Air Date 9/29/2021
[00:00:00] JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: During today's episode, I'm going to be telling you about a podcast I think you should check out, it's called Unf*cking the Republic, so keep an ear out mid-show when I tell you all about it.
And now, welcome to this episode of the award winning Best of the Left Podcast, in which we shall take a look at the so-called crisis on the border involving Haitians attempting to cross into the United States.
Some say it's a crisis the US is dealing with, others say it's inappropriate to call human beings a crisis--fair point. We humbly suggest that these human beings, not the US, are experiencing a crisis, which seems worthwhile to point out, and it's the US which is actually exacerbating that crisis.
And then you've got Biden who's following Trump's policies, creating a political crisis for himself, but in the scales of justice, all things being considered, that doesn't weigh too heavily.
Clips today are from Consider This, The Majority Report, In The Thick, Al Jazeera English, What Next, On the Media, and The United States of Anxiety.
Border Crisis: Thousands Of Haitians Flown to Haiti Against Their Will - Consider This - Air Date 9-23-21
[00:01:02] ARI SHAPIRO - HOST, CONSIDER THIS: The U.S. special envoy to Haiti, Daniel Foote, resigned from his position on Thursday. In a letter, he said he will not, quote, "be associated with the United States' inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees."
[00:01:17] AUDIE CORNISH: A fleet of state vehicles being used to try to stop those migrants from crossing into Texas.
[00:01:23] ARI SHAPIRO - HOST, CONSIDER THIS: In Texas, state troopers have formed a miles-long steel wall of patrol cars along the border to discourage people from crossing.
[00:01:31] KENNETH MOTON: Right now, a lot of manpower is here to try to get control of this border.
[00:01:35] ARI SHAPIRO - HOST, CONSIDER THIS: And earlier this week, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas had this to say to the Haitian migrants:
[00:01:40] ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS: If you come to the United States illegally, you will be returned.
[00:01:45] ARI SHAPIRO - HOST, CONSIDER THIS: Mayorkas spoke in the afternoon sun, just outside the border in Del Rio.
[00:01:49] ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS: Your journey will not succeed, and you will be endangering your life and your family's lives.
[00:01:55] ARI SHAPIRO - HOST, CONSIDER THIS: These policies were already facing pushback, and then shocking images from the border started to spread on social media.
[00:02:02] UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Images of Border Patrol on horseback are causing controversy. Video shows border agents using a whipping motion to push back migrants at the river. The local press...
[00:02:11] AUDIE CORNISH: What we actually saw was them using long reins on their horses and flicking them towards people.
[00:02:19] ARI SHAPIRO - HOST, CONSIDER THIS: John Holman is a reporter with Al-Jazeera who is based in Mexico, and he witnessed the scene firsthand.
[00:02:24] JOHN HOLMAN: So it's really tense scenes there on the river. That was when the men were trying to get back across with food and water for their families.
[00:02:34] ARI SHAPIRO - HOST, CONSIDER THIS: They had crossed back over to Mexico in search of groceries and were confronted on their way back to the U.S. side. The Department of Homeland Security has said it will investigate the situation.
[00:02:44] JOHN HOLMAN: After that happened, that sort of flashpoint, that tension, then the Border Patrol agents - there were a lot of photographers and a lot of cameras there, and they may have suddenly become aware of that - let people pass through. And we didn't - we haven't seen any flashpoints of that nature at that point since then.
[00:03:00] ARI SHAPIRO - HOST, CONSIDER THIS: Holman spoke with NPR's Audie Cornish this week, along with Jacqueline Charles of the Miami-Herald, who has also been on the ground in Del Rio.
[00:03:08] AUDIE CORNISH: Jacqueline, what do we know about how so many Haitians ended up arriving at the border so quickly? I mean, did they essentially get through Mexico somehow undetected?
[00:03:18] JACQUELINE CHARLES: Honestly, I don't think that it was quickly. First of all, we have to remember that a lot of these, if not the majority of these people, are individuals who were in other countries in Latin America. They were living in Chile, they were living in Brazil, where the situation turned. They were having a hard time making a living.
And what they have told me when I spoke to them is a lot of them came to Mexico with the hope of being able to live in Mexico. But they've had a very difficult time getting work permits, finding jobs, even finding a place to live. And so this is a community that, you know, operates through word of mouth. So people started saying, hey, Ciudad Acuna is open. This port is open.
[00:04:03] AUDIE CORNISH: John, it's been reported that Mexican authorities are bussing people away from the border. So what does that mean for the community of people that have gathered here?
[00:04:11] JOHN HOLMAN: Yeah. What's official is the governor of Coahuila has said that a flight's actually left with people back to Tapachula. That's in deep south Mexico, right on the border with Guatemala. And he's basically saying, if you want to be in our country, you got to process your papers there. And he's also said that he's in talks with U.S. authorities.
So there's obviously coordination going on here between Mexico and the U.S. And that's something that's been happening for some time. Mexico has been stopping in Tapachula, on that southern border, people getting out and getting through. My colleague was actually there just last week, and he said there's a lot - thousands of people, a lot of them from Haiti also, they're in Tapachula at the moment. And Mexican authorities have sort of got that city circled off in the south to try and prevent them getting further up.
[00:04:56] JACQUELINE CHARLES: Can I just say that Tapachula was brought up - everyone I spoke to, every migrant, they raised the issue of Tapachula and that - the difficulties that they face in Tapachula, which led them to Ciudad Acuna. That is how all of these Haitians have ended up there, because of what's been happening in Tapachula on top of the difficulties of being able to get legal documents in Mexico.
[00:05:18] AUDIE CORNISH: So, Jacqueline, when it comes to the Biden administration's response here, trying to send some sort of message not to cross the border, what is getting through?
[00:05:28] JACQUELINE CHARLES: Right now, it's not necessarily getting through. People are still treating it as rumors, that they hear that the U.S. is deporting people. I think as the days go on, this message will start to really trickle down. What I found in Mexico was that people had heard it, and so they were contemplating whether or not to take the risk.
But as videos are starting to circulate out of Haiti and people are starting to hear interviews of returning migrants, it is starting to maybe get to Mexico. But we know that there are still people - migrants - who are trying to make it across.
[00:06:01] AUDIE CORNISH: Of the Haitians who have been flown home, are they returning with the message? What has that return been like? Because I don't know how a country like Haiti - that is going through, you know, the political turmoil, the natural disaster, the aftermath of that - can, like, absorb people being returned.
[00:06:19] JACQUELINE CHARLES: The returnees are angry. On the one hand, they are insisting that the border was open. They don't understand, you know, why they were detained. They are complaining about the conditions in detention. They are blaming the Haitian government for quote-unquote, "signing deportation papers."
To me, there's a lack of understanding that they crossed illegally, irregularly into the United States. They really are under the impression that what they did was sanctioned. So right there, you see the shortcoming in terms of what the Biden administration is trying to do.
At the same time, we do see what Secretary Mayorkas is saying in terms of the misinformation. A number of people have said that they ended up there because people said, hey, if I had a child in Chile, I can get TPS in the United States. Or somebody says, Blinken said to come. Where people are getting this information, it's unclear, but they were guided by this idea that they would be welcomed into the United States.
Psaki Disingenuous When Grilled About Horseback Border Patrol Agents Whipping Haitian Migrants - The Majority Report - Air Date 9-21-21
[00:07:23] SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: The horrible scenes that we have seen down in Texas with these Haitian migrants who have been now just expelled from the country under Title 42, which is a rule that the Trump administration employed to basically just get rid of people seeking some type of refugee, asylum, migration to this country without any type of process.
And so we've got all that to get to and more, frankly. And we will. Yeah, let's do.
Here's Jen Psaki. Now we played some of the images yesterday of these border patrol agents riding horses as, and there up to 15,000 Haitian immigrants.
[00:08:13] EMMA VIGELAND - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Asylum seekers, I feel like is better.
[00:08:15] SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: We don't know. Because they're not even being processed. But we do know that Haiti has suffered two massive natural disasters and a political upheaval in the past two months.
[00:08:29] EMMA VIGELAND - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: One would think that would qualify you for asylum status, regardless of the United States's very active role in that political destabilization.
[00:08:38] SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: And then at the very least you'd get temporary protected status, right? That's what this is for. They ended up, basically, crossing the border. We have images yesterday of some Haitians who had crossed the border to get food in Mexico and then came back to feed their families and were basically corralled by these horseback customs and border patrol agents who were yelling at them that they come from a s*hole country. And, here is Jen Psaki on CBS's This Morning talking about and trying to justify those scenes.
[00:09:18] JEN PSAKI: And to that people may be eligible for that. But right now we also have to implement our laws at the border. We also want to protect people, both in that community, but also migrants. One of the challenges as we're all facing a pandemic here, is the gathering of so many people. Were still implementing Title 42, which means that we are going to send people out of the country who come in as we implement that.
[00:09:40] CBS NEWS ANCHOR: COVID safety protocol.
[00:09:41] JEN PSAKI: Exactly.
[00:09:42] CBS NEWS ANCHOR: Did you say that it's possible that extension that applies to Haitians already here could apply?
[00:09:47] JEN PSAKI: Tony it's already been extended because of the turmoil on the ground. It was earlier this summer. That's something that the Secretary of Homeland Security and Secretary of State do look into.
But again, as we look to this, the photos, not just the ones you've referenced but of all of these families and people under the bridges, we want it to also take steps to implement our laws and to protect a lot of them from the spread of COVID as well.
[00:10:09] SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: And let's be clear here: when she cites Title 42, I don't know if any, at any point during that broadcast, they made it clear that a judge basically enjoined the administration from using Title 42 five days ago. And the Biden administration then is on appeal.
So this is something that's very likely to be struck down. We don't know for sure. But is dubious at best. And certainly when Donald Trump had initiated, this is one of those opportunities where Jen Psaki could say "the Donald Trump-initiated Title 42."
The other thing is that according to reporting by Julia Ainslie, NBC reporter, in an effort to speed up deportation, she said on Twitter last night, ICE is no longer testing for COVID before flights. So they're on one hand claiming that we're getting people out, we're deporting these people. It's not even to deportation, right? Cause there's no process. We are expelling these people who are coming from a devastating situation in their home country, ostensibly, to protect them from -- what we're doing is we are gathering them up, we're putting them on planes. We're not testing anybody. And then putting them back into a situation where there is far less services for COVID. If you really want to protect these people from COVID, everybody should be getting a shot and everybody should be getting tested and they should be allowed -- we should find a place for them. We should start to process them in this country. It's just unbelievable. And it couldn't be more inhumane.
[00:11:51] EMMA VIGELAND - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: I'm on the CDC website. "Which vaccines are required for US immigration? Mumps, measles, rubella, polio. Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B," just a variety of ones. I'm listing some of them that are required for US immigration.
They could just give these migrants, or I should say asylum seekers -- I know that the classification I just want to be as specific as possible -- they can just give them the one shot COVID vaccine right there, if they're that concerned about their safety. But it's just like this disingenuous kind of way to use fears about the pandemic to shut down the conversation. When, what they're saying there, is " they could be infected with COVID". It's a little downstream from "aren't they just dirty people from different countries?" So she's just using a more distilled version of that incredibly racist argument, while using the racist policy of Donald Trump as a cover for their own politics when they ran on how cruel is Donald Trump to immigrants? How cruel is Donald Trump to people at the border? And no pushback by CBS. You wonder why she goes on the morning show for that kind of cover up, right? Not to besmirch all morning shows, but that's the deal. That's a part of this PR exercise.
Not a Humane System - In The Thick - Air Date 9-24-21
[00:13:01] JULIO RICARDO VARELA - HOST, IN THE THICK: Let's get into the hypocrisy. You know, it's a word that is being used a lot this week. President Biden campaign promise. I mean, we can call up the clips. We can call up the receipts when he was running. He promised to approach immigration with fairness and humanity. But at the same time, there are still Trump era policies being enacted, specifically Title 42, which basically expels refugees or people looking for asylum under the guise of public health.
[00:13:27] MARIA HINOJOSA - HOST, IN THE THICK: Okay. So hold on, take a pause here. Remembering that Joe Biden has been around for a long time. And the 1980s, and what was the epidemic that we were facing then? HIV and AIDS. And who was being targeted? Who were we being told were the purveyors of HIV?
[00:13:49] JULIO RICARDO VARELA - HOST, IN THE THICK: Haitians. Hey, I remember this. I was in high school.
[00:13:52] MARIA HINOJOSA - HOST, IN THE THICK: I was a journalist.
[00:13:53] JULIO RICARDO VARELA - HOST, IN THE THICK: I actually had a Haitian classmate in high school. Like he would tell me that about his family. He was living in New York. I remember that.
[00:14:00] MARIA HINOJOSA - HOST, IN THE THICK: So then again, for Joe Biden to be just like, we're going to continue to play the same game, which is that Haitians are bringing COVID? Are you kidding me?
Right. And like you just said, it's, anti-immigrant this anti-black tactics. They're nothing new. All you have to do is go through our feed on In The Thick, right? And just start picking out our examples of the US's long history of imperialism, destabilizing countries around the world. And Haiti in particular is one of those countries.
[00:14:30] JULIO RICARDO VARELA - HOST, IN THE THICK: And we also talked about this, you just mentioned the eighties, this targeting of Haitian migrants to the Reagan administration. I remember they were intercepting refugees trying to cross the sea, but that it actually happened also under Carter, right? Maria, do you remember that, when that was happening? I was like Vietnam and then Haiti.
[00:14:45] MARIA HINOJOSA - HOST, IN THE THICK: Right, right. I write about this. And once I was you, which is the first televised refugee crisis was the Vietnamese people. How were they talked about by the mainstream media? Our colleagues in the Washington Post and New York Times, ABC News. How did they refer to them?
So I'm about to use what I consider is a slur. So trigger warning. They called them "boat people." Then you had the next televised, right? Because there have been previous refugee crises because the refugees are reading the propaganda about, come to this country, we love the refugees. And then they're like, well, we did it, but it's false propaganda. And so then Cuban people and Haitian people in the 1980s, it was a massive story.
Again, the conditions under which they were being held were again, worse than prison. So bad that there was a riot, this was in a detention facility in Georgia. They lit the place on fire. So what am I saying? There is a long history--
[00:15:47] JULIO RICARDO VARELA - HOST, IN THE THICK: It was a Senator from Delaware in the seventies and is now President of the United States.
Let's just be honest, because even in the Reagan administration they would intercept refugees trying to cross over by sea. And then they were either turned back around or held at a detention center. So yes, detention centers have been around, people.
And actually, this is the part where I'm having major issues as a journalist. Because you have these Biden officials now saying, and these are top officials. This is vice-president Harris. This is not some immigration, deputy secretary here. Right? They're saying that they're horrified by the images of border patrol agents attacking refugees, yet at the same time, what's the message that we're hearing from Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, this week during her remarks? This is not the time to come to the United States. And Maria, I needed to just share this clip: Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, born in Cuba. Just going to give you a little context there. This is, when you think about the Cuban migrant story, this was what he said in an interview with MSNBC's Nicole Wallace on Thursday:
[00:16:52] ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS: We are dedicated to, and invariably dedicated to building a safe, orderly and humane immigration system. The reality is that the authority that we are employing now is not a matter of immigration policy. It is a public health imperative. It is the authority of the Centers for Disease Control in light of the fact that we are in the midst of a pandemic and the rise in the delta variant makes that compellingly clear. We have lost more than 600,000 lives in this country alone in the midst of a pandemic that has gripped the world. It is critical that people understand that the authority that we are exercising is not a matter of immigration policy. It is a matter of public health as issued by the CDC to protect the migrants themselves, our personnel, local communities and the American public.
[00:18:00] MARIA HINOJOSA - HOST, IN THE THICK: So great. So you now, Alejandro Mayorkas, from Cuba, that your same family would have been told oh no, you can't come from Cuba because you all have some kind of disease. Right? You are now employing that same bullshit that we have called out historically and said, this is unjust, it is inhuman. And you are now saying that. You are absolving yourself of your responsibility as a leader, as the head of the department of Homeland [Security], you are absolving yourself and saying, basically, go talk to the CDC, go talk to Dr. Fauci.
This is sickening. It is heartbreaking to have a child of refugees himself be saying, and this is not about immigration policy. This is public health because can't you see them, they're all dirty because they're black. That is some bullshit.
Also, let me just finish with this. You should say, and because we care about humanity, we are actually going to bring them here and we're going to help them battle COVID because we're going to get them vaccinated. We are going to help them because that's what we -- No. No. Que no jodan, que no jodan.
[00:19:17] JULIO RICARDO VARELA - HOST, IN THE THICK: That's the point I was going to make. If it's a public health issue, we need to completely shift our attitude as a country. Because if we are in the middle of a pandemic, isn't it our duty to help people? Isn't in our duty to be like, yes, refugees. Yes! We're going to test you. We're going to put you in places that are safe and we're going to vaccinate you.
[00:19:38] MARIA HINOJOSA - HOST, IN THE THICK: But the first word he said you heard was we're all about safety.
[00:19:41] JULIO RICARDO VARELA - HOST, IN THE THICK: And we're working for a humane system. And here we are.
But this is what I'll leave you before we move on, because I think the conversation about journalism and the coverage and the fact that he was allowed to say that with no pushback, I'm just, you know. And one thing you should note, because this whole public health issue, if it's a frigging public health issue, then make it a public health issue. Because I'm citing a report from NBC News: the United States is not even testing Haitian refugees for COVID-19 before sending them back to Haiti on planes. So if this is a public health issue, then make it a public health issue.
[00:20:14] MARIA HINOJOSA - HOST, IN THE THICK: By the way, Julio, those flights are packed. There was video of one of the Haitians who was deported talking about how they are chained. I put that in the Frontline documentary, we showed the chains. They chained them hand, feet, around the waist, completely militarized. Also the special envoy appointed to Haiti by the Biden administration just resigned saying he cannot stand by and be tied to an administration that is allowing this kind of inhumanity to occur.
So again, I say, where is, what's his name? Sean, that Hollywood actor?
[00:20:48] JULIO RICARDO VARELA - HOST, IN THE THICK: Sean Penn.
[00:20:49] MARIA HINOJOSA - HOST, IN THE THICK: Where is Bill Clinton? Where are the people like Michelle Brane who left the Women's Refugee Commission? Where is Julissa Reynoso, who is Afro Dominican? Where are they stamping down and saying "no more." She is in the White House. Well, actually she's now an ambassador. Where, where is their anguish?
Coronavirus-fuelled racism adds to Haitians' plight in Chile - Al Jazeera English - Air Date 5-7-20
[00:21:09] LUCIA NEWMAN - REPORTER, AL JAZEERA ENGLISH: They call them Sidez large properties, subdivided into small quarters where one or more families live cramped together, often sharing a bathroom with up to a dozen other families. They're the only option for many Haitian migrants in Chile, like Jean Sanafait.
[00:21:28] JEAN SANAFAIT: The kitchen doesn't work the, bathroom too, but it's difficult for us to rent here and Heidi and my children each have their own room. I would never bring them here.
[00:21:37] LUCIA NEWMAN - REPORTER, AL JAZEERA ENGLISH: Chili has the largest Haitian migrant community outside of the United States, and it's public knowledge that they're exploited by unscrupulous landlords. And now with the corona virus pandemic, they're being discriminated further.
A few weeks ago this seat day with 88 rooms became nationwide news. Health authorities moved the Haitian residents to a special quarantine area with better facilities, but first the results of their corona virus tests were published on the municipalities webpage, violating a patient's right to confidentiality.
The news spread like wildfire. Even before the cameras arrived, the neighbors began throwing rocks and hurling insults at the Haitians because a few of them had been confirmed to be carrying corona virus. Now they tell us that they feel even more discriminated and vulnerable than ever.
The fear of the virus has only increased the stigmatization of Haitians, says Ralph Jean Baptiste, who works as a community translator.
[00:22:36] RALPH JEAN BAPTISTE: The community is very angry and upset. If they'd been from Europe, from Germany, this would not have happened.
[00:22:43] LUCIA NEWMAN - REPORTER, AL JAZEERA ENGLISH: Ralph is always dressed impeccably, because he says it helps to counter constant disrespect of Blacks by Chileans.
[00:22:50] RALPH JEAN BAPTISTE: People say, get out you Blacky. There is cruel discrimination here that we can't ignore.
[00:22:56] LUCIA NEWMAN - REPORTER, AL JAZEERA ENGLISH: It's made worse because many Haitian migrants don't speak Spanish and don't know their rights.
[00:23:01] INTERPRETER: With very precarious living conditions it's even more difficult for them to survive in a pandemic. They're charged extortionate rents, which many can't afford. The virus doesn't discriminate, but we do.
[00:23:14] LUCIA NEWMAN - REPORTER, AL JAZEERA ENGLISH: The governor of Santiago's metropolitan region agrees that many migrants are living in inhumane conditions, but when we asked why authorities haven't stopped landlords from renting unsanitary and overcrowded living quarters, he blamed the mayors. The truth is that authorities have constantly turned a blind eye to a sanitary and human rights dilemma that is punishing those who came here for a better life as never before.
Lucia Newman, Al Jazeera Santiago.
What Does Haiti Actually Need? Part 1 - What Next - Air Date 8-25-21
[00:23:45] MARY HARRIS - HOST, WHAT NEXT: Jonathan Katz is about to put all of the United States on blast over its treatment of Haiti.
So let me just come in here and say, Americans are also really generous. We’ve got big "fix it" energy. We funneled millions to Port au Prince when its ramshackle buildings came down after the 2010 earthquake.
But Jonathan, he thinks that big fix it energy can be problematic if you don’t spend enough time considering just what you’re fixing, or why. Like, maybe you’re feeling compelled to send cash to Haiti right now. If you’re an American who’s sitting here thinking like, "OK, well, I guess, should I give money to the Red Cross?" Like, would you do that?
[00:24:27] JONATHAN KATZ: No. That... that... that I wouldn’t do, because that... that doesn’t really help anybody, because the Red Cross doesn’t address the... the root causes of the problems in Haiti, and in fact, has a history of... of adding to... to the root causes.
You know, we, I mean, specifically as Americans, have played a major role in causing Haiti’s poverty. Like, a direct role in... in.... in making Haiti as poor as it is today. So, I would say, that, like, if Americans want to get involved in fixing Haitian poverty, that... that is possible. But it means, first and foremost, addressing the inequities and... and the extraction, and, just, all of the roiling that we have done as Americans in the past. You can’t just come in and say "It’s day zero." You know, "Haiti is in its natural state of poverty. And I, brave American, I’m going to fix it." It really takes a lot more digging and a lot more self awareness than that.
[00:25:33] MARY HARRIS - HOST, WHAT NEXT: Is it worth looking at the 2010 quake as an example of, like, here’s where you see where the will is there, but the resources aren’t. And when the resources come in, they come in in the wrong way?
[00:25:46] JONATHAN KATZ: Oh, a hundred percent. One of the funniest examples that... that I remember from 2010 was that the Fiji Water Company, they donated water that they flew in from Fiji. If you look at a map of the world, you’ll see how far Fiji is from Haiti.
[00:26:01] MARY HARRIS - HOST, WHAT NEXT: Yeah, that seems like a little extra.
[00:26:05] JONATHAN KATZ: Yeah, very much so. You know, Haiti is also an island. Haiti has water, it just needs, you know... and it has some water treatment. It just needs to stand up that that amount of water treatment, it didn’t need to be like, you know, just like spring water from the South Pacific.
But, when people remember, if people even now remember, the quake 11 years ago, they often remember, you know, that there were these, sort of, big totemic figures floated about money, often in the sentence, or the question, "Where did the money go"? And if you actually look back at that money; first of all, much more was pledged than was ever delivered, and the money that was spent, the vast majority of it never went to Haiti. Kind of, just went in circles from from one hand to the next in the donor countries.
One of the biggest figures was half a billion dollars went to the Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of Defense. And the point of that money was to fund a military response that did do some things. I mean, the U.S. military helped repair the port in Port au Prince. But the vast majority of that money, the vast majority of time and resources, were there to prevent social unrest and to, essentially, keep people from leaving Haiti and coming to the United States. The risk of all of those things happening were extremely overblown.
But, you know, the vast majority of U.S. soldiers, marines, airmen, coasties that went never left their ships. They never... they never set foot on Haitian soil.
[00:27:42] MARY HARRIS - HOST, WHAT NEXT: So they were there to do a job that they didn’t really need to be doing?
[00:27:45] JONATHAN KATZ: Exactly. Exactly. So you mentioned the Red Cross...
[00:27:49] MARY HARRIS - HOST, WHAT NEXT: They also had a half billion dollars.
[00:27:50] JONATHAN KATZ: Exactly. And they spent it internally. I’m not saying, necessarily, that they... they pocketed it, it’s, just, like, this is how an organization works. Like, they have people, they have to pay their salaries, they have to pay their travel. And then, you know, they bought like a bunch of hygiene kits. They bought a bunch of tarps. They distributed those.
But, you know, a very... a vanishingly tiny fraction of all of the money that was spent, or talked about, or whatever, ended up in the hands of Haitians. I mean, it was... it was... it was far less than one percent. And, you know, much of that, you know, went to, sort of, you know, the Haitian elite. The vast majority of just ordinary Haitians saw nothing. They got a tarp. They got whatever. They got a T-shirt from an NGO. Maybe they got a bag of rice that lasted them, you know, a couple of weeks, and that was it.
So they end up clearing the rubble themselves, repurposing it, and rebuilding their own homes. And the way that they rebuild their homes is as fragile and unsafe as it was before the last disaster struck.
[00:28:55] MARY HARRIS - HOST, WHAT NEXT: Yeah. We talk about, you know, "Don’t give a man a fish, teach him to fish," sort of things. And it seems like this is... what’s happening in Haiti is the opposite of what we, sort of, tell each other we’re supposed to do when folks are in a bad situation.
[00:29:15] JONATHAN KATZ: Yeah, that particular phrase often comes up. It gets everything backwards. Haitians are, by necessity, the most self-sufficient and creative people that, you know, you will ever meet in your life. This is a country where everything that you do, you have to do for yourself.
If your house catches fire-- and I have been in a fire in Haiti, so I can tell you this firsthand-- if your house catches fire, you’re going to put it out yourself. There’s no fire department that’s going to come in and take care of it for you.
If the road is in disrepair, which all roads are in Haiti all the time, you’re not going to wait for, like, you know, the state construction crew to come fix it. You’re going to go and, you know, use whatever little money you have and buy a, you know, like, a bag of cement or a bag of any kind of road filler material. And then you’ll sit out in the road and you will fix the pothole yourself, and just, sort of, flag down passing cars and ask them to like, you know, chip in to help you pay for the bag of cement.
These kinds of things happen all the time. If any country in the world is full of people who could teach us how to fish, it’s Haiti. The problem isn’t a lack of know-how; the problem isn’t a lack of desire, or will; it is, really, a lack of... of material resources.
But understanding why those resources are lacking in Haiti is necessary in order to figure out how to fix that problem.
Haiti Needs a New Narrative - On the Media - Air Date 8-4-21
[00:30:50] BRANDY ZADROZNY - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: On July 7, Haiti's president, Jovenel Moïse, was assassinated in his home.
[00:30:57] ARCHIVE FOOTAGE: The horror in Haiti, the first lady also shot.
Authorities in Haiti said the assassins were foreign mercenaries who had posed as US Drug Enforcement Administration agents in the raid on his home.
[00:31:09] BRANDY ZADROZNY - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: The question of who was behind the assassination is still an open one, but Moïse had his share of enemies.
[00:31:14] ARCHIVE FOOTAGE: For the last 18 months, the 53-year-old had been ruling the country by decree without parliament. The opposition accused him of corruption and ties to organized crime.
[00:31:25] BRANDY ZADROZNY - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: In the wake of Moïse's assassination, international media coverage followed a timeworn template to describe events in the island nation, emphasizing instability-
[00:31:34] ARCHIVE FOOTAGE: Haiti has been in more than its usual share of chaos recently.
Haiti is a country in chaos where acts of everyday life have come to pose a mortal risk.
[00:31:45] BRANDY ZADROZNY - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: -and violence.
[00:31:50] ARCHIVE FOOTAGE: Life in Haiti seems to have returned to normal, but the normal Haitians are used to is violence.
[00:31:56] BRANDY ZADROZNY - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: It's a pattern with old roots.
[00:31:58] ARCHIVE FOOTAGE: Here's Port-au-Prince, Haiti in 1915, chief city of an island nation torn by internal troubles. The United States Marines land in Haiti to battle Haitian bandits, threatening destruction of American properties and native bandits quickly...
[00:32:14] BRANDY ZADROZNY - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: Time and again, after a coup, an earthquake, an assassination, the world's first Black republic has flattened into a narrative of perpetual chaos. Haitians turned into desperate victims in need of generous international aid.
[00:32:27] RACHEL MADDOW: We're their largest donor in terms of assistance of all kinds. Spare a thought for our brothers and sisters in Haiti tonight. They are really staring into the abyss right now. Haiti, of course, an absolutely beleaguered country.
[00:32:38] BRANDY ZADROZNY - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: Nathalie Cerin, co-founder and lead editor of Woy Magazine, a Haitian online media project, says this trend removes essential context.
[00:32:47] NATHALIE CERIN: Haitians have been sounding the alarm about the culture of violence that has been allowed to reign under this current regime and how dispensable life has become and how unacceptable people's quality of life have become, that massacres have become commonplace.
[00:33:03] BRANDY ZADROZNY - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: Cerin is referring to the anti-corruption, pro-democracy movements that had been mobilizing against Moïse since shortly after he came to power. Among other things, calling for accountability after a $2 billion fund earmarked to build Haitian infrastructure and social programs disappeared into thin air under Moïse's watch. Protests peaked this February when Moïse refused to step down at the end of his term, but Cerin says, this pro-democracy protest didn't make international headlines in the way that similar protests in Hong Kong or Cuba did. They didn't get the political attention either.
[00:33:36] NATHALIE CERIN: It's not politically convenient for the United States to make a story of these movements because the United States government has bipartisan support of this current regime. These guys were basically handpicked by the US government.
[00:33:49] BRANDY ZADROZNY - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: In fact, Haiti's history is marked by US invasion, occupation, and election meddling. As of last month, the meddling continues.
[00:33:57] ARCHIVE FOOTAGE: In the wake of Moïse's assassination on July the 7th, a core group of foreign nations backed Ariel Henry to take the reigns as Haiti's new prime minister.
[00:34:05] BRANDY ZADROZNY - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: And so, a cycle. Whenever a Haitian crisis pops up on our radar, TV pundits rush to play catch up. Here's Conan O'Brien mocking the practice on his show in 2018.
[00:34:16] CONAN O'BRIEN: To understand today's Haiti, you need to know its history. This should only take a minute and 23 seconds.
[00:34:22] BRANDY ZADROZNY - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: Indeed, it's much easier to reduce Haiti to a soundbite. You've no doubt heard it before as a phrase so ubiquitous, the poet Jean-Claude Martineau calls it Haiti's famous last name.
[00:34:33] ARCHIVE FOOTAGE: Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
It is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
[00:34:42] GINA ATHENA ULYESSE: It means it's Black, it is incapable of self-governance.
[00:34:47] BRANDY ZADROZNY - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: Gina Athena Ulysse is a Professor of Feminist Studies at UC Santa Cruz and the author of Why Haiti Needs New Narratives.
[00:34:54] GINA ATHENA ULYESSE: It takes Haiti and places it in its own category. What is happening in Haiti isn't like anything that's happening anywhere else in the world. When we hear Haiti is the "poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere", it tells us absolutely nothing. It doesn't tell us, for example, that there's extreme wealth there. It doesn't tell us that there's a class system, a very entrenched class system there. It doesn't tell us there are forces that have developed to render what was once the most profitable colony in the Caribbean to become the "poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere".
[00:35:30] BRANDY ZADROZNY - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: What are the things that should be well-known about Haiti before we seek to tell the recent story of tragedy or unrest?
[00:35:39] GINA ATHENA ULYESSE: Haiti paid a big price in the aftermath of the Haitian revolution. Haiti conquered three major European armies, declared itself a sovereign country. One of the first things that was written in the Haitian constitution is that any person that lands in Haiti who is Black will be free, at a time when the rest of the world was engaged in slavery, was benefitting from slavery, so Haiti was isolated as a result of that.
Part of that history is understanding the impact that the American occupation, for example, has had on Haiti from 1915 to 1934. It was the American government that actually instituted the Haitian police. In the late '60s and '70s, the United States supported the dictatorship. I actually want to stay away from thinking about these big historical moments because I think there's a way, when we talk about Haiti, we focus on what has become a brief timeline of Haiti and here are the key moments we need to pay attention to. They tend to be moments of "upheaval".
[00:36:51] BRANDY ZADROZNY - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: You're saying that we cherry-pick or maybe, I suppose, tragedy-pick the news out of Haiti. We only turn our lens to the country when there is violence or suffering or a crisis going on, and that in turn distorts how we view those events. You're a writer, and I was really interested in the appetite for Haiti's stories.
[00:37:10] GINA ATHENA ULYESSE: I pitched a story and somebody said to me, "Oh, no, no, no. We don't have time for this right now. Why don't you just come back the next time there's a crisis? We can get you to do something else." I was like, "Wow." Clearly, this person is not going to be interested in a non-crisis story. It erases the humans who are living with this. They are seen as super resilient or the fact that, "Oh well, they're Haitians. They're used to violence." Actually, no, they're not.
[00:37:40] BRANDY ZADROZNY - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: In your book, you referred to a particularly salient moment, an Haitian earthquake coverage that happened on CNN. Can you describe that?
[00:37:48] GINA ATHENA ULYESSE: That was a painful moment, when Anderson Cooper was interviewing Ben Hall.
[00:37:54] BEN HALL: One of the ladies that I met today, she said her five-year-old and one and a half-year-old were crushed by the building when she was away. When I asked her, "Well, did you have time to bury her before your leaving?" She simply said, " Jete, Jete. I threw them away."
[00:38:07] ANDERSON COOPER: She said she threw her kids away?
[00:38:09] BEN HALL: She just tossed her kids away. I said, "Why don't you Haitians cry?" She said, "There's no point. They're dead already. That's over and done with."
[00:38:17] ANDERSON COOPER: I think there's been generations of suffering on this island. We know they've had from dictatorships and killings at night and people who have no power really have absolutely no power. There's this resignation almost at times of people just throw up their shoulders and say, "You know what, this is the way it's always been."
[00:38:35] BEN HALL: I think that's part of this, is the explanation. I can't believe that is the whole part of the situation. Can you imagine a mother say, in any culture, "I threw them away"?
[00:38:44] GINA ATHENA ULYESSE: How could you not recognize something this unbelievable, this shocking? It was a few seconds and the entire world changed. Someone is traumatized, but you described them as them as non-human. Then if you're Black, you know your humanity is always in question.
[00:39:07] BRANDY ZADROZNY - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: Well, you've written really beautifully that Haitians are, and I'm quoting you, "portrayed historically as fractures, as fragments, bodies without minds, heads without bodies or roving spirits". When the media needs quotes or analysis, who is speaking for them?
[00:39:22] GINA ATHENA ULYESSE: The experts are usually white men or it's white woman here and there, and then the voice of experience is the Haitian as though Haitians themselves are not capable of analysis. Guess what? They can speak for themselves. Haiti has new narratives, but no one is actually listening to what people in Haiti are saying, because the voices in Haiti that have always mattered are the voices of the rich, are the voices of the people who are able to pay lobbyists, and the people considered to be the more capable ones. No one wants to hear from a "peasant" or grassroots organization.
What Does Haiti Actually Need? Part 2 - What Next - Air Date 8-25-21
[00:39:54] JONATHAN KATZ: So, Haiti's real claim to fame in the world is that it is the only country ever born out of a successful revolution by enslaved people. It was a French colony called Saint Domingue, and the enslaved people, who were brought there from Africa between 1791 and 1804, rose up, overthrew slavery, defeated the most powerful army in the world, Napoleon’s army, and made themselves free in... in 1804. And for that, they were rewarded with exclusion and exploitation by powers, many of whom, especially the United States, were still practicing slavery and did not want this example of a self- freed people reaching their own enslaved population.
[00:40:44] MARY HARRIS - HOST, WHAT NEXT: They feared it.
[00:40:45] JONATHAN KATZ: Yes. And that is a major theme of American history leading up all the way to our Civil War. There’s talk about, sort of, another Haiti happening all throughout the 19th century.
[00:40:58] MARY HARRIS - HOST, WHAT NEXT: Weren't Haitians also compelled to pay back the people who had enslaved them?
[00:41:03] JONATHAN KATZ: Exactly. So France’s biggest response was, in 1825, King Charles X sent over some gunboats and said, "I got a great offer for you guys. It’s an offer you can’t refuse. Either you pay us back for your freedom, for the land that you and your... your fathers and mothers were enslaved on. If you do that, we will give you diplomatic recognition, which is absolutely important. And if you don’t, we’re going to reinvade and bombard you."
And Haiti agreed to the deal, paid back every cent of the... what ended up being 90 million gold francs, which is worth around probably, you know, 20 billion dollars today. And they paid all of it back. The principal was paid back by the 1880s, and the last bit of interest was paid back in 1947.
[00:41:57] MARY HARRIS - HOST, WHAT NEXT: What was the cost of paying all that back?
[00:41:59] JONATHAN KATZ: All of the resources that... all of the customs revenues that could have been kept in Haiti and used to build the country, to build infrastructure, ended up going to French planters.
But more than that, in order to fill the whole of the Haitian budgets that was left by... by the fact that Haiti was prioritizing paying these... these... their former, you know, slave masters, they had to take out major loans. And some of those loans were taken out from U.S. banks.
The most important U.S. bank that was involved in that was the National City Bank of New York, now just known as Citibank or Citigroup. And in 1914, in order to ensure that Citibank and other Wall Street banks got their debt payments paid, the U.S. Marines came ashore, went into the Haitian Central Bank, and took out... they, basically, just stole half of Haiti’s gold reserves, put them on a U.S. warship, and took them to Wall Street, and put them in a vault there.
That set Haitian politics into a complete tailspin. And in the summer of 1915, the last Haitian president who was ever assassinated (until Jovenel Moise was assassinated just a couple of weeks ago), he was assassinated in that context, which then was the pretext for a U.S. invasion. And it led to an occupation that lasted until 1934, which is the longest time that the United States has ever militarily occupied a foreign country until that record was broken by the United States in Afghanistan in the past year.
[00:43:45] MARY HARRIS - HOST, WHAT NEXT: A lot of Americans don’t know this history. And I wonder if you think about the cost of that, because I know you’ve written pretty squarely that, yes, Haiti has been subject to natural disasters, but maybe the biggest disaster that Haiti has suffered has been imperialism. But when you work with editors and try to just plainly say that, how do they react to that?
[00:44:13] JONATHAN KATZ: It depends. It depends on the publication. Often not well. Yes. And it is because. Americans, on the whole, even educated Americans, don’t know that these things have ever happened. These are, just... these are, just, blank spots in American history books, and... and, more importantly, in the stories that we tell ourselves. So... so it sounds crazy. Marines coming ashore and just robbing the central bank? That sounds crazy like....
[00:44:45] MARY HARRIS - HOST, WHAT NEXT: That's some piracy stuff right there.
[00:44:46] JONATHAN KATZ: Exactly. It sounds like you must be, just, making it up. Or, that you have an agenda. And, I mean, I do have an agenda, which is to tell the truth.
[00:44:57] MARY HARRIS - HOST, WHAT NEXT: You’ve drawn this parallel between how the United States has behaved in Haiti and, more recently, in Afghanistan. And I’m wondering if we can tease that out a little bit more here. Because, of course, at the same time that Haiti was suffering so many tragedies this summer, the United States was pulling out of Afghanistan with dramatically terrible outcomes for Afghan citizens who are concerned about their safety. So how would you compare and contrast these relationships to the United States and Haiti, and the United States and Afghanistan?
[00:45:37] JONATHAN KATZ: You know, if you look at the two, in Haiti and in Afghanistan, the United States, you know, started with... with an invasion to thwart what it considered to be a, you know, a hostile, militarized movement. In Afghanistan, it was the Taliban. In Haiti, it was, uh, basically, guerrilla fighters known as Cacos.
We stood up puppet governments; in Afghanistan, with Hamid Karzai; in... in Haiti, Philippe Dartiguenave, who was, just, sort of, this milquetoast senator who had no real constituency.
Dartiguenave's government had to depend on the Marines for protection; the Marines came up with the idea of, instead of having just the Marines there, that we would stand up a Haitian client military that would, basically, you know, police and fight the insurgents in our stead. In Haiti, that was called the gendarmerie d'Haiti.
And the same thing has been tried in many other places since that... that the United States has invaded, occupied, et cetera, in Afghanistan. Of course, that’s, you know, the ANA, the Afghan National Security forces.
[00:46:49] MARY HARRIS - HOST, WHAT NEXT: Do Afghanistan and Haiti also share this, kind of, NGO system, where non-governmental organizations come in and try to do some of the work that you would traditionally think a government would do? And how did that impact both places?
[00:47:08] JONATHAN KATZ: Yeah, absolutely. You know, Afghanistan is a great example of a country where the United States blows it up, and then in order to rebuild, it assigns itself, and, you know, its defense contractors, and... and humanitarian groups, humanitarian non-governmental organizations, or NGOs, contracts to rebuild what it just blew up.
And Haiti is a very similar case. The United States, in Haiti, implemented an explicit policy of bypassing Haitian governments and standing up what are now known as NGOs in its place. And when this policy was... was first concocted in the 1970s and 1980s, there were good reasons for doing so in Haiti, namely that Haiti was ruled by a dictator, Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier. But of course, he was a dictator who had remained in power with, often, direct U.S. support. So, you know, this didn’t happen in a vacuum.
[00:48:17] MARY HARRIS - HOST, WHAT NEXT: Well, in terms of the NGOs... I guess I have a chicken and an egg question for you. I think some people in the United States would say, "The whole reason we need to stand up these outside organizations inside a country like Haiti or a country like Afghanistan, is because the governments inside those countries are not necessarily trustworthy; that, you know, there’s corruption, and graft, and if we are instead filtering our money through third parties, maybe more of it will get to the people who need it." What would you say to that?
[00:48:59] JONATHAN KATZ: I would say that that is a sensible reaction in theory, but it doesn’t really jibe with the evidence on the ground.
[00:49:08] MARY HARRIS - HOST, WHAT NEXT: Why not?
[00:49:09] JONATHAN KATZ: If it was the case that there was, sort of, this endemic corruption, and the United States is trying to... and, you know, foreign NGOs, are just trying to work their way around it, then you would expect that, at the very least, once the United States got involved, corruption would get better. Right?
[00:49:30] MARY HARRIS - HOST, WHAT NEXT: So you’re saying the corruption came with U.S. involvement was a byproduct of it?
[00:49:36] JONATHAN KATZ: Absolutely. You know, corruption is often talked about as an excuse for why you can’t give money to Haitians. But then, we then end up making Haiti a more corrupt place than it was before. And our best friends in Haiti, in terms of the U. S. Government and the U. S. power players, are this very tiny Haitian elite who have their hands in all kinds of violence and, you know, probably drug trafficking, and, just, really, really nasty stuff. So, we’re, kind of, talking out of both sides of our mouths when we say like, "Oh, well, Haiti’s too corrupt. That’s their... that’s what their problem is."
[00:50:15] MARY HARRIS - HOST, WHAT NEXT: To me, it’s been interesting, over the last couple of weeks, to see how that corruption has trickled down to, like, very local politicians who are now responding to the disaster on the ground. And when I say, "the corruption trickle down," I just mean the atmosphere where people feel like it’s corrupt, and so they don’t trust their institutions.
Like, the Washington Post had this article, and it ended with this, kind of, devastating scene of a mayor who was saying, you know, "No one trusts us to rebuild for them, because they’ve, kind of, the been to this movie before. People think I’m holding back help from them, and I’m afraid for myself." And he said, you know, "Take me in your helicopter. I’m ready to go to Miami. Like, get me out of here."
[00:51:07] JONATHAN KATZ: Yeah. I mean, one thing I would say is that-- and I don’t know specifically the person that you’re referring to, but-- I very much doubt that they were elected, because there were no local elections held, basically, for the last 10 years. Anybody who’s in a position of power, even in a local city, was probably appointed to the job by Jovenel Moise, who, again, was assassinated just a couple weeks ago.
But yes. Look, there is great, great mistrust. But again, I think it’s important to understand the extent to which that is a feature and not a bug of the system. If you are just, you know, a Haitian farmer in... in... in, you know, Grand'Anse, the department of the South, that... the areas that were hit by this latest earthquake. And you’re just, you know, you’re just trying to... to provide for your family. Yeah, I wouldn’t trust anybody. Because... because people have been taking things from you your entire life, and they’ve been giving you very little. They’ve been making big promises that... that... that they don’t keep.
[00:52:10] MARY HARRIS - HOST, WHAT NEXT: If the U.S. was doing this the right way, and I guess I should say, its partner countries as well, what would that look like?
[00:52:20] JONATHAN KATZ: Honestly, the biggest thing is, just, to put money in Haitians' hands. And I don’t mean the Haitian government. I don’t mean, you know, the Haitian elite. Put money in people’s hands, so that they can rebuild their own lives in the best way that they see fit. Haitians can do it. They just need the money and the resources and the time to... to do it.
Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Haiti and International Aid - The United States of Anxiety - Air Date 8-23-21
[00:52:46] NADEGE GREEN - HOST, THE UNITED STATES OF ANXIETY: Every time there's a catastrophic event, there are people who ask, "Is Haiti cursed?" or they outright declare Haiti is cursed, right? It's not, but I want to dig into where that comes from.
The earthquake struck the southwestern region of Haiti on August 14th, which was also a very important day in Haitian history. It marked the 230th anniversary of Bois Caïman, the Vodou ceremony that is credited with launching what would become the Haitian Revolution.
Before we dispel this whole idea of a curse, Professor Daut, can you tell us a little bit about this moment in Haitian history, Bois Caïman?
[00:53:25] DR. MARLENE DAUT: Yes. So, August 14th, 1791 at around 2:00 in the morning, there was a gathering of enslaved people from various plantations around the Northern Plain in an area called Morne Rouge. This is in the northern part of what was then Saint-Domingue, today Haiti, a French colony, it was at the time. In this gathering, people were really plotting to rebel. It was led by a man named Boukman Dutty.
He gave this very resonant speech where he said "The god of the white man calls him to commit crimes and thirst for our tears, but the God of the Black man wants our liberty. That's what we have to go out and we have to take it."
Within about a little over a week, the enslaved had set fire to almost the entire Northern Plain. By the end of September, they had brought the entire plantation economy to a standstill.
August 14th in Haitian history is a really important day. It's celebrated around the country. In fact, there were celebrations scheduled to be in Le Cap. The earthquake happened that morning just after 8:00 AM.
[00:54:36] NADEGE GREEN - HOST, THE UNITED STATES OF ANXIETY: Anytime we hear "Haiti is cursed," because Bois Caïman was a Vodou ceremony, it is often tied to popular misconceptions and distortions of Vodou, an African-based religion shaped by Haitian culture and that is rooted in ancestral remembrance, people's relationship with the earth, and cosmos, and God. Can you unpack for us the false and negative narratives that are tied to Vodou and how they manifest in moments like these?
[00:55:05] DR. MARLENE DAUT: I think that there's been a long history of Protestant conversion in Haiti. Some Haitians practice the Vodou religion at the same time as they practice Catholicism in what's called "syncretism," where the two religions that were forms of spirituality mutually reinforce one another and co-exist together.
But, for a long time, there've been Protestant missionaries in Haiti. They've sought to convert Haitians to Protestantism.
One of the things that happens in this shift, where you start to see a lot of Haitians, actually, convert to Protestantism is the instilling of this belief that Vodou is not only just wrong, but it's somehow responsible for all of Haiti's ills, and that the way to "cure" Haiti of this curse is for people to convert to Protestantism.
Of course, it's ridiculous. This idea that Pat Robertson floated after the 2010 earthquake about Haitians making a pact with the devil on the night of Bois Caïman is, of course, absurd, because in the Vodou religion, there is no "the devil--"
[00:56:14] NADEGE GREEN - HOST, THE UNITED STATES OF ANXIETY: Pat Robertson is an evangelical minister?
[00:56:17] DR. MARLENE DAUT: Exactly. So there is also a vested interest in promoting this narrative. There was a time-- especially pre-the-earthquake, and then, once again, as recovery efforts got really heavily underway throughout the 2010s-- there was a time when you would go on a plane to Haiti and all you would see were missionary groups. They were wearing a T-shirt that identified them with different colors for each different church or congregation and aid groups.
We call this disaster capitalism because all of these hotels built up. That's the time when the Marriott came, the Best Western had come. These are not places that the majority of Haitian people are going to stay at, or even work at. These are multinational conglomerates who are going to make money by having missionaries stay there, or by having aid groups stay there.
We see that what looks like, "Oh, we're talking. We're having a conversation about religion," is actually a conversation about something else, about money. And that some people look at a disaster as an opportunity, whether that's an opportunity to promote their faith or an opportunity to make money of some kind. I think constantly being wary that when we hear these things, it's not an innocent misunderstanding of Haitian history. That it's often quite willful.
[00:57:30] NADEGE GREEN - HOST, THE UNITED STATES OF ANXIETY: It's willful and, for me, it really-- like when you think-- go back to 1791. In the same breath that we say "Haiti is the first Black Republic to abolish slavery," well, then Vodou is the first world religion to aid in the abolishing of slavery in Haiti, the first Black Republic. No other world religion had ever done that at that point that we know of.
At the same time though, Christians were slave owners. The Catholic Church actively participated in Black-people-as-commerce and enslavement. To have this moment come full circle, even as we continue to unpack these narratives today, really it's striking, because Vodou typically is not talked about as a liberating force in popular narrative, though it really is.
[00:58:17] DR. MARLENE DAUT: Absolutely, because the slave owners on Saint-Domingue feared Vodou so much that they would have people executed for carrying what they called the "fetich," these fetishes, like amulets or locks of hair, or things, because they couldn't understand it.
Sometimes they invented things. For example, in the famous case of Mackandal from the 1750s, who was burned at the stake in 1758, accused of poisoning other enslaved people and white people in order as a propagation of the Vodou faith and Vodou religion.
You really see how much fear there is attached, that they did all of these interviews to try to find all the people he had maybe poisoned and affected with his religion, because he was an oungan, or a Vodou priest.
You see that it's long-standing, it's not actually new. Some people came to know of this connection when Pat Robertson made those horrible and racist comments, but this is something that we have to continue to combat, because Vodou is anti-slavery. This is why it so scared the "planters" and enslavers of Saint-Domingue.
[00:59:29] NADEGE GREEN - HOST, THE UNITED STATES OF ANXIETY: It's not like we don't have an answer for why Haiti experiences earthquakes. It sits on a fault line at the intersection of two tectonic plates. The same goes for hurricanes. Haiti's geography, like much of the Caribbean, makes it susceptible to storms. Certainly, we can talk about manmade problems, like poor infrastructure, that makes homes even less resilient in the face of a hurricane, or an earthquake. When people flippantly say that Haiti's problems are a curse, truly, what are they leaving out?
[00:59:58] DR. MARLENE DAUT: They are leaving out so many things, because there's the system of faults in the south, before the 2010 earthquake, this system of faults have been dormant for 200 years. That's very common to see a system of faults that will then go dormant. When it wakes up, it stays awake for a little while. It doesn't go right back to sleep.
That is why I said that there can be some other quakes to come in the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Also, this one stretches to Jamaica, and this earthquake recently was felt as far away as Jamaica.
To say that Haiti is cursed, or even to say that it's a coincidence, actually just doesn't really capture the full story, which is that there are scientific reasons for this.
For example, Haiti had a big earthquake in the north in Cap-Haïtien in 1842, but that's on a different system of faults. That's the one that collapsed Henri Christophe's famous palace, Sans-Souci, for example.
I think that people-- maybe when they hear something that doesn't sound quite right, because... to impose this, kind of, supernatural understanding on the world seems like it could be faith-based, or part of someone's worldview, but we really, actually, have to take a step back from that and see the harm that saying something like that could cause.
Because what we need to do in Haiti is not repeat the mistake of 2010, which is that the infrastructure is not fixed. The infrastructure is not better. Now that we know that this fault may continue to be active, this means that things have to ramp up full speed because it will be a human disaster if another big earthquake happens and nothing changes between now and that time.
[01:01:33] NADEGE GREEN - HOST, THE UNITED STATES OF ANXIETY: Can you talk a little bit more on the manmade side of this, that the problems we're seeing in Haiti, from the political issues, to the lack of infrastructure, to the socioeconomic issues, are long-standing and much deeper than we're talking about?
[01:01:50] DR. MARLENE DAUT: Yes, some of it has to do with the way that the buildings were built. But another thing in terms of what happened in Port-au-Prince in 2010 has to do with the flight from the countryside of Haiti into the city of Port-au-Prince, which was way overpopulated with millions of people. That overpopulation also contributed to the high number of casualties that we saw there.
Then, of course, there are things like the building codes, the cement and concrete that is used, the way the buildings were constructed with just cement and no reinforcements inside, or sometimes the cement, to make it go a further way and get more out of it, mixed with sand, that there were a lot of problems that came from lack of oversight, and also just shoddy builders building things really, really quickly, and selling them, and not adhering to any particular kinds of codes.
This is why it is also a political failure, because it is the job of a government to regulate this kind of thing so we don't have huge disasters like this. Of course, an earthquake at 7.0 or 7.2 in this last one is devastating. We still don't see those same numbers, for example, when they happen in California. We don't see those same numbers elsewhere because there is, very much, a human and political side to it. That's the part where we don't want to rely on spirituality necessarily to understand this, but we do have to think a little bit about politics and the choices that people make in terms of how something like this could happen, and have such a devastating effect.
Final comments on viral images from the border and why truth is at a structural disadvantage
[01:03:28] JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: We've just heard clips today, starting with Consider This giving an overview of the situation on the border. The Majority Report discussed Biden's reaction and what we should be doing if public health were really at the top of our priority list. In the Thick detailed, deeply inhumane system we have in place. Al Jazeera English reported on racism experienced by Haitians in Chile, because of course we don't have a monopoly on discrimination. What Next, in two parts, discussed how aid money is often spent when well-meaning people donate to a disaster like the Haitian earthquake, and what should be done instead. And On the Media looked at the history and framing of Haiti, with an eye towards creating new narratives.
And that's what everyone heard, but members also heard a bonus clip from the United States of Anxiety, which took some time to debunk, and I hate to even have to say this, the idea that Haiti is suffering from a voodoo curse rather than, you know, racism and colonialism like everyone else.
To hear that and all of our bonus content delivered seamlessly into your podcast feed, sign up to support the show at bestoftheleft.com/support or request a financial hardship membership, because we don't make a lack of funds, a barrier to hearing more information. Every request is granted, no questions asked.
And now, we'll be putting voicemails and messages on hold again today, because I want to talk about a portion of this border story that may very well have been the only thing you heard about the border before today. This story brought a lot of attention to the border and warrants a bit of media analysis I think. What I'm talking about of course is the viral photos taken at the border crossing where Haitians were wading through the river and were met by border guards on horseback. And the border guards had extremely long reins or straps or something like that streaming from their horses, and the photographs made it appear that the reins were being used as either weapons or crowd control devices. It was unclear, but the initial reports that came out stated definitively that the border guards were using a whips on Haitian asylum seekers. That claim was later revised down to the idea that the whips actually weren't present. They aren't whips they're reins and the reins were being used as whips.
And it was at about this time that the photographer who took those shots was interviewed and quotes were released stating from that person that they had not seen anyone being whipped, and so finally, the claim was ultimately downgraded to what you heard in the show today. Horse reins were being used for intimidation by spinning and swinging them in the direction of the people crossing the river. Maybe not making contact, it's hard to know for sure one way or the other. Unsurprisingly, conservative media went wild on this story, saying that left wing and mainstream media were lying and creating a hoax and intentionally trying to make border guards look in humane. The initial pictures that came out were a little unclear, it certainly elicited the idea of whips being used, and so you can understand why people went that way, but you can also be super frustrated that the journalism wasn't done well enough to get it right the first time.
And my initial thoughts on this were to use it as an example of a debate you should simply avoid getting into at all costs. Debating whether they were whips or of reins were used as whips reframes the discussion in a completely useless way, primarily because it doesn't matter. If we allow that to be the debate, then it gives the impression that the humaneness of our policy can be determined by just figuring out whether whips are used or not, and in reality, our policy is horrific with or without webs, or whether reins were used as web services spun or used threateningly, it doesn't matter. It just doesn't matter. So if we start from a premise of understanding that this is a completely disingenuous debate that gets us nowhere, then we see that it's a distraction that tries to distract from the bigger picture of our policies. Our policies are 95% of the problem, and to focus on the 5% of the problem, which is the individual actions of individual border guards, is effectively worthless, but that's what elicits an emotional response, et cetera. So it is, again, understandable why people reacted strongly to those photos, but still frustrating.
However, there is an impact of this bad debate to be aware of that does actually matter, because the way we talk about things impacts how people feel about it, and, theoretically in a democracy, the way people feel about things can change the policies of the country. So, if a story like this is gotten wrong initially, which this one seems to have been, it opens the opportunity to lose the narrative as sort of happened, or at least what the right is trying to do is to subvert the narrative and make it all about the left and mainstream media is lying about whips, as if that's the biggest concern we should be worried about right now.
And then when there is this sort of fighting and when journalists seem to have gotten something wrong, it can turn off relatively low information voters who are susceptible to the argument that the media lies and makes things up, and so any example of the media getting something wrong will be used to hammer home the point that the media doesn't make mistakes, they intentionally mislead. And so, that's something to be avoided at almost all costs.
And so, this was the series of thoughts that were swirling in response to this new story, and the conclusion then is, okay, so what do we do? Journalism, be good; news consumers, beware; policies, be best. Right? It's not very groundbreaking. I didn't know that I had something important or deeply additive to say until Amanda, we were talking about this, and she was able to connect a couple of dots for me that really drove it home. So what is going to help drive this conclusion home is this, it is not just about the distraction of the disingenuous debate, and it's not just about criticizing the media in the hopes that they'll do better next time, it's also about understanding the dynamics that allow this kind of scenario to play out the way it has. So it's important to understand that there is an unreasonable double standard at play due to mainstream journalism's attempt to adhere to the truth. We put a lot of weight and value on the truth, and so we actually get held to a higher standard.
As a quick counter-example, let's listen to Tucker Carlson, the most popular host on the most popular channel for conservatives, and here he is being interviewed, quite recently, on a show from Glenn Beck's network, the Blaze.
[01:10:43] DAVE RUBIN - HOST, THE RUBIN REPORT: When you have to cover some idiotic thing that Stelter said, or Cuomo, just these clown people, when you have to cover it, right? Or Don Lemon as you call them, how do you think they live with themselves at this point, when they just lie again and again, and we have the internet to expose the lies? This isn't 20 years ago, when you were on CNN, and we couldn't expose things, we can expose it now and they still do it.
[01:11:04] TUCKER CARLSON: Well, it's, I guess I would ask myself, like, I mean, I lie, if I'm really cornered or something, I lie. I really try not to. I try never to lie on TV. I just don't, you know, I don't like lying. I certainly do it, you know, out of weakness or whatever.
[01:11:21] JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: So he admits to line, very blatantly and clearly, but he does it in a way that he sounds like he wants to get credit for it, like moral credit, for admitting to lying, because, and what makes this make sense, is if you understand their perspective as conservatives is that they believe, or at least tell their audiences that they believe, that the mainstream media and left wing media intentionally lies all the time but won't admit it. And so conservative host, who also lies all the time but can admit it, puts them on a higher moral plane. That's my interpretation of how and why Tucker Carlson could, in an interview, admits to line on television and feel pretty comfortable that he wouldn't lose credibility for doing that, which is a strange position to be in.
But don't think that it's just a casual comment he made once, fox News also argued that Carlson is a liar in court documents. So here's a little bit from an NPR article on a lawsuit against Tucker Carlson for slander. It's titled You Literally Can't Believe the Facts Tucker Carlson Tells You, So Says Fox's Lawyers, published September 29th, 2020.
The article reads, "Now comes the claim that you can't expect to literally believe the words that come out of Carlson's mouth. And that assertion is not coming from Carlson's critics. It's being made by a federal judge in the Southern District of New York and by Fox News's own lawyers in defending Carlson against accusations of slander. It worked, by the way.
Just read the US District Judge [Mary Kay Vyskocil]'s opinion, leaning heavily on the arguments of Fox's lawyers: the "'general tenor' of the show should then inform a viewer that Carlson is not 'stating actual facts' about the topics he discusses and is instead engaging in 'exaggeration' and 'non-literal commentary.'"
The judge wrote: "Fox persuasively argues, that given Mr. Carlson's reputation, any reasonable viewer 'arrive[s] with an appropriate amount of skepticism' about the statement he makes."
And, of course, the problem is he doesn't have any reasonable viewers. So he's been protected from slander, they won, Fox News and Tucker Carlson won the case, defending Tucker Carlson against accusations of slander based on the premise that he can't be believed, and that's why any statements he made that were slanderous are not actionable.
So here's the main point. This whole media fight over truth and standards is the result of a power dynamic playing out in the media. When you can convince your viewers that journalistic truth is actually lies and journalistic mistakes are also actually malicious lies, then you can say just about anything, as long as your audience agrees with you, because they'll never believe any fact checkers who challenge the falsehoods that you state. So in a fight over political ideologies, which is the status quo for all politics and political media, those who care about drawing on actual reality to form their opinions have to work twice as hard to be believed half as much.
And a lot of people on the left are already well acquainted with that concept, because they live it in their professional lives every day. This isn't new or exclusive to media. The entrenched power system gets the presumption of honesty and competency wherever it is, while those without power are questioned and presumed incompetent from the start, creating a structural imbalance.
If you have power, all you have to do is defend it. You're inside the castle, not storming the castle. And if your followers have the same vested interest in maintaining the current power dynamics, then convincing them that everyone else is lying is something they're eager to believe. Then you can defend your collective position of power with whatever lies you like. You can even admit it in public and in court documents that you lie and never worry about being held to account, or even losing the trust of your audience.
On the flip side of the power dynamic, if you attempt to stand up for asylum seekers wading through a waist deep river with their possessions in plastic bags who are being menaced by border guards on horses, but you misinterpret reins as whips, then you will be held to the highest possible standards. That bad reporting will be used to reinforce the idea of the "Fake News Media" out to get you, and justify or inhumane immigration system all in one seamless movement. So maybe my conclusion still just has to be something about how the media needs to do better, but it's important to understand why. Truth is at a structural disadvantage in some ways that are new and others that are old, but complaining about it is not the point, nor is it enough. We all need to hold on desperately to truth from media company executives, all the way down to the casual news consumer scrolling a newsfeed, looking for something to post on their social media.
The proliferation of lies, disinformation, misinformation, and plain old reporting mistakes all collectively work to benefit to those who are least interested in truth. It's part of a concept called the liar's dividend. Basically, those who are willing to lie can benefit the most from a growing collective uncertainty about what is true. There are those who know this and actively pedal disinformation as much as possible. Those interested in truth have an obligation, at the very least, to not even inadvertently add to this phenomenon with subpar reporting or thoughtless sharing of dubious information on social media. And that is why the story of the whips and the reins is important. Not because it should change a single thing about how any of us should view our border policies.
As always keep the comments coming in at (202) 999-3991, or by emailing me to [email protected]. That's going to be it for today. Thanks to everyone for listening. Thanks to Deon Clark and Erin Clayton for their research work for the show and participation in our bonus episodes. Thanks to the Monosyllabic, Transcriptionist Trio, Ben, Ken, and Scott for their volunteer work, helping put our transcripts together. And thanks to Amanda Hoffman for all of her work on our social media outlets, activism segments, graphic designing, bonus show co-hosting, and so on. And thanks of course, to those who support the show by becoming a member or purchasing gift memberships at bestoftheleft.com/support, or from right inside the Apple Podcast app.
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So coming to you from far outside, the conventional wisdom of Washington, DC, my name is Jay!, and this has been the Best of the Left Podcast coming to you twice weekly thanks entirely to the members and donors to the show from bestoftheleft.com.