all of these definitions are up for grabs in our country. But the definition of these words exist in the Judeo-Christian morals on which our Constitution was founded.
The response that I often get to this point is, "Are you talking about forcing a Christian nation on Americans? Are you talking about a theocracy? Are you talking about religion?" My answer to that is, "No, I'm not talking about a theocracy. But yes, I am talking about religion." But you don't have to be a practicing Christian.
You don't have to worship Jesus Christ in order to acknowledge that when our Founders created the structure of government that was to guide and form our society, they did so by acknowledging the definitions of these words, and the definitions of those words were rooted in those biblical principles and Judeo-Christian values. My challenge to conservatives is that we must re-embrace the idea of natural law and these objective truths if we are to reclaim our society from this chaos.
Mr. Jekielek: In San Francisco and Los Angeles, there are open air drug markets. That's one way to describe the scene. There is a radical libertarianism that is promoted where they say, "This person is addicted to this drug, but we can't impose ourselves on them and prevent them from taking it." For some reason, that would be imposing on their rights, but it's perfectly fine for them to kill themselves with the drug. It's very strange. Our priorities have become inverted, or we have lost that guiding principle that you're outlining here.
Ms. Wheeler: Yes. This problem that I am discussing isn't just relegated to legislatures and statutes and the boring stuff. This is evident in our culture. It's evident in the back and forth that I've been having with Andrew Tate for the past few weeks. Andrew Tate obviously is this masculine bro-influencer. He was the most Googled man in the world a year ago. He tells young men that they are under attack by our society. He accurately diagnoses this cultural ill where our society vilifies men.
Then he prescribes an antidote for materialism and pornography and exploitation of women and worship of self. He gives this very self-destructive prescription for a problem that he accurately diagnoses. This is perfectly emblematic of what has happened in our political cultural environment. It's fairly easy to look at something that's wrong and identify it as wrong, but it's not so easy to define what is right.
It's easy to point out what's wrong, but it's not easy to define what's right. What has happened culturally and politically is exactly what has happened with Andrew Tate. To his credit, he is courageous enough to point out a bad thing that is happening in culture, even when that is unpopular to point out. It resonates with a lot of people who are being victimized by this assault on their masculinity.
Because we as a culture, a political body, and a nation have surrendered the idea that objective truth exists and that natural law must reign if we want society to be well-ordered, we fall prey to a false diagnosis. We actually fall prey to a self-destructive diagnosis as a solution to the problem, even if the problem was correctly identified.
This has happened in politics too. It's actually libertarianism because libertarianism doesn't want to define what's right. They want it to be a morally relativistic individual truth. They want everyone to have the license to make those decisions about morality themselves, even when it impacts the larger society. That is not conservatism.
The Republican Party has embraced libertarianism as conservatism, but it's not. In fact, the framers of our constitution rejected libertarianism because that's essentially what the Articles of Confederation were. The articles of Confederation were a libertarian document, and it didn't work. It created chaos for the first years of our country.
The constitutional convention was convened, and they came up with a document that was not libertarian. It was a document that understood the necessity of a moral order in society and gave the government the just authority to recognize objective reality and to recognize natural law. When I say it's not a new idea, it's not even a new practice.
We have laws in our nation right now where children are not allowed to even walk across the floor of a casino. Why is that? It's not because they're going to be physically harmed walking across the floor of a casino and walking by slot machines. It's because we as a society acknowledge that it is immoral. It's morally harmful for a child, not physically harmful.
That's just one example of many. We have laws that govern morality, even if it doesn't dictate religious practice. The Left would like us to believe that those two things are the same thing, but those two things are not the same thing. The people at home put their trust in our elected officials who willingly surrendered the definition of words.
It's incredibly unpopular among Republicans to talk about gay marriage, but gay marriage was the beginning of the redefinition of words that Republicans allowed. There was no limiting principle on it at the time, and we're seeing the repercussions of that today. It's an incredibly important battle that Republicans simply surrendered.
They said, "I don't care what you do in your own home. I don't want to define for someone what happiness might mean. Who am I to boss someone around separation of church and state." They willingly surrendered this definition, not realizing the power that it would give to the other side, and we're suffering from it today.
Mr. Jekielek: Weren’t they thinking about any of these implications at the time?
Ms. Wheeler: The people at the time who spoke out against the efforts to legalize gay marriage warning about the repercussions were accused of engaging in slippery slope fallacies. They were called Bible thumpers. They were castigated as the religious Right, a label that a lot of conservatives didn't want to be associated with. And so, they backed off.
But we're such a prosperous society. We have enjoyed such immense freedom and wealth and opportunity. It’s such an amazing life that we have in the United States of America. We forget that there are people who want to take it away from us and who have the ability to take it away from us. If we don't constantly fight back against it, not just defensively holding it at bay, but if we don't hold down the fort, then someone else is going to occupy it.
Mr. Jekielek: You're bringing up politics. People call it the politics of personal destruction. Another way to talk about it is the heckler's veto.
Ms. Wheeler: Yes.
Mr. Jekielek: This has been such an incredibly powerful tool of the authoritarian Left.
Ms. Wheeler: It is, yes. The heckler's veto is, "I'm going to intimidate you into silence. Even if the law doesn't require it, I'm going to socially coerce you into compliance." We've seen this everywhere on college campuses. When I went to speak at James Madison University this past April, there were a thousand radical trans activists. My speech was literally titled, “The Ideology of Transgenderism.”
I was asking, “Where did this idea of the gender spectrum come from? Where did the idea that if you identify as a woman, you can be a woman come from?” The answer to that is queer theory. It's a critical theory that began in the Frankfurt School, and I was talking about its intellectual roots. The debate team so objected to hearing a discussion on this that they condemned my appearance at this school.
I'm pretty used to being protested, because I've been in this work for a long time. I understand it, and I understand how to respond. But they were hoping to intimidate me away from being able to speak. They were hoping that threa