Daily Wire host Michael Knowles opened an appearance on the Timcast IRL podcast wearing a black face-mask reminiscent of the one worn by Kanye West in his now infamous interview with Alex Jones, kicking off a two hour discussion about censorship and the foundational structure of society.
After removing the “$4 Amazon” mask and slamming Balenciaga as “satanic pedos,” discussion shifted over to the controversy surrounding coverage of the alleged assault on Paul Pelosi by David DePape.
Some on the Left argue that extreme right-wing rhetoric radicalized DePape, who reportedly carried a hit list of various politicians and prominent citizens, including California Governor Gavin Newsom, actor Tom Hanks and Hunter Biden, son of President Joe Biden. Others on the podcast, including co-host Luke Rudkowski, questioned the veracity of DePape’s recent court testimony and the investigation by suggesting discrepancies in some initial reporting pointed to some kind of relationship between the two men and a subsequent media coverup.
Knowles pushed back on this, arguing that the various theories flying around are not necessary to understand the situation. “People are trying to construct really sophisticated narratives about what’s going on, but is it not possible — I humbly put forward — that this guy is kind of crazy?”
Knowles also acknowledged that repeated scandals had badly damaged the credibility of the American media and various other cultural and political institutions and had created a fertile breeding ground for conspiracy theories. “In a world where crazy pedo island exists and in a world where — I know we’re on YouTube so I’ll be really, super careful — where every single thing we’ve been told by people in authority over the past two years is totally fake. … in that world, it is more reasonable to assume that Paul and Nancy Pelosi are whipping and torturing this random guy than to believe the CNN version.”
The show then pivoted to the recent Twitter suspensions of some prominent journalists such as Donie O’Sullivan of CNN, Drew Harwell of The Washington Post, and independent journalist Aaron Rupar. Twitter CEO Elon Musk has reportedly cracked down on accounts that broadcast his location and the real time locations of other prominent people after his son was recently allegedly followed by a stalker.
Knowles defended Musk’s decision. “I’m not a free speech absolutist,” he said. “I believe in standards and norms. And you know what I really believe in? Banning these left-wing losers — especially banning that guy who was tracking Elon Musk’s plane.”
Knowles argued when pressed that even the earliest liberal thinkers, such as John Locke, posited some limits to free speech beyond cases of fraud or threat, and argued that every civilization had some kind of taboos. He further argued that the “opening” of society and the relaxation of old norms had not resulted in a society free of norms, but instead created a society where immorality is elevated and virtue penalized.
“We have broad toleration for lots of different things, but there are limits, and they’re pretty severe limits.”
He argued that chivalry was a restrictive speech code of great social value and that issues like child pornography didn’t need to be litigated in the public square as its immorality was firmly established and those who advocate for it need not be entertained.
He also argued that law influences culture in the same way culture influences law, rather than one merely being downstream of the other.
The other hosts, notably Rudkowski, argued against this, pointing out that many of the arguments Knowles was citing were used by the Left to shut down conservatives and conservative ideas as being “dangerous” or “degrading society.”
“Who [gets to] decide who’s degrading society with what ideas?” Rudkowski argued. “Who’s gonna be calling the shots here? Power corrupts. … When it comes to bad ideas, they need to be challenged with good ideas. If there are idiots out there who believe in [child porn], they deserve to be challenged.”
Rudkowski also argued that censorship often creates echo chambers and a sense of victimized vindication. “They double down on that instead of [having] a bunch of people tell them, ‘Hey, this was wrong and not acceptable.’”
Citing the late conservative thought leader William F. Buckley, Knowles said, “I’m an epistemological optimist; I think that certain things are settled and we don’t really need to entertain Nazis or Communists.”
“Your political opponents are doing the same exact thing in Europe,” Rudkowski countered. “They’re using the same arguments you’re using in Europe to arrest people for saying men can’t be lesbians … they’re saying, ‘I know what’s best for society, I know what ideas are good or bad; we have to stop these ideas … if you hurt people with your ideas, we have to stop you, censor you, and throw you in jail.’”
“They’re using the same procedures,” Knowles responded. “The difference is that there’s a difference between ‘good’ and ‘bad.’” Knowles argued that the promotion of the good, the true, and beautiful was just and proper.
“That’s based off your interpretation,” Rudkowski argued, saying that Knowles’ political opponents might find a drag queen to be good and beautiful.
“But they’re wrong,” Knowles shot back.
After a debate over whether morality could be universalized or whether moral standards differed from individual to individual, Timcast host Tim Pool brought the discussion back to its original launching point.
Pool took a middle ground position between Knowles and Rudkowski’s arguments and said that having an established corpus of norms and laws was vital, while saying that law was an “analog” process that would inevitably be filtered through the norms and perspectives of the current times.
“Elon Musk needs to set clearly defined parameters for what he wants, but then we need judges to interpret [that],” Pool said.
The debate then turned to the whether or not the individual or the family should be considered the primary unit of society, with Knowles making the case for the family while Rudkowski argued for the individual.
“The family unit, I think, is one of the most important units, but I think we also have to respect the strongest minority of them all, and that’s the individual,” Rudkowski said.
Knowles argued that individuals emerge from families with both rights and duties, and that those ties and duties were of fundamental importance. He also argued that communism and anarchism or purist libertarianism were fundamentally two sides of the same coin, atomizing the individual — although the former then tried to reconnect them in a collectivized new society. “That’s why I think Karl Marx, if he were alive today, would be in the Tea Party.”
All members of the panel came to the consensus that political power was presently too centralized and that more localized control and subsidiary structure would be preferable, albeit for different reasons.