Can artistic expression thrive under heavy-handed ideology?
That’s the challenge facing artists, writers, and actors in Hollywood and elsewhere who must increasingly toe an extreme, rigid “woke” line to remain employed by culture-making institutions.
Libby Emmons, the editor-in-chief of The Post Millennial—a conservative news website based in Canada—explains how she was canceled in the theater industry for making even mild critiques of transgender ideology.
“Nobody really cared in the downtown theater scene that I was writing for The Federalist because nobody reads The Federalist in downtown indie theater,” the former playwright says. But when she wrote an article in Quillette about transhumanism that included mention of transgender ideology, Emmons received immense blowback.
“They interpreted my article about concerns about transhumanism as saying that transgender people are weird, future robot people. This is a direct quote,” she says.
That article ended her theater career, but Emmons turned to media, and she now runs The Post Millennial, which has grown dramatically since its founding in 2017.
“We’re a center-right media outlet,” Emmons says. “We run stories that we think a lot of Americans want to read about that aren’t being told elsewhere.”
Emmons joins the podcast to talk about being canceled, to offer advice to young artists, and to explain how The Post Millennial has achieved success so quickly.
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript:
Jarrett Stepman: This is Jarrett Stepman from The Daily Signal. I’m here reporting from the National Conservatism Conference in Miami, Florida. And I am happy to be joined by Libby Emmons, who is the editor-in-chief of The Post Millennial. Thank you so much for being on the show today.
Libby Emmons:Thanks, Jarrett. Glad to be here.
Stepman: You’re quite welcome. And Libby has … done a lot of hustle in the last couple years—
Emmons: I’m a hustler.
Stepman: … in what she’s done at The Post Millennial, which has grown, I think, enormously, has become an influential website on the Right. It’s an impressive part of her career, which has taken a drastically different turn since she was essentially in the theater profession, until, I want to say about 2015, 2016—
Emmons: Very recent.
Stepman: Very recently. Which was a big pivot for her because she was one of the early people who got canceled from the theater scene. Libby, can you kind of talk about that? First of all, the article that you wrote that kind of led to this and the turmoil there and—
Emmons:Sure, sure. So, I’d been in theater for most of my life. Starting in high school I’d done theater, my graduate degree is in theater, my undergraduate I studied theater. I started to become concerned about what was going on in the industry and what was going on on the Left substantially, with regard to gender issues and women’s rights and things like that, and had been doing some research into that since about 2013. Maybe a little before that.
The women I was working with were aware of my views. They substantially agreed with them. They didn’t seem to have an issue with it. As time went on, I became more vocal in that space, and specifically with regard to writing articles about it. I had written for The Federalist.
Nobody really cared in the downtown theater scene that I was writing for The Federalist because nobody reads The Federalist in downtown indie theater. They don’t even have any interest.
But then I had written an article for Quillette about transhumanism. I was saying that there are undercurrents to transhumanism in Western culture. [Artificial intelligence]/human integration, such as Neuralink, body hacking, and also transgender ideology. This article became known, and some people … interpreted my article about concerns about transhumanism as saying that transgender people are weird, future robot people. This is a direct quote.
So that became a problem for nonbinary lesbians in the community. The downtown indie theater scene in New York is remarkably small. I’m sure that’s a surprise to no one. It’s a very small community. And there were issues that I had done this. So the women I was working with thought that maybe I should apologize, and we essentially had a major falling out.
After that, the theater company closed. We gave back the grant that we had, or I should say, they gave back the grant that they had. I spent several weeks trying to get them to talk to me again. And then I wrote a new article for Quillette about how writing for Quillette ruined my arts career.
Stepman: That really is amazing.
Emmons: And then I started doing this more. So here I am.
Stepman: It really does show the pathway, especially what’s happened in so many other institutions, where having views that are even just a little bit outside of what is accepted, it makes one rife for cancellation, makes one rife for being fired and losing all connection.
Emmons: And the arts scene was never like that before, the arts scene and the theater scene. Theater is profane, it’s filthy, right down to everyone’s changing together in a big pile. The stage is actually dirty. Nothing is clean in theater. And so to have the theater world come at me like this because I disagreed, when forever everyone disagrees in theater—you express crazy ideas and then everyone’s like, “That’s a crazy idea,” and you run with it or you don’t run with it. You see what happens. But yeah, so … I found it to be surprising.
What happened after that was all of the theater companies that I had been working with, some of them reached out and said, “You’re no longer needed on this project.” Most of them just ignored me when I reached out to them to say, “Are we still doing this project?” And then that was that.
Now, and then for months afterward, someone would reach out and they’d be like, “Hey, are you interested in doing this?” And I would say yes, and then they would remember, and then I would never hear from them again. So it was very weird. It was very weird.
Stepman: That’s amazing. It seems to me, especially to be so stifling in something that one imagines one has to be creative if one is in theater and one is in art, to be so stifling and one-minded, it wouldn’t shock me if it damages and destroys the art.
I think we see this in so many other—we certainly see this in places like Hollywood, but in so many other fields where you can’t have discussions about human nature, humanity, because people are afraid that if they say one thing, that’s considered one mistake in that, their careers are over. There’s no next job. They’re going to be blackballed for life. Doesn’t that destroy even the concept of art?
Emmons: It really does. And it started, I would say, in the educational institutions, largely. I was in grad school during a period of time when the entire art form of theater went from being something about aesthetics, and beauty, and truth telling, and expressing yourself, and all of this stuff, to being about art activism.
So at a certain point, in like, I want to say 2006, 2007, the going idea went from, “Write what you know, write something beautiful, express yourself, express what’s going on around you,” to, “If you’re not doing activism in your art, then you’re not even doing art.” So it essentially and intentionally moved from an aesthetic art form to a propagandist one.
Stepman: Amazing. If you would have any advice for conservatives or those in general, or maybe those who just simply don’t want to uphold the narrative, how does one either, A, break into that art scene, or B, still create art outside of it? What opportunity is there for people who just want to be artists?
Emmons: Well, there’s the opportunities you make for yourself. I think it was a mistake to give so much power to institutions and organizations that would then decide what good art was, and would get the funding, and would hire you. All of that. I think that was a mistake.
Artists at their best are self-taught. They go seek out mentors. You start out by imitating the work that you love. Painters do this, writers do this. You look at it, you say, “Let me give that a try. I’ll see if I can do that,” and then you move on from there.
So my advice to people who want to be artists is to teach yourself to make art, read books about art, go seek out the art that you like, consume that, and don’t try to break into these industries. Don’t try to break into the theater scene. Instead, make a new one.
Get all your friends together, do a show in your parents’ garage, what have you. Sell tickets, hand out lemonade, give away tickets, whatever it is. Ask everyone to come over and watch it. Don’t break in. Start new. Start from scratch and just go for it. Make something beautiful. Build it.
Stepman: It sounds like what you’re saying is a dissident art scene may actually have more art than the official one.
Emmons: Oh, I think it would be great. How wonderful would a dissident art scene be in this country right now? You wouldn’t have to wear masks. You wouldn’t have to show your vaccine cards. And yes, this is still happening in theaters. Because somehow all these artists turned into rule followers and authoritarians.
Yeah, just make your own thing. That’s always got the most life in it anyway. Go make new forms, find life in those forms, and ignore everything else that’s already there.
Stepman: Well, that’s really great advice. And if you could tell us a little bit about your second career, which is now being editor-in-chief for The Post Millennial—
Emmons: The Post Millennial.
Stepman: … and the work you’re doing there. Talk to us a little bit about The Post Millennial and what you guys are doing. You’ve done an amazing job.
Emmons: Yeah. I got to say, I work with some really amazing people. Hannah Nightingale, Roberto Wakerell-Cruz, Mia Ashton are on staff. Jarryd Jaeger. I don’t want to miss anybody, but everybody is really great. Josh Young. Terrific writers, editors, inspiring people. So that’s a huge part of it. That’s really what makes this possible. I also work with Jack Posobiec over at Human Events and Celine Ryan. They’re both over there. They’re doing terrific work.
So, what do we do? Yeah. We’re a center/right media outlet. We run stories that we think a lot of Americans want to read about that aren’t being told elsewhere. We tell stories from different perspectives as well.
We ran an article today at Human Events from a man who de-transitioned after having gone through the full gender rigmarole. And it’s about how the dream of gender utopia was a total lie and he’s now the living proof of that. It was a really beautiful piece. So we do some of that.
But yeah, what do we do? There’s like 75 million Americans who for four years heard their views and their voices expressed from the highest executive office in the country, while they were being told that they were evil, while they were being told that they were anti-American and all of these horrible names.
And then as soon as President [Donald] Trump was out of office, they were just consistently and have been maligned, derided, told that they are garbage, told that their views are bad, told that they’re raising their children improperly. They’re basically being called illiterate yokels on the daily from these outlets. And we think that these people are smart, interesting Americans who deserve a voice, deserve a place to be heard. And these are the readers that we are interested in providing content to.
Stepman: Absolutely. I definitely recommended that to all of our listeners, to check out their website. They do amazing work. Again, Libby Emmons, the editor-in-chief of The Post Millennial. Thank you so much for being on “The Daily Signal Podcast.”
Emmons: Thanks so much, Jarrett.
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