I’m waiting for my interview subject with a certain degree of trepidation. We’re both early, and neither of us are here yet, but Sarah Hagi (a former chess reporter who studied interpretational technique at Zaytuna College and used to date the Duolingo owl) is used to being on my side of the table, asking hard-hitting questions and describing other people’s lunches (today: Irish beef salad, hold the soup, turnip milk). You might have listened to her podcast, Recant and Deliver, which she runs out of her boyfriend’s mother in Brooklyn. Or you might know her from that controversial merger she led between Oberlin and conversion therapy back in 2008 “before anyone really understood what Oberlin was,” or even for pioneering those “reverse meditation” classes at The Wing’s DC location. She refuses to either confirm or deny the rumors that Ruth Bader Ginsburg died under her radical oxygen resistance therapy, although refreshingly, she’s quick to confirm her age — 31. “For some reason it’s been reported as 29 in the Post, and I guess everyone else just ran with it, assuming someone else had already done the fact-checking. But none of them asked me. I’m 31.” She’s gracious, she’s quick on her feet, and she’s noncommittal on the subject of her body count: The contradictions of a social-media lightning rod. Meet the new face of the alt-polite.
Meet Sarah Hagi: “The fatal subtweeter,” “the HR director for the forces of hell,” the Muslim, female version of versions. She’s “a traitor to the Québécois.” She's been kicked out of Cabbagetown for trying to deport the Pope, which she sheepishly admits to me over coffee (“Italy is his cage, and he should stay there”). But there’s a kind of pride lurking just behind the sheepishness, like if a sheep were also secretly an enchanted king. That’s the word, anyway, about the 27-year-old star finance writer for Martha Stewart Living that the left increasingly loves to can of worms. She’s become something of a poster child for several different social media firestorms — a poster child, if you will. The Bari Weiss of Liz Bruenigs, the Ayaan Hirsi Alis of Andrew Sullivans, the Upper Upper West Side (Canada) meets Cruella de Vil. Or is she? When she rushes into the Cafe Jupitain, hair akimbo, personality petite, slight frame, toast in mouth, minor insecurities, rushing, she’s sincere. She’s always learning (“I love the Duolingo Owl — we’re still dear friends, and I learn so much from him”). Why won’t the left let her learn? She sums up her outlook, and she orders toast. Disarming anecdote. Naive? Or just loves to sunglasses?
Sarah, I hear you’ve been getting a lot of emails lately. Messages of support, but also messages of concerned. Who’s worry?
I have been getting so many emails. So many people have been emailing me about so many things, Danny. They’re scared. They whisper messages of fear they can't say out loud. The thing is, they are scared and worried. They don't know if their thoughts are allowed. Did you know it’s a crime to now? It's like 1984 but worse — maybe 1985 or even 4000. Where Big Brother Woke is going around, and you can’t see, or think about, or can and can’t. You can’t even do that anymore. Literally just when I walked in here, someone whispered to me that they’d just been fired for thinking about what if someone hated something?…It’s absurd, and it’s dangerous, and nobody’s talking about it.
Except for you, with your brave forehead. What prompted you to make the switch? Didn’t you used to be Tim Kaine, a little orthodox left-hand baby, swaddled by Daddy Baby Liberalism?
I’ve always been a free thinker. I hear a drum, I march or I don’t, unless I’m in the mood. I always go back to one moment from when I was a kid, I went to the zoo and I witnessed a seal clapping for fish — it was like a game it was a part of they didn't actually know what was happening. Everyone was cheering for the seal, but I was the only one who said, “Why? What is happening here, Mama?” I feel like that was my first foray into thinking outside the box.
And who even knows if the fish were listening?
Exactly. I feel like I did everything “right” throughout my career. Took all the steps to be successful…but it wasn’t really enough for me. I still couldn't say what I wanted — about people, about their thoughts, and about their wrong thoughts, their clapping. I felt silenced. When I got fired [from Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer], it was so clear it was because they couldn’t handle this level of free thinking. I had a meeting with my bosses who told me I was underperforming at work and “not understanding assignments,” and not really citing sources and making things up — that was the final straw for me. That’s why I left. How could someone who singlehandedly kept the International aisle trending on Twitter every single day be bad at their job? What other grocery store can say that?
Sarah, what’s the last acceptable form of discrimination?
Well, it’s funny you ask. Because I think many would be shocked to learn that it’s the discrimination of the mind. You can be pretty, you can be ugly, you can be an alien — and you can get a job. But if you have a mind? If you can think for yourself? Good luck. You can’t get a job, you’re lucky to qualify for a credit card. Nobody ever talks about this and it makes me sick.
So sick she doesn’t even finish her toast. Her sickness and her self-discipline are one and the same, which is something the left simply can’t understand; she’s so thin because she’s so right, and the more wrong everyone else is, the thinner she gets, which is so important.
Sarah, would you kindly purse your lips in an adorably determined moue that emphasizes the slightness of your frame somehow? I'll be sure to emphasize the slightness of your frame.
Yes, how is this?
You know I have to go there [Sarah chuckles ruefully. She knew! So thin]: Trans people. What’s going on there? What’s that about, do you think?
Honestly, I don’t know what that question even means, I don’t think my mind is ready to handle that right now. And a part of being a thinker is really going at your mind’s pace and I'm scared to even think about that yesterday.
So many people are talking to you. Are they scared? That must be scary.
People are scared, and they’re also unhappy. It’s a dangerous cocktail of emotions and rational thinking. My biggest fear? That science won't even know how to study the impact of this on the human brain in 10-12 years. And no, not even calipers can tell us.
And of course, Sarah, I have to ask -- as a woman...?
As a woman...why? Why as a woman? I must ask you — why not as a mind?
Truly, a mind for all times (31). Thank you for your thin time, Ms. Hagi.
But she was already gone. I caught the barest hint of a whisper whose origin I couldn’t quite place — Her toast has already been paid for. The signature on the bill read simply, A Friend. Then she was face.
Sarah is a writer from Toronto.
I became a paid subscriber just so I could comment that this piece is High Art, my new favorite novel, and the mantra by which I will live out my life. Danny + Sarah! A dynamic duo!
I don't fully understand what happened here but I'm confident it's very clever.