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#1619 A Guide to Protests Against Injustice from the Peaceful to the Deadly (Transcript)

Air Date 3/30/2024

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JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [00:00:00] Welcome to this episode of the award winning Best of the Left podcast in which we look at the fact that we are living through a sort of age of protest, from the opposition to the Iraq War, the Arab Spring uprisings, Occupy Wall Street, all the way through to marches against Trump and now the war in Gaza. So, we thought we should take a look at the art and science of protest itself. Sources today include Novara Media, Chapo Trap House, Second Thought, The Majority Report, and Democracy Now!, with additional members-only clips from Outrage and Optimism and Millennials Are Killing Capitalism.

The Missing Revolutions of The 2010s | Ash Sarkar Meets Vincent Bevins Part 1 - Novara Media - Air Date 10-29-23

ASH SARKAR - HOST, NOVARA MEDIA: There's a conventional understanding of why left wing protest movements fail, and I think that if you asked somebody who worked for the Times or the BBC, they'd say, well, the problem is is that they're too left wing.

They're too left wing, they're too disconnected from where the majority of people are at, and that means there's a kind of right wing backlash, which operates as [00:01:00] a sort of course correction. It's because these people are too disconnected from where the median citizen is at. 

Don't really feel that that's your thesis in the book, but yours is something else.

VINCENT BEVINS: Well, that, I think, is what happened very often throughout history. I protested the Iraq War in 2003. And what happened at that point, it was this huge outpouring of opposition to the invasion of and destruction of that country. But what you can do as a government is simply ignore it. And that's what happened, I think, in 2003, and I think very often in history, we are not surprised to see that the people in power choose to see whatever outpouring of sentiment on the streets as a minority that we already knew about, we're going to ignore them. What is very strange about what I call the mass protest decade, the period of 2010 to 2020, just to summarize, I try to write a history of the world in that decade built around mass protests, treating the history of the world in that period as if the most important thing that happened was unexpected mass [00:02:00] protests and their unintended consequences.

What happens in that decade is not that their fringe elements that are ignored by elites is that in many, many cases, they become so big that they actually unseat or fundamentally destabilize existing elites or existing governments. So many "normal people" -- and this becomes important because everyone, every person is a concrete person, which group of individuals you get in the streets always matters -- but you got so many " normal people" that actually this worked sometimes much, much better than anybody expected, and worked to an extent that opportunities were generated that other people took advantage of. 

So the strange thing in the 2010s is not, oh, nothing happened, because that's normal. It's normal if they say, well, we already knew that 1 percent of the population feels this way and they're going to be very noisy. We're going to ignore them. What happened very, very often in 2010s, and I build the story the protests that get big enough to do this, is that people join the streets in large enough numbers that they either dislodge or fundamentally destabilize governments around the world.

ASH SARKAR - HOST, NOVARA MEDIA: So in [00:03:00] 2003, I attended my very first protest. I was 11 years old and I went on the protest against the Iraq war. And for that period of my childhood, I was going on pretty regular anti-war protests and they were very formulaic. They went from A to B, you marched, you did some chanting and nobody gave a solitary flying fuck. We used to bunk school en masse to go on these protests and nobody cared. 

And then my first experience of going to protests where people cared about these protests and they made it into the news, it was from 2010 onwards. It was the student movement, it was the anti-austerity movement, and the Arab Spring happens slap bang in the middle of all of that.

And I saw firsthand that our political vocabulary for what we were doing changed. So when Milbank got smashed up, when the protests at Parliament Square got violent, very violent with the [00:04:00] police, there was some sort of experimental terminology being thrown around, like, Oh, are we doing a civic swarm? Are we doing something else? And then Tahrir Square happens. We go, this is what we're trying to emulate. We're trying to create this space in which we're making a revolution amongst ourselves, and then it might spread out to other things. So how did the Arab Spring become this blueprint for leftists all over the world?

VINCENT BEVINS: And indeed, all kinds of movements, indeed, movements that you would not consider left wing at all. I think that the way that Hong Kong -- well, Hong Kong is an explicit copy of Occupy Wall Street, which is a copy of Tahrir Square, which is inspired by Tunisia. And Hong Kong, I don't think that you would call led by leftists, Maidan in Ukraine also is interpreted in such a way, interpreted with the lens of Tahrir Square in ways which are ultimately important, I think, without that being a movement that is primarily leftist.

You're absolutely right, that this moment, the inspiring -- and I think it's easy to recognize why it was so [00:05:00] inspiring -- scene of Tahrir Square really defines a lot of the rest of the decade. A lot of the rest of the decade is about either movements intentionally trying to reproduce that, or being interpreted as if they are that by the media.

ASH SARKAR - HOST, NOVARA MEDIA: So what was going on in Tahrir Square that was so exciting? 

VINCENT BEVINS: Absolutely. So it really starts in Tunisia at the end of 2010. And in Tunisia, you have an uprising which begins in the interior of the country with the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi, but you get a revolution which proceeds in more or less normal terms in North African history, you do get a set of concrete actors. You have a very radical left wing party. You have the union, UGTT, which ends up acting in a way which is very important. You have professional associations which end up putting pressure on the dictator who flees. And then there is a process to create a new government. 

Now in Egypt, which is not far away, but politically different enough that the original organizers of protests on January 25th in Cairo, which [00:06:00] was initially a protest against police brutality, like so many others in the 2010s. This was held on Police Day. Even though that they knew that Tunisia would be inspiring to some extent for Egyptians, they did not expect to take Tahrir Square. They did not expect to even make the call for Mubarak to be overthrown. They expected, hopefully, to get some people together to protest police brutality. They knew that the inspiration of what was happening in Tunisia would be important, but they did not expect to take Tahrir Square, which they do on January 25th. And they certainly don't expect what happens on January 28th, which is that essentially that night, there is a battle with the police and the police lose. So the people that have swarmed into the streets behind the original organizers of January 25th and 28th are so massive in numbers that the police rip off their uniforms and run away. And at this point, the Egyptian revolutionaries -- 

ASH SARKAR - HOST, NOVARA MEDIA: That must have been so exhilarating to be a part of. 

VINCENT BEVINS: I'm speaking with some of the people that organized January 25th and January 28th, and now in the context of what's happening, the way that Tahrir Square has been taken again for the first time in a [00:07:00] very long time because of pro-Palestine solidarity, and it was, I think it's worth mentioning, pro-Palestine solidarity that led to the creation of many of these groups in the first place. It was often support for the Second Intifada that really created the tactic of taking Tahrir Square. 

But to go back to January 28th, at the moment when the police flee, and as you say, the people that I'm speaking to now that I was spoke to for this book, they say that day was so beautiful that I could relive it for the rest of my life. Even knowing how badly it turns out two years later, I could relive every moment for the rest of my life. It was the most alive I've ever felt. We were making history. We were pushing across the bridge and with every push of our bodies, we were pushing history forward.

The Uncommitted Movement feat. Layla Elabed & Waleed Shahid - Chapo Trap House - Air Date 3-8-24

WILL MENAKER - HOST, CHAPO TRAP HOUSE: I think it's unquestionable that the campaign has made an impact because the reactions in the media that now have to talk about this and deal with this have been quite irate. So, starting with you, what do you say to the criticism that the Uncommitted campaign is either unwittingly helping Donald Trump or just simply being useful idiots to secure his reelection. 

WALEED SHAHID: Well, this is a big tent campaign from like loyal Democrats, even liberal Zionists, all the way [00:08:00] to anarchists and socialists who have been protesting in the streets. This is a way to bring people together who are pissed off about the war and want to make their voices heard at the ballot box. And so there are definitely some people who are voting uncommitted who are not going to vote for President Biden and probably vote third party or sit out come November.

But I think the vast majority of people who are voting uncommitted would - and the polls I've seen show this - if Biden was to end funding toward Israel's war in Gaza, if Biden was to call for a permanent ceasefire, if Biden was to end funding for the occupation, these voters would come around, obviously. You know, it is a big stretch for Biden to go from here to there. But every poll I've seen is that voters who are uncommitted right now would come around if Biden were to change his position dramatically. 

I think this is a warning. Everything I heard from the political establishment and like media and journalists I talked to was that Biden doesn't take these Arabs, these young people, these Palestinians, Muslims, seriously. He thinks by [00:09:00] October, when Biden reminds Muslims and Arabs and young people about the Muslim ban, they will come around and vote for him. I personally wanted to send the media and political establishment a message that these voters are serious about their uncommitment to Biden and then it's a warning sign for Democrats that if they're going to put Netanyahu above defeating Trump, if they're going to put Netanyahu above American democracy, then the bill will come due for disregarding Palestinian lives. And so, I think the Biden campaign is starting to understand that these voters are serious. So, either they will continue what they're doing, which is to rebrand themselves as, Oh, we're nice to the Palestinians. We have nice messaging about Muslims. Or they'll abandon Muslims and Arabs and young people and go for Nikki Haley voters, or they'll change their position and try to earn the support of the voters who care about human rights for everybody. And so we're waiting to see a policy change. But you know, right now it's not good enough. 

WILL MENAKER - HOST, CHAPO TRAP HOUSE: And, Layla, when you campaign on this issue, do you encounter a Democratic voters who maybe feel [00:10:00] upset by Biden's support for the war on Palestine, but sort of, I guess, ultimately think that's over there, there's nothing I can really do about it, and I just can't bear the thought of Trump being president? What do you say to these voters or is this sort of a voice from nowhere? Do you not encounter people like that? 

LAYLA ELABED: Well, I think that Michigan voters showed the Democratic Party exactly how they felt. In Michigan, we had 73 out of 83 counties vote at 10 percent or over for uncommitted. And so, I think that's a good example of how broad this campaign was. 

WILL MENAKER - HOST, CHAPO TRAP HOUSE: In terms of the reaction of the Democratic Party and its leadership, do you think that they were maybe caught a little off guard that this movement is not just a movement of Arab and Muslim Democratic voters, but has sort of crossed demographic lines in a way that can't be sort of easily cordoned off or jettisoned as a small sort of ethnic voting group?

WALEED SHAHID: Yeah, I [00:11:00] think they're definitely caught off guard. In Minnesota, there was The New York Times did a graph showing that the largest size of the vote for uncommitted came from voters under 35, and that multiracial, multifaith, multiethnic. And so we have statistics showing that this is not just an Arab and Muslim issue, but this is particularly a generational issue.

It was definitely intentional that Kamala Harris made her rebrand on ceasefire in Selma, of all places. She was speaking to an older, Black, Christian audience and for people who've been paying attention, several, like, a thousand Black pastors wrote to the White House saying that they were against the funding of the war. The AMU church for Biden. 

WILL MENAKER - HOST, CHAPO TRAP HOUSE: That's surprising to me as well, if I could interject here, that's surprising to me because I remember when protesters disrupted Biden's comments at that famous Black church. I was assured that this would turn off the entire sort of African-American faith community. But that doesn't appear to have a... 

WALEED SHAHID: You must watch a lot of [00:12:00] MSNBC. So that church, that church where Biden was disrupted and the entire Democratic establishment said like, How rude, these protesters, this is a historic black church. So, that was the African Methodist Episcopal Church, one of the largest Black congregations in the country. That denomination put out a statement a few weeks after that disruption saying they could no longer support funding of Israel's occupation or war. And so, you know, maybe people have their feathers ruffled for a couple of hours, but I think those protesters got their voice across because literally that denomination is now against the war and calling on Biden to end his support of it.

WILL MENAKER - HOST, CHAPO TRAP HOUSE: And so like in this process, the Uncommitted campaign has picked up a number of delegates. Well, will you be sending those delegates to the convention? And what does that practically look like? I mean, it's not going to be enough numbers to deny Joe Biden the nomination, but do you plan to send delegates to the convention, and what does that practically look like? 

WALEED SHAHID: So, Listen to Michigan is figuring out a plan to coordinate and organize these delegates. Each Democratic Party in these states has a [00:13:00] little bit of a different process to make sure the delegates are the delegates from the Uncommitted campaigns. But I imagine they will go to the convention to hold whoever the nominee is accountable to their anti-war agenda, to use the process of the convention to put forward their vision of what the Democratic Party should stand for. And some of it is bureaucratic and arcane, but I imagine they will, you know, this is a core part of the Democratic Party. Like, half of the people who voted for Biden in 2020 believe Israel has committed a genocide. And so I think there'll be carrying the voices of Democratic voters, who elected them in these primaries, to the convention in Chicago.

WILL MENAKER - HOST, CHAPO TRAP HOUSE: All right. Waleed, I know you have to go in a second, but I guess just like to conclude with you, you said Wisconsin and Washington are the primaries, the big ones where uncommitted is on the ballot line. When are those primaries? And what do you want people to know, both in those states and the country at large, going into this, into these primaries?

WALEED SHAHID: Yeah. So, Washington's primary is this coming Tuesday on March 12th. [00:14:00] There is an amazing effort underway there that's humble and low budget, but that is on Tuesday, March 12th. I don't know when this episode is coming out, but hopefully people can plug in. You can go to ListenToMichigan.com to get plugged in, donate, volunteer, phone bank for that effort. And then the other one is Wisconsin, which is in April. That's also looking like a pretty significant organizing push and an organized one. That election is April 2nd. And so if you miss the Washington one and can't plug in to the phone banks or can't donate it to it, you still have a month to get involved in the April Wisconsin Democratic primary.

WILL MENAKER - HOST, CHAPO TRAP HOUSE: Okay, great. Layla, I'm sorry we lost you there, but I just wanted to follow up, to finish the question I was going to ask you about: When you campaign on this issue, do you encounter voters that are angry at Biden's policies supporting the war on Palestine, but, like, just can't bear the thought of Trump being president. Like, how do you talk to those voters? Or, is this even an opinion that you encounter? 

LAYLA ELABED: Well, [00:15:00] yeah, it's definitely an opinion that we encounter, but what I can say about the Arab-American and Muslim-American community is that, you know, this runs deep, this betrayal that we felt from the Biden administration and from the president runs really deep. Because we are directly affected by what is happening now in the Gaza and in that region, in the South of Lebanon, in Syria, in Yemen. And so we are watching our loved ones, our friends, our family members, be murdered through our American taxpayer dollars. And so, yes, I do think that, on one hand, you have folks that say, you know, I don't support the genocide. I don't support our complicity in this war, but I cannot have another four years of Donald Trump. And what we say to that is that this is a primary, this is our chance to use our vote as our voice to hopefully get Joe Biden and his [00:16:00] administration to change course and reevaluate their policies when it comes to this unchecked and unconditional military funding that we provide.

And so, these votes don't carry over into November and everyone is going to have to vote their conscience and hopefully that we see some change on behalf of the Biden administration. 

Why Peaceful Protest Won't Solve Anything - Second Thought - Air Date 8-12-22

JT CHAPMAN - HOST, SECOND THOUGHT: The principled debates in the assembly. The decisions made by the Supreme Court. The enforcement of laws by judges and overly militarized police forces. These are all just procedures. It's civil. It's well organized. It's legitimate. And therefore, even when the consequences are brutal, it's not even really violence.

Kavanaugh doesn't deserve all this violence on his doorstep. He deserves to live a normal, peaceful life. All he did was vote in a way that you didn't like. And there's nothing violent about voting. It's easy to see how the contrast between angry people yelling and people in suits talking quietly reflects this idea.

And that's the image politicians like to invoke when they're talking about [00:17:00] civility. But the state has never been a non-violent institution, the American government especially. For starters, the liberal regimes most of you watching this video live under are entirely the product of bloody, violent revolutions, like those in France and the US.

Nobody voted the king away or acted all that civilly. But that's just the tip of the iceberg. Thousands of early Americans participated in the genocide of Native Americans that is still going on. Today, the state relies on the tremendous violence of the police, the carceral system, and the military, with the US accounting for nearly 25 percent of the world's prison population, and spending more money than the next 10 countries combined on its armed forces. 

There's more. Every day, the governments we live under choose not to end homelessness, poverty, and malnutrition, despite these measures being well within our means, and in so doing, subject millions of people to a more structural form of violence.

Governments allow, and often encourage, [00:18:00] fossil fuel companies to destroy local environments, and rip through reservations with oil pipelines that have a historic record of failure. That's more violence. Without needing to go back very far, we can see that the liberal government we live under survived for generations by capturing and enslaving human beings.

These same liberal governments also colonized entire continents, crushing their native populations without remorse. And once colonialism was formally ended in many parts of the world, former colonies were kept under the imperial boot in a series of neo-colonial, neo-liberal market reforms. At times, governments even carry out direct, very targeted violence against their own people in horrific acts like the move bombings that wiped out an entire bloc. Or the, uh, "removal" of Fred Hampton in his sleep. 

Government, and specifically the kind of government that you most likely live under, is tremendously violent. It's not civil at all, it's just very efficient and formal with the way it [00:19:00] conducts its violence. When politicians are confronted with this evidence, which frankly doesn't happen very often, their last resort is to rely on the idea that this violence is legitimate.

The violence may exist, and it may be deplorable, but it is ultimately publicly sanctioned. The way this violence gains its legitimacy in the 21st Century is by claiming that all this awful stuff is just what the people want. At the end of the day, in liberal democracies, the government acts as nothing more than a mouthpiece for the will of the public.

So, if something bad happens, it's just because the people wanted it to. Or they just didn't vote hard enough. This is how Obama recently explained it in an interview for a show that he produced. In this clip, Obama was just asked why the massive desire for change and an end to much of the state's violence in 2008 never materialized.

Obama responds by saying, 

BARACK OBAMA: Except it turns out Mitch McConnell was elected, too. Right? Precisely because the country is a big, diverse, complicated place. Look, here's the [00:20:00] thing... 

JT CHAPMAN - HOST, SECOND THOUGHT: The idea here is that because people are just so different in this big country, putting an end to this violence is too difficult. We need to compromise. Except Obama's time in office was full of moments where he led the charge on increasing the state's violence without facing any resistance. 

For a long time, Obama was called the "Deporter in Chief". Because of how aggressively he pursued the deportation of, at the conservative end, 2.5 million people. His legacy is also one of over 540 drone strikes and hundreds of civilian deaths, also unopposed by the Republicans he's trying to pin the blame on. Obama also imposed, once again without staunch opposition, the brutal austerity politics that made the 2008 crash so violent for millions of Americans.

The banks were bailed out, but many Americans were just left out to dry in sudden, brutal poverty. And it wasn't because Americans disagreed with one another, it's because their voice didn't matter as much as those of business interests. This is because, unlike what Obama is trying [00:21:00] to convey, the government is not an impartial institution.

The state is not a perfect expression of democratic will. It is the crystallization of class dynamics. When they act, our capitalist governments do not exclusively consider the public's demands. Every decision, whether small or large, gets filtered through the long term preservation of capitalist interests.

While some decisions the public supports make it through, many do not. And imposing that corporate filter is precisely what the appeal to civility is trying to do. By calling for civility, by insisting that the only legitimate channels for political change are those of the government, liberals and conservatives alike are intent on submitting every desire for change to the approval of the ruling class.

If that sounds a bit far fetched to you, consider this. Researchers have found that in over 20 years of congressional voting records, the preferences of the bottom 90 percent of the population have, "a minuscule, near zero, statistically non significant impact upon public policy". [00:22:00] Near zero. Almost nothing.

That begs the question of who does have influence, if not the public. And helpfully, the same study goes on to say, "When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites or with organized interests, they generally lose". Our elected leaders can act in our interests, they just don't if it conflicts with those of capitalists.

This is because, at the end of the day, our elected leaders run on campaigns that need to be funded by billionaires. They are personally invested in the stock market to the tune of millions of dollars, and they are consistently and overwhelmingly lobbied by business interests. The US government, like many all over the world, was founded by liberal thinkers, who sanctified the private ownership of productive resources and, in so doing, created government institutions that would always protect this right, even when it conflicts with the well being of the population. 

The American government is not neutral. By constructing it as the only [00:23:00] civil way to do politics, those critical of protesters are intent on keeping politics in favor of some over others, and shutting up those who speak out.

If all that wasn't enough, it's important to remember what's being asked of protesters here, in real terms. Protests never begin as violent. Almost every protest movement that's had any element of violence or generic uncivility has come after decades of by the books peaceful protesting being casually ignored. Decades of state sanctioned, pre-approved protests that do not produce even the mildest discomfort. People protested to enshrine abortion for decades before showing up in front of Kavanaugh's house. The movement for Black Lives was not only overwhelmingly peaceful, the few instances of violence only appeared after generations of Black suffering being systematically ignored.

People asking protesters to remain peaceful at all costs are doing so knowing full well that they have had their chance to hear them out. Think of it like this: if the purpose of a protest is to [00:24:00] force the government to act on something, and the government is the one telling you what is an acceptable protest, do you really believe they'd allow a protest that would actually make them uncomfortable or force their hand in any way? Of course not. The people calling for civility in a society with this power distribution recognized that the outcome of their proposed civility would be the maintenance of the status quo, the status quo that benefits them, those at the levers of power, and the violent state apparatus they wield.

As much as we can wish that asking nicely for things will solve all our problems, history has shown us that simply won't be the case. In every era, it has been the actions of countless ordinary people working together to force the change they want to see. Throughout history, protests, demonstrations, and mass movements have always been the main drivers of real change.

Gaza Protesters SHUT DOWN Schiff's Victory Speech - The Majority Report - Air Date 3-6-24

SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Perhaps what was most impressive was the relentlessness of, if not now, activists confronting Adam Schiff on his support for the massacre that's happening in Gaza. This is really [00:25:00] important. The more pressure that you know, they see in the White House on other Democrats in other places, the more they will feel it, et cetera, et cetera. And they dogged Adam Schiff yesterday, and, uh, good for them. Takes a lot of guts to do stuff like this. 

PROTESTORS: This man is sending your tax dollars to kill children in Gaza. How do you work your tax dollars? By sending our tax dollars to Gaza. Free Palestine! Free Palestine! He is killing children with our tax dollars. Where do you find money? 

EMMA VIGELAND - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: That was earlier on, right? 

SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: What happened? Why did they, can you let it play out a little more? That is 20 seconds. It's just 20 seconds. Oh, okay. But I think we just went 16 seconds there, but that's okay. Nevertheless I'll tell you why I think this is effective. As opposed to even like maybe when you're in a big crowd like this, it is disturbing what they're trying to do in a way that is different than like pursuing them individually. Like, when you go and you disrupt a [00:26:00] fundraiser or when you go and you disrupt a party when you go and disrupt, uh, you know, as we've seen with Biden has canceled a lot of his college tours, uh, they're feeling it. It is causing them... there is a political price that is associated with this.

EMMA VIGELAND - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: And it's also just really brave. It's, if not now, it's Jewish Voice for Peace and other groups, we should say, that are organizing this in California. Like, I saw, at the NBA All Star Game, there was a Let Gaza Live banner unfurled. People are going to get beers dumped on them. People, I mean, Joe Biden was getting interrupted by someone , Jill Biden, criticizing Biden's policies in Gaza and she must have been a, she was a young woman and you see these older people just grabbing at her and being kind of violent. So, it takes bravery on a number of levels. 

SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: So that was a campaign event earlier in the day. And here is Schiff with his victory speech. 

EMMA VIGELAND - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: He didn't get to finish it. 

SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Check it out. I

PROTESTORS: [00:27:00] want to thank, I,

I want to thank you all.

COMMENTATOR: Someone came up and said to Adam Schiff, who was reading off a prompter, who was trying to stick to the prompter, to wrap it up. He went and finished it up. These were people who came in, about five or six to start with that said, ceasefire now, ceasefire now. Security ushered them out. And then another couple popped up. Let Gaza live. Let Gaza live. And then some more came in the middle. Security could not get them out. They were scattered through the room here at the Avalon Theater and the nightclub. Go down there and pull down in the crowd for me, please. And you see that, you know, there's just a lot of arguing, a lot of disagreement. Again, they were chanting, Free Gaza now. Let Gaza [00:28:00] live. Cease fire now. Let Gaza live. And the protesters remain here in the center of this floor. So what was supposed to be a victory celebration and a scripted speech that Adam Schiff was reading off prompter when no doubt he had carefully crafted a long time ago was cut dramatically short and he was now taken off the stage.

EMMA VIGELAND - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Whew. Great stuff. Also, this has been a hallmark of these demonstrations too, how they stagger their disruptions. It's so effective because like they can't get you all out at once and they don't know when one member of the crowd is going to start chanting. This has been done, I think at one of Biden speeches, with the one in Virginia? 

BRADLEY ALSOP: The Biden speech at the one in Virginia is the one that I think precipitated his staff doing their best to not allow that type of disruption to happen again at any event. And also it happened in one of Tony Blinken's House committee [00:29:00] hearings.

EMMA VIGELAND - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Right. The Virginia speech, Biden was interrupted 17 times. 

BRADLEY ALSOP: Yeah, it was like constant. 

EMMA VIGELAND - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Yep. So, good job guys. 

SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Yeah, really important. I mean, that is there's no way that the White House isn't aware of this and realizes that this is going to be a problem. You see press reports that they're creeping ever so slightly to pressuring Israel. Benny Gantz was in town, and supposedly they gave him an earful. All of which is, you know, irrelevant until they actually start to put some muscle behind this. 

But we had Ken Klippenstein reporting on a leaked diplomatic cable, I mentioned that, that was basically coming from the the American embassy in Israel saying, and these are not people who are not sympathetic to Israel, I can tell you, in the Diplomatic Corps. They're basically saying like if they go into Rafa, it is going to be an unmitigated, in many [00:30:00] respects, incomprehensible disaster.

You have, literally, hundreds of thousands of people, hundreds of hundreds of thousands of people living in tents there. Just horrible. So, good for those folks who are out there protesting in what was really probably the most high profile speech of the night, I mean outside of maybe, I don't know, if Trump gave one or not.

EMMA VIGELAND - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: And he's going to be the senator from California, Schiff. Like, that was why he spent, I think, over half of his money that he spent on advertisements, advertising for Garvey. So, this is like the moment to say, we are your constituents too, buddy, and this is the future here in California.

The Missing Revolutions of The 2010s | Ash Sarkar Meets Vincent Bevins Part 2 - Novara Media - Air Date 10-29-23

ASH SARKAR - HOST, NOVARA MEDIA: I want to talk about strategy, because really that is what this book is about. As much as it's also about these moments of huge, quite romantic moments of confrontation. It's about the kinds of strategies and lack of strategies that were going on at these particular times. There's an account [00:31:00] of the ways in which horizontalism fails to be organized enough to take advantage of the moments that it produces. So what are the kinds of alternatives that are available for people?

VINCENT BEVINS: Yeah, and it's really about a very specific package of tactics that comes together historically and ideologically that is often divorced from strategy. Sometimes it works great when inserted into a larger strategic vision. Sometimes it is divorced from that strategic vision, and this often becomes tragically clear to the participants at the moment when, Oh my God, we've disrupted this power center. We've created a power vacuum, but we cannot fill it, because we don't have the kind of movement that could fill a power vacuum who's filling it is now our enemies, right? 

So this particular set of tactics like this repertoire of contention, to use the sociological language, would be the apparently spontaneous, apparently leaderless, digitally-coordinated mass protest In public squares and public spaces.

So all of those elements [00:32:00] come from somewhere. They don't need to go together, but they really seemed like they were supposed to all the time in the 2010s. So you can do protests that are different, or you can do things that are not protests. So strikes and boycotts are often proven historically to be very effective at putting pressure on elites, often more so than protests. Protests, I think, are fundamentally communicative acts. That doesn't mean that that's not a problem, but I think understanding that helps us to understand that they work best when in dialogue with or when supported by other types of actions or by organizations that can put pressure on existing elites on the state. An answer that comes out of many of the interviews at the end of the book is the creation of organizations to do what you can, in accordance with your vision of the future you want to build in accordance with where your actual goals are, to build organizations when it seems like nothing is happening, to build the kind of collective capacities for action -- to build the kind of collective capacities for [00:33:00] action that can respond to changing circumstances, that can act in the long term. And these often work really well in concert with protests when they do happen, because I don't think the mass protest is going away. Social media has made it quite easy to bring lots of people together around a particular cause or often like a particular post, like a viral image, very quickly.

So one of the answers, and this is something that I really do try to really give to other voices at the end, Rodrigo Nunes, he's a Brazilian philosopher, he's now here, he talks about an ecology of organizations, organizations that are not necessarily permanent vanguards, but can act in a vanguard manner in relationship to other movements.

And then not a lot of people get back into labor organizing. This is something that never went away in the UK, but in the US, this is something that a lot of people in the Bernie generation have gotten into for the first time. 

ASH SARKAR - HOST, NOVARA MEDIA: So let's talk about labor organizing, because something which I've been thinking about a lot is about what kind of labor organizing people are doing. And it seems that you've got a generation left scenario here in the UK. You've got lots of people who are politically active during the Corbyn movement and are [00:34:00] now looking for something to do. And it seems to me that there are lots of people who go, okay, well, my job is to unionize wherever I am, but often that's not in strategic sectors. So it's like NGOs and charities or left wing organizations. And then there's a smaller group of people who are saying, okay, well, actually what we should try and do is identify choke points in capitalism and all, almost do the Alliance for Workers Liberty thing of taking up jobs in strategic sectors so we could do labor organizing there.

In terms of your sense of what's strategically useful and what's worked in other contexts, what should you do? Should you organize what's close or organize what feels like it could be most disruptive to capitalism? 

VINCENT BEVINS: So recognizing this is now outside of the scope of the book, but this came up a lot because I understood this in the US and a lot of people have read the book and they brought their own experiences, either what they have done after Bernie, what they'd have to done after the George Floyd uprisings. I would say that some of the most important victories in this very incipient rebirth of a labor movement in the United States had to do with the second thing that you said, going to [00:35:00] Amazon or going to form a reform caucus within the UAW, which changes the leadership, which allows for one of the most important strikes in a very long time in the United States, going to strategic sectors.

But I would also say that not everybody is a full-time dedicated professional revolutionary and doing what you can around you is better than not doing anything. I think that, again, you can have both. I think that being very strategic has been proven to be effective in the US context, but not everybody has to do that.

And I think that, again, the kind of lessons that come out of a lot of the conversations at the end of the book revolve around some kind of message that says, just join an organization, whatever it is that you care about. It doesn't have to be a dedicated fully a revolutionary party, if that's not what you want to do with your life. But something where that gets you together with other human beings that you can work collectively on building something that can act locally, nationally, internationally -- whatever you think is best is better than what we're all doing now, [00:36:00] including myself, sitting at home alone on the computer, getting mad at the computer.

The Life & Death of Aaron Bushnell: U.S. Airman Self-Immolates Protesting U.S. Support for Israel - Democracy Now! - Air Date 2-28-24

JUAN GONZÀLEZ - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: This issue of self-immolation, we’ve already had two now in protest of the war in Gaza. But you noted that during the Vietnam War, as many as five Americans self-immolated themselves in protest against the U.S. involvement in Vietnam. I’m wondering if you could talk about that? You wrote about that recently for Common Dreams.

ANN WRIGHT: Yes. It’s a sad situation, for sure. Our hearts go out to Aaron’s family and Aaron’s friends.

And the same back in — 60 years ago almost now, in 1965, as the U.S. War on Vietnam was starting up, first we had an 82-year-old Quaker woman, Alice Herz, committed suicide by self-immolation, and then followed about six months later by another Quaker, Norman Morrison, from Baltimore, who went to the [00:37:00] Pentagon and set himself on fire, little knowing the place that he had picked at the Pentagon was right below where Secretary of Defense McNamara had his office. And apparently, his self-immolation had a strong effect on McNamara, although he didn’t stop the war initially, but it did have an effect on him personally and on his family. And then followed by a young man in New York at the U.N. Plaza. So, yes, there were five people that burned themselves to death over a political decision of the United States to go to war.

And so, now we have — 60 years later, we have two people in less than three months who have done the same, I would say, courageous act of taking their own lives to bring the attention of the American public and the world to what the United States is complicit [00:38:00] in, which is the Israeli genocide and U.S. genocide of the Palestinians in Gaza.

AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: I just wanted to go through a few more of those examples in history, that sent shockwaves through multiple conflicts. You had Thich Quang Duc, a monk who drew attention to the treatment of Vietnamese Buddhists by the government; and then Mohamed Bouazizi in Tunisia, who sparked the Arab Spring when he set himself on fire — this was before Egypt, and that sparked the uprising in Tunisia; Malachi Ritscher, a musician who called for an end to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. A pro-Palestine protester also self-immolated outside the Israeli Consulate in Atlanta in December, but we don’t know her name. It hardly got any attention.

And there’s been a whole debate in the media right now, those who talk [00:39:00] about it as — don’t even want to talk. I think as it started, papers like The New York Times didn’t even say he said, “Free Palestine,” and other outlets, as well. But then, as time went on, they did talk about what happened. But the whole issue of going into a debate about mental illness and not wanting to encourage something like this, versus you hear someone like Ali Abunimah talking about Aaron’s incredible bravery. Your thoughts?

ANN WRIGHT: Well, it is incredibly brave. And a person — well, there’s no evidence at all that Aaron had any sort of mental illness. He was a very conscientious person who saw what the U.S. was doing in his position in the U.S. military. And one might say, he’s not the first person to have committed suicide over what the United States has been doing. If you look, 22 veterans a day commit suicide over what they’ve done in the U.S. [00:40:00] military. What Aaron did was very, very courageous. I can’t imagine taking that step. It was an act of courage, an act of bravery, to call attention to U.S. policies.

JUAN GONZÀLEZ - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: Levi Pierpont, I wanted to ask you — you grew up as an evangelical Christian. Aaron Bushnell attended Catholic religious services while at basic training. How do you think his religious views informed his beliefs and, ultimately, his action?

LEVI PIERPONT: I think, ultimately, by the time that he did what he did, he didn’t identify with any particular religion. But I know that for me, even though I’m more agnostic than I grew up, my evangelical roots still influence me. They influence my sense of justice. And they told me since I was a young child [00:41:00] that you have to stand up for what you believe in. And I can imagine that it was the same way for Aaron. And so, even though I don’t believe that he still believed in the Catholic faith by the time that he died, I know that that upbringing had a profound impact on him, and I’m sure that it influenced his sense of justice.

AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: Levi Pierpont, Aaron was living in San Antonio, where Lackland base is. He was doing a lot of mutual aid work with people who were unsheltered there, very well known in those encampments. What do you want us to remember him by, as you think about him in these last few days, what you’re talking about in the vigils and with your friends?

LEVI PIERPONT: I want people to remember [00:42:00] that his death is not in vain, that he died to spotlight this message. I don’t want anybody else to die this way. If he had asked me about this, I would have begged him not to. I would have done anything I could to stop him. 

But, obviously, we can’t get him back. And we have to honor the message that he left. I would have told him that this wasn’t necessary to get the message out. I would have told him that there were other ways. But seeing the way that the media responds now, now that this has happened, it’s hard not to feel like he was right, that this was exactly what was necessary to get people’s attention about the genocide that’s happening in Palestine. And so, I want people to remember his message.

JUAN GONZÀLEZ - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: And, Ann Wright, your sense of how the movement here in [00:43:00] this country to stop this genocidal war in Gaza has been building, and what Aaron Bushnell’s sacrifice may contribute to that?

ANN WRIGHT: Well, it’s a huge, huge movement. And the Biden administration must recognize it, as your previous guest said. The voters are telling them a message. This is a massive, massive movement of youth, of people of all religions, that are saying, by any religious teachings, this killing is wrong. It has to end.

And I would say to Levi, we have Veterans for Peace, and we have About Face, veterans organizations that would like to offer you support, because this is tough, really tough. But it’s for the people of Gaza, the people of Palestine, that we do this, to stop these horrible, horrible policies that our country has right [00:44:00] now. The killing of innocent people for the United States and for Israel, it has to end. And ceasefire now.

BONUS Farmer Protests - Outrage + Optimism - Air Date 2-2-24 

TOM RIVNETT-CARNAC - HOST, OUTRAGE + OPTIMISM: So I Live in a rural area of Devon, and I have a very good friend who farms a few hundred acres nearby, and I actually invited him to come on the podcast and talk to us. And he didn't want to do that for reasons that will be clear in a minute. But he had a really interesting perspective. He said, look, I'm a fifth generation farmer, and what is being asked of me by government is shifting. However, I see that weather patterns are changing. I see that we're in an emergency. So I'm engaging with it and I'm struggling with all these online systems. And when I do that, and I try to listen to what's being told to me, I shift partially away from food production, I shift towards nature restoration alongside food production. And actually financially, this is just the UK, he told me that he can do very well as a result of that. [00:45:00] 

And so his analysis of this situation, and this is why he didn't want to come on the podcast, is that much of this protest is about a nostalgic, harkening back to a imagined status quo in the past, when everything was great and a refusal to change for lots of reasons that many of us can understand, but that what is being presented to farmers is an opportunity for transformation that many of them are being unable to grasp because they are unable to deal with the bureaucracy of transformation. But if they were able to grasp it, some governments, and I can't say this for everyone where there are riots taking place, are providing a pathway where that is feasible to do both.

 I don't know that I can come down that harshly. I think your neighbour is incredibly enlightened and perhaps quite unique, because it seems to me that [00:46:00] farmers in Europe, but anywhere else, speaking from Costa Rica, very agricultural country, are actually unfairly squeezed, is my sense. 

CHRISTIANA FIGURES - HOST, OUTRAGE + OPTIMISM: Because, as your friend has just told you, he inherited agricultural practices from his grandparents, their grandparents, way up the line, and most farmers, be they men or women—most farmers in the world are women, by the way—are still practicing agricultural practices that they have inherited from many generations in hundreds of years. 

They're also trying to operate within financial, political, economic paradigm that operated well in the past. [00:47:00] So their practices are the ones of the past and the paradigms that surround them, be they the policies, the subsidies, the trade agreements, operated more or less well in the past. The challenge that they face, consciously or not, is not, I would call it nostalgia, I would call it, just complete paralysis, because that world that they inherited and that they operated in and that their parents and grandparents operated in is no more, because we're now hit by climate change, invariably, which is the most deeply disruptive factor to agriculture for sure, as well as to everything else. It is completely predictable that we will not return to what used to be the norm. That is no longer the norm. 

So [00:48:00] how can you blame them for operating in a reality that no longer exists? And for that reality that is emerging, we frankly do not have the policies, the subsidies, the trade agreements, all of the paradigm that would truly help them to shift from where they were to where they need to go, which is high resilience, regenerative agricultural practices, restoration of nature, a completely different paradigm. But they're not being helped by that. They're not being helped by that, because governments are themselves still struggling to figure out what are the new policies, what are the new subsidies, what are the new agreements. They don't really have a clear idea. 

All of this, frankly, is they're all in unknown space, trying [00:49:00] to figure out together or individually. And so the farmers are frankly very squeezed here. They're very squeezed. I don't think it's about romantic nostalgia. I think it's frustration. And I'm closer to where Paul mentioned. This is a true threat for them. It's a threat for their livelihood because they're operating according to one paradigm. Nobody's really giving them the support to shift to another paradigm, and the difference between those two is a direct threat to my livelihood. So I'm more in paralysis, frankly, and anger than nostalgia.

BONUS “They’re Inside for Us, We’re Outside for Them” - Uprising Support on Anti-repression, Building Memory, Care, and Resilience - Millennials Are Killing Capitalism - Air Date 8-30-23 

JARED WARE - HOST, MILLENIALS ARE KILLING CAPITALISM: Can you say a little bit about the scale of state repression that took place in response to the George Floyd uprisings? You mentioned earlier on in this discussion about one of the things that drew you to it is just starting to see, wow, there's a lot of federal charges that are pretty significant that are coming down early on. I know it's sort of an impossible question, but I'd love to hear what you think. I know [00:50:00] you all probably pay paid more attention to trying to answer that than a lot of folks have. 

CAPPY: Yeah, I think there's a lot of different ways to answer this and talk about the scale. If we're just reducing it to numbers, we know that, probably over 350 people received some type of federal charges, and the nationwide, I think the last biggest number I saw was like over 14, 000 people across the country that got arrested for something during the uprising. But I don't think that really tells the story very well, and I think there's also a implication of finality when putting a number on it. So thinking about the ways that the repression against the uprising is ongoing, and also how the impacts of the uprising and, maybe, in some ways, the uprising itself is also ongoing. 

If you're trying to quantify the uprising itself, you can do that in terms of number of buildings set on [00:51:00] fire, cop cars that were broken, or city budgets that were changed because of that, or police departments that got defunded or something, but it doesn't tell you the story about people's consciousness that were transformed, and the skills that people learned and the connections, and the growth that people experienced through participating in that or through watching that.

So thinking about how the the uprising and the repression against it are this dialectic of one another that sort of moved forward. And I think one space to look at that is in Atlanta and the struggle against Cop City, and how the impetus for cop city grew out of the uprisings in Atlanta, the U. S., but especially Atlanta that summer after the murder of George Floyd and then the subsequent murder of Rashard Brooks, and how, because of that, they're like, oh, we need this like police paramilitary training facility. But then also how the uprising [00:52:00] informed the movement against Cop City and how this focus on resisting the expansion of policing and militarization of policing morphed into the movement against Cop City, and how wild the repression against Cop City has been over the past couple of years. 

I think the other part that I was talking about, on the previous question is like thinking about repression and the ways that it's sometimes less tangible in the ways that I think one big part of how repression works is through forgetting and through whitewashing things that happen and creating new narratives so that we forget what actually happened in the streets. And I think this is something that we've seen pretty heavy handedly from a lot of more liberal sources where they try to downplay the militancy and the revolutionary content of the uprisings and talk about how it was mostly all just peaceful compliant protests, [00:53:00] and people were protesting passively and there were some exceptions from some bad actors or something. 

But this narrative that defies the reality of the people experienced in the streets and watched on national TV seems to have really taken a hold in a lot of more liberal Consciousness and narrative as the years have moved on. So I think in thinking about repression is forgetting one part of anti repression work is the work of memory and affirming what we all experienced and remembering that and the remembering the lessons of it.

So I think it's fairly straightforward and not controversial to say that the repression against the uprising was truly massive in large part because the uprising itself was truly massive. It was extremely decentralized. It was happening in cities and towns and other places, [00:54:00] all over the country, places that aren't known for its radicalism, places that aren't known for having uprisings or rebellions of this sort, so the repression took a lot of forms. 

A lot of it was immediate. Extreme violence from law enforcement, mass arresting people on trumped up or bogus or completely fabricated charges, and then also this more specific targeting of people with federal charges for even more severe prosecution. At the time, who's the attorney general then Bill Barr, I think sent a memo to all the U. S. attorneys across the country being like, "focus your prosecution on these types of offenses from these type of people," and it's really centralized effort from federal law enforcement to target and prosecute people for federal charges from the uprising.

There's that stuff that was happening in the days and weeks around the uprising, but then the repressive game of forgetting and retelling [00:55:00] narratives and revisionism happening on an ongoing level. One question that I got a lot, especially after Biden got elected was, how is the new Biden administration going to change the repression that's happening against the uprising, and I can't say for absolute certain, but I think not much at all. I think there's possibly an argument that some people have maybe gotten better plea deals or less stringent sentences because of maybe less centralized pressure from the attorney general's office about it, but it's not like cases were getting dismissed, it's not like prosecutions were getting dropped or anything of that sort. So, yeah, I don't think that the changing of the guards changed the overall repressive apparatus in response to the uprising.

Final comments on the importance of building momentum over time with protest

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: We've just heard clips today, starting with Novara Media, discussing the importance of protest movements having a plan. Chapo [00:56:00] Trap House looked at the uncommitted voter movement against the US support for the war in Gaza. Second Thought examined the idea of violence in relation to power and protest. The Majority Report highlighted the birddogging campaign against Democratic politicians not opposing the war in Gaza forcefully enough. Novara Media dove deeper into the types of organized movements that are most successful. And Democracy Now! discussed the self-immolation death of Aaron Buschnell. 

That's what everybody heard, but members also heard bonus clips from Outrage + Optimism discussing the causes of the current farmer protests in Europe. And Millennials Are Killing Capitalism looked at how the state often responds to uprising protests.

To hear that and have all of our bonus contents delivered seamlessly to the new members-only podcast feed that you'll receive, sign up to support the show at BestOfTheLeft.com/support, or shoot me an email requesting a financial hardship membership, because we don't let a [00:57:00] lack of funds stand in the way of hearing more information. 

Now to wrap up, I just want to acknowledge that the vast majority of us won't be the ones actually guiding the tactics and strategies of protests. So today's episode could feel merely informational, but not necessarily actionable for most of us. But I think I can fill that gap a bit, because the success of movements depends on the willingness of people, average people like you and me, to stick with it over a period of time. And an essential element for being willing to stick with something over time is to have a deeper understanding of how movements work, and to have proper expectations about progress. 

The most important and least understood element of politics and movements, I think, is the fourth dimension of time. People often casually talk about politicians playing four dimensional chess, but they mean it as a metaphor that doesn't really mean anything other than it's complicated. [00:58:00] But genuinely, I think it's a much better metaphor when describing time. Politics, movement building: it's all about managing time. People are impatient, and justifiably so when they're protesting against injustice. And impatience can energize a movement with a sense of urgency, which is great. But if expectations are set wrong, like with the idea that one big protest should be enough to get the results you want, then many can become disappointed and disillusioned and drop away, which actually weakens the movement. 

So, although you may not be the one organizing the next protest, you can help maintain the momentum by always asking, What's next? And encouraging others to do the same. 

Always make sure that organizers for causes that you believe in can reach you and encourage others to do the same, because every event, every march, every lobby day, every birddogging protest is an opportunity to build and [00:59:00] prepare for the next one. 

People talk about going through the motions of protests and feeling like it's not making a difference, which is dispiriting. But you'll tend to have that feeling more the less connected you are to the movement. If you know that a protest is just one step along a path, and that the intention is to continue to build power by growing the ranks of the activists, the marchers, the protestors, then it feels like momentum, which is inspiring. 

So stay connected, stay engaged, encourage others to do the same. And never stop asking what's next, because the fight for justice is never over. There is always something to do next.

That is going to be it for today. As always, keep the comments coming in. I would love to hear your thoughts or questions about this or anything else. You can leave a voicemail or send us a text at 202-999-3991, or simply email me to [email protected].

[01:00:00] Thanks to everyone for listening. Thanks to our producers, Deon Clark and Erin Clayton. Thanks to our transcriptionist quartet, Ken, Brian, Ben, and Andrew. And thanks to Amanda Hoffman for all of her work behind the scenes. And of course, thanks to those who support the show by becoming a member or purchasing gift memberships. You can join them by signing up today at BestOfTheLeft.com/support, through our Patreon page, or from right inside the Apple Podcast app. Membership is how you get instant access to our incredibly good and often funny bonus episodes, in addition to there being extra content, no ads and chapter markers in all of our regular episodes, all through your regular podcast player. You'll find that link in the show notes, along with a link to join our Discord community, where you can also continue the discussion. 

So coming to 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 twice weekly, thanks entirely to the members and donors to the show from BestOfTheLeft.com.

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#1618 Forget Equality, Embrace the Feminism of Freedom - Breaking entirely free from the structures of White supremacy and heteropatriarchy (Transcript)

Air Date 3/23/2024

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JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [00:00:00] Welcome to this episode of the award-winning Best of the Left podcast in which we look at the idea that, although equality has been at the heart of civil rights movements for decades, what we have failed to see is that, in striving for equality, we cannot help but reinforce the unquestioned preexisting structures of society, which themselves may be at fundamental odds with true freedom for all. So maybe we should forget about equality, and focus on freedom. 

Sources today include Politics and Prose, The Overpopulation Podcast, The Majority Report, and Chair in Transgender Studies, with additional members-only clips from The Majority Report and The Overpopulation Podcast.

Marcie Bianco — Breaking Free - with Charlotte Clymer - Politics and Prose - Air Date 9-23-23

MARCIE BIANCO: Equality is a lie. It is a myth perpetuated to coax women into complicity with their oppression. Women are not equal to men. No two people are equal. We are not born equal or with equal advantages. We do not experience [00:01:00] life equally.

And while we all eventually die, we do not encounter death on equal terms. We each come from different backgrounds, possess different qualities and talents, cultivate different knowledges and expertise, accrue unique experiences, have distinct desires and needs, and have been systematically advantaged or disadvantaged based on the social identities we have either willingly chosen or had imposed upon us by others.

It is not simply that we are not equal because we are different. Rather, we are not equal because our differences have been manipulated by a society intent on justifying and preserving its traditions and norms. Our differences have been systematized and moralized over generations, such that we have been conditioned to believe, for example, that men are superior to women and that white people are superior to all black and brown and indigenous people.

In the United States, what [00:02:00] we designate as inequalities -- political, economic, or social -- are nothing but the measured effects of the discrimination of difference in relation to the white supremacist heteropatriarchy. 

US social movements fighting against racial, gender, and LGBTQ+ discrimination have found more success in redressing measurable inequalities in laws and policies than in eradicating the pervasive oppressions at the root of this nation and its values -- oppressions that have inflicted incalculable pain and trauma on generations of people. 

The feminist movement is one such movement that has measured women's progress in terms of equality. To be clear, the movement is not a monolith. Parallel and often intersecting versions of feminism have coexisted for decades, distinguished by their particular ideologies and players, from single issue to multi issue feminism, liberal to radical feminism, black to White feminism.[00:03:00] 

Despite the plurality of feminisms, the unfortunate fact is that equality feminism has had a stranglehold on the movement's values, political strategies, and agenda for more than a century, while not without some resistance. Equality feminism has been embraced across sectors: government, industry, and media, and commercialized to the point of cultural saturation.

Equality signs everywhere: on billboards and t shirts and mugs and dog collars. The sign, in fact, says it all. Equality's broad acceptance is due in part to its perceived logical simplicity, rendered as equal rights under the law, equal representation in government and industry, and equal participation in society. And American feminism has long held this idea as the solution to systemic misogyny. 

But equality will not free us. Women's liberation cannot be achieved through assimilation into patriarchal [00:04:00] institutions. Plenty of radical Black and lesbian feminists have told us this for years. And the current political moment, the unyielding assault on civil rights and the criminalization, imprisonment of people seeking health care proves the lie of equality.

This moment reinforces to us that equality is contingent upon the whims of the people in power. Affirmative Action, case in point.

It's a cruel joke because despite various rights, laws, and legal mechanisms, from voting rights to equal protection and due process, promised as correctives to societal oppression and systemic discrimination, equality remains elusive.

Even worse is how the language of equality is weaponized to protect the status quo, either to assert that equality really exists because it is written into the law or to stymie justice efforts intended to help society's most marginalized and disadvantaged communities. Examples abound from the "separate but equal" clause of Plessy v. Ferguson to the [00:05:00] equal right to vote of the 15th and 19th amendments, to the most recent efforts by conservatives, arguing that "equality begins in the womb," as part of their oxymoronic argument about fetal personhood, which is like my referring to living persons as undead corpses.

Equality as sameness is easily fabricated by collapsing difference. Here the differences in stages of life constituted by time.

Equality feminism proposing that inclusion can lead to a reformation of our misogynist and racist institutions is nothing less than White feminism, which amounts to little more than the white supremacist heteropatriarchy in a dress because these institutions cannot bend. The capitalism undergirding them has proven inescapable because it is an economic system that incentivizes exploitation for profit.

Plenty of feminists have debated equality as our end game. Black and radical feminists in particular have called out [00:06:00] equality as a principle of sameness that relies on the erasure of our differences and a centering of whiteness and patriarchal values. And yet equality has persisted. Feminist scholars have reached a kind of ideological detente with a vague and uninspiring definition of equality as a "negotiation of differences," which ultimately calls for a third entity to determine how to account for people's differences while ensuring their equal value, equal rights and equal opportunity to participate in society.

This commitment to equality demands too much complicity and affords too much grace to white supremacist heteropatriarchal institutions to do the right thing. I mean, we only need to turn to the US Supreme Court to see who has historically set the conditions for the negotiation of our civil rights, and by extension, our humanity.

Equality is both the wrong ideal and the wrong endgame if we truly desire to end systemic racism and misogyny. Feminists cannot smash the patriarchy by [00:07:00] fortifying its walls. Revolution and inclusion are at odds here. Seeking equality within our existing institutions means desiring to join the very institutions that have depended on women's subjugation.

Angela Saini The Patriarchs 'How Men Came to Rule' - The Overpopulation Podcast - Air Date 2-6-24

ANGELA SAINI: In your research for The Patriarchs, you go as far back in history as the current archaeological evidence might allow, and it took you several years of traveling and research to write this book, so we appreciate the depth of work that's gone into this.

What can we learn from archaeological evidence about the existence of gender inequality in prehistoric times? 

NANDITA BAJAJ - CO-HOST, THE OVERPOPULATION PODCAST: It's such a fraught question because we project onto the past, obviously, and we do that even with the recent past, but we do it even more so with prehistory because there's so little we know.

The archaeological data is ambiguous, and especially when you go as far into prehistory as I've had to go, which is more than 9,000-10,000 years—this is pre writing, or as far as we [00:08:00] know, pre writing—so we can't know what people were thinking, we have to infer so much. And that inference involves, of course, a lot of guesswork on the part of the researchers, and when researchers are biased or loaded in the way that they're looking at history, then it can give us a vastly different perspectives on what is happening. And I was conscious of that throughout when I was researching this. 

And in fact, I had to keep checking myself to make sure that I wasn't falling into the trap of drawing these big brash narratives about history based on what I would like to be true. And as soon as I stopped doing that and just taking more of a sober look at what we do know, and how ambiguous that evidence is, then the picture you get is one of huge social variation, so many differences in the way people lived and could live. Changes even within settlements over generations. So they would decide on [00:09:00] something, they wouldn't work for them, and then they would choose something else. 

A variety of different ways of producing food. So, for example, even hunter gatherers and farmers living with each other, or choosing whatever systems work for them depending on the local environment at the time or the seasons, and also in gender relations. So the oldest settlement that I was looking at was Çatalhöyük southern Anatolia. So this is in Turkey near the border with Syria, near the Fertile Crescent. So a very famous and well studied part of the world in terms of understanding prehistory. And Çatalhöyük, when it was first excavated in the 1960s caused waves, understandably, because here was a Settlement where thousands of people must have lived, which is very sophisticated. You see houses of the type that we might recognize with walls and windows and, or not windows as we might recognize it now, because actually [00:10:00] people entered and left their homes through holes in their roofs. So they had ladders and that's, that would be how they got in and out of their homes. But there were big frescoes on the walls, beautiful, vivid frescoes of hunting scenes and vultures picking over dead bodies, bull horns embedded in the walls, quite elaborate burial rituals that also involved people sometimes disinterring the dead, plastering their skulls, and then those skulls being passed around.

So much we can recognize, so much that we don't recognize. But in terms of gender, what is very clear, and has only become clearer over time, is that there doesn't seem to have been a huge difference in how men and women lived. As far as we can tell, from the evidence that we have, and it's not exhaustive, It may well change as more of the site is excavated, but from what we can see so far, men and women did pretty much the same kind of work. They ate the same kind of foods. They spent the same amount of time [00:11:00] indoors and outdoors. Children didn't necessarily live with their parents, so we can see that children aren't buried with their biological parents always. And even the height difference between men and women was slight, which I think is important because I write a lot about biology, sex difference, and how that's mediated by how we live, and I think we sometimes underestimate how much sex differences are made more profound by the ways in which we live, in the food we're expected to eat, the quantity of food we're expected to eat. 

Even to this day, sometimes I'm surprised that nutrition guidelines... just today I was reading how much water you should drink is divided by men and women. So women should drink this amount, men should drink that amount without any real consideration to the size of the human being. Surely that would be the most important factor. So we live in an age in which we think about this very binary way of imagining gender, but as far as [00:12:00] we can tell in Çatalhöyük, people just didn't think about it that much because it doesn't seem to have been a big part of their lives.

ANGELA SAINI: Yeah. The one that fascinated me the most was this non blood tie notion of family. That family was just kin and biological children were brought up by lots of people, and you weren't necessarily related to be living together. And that's something you talked about also is seen as a really futuristic notion, but people were living like this thousands of years ago for such a long time. I wonder if it's a way of patting ourselves on the back to believe that we're somehow on the leading edge of some kind of feminism that has never existed before and we're much more futuristic than past societies have been.

NANDITA BAJAJ - CO-HOST, THE OVERPOPULATION PODCAST: Yeah. And history shows us again and again, increasingly that so much of what we think of as novel now in terms of [00:13:00] equality is not novel at all, because you can see it in different societies throughout time at various moments and various geographical locations, and even into the present, which is why I was so keen to open The Patriarchs with mention of matrilineal societies, because I think there is still this widespread misunderstanding that patriarchy is universal, that we all live this way, that there was some single moment in history at which everything changed and now we're just living with the effects of it. 

The existence of so many matrilineal societies, which we can't, with any conviction, say are truly patriarchal because generally in these societies, power and authority are shared between men and women and often run along age lines rather than gender lines. We know that there are non patriarchal societies out there. There are some societies that are less patriarchal than others, and patriarchies take on so many different tones and tenors, and they're still being reinvented. 

In Afghanistan right now, under the [00:14:00] Taliban, patriarchy is being reinvented for the 21st century. Some of that is drawing on religious ideology or conservative ideology, ideas about tradition in the past, but a lot of that is a manipulation of what we imagine history and tradition to be in order to be suited to the 21st century. 

The Fraud Of 'White Feminism' w Kyla Schuller - The Majority Report - Air Date 1-20-22

EMMA VIGELAND - CO-HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: We have talked about— it's the favorite topic of mine— talking about the perils and pitfalls of White feminism and what it represents, and we've talked about it on the show before, but your book described it in such a succinct way and I loved this definition: 'White feminism is theft disguised as liberation'. Can you explain what you meant by that? And we can start there. 

KYLA SCHULLER: Yeah I really wanted to understand the details and contours of what White feminism is and does when I wrote this book. And I think it's so useful the way that people are using this term widely to understand the kind of [00:15:00] feminism that is putting gender above all and then ends up as a result actually leaning in to other forms of inequality like structural racism and capitalism and climate change because of...

EMMA VIGELAND - CO-HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: ...you lean in there, did you do that on purpose? 

KYLA SCHULLER: Exactly. Exactly. And because I'm putting gender above all. But I found that one of the most common ways that we talk about White feminism doesn't actually fully grasp the full extent of the problem. And that is that one of the most common definitions is, White feminism is a kind of feminism that ignores women of color, poor women, and other marginalized folks. And I thought that that idea that White feminism ignores more marginalized people actually is too benign. It underestimates the threat, the extent of the problem, which is that the trouble with White feminism is not that it is committing a sin of omission. It's actually an act of dispossession. [00:16:00] It actually ends up reinforcing other forms of inequality in the struggle to get women to the top. And Sandberg, Sheryl Sandberg being a perfect example of working so hard, as she argues, to get women to be corporate CEOs in contemporary capitalism. The problem is that if the goal is getting women to the top of our current structures, you actually end up reinforcing some of the other inequalities that have created that hierarchy in the first place.

EMMA VIGELAND - CO-HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: So it creates, it redefines White feminism as an action, as active, as opposed to the more passive exclusion in the way that it had been currently previously discussed. 

KYLA SCHULLER: Yeah, exactly. That's a good way of putting it. And then it also means that the solution to it needs to be more active also. The solution to White feminism is not only including people of color, the poor, trans people. It needs to be more active than that. The solution is actually to [00:17:00] dismantling the idea that we can't have a feminism that is ever separate from the fights against racism, wealth inequality, and many of the other structural inequities we have today.

EMMA VIGELAND - CO-HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: So would you say that White feminism has defanged and depoliticized the feminist movement to a degree? I know that's not a direct process and often that's just sometimes what happens. Over time, like I feel like we saw an example of that with MLK on Monday, right? Every brand is tweeting out quotes from MLK and every Republican politician has no problem using his name. And I feel that there's a very similar thing that has happened with feminism that you describe. 

KYLA SCHULLER: I think it probably might be a little worse than that, though, which is that it's less that it has depoliticized a feminism that fights for real equality, and more that there have always been two distinct different kinds of [00:18:00] feminism that actually have competing politics. And one of those is White feminism that is quite cozy with empire, et cetera. And the other is intersectional feminism, which fights for a broad based structural equality for all. 

So, for example, one of the most shocking details I found when I was researching this book was that, according to a recent poll, 42 percent of women who vote Republican in the most recent elections consider themselves feminists. So, it's actually that there is a strong, active, conservative, even sometimes explicit White supremacist feminism alongside this other form of feminism that supports things like Black Lives Matter and police reform or abolition. And recognizing that there is different kinds of feminism, I think actually is one of our central struggles.

EMMA VIGELAND - CO-HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: So what does White supremacist feminism look [00:19:00] like? Often online you see tiki torches and men, right?, in Charlottesville, if you're thinking of that in like the past five, six years but what you're saying makes total sense. It's not incompatible. It's just maybe that it's not represented in the way that we think about White supremacy in our cultural eco....

KYLA SCHULLER: Yeah. But in a less obvious way, it looks like Ivanka Trump in 2016 on the campaign trail saying 'my dad is a feminist'. In a more explicit way, it looks like the work that sociologist Jessie Daniels has found in researching online platforms like Stormfront and other White supremacist sites that there are actually active groups of women on these... feminist sub threads on these sites, people who support pay equality, people who support some kind of gender balance at home in terms of sharing [00:20:00] workload, and even people who support abortion in these White supremacist sites but often with a caveat that they support abortion for people of color, because they want to prevent more births by people of color, but they don't support abortion for White women because they want to protect a White majority.

Julia Serano Moving Trans History Forward 2023 - Chair in Transgender Studies - Air Date 7-17-23

JULIA SERANO: So, in the 15 years since Whipping Girls come out I still sometimes write about cissexism and transmisogyny, but in those years, a lot of my attention has been turned to adjacent matters that grew out, post [Whipping Girls] coming out, that I've been thinking about and grappling with, so I'm going to talk about these two main things. 

So the first one was, I was struck by all the parallels that exist between these phenomena and other forms of marginalization. So as but one example, transness and femininity are both routinely mischaracterized as artificial, irrational, superficial, frivolous, and manipulative relative to their cisgender and masculine counterparts, which are typically [00:21:00] seen as sincere, serious in comparison. In Whipping Girl, I made the case that these overlapping stereotypes associated with both transness and femininity help drive trans misogyny and also the disproportionate attention that the media has historically played to those of us on the trans feminine spectrum because we're easier to sensationalize and to depict as fake.

Similarly, there are all sorts of parallels between cissexism and heterosexism. Since the latter concept was familiar to a lot of people when I was first giving talks about Whipping Girl, I would often make comparisons when I was doing talks about the book. I would make direct comparisons between the two. So I would point out, for example, that both heterosexism and cissexism are centered on the assumption that all people must be heterosexual and cisgender by default. This is what creates the ideas that we are in the closet, that we have to come out, and that we pass.

Furthermore, when we are known to others, heterosexism and [00:22:00] cissexism are what lead people to view us as inherently remarkable. That is, people will comment about the fact that I'm bisexual or transgender in ways that they would never comment about me if I was heterosexual or cisgender. They also lead people to view us as questionable. That is, they may ask, how do you know that you're really bisexual? Or when did you first know that you were transgender? Which are questions that heterosexual and cisgender people never experience. 

Basically, both heterosexism and cissexism lead people to project ulterior motives onto us. So, for example, they might say, "you're not bisexual or transgender, you're just confused", or "you're looking for an alternative lifestyle", or "you're out to sexually deceive other people", and so on.

So notably, the parallels that I've just described between heterosexism and cissexism aren't specific to those two, and actually pop up over and over again with a lot of other forms of marginalization. In [00:23:00] fact, marginalized groups are often viewed as remarkable, questionable, irrational, artificial, and manipulative. So, I wanted to better understand why these recurring features of marginalization happen. But then second, and this was strange being that there are all these parallels that were really obvious to me, is that it struck me that despite these parallels, many people seemed reluctant or incapable of recognizing these connections. 

So for instance, back when I was giving early Whipping Girl talks, and I would draw comparisons between heterosexism and cissexism, a few people would act baffled, or sometimes incredulous, sometimes even arguing that heterosexism was a real form of oppression, whereas cissexism was a fake concept that was invented by trans activists. Now of course, you could make the exact same argument about heterosexism, which was invented by gay activists in the 1970s. 

Here's an even more pertinent [00:24:00] example. So just before Whipping Girl came out, I had a chance to talk at an Association for Women in Psychology conference, which is basically, it's a feminist psychology conference. And I was at the plenary talk, and there's this woman who was giving a talk about how feminism informed her experiences as a therapist. And in the middle of the talk, she talks about two trans clients of hers. One on the transmasculine spectrum, one on the transfeminine spectrum, both of whom were considering transitioning.

And when she talked about the transmasculine spectrum client, she was very serious, she referred to the person's gender presentation simply as very butch, and basically the audience listened very seriously and attentively. And then, out of the blue, when she starts talking about the transfeminine person, she became really animated, and she's like, "this person walked into my office, and her hair was like this, and she was wearing this, and she had her makeup done like this", and everyone in the [00:25:00] audience was giggling, and I was like, "Oh my god, I can't believe this is happening at a feminist psychology conference".

And it seemed really obvious to me that if we were at a regular psychology conference and a cis man got up and talked about one of his female clients entering the office and her hair was done like this and she was wearing this, people would be like, oh my god, that's so sexist. And I think that they just couldn't see the connections because the person who was being described didn't fit their imagined view of who is the victim of sexism.

So, It would have been easy for me to dismiss that all these attendees were transmisogynists through and through, but I don't believe that was the case. And in fact, later in the day, I gave my talk, and I looked it up, because this is a history conference, my talk that day was, The Psychiatric Sexualization of Male to Female Transgenderism. That's very old school talk. And, many of these same audience members came to my talk. So they obviously wanted to hear what a trans woman had to say. [00:26:00] And, since my talk touched upon trans misogyny I decided to use the plenary experience, not in a gotcha sort of way, but in a teachable moment sort of way.

And after my talk, many of these people came up to me afterwards, said they liked my talk, and a few of them expressed their embarrassment that they were one of the people who giggled during that session. And, in talking to them, they were really sincere about the fact that they didn't pick up on how sexist, that comment was. And again, I think this is because that person didn't fit their stereotypical image of who is affected by sexism, well women, aka cis women. 

So to be clear, I still think it's really useful to talk about cissexism and transmisogyny and sometimes I write about those things, but it seems to me that there was a really foundational problem that was going on here. One that not only contributes to trans exclusion, but also to the exclusion of other marginalized groups from social justice movements. Basically, even those of us who are dedicated activists are [00:27:00] often not very good applying what we already know and understand about some forms of marginalization when it comes up with somebody who's a new group, who faces obstacles that seem new to us.

Angela Saini The Patriarchs 'How Men Came to Rule' Part 2 - The Overpopulation Podcast - Air Date 2-6-24

ANGELA SAINI: And speaking of the different ways in which that tension exists, the anxiety exists in trying to keep certain people in their place, you discussed specifically the role that patriliny and patrilocality have played throughout history in creating patriarchy. You've shared several personal examples of how patriarchy shows up in India, many of which rang true for me, having grown up there, and seeing it firsthand within my own extended family.

Of course, India's just one example, there are so many across the world. Can you describe the power of those in entrenching and maintaining patriarchy? 

NANDITA BAJAJ - CO-HOST, THE OVERPOPULATION PODCAST: Well, as I said before, there's not one single explanation for why patriarchy exists. The rise of the state is not a [00:28:00] necessary condition, and it's not a sufficient condition either. I think patriliny and patrilocality combined with those other pressures led to the development of patriarchal societies. Because what is patriliny and patrilocality really? It's about saying to women that when you get married, you will no longer live with your childhood kin, you will live with your husband's family. That's the case in modern day patrilocal societies. 

And immediately that creates an imbalance of power. Necessarily. It has to. There's no way that it can't, because if you're being taken away from your natural sources of support and becoming alienated in a community or a society in which you have no more natural sources of support, you are immediately vulnerable.

And that's what we see. We see in India famously, but also across the region, across the Middle East and Asia. This is less true, I think, in the West, because people tend to live in nuclear families, but certainly in [00:29:00] societies where extended families are still common, not as common as they used to be, but still common, the in laws are an incredibly important vehicle for the perpetuation of patriarchy, especially mothers in law. We neglect this, I think, the role that women play in the perpetuation of these deeply damaging ideologies, I think because it doesn't fit well into the way that we imagine gender depression. We tend to flatten it out. We think that all men are oppressing all women, but it doesn't really work like that. There are layers to this, and they operate in different ways. 

But as the sociologist Denise Candiotti wrote in the 1980s, what you see within the patriarchal family are these bargains happening, these patriarchal bargains, where the older women know that in order to make it the best for themselves out of the situation that they're in, their only real source of authority is over the new younger women coming into the family. They [00:30:00] exercise that control over them in the same way that would have been done to them. And as Candiotti writes, the daughters in law endure this in the knowledge that one day they will have sons, their sons will marry, and then they will be the mothers in law, and then they will exercise the authority and power over that next generation. And that power can be immense. 

Fatema Mernissi, the Moroccan sociologist wrote, this is many decades ago, how in traditional Moroccan families, the mother in law was such an important figure, such a figure of authority in her household, that the mother was like the only person a man is allowed to love at all. He's not really allowed to love his wife because that would mean splitting loyalties. It would mean exchanging that power, giving her more power than his mother might have. Daughters in law were expected to kiss their mother in law's hand and call her Lala, which means mistress, which is again the language of slavery, of [00:31:00] ownership.

So that dynamic, I think, is important for us to understand how within patriarchal societies in which women are disadvantaged, women can still lobby and negotiate for power, knowing that it disadvantages them at certain stages in their life, but really having no other choice. 

ANGELA SAINI: You give the example of female genital mutilation, that is instigated often by mothers and aunts onto these young women. And that's, I think, also another really great example of how layered the oppression is. 

NANDITA BAJAJ - CO-HOST, THE OVERPOPULATION PODCAST: Yeah, and it's wrapped up in, like I said, age. Age is a very important axis of power that we sometimes don't think about that much, because we all age, I guess, so we all acquire that sense of authority or respect as we get older, or to some degree we do. But also tradition is wound up in so many different aspects of our life that become interlinked. And tradition is a very [00:32:00] powerful one. This is part of the reason that FGM continues, is because it seems a traditional practice, and just be seen as an authentic or traditional person, you have to be seen to keep doing that over generations. So these mothers and aunts who are encouraging their girls to get cut, knowing how painful it is, knowing how traumatizing it can be, are doing it because it will be easier for them to get married then, because they are then fitting into society.

But to some extent, don't we all do that all the time? Don't we all instill things in our children that we know are maybe not the very best for them, but we know will help them fit into society, that will smooth their passage through life, given the society that we're in? The fact that until relatively recently, people were so dismissive and judgmental of gay people, mothers and fathers themselves would disown their own children for being gay, because they wouldn't fit into society, because then they [00:33:00] wouldn't fulfill the pattern that was required in order to be part of the world in the way that they needed them to be part of the world.

And all of this, for me, it comes back to this fundamental question of who do we exist for? What the patriarchal state has done is made us believe that we exist for the state, that we exist for an entity that doesn't really ultimately care for us that much, necessarily. I mean, it may, depending on the state, be more benign or less benign, but we will forgo our own relationships with the people we love, we will sacrifice those relationships because of the sense of duty to the state. And that psychologically is why patriarchy continues to have so much power, because it has wheedled its way in to our minds to make us believe that we owe the world a version of ourselves that may not be true to who we are at [00:34:00] all just because we've been told by the state that that's how we should live.

Marcie Bianco — Breaking Free - with Charlotte Clymer Part 2 - Politics and Prose - Air Date 9-23-23

CHARLOTTE CLYMER: You make a point early in the book that knocked me over sideways, because -- that happened several times in the book, by the way. But this really blew me away. Because it's not just laypersons who don't know how to define equality. You talk about the University of Chicago Social Survey. Tell us about this, because this blew me away. 

MARCIE BIANCO: Okay. This is wild. This is another moment in time where I thought, I need to write this book. I was writing an article about a new general social survey report based on 40 years of GSS data that a scholar at the University of Chicago, Newark, was doing. And the end product that came out in the report, the running headline was like, More people want equality in the workplace and in the home. 

And I was tasked as a freelance writer to write an article about this survey. So of course I tracked down the survey, dug around. There was no [00:35:00] definition of equality provided, not just in that report or the most recent survey, but I asked The GSS folks, the staff, I emailed them and I said, Have you ever provided any respondent a definition of equality? Because if I'm answering questions about equality, I would like to have, for level setting purposes, I would like to have a set definition so that we all are operating on a shared understanding of what this huge term is, the operational term of the study.

And they emailed me back saying, No, we don't give anyone a definition of equality. Which blew my mind because I thought equality means different things to different people, depending on your ideological beliefs. If I came from a particular background, I could believe that equality literally means my wife stays at home and raises the children. There are very strict gender roles in accordance with my ideological beliefs, and therefore she has her equal domestic space, [00:36:00] and I have my workplace space. Therefore, we are equal, one and one, half of a whole. That is one way, possibly, someone could define equality.

So really, to me, the definition is subjective, but it just blew me away that there was an actual survey that did not provide respondents from all across America, just a set definition, because how are you supposed to come to any conclusion about cultural understandings of equality without providing just a definition?

So that, yeah, that really blew me away. That was something else that I locked away and, said, Oh this has to come back later somehow. 

CHARLOTTE CLYMER: It's crazy because we're both nerds, right? We're both very steeped in nerdiness. And the folks who did the survey are nerds. The folks who read those kind of surveys are nerds.

And yet this is the first time I've ever seen anyone point out with one of these surveys, by the way, did you define this term for people? 

MARCIE BIANCO: But you know what? And apologies to every [00:37:00] sociologist out there. So my background, I studied politics and I love politics. And then I went into literature because a Shakespearean blew up in my mind. And I was like, wow, language and words and how we communicate and share our space with each other and grow and make culture, right? This is in college because I didn't have books as a kid. It was just so earth shattering to me. 

Oh my God, what was I saying? Remind me of what I was saying. I lost my train of thought. 

CHARLOTTE CLYMER: Social survey. 

MARCIE BIANCO: Oh yes. So a couple of years ago I took up a job at a gender research institute run by sociologists, and they would run these similar surveys. I was the communications editorial director. And I would ask them if they would have actual definitions of major terms that they were operating upon, that they were drawing conclusions for. And there was no attention to definition or language or just even like cultural differences in how language was being used, because they were sociologists; they weren't linguists. They weren't [00:38:00] really involved in the word play, like the language play, the culture play, of language.

So I actually don't think it's unique for sociologists, but then, someone's going to come and strike me down. Let me preface this by that's just my personal experience. 

CHARLOTTE CLYMER: But that is very worrisome, right? We're trying to get to a point where we do have a society in which all people are liberated. And even the folks who are pushing this and studying it don't even know how to define the terms, or haven't come to a common term that everyone can agree on. That's worrying. 

MARCIE BIANCO: And I, there are a few things about that. One, again, equality exists in application. It is an artifice that needs to be constructed. It is not organic. I think there's something that -- even though this is an ideas book and again, it's toothy, but I think people can really feel like, Oh, there are moments in my life when I have felt free, and I know that I understand my capacity for freedom, or that I understand my situation and what I'm capable of through dialogue with other people. [00:39:00] Hannah Arendt said you need to be in intercourse with people to understand your freedom, which I thought was different uses of the word. But I guess you could mean that like how we understand intercourse today.

But equality really depends on the people, again, the people in power who are writing those laws, who are implementing those laws and policies. So it really depends on how, say, a law is applied and practiced within an institution. And I use the metaphor of a Play Doh mold. If you have a white man-made mold, and you squeeze through an amorphous concept like equality, it's gonna come out the other side looking like that mold. And yet we continue to be really disappointed with any kind of equality measure. It just never satisfies. And at the same time, I always think in our daily lives, how does that, if we live by a politics of equality, then what does that mean about how I understand my desires, my dreams, my aspirations? Does it have to be hemmed into an equality mindset? Which feels very [00:40:00] limiting to me.

And something I didn't write about a lot in the book, but something I wrote about for NBC this past year was the Respect for Marriage Act, which was passed and it actually does not codify equal marriage, but it ensures protections for marriages that already exists. The only reason that passed, the only right reason that Republican senators got on board, was that they were able to shoehorn in like a Trojan horse all of these religious liberty protections. And we're seeing them being weaponized now in states across the nation to prevent -- right? I feel like our politics, it's like we're waiting for breadcrumbs, waiting for this equality, and yet we're going to be always disappointed and it's never going to be good enough in order to create a society where we feel we have meaningful lives, where we respect each other, and where we feel, I don't know, cared for, like care is such an important part of what I'm trying to do and it's integral to my definition of freedom.

So how do we feel cared for by each other [00:41:00] and in our society, but also by our institutions? But that's my own ideological beliefs that we live in society, for better or for worse, even if you put on your little VR glasses and abscond to your metaverse, you still live in society.

So we should actually act like we live in society with each other. 

 

Marcie Bianco — Breaking Free - with Charlotte Clymer Part 3 - Politics and Prose - Air Date 9-23-23

MARCIE BIANCO: Feminists need a new tool, a new guiding idea, that allows us to build a society on something other than patriarchal values and to cultivate lives not circumscribed by them. One that finds dignity in difference, and from that recognition helps us create a society that cherishes independence and interdependence, autonomy and belonging, accountability, care, and justice. And that idea, I believe, is freedom. 

And just a little on freedom. I'm gonna give you a little bit more. 

In this book, I unpack the lie of equality to show how this long cherished ideal no longer serves the feminist movement. I take up feminist scholar Linda Zerilli's call to action. [00:42:00] What if instead of thinking about and practicing a feminism under the banner of equality, we thought and practiced feminism under the banner of freedom? To propose that freedom is the tool we need to revitalize feminism and cultivate more dignified, caring, and joyful lives. It can usher us beyond visibility, representation, false equivalences, and the harmful expansion and replication of systems of oppression. 

I define freedom as an ongoing process of self-creation and world building rooted in accountability and care. Freedom practices are those that foster our authenticity and honor the dignity of all people. They demand the recognition of our mutual coexistence. Freedom means, for example, reorienting our thinking about our health, not as personal health, but as public health; of healthcare, not as a personal matter, but as a public responsibility; and reconceptualizing our politics to recognize healthcare, not as a personal benefit afforded by our employer, but as a public good provided by our government.[00:43:00] 

In this sense, freedom is both a personal ethics and a collective politics. The practices of freedom are grounded in the development of a critical consciousness of how our mutual coexistence necessitates working toward our mutual freedom. The internal work and external practice continuously inform each other and evolve through our encounters and relationships over time.

The political power of this freedom work is that it can build movements that intermingle, deconstruct, and redeem spaces that have been historically exclusionary and toxic, and that generate intersectional frameworks and policies that intend to make all of us feel safer and feel more cared for and enbue us with a sense of belonging.

One freedom practice threaded through this book is the creation of our gender, both in our choice of an identity and in the stylistic expression of who we are and are becoming. Equality feminism, I argue, relies on the gender binary, which binds women to men. [00:44:00] But what if we freed ourselves of the mindset that has conditioned us to understand woman through men's gaze and values? And what if we understood that this liberation did not erase women, but removed the traditional strictures of womanhood? And that woman is not half of a whole, but rather can be a constellation, abundant in its variety? How might this mutual recognition and respect for all women transform our politics? How might it liberate us from a standpoint of oppression and a scarcity mindset that has us fighting each other about who gets to be a woman, and instead allow us to imagine new ways to strengthen and enlarge our freedom to care for ourselves and each other?

BONUS The Fraud Of 'White Feminism' w Kyla Schuller Part 2 - The Majority Report - Air Date 1-20-22

EMMA VIGELAND - CO-HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: So I guess let's move a little bit forward. I want to go through a lot of these examples, but let's talk about Harriet Beecher Stowe versus Harriet Jacobs in this time period. Tell us a little bit about the way in which, I guess I don't know how to describe it, but there was a contrast in the way that [00:45:00] White versus Black feminists were owning their own power to a degree. Can you tell us a little bit about that? 

KYLA SCHULLER: Yeah, so Harriet Beecher Stowe, of course, wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin, which was the second best selling novel of the entire 19th Century in the United States. And it's a novel that really positions White women as the saviors of enslaved people, that they will be the teachers, trainers, really discipliners of their servants and of the enslaved. And that's part of her vision of abolition. Versus Harriet Jacobs, who is a another really compelling figure, you know, extraordinary figure actually. And someone who it's amazing we don't have five movies about Harriet Jacob's life 'cause among many things that she did was when she self emancipated from slavery to run away from her enslaver, she actually hid in a tiny attic [00:46:00] space so small, she couldn't even stand up. And she hid there for seven years until she had the opportunity to take a boat north and escape North Carolina. She wanted to tell her story to support the abolition movement in the 1850s and had a colleague approach Harriet Beecher Stowe to say, Hey, could you write this person's story? And, you know, Harriet Jacobs escaped in part because of the sexual abuse she was suffering at the hands of her enslaver. And they thought, Well, Harriet Beecher Stowe might be the right person to bring that view of the sexual abuse element of slavery into the national eye. Instead Harriet Beecher Stowe said, Thank you for telling me these details of this amazing story of her hiding in the attic for seven years, I'm going to use these details in my next book. And then never replied to any of the increasingly desperate letters afterwards saying, No, we're not asking you to steal this woman's story. And Harriet Jacobs was [00:47:00] so incensed that she actually wrote her own story. She was lucky enough that she was literate from youth. And it is now, you know, deemed the most important woman's slave autobiography. She's the first Black woman to publish her own story, and she actually literally published it herself because she couldn't find a publisher to support it. And it's a brilliant example of the kind of self determination that guided intersectional feminism. 

And meanwhile, Harriet Beecher Stowe becomes the sort of patron saint of abolition. And then after reconstruction, she and her husband bought the largest orange plantation in Florida so that she herself could experiment with disciplining and civilizing the formerly enslaved. And there are really dramatic examples of that sort of self-led versus White maternalist version of feminism that tried to enact a literal theft.

EMMA VIGELAND - CO-HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: And that brings us back to what we were talking about with Afghanistan, [00:48:00] and it's, it's just a thread through colonialism, as well. We are going to civilize this population, and it's all inherently very narcissistic, of course. And we had someone write in to ask you a question, and so I don't want to move past that, even though we're going a little bit backwards about Stanton. Margo from Mass writes in, "I had read that Stanton and the early conferences were originally urged to work for suffrage by Frederick Douglass, and they didn't agree on it as a goal until Douglass encouraged them to fight for it as a means to get other rights. Is that true?" 

KYLA SCHULLER: It is absolutely true. I mean, it's really one conference. The conference is often considered the start of women's rights in the U. S., and this is the famous 1848 Seneca Falls Convention. And Stanton had said, We want to support the fight for women to vote. And nobody would support it until Douglass stood up. And Douglass was the only Black person in the entire [00:49:00] many hundred person convention. And he said, I will not fight for my rights without fighting for the rights of women. And then the vote passed, but it wouldn't have passed In 1848 without Douglass, which made her later betrayal of him and of the rights of African Americans, especially poignant. 

BONUS Angela Saini The Patriarchs 'How Men Came to Rule' Part 3 - The Overpopulation Podcast - Air Date 2-6-24

ANGELA SAINI: I mean, even in the current political and media narratives that we see how the decline in fertility rates is being reported as a panic because all these older people who are no longer productive are now being seen as burdens to society. And then women are measured in their ability to reproduce. And as you've said the way motherhood has been internalized by so many women because it's been pushed for so many thousands of years as the norm, but then you also talk about the first Roman emperor who actually [00:50:00] legislated marriage under the guise of, Well, that's just what's natural. Women just want to have children and they need to be under the control of their husbands. But the question you posed at the end of that was very interesting: Well,, if it's natural, why do we need to legislate something, unless it's for the state? 

NANDITA BAJAJ - CO-HOST, THE OVERPOPULATION PODCAST: Yeah, you're right. I mean, again and again, what you see in antiquity... so antiquity comes after all of this. So, here in ancient Greece and Rome, we see the final effects of a state that is deeply preoccupied by what's happening in the family and really takes it to its absolute limits. And I think in ancient Athens you see, that most of all, the emergence of this idea of the oikos and the polis, that whereas humans before would have just lived in a quite casual communal way, but now there are spaces for women and there are spaces for men. There's a domestic and there's a public, and there's this gendered division in terms [00:51:00] of who occupies which space, at least for certain classes. And of course, this isn't really true for the working classes who are still living the same way. 

But the literature from ancient Greece is deeply misogynistic. It is so, like, dripping with this hatred of women, suspicion, and fear. And we have to ask ourselves why? Why would societies be so afraid of half of their own populations? Why would they have that kind of dripping misogynistic fear or anxiety, which is the way I prefer to see it in ancient Athens, it's as anxiety. And of course, an unequal society is always an anxious one. It has to be because it is predicated on keeping a certain group of people in their place, telling people what to do, knowing deep down that they are imposing rules on people that perhaps they don't naturally occupy, that they're not naturally comfortable with.

Slave owning societies are the same. [00:52:00] They've always been anxious, uncomfortable, you know, wrestling not only with their own moral anxieties, but also the understanding that things could change, that the slaves could uprise and things could be very different. And you certainly see that in ancient Greek literature and ancient Roman literature in, for example, the myth of the Amazons, you know, race of women who are stronger than the men who are more powerful and could easily overtake them. 

But you see that in other cultures, too. There are so many cultural myths about the power that women used to have that was then taken away and the need to put women back in their place. Why would you do that unless you were anxious, unless you felt that this was an unnatural way to organize yourself?

ALAN WARE - CO-HOST, OVERPOPULATION PODCAST: And that's interesting. I had no idea, as you mentioned, Egyptians, Spartans, others, were not nearly as strong, gender-defined, and oppressed as the Greeks. And that the Greeks then influenced the Romans, which then influenced [00:53:00] Europe. And then the fact that the polis, the public part, actually you mentioned ends up oppressing women more, right? The division between the oikos, the house, or domestic... 

NANDITA BAJAJ - CO-HOST, THE OVERPOPULATION PODCAST: Yeah, it is fascinating. And often in Western societies, at least, we draw on ancient Greece as a kind of template, a model for how a perfect society should be organized. Although we do that selectively, you know, we don't take everything, we only take certain things. And some of those certain things, for instance, are democracy and... famously, ancient Greece was the birthplace of democracy. We choose to forget that these were democracies that deliberately excluded, of course, slaves, certain classes of people, and women. Although when we recreated democracy later in modern states, we borrowed that. We didn't have to, but we did.

And I think that speaks to the way that power works in every generation, in every society and civilization, is that those [00:54:00] in power almost always try and take from tradition and history, but they're always selective in the way that they do it. Why did they not borrow, for instance, from ancient Egypt, contemporary to ancient Athens, a society in which women had a lot of power, they worked in the professions, they were medics, they were very well educated, very well read. We know that there were famous Egyptian pharaohs, queens, who were women. But no, that's not what we borrowed from. The men deliberately chose to borrow from what was perhaps one of the weirdest societies even by the standards of its time. 

Final comments on what the path beyond equality and toward freedom looks like

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: We've just heard clips today, starting with Marcy Bianco at Politics and Prose reading from her book, Breaking Free. The Overpopulation Podcast looked at some archeological evidence for egalitarian societies. The Majority Report brought racism into the discussion of historical feminism. Julia Serrano was featured on Chair in Transgender Studies, discussing the [00:55:00] sexism infused into discussions of trans identity. The Overpopulation Podcast discussed how adherence to expectations of society is strong enough to destroy personal relationships, including family relationships. Politics and Prose spoke with Marcie Bianco about the fruitlessness of defining equality. And finally, Marcie Bianco read another passage from Breaking Free. 

That's what everybody heard, but members also heard bonus clips from The Majority Report further discussing some of the embedded racism in early feminism. And The Overpopulation Podcast went back as far as ancient Greece and Rome to understand the effects of having the state deeply preoccupied with what's happening within the family. 

To hear that and have all of our bonus content delivered seamlessly to the new members only podcast feed that you'll receive, sign up to support the show at bestoftheleft.com/support, or shoot me an email requesting a financial hardship membership, because we don't let a lack of [00:56:00] funds stand in the way of hearing more information.

Now to wrap up. Freedom, I will admit, is not exactly a policy prescription. In fact, the author of Breaking Free, in the discussion that we heard parts of today and during a part that I didn't have time to play, was pretty open about being more focused on the big ideas and letting the policy be crafted by other people who are not her. But I do think that freedom is a useful re-imagining of the direction that both advocacy and policy should go. And this might be more easily understood with a negative example. 

So, the focus on achieving marriage equality as part of the broader LGBTQ rights movement was both energizing, but also limiting. And I've heard from people inside the movement that once marriage equality was affirmed by the Supreme court, nearly all of the energy and particularly the funding of the movement dried up, [00:57:00] leaving very little left over to continue other related LGBTQ fights, including trans rights more broadly. So, in that example, you can see how the fight for equality created a sort of finish line that, when crossed, felt like an end to many. Whereas a focus on freedom broadens the perspective in multiple directions. It expands the scope of the avenues we may want to take, both policy-wise as well as culturally, and it also lengthens the time horizon we're working on, so that people really understand the bigger picture and don't mistakenly pack up and leave early.

And to be clear, you do need wins along the way. So, you need sort of intermittent goals that you're working to achieve, but it should all be understood as part of a much bigger project that needs continuous effort and funding. 

So continuing with the marriage equality example, not [00:58:00] everyone wants to get married. And I think people find that sort of shocking when they first hear it. I actually remember when I first heard that and was sort of shocked by it. Well, not that there were people who didn't want to get married, but that there were members of the LGBTQ community who opposed the fight towards marriage equality. I just remember my mind being blown by that. 'Cause it was like, Why would you not want everything that is the same as what everyone else has? And the answer is just like, Yeah, that's just not what I'm interested in. Like, I just don't want to fight for a thing I don't want, was kind of the answer. As like, I want to fight for my right to do what I want and not be penalized for it. 

So, in the marriage equality example I've, I've heard it described - marriage - as coming with 'administrative privilege'. You know, you get all those benefits that married couples get either in the tax code or other things like hospital visitation privileges, et cetera. In a [00:59:00] freedom mindset, we wouldn't force anyone to adhere to traditional marriage ideals just to access these types of what should be basic rights for people. Marriage equality should have been a no brainer, right? It's just like, Yeah, obviously. Anyway, moving on. Marriage rejection, without penalty for those who want to opt out, that's an example of one of the steps on the path to freedom. 

That is going to be it for today. As always keep the comments coming in. I would love to hear your thoughts or questions about this or anything else. You can leave a voicemail or send us a text at 202-999-3991 or simply email me to [email protected]. 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 our Transcriptionist Quartet, Ken, Brian, Ben, and Andrew, for their volunteer work helping put our transcripts together. Thanks to [01:00:00] Amanda Hoffman for all of her work on our social media outlets, activism segments, graphic designing, web mastering, and a bonus show co-hosting. And thanks to those who already support the show by becoming a member or purchasing gift memberships. You can join them today by signing up at bestoftheleft.com/support, through our Patreon page, if you prefer, or from right inside the Apple podcast app. Membership is how you get instant access to our incredibly good and often funny bonus episodes, in addition to there being extra content, no ads, and chapter markers in all of our regular episodes, all through your regular podcast player. You'll find that link in the show notes, along with a link to join our Discord community, where you can also continue the discussion. 

So, coming to 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.

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#1617 The Profitable and Political Moral Panic Around Trans People: Debunking Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria, Groomers, and Detransitioning Misconceptions (Transcript)

Air Date 3/19/2024

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JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [00:00:00] Welcome to this episode of the award winning Best of the Left podcast, in which we break down some of the pseudoscience the trans panic is built on, look at the political drive to erase trans people, understand how language of moral panics shift over time, and present an alternate view of societal healing for a healthier humanity. Source today include It Could Happen Here, The Thom Hartmann Program, Upfront Ventures, Medium, The Majority Report, and Variety, with additional members only clips from Medium and It Could Happen Here.

The Anatomy of a Moral Panic Ft. Dr. Julia Serano - It Could Happen Here - Air Date 2-21-24

MIA WONG - CO-HOST, IT COULD HAPPEN HERE: I wanted to talk a little bit about " rapid-onset gender dysphoria," because that's been all over the place. There was a New York Times article talking about it two weeks ago, and it's really been a fiasco. Especially given how unbelievably tenuous the stuff they faked—or, not as they "faked"— unbelievably tenuous the " study" they did, that got retracted, was. 

JULIA SERANO: This is [00:01:00] something that I actually saw developing firsthand and then did research on in 2019. Let me frame this, I'll tell my personal, short version —my oral history of this. It was around 2017 that I first heard the idea of children becoming trans because of social contagion, and it just seemed to come out of the blue . It's like, what? Gender identity is not contagious! If it was, trans people would have infected way more than the less-than-one percent of us that actually exist. Not a very effective contagion, as far as contagions go!

MIA WONG - CO-HOST, IT COULD HAPPEN HERE: (Laughing) "30 percent and rising!" 

JULIA SERANO: Exactly. Once you start looking at it, it seems ridiculous. A lot of it was because, "My kid was hanging around a trans person, or started watching trans videos on YouTube and now they're trans!" Maybe they were hanging out with that trans friend and watching the YouTube videos because they are trans and they just hadn't come out yet or they're just, they're still figuring it out.

 2018 is when the Lisa Lippman paper on rapid-onset [00:02:00] gender dysphoria came out and I wrote this essay at the time talking about all the things wrong with it . Then in 2019, I'm like, "Where did these ideas come from?" I should say that rapid-onset gender dysphoria is basically "transgender social contagion" wrapped up in a medical-sounding diagnosis.

If you read the initial descriptions of transgender social contagion and the description of rapid-onset gender dysphoria, they're basically the same—it's that kids are "infecting" one another. The idea of rapid-onset gender dysphoria was meant to describe this quick infection of "transness" that supposedly was happening.

In 2019, I basically did a deep dive—I'm not an investigative reporter, but that's what I did—into where the origin of this was. Basically, all of this came down to the website 4th Wave Now, which often worked in coordination with two other anti-trans parent websites.

4th Wave Now is an anti-trans parent website, arguably the very first one that came [00:03:00] out. A parent posted the idea that her child was being infected by a transgender social contagion. It's almost definitely clear now—I will leave a little caveat, even though I think the evidence is pretty strong—that was Lisa Marciano, who is an anti-trans therapist, who's very, very involved in anti-trans activism right now. Everything points to that being her, and she also seems to have, in some capacity, worked with Lisa Lippman. Basically, the first paper about rapid-onset gender dysphoria that came out was not Lisa Lippman's—it was actually Lisa Marciano's, which came out in 2017.

So it grew from these anti-trans parent websites. Within six months, not only was Lisa Lippman doing her survey, Lisa Lippman—being someone who has no experience in trans health ever before then —decides to go in and to only survey parents from three anti-trans parent websites.

And it gets taken very seriously [00:04:00] because the media fanned the flames. A lot of these groups were very excited to have something that seemed to be a case study on their side. The paper was heavily critiqued when it came out. There are now—I described this in an online essay I have, it's free, if you google my name, " all the evidence against social contagion," it's in there—there are now ten papers that have tested the idea of rapid-onset gender dysphoria and/or social contagion, and found evidence that contradicts the hypothesis.

 It's still being talked about by Pamela Paul. It was an op ed that looked like an article in the New York Times—it's not the first time Pamela Paul and/or the New York Times has done this. They seem to have a particular axe to grind against trans people and putting out specious articles suggesting that gender-affirming care, especially for trans youth, is bad when actually all the evidence points to the [00:05:00] opposite.

 That's a brief discussion of rapid-onset gender dysphoria, which I think is the most popular of these pseudoscientific ideas, but there are definitely others. There are about four or five others that I could get into—I do get into in the afterward and in some of my other writings. I don't use the word "pseudoscientific" lightly. 

There's "science," which is where different research groups try to answer a particular question, and if they all get similar answers, then that seems to be established. Now, let's work from there and ask more questions and do more studies. 

"Junk science" is when you do a crappy study that doesn't really interrogate all the possibilities, that either doesn't use controls, or only looks a bias sampling size or a bias sample or small sample sizes and comes to a conclusion that it wants to come to. That's junk science. 

And then "pseudoscience" is when multiple independent groups all find something different to what you're saying, [00:06:00] but you keep touting the thing you're saying as science. That's definitely where ROGD is right now. Same thing with one of these ideas that I talked about way back early in Whipping Girl and both academic papers and online essays about this concept of "autogynephilia," which is this really old theory— this zombie.

It doesn't matter how many groups find evidence to the contrary, it jibes with what certain gender-disaffirming practitioners and researchers and anti-trans activists—it jibes with what they want to say, so it continues to be out there. 

MIA WONG - CO-HOST, IT COULD HAPPEN HERE: Something that—Garrison, we were talking about before this—is the extent to which the extent to which the rapid-onset gender dysphoria study is almost exactly the same study as the first anti-vax study.

It's the same thing, where you find a group of people who think their kid has autism because they were vaccinated, or you find a group of people who think their kids are trans because " social contagion" or something, and then you ask them about it. Then you report the results of the study— you report the results of you asking the people the [00:07:00] thing that they believe, and now it's a study. It drives me insane—the extent to which it is literally exactly the same thing!

Are Red States 100 Committed to Erasing Trans People - Thom Hartmann Program - Air Date 1-8-24

THOM HARTMANN - HOST, THOM HARTMANN PROGRAM: You have been covering trans issues and transphobia and violence against trans people and the, just the. This insane hatred of trans people that the Republican Party has been spreading just brilliantly. Today's piece that you sent out, Florida bill would make accusation of transphobia defamation with a $35,000 penalty.

Tell us about this. 

ERIN REED: Yeah, so this just came out this morning and a particular lawmaker in Florida filed a bill that would basically say that if you accuse somebody of transphobia or sexism or homophobia or racism they could sue you for defamation with a penalty of up to $35,000. Interestingly enough usually the defense of defamation is truth is an absolute defense against defamation, so there is a separate paragraph that says that you cannot use their religious or scientific beliefs to prove truth of your [00:08:00] accusation. 

So basically, a pastor, for instance, could get up on the pulpit and spew a bunch of hateful rhetoric, and you could not call that pastor transphobic or homophobic without risking a $35,000 lawsuit.

THOM HARTMANN - HOST, THOM HARTMANN PROGRAM: That's insane. That sounds like censorship more than anything else to me. 

ERIN REED: It does. And in fact, the same lawmaker last year was famous for the "blogger bill", which made national headlines. It was essentially a bill that would require all bloggers to register with the state if they criticize the government.

THOM HARTMANN - HOST, THOM HARTMANN PROGRAM: Wow. Wow. A couple of days ago you published a piece only five days into the new year and 125 anti-trans pieces of legislation have been introduced around the country. What is the state of the safety of trans people around the nation, and how bad is it getting in red states, and how clearly differentiated are red states from blue states right now on these issues?

ERIN REED: Of course. So in the three days since I've published that, we are now up to 151 and we continue to grow every day. In terms of [00:09:00] safety, I am in touch with many parents, family, friends, et cetera, who are fleeing these states and seeking refuge in blue states. I know some people, for instance, that have fled a state like Alabama to a place like Massachusetts and they are living out of their van because it is safer right now to be in a van in Massachusetts with your kid than it is to be in Alabama having your kid pulled off medication and potentially harassed in school, kicked out of bathrooms, and worse. 

We see bills in some of these states like Florida and Ohio that make it impossible to get your health care. It pulls people off of medication. It makes it in Florida, for instance, if you go to the bathroom that matches your gender identity if it's not of your assigned sex at birth, you can be in jail for up to a year if somebody tells you to leave. And so the temperature is getting hotter and hotter. 

And actually, I want to close off by saying in Texas, even if you leave, even if you get out and you go to Seattle, to Washington [00:10:00] state, the Texas attorney general, Ken Paxton has filed a lawsuit to pull all of those patients back to pull all of the medical records from Seattle children's hospital back into Texas.

THOM HARTMANN - HOST, THOM HARTMANN PROGRAM: Presumably, so he can go after these trans people? 

ERIN REED: Presumably. We know that, for instance, a couple years ago, he was the one who started child abuse investigations against the parents of trans kids in the state. And judging that he is now trying to grab medical records from out of state, from the people that left Texas, one presumes that he is going to use those records for some legal purpose.

THOM HARTMANN - HOST, THOM HARTMANN PROGRAM: Yeah. This is a guy who proclaims his great morality, but can't keep it in his pants with regard to cheating on his own wife. It's just bizarre. 

You published a piece titled Governor DeWine uses anti abortion tactic to target trans adults with de facto ban. Tell us about that.

ERIN REED: Yes, of course. So this is a new tactic that I'm seeing that is an echo of a lot of the abortion bills that we saw during the Roe v. Wade [00:11:00] era, pre Dobbs. And so what we're seeing right now is in Ohio, we saw Governor DeWine veto an anti-trans bill that would allow trans youth to obtain gender affirming care, which was a great, it was a great thing that he did. However, he then turned around only three or four days later and released regulations that essentially act as laws that do not outright ban gender affirming care for transgender adults, but make it so that all of the clinics that provide that care would be closed. 

I'm going to remind your listeners of what happened during the abortion fight whenever they, for instance, passed bills, that said that all abortion clinics had to have hallways that were 14 feet wide. And so what that does to all the clinics in the state is it says either you have to tear down your clinic and build it a new and extend out all your hallways or your clinic is going to shut down because you don't have the money to operate that clinic.

So we're seeing the same thing in Ohio. There are a lot of regulations. For instance, they say that a bioethicist has to be on your team and signing off on all your care, as well as a number of other professions. I don't [00:12:00] know when the last time you have visited a bioethicist to get basic health care needs met, but I'm just saying that's not part of most of our routines.

Jamie Lee Curtis Interviews ALOK on the World Beyond the Gender Binary - Upfront Ventures - Air Date 3-9-23

JAMIE LEE CURTIS: You've written many things, but this beautiful book, Beyond the Gender Binary, is incredibly special. In the beginning of it, you talk about:

" In other words, there's been a lot of talk about us, but very little engagement with us. This has led to misinformation and outright lies, which have distracted from the realities faced by gender non-conforming people. Bias and discrimination are not just being endorsed, they are being given the green light. This gives many people permission to harass us in public everywhere we go. I do not have the luxury of being. I am only seen as doing. As if my gender is something that is being done to them, and not something that belongs to me."

Now, it's 2023. When [00:13:00] did you write this? 

ALOK VAID-MENON: I wrote it in 2018, it came out in 2020. 

JAMIE LEE CURTIS: And where are we now? 

ALOK VAID-MENON: Worse. There are over 400 pieces of anti- trans legislation that have been introduced in 2023 alone. And it's only March, mind you.

It's the best of times and it's the worst of times. It's "the best of times" in that our community is more powerful and resilient and visible than ever. It's "the worst" because we're having to deal with attempts to criminalize us for getting access to life- affirming healthcare. To criminalize us for existing in public.

And I think what breaks my heart the most is that there's been an orchestrated attempt to make people think that trans and non- binary people have access to some mythological power, but where was that power when I got beaten on the street? Where is that power when I get spat on, on the street? Where is that power when I am abused relentlessly online, [00:14:00] told to kill myself, and the same social media platforms that say happy pride to me are silent when we say it's happening?

Where's that power when queer and trans people have to deal with the stochastic terrorism that leads to incidences like Colorado Springs? When no one believes us that we're being hunted or attacked because it's easier for them to believe that we're resilient than it is for them to remove the hands that are wrapped around our necks? 

JAMIE LEE CURTIS: Children— you wrote, "That's the thing about being an LGBTQIA + kid. You often don't have the luxury to come into yourself on your own terms because other people have made up their minds for you. I wish that my family had been more proactive. I wish they had introduced a conversation about bullying so that I knew I could speak about it happening, too. I wish that they could have let me know that this was not okay."

 Today, young people are [00:15:00] more in a relationship with tech, than they are with people, I think. I fear. Sorry, but I do. I fear it. What role do you think tech is playing in this conversation, in the work you're trying to do?

ALOK VAID-MENON: On the one hand, tech has been so instrumental in helping us, as LGBTQ folks, connect with one another. We grow up often feeling like we're the only person who experiences the world as we do, and then we can log online and say, "There's someone else who shares my pain, someone else who shares my beauty," and I think that's tech in its best form.

But then, at the same time, what we've seen happen in the past few years is a relentless disinformation campaign on these social media platforms where people are peddling lies about trans people, myself included, as a way to push an agenda. It's not misinformation, it's disinformation. It's intentional.

There's been an orchestrated effort to make people believe [00:16:00] that LGBTQ folks, and specifically trans people, are to blame for every ill will that there is. There's a long history of scapegoating. We shouldn't have to name it, but we have to every time. Vulnerable minorities are told that we have some mythological manufactured power because the people with power, the people who actually have power, like to create it as a diversionary tactic.

They give no economic plan. They give no agenda to stave off some of the biggest issues of our times, like climate change. They distract people by making up issues. Like criminalizing drag. Making up issues like going against the American Psychiatric Association, Psychological Association, Medical Association, and saying that trans healthcare is somehow ominous or wrong.

They make up these issues to distract people, and that's what social media has facilitated— a mass weapon of distraction where people think that targeting trans people is [00:17:00] somehow going to give salvation or stability, and it's not. That's why I feel so much sadness, even for the people who are harassing me. Because they, too, have been misled. They think that this is going to give them access to some kind of power or stability, and it's absolutely not. 

I think what's really heartbreaking to me is that social media and many tech infrastructures are actually profiting from this hate. We spoke a little bit there about my experience as a child— it feels like being bullied, like when I was younger with everyone watching and no one doing anything, but what feels different now is that tech companies are making millions of dollars from it. We have evidence to show that Meta actually makes money from ads that call LGBTQ people "groomers." We have evidence to show that many tech companies make money from trafficking and anti- LGBTQ discourse online because it's viral. Because fear is a false prophet. Because it keeps people viewing their screens to view their ads. 

 What we really need [00:18:00] is a moment of reckoning that the self- regulating tendencies of tech aren't working, and that they're endangering our lives. And what that endangerment looks like is a constant sense of terror.

I wish I could be proud. I spent so much of my life wanting to be able to look like this. Wanting to be able to accept myself. And yet, when I look in the mirror I can't tell whether to cry or to smile because it's still so hard. Every single day I have to worry that people believe falsehoods about me and my community, and that those people are gonna come and target me. 

 That's the devastating part that I have to tell a lot of trans and gender non- conforming young people. It doesn't get better for us. And it's not getting better for us because people are profiting off of our subjugation.

How the Media Gets Trans Coverage Wrong - Medium - Air Date 8-19-23

KATHERINE ALEJANDRA CROSS - MODERATOR, MEDIUM: I think it's quite fair to say that the media landscape, especially although not exclusively in English language media, is either anti-trans or vigorously platforming anti-trans voices in the name of false balance and covering [00:19:00] the issues of the trans community. Certainly in the case of the British media, there's been an almost wholesale institutional capture by anti-trans moral panic. And yet as recently as 2014, there was a sense that we were at a trans tipping point, per a famous headline in Time Magazine, one that heralded a new age of acceptance. But in the nearly decade since, we've reached a nadir of moral panic, urged on by large sections of even liberal press.

So big question, I know, but how did that happen? And why, in your estimation?

JULIA SERANO: I think there were a whole bunch of different forces that all came together to conspire to make that happen. As someone who was already an established writer about trans issues when the tipping point happened, I would almost say that there was somewhat of a trend where the media had ignored trans people for a long time, and then suddenly there were all these TV shows and movies and stories about trans children, and the [00:20:00] media acted as though they had to catch up to that. So that was the only time in my life for a couple year period where mainstream publications would actively reach out to me without me doing anything and saying, "Hey, would you like to write for us about trans stuff?"

And that was going on for a couple of years. Most of those stories were positive, and then there was a backlash that happened again, for a number of reasons. A lot of it was very coordinated anti-trans activism, particularly around 2015 to 2016. A mixture of social conservatives, so called gender critical or TERFs. People who have anti-trans feminist views. Something that rarely gets talked about, but there's a huge anti-trans parent movement that's much like the anti-trans vax movement of parents trying to seek out their own information and then they stumble onto a lot of anti-trans, trans skeptical stuff.

And then there's some establishment gatekeepers and so on, medical gatekeepers, [00:21:00] who still hold anti-trans views. And all of that kind of came together to slowly create a moral panic in the media, particularly where there was certainly something wrong with all these trans people suddenly appearing.

And there weren't trans kids 20 years ago, were there? And so, it was very much coordinated is important, but also just feeding on the perpetual sense that trans people are a novel phenomenon that always needs to be explained. 

JUDE DOYLE: Right, and if I can jump off that, the media does not have a really good immune system when it comes to dealing with this kind of misinformation, because there are very few trans reporters who have been around in the issue long enough to know who these hate groups are. There are plenty of trans reporters, but they're not typically employed at these big legacy publications.

So you have, most recently and most horrifyingly, the New York Times feeling that in the interests of fair coverage or impartial coverage, they need to give equal [00:22:00] airtime to both sides of this issue. And the anti-trans groups are incredibly coordinated, they're very good at playing the game, and they know how to reach out and say, "well, I'm just a concerned parent, and by the way, all of my concerns happen to come from this organization. You don't necessarily need to credit them or say that I'm aligned with them when you publish this on the front page of the New York Times." 

So, it's really easy for misinformation to sneak into the mainstream because we are not comfortable with allowing trans people who just, on a practical level, are a little bit more able to identify the misinformation. We're not comfortable allowing us to write those narratives, and the level of education is so low that it's really easy for a bad actor to sneak on into the mainstream. 

In some cases, some of these reporters are actively [00:23:00] facilitating that. We can all name a few reporters who have actively tried to sandpaper off the trademark and just push anti-trans talking points into the mainstream, but I genuinely believe that a lot of the reporters that are publishing this are just publishing it because they don't know better and it sounds like they're being fair if they quote enough people from both sides. 

DEVON PRICE: Yeah. And that speaks to exactly what I wanted to say. It's a very coordinated series of hate groups that have tried to seed a lot of the discourse on this subject, but it's also been platformed by journalists, specific ones in a very deliberate way.

I think many of us who care about this issue remember the Atlantic piece When Your Child Says They're Transgender. That piece profiled a number of so called, and we'll talk about this more later, detransitioned people, but they were all actually detransitioned people who knew each other and were part of a coordinated TERF movement. And we only know about that now because there's people who have left that movement, like Ky Schevers, who also writes on Medium, by the way, who's talked about how this [00:24:00] was a coordinated effort to reach journalists who were already critical of trans people, to lay down the groundwork of fomenting a lot of fear and misinformation. And then it found its way in the hand of legislators who were all too happy to also feed on that that ideology. 

And the only thing that I'll say to build on what Jude and Julia already both said is that the trans tipping point, as much as I'm someone who benefited from it someone who transitioned after it, it was in terms of media reception, it was a movement, I think, of personal identity rather than collective liberation or really talking about the policy demands that we need to make as a marginalized class and what some of the healthcare needs that we have, that we have in common with other groups, including detransitioners, including women with polycystic ovarian syndrome, lots of other conditions. Instead it was just a very personal identity, celebration of personnel identity, making people as individuals more visible kind of movement. And visibility is not necessarily liberation. A lot of times it's vulnerability and putting a target on your [00:25:00] back.

The Anatomy of a Moral Panic Ft. Dr. Julia Serano Part 2 - It Could Happen Here - Air Date 2-21-24

MIA WONG - CO-HOST, IT COULD HAPPEN HERE: One of the things that you talk about both in the Afterword and in Sexed Up is about the relationship between stigma and contagion and how it's this incredibly powerful force for mobilizing moral panics. Can you explain how that works? 

JULIA SERANO: Sure. This was something that when I was first working on Sexed Up, it wasn't my idea, I didn't think I was going to write about the concept of stigma that much, but it really ended up being very central to the more research I did into it. And so I think most of us are familiar with the idea of stigma in terms of feeling embarrassment or being made to feel lesser than other people because of some aspect of your person. And there is that aspect of it that's often called felt stigma, but then there's the way that other people view stigma. And so, people aren't necessarily stigmatized in that way themselves. They might view people who are stigmatized in particular ways, and one aspect of stigma that... I learned a lot of this [00:26:00] from psychologists, I think it's Paul Rosen—I know the last name is Rosen—and also Carol Nemeroff, and they both worked together and they had other colleagues who worked on this. 

But a lot of this comes from this really unconscious idea of contagion, that seems to be, it's like pan cultural, it's just a way that people tend to view the world, kind of like, a lot of people in a lot of cultures have essentialist views, contagion is along those lines. It's often described as a type of magical thinking. And the idea is, if something in your mind has this contagion, if you get too close to it or you interact with it, it can permanently corrupt or taint you. So it has this kind of contagious like property in people's minds. People often view groups who are stigmatized, especially groups that are highly stigmatized, as essentially contagious, where that stigma that they have could rub off on you if you get too close to [00:27:00] them.

And so this happens, like when I was really young, the idea of if you were friends with a trans person, a lot of times people, or even someone who was gay back then, people would be like, "oh, so what are you? You must be gay too, right?" It's almost as if that stigma would then migrate to you.

And that's a lot of why stigmatized groups face a lot of ostracization in society. This idea of contagion has been around. I think groups who are lesser stigmatized, one of the ways that that plays out is they're viewed as less contagious. When I was really young, the idea of if you had a trans person in your life, people would really question you. Whereas, by the time I came out, you could have a trans friend and that would be fine, it wouldn't necessarily be contagious. Unless, of course, you were interested in them and then that stigma would, if you were attracted to them, then there's that stigma. And I think that stigma plays a lot into dynamics of, and I write about this in Sexed Up that the whole idea of fetishes and chasers and all that, that's basically all the stigma, the contagion stuff [00:28:00] playing out in different ways.

Anyway, so I also think that, and I write about in Sexed Up, I think people view sex and stigma as really closely intertwined, such that I think people view, the average person views heterosexual sex as a stigma contamination act, where the male is the corrupting force, and it's the woman who is corrupted by sex, which is why virgins are pure, but then once a woman has sex, she's become contaminated or tainted. And she has a lot of sex, then people view her as ruined. So that idea is built in there. And I think this combination of viewing sex and stigma as intertwined leads to the sexual predator stereotype that we're seeing play out in really strong ways with trans people right now. But actually, if you look throughout history, a lot of marginalized groups deal in different ways with the [00:29:00] sexual predator trope.

And I think this really clearly plays out with what I call the groomer explosion that started in 2022, where people were accusing trans people being groomers before then, but it really exploded in 2022. And if you listen to what people are saying, they're using the word groomer, which sounds like a sexual predator thing, like there's a real thing of grooming children that sexual abusers do, but they're using it against trans people in a way that has nothing to do with that. What they're talking about is corrupting.

So their children who are presumed to be cisgender, and who often, I think this is why a lot of these anti-trans discourses continue to paint trans children as being girls cause, then it plays into these feelings of transgender people are the adult men corrupting young girls. It plays into a lot of people's messed up heteronormative views of sex, and fears of sexual abuse, [00:30:00] child abuse being a very real thing, but people greatly misinterpret it so that the people who are the usual perpetrators, which are usually by and large straight men who are adults who are close or sometimes even family members of the child in question. But when they say grooming, they just mean corrupting or contaminating. 

And I think that both grooming and social contagion, I think both of these basically play off of this stigma contamination idea. The kids are pure, but then transgender is like a type of cooties that if one kid becomes trans, then they spread it to the other kids. And yeah, and so I, I feel like it plays a really big role, not only in moral panics, which almost all moral panics are. There's some kind of corrupting force that is often attacking otherwise pure and innocent children. Sometimes it's technology, and so people will be like, "Oh, we have to ban social [00:31:00] media apps, because it's hurting the children", or it could be transgender people who are the things we need to ban because they're corrupting the children.

But I definitely think that both these ideas of stigma and contagion play a big role in the way in which moral panics... why they resonate with a lot of people, even though they don't make any rational sense if you just think about them from a very realistic, practical point of view.

The Unabated Red State Assault On Trans Rights w Erin Reed Part 2 - The Majority Report - Air Date 2-10-24

ERIN REED: And in fact, just yesterday we saw in Iowa the governor, Ken Reynolds, submitted a bill that would end all legal recognition for trans people and require trans people to have special markers on their birth certificates that identify them as trans. And in this bill, it actually redefines this... 

SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: On their birth certificates or on their licenses?

ERIN REED: It was going to be on the birth certificates and driver's licenses. Right now it's only on birth certificates. They've amended out the driver's license portion, but they have kept the birth certificate portion. 

EMMA VIGELAND - CO-HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Meaning amending someone's birth certificate with a little special marker? 

ERIN REED: With a [00:32:00] marker that identifies them as trans. It'll have both gender markers on there. It's something that, a lot of people compared to the pink triangle laws back in the 1940s, where LGBTQ people were forced to identify themselves. 

EMMA VIGELAND - CO-HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: I need people to sit with this for one second. That this legislation forces basically a scarlet letter of transness onto a birth certificate to amend someone's birth certificate so that employers, potentially, if you're giving documentation or if you're giving it to a bank, they get to be like, "oh I know what your genitals are." that is the purpose of this legislation, and that is... it shouldn't be astounding to me, but that is very disturbing in what it's trying to do. 

ERIN REED: Absolutely. And not only that, there's another aspect of this legislation that didn't get much coverage until yesterday, in that the legislation actually redefines the word equal. It says that equal no longer means same or identical when it comes to trans people. And then it goes on to say separate does not always imply equality. 

SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: So if I [00:33:00] understand what you're saying, they're changing the definition of what essentially discrimination would be to say that you can do these things based upon this information that you gleaned from the birth certificate. What ostensibly is the purpose? When there is a rationale that if I'm a trans person, I'm in Iowa, I got to go back and change my birth certificate to reflect this new, marker as it were, what is their rationale for why this needs to happen? What is the problem that, ostensibly, they're trying to fix? 

ERIN REED: Absolutely. And that question was directly posed to the representative. And one of the representatives who was sponsoring the bill stated that, "Well, it's your birth record and we need to have an accurate record of that." But then whenever you look into Adoption, for instance, we allow people to go back and change their birth certificates whenever it comes to adoption, so that rationale does not hold up whenever it comes to trans people. They don't have a rationale for it, not one that makes sense. 

For instance, when asked about changing the word equal, the person was asked, "what does the word equal even mean now?" [00:34:00] And she responded, "equal would mean, I would assume it would mean I don't know exactly what it means in this context." That is specifically what she said.

SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Where are they getting these ideas from? Is this an ALEC type of situation or is there some sort of, I don't know, more conservative cultural version of ALEC these days. 

ERIN REED: Of course. So the Alliance Defending Freedom and Heritage Foundation are the two major players right now. We know that the Heritage Foundation released a report called Project 2025, where they intend to make transgender and LGBTQ people obscene and apply obscenity laws towards them, as well as ban LGBTQ people online as pornographic and a number of other things. Visions for the future of America, such as making the presidency absolute in power. This is what they were trying to do with these laws. This model legislation gets shotgunned everywhere. It was called out in Iowa for being from outside of Iowa. And in fact, 300 people showed up against the bill. Only three or four showed up in favor. 

SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Amazing. It's amazing though, the durability of [00:35:00] this as a issue within these groups, despite the fact that there doesn't seem to be a significant constituency that is actually genuinely interested in it. I think for a while it was probably providing some clicks for some podcasters across the spectrums, but in terms of just, real people. I think mostly people are just baffled by this. 

You had a piece, I guess it was a week ago, there was audio from a Twitter Spaces where Michigan Republicans, along with Ohio Republicans, said their end game is to ban trans care for everyone, and as a Michigan Republican, aren't you like, "hey guys, maybe we should work on something else." But no. It's fascinating to me. 

ERIN REED: Absolutely. And this is Representative Gary Click out of Ohio, the person who wrote the anti-trans ban in Ohio that was vetoed by Governor DeWine. It blew up into national news whenever DeWine vetoed it. He had a meeting with a bunch of Michigan Republicans, [00:36:00] where they stated that the endgame, and this is the words that they used, the endgame is to ban this for everyone whereupon Representative Click came back and said, "Yeah, but you gotta do it in small bits and incrementally, that way we can get there." 

And so they're talking about this openly. They're talking about what they want to do openly, and they don't intend to stop, regardless of how popular it is, because at this point, they've got the dollars, the advertising dollars from the Alliance Defending Freedom and the Heritage Foundation. They've got the lobbyist money. They've got the very far christian right that has attempted to take hold of the country through the extreme wing of the republican party. 

Jamie Lee Curtis Interviews ALOK on the World Beyond the Gender Binary Part 2 - Upfront Ventures - Air Date 3-9-23

ALOK VAID-MENON: I think what we really have to understand is that the majority of representation of trans people is not from us, it's about us. When people are getting to know trans life now, they're getting to know it from cis people's anxieties, fears, and projections about us—not our lived realities.

When people are Googling "transgender," they'll quickly be sent in two or three clicks onto a right wing news site that teaches them that trans people are predatory and dangerous. That's [00:37:00] what's fueling this anti-trans legislation and sentiment: misinformation and disinformation online. So, the first thing that we need to do is we need to actually start regulating the rampant disinformation that's spreading complete falsehoods about trans life in this country.

 We need to recognize that tech is actually one of the biggest media producers now. That when people are going for news, when they're going for entertainment, they're actually seeing content that sees violence against trans people as a form of entertainment. That's the reality that we live in right now, and we have to address it.

I think the second thing we have to do is we have to stop relying on LGBTQ communities to blow the whistle. At this point, it's no longer blowing the whistle, it's no longer a dog whistle, it's an emergency siren. I keep wondering, how bad does it have to get? How many of us have to die? How many of us have to be beaten?

How many incidents like Colorado Springs do there have to be for non-trans and non-queer people to recognize that this is a state of emergency. We need [00:38:00] everyone to say this is a state of emergency. We need everyone to say that there is no factual basis in the scapegoating of LGBTQ communities, and that we cannot profit off of these hate and fear mongering campaigns.

What we need is not just resisting this legislation, but actually creating proactive legislation that protects us, that includes us in discrimination ordinances, that includes us in workplaces. Ultimately, what we need is to reframe the dialogue. That's why I was so excited to speak with you.

This is not a minority issue. We can't talk about this as a majority of people offering to assist a minority. Why would we ever want to live in a world where people are hated for expressing themselves? That's not a world I'm interested in being a part of. There is no dignity, let alone decency, let alone glamour, let alone beauty, in a world where people are persecuted for self expression.

What this attack, what this crusade, what this theology that masquerades itself as [00:39:00] biology, is actually about, is about limiting possibility for all people. It's about telling people, "You have to stay in the boxes that you were confined to growing up. You don't get to figure yourself out on your own terms."

 Of course, they're coming for trans people first—because we might be the most visible—but they're gonna continue to come for everyone else right after that fact. That's what we have to reframe the dialogue. This is not about allyship. This is about the creation of a more beautiful world.

JAMIE LEE CURTIS: How do we do that? 

ALOK VAID-MENON: I think we gotta heal. I sound like a broken record here, but you and I both know this. We live in a culture where everyone is trying to escape from their pain. We live in an escapist culture and an addiction culture that teaches people that they have to numb themselves to their pain.

That's what transphobia is—a mass coping ritual for people to numb themselves from their own pain. It is easier to demonize trans and non-binary people. It is easier to believe in lies about us than it is to confront the fact that you were made to feel like you were never [00:40:00] gonna be woman enough, that you were never gonna be man enough, and that it was people who said that they loved you who did that to you first.

It was people who tried their best to destroy you and called it "love." It is easier to demonize me than it is to reckon with your own heartbreak. So what I read the rising tidal wave of transphobia in this country as is a grief. An unprocessed grief that people are all actually suffering from gender norms.

The thing about suffering is that it's really difficult to stay in, so people look for escapes. I think that so often the question gets framed "trans people are advocating for our humanity," and I want us to refuse that. Actually, we know our humanity. It's those who hate us who don't. We are reminding you of your humanity.

That's the difference. The truth is, in a culture that is pain escapist—in a culture that seeks to anesthetize us from actually being present in our bodies—that's not what [00:41:00] humanity is. Humanity is compassion. Humanity is interdependence. Humanity is, "If they're coming for my friend, they're coming for me."

That's what's been lost. In the silos and the borders that have been created, people can maintain the ultimate western performance art called "individualism," and it's disintegrating. So people often ask me, "Why do you continue to dress as you do, to live as incandescently as you do, knowing that you'd experience violence?" To which I respond, why do you continue to lie to yourself, knowing that you'll experience depression?

Why do you continue to sacrifice your authenticity, knowing that you're never going to experience happiness? Why do you stay in relationships that aren't serving you? It's because you're afraid, and your fear is holding you back from actually being alive. You hate me because I template what it means to be alive.

You hate me because I show you that you didn't have to clip your own wings. That you didn't have to live an abbreviated version of your joy. That you didn't have to wait for Pride. That it could be [00:42:00] Pride 24/7. That you didn't have to dress up for the event or the red carpet. That every motherfucking street could be your red carpet.

That's why trans people are being targeted. It's not because we lack, it's because we love, and we have the audacity to love the parts of ourselves that other people hate in themselves. So what I want is, actually, a societal mass reckoning with healing. I want more comprehensive therapy for all people. I want more resources for people to understand what trauma does.

I want real conversations around addiction and escapist culture. I want real conversations around the crisis of domestic violence and intimate partner violence. I want us to actually say, the reason that you're typecasting an entire group of people as predatory and dangerous that you don't know, is because that's easier for you to do than implicate your own parents, than implicate your own family, than implicate the people around you.

The reason that you're scapegoating these strangers you don't know is because you have some unresolved pain in you. The truth is, your [00:43:00] hatred is not going to help you. It's gonna premature your own death.

Jodie Foster Thinks Warner Bros. Support for Greta Gerwig's 'Barbie' is ‘New for Women Directors’ - Variety - Air Date 1-20-24

INTERVIEWER, VARIETY: Alok, I was wondering, is there a politician or somebody that you would like to talk to speak to, and sit down and really drill down your message of responding to situations with love, and how that could impact so many things in the world that are wrong and not going well?

ALOK VAID-MENON: I'm down to have hot chocolate with any of them because I think at the heart of it, as I talk about in the film, people want to make these issues deep and complex.

But when you really distill them down to the DNA, it's because people are operating from fear, from pain, from grief that's unprocessed. When you zoom in on that, when you actually remind people that we're all human, it's hard to hate people up close. What I've seen happen, especially in my community, is more people report seeing a ghost than a trans person, which means I have to text back my friends, I know. (Laughing) 

 I feel like what's happening right now is people don't [00:44:00] actually encounter us face-to-face. They just read articles about us, they Google us, but they don't know us. Maybe I need to do a tour across America where I just invite anyone to come and have a hot chocolate with me and ask the questions. Because once you actually encounter us, you realize that we're dealing with the same issues and all this division is holding us back from our shared humanity.

INTERVIEWER, VARIETY: The documentary starts and ends with the pronoun of "we." What do you hope resonates with audiences about that idea? 

ALOK VAID-MENON: I think there's a way in which so many issues get seen as "us" and "them." Even within the LGBTQ movement, there are allies and then there are people impacted. But why would we want to live in a world where people are persecuted for being glamorous?

That's not a world that's good for anyone. "Trans rights" is not just for transgender people. It accelerates freedom, joy, and beauty for all people. So, why "we" is important, is that the point of activation for all struggles shouldn't just be, "I'm in solidarity with." A world in [00:45:00] which Native filmmakers can tell Native stories creates a better industry for all of us, even if we're not Native because it reflects what life actually is. 

And I think that's what the goal of cinema should be. For so long, it's been about marketing aspiration, but I hope the next generation is, "Let's really get honest about how painful and how wonderful the world is."

BONUS How the Media Gets Trans Coverage Wrong Part 2 - Medium - Air Date 8-19-23

KATHERINE ALEJANDRA CROSS - MODERATOR, MEDIUM: Yes, and speaking of that sort of thing, one of the recurring motifs in the moral panic has been the press sort of channeling this anxiety, whether sincere or cynical or some combination of both, about detransitioners, those people who took significant steps to medically transition genders but then reverted to their starting gender. And so, why is this and how might the story of this real but rare phenomenon be better served by the press? 

JULIA SERANO: So, uh, I should say since we're, with this is Medium day, my most recent Medium article is called [00:46:00] "Spotting Anti-Trans Bias on Detransition" and I go to a lot there, including like delving into the statistics of detransition and regret, talking about dynamic transgender trajectories that sometimes involve people detransitioning or deciding, Hey, I'm non-binary now, and all of that. 

The one thing that I feel that is really important as I was working on it is, even though detransition is a very complex phenomenon and people detransition for lots of reasons, including pressure from family, societal transphobia, the one thing that comes up over and over again is it seems like audiences and journalists really gravitate towards what I call in the piece the mistaken and regretted detransition or the mistaken and regretted transition And this really preys on two biases that cisgender people generally have, which is, one, they just assume everyone's cisgender, so when people are transgender, [00:47:00] they tend to assume that we're merely confused or deluded cisgender people. And the second one is people tend to see, and this is true of all dominant majority groups, but with regards to cisgender versus transgender, cisgender is constructed as natural and pure and transgender is viewed as artificial, defective, and corrupted. 

So, when you take that together, when people hear about someone de transitioning, they often jump to the conclusion that, Oh, see, they really were a cisgender person who realized that they were just confused or deluded, and now they must regret what happened to them because, God, what worse could happen to you than, you know, being a cisgender person trapped in a transgendered body?, which I kind of took that phrase from the more typical cliché that a lot of people are familiar with. But I think it immediately resonates with people and people immediately jump to the conclusion, when you say detransition, even though I know lots of people who have detransitioned for all sorts of different life reasons, that [00:48:00] is the conclusion they jump to and that conclusion very much plays into the idea that transitioning itself, especially for trans youth, must be suspect and dangerous.

DEVON PRICE: Yeah, I think that is a very real instinctual reaction, or, you know, maybe not actually instinctual, but you know, this knee jerk reaction that a lot of cis people have to the idea of detransition. And it also, again, bears mentioning that there was a very coordinated attack on the part of TERFs, first of all, to recruit, and conversion therapy people, primarily transmasculine people, into being members of their movement and into being the faces of "transition regret", and even some of those people, again, who have been really prominent voices in that movement have already desisted from the detransitioner TERF movement and recognized it as a hate group that it is, and been outspoken now again about the role that they once played in advancing transphobic legislation and how much they regret that.

People like Carrie Callahan, people like Ky Schevers, and [00:49:00] other people in the group Health Liberation Now, if anyone's curious about that. That was part of how, you know, maybe understandable given the understanding of gender that most cis people have, that those fears that they have, it was really taken advantage of and put to use by a really coordinated attack and one that even did get some trans people in the loop and weaponized them and they also played an active role in it to a certain extent.

BONUS The Anatomy of a Moral Panic Ft. Dr. Julia Serano Part 3 - It Could Happen Here - Air Date 2-21-24

GARRISON DAVIS - CO-HOST, IT COULD HAPPEN HERE: This is something that you mentioned briefly in the, uh, afterward. That's something that we've reported on is how a lot of this groomer thing that started in 2022 and a whole bunch of this kind of modern wave of transphobia. Is mirroring a lot of the anti gay stuff from like the 80s that was pushed forward by a lot of like evangelicals, and then into just like mainstream conservatism, and specifically how it functions as this sort of like moral panic and even social contagion, the way homosexuality was treated as this thing. And this sort of social contagion aspect is so common now. I mean, even the way, we've already alluded to Musk, even the way he mentions [00:50:00] like the woke mind virus is exactly this thing. And as it relates to like moral panics and stuff, right?, this was kind of predated by the critical race theory debacle which then got, you know, turned into the groomer thing. 

MIA WONG - CO-HOST, IT COULD HAPPEN HERE: And it is now the DEI thing. 

GARRISON DAVIS - CO-HOST, IT COULD HAPPEN HERE: Yeah, exactly. And now it's even changed again. And these moral panics can have like devastating results in terms of pushing forward legislation that outlasts the actual moral panic. But the actual things themselves are very short lived. They don't seem to have very much like staying power as like cultural moments. They move on so quickly. Like, no one talks about critical race theory anymore. You don't even hear this sort of groomer rhetoric as often as you did two years ago. It's being replaced by new versions. And yeah, like Mia said, the DDEI thing is the current thing that is wrecking American society, if you ask about maybe one third of the population. But yeah, how do you feel about the life cycle of these moral panics and how they relate to the social [00:51:00] contagion aspect?

JULIA SERANO: Yeah, yeah, no, I agree with all the things you're citing. I think these are all different variations of kind of the same idea. And I do really appreciate the idea of the woke mind virus as being kind of like the perfect, like, the exemplar of this, in that people were complaining about stuff being woke for a while, and you know, usually it's often coded as something that's woke is like antiracist or is something, like, it's very much associated with, infused with... when people complain about wokeism, a lot of times they're racist, or at the very least they have fears about the corruption of pure whiteness being corrupted by increasing people of color and, you know, like making gains in society, right?

But the woke mind virus, because no one could really explain what woke is, because then it keeps shifting and it refers to trans people or critical race theory and et cetera, and the woke mind virus is like perfect because [00:52:00] that's how they think it all works. Like, it's just this thing that infects people, especially children, and the way in which there is... a recent thing just today, I think it was Ackerman, the billionaire, who's been involved in a lot of this DEI stuff, complaining about his child being infected in college with Marxism, and Elon Musk had similar issues with his trans daughter, like, becoming pro-Marx or anti-capitalist, and so they just assume that like, No, my child was pure, but now they're infected. It's like, Well, maybe there are other ideas out there that are better than your idea. And maybe that's all it is. 

But, but yeah, so I think in all of these cases, yes, I think that there's this idea of a contagion or corruption often involving children. And it is, yeah, a lot of the moral panic, [00:53:00] a lot of the literature, like the social sciences literature on moral panics, they often describe them as fleeting. The anti-trans one isn't fleeting enough right now, from my perspective. But people will tend to kind of move on. Like the satanic panic of the 80s, you know, like that was a really big deal and then all of a sudden it was just gone. And no one ever talked about it again. I think the difference here is that a lot of these moral panics are really tied together with what's happening in the country, more generally with anti-democratic and authoritative views coming from, particularly the right wing of the country, like one of the two major political parties. It's really pushing a lot of, just generally across the board, you know, they're against feminism, they're against people of color, against LGBTQ+ people, and I think it's all wrapped up [00:54:00] into the same thing. 

I think that while individual parts of the moral panic may go away, they may talk about critical race theory for a bit, and then shift to trans people being groomers, then shift to DEI, but I think a lot of this is they're all intertwined, and actually I think that's, like... the last couple paragraphs of the 'Afterword', I talk about that as a potentially good thing, because even though it's been a harrowing time to be a trans person, with all the anti-trans legislation, and all the anti-trans news stories, all the pushes back on gender affirming care, despite all that, I think, the good thing is that there are clear sides here. And I think, while this wasn't true early on in the anti-trans backlash, in the 2010s, I think most people realize now that all these things are tied together from the right wing perspective in this country. It's just against all these things. They want [00:55:00] a White, Christian, straight minority of people running everything about this country. And so I think the rest of us really need to recognize that and work together to defeat that.

Final comments on a new reframing of the right to the freedom of sex

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: We've just heard clips today, starting with It Could Happen Here debunking some of the pseudoscience around gender. Thom Hartmann discussed the states attacking trans people. The Upfront Summit featured a discussion between Jamie Lee Curtis and ALOK that looked at the financial incentives to subjugate trans people. Medium looked at the media role in trans panic. It Could Happen Here discussed trans stigma and how it's communicated. The Majority Report looked at the conservative organizations pushing trans subjugation. Continuing the discussion, ALOK connected the persecution of trans people to the pain of others. And Variety also spoke with ALOK, who pointed out that it's difficult to hate people up close. 

That's what everybody heard, but members also heard a bonus clips from Medium, tackling [00:56:00] some misconceptions about detransitioning, and It Could Happen Here looked at how moral panic language has morphed over time. 

To hear that and have all of our bonus content delivered seamlessly to the new members-only podcast feeds you'll receive, sign up to support the show at bestoftheleft.com/support, or shoot me an email requesting a financial hardship membership, because we don't let a lack of funds stand in the way of hearing more information, 

Now to wrap up, I wanted to tell you a bit about this article from New York Magazine. The headline is "Freedom of Sex: The moral case for letting trans kids change their bodies". And it's long and in depth and very interesting. I recommend you check out the whole thing, but at its absolute core, it is a fundamental reframing of the debate over the right to gender affirming care. And up to this point, the argument for supporting access to needed healthcare for trans people has been based [00:57:00] on a medical diagnosis, right?, the diagnosis of gender dysphoria. And the article argues that "by insisting on the medical validity of the diagnosis, progressives have reduced the question of justice to a question of who has the appropriate disease. In so doing, they have given the anti-trans movement a powerful tool for systematically pathologizing trans kids". 

And the risk here fundamentally is that if you base rights on something medical, then, if the medical evidence is at all debatable, which is basically what the whole trans debate is about right now, then so are the rights. So, if the medical evidence can be debated, refuted, called into question, then all of a sudden people's rights are also being called into question. So the fundamental reframing of this debate goes something like [00:58:00] this: " We will never be able to defend the rights of transgender kids until we understand them purely on their own terms as full members of society who would like to change their sex. It does not matter where this desire comes from. We must be prepared to defend the idea that, in principle, everyone should have access to sex changing medical care, regardless of age, gender identity, social environment, or psychiatric history". 

So, the article goes on to give examples of instances when people are given access to medical care to help maintain aspects of their sex, which society currently deems to be an unquestioned right, including menopausal hormone therapy and genital reconstruction surgery, "the result of Pentagon-funded research aimed at [00:59:00] restoring the dignity of soldiers whose genitals were damaged or destroyed by improvised explosives". And so in a sweeping statement about fundamental rights, referring to trans people who are being targeted to halt access to medical treatment, the article draws this contrast. "The right to change sex that has been enjoyed for decades by their parents, friends, teachers, coaches, doctors, and representatives, especially if those people are White and affluent, this right belongs to them, too", trans kids, it's referring to. "We should understand this right as flowing not from a revanchist allegiance to an existing social order on the perpetual verge of collapse, but from a broader ideal of biological justice, from which there also flows the right to abortion, the right to nutritious foods and [01:00:00] clean water, and crucially the right to health care. I am speaking here of a universal birthright: the freedom of sex. This freedom consists of two principle rights: the right to change one's biological sex without appealing to gender, and the right to assume a gender that is not determined by one's sexual biology. One might exercise both of these rights towards a common goal, transitioned, for instance, but neither can be collapsed into the other". 

In essence, this boils down to giving everyone healthcare and the freedom to access it as they see fit. And I think the response to that would be like, Oh my God, you're just going to let anybody do whatever they want. And it's not that there aren't safeguards described in this article, but the safeguards are also inverted from barriers to rights. Continuing, [01:01:00] "As for transition-related care itself, the right to change sex includes the right to receive counseling, to understand the risks, or to be treated for co-morbidities. In fact, society has a duty to make these resources freely and widely accessible to trans kids". And the reference to co-morbidities is part of the argument that, Well, what if these kids aren't really trans? What if they're just something else? What if they're just autistic or stressed or confused or whatever? And I think that is what this is referring to. Yeah, people should be treated for everything, given the counseling they need, and then still allowed to choose whatever they want to do with their own bodies. And so to directly address the worry of people still going ahead and making the wrong choices for themselves, the article takes this head-on as well. "The freedom of [01:02:00] sex does not promise happiness, nor should it. It is good and right for advocates to fight back against the fixation on the health risks of sex changing care, or the looming possibility of detransition. But it is also true that where there is freedom, there will always be regret. In fact, there cannot be regret without freedom. Regret is freedom projected into the past. So it is one thing to regret the outcome of a decision, but it is a very different thing to regret the freedom to decide, which most people would not trade for the world. If we are to recognize the rights of trans kids, we will also have to accept that, like us, they have a right to the hazards of their own free will".

So at the very core of this reframing is the simple idea that freedom to choose one's own path should be at the [01:03:00] forefront and should not be contained within existing social structures. And really that's a much better foundation to start from than the medicalization of trans people, when forming a debate. Give people all the information, let them choose for themselves, and acknowledge that regrets are in escapable, but a completely worthwhile trade off for the benefits of freedom. Put in any other context, who would argue otherwise? And if not, then why not also here? 

If you do want to do a deeper dive, definitely check out the full article. Again, it's "Freedom of Sex: The moral case for letting trans kids change their bodies". It's from the New York Magazine 'Intelligencer'. 

That is going to be it for today. As always keep the comments coming in. I would love to hear your thoughts or questions about this or anything else. You can leave a voicemail or send us a text at [01:04:00] 202-999-3991, or simply email me to [email protected]. 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 our Transcriptionist Quartet, Ken, Brian, Ben, and Andrew, for their volunteer work helping put our transcripts together. Thanks to Amanda Hoffman for all of her work on our social media outlets, activism segments, graphic designing, web mastering, and bonus show co-hosting. And thanks to those who already support the show by becoming a member or purchasing gift memberships. You can join them by signing up today at bestoftheleft.com/support, through our Patreon page, or from right inside the Apple podcast app. Membership is how you get instant access to our incredibly good and often funny bonus episodes, in addition to there being extra content, no ads, and chapter markers in all of our regular episodes, all through your regular podcast player. You'll find the link to sign up in the show notes, along with a link to join our Discord [01:05:00] community, where you can continue the discussion. 

So, coming to 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. 

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#1616 The Party of Putin and the Propaganda Leading the GOP to Trump and the US to Russian-Style Autocracy (Transcript)

Air Date 3/15/2024

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JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [00:00:00] Welcome to this episode of the award winning Best of the Left podcast, in which we take a look at the result of Republicans having been trending toward Putin fandom for more than a decade, but with each passing year, the stakes get higher, the propaganda gets more brazen, and what they're willing to support gets more grotesque. 

For context, my first glimpse into this worldview was from a conservative listener around a decade or more ago, who kindly explained to us on the left, that what we were not getting was that Republicans actually like Putin. At the time there was maybe confusion over the pivot from the cold warrior, anti-Russia all the time perspective to the new sort of, at the time, lukewarm embrace of Russia on some issues. And what he explained was that clearly times have changed and Putin was the kind of strong man leader conservatives liked. So why not like Putin's Russia? Why not, indeed? 

Sources today [00:01:00] include Brian Tyler Cohen, MSNBC, On the Media. The Hartmann Report, The Rachel Maddow Show, and The BradCast, with an additional members-only clip from Gaslit Nation.

Chris Wallace DESTROYS former colleague Tucker Carlson - Brian Tyler Cohen - Air Date 2-10-24

CHRIS WALLACE: Tucker Carlson showed up in Moscow this week to interview Vladimir Putin. It turned out to be anything but an interview. Putin droned on for two hours and seven minutes, while Tucker sat there like an eager puppy. Occasionally, but rarely, he got in a question, like this one, about the power of the deep state in Washington DC 

TUCKER CARLSON: It sounds like you're describing a system that's not run by the people who are elected in your telling.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: That's right. That's right. 

CHRIS WALLACE: But more telling than what Tucker asked is what he didn't ask. Nothing about why Putin invaded a sovereign country. Nothing about targeting civilians. Nothing about Russian war crimes. A reporter can [00:02:00] ask Putin a tough question, if he wants a real interview. 

Why is it that so many of the people that oppose Vladimir Putin end up dead or close to it?

But apparently, that's not why Tucker went to Moscow. During the Cold War, gullible Westerners who spread Soviet propaganda were dismissed as useful idiots, but calling Tucker that is unfair... to useful idiots. No he's made a cynical decision to chase MAGA's affection for dictators. And what better way to cash in than Putin's Kremlin?

BRIAN TYLER COHEN - HOST, BRAIN TYLER COHEN: Now you might have seen Tucker Carlson's big hard hitting interview with Vladimir Putin, which was definitely not right wing Russian propaganda, as evidenced by statements like this. 

TUCKER CARLSON: We ourselves have put in a request for an interview with Zelensky and we hope he accepts. But the interviews he's already done in the United States are not traditional interviews. They are fawning pep sessions specifically [00:03:00] designed to amplify Zelensky's demand that the US enter more deeply into a war in Eastern Europe and pay for it. That is not journalism. It is government propaganda. Propaganda of the ugliest kind, the kind that kills people. 

At the same time, our politicians and media outlets have been doing this, promoting a foreign leader like he's a new consumer brand, not a single Western journalist has bothered to interview the president of the other country involved in this conflict, Vladimir Putin.

Most Americans have no idea why Putin invaded Ukraine, or what his goals are now. They've never heard his voice. That's wrong. 

BRIAN TYLER COHEN - HOST, BRAIN TYLER COHEN: Most Americans have no idea why Putin launched his invasion into Ukraine. Not like he's been broadcasting his desire to take back territory that was lost during the fall of the Soviet Union for years. Not like he's already tried to annex Crimea and Georgia, and most recently announced the annexation of four regions in Ukraine, which Putin himself said would be "Russian forever". But sure, we can't possibly figure out why he launched this war. [00:04:00] 

And one more point on Tucker. Thank God we have someone like him to call out those in the media who lie in service of the government. That's right, without totally independent, impartial Tucker Carlson, who would be there to call out all of the partisan hacks who advocate openly for one political party over the other? At least someone out there is willing to keep the government honest But also, think about why Tucker Carlson and the rest of the right wing ecosystem love Vladimir Putin and Russia. The answer is that they are aligned. 

Trump and Republicans support Russia because Russia is content to meddle on their behalf, just like they did in 2016. And while Donald Trump loves to rewrite history and yell no collusion all day, just remember that the Russia investigation resulted in 34 people and 3 Russian businesses indicted, as well as 7 guilty pleas.

And because Republicans are solely interested in power, and yes, that very much includes Tucker Carlson, then they welcome the support from the Kremlin and are happy to reciprocate. And in terms of what Putin gets out of the deal, Russia wants Trump in power because Trump will help undermine NATO, which is the biggest [00:05:00] impediment to Russian expansion and imperialism. Trump today expressed his desire to do exactly that. 

DONALD TRUMP: One of the presidents of a big country stood up and said, "Well, sir, if we don't pay and we're attacked by Russia, will you protect us?" I said, "you didn't pay, you're delinquent?" He said, "yes." "Let's say that happened. No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want. You gotta pay."

BRIAN TYLER COHEN - HOST, BRAIN TYLER COHEN: Again, a mutually beneficial relationship. Putin helps the Republicans electorally, who will then take power and push us away from NATO, which will allow Putin to expand his empire. Putin found a useful idiot in Trump, and he'll be damned if he's not gonna do everything he can to help him, Which means getting Republicans in power. Again, a mutually beneficial relationship with a bunch of autocratic egomaniacs at the center.

In terms of what Tucker stands to gain, Chris Wallace noted it perfectly. He is cashing in off of MAGA's affection for dictators. Look, it's already clear that there's a love affair between Trump and Putin, the reasons for which I just laid out. And so because the cult [00:06:00] leader says that Putin is good, then the rest of his cult blindly follows along. And so knowing that Putin's stock is rising within the cult that is the Republican base, Tucker is simply jumping on the bandwagon and meeting the Republicans where they are. Remember, right wing media doesn't influence the base, the base influences them. During Trump's election theft claims of 2020, Fox News, for example, knew that it had to repeat those claims or risk losing audience share to Newsmax. They won't report the truth, but they report what the base is desperate to hear. It is the tail wagging the dog. 

Plus, of course, the other side of that, Republicans love Putin because he's an autocrat. Trump has spent years fawning over Kim Jong un and Duterte and Erdoğan and Bolsonaro and any other right wing autocrat who catches his eye. There is nothing more the right in general loves more than the appearance of a strongman. For a bunch of self proclaimed alphas, they spend an awful lot of time demanding that a tough man rule them. These people love nothing more than to be under the thumb of a powerful man, and that's exactly what they got from Donald Trump.

And by the way, don't take my word for [00:07:00] it, take Trump's. It was him who demanded that a president should be able to do whatever he wants with impunity. He is arguing right now in court that a president should be able to commit crimes and not face any prosecution. 

DONALD TRUMP: Well, I can say presidential immunity, which we'll be talking about because that will be upcoming. It's very, very important for a president to have. If a president doesn't have immunity, he really doesn't have a presidency. He can be told to do things that he would never do. He can do really bad things for our country. Presidential immunity is imperative. It's going to be very, very important.

And I'd rather talk about that next week, but there is nothing more important to a presidency than immunity. Because they have to be free to make decisions without saying, Oh, if I do this or if I do that, as soon as I get out of office, we're going to be indicted. We're going to have trouble and the other party will do that.

I think we've seen that they've done that. There's some very bad people. And you have an opposition party and they will do things that are very bad. If you don't have immunity, you could be blackmailed. [00:08:00] You could be, as a president, they'll say if you don't do this, this, and this, we're going to indict you as soon as you leave office.

You cannot allow a president to be out there without immunity. They don't have immunity, you don't have a presidency. You lose all form of free thought and good thought. 

BRIAN TYLER COHEN - HOST, BRAIN TYLER COHEN: And it's worth noting, by the way, that presidents already have immunity from civil litigation. You can't sue a president for policies you don't like, for example. It's just criminal violations that a president can be prosecuted for. If your argument is that a president needs to commit felonies while in office to be able to effectively govern, you might have just lost the plot. So good on Chris Wallace for calling Tucker out for doing what he and so many others in the right wing media ecosystem have made a living doing, clinging onto the dictatorial tendencies of Donald Trump and cashing in for relevance. These people are a bunch of barnacles attaching themselves to a sinking ship, and we should do whatever we can to make sure that it sinks even faster.

Trump voters tell NBC Reporter that ‘Russia is not our enemy - MSNBC - Air Date 2-27-24

VAUGHN HILLYARD: If Russia did take over Ukraine, would it give you any [00:09:00] pause? 

NEWS CLIP: I don't have a problem with Russia, I really don't I have a problem with Ukraine. They're corrupt. I think that people are just ridiculous that they think that Putin is such this enemy. He isn't doing anything. He just wants back what was his. 

VAUGHN HILLYARD: He invaded Ukraine, killing thousands of people. 

NEWS CLIP: That's fine. That's fine with me. 

VAUGHN HILLYARD: As a veteran yourself, does it concern you at all that Russian aggression could move even beyond Ukraine? 

NEWS CLIP: I don't think Putin's a problem. I think Zelinsky is the problem. 

VAUGHN HILLYARD: Why do you think Putin's not the problem? He's the one that invaded Ukraine and has killed thousands of people. 

NEWS CLIP: Because Putin is trying to save his country from the likes of idiots like Zelensky and the elitists. 

This administration's trying to start a war with Russia. Russia's not our enemy. 

NICOLLE WALLACE - HOST, MSNBC: Russia's not our enemy. Wow. It's chilling. It fits in. Those people weren't asking to have their voices altered or talking to Vaughn behind curtains, talking to him on camera. It fits in [00:10:00] perfectly and alarmingly with our new series, American Autocracy, It Could Happen Here. We are so lucky that Vaughn has agreed to help us understand how we got here.

In the coming weeks, he'll be joining us with his reporter's notebook, his exquisite ability to cut through the noise that happens in studios like this, one and help us understand what's actually happening in the country. So we were talking before about how this vote to not provide funding for Ukraine in Washington gets covered as though it is detached from these kind of women who love Putin and hate Zelensky. Knit those things back together for us. 

VAUGHN HILLYARD: I think it's important for folks to understand that while we go to these Trump rallies around the country, engage in these conversations, it's not a matter of whether the US should be engaged either with personnel or with aid in foreign wars. That's not what the conversation is. It's a matter of whether Vladimir Zelensky is evil or not. Or whether Putin is in the right to further move beyond [00:11:00] Russia's own boarder lines. 

This is where it is difficult and complicated because we're talking about the conditioning of his supporters. Ruth Ben Ghiat and Ian have been so poignant about this year, because from two years ago, when we were first having conversations about the devastating images coming out of Mariupol. We're talking about war crimes. And where over the last two years we have gone after listening to Donald Trump suggest that he would broker some deal between Ukraine and Russia, never a flat out condemning Vladimir Putin's aggression here, suggesting just last week that Russia could do whatever the hell they want. Those words have impact on these communities around the country and these folks that we are talking to because it hits at the crux of what the US 's role in the world is as a democracy and whether we are going to be defending other democracies and our allies against the autocrats like Vladimir Putin. 

NICOLLE WALLACE - HOST, MSNBC: Let me ask you this. Are these people, does it expand to relitigating the Cold War? 

VAUGHN HILLYARD: [00:12:00] This for them is, it's a matter of what you heard that one man say, "what is Russia's". That this is a matter... 

NICOLLE WALLACE - HOST, MSNBC: But that's what the Cold War, right? Do they want the wall back up in Berlin? Do they want to give it all? Is it that deep or is it a more shallow, reflexive affection for Putin and animosity for Zelensky. 

VAUGHN HILLYARD: I think largely it is very shallow. This is, when we're talking about Vladimir Putin, Tucker Carlson's conversation just two weeks ago with Vladimir Putin that went on for more than two hours. The number of folks that told me that they listened to it and they walked away more sympathetic to Vladimir Putin, that they understood where he was coming from. Tucker Carlson is somebody who Donald Trump has floated as his vice president. That Don Jr. has said that he would wish for him to be the VP. That's where Donald Trump's words have impact, because he is telling folks that this is somebody that you should listen to, that this is a valid voice. And when that valid voice goes over to Russia and talks with Vladimir Putin, you have, therefore, legitimacy in these folks minds to go back into their communities, talk with their family members, go to their churches, go to their kids [00:13:00] schools, and echo, parrot, Russian propaganda. That the US should not be sending our own taxpayer money to Ukraine because it's It is Ukraine that is evil that is the one that is corrupt. And this is where it is so tough, so often, to untangle the the lies, the Russian propaganda and frankly, the conspiracy theories that, again, it doesn't hit at the heart of the normal foreign policy conversation that we, as Democrats and Republicans have...

NICOLLE WALLACE - HOST, MSNBC: Somebody says your out to get sound. Let me show some of what you're hearing. Can we play that? 

VAUGHN HILLYARD: Does Russian aggression concern you, that they could...

NEWS CLIP: No. 

VAUGHN HILLYARD: Why not? 

NEWS CLIP: Because I watched Tucker Carlson's interview. Putin don't really want to do anything, I think that's old news. I don't really think that he wants to do anything.

VAUGHN HILLYARD: Do you think that Russia has ill intent towards the United States? 

NEWS CLIP: I don't. No, I don't. After watching the interview with Tucker Carlson, I do not. 

NICOLLE WALLACE - HOST, MSNBC: What do you do? 

VAUGHN HILLYARD: To my point exactly. The hardest part [00:14:00] about these conversations is this woman otherwise seems like a nice human being. Producer Dan, who is shooting all this video with me. He's been traveling with me since the summer to go and shoot all of these interviews. We have not shown any of them till now, here. This one was just last week, but producer Dan, he actually did five stints in Ukraine, working with our colleagues over there, each one of those was a month. In the hardest part for him and conversing with him here is just how separate of a reality that he witnessed with his own eyes, civilian deaths, and you come back here in this person, and then a woman like this can go there with confidence and say that Vladimir Putin is not an enemy, that Russia is not an enemy of democracy, of the United States. 

We are suddenly at the brink of having a legitimate conversation in our communities that our kids are engaged in on whether Russia, who has slaughtered thousands of people in Ukraine, is in the right or in the wrong. And those are the [00:15:00] conversations that are happening in our communities around the country.

American Patriots Support... Vladimir Putin - On the Media - Air Date 3-4-22

BROOKE GLADSTONE - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: Spencer, a White supremacist, has described Russia as the sole White power in the world. Although it isn't, because it's multi ethnic, like we are.

CASEY MICHEL: One of the great ironies in following all these White nationalistic figures, and they're overweening support for Putin, lusting after this kind of strongman type in Washington is they have a very particular view of Russia and of Putin in particular. He is a White, masculine, Christian, European leader.

They don't usually refer to him as a dictator, but that's obviously what they see him as. Pushing back against same sex marriage, pushing back against any kind of expanded understanding of notions like gender identity. They do not understand that Russia is this remarkably diverse country with great numbers of ethnic and religious minorities. I think they have this image that Russia is a White man's paradise for them without actually realizing what it's like on the ground in Russia itself. 

BROOKE GLADSTONE - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: You write that David Duke, the former Grand Wizard [00:16:00] of the Knights of the KKK. has said Russia is the key to White survival and that other far right figures should go there to better learn how to grow their movements here.

CASEY MICHEL: David Duke lived in Russia for a number of years and we still have very little idea of what he was actually doing over there. We know that his book, this incredible racist tract, was sold in the Douma Bookstore, the bookstore for the Russian parliament. But we still don't have any idea about the kinds of connections he made, the kinds of potential funding that he received. In addition to all these other White nationalistic figures whose links we're still beginning to sift through to figure out how some of these groups may be involved in ongoing interference efforts here. Certainly in 2016, but by no means limited to that election.

I think David Duke is symptomatic of the hard right Christian nationalist, White supremacist contingent over the past two decades gravitating to of all places, the Kremlin, which is such a whiplash from where things were during the cold war, obviously when the Soviets were around. It is a one 80 that I still haven't [00:17:00] wrapped my mind around.

BROOKE GLADSTONE - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: You spoke to Cole Park, an LGBT researcher with Political Research Associates who told you it's difficult to say who's inspiring whom, but there's a lot of cross fertilization, it seems, going on. 

CASEY MICHEL: These are mutually reinforcing dynamics. You have those in the United States that are watching this incredible demographic change take place. They're watching, in 2008, the election of the country's first Black president, they're watching things like same sex marriage become legalized, and beginning to search out other sources of inspiration and support for what they see as traditionalist values. While in Russia, in the late 2000s and early 2010s, you have the consolidation of power in Moscow. You have any kind of dreams of broader democratization falling away. You have the return of Putin to the presidency in 2012. And all of a sudden you see these elements of this outreach looking for broader fertile audiences to spread Moscow's message. 

And what we see taking place, especially by the early 2010s is this [00:18:00] activation of these different networks targeting American White nationalists, far right separatists and secessionists, American evangelicals. And all of a sudden you begin looking into these interpersonal linkages, these organizational linkages, funding linkages and funding mechanisms to specifically groom and hopefully activate these White nationalist contingents in the United States, to sow chaos, to lead to potential bloodshed and if Putin would have his way, potential state fracture in the United States itself. Again, remember, Putin very much blames the United States of America for the collapse of the Soviet Union, the fragmentation into 15 new countries. 

BROOKE GLADSTONE - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: As to when all this began, you say it was the late 2000s and the early 2010s that were an inflection point. And of course, you can't underestimate the impact on these extremists of having a Black president.

CASEY MICHEL: This is exactly where Donald Trump emerges from. Trump rose to political prominence, claiming that Obama was born outside of the United States. It's this [00:19:00] broader rubric of racist, racialist pushback against the way that the country is going and into the breach these Russian funded figures and organizations step. Certain oligarchs, networks, organizations, reaching out and building bridges to Americans on the far right and the hard right and building these kinds of, they call it the traditionalist international, building this broader movement to a greater degree than they probably ever thought. 

BROOKE GLADSTONE - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: And you've said that at a 10,000 foot level, the goal of the Christian White nationalists here is to find and elect a Putin style figure with a similar political dynamic to unify various Christian nationalist groups. 

CASEY MICHEL: It is as clear as day that these organizations and groups and networks would like nothing more than to have, whether it's Donald Trump or some other similar figure in power in the White House. If they can't get their way, they're willing to lead separatist or secessionist movements and do what they can to, if [00:20:00] nothing else, throw sticks in the spokes of America's broader democratic experiment of alliances and of the West's broader efforts to push back against things like the aggression we are now seeing out of Moscow and all the bloodshed in Ukraine. 

BROOKE GLADSTONE - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: You've also written that the White nationalist, Matthew Heinbach, he's the head of the Traditionalist Workers Party, considers Putin to be the leader of the free world, and seeks to create a global network called Traditionalist Internationale.

What is that, and how hypothetical is it? 

CASEY MICHEL: Thankfully, we are a long way away from the realization of the Traditionalist Internationale, but the fact that we do see support for it in the United States, in Europe, and certainly out of Moscow, is something that we have to continue watching. At the end of the day, it's exactly what we've been talking about is the entrenchment of Putinist style regimes in Washington, Ottawa, London, Brussels, and [00:21:00] elsewhere.

BROOKE GLADSTONE - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: Okay, so let's talk about what happened in 2015. The leading lights of Europe's far right, including members of Austria's Freedom Party, people from Sweden, Netherlands, Austria, the UK, they got together in Petersburg. You say this meeting was one of the most notable gatherings of Europe's xenophobic far right, but was it significant?

CASEY MICHEL: It was again one of these signal flares where you realize. That there is far more organization, there is far greater depth to these networks than would seem at initial blush. Usually these organizations, they operate in a domestic context. You don't see these international gatherings, anything like this magnitude, except once almost in a generation. And that just so happened to be in 2015, in Russia, in St. Petersburg. 

These groups didn't come back to Washington, or come back to Athens, or come back to Oslo, and all of a sudden begin implementing legislation, but one of the things that we have seen time and again out of Russia is an ability to [00:22:00] build these bridges across Europe, across North America.

Brooke, I don't think there's any surprise that while that conference was happening, the same exact type of transatlantic transnational conference was happening of separatist and secessionists in Moscow, many of whom are also on the far right from places like Spain, like Italy, including Texas secessionists flying over to Russia to coordinate with all these other separatists organized out of Moscow.

BROOKE GLADSTONE - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: What happens if we ignore Putin's role as a global leader for White Christian nationalism?

CASEY MICHEL: I do want to encourage listeners to maybe broaden their aperture about what potential outcomes we may be facing later this decade. I'm not saying anything like this is going to happen during the midterm, it's not going to happen in the run up to the next election, but this is a period of drastic, change coming ahead of us. Any number of outcomes is possible. I'm not at all saying that this White Christian nationalistic outcome is the one that's staring us in the face, but there's certainly a [00:23:00] possibility in which, say, Joe Biden runs again in 2024, wins again, Donald Trump refuses to concede, and we see an expansion of the January 6th type violence, and what flows from that, I have no idea.

The Dark and Destructive Vision of Putin's GOP - The Hartmann Report - Air Date 2-27-24

THOM HARTMANN - HOST, THOM HARTMANN PROGRAM: Heidi, welcome back to the program. You've been writing about Mike Johnson and his ties to Russia. Tell me about that. 

HEIDI SIEGMUND CUDA: As the second anniversary of the large scale invasion of Russia's war of aggression was approaching, I was thinking that the most important thing that we can do as investigative reporters is focus our energy on Mike Johnson.

Because as you know, Ukrainian soldiers are counting their bullets on the battlefield right now. Well, in 2018, Mike Johnson was taking money from Russian oligarchs. And how do we know that? Because there were enough investigative reporters still around then to actually report that there was a company called American Ethane, lol. It's actually funded. The main shareholders were three Russian oligarchs. 

And why does it matter? Because one of them owns a munitions [00:24:00] factory in Russia which is producing the ammunition that is currently being used to commit genocide in Ukraine. So it's very important that nobody confuses who Mike Johnson really is. This is a mild mannered domestic terrorist who has spent a career trying to take away our rights, my rights, my children's rights. And now he is actually doing photo ops in Mar a Lago while the body count around this man is really piling up. 

THOM HARTMANN - HOST, THOM HARTMANN PROGRAM: I noticed that the amount of money that he received was not that great. Do you think that it was just something that slipped through?

HEIDI SIEGMUND CUDA: It's not the point. It's that Russia continues to be a malign influence on our elections. This is just one example. He got funding from Robert Mercer. What else did Robert Mercer fund? Breitbart, Parler, Cambridge Analytica, and Mike Johnson, who might be the greatest weapon of democratic destruction.

So for me, it's not about the amount of money or whether or not he returned the [00:25:00] money, it's that we have. Russian oligarchs having a malign and outsized influence on our elections. And this is just one example. And as you know, there are multiple ties between Mike Johnson, the Council for National Policy, a shadowy network, that is also tied to a religious extremists in Russia, all funded by the fossil fuel industry.

So it's the same cabals that we continually report on, and yet we miss the big picture that this is part of a religious extremist power grab in America that is also tied to religious extremists in Russia. 

THOM HARTMANN - HOST, THOM HARTMANN PROGRAM: Yeah. It's almost like there's a confluence of religious crackpots, right wing religious crackpots and the fossil fuel industry getting together. Both here in the United States and certainly in Russia. Putin is going out of his way to declare Russia a Christian nation, and his anti gay [00:26:00] laws that he's just passed in the last few months, and the real crackdown on the LGBTQ community there. It's pretty grim stuff and it clearly is the vision that these people have for America 

HEIDI SIEGMUND CUDA: It's a very dark and destructive vision, and Thom, my work is informed by two documentaries that I just watched, Bad Faith and God and Country, and both of them show that the religious extremist movement, this decades long plot, was actually the origins are from racism. The origins are from school integration and religious extremists that tried to have their own private schools to deny that integration. And when that was not allowed, you had these extremists realizing that's not going to be a narrative to mobilize voters. So that's how they came up with this anti abortion narrative, which Mike Johnson is right in the heart of. So much of his work is built around that. And in fact, he [00:27:00] had a nonprofit where one of the CNP leaders, Tony Perkins, was also part of that. 

So he is part of this very dangerous network that actually wants to, take away our rights and turn America into this religious theocracy, which is not what we are about. And Thom I want to let you know, I saw God and Country, which is a Rob and Michelle produced film. And I saw it in Sonoma yesterday and Sonoma, California, you think of it as this beautiful progressive enclave. What's happening in Sonoma now is that an affiliate with a core member of the CNP is buying up a lot of real estate, affiliated with a megachurch, and people in Sonoma are looking around going, what's happening to my community? Thankfully, there's an organization called Wake Up Sonoma that is trying to wake people up. 

But this is being replicated throughout the country, and Mike Johnson is the apex of this. He [00:28:00] is, like I said, a mild manner, in my view, domestic terrorists, religious terrorists. These are extremists. And one thing I would like your viewers to think about that I'm putting a lot of effort thinking about is how un American this movement is.

Christian nationalism is un American. It has nothing to do with Christianity. In fact, I think if people who were truly religious knew how their empathy and hearts were being weaponized to destroy democracy, they might not actually like it. But I find him to be incredibly dangerous. And while he's having photo ops in Mar a Lago, people are actually dying.

THOM HARTMANN - HOST, THOM HARTMANN PROGRAM: Christian nationalism is an oxymoron. I believe it was a centurion came to Jesus and said, " should I pay my taxes?" and Jesus said, "whose face is on the coin that you'd pay with?" And the guy said, "Caesar", and Jesus said, "render unto Caesar what Caesar's, render unto God what's God's." Basically, separation of church and state. I'm not seeing that being respected by the Republican and religious right that really, as [00:29:00] you correctly point out, really got kicked off in 1954 with the Brown vs Board of Education decision. 

HEIDI SIEGMUND CUDA: Yes, exactly. We can't underestimate these dangers. And we also need to remind people that these are extremists, and they are doing these extreme moves because they do not have the votes. And what happened when Roe was overturned, they found out 70 percent of the population did not like that. And they will continually now, in order to create that outrage and that perpetual state of fear that they keep people in, they will continually find new witches to burn. 

Former CIA Director explains how Russia is using 'Republican lawmakers as tools’ - MSNBC - Air Date 2-25-24

MICHAEL STEELE - CO-HOST, THE WEEKEND: I want to continue down that line because I'm particularly offended and just really annoyed with the constant nonsense coming from leaders who have the intelligence. These are not folks who are sitting in a closet, unaware of what's going on around them. I want to play for you, you've got James Comer talking, he and Jim Jordan, talking about this whole situation. If we could just [00:30:00] take a quick listen at that. 

NEWS CLIP: We never knew who the informant was. All we knew was what Christopher Wray said. Now we see that the FBI arrested him for lying. It doesn't make sense. It's not the same treatment that we saw when the FBI figured out that the Steele dossier. 

Who knows? Maybe this guy lied to the FBI, maybe they're right, but I just see a pattern that seems to be developing here over the last three presidential elections.

MICHAEL STEELE - CO-HOST, THE WEEKEND: Maybe it was this. I didn't know about that. Oh, maybe the Steele dossier. It's just the shear incompetence behind what we see these members who are sitting on important committees that have this information. What is the impact inside of the various agencies, our intel agencies, when they see members taking intelligence and using it this way?

JOHN BRENNAN: Well, I think it's very much appalling to my former colleagues who worked so hard to try to protect our country's national security. But then we have the Republican lawmakers right now [00:31:00] who are using things like this as a way to attack the president, and quite unfairly. But also, I think that my colleagues are concerned that the Russians see the Republican lawmakers as tools. They are so willing to accept anything, and Russians use information operations very effectively. And I have no doubt at all that they're going to continue to use it in this presidential election. 

And the fact that Comer and Jordan and others willingly accept these things, and they don't care whether it's true or not, as long as it's salacious, as long as it's something that they can use. This is something that I think the Russians recognize is ready for their exploitation. 

ALICIA MENENDEZ - CO-HOST, THE WEEKEND: Bingo. And we heard something very similar from Congressman Jamie Raskin. I want you to take a listen to what he said and we'll talk about it on the other side. 

JAMIE RASKIN: Yesterday's revelations demonstrate that Putin's pattern of interference and destabilization of foreign democratic elections around the world, including in America, has continued to this very day. And this impeachment investigation [00:32:00] is nothing but a wild goose chase that is based on Russian disinformation. 

ALICIA MENENDEZ - CO-HOST, THE WEEKEND: So this is about injecting an element of chaos. We know from the Mueller Report 2016, there were signs of Russian interference. 2020 reports of Russian interference in US elections. As we approach 2024, we have to presume that there will be similar efforts. Do you feel that the CIA, that the FBI are prepared for the possibility of that type of interference? What are they doing right now? 

JOHN BRENNAN: Well, I think they're trying to uncover all the things that the Russians are trying to do and information operations takes many different forms. It can be disinformation. It can be fabricated information that is provided to human sources like a Mr Smirnoff. It can be allowing the dissemination of information that is going to advance their interests in terms of things that they want to help Donald Trump, in terms of his campaign. Also things to smear Joe Biden. So their information operations, fabrication, dissemination, propagation is trying to influence the attitudes and the views and therefore, the Republican [00:33:00] lawmakers who are willing to be able to take this and to use it for their in their efforts, I think it just demonstrates to the Russians that they should continue along this line. 

SYMONE SANDERS-TOWNSEND - CO-HOST, THE WEEKEND: This is very serious. I think a lot of times people hear... As soon as I heard the story about Smirnoff and the revelations that the FBI had charged him for lying, and then the Russian component, I was shocked, but then you look at the papers or you look at social media, you turn on some, SOME cable news shows and you just have folks saying, "Oh, here go the Democrats again, screaming Russia, Russia, Russia."

But this is an attempt, potentially, if it is true that the Russians fed him this information, this is yet another attempt of a foreign government, a hostile foreign government, attempting to meddle in, not just our elections, but truly try to take down the American president.

ALICIA MENENDEZ - CO-HOST, THE WEEKEND: And let's layer in the fact that this past week we had the, we've been reckoning with the death of Alexander Navalny, and there has been a global conversation among leaders about the US 's role [00:34:00] and the most immediate to do on the list is to pass supplemental funding for Ukraine. You can't get Republicans to do the most basic thing and use the most basic tool they have to stand up and say, we stand on the side of democracy, against autocracy. They are unwilling to meet that basic function. 

JOHN BRENNAN: Yes, and it's so appalling that there's growing sympathy within the Republican party and among the MAGA base for Mr. Putin in Russia. I'm sure Ronald Reagan is rolling over in his grave right now, because this sentiment that is " give Putin the benefit of the doubt on these issues", clearly the death of Navalny was a result of what Putin has done. Clearly what's happening in Ukraine is just demonstrating how aggressive Russia is going to be to try to go against its neighbors as well as the West.

And also their involvement, I think, in our election coming up is going to really be an effort by them. to be able to bring Mr. Trump back into the White House, because clearly Mr. Trump is very, very sympathetic to Mr. Putin. He's [00:35:00] intimidated. He's cowed. 

ALICIA MENENDEZ - CO-HOST, THE WEEKEND: He hasn't called him out on Navalny yet. 

JOHN BRENNAN: It is just, and the fact that there are so many Republicans in Congress, both in the Senate and the House that kowtow to Mr. Trump, and continue to allow Russia to get away with what it has is something that is so inconsistent with what the Republican party has stood for for so many years, but also is so against what our national security really demands, [which] is for us to be able to stand with our allies, NATO partners and others, to be able to risk resist these Russian efforts to try to continue to undermine Western democracies.

With each new election cycle, Republicans accept Russian help with greater ease - The Rachel Maddow Show - Air Date 2-26-24

FIONA HILL: The Russian security services operate like a super PAC. They deploy millions of dollars to weaponize our own political opposition research and false narratives. When we are consumed by partisan rancor, we cannot combat these external forces as they seek to divide us against each other, degrade our institutions, and destroy the faith of the American people in our democracy. 

RACHEL MADDOW - HOST, RACHEL MADDOW SHOW: Fiona Hill testifying at President Trump's first impeachment, describing [00:36:00] how our faith in our own democracy is the kind of center of the bullseye. It's what they're aiming at when they try to hurt us the worst. Well, now in this election cycle, Republican members of Congress have been trumpeting claims that turn out to have come from Russian intelligence.

The informant at the center of their impeachment push against President Biden today was ordered jailed as he awaits trial for lying to the FBI, feeding them what prosecutors say is disinformation targeting President Biden that he got from Russian intelligence. Joining us now is Fiona Hill, former Senior Director for Europe and Russia at the National Security Council.

Dr. Hill, it's really nice of you to be with us tonight. Thanks very much for making the time.

FIONA HILL: Thanks, Rachel. 

RACHEL MADDOW - HOST, RACHEL MADDOW SHOW: Both NBC News and The Washington Post today led with big stories about how this is the third straight election cycle where we've got pretty aggressive Russian efforts to mess with us in this election.

Do you agree with that characterization? 

FIONA HILL: I do. And look, very sadly the Russians have been at these kinds of operations for an extraordinary long time. [00:37:00] Going back to the Cold War, there were lots of efforts, as well. But unfortunately, we've made it easier for them than ever before to be able to penetrate our politics and to be able to influence, because of the structure of our election campaigns, we've got, basically our own political parties who are trying to destroy each other. And, as you've been pointing out through the course of the program, we've got actors in our own political system who are just as keen on using disinformation as foreign adversaries. 

RACHEL MADDOW - HOST, RACHEL MADDOW SHOW: Because that you look at it with that long sweep, I feel like that's one of the, one of the big reasons I wanted to talk to you because I've been very focused on 2016, 2020, and 2024, when Russian disinformation, Russian targeting of us wasn't just about making us hate each other and making us weak and making us distrust our democracy, it really was dovetailing with and therefore boosting Donald Trump and the Republican campaign and helping one side and hurting the other.

And maybe that's. It's not their long term goal, but it's at least been their sort of short to medium [00:38:00] goal. And that seems to be activating an instinct in the Republican Party that, if Putin likes us, maybe we should like him back. And I'm wondering if there is, if you see a way to, to interrupt that.

FIONA HILL: Look, I think it also requires responsible people within the Republican Party themselves to push back against this. It's not every single person who's a member of that party. We've got Nikki Haley out there who's running now what seems almost a futile campaign to compete with Donald Trump, is obviously saying something quite different and calling out.

And , on the disinformation, perhaps not going to quite the same way that you are, but she's certainly trying to do that. And you know, and I know, and many other people know that behind the scenes, there are members of the staff, senior staff, so on Capitol Hill, people in the Senate and , surprisingly still, members of Congress who, behind the scenes, are really deeply troubled by this and are trying to do something.

But in the heat of this campaign, as you're pointing out, they seem to be much more interested in taking potshots of president Biden or, basically trying to [00:39:00] bring down their opponent than thinking about national security And I would have thought, however, that given everything that's happened with the war in Ukraine, the recent death of Alexei Navalny, and just this piling up of information just as you're saying now, this criminal campaign rather, this prosecution of this FBI informant, that surely people would have woken up to this. 

This is an issue of our national security, not just something about whether your guy is going to win in the election. 

RACHEL MADDOW - HOST, RACHEL MADDOW SHOW: On the national security point, I think of the United States as having a lot of tools to stand up for our national security, a lot of resources to bring to bear. But when it comes to defending ourselves against Russian election interference when it comes to standing up for our ally in Ukraine and all the different ways that that means, when it comes to responding to the murder of Alexei Navalny in Russia, could the US government be doing more? Anne Applebaum joined me last week here and she said something that stuck with me all week. She said that if the United States government really wanted to get more serious, one of the things they could do was they could have thousands of [00:40:00] people working on enforcing sanctions to make sure they bit harder and that they hurt the Russian government more and more effectively.

I wanted to get your response to that, but also just to find out if you think there's more we could be doing. 

FIONA HILL: There's certainly a lot more that we could be doing. As Anne points out sanctions enforcement is part of the problem. I mean, we're actually seeing even some of our own allied countries that are basically buying more and more oil from Russia and they're labeling them to bring in more revenues, of course, to keep on prosecuting the war against Ukraine.

We've got NATO allies— European countries, as well as I said, these larger global partners— we're going to have to figure out how we work with them directly. It's going to be a stepped up diplomacy which the administration's already talking about. But she also does have a point about putting more resources toward this now.

 We are, of course, also on the verge of a government shutdown. We also have members of the Republican Party and others and Donald Trump talking about basically dismantling the state apparatus, which make it very difficult. But we can be much more creative. We can work very closely with other [00:41:00] European allies who actually have really woken up to the threats and to get them to also exert pressure and to push back.

We've got the debate about. What we can do about Russian frozen assets, for example, which is a major issue right now, which I know you've covered quite recently as well. And then when we get back to the topic they're talking about, about disinformation, some of the other cases that are running through, even including in the Supreme Court right now about freedom of speech and the regulation of the social media platforms become relevant as well.

Because, basically, X, that used to be Twitter, in terms of stepping back from the regulation of some of the content on their platform have opened it up even more to disinformation from Russia. And other companies like Meta, for example, and Microsoft, they have actually been trying to do more here, but we should also be encouraging the private sector to step up at this crucial time.

From Russia With...The Left; Beware of Kremlin propaganda on Ukraine Part 2 - The BradCast - Air Date 2-26-24

BRAD FRIEDMAN - HOST, THE BRADCAST: I received a note from a long time, previously good, progressive here in Southern California, I believe he's a long time KPFK listener as [00:42:00] well, his name is Jim. I'm not going to mention his last name because I'm not trying to embarrass him, but I do wish to talk to my own peeps here, the folks on the progressive left who have been so woefully disinformed via Kremlin talking points that they seem to have forgotten what it is they stand for. And of course the saddest part is, I honestly do not think those folks understand how they are being used as dupes and useful idiots by the Kremlin. 

So Jim sent me an email citing an opinion piece in The Hill over the weekend arguing that those of us who believe Ukraine should be aided in their fight for their fight for themselves in favor of democracy and against fascist autocratic invading neighbors are just doing so because we are, as the headline in The Hill says, privileged enough to be willing to, "fight to the last Ukrainian." You may have heard that quote before. It's been used a lot over the past several [00:43:00] months and now years of Putin's assault on Ukraine. As the opinion writer in The Hill argues, if the idea of supporting the Ukraine war with Russia was to, "save the people of Ukraine and the country's infrastructure, then those who advocated for that course of action have failed miserably."

The writer goes on to ask if any of that matters to the, "privileged and neocon class on both sides of the Atlantic, who, from the safety of thousands of miles away, continually advocate for the youth of Ukraine to march into the teeth of the Russian war machine. The writer then offers a familiar argument heard from both the far right and, yes, from the far left.

And, coincidentally, as luck would have it, directly from the Kremlin itself that , "If they have no regard for the hundreds of thousands of dead and wounded, for the leveled infrastructure, for the six million plus who have fled Ukraine, or for the billions of US tax dollars, then what is their opinion with [00:44:00] regard to triggering World War III?"

It's literally the argument straight out of the Kremlin. It's echoed, that argument, by both the right and, sadly, the left. Even though nobody wants World War III, but nobody is forcing the youth of Ukraine to march into the Russian war machine. Other than Russia, by the way. They are. But those of us who think that Ukraine should be allowed to defend themselves if they choose to, which they have valiantly now for more than two years, from an invasion they neither caused nor invited, that somehow we are the privileged and, amusingly, the neocon class, really?

It's quite amusing because if only this particular piece in The Hill sent to me by an actual progressive citing it, I guess, favorably— or at least a one time progressive— to argue against my position on Ukraine. That article in The Hill was actually written by a guy named Doug McKinnon. He used to work for the [00:45:00] Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush White Houses, and the Pentagon under the Bush administration, he was press secretary to Bob Dole. But he's the guy progressives are citing now? On Ukraine? To support their position? He's the one who's worried about the privileged and the neocons? And he's being promoted by a supposed lefty for these peaceful views on Ukraine.

Really? Anyway, I want to focus on the claim included in the headline of that Hill piece. It was sent to me by Jim to, "raise your privileged hand if you're willing to fight to the last Ukrainian." In fact, Jim's email to me including nothing, included nothing more than a link to that article. With a subject line on the email that read, " Raise that hand, Brad."

And I honestly believe that Jim has no idea that he is literally helping to circulate literal Kremlin [00:46:00] propaganda on that fight to the last Ukrainian line. I suspect Doug McKinnon does know it. I don't know if Jim does. But, you know, I'd like to think he doesn't. And I'd like to think that many of the folks that you may hear echoing these exact same lines— including folks you will hear right here on my own flagship station in Los Angeles on KPFK, and probably across many other Pacifica affiliate stations— maybe they don't realize that this disinformation comes literally straight out of the Kremlin. But it does. As the Washington Post reported in an exclusive last week headline: "Kremlin Runs Disinformation Campaign to Undermine Zelensky, Documents Show."

Kremlin instructions to circulate pretty much all of the talking points that I just mentioned. That McKinnon, on the right, passed along to Hill readers, and that Jim, on the left, then passed on to me. These are all [00:47:00] now well-documented as being ordered specifically by the Kremlin, making their way onto social media, and then into the mouths of knowing or unknowing useful idiots.

The post writes in their exclusive, "The Kremlin instruction resulted in thousands of social media posts and hundreds of fabricated articles created by troll farms and circulated in Ukraine and across Europe. The files numbering more than 100 documents were shared with the Post to expose for the first time the scale of Kremlin propaganda targeting Zelensky with the aim of dividing and destabilizing Ukrainian society. Efforts that Moscow dubbed, 'information psychological operations.'"

The article goes on to list Moscow's four key objectives as detailed by the document, which, "show that progress was monitored at near-weekly Kremlin meetings where the strategist gave presentations showcasing the most widely read posts [00:48:00] that they planted. In social media. Among the material they highlighted was a top post they cited of a fake video on Telegram claiming that the main war aim of authorities in Kiev was, " to fight to the last Ukrainian.

That's the exact argument that appeared in The Hill last week from a right winger, was passed on to me from a supposed left winger. Not a supposed left wing. An actual one. I know him. But like too many on the left, he has fallen prey. Yes, just as the House GOP has. Two talking points literally straight out of the Kremlin.

And while there are many out there calling out Trump and his Republican party at this point for becoming useful idiots for Vladimir Putin, few, if any, are calling out those on the left who have done the same thing. Who have fallen for it even at the potential cost of Western [00:49:00] democracy. 

BONUS Trump Backers Kill Navalny - Gaslit Nation - Air Date 2-20-24

ANDREA CHALUPA - CO-HOST, GASLIT NATION: Without question, and I want to point out that you wrote a very brave piece for the Washington Post years ago calling out Navalny's more chauvinistic, far right, Russian imperialist attitude towards Ukrainians. He was all in favor, initially, of Russia keeping Crimea, which it seized— invading another country and just seizing some of his land as Hitler did in the 1930s— and Navalny is like, "Yeah, no. Crimea is ours now." He got a lot of pushback for that including in your piece, which you got a lot of heat for because the West has a tendency of wanting to put opposition figures— who are, of course, risking their lives and being very brave— on pedestals, and simplify their story.

Where you presented Navalny as more complicated than that. Thank you for doing that because, when his murder was announced, you had a lot of leading Ukrainian journalists and civic society leaders going, "Let's be real here. This one man's death doesn't overshadow the fact that every single day Ukrainians are being [00:50:00] slaughtered." Civilians are being slaughtered, just two sleeping, I believe, last night were just killed in a Ukrainian city.

Thank you for doing that. 

TERRELL STARR: Thank you. I appreciate that, because there are many obituaries about Alexei Navalny. When we think about Alexei Navalny's death and the many obituaries that are written about him, that are tweeted about him, that are Instagrammed and TikToked about him, it really is a microcosm of life.

During death, because that person is no longer here to defend themselves, we tend to say we want to "give deference" to the dead, right? However, if you are a public figure, in the case of Navalny, you no longer have that cover. You took the pledge of being a public figure. Particularly one in his case, where he took a very brave moral high ground that we all can learn from. Which is fighting kleptocracy.

 Many people say, "What can we learn from Navalny's death?" I think there are a couple of things. One, I wish that he had lived long enough to show that he could be a better human being than [00:51:00] he actually was. That his actions betrayed. For example, notice that most of the people who are giving cover to his racism, to his nationalism and his xenophobia, are white men in the West and people who are banned from going to Russia.

 These are people who have grievances with Putin, I think they have such strong tunnel vision that they can't see anything else. I remember having a very vigorous debate about his nationalism at a think tank here in DC. One person that was in the Zoom call basically said, "I know he says some racist things," and that's it, and brushed it aside. 

I'm like, "Okay." 

It was as if I was not even in the room! What if someone that you like says some racist things about Black people? Are you just going to say, "Well, he said these things in the past, but he 'kind of' acknowledged it," then we're going to move on?

Navalny did not make himself accountable to his strongest critics and the people with whom he claimed that he wanted to lead a better Russia with (i. [00:52:00] e. the central Asians who are colonized— the Georgians, the Armenians, the Ukrainians). Those are the people who I wish that he could have proved that he was a better human being to.

Moreover, when we think about kleptocracy, and Biden saying, " Putin is responsible for his death, and we need to pay tribute to Navalny." You know what we can do? We can stop the kleptocracy here in the United States of America. We can really reverse some of these laws that make it so easy for money —PAC money —to influence our elections. We could do a better job to stop washing oligarch money in our country. 

There's a really great researcher, his name is Casey Michel, who does a lot of work on this. In his book, he talked about Ihor Kolomyskyi, who was buying industrial businesses in the Midwest. He really didn't care about the workers. Really did not care about their safety. It was just a place where he could wash his money— he could hide it. Because those local communities were so cash-strapped and desperate for investment, they didn't care about the origins of [00:53:00] his money. So, if we really cared about kleptocracy, we can at least do that. I think that's one thing that we can honor Navalny for— by being better human beings to each other. What do we value most? Do we value human rights? Are we bloodthirsty capitalists who don't care about the moral fabric? About where the money comes from? We really want to invest in Navalny's legacy, why don't we start there? 

ANDREA CHALUPA - CO-HOST, GASLIT NATION: Without question! America is one of the largest money laundering paradises for the corrupt. We have all the oligarchs from around the world hiding their money in our real estate. One insanely rich woman from China bought an apartment— a $6 million apartment— that's sitting empty because it's for her two-year-old child.

That's who we're competing with for real estate here in New York City. All of these corrupt oligarchs laundering their money in cities like New York. And that's just one place; it's happening all across the country. Then you have our easy LLC shell company system [00:54:00] where anybody from anywhere can just open up a company and park their money here.

As a result, you have these corrupt officials from around the world laundering their money across the US and further entrenching their influence with their money across the US. Then we're wondering why Donald Trump is just a heartbeat away from becoming president states? Because there's this larger culture of corruption that has gone unchecked for too long because of hyper capitalism.

The most amazing thing is people — especially Republicans, especially conservatives —are pulling their hair out going, "How did my beloved,"— and I'm speaking from their point of view, I'm not speaking for myself because Reagan is a mass murderer in his own way, they're saying, "How did my beloved Reagan, 'Morning in America,' —how did the 'Party of Reagan' become the party of Putin?"

It's so simple. Reagan laid the groundwork for that with "Greed is Good." The Kremlin took advantage of that. The Kremlin's like, "Yes, greed is good. And, we are going to invade your country through the front door — through your greed." That's what they're doing now. 

TERRELL STARR: Isn't it [00:55:00] ironic that Ronald Reagan, who we both abhor, was totally correct about blunting the expansion of the USSR, but he was completely wrong about everything else that helped them to really insert themselves in our democracy financially. Isn't that ironic? 

Final comments on the global vaiew of autocratic propaganda

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: We've just heard clips today, starting with Brian Tyler Cohen, breaking down Tucker Carlson's Putin interview. MSNBC looked at how propaganda has normalized autocracy. On the Media looked at the connection with Christian nationalism. The Hartmann Report tied in Mike Johnson to the discussion on theocracy. MSNBC looked at how Russia is using Republican lawmakers as tools of propaganda. The Rachel Maddow Show discuss the national security implications of Russian election interference. And The BradCast broke down a piece of Russian propaganda aimed at the progressive left. That's what everybody heard, but members also heard a bonus clip from Gaslit Nation, getting into some of the messy details of the death of Putin opposition leader, [00:56:00] Navalny. 

To hear that and have all of our bonus content delivered seamlessly to the new members-only podcast feed that you'll receive, sign up to support the show at bestoftheleft.com/support, or shoot me an email requesting a financial hardship membership, because we don't let a lack of funds stand in the way of hearing more information. 

Now to wrap up. And this may not need to be said, but we're not just facing a Russia problem. You know, we're facing an authoritarianism problem and that is around the world. Trump's authoritarian ambitions are coming ever clearer into focus as he describes what he would like to do when reelected but he also met up recently with Viktor Orban of Hungary who has already put in place all of the basic mechanisms Trump would like to use to ensconce himself into power indefinitely. 

And that was a good reminder that Tucker Carlson did the exact same thing with Orban as he did with Putin. He traveled to Hungary, interviewed Orban, and spoke at length about why Hungary is so much better than the US. [00:57:00] It's really just boiler plate normalization of authoritarianism at this point. CPAC, the far right annual American political conference where GOP presidential candidates used to regularly appear to present themselves to the grassroots of the GOP, has also set up shop in Hungary now. Their third conference in Budapest is happening next month. 

So in terms of defeating this spreading wave of autocratic energy, it's definitely a 'think global act local' kind of moment. On one hand, I think it is important to understand all of the interconnectedness of what's happening on the far right globally. But it's also important to not become overwhelmed. Everyone has a role to play in the lead up to the coming election in November. And that needs to be the focus. Find a way to get involved, help any way you can and stem the tide of dictatorship where you can have an impact. Don't get [00:58:00] overly wrapped up and stressed about everything you can't have an impact on. You cannot change the tide of right-wing thought around the world. But you can take action where you live to help this year's election be a bulwark against that tide of authoritarianism.

That is going to be it for today as always keep the comments coming in. I would love to hear your thoughts or questions about this or anything else. You can leave a voicemail or send a text at 202-999-3991, or simply email me to [email protected]. 

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 our transcriptionist quartet, Ken, Brian, Ben, and now Andrew, for their volunteer work helping put our transcripts together. Thanks to Amanda Hoffman for all of her work on our social media outlets, activism segments, graphic designing, web mastering, and a bonus show co-hosting. And thanks to those who already support the show by becoming a member or purchasing gift [00:59:00] memberships. You can join them by signing up today bestoftheleft.com/support, through our Patreon page, or from right inside the Apple podcast app. Membership is how you get instant access to our incredibly good and often funny bonus episodes, in addition to there being extra content, no ads, and chapter markers in all of our regular episodes all through your regular podcast player. You'll find that link in the show notes, along with a link to join our Discord community, where you can also continue the discussion. 

So, coming to 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 twice weekly, thanks entirely to the members and donors to the show, from bestoftheleft.com.

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#1615 Envisioning a Leftisț Economic Future of Postcapitalism (Transcript)

Air Date 3/1/2024

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JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [00:00:00] Welcome to this episode of the award winning Best of the Left Podcast, in which we think beyond the fears of a world in which work, and the ability for millions to support themselves financially through work, is lost to automation and artificial intelligence. Because that is only a capitalist future in which the benefits of technological advancement are hoarded by the already wealthy. Today, we imagine a different path. 

Sources today include the book Inventing the Future, Novara Media, Second Thought, 1Dime, and Futurology, with additional members only clips from Novara Media.

Introduction to Inventing the Future Postcapitalism and a World Without Work by Srnicek & Williams - Dank Audio Stash - Air Date 4-8-21

AI NARRATOR: Where did the future go? For much of the 20th century, the future held sway over our dreams. On the horizons of the political left, a vast assortment of emancipatory visions gathered, often springing from the conjunction of popular political power and the liberating potential of technology. From predictions of new worlds of leisure, to Soviet era cosmic [00:01:00] communism, to Afro futurist celebrations of the synthetic and diasporic nature of black culture, to post gender dreams of radical feminism, the popular imagination of the left envisaged societies vastly superior to anything we dream of today. 

Through popular political control of new technologies, we would collectively transform our world for the better. Today, on one level, these dreams appear closer than ever. The technological infrastructure of the 21st century is producing the resources by which a very different political and economic system could be achieved. 

Machines are accomplishing tasks that were unimaginable a decade ago. The internet and social media are giving a voice to billions who previously went unheard, bringing global participative democracy closer than ever to existence. Open source designs, copyleft creativity, and 3D printing all portend a world where the scarcity of many products might be overcome. New forms of computer [00:02:00] simulation could rejuvenate economic planning and give us the ability to direct economies rationally in unprecedented ways. 

The newest wave of automation is creating the possibility for huge swathes of boring and demeaning work to be permanently eliminated. Clean energy technologies make possible virtually limitless and environmentally sustainable forms of power production. And new medical technologies not only enable a longer, healthier life, but also make possible new experiments with gender and sexual identity. Many of the classic demands of the left, for less work, for an end to scarcity, for economic democracy, for the production of socially useful goods, and for the liberation of humanity, are materially more achievable than at any other point in history.

Yet, for all the glossy sheen of our technological era, we remain bound by an old and obsolete set of social relations. We continue to work long hours, [00:03:00] commuting further, to perform tasks that feel increasingly meaningless. Our jobs have become more insecure, our pay has stagnated, and our debt has become overwhelming. We struggle to make ends meet, to put food on the table, to pay the rent or mortgage, and as we shuffle from job to job, we reminisce about pensions and struggle to find affordable childcare. 

Automation renders us unemployed and stagnant wages devastate the middle class, while corporate profits surge to new heights. The glimmers of a better future are trampled and forgotten under the pressures of an increasingly precarious and demanding world. And each day, we return to work as normal, exhausted, anxious, stressed and frustrated. 

At a planetary level, things appear even more ominous. The breakdown of the global climate continues unabated, and the ongoing fallout from the economic crisis has led governments to embrace the paralyzing death spiral of austerity. [00:04:00] Buffeted by imperceptible and abstract powers, we feel incapable of evading or controlling the tidal pulsions of economic, social and environmental forces. But how are we to change this? 

All around us, it seems that the political systems, movements and processes that dominated the last hundred years are no longer able to bring about genuinely transformative change. Instead, they have forced us onto an endless treadmill of misery. Electoral democracy lies in remarkable disrepair. Center left political parties have been hollowed out and sapped of any popular mandate. Their corpses stumble on as vehicles for careerist ambitions. Radical political movements bloom promisingly but are quickly snuffed out by exhaustion and repression. Organized labor has seen its power systematically taken apart, leaving it sclerotic and incapable of anything more than feeble resistance. 

Yet, in the face of these calamities, today's politics remains [00:05:00] stubbornly beset by a lack of new ideas. Neoliberalism has held sway for decades, and social democracy exists largely as an object of nostalgia. As crises gather force and speed, politics withers and retreats. In this paralysis of the political imaginary, the future has been cancelled. 

Under the sway of folk political thinking, the most recent cycle of struggles, from anti globalization to anti war to Occupy Wall Street, has involved the fetishization of local spaces, immediate actions, transient gestures, and particularisms of all kinds. Rather than undertake the difficult labor of expanding and consolidating gains, this form of politics has focused on building bunkers to resist the encroachments of global neoliberalism. In so doing, it has become a politics of defense, incapable of articulating or building a new world. 

For any movement that struggles to escape neoliberalism and build [00:06:00] something better, these folk political approaches are insufficient. In their place, this book sets out an alternative politics, one that seeks to take back control over our future and to foster the ambition for a world more modern than capitalism will allow. The utopian potentials inherent in 21st century technology cannot remain bound to a parochial capitalist imagination, they must be liberated by an ambitious left alternative. Neoliberalism has failed, social democracy is impossible, and only an alternative vision can bring about universal prosperity and emancipation. Articulating and achieving this better world is the fundamental task of the left today.

The People's Republic of Walmart Interview with Leigh Phillips and Michal Rozworski - Novara Media - Air Date 6-13-19

AARON BASTANI - HOST, NOVARA MEDIA: To what extent are modern day free market economies actually free? 

MICHAL ROZWORSKI: That's a good question. They're free for some, I think is the answer to that, when most of us go into, and unfree for a lot of others, I should add. That's the other side of that. I think when most of us going to work, [00:07:00] we experience that as a huge realm of unfreedom for the vast majority of us who who do work for a living once we enter, the shop, the factory, the whatever, the hospital, school, it's what the boss says goes. The boss on the other hand has a lot of freedom.

The argument we're we're making in the book is that a lot of the world's biggest, or not a lot, most of the world's biggest corporations are huge spheres of economic planning. That sort of old bogeyman of the right that the right has used as a cudgel against the left. If you try to consciously control the economy, it'll never work, and we'll probably get into that later. Well, it turns out that once you enter the four walls of the firm of the corporation it's a giant plan system where the managers... and that's where I think that division in freedom exists. That there's a lot of freedom for managers and bosses to set plans, obviously the market imposes some limits on that, but there's a lot of rational planning, but for the vast majority of people, for workers, it's a realm of unfreedom where our shared human capacity for decision making is [00:08:00] completely not even underutilized, but largely unutilized.

And I think that's something that we set out to challenge in the book. 

AARON BASTANI - HOST, NOVARA MEDIA: Leigh to what extent do we live in a planned economy? To what extent is the idea of the free market just a mystification then, building on that?

LEIGH PHILLIPS: The economy as a whole is not a planned economy, but within these very, very large entities, as Michal was saying, they are entirely planned. This is fascinating for us because the argument that we have from the right is the market is always consistently the optimum way of allocating goods and services, but internally, as Michal said, they're entirely planned. 

What's fascinating with Walmart is it's the largest corporation in the world. It has the largest number of employees. It's the third largest enterprise after the People's Liberation Army and the Pentagon. If it were an economy it would be not in the G20, but on the size of a Sweden or a Switzerland. It's slightly smaller but on the scale of the Soviet Union at the height of the 1970s before stagnation sets in. 

So that's really interesting because one of the [00:09:00] best arguments that the right ever mounted against the left, against socialism was that the price signal in the market basically captures an infinitude of information within supply chains. Not just that, but also discovers as a mechanism of discovery of information. And that if we want to avoid all of the problems with market exchange in terms of the growth of inequality, irrational production, and so on and so forth, and replace it with planning, you would have to have this army of bureaucrats that would not be anywhere near as good as capturing all that information, and that would lead to a mismatch between supply and demand on a gross scale that would produce significant shortages, in turn chaos. The only way that you could, grapple with that chaos would be some sort of authoritarianism, and then, bada bing, bada boom, you have the Soviet Union.

That was the historical argument. It's a really bloody good argument. The trick is, that if that were true, then Walmart shouldn't work, Walmart shouldn't [00:10:00] exist. Because if it is an entirely planned economy, I guess it exists with a sea of prices, but internally it's entirely planned, what makes it work compared to the Soviet Union? We should take some lessons from this in that basically it shows that planning works. However, It's authoritarian planning rather than democratic planning. Maybe we can get into that in a little bit. 

AARON BASTANI - HOST, NOVARA MEDIA: So we're obviously talking about the firm to an extent. We're talking about Coase's theorem. 

LEIGH PHILLIPS: Ronald Coase 

AARON BASTANI - HOST, NOVARA MEDIA: And he stumbles upon this really in the '20s the '30s I was talking about this a few weeks ago, to a gentleman who writes The Economist. He came on, and he was talking about, just intervention in free markets, and obviously it's the paradigmatic example. And it's really striking how few people actually, on the left, engage with this issue, where, we have this mystification that any intervention in free markets will create a mismatch of resources, create disequilibriums, etc. And like you say, the absolute heartbeat of modern economies are firms which don't operate like that.

Now, is there any countervailing account [00:11:00] that could come from somebody who's defending the status quo, who might say, well, so what? That's irrelevant. We already know about Coase. 

MICHAL ROZWORSKI: Yeah. I think the traditional argument has always been, but ultimately they still rely on prices. So it doesn't matter how big they get, they're still existing, like we said, in this sort of sea of prices, and that's the bit that delivers crucially useful information to them. 

And I think the counter argument there is that we see increasingly, and this is where I think, today differs from the 1930s, which was the last time when the left and the right were hashing this out, is that we do have an increase in information technology that basically produces this total surfeit of information of various kinds of useful information. I just think it's a poverty of imagination to think that this is the one method of finding a way to basically align social goals [00:12:00] with individual or lower level goals. 

That's ultimately the rights argument, that you need some sort of mechanism that'll align, what do we want to do as a society with what do individuals or individuals through the units like firms do. And I think throughout history you've seen that there's different ways of doing that, and especially now when we have information. One very small thing, Hayek had this semi mystical quote where at one point he calls price's action at a distance. And I'll find it funny reading that today, in 2019, when each of us has a, or most of us have a smartphone in our pockets. And this idea that this gee whiz, action at a distance, it happens through the price system, which just seems quaint. 

AARON BASTANI - HOST, NOVARA MEDIA: Is it fair to say actually that the idea of markets functioning through prices like that is in itself a form of machine control? Because you've got Paul Mason recently in his book, Clear Bright Future, and he says we have all these existential quandaries about, oh, would we ever allow an AI to run society?

Well, we already delegate. A vast amount of, ethical decision making to, well actually, this computer says no, except it's not the [00:13:00] computer, it's the market. Is that a fair, is that a fair, assessment? And then I want to ask you about the socialist calculation debate. 

MICHAL ROZWORSKI: I'll be quick. I think that's overall generally fair. I think there's maybe a bit more to it, but generally yes, this is a mechanism. And a lot of the Austrians did in a way refer to it as a computer but one that's able to deal with indeterminacy. So that's the one thing that I would add that the right really sees this as a specific kind of computer that doesn't take a set program, but is one that's able to deal very well in a dynamic environment. But overall, I think that's a very good way of looking at it. And again, demystifying some of this ideology around the free market and around freedom. 

The Two Futures Of Automation Capitalism VS Socialism - Second Thought - Air Date 12-15-21

JT - HOST, SECONDTHOUGHT: But first, let's start with a history of automation in general. If you're willing to go back far enough, humanity's evolution has always been directly related to our ability to mechanize and improve upon our physical abilities with tools. Our bodies and societies have progressed [00:14:00] alongside, and as a direct result of, our ability to create objects that make our lives easier, that allow us to produce and consume more efficiently and in greater quantities. 

At first it was simple handheld tools made of stone, then crude metals, until eventually we started truly automating basic tasks by powering the first primative machines with flowing water, steam, and finally, fossil fuels. We continued innovating, creating ever more complex instruments, until they moved beyond completing simple tasks and started dealing with abstract concepts, the same way our brains can. Very quickly, we get to something like proper automation—machines doing things on their own. Specifically, we get to automation under our current economic model, capitalism.

Since the origins of modern capitalism coincide roughly with the beginning of industrialization in Britain, that's where we'll start. At its birth, industrialization radically changed many things. The new machines of the industrial era were nothing like the tools that had dominated the [00:15:00] history of humanity. They were bigger, more complex, and they needed several people with very particular roles just to function properly. They could produce like no human ever could, and with ever decreasing levels of human involvement. 

Right away, this made a massive difference in the working arrangements of most people. From individual shops and farms, industrial machines and factories brought hundreds away from their personal businesses under a single factory roof in increasingly densely populated cities. Supervised by a growing, but tightly guarded, class of wealthy individuals, workers from neighboring regions were brought into factories, where they no longer had control over the process of production. Their roles became specialized, repetitive, and dull. Work for a wage became compulsory for more and more of the population, as the concept of poverty became, legally tangible. Capitalism had begun and at its core were the new machines. 

With this new social model came new relationships and interest groups—the owner class and the working class. [00:16:00] Those who owned the factories and the machinery, and those who sold their time and energy to them. While this is going on, machines are growing in their power. They do more, produce more, and take up an ever greater chunk of the responsibilities of workers. And this starts creating problems. 

Some of the first observers of this era, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, were quick to realize the impact that the ever more capable steam powered machines would have on this new labor force. They saw, of course, the slums and depths of poverty that these industrial towns had created, but more than that, they saw a new form of power emerge. Automation subjected workers to invisible pressures within the workplace, when, as production processes became more automated, human workers had to adapt to the pace set by machines. A pace determined by the capitalist who manufactured and implemented them.

Unsurprisingly, this feature of automation hasn't disappeared under more advanced stages of capitalism. Take Amazon warehouses, where workers who are entirely reliant on now fully [00:17:00] automated systems have to adapt their working speed to the inhumane rate of maximally optimized robots. Workers lose their independence and their very humanity when they have to complete tasks in 11 seconds or less and take no breaks, otherwise, they threaten to disrupt a long production chain, of which they are only a minor part. 

Automation breeds its own forms of surveillance, and by that token, its own discipline. The consequences are not just a loss of independence, but also a profound feeling of alienation, personal anguish, and the all too common injuries At a full 10 per 100 workers in Amazon factories specifically. And that's not all. 

For Marx, this power was only one side of technological growth. Machines gave the capitalists much more. For starters, these machines made for a perfectly exploitable employee. And it's pretty obvious why. A machine demands no wages. It doesn't demand adequate working conditions, reasonable hours, or bathroom breaks. A machine costs what it costs to buy and maintain, and [00:18:00] every single penny of its 24 hour our workday afterwards goes back to the capitalist. It's a perfect arrangement. At least, that's the way it seems. 1Dime covers this aspect of automation extensively in his video. Of course, this arrangement has its own consequences.

Suddenly faced with a new machine that performs better, cheaper, or faster, an entire workforce might be more easily undermined. In theory, its value plummets to the robot's standards, allowing the owner class to threaten mass unemployment, and eroding whatever resistance workers had created with their collective power. If the employee is not entirely replaced, their job either becomes more menial and alienating, or more brutal and unprofitable. Workers are pitted against the machines they are now directly threatened by, rather than the capitalist class, which can shield itself behind the values of technological innovation.

Today, this process is happening across all sectors of the economy. Factory jobs were of course the first to go, but they were soon followed by many service and white collar jobs. [00:19:00] As AI progresses, even highly specialized tasks are delegated to machines, taking with them jobs for which humans are no longer the cheapest option. And this poses a dilemma for workers. Asking for higher wages is both good and necessary, especially as living costs everywhere go up, but it puts them and their industries at greater risk of their labor being automated. You can't bargain when someone is holding all the chips. So, rather than settling for low wages out of fear of automation, we should embrace automation, demand higher wages, or perhaps some form of universal basic income, which will not only be necessary for workers, but may even be necessary for capitalism itself to function.

Planet of the Robots: Four Futures of AI (Documentary) - 1Dime - Air Date 10-15-21

TONY CHAMAS - HOST, 1DIME PODCAST: In this third future of socialism with scarcity then, people no longer have to work nearly as much as to survive, yet people are also not free to consume as much as they like. And even though capitalistic economic classes will be presumably abolished, some kind of government will probably be [00:20:00] required to distribute resources, making pure communism a stateless society, an unlikely option. Given the need to determine and maintain stable levels of consumption and thus set prices, the state can't entirely wither away just yet, as it does in the communist scenario. And where there is scarcity, there will surely be some sort of political conflict, even though if it is no longer the same class conflict. 

However, this form of socialism does not have to adopt. The exact same systems as previously existing socialist countries did. We can learn from the drawbacks and the benefits. In addition to being sabotaged by catastrophic wars and economic sanctions, experiments like the USSR, Yugoslavia, Cuba, Vietnam, and China started off with significantly lower levels of development and did not have the access to the technology that exists today. Facing this underdevelopment, these countries resorted to modes of production that could be described as [00:21:00] capitalistic, while having some form of socialist redistribution.

Despite this, however, these systems were nevertheless able to drastically improve their societies. Just look at the development from before versus after their transition to socialism, if you even want to call it socialism—which is more a matter of semantic debate. The point is that different socioeconomic conditions lead to different outcomes. After all, Marx himself thought that communism would be impossible without first passing through the stage of capitalism, which he saw as a necessary evil that would exploit workers to death, but would develop the forces of production and create a lot of wealth, which could then be distributed and utilized for the common good during the transition to communism.

With the exception of the exploited Global South, most of the Global North countries like America, Canada, and Western Europe are already highly developed and we are starting to have access to labor saving technologies which can accelerate production while giving people more free time from work, which could [00:22:00] potentially one day allow us to transition to the fourth and most promising future, communism—an egalitarian society with abundance. But as mentioned before, if a worsening climate crisis and disappointing results of space exploration make this possibility too late, then we can settle for a socialism where we are given life's basic necessities and more freedom from work, but still have a limitation as to how much we can consume. Maybe it won't be fully automated luxury communism, but maybe we can get a partially automated socialism. 

But assuming resources are not scarce, and climate change is slightly ameliorated, or we happen to find an abundance of natural resources in outer space, then, let's envision what a full communism with abundance could look like. Communism, egalitarianism, and abundance. It is already hard to escape the capitalist mind prison, but it is even harder to imagine what full communism could look like. The term fully automated luxury communism [00:23:00] has been popularized by theorist Aaron Bastiani in his book of the same title. This book deserves a video of its own, and it has quite a lot of compelling insights and evidence, despite what the goofy title might suggest.

This might all sound like an impossible utopia, yet the trend of widespread automation could very well make this a possibility, or at the very least, allow us to start liberating people from work. We can try to envision a classless society of abundance that was envisioned by theorists like Karl Marx. A partially automated communism, perhaps.

A communist post scarcity society would require a combination of labor saving technologies with an alternative to the current unsustainable energy system that still exists today, which is limited by the physical scarcity and ecological destructiveness of fossil fuels. Once again, this is not a guarantee, but there are hopeful signs of progress.

For instance, the cost of producing and operating solar panels has been falling [00:24:00] dramatically over the past decade, and based on their current trajectory, they will soon be cheaper than our current electricity sources. Now the notion of post work tends to confuse a lot of people. People often think about this issue in a very binary way, in which either we live in a society where we don't work at all, or we work in a society where we have to work just to survive and be entitled to life's basic necessities, and this really misses the point. In a post scarcity society, it's not like all work would be abolished in the sense that we would all just sit around like sloths. As Karl Marx put it, labor would become not only a means of life, but life's prime want. People could just continue doing whatever activities, hobbies, and projects that they did out of their own will because they found them inherently fulfilling, not because of a needed wage.

The profit motive is unnecessary, especially considering the degree to which many decisions about work are already driven by non material incentives. [00:25:00] Among those who are privileged enough to have the option, millions choose to go to graduate school, study degrees with little job prospects, become social workers, make music, make art, or start small organic farms, even when there are far more lucrative careers open to them.

It is also worth noting that even this post scarcity communist future would most likely still require some sort of human labor for certain occupations that can't be automated. We would most likely have to have a certain level of labor hours to complete in exchange for labor vouchers. Which could then be used to purchase leisure products and services provided by small worker cooperatives, perhaps. Those who put in more labor time could get access to more labor vouchers, which they could then use to purchase more goods and services. Thus, while arbitrary economic classes would be abolished, there would not be inequality of outcome, which is essentially impossible. Rather, society would be formulated according to need and ability. [00:26:00] "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs."

Although there are many possible ways to allocate the necessary labor that a communist society would still need to do, I would recommend looking into the various theories of Michael Albert and Paul Cockshott, who hold different compelling ideas. The demise of wage labor may seem like a faraway dream today, but at one point American and European labor movements used to demand shorter working hours as opposed to just higher wages and employment. 

Workerism and the Protestant work ethic is an ideology that must be overcome. To get past wage labor economically, we must get past it socially. The idea of post scarcity communism has been loosely represented in one of the most popular works of science fiction—Star Trek. Now keep in mind, even a post scarcity communist world would still have its own conflicts and contradictions, rather than one in which we all live in perfect harmony and politics comes to a halt.

There would probably be some sort of [00:27:00] social hierarchies, probably based on reputation and clout. But if it's not a vision of a perfect society, this version of communism is at least a world in which conflict is no longer based on arbitrary classes and control over scarce resources and the means of production. It is a world in which not everything is decided by money. 

To conclude, these four different futures are useful to speculate about, but we might not necessarily only get one of them, we could get them all. And the author of the book, Four Futures, notes that there are paths that lead from one future to all of the others. And in many ways, aspects of all four of the futures are already partially here, but it's ultimately up to us, the masses, to build up the collective power and organization to fight for the futures that we desire.

Universal Basic Income Explained (An Automation Solution) - Futurology - Air Date 5-28-24

HOST, FUTUROLOGY: It is not a discussion of the technological revolution in automation without mentioning universal basic income, and for good reason, as in our and many others opinion, it is one of the best potential solutions to the automation conundrum. [00:28:00] In the simplest terms, UBI is about giving every member of society enough money to cover, as the name implies, the basics in life. This is not a new concept, with the idea of a state run basic income going as far back as the 16th century, and Sir Thomas More's book Utopia, which depicted a society in which every person receives a guaranteed income and is relieved of the burden of their essential needs. For what greater wealth can there be than cheerfulness, peace of mind, and freedom from anxiety? 

Moving forward a few centuries, what we now know as UBI has been championed from a diverse group of individuals of every profession, race, and political stance. From Martin Luther King Jr., Thomas Paine, Milton Friedman, Richard Nixon, Stephen Hawking, Alan Watts, the Pope, we can go on and on.

The premise of the UBI has also inspired policy, with economist Milton Friedman's negative income tax. He held that the NIT would raise the poverty floor without negatively affecting the price system and market mechanisms. This would then go on to inspire the earned income tax credit from the Nixon administration in the 1970s. Essentially, a tax credit benefiting individuals who are [00:29:00] earning a low or moderate income the most. 

After a relatively dormant few decades, it has only been since recently, 2015, where the UBI discussion has been picking up steam again, as it's started to become a prominent talking point amongst technologists, such as many of those working in Silicon Valley and other tech hubs. This makes intuitive sense, as deep learning was starting to make rapid strides forward around this time period, and many in the industry were extrapolating forward and beginning to realize the long term impacts in terms of automation, which then led tech CEOs such as Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, and Bill Gates to talk about UBI, thereby raising public awareness.

Beyond awareness, in our opinion, when UBI as a policy really began to spread through the mainstream consciousness was during the presidential run of Andrew Yang. While he did go on to lose that race, Yang and his team truly understood the impacts of automation and broke it down in a concise and easy to understand way for the general public, while also highlighting the need for a UBI, or as they called it, the Freedom Dividend of $1,000 a month, translating to $12,000 a year, just around the US poverty line. 

With the origins of Universal Basic [00:30:00] Income understood, we can see that UBI has taken on a few distinct forms in different historical and geographical contexts. However, the core defining characteristics of it always remain the same. 1. A UBI is periodic. In other words, a recurring payment, for instance, every month as opposed to a one off grant. 2. A UBI is paid in cash, allowing recipients to convert their benefits into whatever they would like. 3. A UBI is paid per individual person versus per household based. And 4. A UBI is truly universal and unconditional, paid to every member of society, and not targeted to a specific population. 

A universal basic income following these core principles intuitively makes sense. When you're a shareholder for a profitable company, you expect a dividend. And likewise, as citizens of countries with GDPs worth trillions, which are only set to increase as automation increases societal productivity, a UBI can be considered a dividend of this productivity to the populace. A UBI would also value much work today that, while important, society doesn't monetarily value.

For instance, stay at home parents and [00:31:00] caretakers. People in these roles work just as hard, if not harder than those in typical full time roles, and are needed for a society to function. However, they are not currently monetarily compensated for their work. In the age of automation, as more jobs are lost to technological change, and as society gets more productive, no one should have the burden of worry about covering basic living expenses, such as rent, food, electricity, internet, and so on.

While this all sounds great in theory, the benefits of a UBI can also be backed up through real world testing. Since the 1900s, there have been many pilot tests for a UBI, from the United States, Canada, Kenya, Finland, and India to list a few. And these tests are only increasing in frequency as more countries, private entities, and non profits are entering the space. From the tests that have already been completed, many come to the same conclusion, that a UBI boosted recipients mental, physical, and financial well being, decreased the consumption of vices such as tobacco and alcohol, and led to modest improvements in employment. 

To give more concrete results, an Ontario Canada's UBI pilot project of 4, 000 subjects over the course of 17 [00:32:00] months with a $1,000 basic income, 79 percent of subjects reported better physical and 83 percent better mental well being. 50 percent reported a decrease in drug use, and while 17 percent did leave employment once basic income payments commenced, most significantly, nearly half of those subjects who stopped working during the pilot program returned to school or university to upskill for future employment. It is worth noting many argue the less than expected increases and sometimes decreases in employment are due to the efficacy of these tests.

In Ontario's case, the decrease could be attributable to conditions about non trial earned income, in which basic income payments would be reduced by 50 cents for every dollar of earned income. Efficacy issues of other trials include but are not limited to small sample sizes, short time frames, and too low of an amount of monthly payments to actually provide the stability of a real UBI.

The Two Futures Of Automation Capitalism VS Socialism Part 2 - Second Thought - Air Date 12-15-21

JT - HOST, SECONDTHOUGHT: As a quick refresher, a socialist economy is one in which the means of production, meaning factories, machines, farms, and so on, are owned in common rather than by private individuals. This can vary quite a lot in practice, but the [00:33:00] basic idea is that the economy is subject to democratic practice, not the whims of deeper pockets. In general, socialist economies are characterized by the provision of basic services to everyone. Food, water, shelter, and medicine for all are the greatest priorities of this economic model, rather than profit, which often comes from gatekeeping these essential needs. 

In this kind of system, automation looks very different. While automation, under any system can bring improvements in the quality of life for all under a socialist economy, it does not do so at the expense of the security of the individual. You might lose your job to a more productive machine, but that won't suddenly throw you into your savings and threaten to kick you out of your home. Quite the contrary, in practice, this can mean any number of things. Where innovations in medicine or agriculture are developed, they are no longer held hostage by intellectual property patents so that only a few people can gain access and only for the highest prices. Vaccines and other life saving innovations don't have to be life saving and [00:34:00] profitable to be worthwhile. They can just be life saving. This is innovation under a very wide lens. 

But automation specifically works in just the same way. And the best way to prove that is to look at how automation affects work under a socialist economy. Whereas the capitalist exploits the advancements of technology to pit the workers against themselves, bringing down their wages, working conditions, or kicking them out of their job entirely, a socialist society has no such pressure to exert. Work being taken out of human hands is just that, no strings attached. Even if automation does not abolish all work, in capitalist or socialist economies alike, it will definitely reduce the amount of work we have to do. Whereas A capitalist system responds to this with unemployment, worsening working conditions, lower wages, or even meaningless jobs that only serve to increase profits without improving anything, a democratic organization of the economy can simply grant the worker more free time. 

Picture your average day at work when automation has all but taken over. [00:35:00] With fewer responsibilities and fewer hours of human work needed, divided across more people whose jobs are also largely taken care of, a work day could be just a few hours long, if that. A work week just a few days. You could return home after a short day, knowing that your needs are taken care of, allowing you to spend your free time whichever way you like. More time means you can take up more hobbies, continue your education, or simply enjoy your life a whole lot more. You could take pleasure in activities that make you more fulfilled, or choose to spend your time working in your community, teaching classes, helping to plant trees, fixing potholes, whatever you want.

In our current society, this kind of freedom is a luxury awrded only to the lucky few. Under its automated extreme, that same freedom is lost to meaningless work, to fatigue, and desperately trying to stay afloat. In a system where your survival isn't directly tied to the hours you work, automation is a blessing, both for you and for everyone else. Automation grants you more freedom rather [00:36:00] than punishing you simply for existing in a society with scientific progress. It could allow us to move beyond our basic necessities, and start climbing up our hierarchy of needs the world over. To start pursuing what really interests us in life. To take up educational, artistic, innovative, or creative pursuits that we would normally not be able to under capitalism without taking immense personal risks or being born into similarly immense privilege. 

The truth is, we've been waiting for this for decades. Back in the 1930s, economist John Maynard Keynes predicted that technological advancements would allow his grandkids generation to only work for 15 hours a week, long before automation and artificial intelligence showed us the extent to which human labor could be replaced. The only reason we aren't there yet is the unnecessary capitalist obsession with always extracting more profit. But we can improve our lives without that suicidal greed, and so long as we continue to ignore that fact, our future is clear.

Universal Basic Income Explained (An Automation Solution) Part 2 - Futurology - Air Date 5-28-24

HOST, FUTUROLOGY: Speaking of payments, this is one of the largest reasons [00:37:00] a widespread UBI hasn't taken off in the decades it has been in discussion. There are valid concerns on how to fund an initiative of its scale. Using the USA as an example, and assuming a $1,000 UBI, that would be on the order of $2-3 trillion a year. Do we dare utter the dreaded T word as a solution? 

Whenever there is talk of taxes, it comes with many interesting connotations. In terms of a robot or automation tax, it is an even more contentious topic, as many believe it is disincentivizing innovation. However, the argument of a robot tax is not to prevent innovation, but slightly slow down the speed of automation adoption, as we figure out how to transition into this new economy.

In fact, currently there exists incentivization in the exact opposite direction. A business that pays a worker $100 pays $30 in taxes, but a business that spends $100 on equipment such as robotics pays only $3 in taxes. The 2017 Taxes Cuts and Jobs Act lower taxes on purchases so much, that you can actually make money buying equipment. In other words, the USA in some ways is paying companies to automate. By introducing a robot tax, [00:38:00] we can even the playing field so to speak, so that we can more gracefully transition into an automated society. 

There could even be an incentivization to retrain or upskill employees by introducing tax credits on the robot tax. This tax could also slow down or prevent what we like to call toxic automation, in which a company's sole purpose is to automate as rapidly as possible without any regard for its employees. What is commonly seen in many gig employment companies such as Uber, in which they are not only paying below a fair market wage, but also use those excess profits to fund autonomous vehicle initiatives, with the goal to replace those very same workers.

In addition to the robot tax, there are many other methods of taxation and talks as well on the technology sphere, which can help curb or rein in companies on the more unethical end of the spectrum, and give back to society what they have taken. For instance, the data tax or data dividend as it is often called. Data is often referred to as a new oil due to how valuable it is, especially for deep learning algorithms. It is also one of the progress traps of the information age, as it could be used to build better, smarter applications, but often at the trade off of our privacy. 

While this is [00:39:00] a topic for another video, the key takeaway is that our data is worth billions. The data brokerage industry alone is estimated to be worth nearly half a trillion dollars, with near 50 percent of the revenue coming directly from selling consumer data. And these numbers don't even take into account companies made to solely profit off our data such as Facebook, which made $86 billion in 2020. Taxing for storing excessive quantities of data, transference fees of sending data between different brokers, or a host of other methods could be another way to collect revenue from companies who are benefiting from our data. and in many cases using it to automate away jobs. 

The robot and data tax are two potential policies that can ensure increased production due to automation and technological change is not just captured by a select few at the top, but rather is spread across society by funding a universal basic income.

Furthermore, to the aforementioned sources, funding from a UBI can come from various other tax or budget adjustments, which in many cases is dependent on the values of the society implementing a basic income. For instance, funding could come from a value added tax, VAT, which some nations already have. Reducing the defense [00:40:00] budget, a wealth tax, inheritance taxes, fees on financial derivatives contracts, and so on. Beyond taxes, another substantial funding source was best stated by Milton Friedman about the negative income tax, but also applies to UBI. That being, a UBI would reduce the paternalistic and intrusive state bureaucracy required to decide who among the poor merits assistance.

As you can see, by removing the excessive amounts of bureaucracy in our current aid system, about who and how they receive aid, tens to hundreds of billions of dollars could be saved. That could go straight into funding a universal basic income. A UBI as opposed to welfare programs would additionally end up motivating individuals on these systems to pursue other job opportunities, volunteer work, etc. With welfare as it presently is, each program comes with its own set of stipulations to receive money. 

Take as an example disability income. If you break those conditions by say getting a part time job or freelance work, you can end up making less money than if you had just stayed on welfare. As the name implies, with a UBI, it is universal, meaning there are no stipulations, and an individual would not be penalized for looking to earn extra [00:41:00] income. To transition gracefully from our current welfare system, many have suggested making a UBI opt-in, in which case you would forgo any welfare program you are currently enrolled in. 

While the funding sources we have discussed thus far would work in making a UBI economically viable, there is a much simpler option.

Quantitative easing, or put more simply, money printer, go brr. Now on a more serious note, whenever money printing is brought up, it does bring with it inflation fears. However, automation by its very nature is deflationary, so if we QE proportional to the jobs automation displaces to fund a UBI, these forces could balance out. To add to this, this pandemic has shown that governments around the world have the ability to print trillions of dollars when push comes to shove. Unfortunately, much of this money has gone directly to corporations, with what was told to us is that it would trickle down throughout the economy. In reality, this money has only gone into inflating asset prices and the coffers of executives and shareholders, thereby widening the wealth gap and increasing societal inequality.

If instead this money was provided to the general populace, rather than a wealth ceiling, it could serve as a floor for the new [00:42:00] economy. With people no longer burdened by their basic needs, they could afford that car repair they've needed, daycare, little league sports, and so on. Put another way, money provided by UBI actually trickles up through society, benefiting people who need it the most.

There is real world data to back this claim up. Referring back to Ontario's UBI pilot project, there was an uptick in economic activity, with individuals paying for education and student loans, purchasing new eyeglasses, paying for transportation costs such as bus fares to work rather than walking, purchasing necessary items like fresh produce, hospital parking passes, winter clothes they couldn't previously afford, and so on. One couple even used the money to keep their business afloat. Furthermore, an IPS study supports this take, in which for every $1 given to high income earners results in $0.39 added back to the economy, whereas for every $1 given to wage earners, it results in $1.21 added to the economy. In economics, this is referred to as the multiplier effect.

Another area where we would see this multiplier effect would be in an increase in entrepreneurship. Currently, entrepreneurship is not as prevalent because the [00:43:00] last thing someone who is struggling to pay for basic living expenses thinks is I'm going to start a business or a non profit. What is more common is that once one acquires financial security, and thereby more risk taking capacity, they can start a business. With the safety net provided by a well designed UBI, more organizations could come about, with some focused on tackling global problems, and others focused on the local community and hiring people, thereby spurring economic activity and generating wealth. 

While on the subject of wealth generation, an important note to make here is that we have been looking at implementing a UBI from a purely capitalistic, GDP oriented perspective, when in actuality, we need to re envision this economic structure entirely for the technological revolution.

The People's Republic of Walmart Interview with Leigh Phillips and Michal Rozworski Part 2 - Novara Media - Air Date 6-13-19

AARON BASTANI - HOST, NOVARA MEDIA: Finally. Regarding states and markets, what can socialists do in the here and now? What sort of, what sort of demands can be made if you're a Bernie supporter or AOC follower on Twitter or a Labour Party member here in the UK or anywhere else in the world and you're a socialist and you're engaged in electoral democratic politics or even non-electoral democratic [00:44:00] politics? What could you learn from this book and then say to people that hold public office, we should be doing this?

MICHAL ROZWORSKI: I think a lot of the things that, at least when I think of, for example, Bernie in the U. S., a lot of things that they're doing are already on the lines of this. For example, I think the Medicare for All demand in the U. S. as sort of, in a way, absurd, it seems, say, from Canada or the U. K., where we've had socialized health care for 50 years, even though it's not perfect, even though it's not democratic, even though it is sort of, you know, it's kind of paternalistic nationalization at times, at least it is sort of a decommodified, democratically, in some way, decided over sector. I think that demand is a really good one. And then, for example, in the U. K. and other countries, I think, looking at big sectors of the economy that could be de-commodified, where there are already existing movements to start to do this. Pharmacare is another one and looking at actually the production of pharmaceuticals, which we don't have time to go into, but there's huge, huge, you know, problems with markets allocating resources for what gets produced, especially in terms of [00:45:00] antibiotic resistance, all this kind of stuff. Child care, transit you mentioned already. So I think on that sort of very, very high level social scale, like here's a sector of the economy that we could run democratically in, in the sort of very abstract overarching way. But I think at the same time, and I hope that comes through in the book, looking at, you know, that sort of low level of democracy, how can we democratize workplaces?

And I think that's where UK Labor is doing a really good job under Corbyn at looking at both of those, right? What are alternative models of ownership for particular enterprises, particular projects? And ones that give people more of a say, more of a capacity to participate in that planning at the sort of shop factory whatever level, and hope fully you kind of have those those pinchers that are moving in both directions from the bottom up and from the top down. And I mean, we talked about central banks a lot, I think doing that job of demystifying these big institutions, repoliticizing them and [00:46:00] cutting against that really strong neoliberal argument, that I think is falling apart slowly, that these are just like outside the realm of politics, that this is just like pure dry economics kind of working itself out. I think being, being really brave and forward about saying, No, we can have different social goals, you know, right at the heart of monetary policy or at the heart of these like large institutions that already have a coordinating function, but that have been effectively depoliticized.

So I think there's a whole host... in short, there's a whole host of things, because I think we, as we try to show that planning is really everywhere in our economy. It's just making it explicit and making it participatory, making us actually be the agents of it rather than small groups of people. 

LEIGH PHILLIPS: The two examples I would give concretely would be, one, yes, I do really want to underscore the scale of the threat that we face from antimicrobial resistance. It was fascinating a few weeks ago to see the UK's antimicrobial resistance czar discuss the idea of potentially nationalizing big pharma in order to resolve this problem. [00:47:00] Viewers might not be aware but basically 30-35 years ago, the major pharmaceutical companies got out of the business of doing any sort of research and development or even commercialization of new classes of antibiotics. Research continues to happen, but at public universities or government labs, which do not have the money to engage in clinical trials.

And so, the UK antimicrobial resistance czar happens to be a former executive with Goldman Sachs. And his argument is that they might need to be nationalized because the antibiotics are simply insufficiently profitable. If you, you know, take a course of antibiotics for five, six weeks, at the end of that, you want the infection gone. You're not going to be taking a drug every day for the rest of your life, as you would with some sort of chronic disease, which is where the real money is. And that, the scale of the threat there is sort of undermining modern medicine. It is probably even more of an existential threat to our modern [00:48:00] way of life, throwing back to Victorian sort of types of medicine. Most of modern medicine depends upon a background of antimicrobial protection. Even diagnostics sometimes do that. So, it really is very existentially threatening. And that would be a... I would add that as a sort of number one... in fact, I kind of wish that there was as much of a left movement around antimicrobial resistance as there is around climate change. It's happening much faster. With, the green deal, I'm very excited about that framing because... and it is about planning now, it's talking about infrastructure, state-led development, full employment, and it leaps over the two sort of main framings of the climate threat that we've had so far, which are both forms of capitalist realism.

One is sort of, like, market mechanisms of carbon taxation or cap and trade, or feed-in tariffs, which end up, you know, more negatively impacting working people. On the other side, there's a sort of, like, personal, individual, what can I do? Can I, travel, you know, fly less or whatever? And again, it's this [00:49:00] sort of individualized, capitalist realist conception of responsibility for this. The Green New Deal framing for the very first time locates the real source of the problem of market failure, of who is responsible, not as individuals, but a system, the market system.

Some of the particular demands within it, I would like to see a little bit more robust. So, I have some minor criticisms there. I'd like to see more engagement with trade unions from the get go, where Green New Deal activists have, from the start, worked with trade unions, they've had much more success than those areas where, sort of, activists or environmentalists have come up with their series of demands and never spoke to trade unions. And now there's a number of trade unions who've actually been protesting the Green New Deal in California and elsewhere in the United States, even some quite radical unions like the electrical workers. So, there needs to be a sort of finessing of that. But overall, the framing is absolutely an example of what we're talking about in terms [00:50:00] of planning as a solution to climate change and a raft of other environmental issues, rather than degrowth or individual consumption or market mechanisms, cap and trade or whatever.

AARON BASTANI - HOST, NOVARA MEDIA: It's interesting you mention the pharmaceutical stuff because in my book I talk about a great disorder and all these crises. I don't talk about that one, but most people aren't aware of this: in 1900, the leading causes of death globally, pneumonia, infections, disease... 

LEIGH PHILLIPS: Influenza.

AARON BASTANI - HOST, NOVARA MEDIA: ...yeah, exactly. It's all infections. And we just take it for granted that increasingly causes of death will be dementia, cancer, stroke, age-related conditions, but the other... 

LEIGH PHILLIPS: That was one of the greatest humanitarian developments. It is such a precious thing, you know, a price above rubies, antibiotics. 

AARON BASTANI - HOST, NOVARA MEDIA: And they weren't patented. Fleming didn't patent penicillin, which is interesting. 

LEIGH PHILLIPS: Oh it is, yeah, absolutely. There's all sorts of lovely little... 

AARON BASTANI - HOST, NOVARA MEDIA: Comrade Fleming. 

LEIGH PHILLIPS: ...all sorts of lovely stories of, sort of socialist ethoses, of socialist values within the history of modern medicine. And [00:51:00] revival of that is absolutely necessary.

BONUS - The People's Republic of Walmart Interview with Leigh Phillips and Michal Rozworski Part 3 - Novara Media - Air Date 6-13-19

AARON BASTANI - HOST, NOVARA MEDIA: So the socialist calculation debate, which you explicitly talk about in the book, we've already sort of really touched upon it, is this idea that it's only really through the price mechanism that you can have this optimal allocation of resources, and it feeds into sort of everyday, off the shelf ideology for just capitalist realism, right? You don't even need to think that you're defending capitalism. It's just that's how prices work. That's how they always work. And what Hayek and Friedman and people like this say is that this will always be superior to centrally command economies because they are acting with limited information. Now we can debate whether that was ever true or not. Let's say it was true. Let's say it's historically contingent, it was limited to a certain period of time. What you guys are saying is that technology now makes that general debate quite moot. And furthermore, if anything, big data gives us far greater information than prices do. Is that correct? 

LEIGH PHILLIPS: Yeah, absolutely. But I mean, you could also say that, if that were the case, if you [00:52:00] require some sort of external prices for that, then you could say the same thing about the Soviet Union. Soviet Union traded with the rest of the world. So that doesn't really work. So you have to have some other explanation as to why the Soviet Union did not work, rather than simply planning. Because if planning, if a command economy is the reason that Soviet Union didn't work, then neither should Walmart, neither should Amazon, neither should any of these, and just sort of saying, Oh, well, we know about Coase, I mean, that's their sort of get out of jail free card. And they, basically what we're doing with this is, we're looking at it a little bit more seriously, investigating that, and really thinking about it more deeply. And the reason that this is absolutely necessary for us as socialists, why we need to return to the socialist calculation debate, is because it is hard. if we are going to replace the market and all of the inequalities and the irrationalities that accompany that, it is not just enough for us through the force of will and our optimism and sense of injustice to right the wrongs. We actually do have to think very [00:53:00] seriously about the challenges of calculation. 

And what's fascinating about the socialist calculation debate from the 30s to the 50s, and why Hayek and so on and so forth made such really good arguments was because they, in some respects, were on the back foot. With the existence of socialism, social democracy, militant trade unions, they were responding to an ascendant, sort of intellectually confident left. And they had to be as good. And now what we see, and we were talking about this just before we started here, the right's response to our book already and I think to yours as well, is that it's sort of off the shelf arguments. They're not really responding to this. And I find it very interesting and exciting to be in a moment where the left once again is beginning to be intellectually confident, and that they're having to respond to us once again, which is nice. Sorry, I went off on a bit of a tangent. 

AARON BASTANI - HOST, NOVARA MEDIA: No, no, it's good. I mean, I've just, because obviously my book was launched yesterday, Tuesday.

LEIGH PHILLIPS: Congratulations. 

MICHAL ROZWORSKI: Congratulations, yeah. 

AARON BASTANI - HOST, NOVARA MEDIA: Happy to be joining this oeuvre of, you know, quite inflammatory opinion on the left that the right feel they [00:54:00] have to respond to. And yeah, the responses were, or even the responses in the reviews prior to the publication, Danny Finkelstein in the Times, and it's just churlish, undergrad, Facebook-post level prose. And it's like, okOkay climate change, demographic aging, automation, the collapse of the neoliberal model since 2007-2008, whatever your politics, we can all agree this is a thing. And they're not even talking about that. They're not talking about, for instance, this book as an intervention to those debates. They're just saying, do you apologize for 1917? Will any sort of effort to make society better result in, you know, the Russian Civil War mark two or, you know, the Ukraine famines and so on. I'm like, it's an off the shelf debate. Are there any smarter people on the right? There must be people. For instance, my book got positive reviews. I know you have as well in certain publications one might not expect, the Financial Times, for instance. Are there not people in those [00:55:00] circles who look at this and go, there's something really here that's quite interesting. Have you encountered any reviews like that? 

LEIGH PHILLIPS: The anarcho-capitalists vey much... 

MICHAL ROZWORSKI: Yeah, I was going to say, of all people, the anarcho-capitalists are willing to take it. So, you know, a fringe, but again, someone like Hayek was a fringe figure in his time, but there's definitely people on the right who are willing to take it seriously. There's the Reinventing Capitalism book, Schönberger, this, I think he was like a... 

LEIGH PHILLIPS: Viktor Mayer-Schönberger 

MICHAL ROZWORSKI: ...consultant management sort of, you know, management consultant who's written kind of the definitive kind of pop book on big data and now has a second one about how big data is going... you know, he's basically making some of our arguments in, you know, the usual type of thing of saving capitalism from the right, but he's even willing to say that maybe this new system enabled by information technology will not really be capitalism, but something else, but we'll still have the hierarchies and all of that. But yeah, so there's definitely people on the right thinking through this stuff. And I think there's a big contrast between them and the people who [00:56:00] are just, you know, like making these off the shelf arguments and, you know, Laffer Curve, writing on a napkin level of intellectual curiosity, right?

LEIGH PHILLIPS: Mayer-Schönberger, I think, is very, very interesting and because, as you say, he's in many respects making some of the similar arguments we make, but from the opposite point of view. He's nakedly pro-capitalist and he's just finding it fascinating that more and more transactions already are taking place where the price signal is playing a smaller and smaller role now that we have sort of machine learning, big data allowing for multi-dimensional comparison of different factors. He uses the example sometimes of airline ticket recommendation engines, where you, as a human, might find it actually quite difficult to like, Okay, so I want to fly on this date or possibly these other dates, and I don't want to fly out of this airport, but I could if it were cheap, and, but I want an aisle seat, and my wife wants a window, but I don't want any, uh... all those different things, and we actually find it very difficult as [00:57:00] humans to have that multidimensional comparison, but the recommendation engine knows, having seen how you've purchased things in the past, begins to actually know you better than you know yourself, is able to make these recommendations. And price is just one smaller aspect of this.

What's fascinating, I think, there, with him, is that you can sort of see, you know, there's a challenge to neoliberalism since 2008. They haven't really grappled with the... they haven't fully resolved the crisis. And there are interesting figures, horrifying figures on the right that are like people like Marco Rubio, who are making arguments that there needs to be more state planning, more intervention, more industrial policy for the United States to be able to compete against China. And you could imagine a world where sort of after neoliberalism, where the right fully recognizes once again the necessity of planning, but hierarchical, authoritarian planning, a return to that, and never being any sort of, like, final reckoning between the classes. And so our [00:58:00] argument is, it is sort of the flip side of that, which is planning is possible. It's everywhere already. It's hierarchical. And what we need to be doing is making it work for us. We need to make sure that it's democratic. 

BONUS - The People's Republic of Walmart Interview with Leigh Phillips and Michal Rozworski Part 4 - Novara Media - Air Date 6-13-19

AARON BASTANI - HOST, NOVARA MEDIA: Yeah, because I look at big data and I look at all the tendencies you're talking about in the book and I basically see two potential futures. So one is data-driven public services, universal basic services, which are freely available to all on the back of declining cost of information, energy, labour, etc. I think that's one highly plausible future. So, permanently cheaper. The question is, how cheap, right? And then a big variable in all of that will be big data. So if you've got universal basic service of public buses, free public buses for everybody everywhere. Obviously, predictive modeling about who's going to go where, for how long, etc, would be very good at allocating resources for a public transport network. So that's one future. Another is China, where you have WeChat, which is not just a social network, but also a payment system. You [00:59:00] have smart cities, which have facial recognition around them. And people would be fined for jaywalking or so on. Something like that, a minor infraction, and they'll be immediately fined. It'll be through their mobile phone. Is that a fair conclusion to say that? Planning of a considerably increased kind is inevitable. The question is, in whose interests? 

LEIGH PHILLIPS: You hit the nail on the head, absolutely. This Marco Rubio report that came out a couple of months ago, Made in China 2025, where he makes this call for, you know, more planning so the United States can stay ahead in robotics, AI, biotech, a number of other areas. Then Intel came out with a similar white paper making an argument for more an interventionist industrial policy. And one can absolutely imagine a sort of convergence of these ideas and the dystopia is genuinely that inability to, I think, make a distinction between the sort of surveillance capitalism of Amazon and Facebook's of the world and the surveillance communism of the people's Republic of China, and, yeah, [01:00:00] social credit and all these, convergence of those. I'm not predicting that that's going to happen, but I do think that the key at the moment for the left is, in the face of both of these sort of tendencies, is to remain as the guardians of freedom. That whatever path that they go down along this more definitely surveillance sort of planned market economy, our responsibility is to be the champions of freedom and democracy in those situations. 

MICHAL ROZWORSKI: And we already see how much Silicon Valley cooperates with the U. S. government, with the surveillance state, with the national security state, all that. We also see, I mean, the upside is we also see tech workers starting to rebel against that, and some, you know, very nascent forms of organizing there that are partly driven by working conditions, but partly driven by these sort of, you know, deeply political pressures where people see these possible futures. And again, not making really super dystopian predictions, but even today there's enough there that people don't want to be involved in whatever projects, whether at home or abroad... we saw that with Microsoft and some of the facial recognition stuff and other things. And yeah, in terms of the sort of smart city thing, we're already seeing that there's Sidewalk [01:01:00] Labs, which is run by Google, setting up shop in actually Toronto, Canada, and trying to create these sort of model, the first sort of model neighborhood that would take this sort of capitalist road of big data and planning, marrying urban planning with economic planning, with a host of other things and enabling the kinds of fairly, again, authoritarian technocratic solutions that we're deeply critical of here.

AARON BASTANI - HOST, NOVARA MEDIA: I mean, it's one of the things I really agree with in the account of Marx's Grundrisse by Antonio Negri. There's lots of things to disagree with Antonio Negri, but the idea of the real subsumption of society, the gradual expansion of the surveillance of the factory, superimposed onto society at large, I think that's quite a clear and prescient account of what Google wants to do, for instance, with smart cities, it seems to me. They want to gather and collect as much data as possible about every iterative act, every movement, and somehow subordinate it to the profit motive.

MICHAL ROZWORSKI: Yeah. Yeah, and I think the challenge for the left is to [01:02:00] come up with, uh, and I don't think we even pretend to do that here, but to start to come up with ideas for these kinds of coordinating functions to be done democratically, to be done in a way that, you know, somehow walks that tightrope between centralization and decentralization, between decision making at the individual level and freedom and control, as well as sort of those big broad social goals that we'd want to achieve together in a way that avoids exactly this kind of subsumption. And I mean, yeah, I think that that observation is happening. The one we quote in the book is, that also famous quote from Marx, where, I won't get it right, but it's something about, you know, how we learn about society at the factory, like, you know, the factory, in his time teaches us just how reliant we are on other people, just how social beings we are, where, you know, production under feudalism or under other social systems would not have taught that. And I think this is, you know, sort of like the next logical step. If that's [01:03:00] already implicit in capitalism, is this sort of reliance on others and this common building of a world, why don't we actually, actualize that, which is sort of trying to show us where we actually socially decide on what we want to be doing.

Final comments on living our values and stepping away from work

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: We've just heard clips today, starting with the introduction of the book Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work. Novara Media challenged the arguments against a planned economy. Second Thought laid out what mass automation under capitalism would look like. 1Dime explored the ideas of socialism under either scarcity or abundance. Futurology gave some historical context on universal basic income. Second Thought continued the discussion of a democratically controlled socialist economy. Futurology also looked at how to pay for UBI. And Novara Media continued their discussion about planned economies. 

That's what everybody heard, but members also heard more bonus clips from Novara Media, getting deeper into the weeds. To hear that [01:04:00] and have all of our bonus contents delivered seamlessly to the new members-only podcast feed that you'll receive, sign up to support the show at bestoftheleft.com/support, or shoot me an email requesting a financial hardship membership, because we don't let a lack of funds stand in the way of hearing more information. 

Now to wrap-up, I don't really have the time or energy to say much today, which is actually right to the point because we're getting ready to try to live some of the values discussed during today's show. It wasn't really planned, but it worked out nicely that this episode brings us right up to a vacation week, but not to worry, we have automated some hand-picked episodes from the archives to drop into your feed. So be on the lookout for those. In the meantime, we will not be working, not defining or valuing ourselves by our work, and if we're really lucky, hardly looking at the internet at all, and then we'll be back refreshed and recharged, ready to face the absurdity that is 2024 a new. 

That is [01:05:00] going to be it for today. As always keep the comments coming in. You can leave us a voicemail or send a text to (202)999-3991, or simply email me to [email protected]. 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 our transcriptionist trio, Ken, Brian, and Ben for their volunteer work, helping put our transcripts together. Thanks to Amanda Hoffman for all of her work on our social media outlets, activism segments, graphic designing, web mastering, and bonus show co-hosting. And thanks to those who already support the show by becoming a member or purchasing gift memberships. You can join them by signing up today at bestoftheleft.com/support, through our Patreon page, or from right inside the Apple Podcast app. 

Membership is how you get instant access to our impressively good and often funny bonus episodes, in addition to there being extra content, no ads, and chapter markers and all of our regular episodes all through your [01:06:00] regular podcast player. In addition to the warm and fuzzy feeling you get by knowing that your support helps the people who make this show go on vacation every once in awhile. You'll find that link to sign up in the show notes, along with a link to join our Discord community, where you can also continue to discussion. 

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 twice weekly thanks entirely to the members and donors to the show from bestoftheleft.com.

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#1614 Deep-Fakery and Deep Consequences for Democracy (Transcript)

Air Date 2/28/2024

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JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [00:00:00] Welcome to this episode of the award winning Best of the Left podcast in which we grapple with the fact that AI generated deepfakes, entirely fabricated audio and video of recognizable people, are here. They have been on the horizon for years, but they have finally arrived during the biggest global election year in history, which may prove to be a make or break year for democracy itself, as we struggle to separate fact from fiction and autocracy is on the rise around the world. Sources today include Forbes, CYBER, All Things Considered, Aperture, On with Kara Swisher, and TED Talks Daily, with additional members-only clips from Forbes and What Next: TBD.

Deepfaking Democracy: Why AI Threatens News And Global Elections In 2024 Part 1 - Forbes - Air Date 2-6-24

UNIDENTIFIED NARRATOR: 2024 will be a record year for elections around the world. Over 4 billion people, more than half of Earth's population, are expected to cast a ballot. 7 out of 10 of the most populous nations are going to the polls. [00:01:00] And many elections will be in countries consequential to the news cycle. 

Taiwan held its presidential elections on January 13th, which saw William Lai of the Democratic Progressive Party win with over 40 percent of the vote. Lai's election is expected to make relations between Taiwan and mainland China more antagonistic. Both Ukraine and Russia, who remain locked in war with one another, have scheduled elections in March and U. S. elections in November are bound to draw intense international attention in what is shaping up to be a rematch of the 2020 elections.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Democracy is still at risk. This is not hyperbole. 

UNIDENTIFIED NARRATOR: Many academics, political analysts, and think tanks expect 2024 to be a major stress test on the concept of democracy itself. And one particular variable that will further complicate this test is the rise of AI tools, and the ability to create convincing, deepfake news content.

JORDAN PEELE AS VOICE OF PRESIDENT OBAMA DEEPFAKE: We're entering an era in which our enemies can make it look like anyone is saying anything at any [00:02:00] point in time, even if they would never say those things. Moving forward, we need to be more vigilant with what we trust from the internet. It's a time when we need to rely on trusted news sources. 

ALEXANDRA S. LEVINE, FORBES WRITER: deepfakes and cheap fakes are not new. But with the explosion of AI that was ushered in by the introduction of ChatGPT just over a year ago, we saw deepfakes proliferate. And the types of deepfakes that we've been looking at, which are these fake news segments using the real likeness and real logos of real news outlets and the faces of real broadcasters, are seemingly new and they are particularly problematic right now as we are heading into a really high stakes election and also as we are in the midst of a war.

We have seen deepfake news segments from top prominent anchors at all sorts of outlets ranging from CNN to CBS and beyond.

YENA LEE, FRANCE 24 NEWS ANCHOR: Truth or fake? You're beginning with a story of a [00:03:00] video on social media where President Zelensky appears to surrender to Russian forces. What's that about? 

CATALINA MARCHANT DE ABREU, FRANCE 24 CORRESPONDENT: A false video of President Zelensky was diffused yesterday where he's apparently making an announcement giving up to Russian forces. This video was diffused on a hacked Ukrainian news website called Ukraine 24. 

HANY FARID: I've been seeing it sort of come in and out for several years now, but in really seeing it consistently in high quality, I would say in the last 12 months. 

DEEPFAKED PRESIDENT ZELENSKY: I have to make difficult decisions. At first, I decided to return Donbas. It's time to look in the eye. 

HANY FARID: There's two main reasons for it. One is that the technology to create deepfakes of news anchors has just gotten better. But two, and I think this is also important, is that most of the major social media companies have eviscerated their trust and safety teams. And that's not just Twitter, by the way. That one's easy. But it's even the Facebooks of the world, the YouTubes, and the TikToks. [00:04:00] And so, as a result of that, when people create fake content, it's much, much easier to distribute. 

So, remember that when we're talking about deepfakes, there's really three parts to it. There's the underlying technology, the bad actors who are misusing these technologies, but then there's the spread of that. And the spread of that technology is not an AI question, that's a social media question. All three things have now lined up. The technology is getting better, bad actors are figuring out that you can monetize or abuse this content, and the social media companies have fallen asleep at the wheel again.

BILL WHITAKER, CBS ANCHOR: Using video from the CBS News archives, Chris Ume was able to train his computer to learn every aspect of my face and wipe away the decades. This is how I looked 30 years ago. He can even remove my mustache. 

HANY FARID: There are two approaches to detecting manipulated media, what we call proactive and reactive. So, the reactive is sort of my bread and butter here as an academic at UC [00:05:00] Berkeley. What we do is we take an image, an audio or a video, we run it through a battery of tests, and we try to figure out if it's been manipulated or AI generated, all after the fact, right? So, stuff gets online, some fact checker contacts us, we analyze the content, and we eventually tell the fact checker and they eventually set the record straight, and meanwhile the whole world has moved on and gotten defrauded to the tune of millions of dollars.

So, the reactive stuff is good, if you will, as a post-mortem, but at the speed at which social media moves, half life of a social media post can be measured in minutes, you're not there fast enough to deal with the damage. The proactive techniques, the way they work, is that if you pick up your phone and record something, or you are in the business of generating AI content, you can inject into that content, whether it's real or AI generated, a digital watermark that is cryptographically signed and then downstream your browser or a piece of software can read that watermark and say, Nope, I know that this is AI generated, or in [00:06:00] fact that it is real, and you can do that instantaneously.

This only works when you have good players. So, when Adobe decides it's going to put watermarks into its content, well great, I trust Adobe. But, a lot of bad players out there, and a lot of this code for creating deepfakes is open source. So if you have open source, and you've got some code in there for inserting a watermark, well the bad guy's going to go in there and remove that code, and we're off to the races.

So, the watermarking absolutely are going to play a role here, but they will not, in and of themselves, solve the problem because there's always ways around this technology and there's open source and there's bad actors. But I'm super supportive of that for the big players like Adobe, OpenAI, and MidJourney, and maybe we lop off half the problem.

AI Deepfakes Are Everywhere and Congress is Completely Out of Their Depth - CYBER - Air Date 2-9-24

LIA HOLLAND: This is incredibly complicated, but one of the places to start is with the existing laws that a bunch of these people who've been affected that we're already talking about, are already suing under. Most states have a right of publicity law that allows, you know, celebrities or public figures to [00:07:00] sue if people misuse their images in some sort of manner that is commercial or could be construed as commercial. And then at the same time, we have defamation law, which can often be a way for average people to sue those who humiliate them, while it protects celebrities less.

So, between those two, depending on where you live, and in the majority of states, there's some good stuff there. There's some good mechanisms, at least in terms of if you want to get a lawyer and if you want to sue the person who's causing you misery. But still that doesn't actually give victims of these deepfakes a real time way to say, Hey, get this disgusting porn of me off the internet. This is humiliating me and it's spreading everywhere. And while it pains me, because I know how extensively something like the Digital Millennium Copyright Act has been abused, these sort of notice and take down systems, I'm talking to [00:08:00] a lot of people and none of us really see another way to make something that is actually responsive to the harms that people are going to be experiencing. But what we can get right this time, and I think, you know, with Donald Trump right now claiming that actual photos of him are deepfakes is that unlike the, we could build a system where there are actual consequences if you abuse it, if you say that's an embarrassing video of you or a video of police misconduct or what have you is a deepfake and it actually isn't. So that's where I'd start. 

MATTHEW GAULT - HOST, CYBER: Oh, that's interesting. I didn't even think about the possibility of a public person getting into trouble for lying about a real image being a deepfake. 

LIA HOLLAND: Oh, yeah, that's coming. 

MATTHEW GAULT - HOST, CYBER: Has anyone proposed legislation? Or is this just like conversations? 

LIA HOLLAND: This is conversations because I think that a lot of the people who are looking at No Fakes or No AI Fraud or what have you and saying that these are [00:09:00] terrible laws with unintended, extremely harmful consequences are also really feeling for the reality that people are going to face with these technologies and knowing that we need to do something. And happily, we're having much more of a proactive conversation here amongst ourselves about what we do want, then I think we have maybe with previous online revolutions. 

JANUS ROSE: That was one of the things that struck me when initially I wrote about the No Fakes and then there was another law in Tennessee that I think was proposed the same day, which is that, you know, and this is like what I wrote about in the article I wrote a couple of weeks ago, which is like, it seems like the gist of these laws is sort of intended to protect celebrities, and maybe the rest of us, too, kind of, sort of? And that's kind of like where I came at this from, which is like the fact that like, you know, a lot of people have been talking about this as a concern for a while, but now that Taylor Swift is mad, now that, like, The Weeknd and Drake are mad about this... and it's not just, you [00:10:00] know, like photos. It's also, like, voice rights, music, and then all other kinds of stuff that could be considered intellectual property or personalized, sort of like, intimate representations of someone's person. 

It seems to me like that's where this always starts and ends, when we get "privacy protections" or something that is supposed to at least in theory be like protecting privacy, is that it's generally winds up protecting famous and rich people and doesn't do a whole lot for regular people who are facing abuse and harassment and, you know, sexual violence. And the copyright system, as you were just mentioning, like the copyright system, you're saying, like, Oh, we keep looking at this, like, we don't see any other way of enforcing that. So, like, what what would be different about this compared to, like, you know, the fact that when artists, for example, have people profiting from their art that they release, [00:11:00] like music or otherwise, there is a mode for redress, but it's not very accessible unless you have a lot of money to litigate it. So, what's the fix here when it comes to this stuff, if in the past, this has been kind of the status quo? 

LIA HOLLAND: That's a great question, uh, because we are really swimming upstream against the headline grabbers here. If something horrible is being done to Taylor Swift and, you know, by God, Josh Hawley can trot out there with a bill and wave it in the air and it's going to get covered, you know, all over creation, the motive there is really clear and straightforward. Politicians like laws that grab headlines. They like flashy partnerships with celebrities. And I would also say that the lobby of those IP rights holders, the major labels and publishers and content companies and what have you, is extremely powerful and really well organized. And from the moment that this all blew up, they've been in legislative offices, you know, gunning for a bill that's going to benefit, you know, the Universal Music Groups of the world. 

And yeah, and that's [00:12:00] why, for myself, I turn towards - and I think that there are also legislators who are thinking in this way - better tools for everyday people, because I don't think that there's going to be an effective way to censor, or we can't put the rabbit back in the hat with AI. What we need is proactive tools to address it in a way that is, you know, minimally invasive when it comes to surveillance and censoring speech, and slapping upload filters across the whole Internet isn't the right thing either. I would look at something like, Well, we've got Google reverse image search and we know that that works pretty good. And we've got, you know, the, the DMCA and that, you know, there's an established protocol for that. And we've got this idea that... and we've learned a lot since since that legislation went in. And so, can we slap something together that doesn't reinvent the wheel and just gives people the right to say, Hey, this is [00:13:00] a horrific fake photo of me, please scrub it off the internet. And they can make that request in a way that the platforms have to be accountable to. Cause I think that's the other thing. It's really hard to be heard as an individual when platforms are dealing with so many users. 

JANUS ROSE: About that point on platforms being accountable: this is kind of like something I say a lot when I'm talking about this topic, is that like, we're kind of addressing a symptom of a problem here and not the actual problem. And the problem is that we have all these giant tech companies that are producing this technology and they basically have no regulation and they're kind of just doing whatever they want. And that's, you know, there's even, these lobbying groups, like, Elon Musk has this AI institute that's essentially saying, You must let us develop AI and if you don't, then you're killing people. People will die. That's kind of, like, what I always frame this around is, we're dealing with a symptom and not the actual problem, which is that, even the way in which these tech companies address [00:14:00] this problem sometimes is very much like Band-Aid oriented. I was writing an article a couple of weeks ago about the filtering system on some of these things. OpenAI has been constantly needing to patch ChatGPT and Dall-E and all these image generators, because people keep finding ways to get past the content filter system that prevents them from generating certain types of images through all these kind of tricky ways. And it's just this cat and mouse game. And, you know, when it comes to some of these - I was reading this paper - and when it comes to some of these systems, what they're actually doing is that they're still generating the content and then they're just not showing it. So, it's not even that they're preventing the content from being created in the first place. They're just filtering it out. 

MATTHEW GAULT - HOST, CYBER: But really, it's off-camera sketching that image you asked for and just storing it in a digital warehouse somewhere and all the forbidden images you'll never be able to say. 

JANUS ROSE: Yeah, but it's like, even if nobody sees that image, [00:15:00] that's indicative of a larger problem, which is that we don't actually know how to stop that from happening, because the training has already occurred. These systems are already built on top of billions of images that were taken without permission. And, you know, some of them - we wrote another story about this a couple of weeks ago - LAION, which is a probably one of the most commonly used image databases used in generative AI, it contains billions of images that are taken from web scraping and it was found that I think about 3000 instances of CSAM, of child exploitation, were found in this massive database. That's kind of an example of what we're dealing with here. It's like, the sort of, like, base problem has already occurred. We're just getting the results of it now and you can filter the results, but that doesn't ultimately solve the fact that where this all came from.

Tech giants pledge action against deceptive AI in elections - All Things Considered - Air Date 2-16-24

JUANA SUMMERS - HOST, ALL THINGS CONSIDERED: More than 40 countries are set to hold major elections this year, and many experts worry that rapidly evolving artificial intelligence technologies could [00:16:00] disrupt those votes. Just a few weeks ago, an apparent deepfake robocall that sounded like President Joe Biden told people not to vote in New Hampshire. Today, 20 major tech companies announced they are going to do their part to avoid becoming the story.

Joining us now to talk through this new agreement are NPR's Shannon Bond, who covers how information travels, and Miles Parks, who covers voting. Tell us about this agreement. What's in it?

SHANNON BOND: Well, it's aimed at AI-generated images, audio and video that could deceive voters, so whether that's by impersonating a candidate doing or saying something they didn't or misleading people about, you know, when or how to vote. And the companies are agreeing to some pretty broad commitments here to develop technology to watermark AI content and to detect and label these kind of fakes. They're pledging to be more transparent about how their tools and platforms are being used. They want to educate the public about AI.

Now, look. Many of these actions are things some of these companies are already working on. And what's notable [00:17:00] here is that this agreement does not outright ban this kind of deceptive use of AI in elections.

JUANA SUMMERS - HOST, ALL THINGS CONSIDERED: Right. OK. Let's dig in a little bit here. Does this agreement actually bind these companies to do anything or is this more of like a mission statement?

SHANNON BOND: Yeah. This is a voluntary agreement, so it's not binding. And remember, just because companies create policies about AI doesn't mean they always effectively enforce them. Now, this agreement came together in just the past six weeks. And in many ways, you know, it seems like it had to be pretty broad to get this many companies to agree. We spoke with Microsoft President Brad Smith today. He said that unity itself is an accomplishment.

BRAD SMITH: We all want and need to innovate. We want and need to compete with each other. But it's also just indispensable that we acknowledge and address the problems that are very real, including to democracy.

SHANNON BOND: And indeed, even as these companies, including Microsoft, are saying, you know, they're on guard over risks of AI, they're also continuing to roll out even more [00:18:00] advanced technology. Like, just yesterday, OpenAI, one of the other companies that signed this agreement, they announced this tool that allows you to type in a simple text description to create a really realistic high-definition video.

JUANA SUMMERS - HOST, ALL THINGS CONSIDERED: I mean, hearing you describe that, it's easy to see how a tool like that could be used to spread lies about voting, for example. Miles, over to you. How are elections officials feeling about AI right now?

MILES PARKS: They are thinking about it a lot. Last week, I was at a conference with some of the top election officials in the country. They don't want people to panic. Generally, they see AI as more of an extension of problems they were already working on. That's how Adrian Fontes, who's the secretary of state of Arizona, that's how he put it to me when we were talking.

ADRIAN FONTES: AI needs to be demystified. AI needs to be exposed for the amplifier that it is, not the great, mysterious, world changing, calamity inducing, you know, monstrosity that some people are making it out to be.

MILES PARKS: That said, there are a myriad of ways experts can imagine these tools threatening democracy even beyond, I think, the most obvious use [00:19:00] case, which is, you know, making a fake video of a candidate saying something they didn't actually say.

JUANA SUMMERS - HOST, ALL THINGS CONSIDERED: Walk us through, if you can, some of those scenarios.

MILES PARKS: Yeah. I asked Smith from Microsoft about this, And he said specifically he's worried about people using AI to dub over real videos with fake audio. That could be a lot more convincing to people than creating a whole new video. But there's also a bigger picture worry that I heard percolating at this conference last week, that as more fake stuff is swirling online, the public will slowly lose trust in all information. That's one of the hardest aspects of this accord.

The tech companies say they want the public to be more skeptical of what they see online, but that can lead to this feeling among people that nothing is true or real. And bad actors can capitalize on that too, by then being able to claim that real information is fake. It's called the liar's dividend. With more AI-generated stuff floating around, it's just going to become more and more common that candidates when real bad information comes out about them, they can just say, no, that's fake. That's AI-generated.

JUANA SUMMERS - HOST, ALL THINGS CONSIDERED: I mean, we should just point out here that policing [00:20:00] truth and lies online is really fraught these days. The political right in particular has cast these kinds of efforts as politically biased. Are tech companies worried about diving in here?

SHANNON BOND: Yeah. I asked Brad Smith of Microsoft about this. You know, he and other tech executives involved in this, they say there is a clear distinction here between free expression, which they say they're all committed to, and using AI or other kinds of technology, you know, in a way that is really deceiving, misleading voters, interfering with the election process. They're very much framing this fight as one against fraud.

MILES PARKS: I do think that we'll probably see companies jump in a lot harder against things that are explicit lies about how people vote. Think of like a video that claims Election Day is on Friday versus Tuesday. That's pretty easy to police. I think it's the content that raises doubts about the trustworthiness about elections, that it's still an open question how companies are going to police that sort of content in 2024.

Deepfake Adult Content Is a Serious and Terrifying Issue - Aperture - Air Date 5-1-23

MIKE MCEWEN - HOST, APERTURE: As of 2019, 96 percent of deepfakes on the [00:21:00] internet were sexual in nature, and virtually all of those were of non-consenting women. With the release of AI tools like DALL·E and Midjourney, making these deepfakes has become easier than ever before, and the repercussions for the women involved are much more devastating.

Recently, a teacher in a small town in the United States was fired after her likeness appeared in an adult video. Parents of the students found the video and made it clear they didn't want this woman teaching their kids. She was immediately dismissed from her position. 

But this woman never actually filmed an explicit video. Generative AI created a likeness of her and deepfaked it onto the body of an adult film actress. She pleaded her innocence, but the parents of the students couldn't wrap their heads around how a video like this could be faked. They refused to believe her. And honestly, it's hard to blame them. We've all seen just how good Generative AI can be. This incident, and many others just like it, proved how dangerous AI adult content is and, if left unchecked, it could be so, so much worse. 

[00:22:00] At first glance, AI pornography might seem harmless, if we can generate other forms of content without human actors, why not this one? Surely it may reduce work in the field, but it could also curb more problematic issues in the industry. If the AI was used to create artificial people, it wouldn't be so bad, but the problem is that the generative AI has been mainly used with deepfakes to convince viewers that the person they're watching is a specific, real person, someone who never consented to be in the video.

Speaking of consent, by convincingly portraying women in suggestive situations, the perpetrators commit sexual acts or behaviors without the victim's permission, and that, by definition, is sexual assault. But does using generative AI to produce these videos cause any actual harm beyond being defined as assault? For the victims involved, there are numerous consequences to being portrayed in these videos. 

QTCINDERELLA: This is what it looks like to see yourself naked against your will being spread all over the internet. 

MIKE MCEWEN - HOST, APERTURE: QTCinderella is a Twitch streamer who built a massive following for her gaming, baking, and lifestyle content. [00:23:00] She also created the Streamer Awards to honor her fellow content creators, one of whom was Brandon Ewing, aka Atrioc. In January of 2023, Atrioc was live streaming when his viewers saw a tab open on his browser for a deepfake website. After getting screenshotted and posted on Reddit, users found that the site address featured deepfakes videos of streamers like QTCinderella doing explicit sexual acts.

Cinderella began getting harassed by these images and videos and after seeing them she said, "The amount of body dysmorphia I've experienced seeing those photos has ruined me. It's not as simple as just being violated, it's so much more than that". For months afterwards, QTC Cinderella was constantly harassed with these reminders of these images and videos. Some horrible people sent the photos to her 17 year old cousin. 

And this isn't a one off case. Perpetrators of deepfakes are known to send these videos to family members of the victims, especially if they don't like what the victim is doing publicly. The founder of Not Your Porn, a group dedicated to removing non-consensual porn from [00:24:00] the internet, was targeted by internet trolls using AI generated videos, depicting her in explicit acts. Then, somebody sent these videos to her family members. Just imagine how terrible that must feel for her and her relatives. 

The sad truth is that even when a victim can discredit the videos, the harm might already be done. A deepfake can hurt someone's career at a pivotal moment. Cinderella was able to get back on her feet and retain her following, but the school teacher, who lost her livelihood, wasn't so lucky. Imagine someone running for office and leading in the polls, only to be targeted with a deepfake video 24 hours before election night. Imagine how much damage could be done before their team could prove that the video was doctored. 

Unfortunately, there's very little legislation on deepfakes, and so far, only three states in the US have passed laws to address them directly. Even with these laws, the technology makes it difficult to track down the people who create them. Also, because most of them post on their personal websites rather than on social media, there's no regulations or content moderation limits on what they can share. Since [00:25:00] tracking and prosecuting the individuals who make this kind of content is so challenging, the onus should be on the companies that make these tools to prevent them from being used for evil.

And in fairness, some of them are trying. Platforms like DALL·E and Midjourney have taken steps to prevent people from creating the likeness of a living person. Reddit is also working to improve its AI detection system and has already made considerable strides in prohibiting this content on its platform. These efforts are important, but I'm not sure they'll completely eliminate the threat of deepfakes. More generative AI tools are coming on the scene and will require new moderation efforts, and eventually some of these platforms won't care, especially if that gives them an edge over well established platforms.

And then there's the sheer influx of uploaded content. In 2022, Pornhub received over 2 million video uploads to its site. That number will likely increase with new AI tools that can generate content without needing a physical camera. How can any moderation system keep up with that insane volume? 

The worst thing about these deepfakes is that the victims can't just log off of the internet either. Almost all of our [00:26:00] livelihoods depend on the internet, so logging off would be an enormous disadvantage in their careers and personal life. And expecting anyone to leave the internet to protect themselves isn't a reasonable ask. The onus isn't on the victim to change, it's on the platforms and the government to create tools that prevent these things from happening so easily. If all the women who are being harassed went offline, the trolls would win, and this tactic of theirs would be incredibly successful. They could effectively silence critics and whoever they felt like attacking. 

There is another problem with generative AI tools producing so much adult content. It introduces strong biases to the algorithms and how women should be presented. Many women have reported that they're often over sexualized when they try to create an image of themselves using AI tools. These biases are introduced by the source of the AI's training data, the internet. Although nudes and explicit images have been filtered out for some generative AI platforms, these biases still persist. These platforms have to do more than just let the open internet train their AI if they want to prevent the overt sexualization of women to be their normal output. 

[00:27:00] Deepfakes may be making headlines now, but the truth is they've been around in spirit for a very long time. Before generative AI, people used tools like Photoshop and video editing software to superimpose celebrities heads on the bodies of adult film actors. Broadly, these doctored videos weren't compelling, but the things are now very different with AI. We're careening dangerously close to a point where we can no longer discern the real from the fake. French postmodern philosopher Baudrillard warned of a moment when we can no longer distinguish between reality and a simulation. Humans use technology to navigate a complex reality. We invented maps to guide us through an intricate mass of land. Eventually, we created mass media to understand the world around us and help simplify its complexity. But there will be a point where we lose track of reality, a point where we're spending more time looking at a simulation of the world on our phone than we will be participating in the real world around us, and we're almost there now.

With generative AI, our connection to reality is even further disconnected, because technology can convincingly replicate reality on our [00:28:00] devices, we're less inclined to go outside and see what's real for ourselves. This inability of human consciousness to distinguish what is real and what is simulation is what Baudrillard called hyperreality. A state that leaves us vulnerable to malicious manipulation, from things like deepfakes to people getting fired, to propaganda leading to the loss of millions of lives. You might remember that a couple of years ago there were numerous PSAs, often from celebrities warning us to keep an eye out for deepfakes. They were annoying, but ultimately, they succeeded in making the public hyper aware of fake videos. But not so much with the deepfake adult content. Maybe it's because the PSAs about deepfakes didn't mention pornography, they addressed fake speeches by presidents and famous people instead. Or maybe it's because those who consume this content don't care whether it's real or fake. They're okay with the illusion. One thing is true though, if the general public was trained to recognize deepfake pornography, the potential for harm would be limited. By being more critical as information consumers and reporting these harmful videos when we see them, we might be [00:29:00] able to curb the effects of this dangerous new medium.

It's not like we're strangers to being critical of what we see and read online. When Wikipedia was first introduced, the idea that it could be a legitimate source of information was laughable. It was mocked on sitcoms and late night television, it symbolized the absurdity of believing what you read on the internet. That perception changed with time, deservedly so for Wikipedia, but we had a healthy skepticism towards user generated internet platforms for a while. The question is can we be critical and discerning towards deepfakes while acknowledging that some content is real? Will we lose track of what's simulation and what's reality and just distrust whatever we see online? Or worse, will manipulators succeed in making deepfake inflicted suffering an everyday occurrence, and we end up accepting that as the cost of existing online? And is there any hope of regulation stopping the constant assault of generative AI on our well being? 

Will Killing Section 230 Kill the Internet? - On with Kara Swisher - Air Date 2-23-23

EVELYN DOUEK: I think that there are real legitimate questions about the breadth of 230 is the way the lower courts have interpreted it. I think, you know, Hany talked about the Snapchat case earlier, which is [00:30:00] a good example of where 230 immunity was pierced. And I think, you know, there are other really good questions around really bad actor platforms that know all of this stuff is going on and not taking action.

KARA SWISHER - HOST, ON WITH KARA SWISHER: Team mental health, for example?

EVELYN DOUEK: Yeah. I mean, I think, you know, there's going to be causal chain problems on some of those cases, but, you know, I do think that Hany's absolutely right. The court took these cases because there's sort of hunger, that's, Everyone's talking about section 230. We should be talking about section 230. But I think that these weren't the fact sets that they thought. And so it'll be interesting to see if they come back and have another bite at it soon. 

KARA SWISHER - HOST, ON WITH KARA SWISHER: Jeffrey, is there another case? 

JEFFREY ROSEN: Well, the ones we've talked about from Florida and Texas, which, as everyone said, the court will take next year, involve a different question about the scope of 230, but one that the court is likely to divide over, and it's possible that that could have implications for how liability is applied in other cases too. But that's going to be absolutely fascinating and so squarely poses the conflict about whether or not the platform should be treated as common carriers and obey First Amendment standards and in some ways, those will even [00:31:00] be more constitutionally significant than these cases. 

KARA SWISHER - HOST, ON WITH KARA SWISHER: All right. Is there any other industry that gets blanket immunity protections the way social media companies do? Everybody gets sued, except them. Is there any sort of parallel here? Can any of you think? 

HANY FARID: No, there isn't. I mean, I'm not the legal scholar here, but we've heard this, and I think even one of the justices says is during the Gonzalez hearing is why does the tech industry get so much protection? Every other industry has to internalize these risks and deal with it. And I don't know of any other industry that has this type of almost blanket immunity.

EVELYN DOUEK: I mean, you know, the tech industry obviously gets sued all the time, but I do think that there, I mean, this is a somewhat exceptional statute provided for what Congress recognized at the time as an exceptional situation, which is, you know, these platforms have been the become the custodians of all of our speech. And I think, you know, the important thing to remember at section 230 is, yes, it provides platforms immunity but it also provides users immunity and the point of that platform immunity is to [00:32:00] protect the speech of users. I'm sounding much more libertarian on this podcast than I intended to, I have to say. You know, I really do think...

KARA SWISHER - HOST, ON WITH KARA SWISHER: That's alright. You've lived in Silicon Valley. 

EVELYN DOUEK: Yes, six months. That's all it took. There's something in the water. 

KARA SWISHER - HOST, ON WITH KARA SWISHER: You can be libertarian-light, which is most of them, honestly. They call themselves that. 

EVELYN DOUEK: I think content moderation is extremely important. I just get nervous about government rules that incentivize overmoderation and that platforms that don't care about sort of marginalized communities or disparate impacts end up, you know, we have seen this before with sort of the Foster amendments as well, taking down speech of people who, you know, don't have the same resources. So. 

HANY FARID: Can I follow up on that, Kara? So. Evelyn raises an absolutely valid point that we do have to be careful about overmoderation. I will point out, however, that when we passed the DMCA, the Digital Millennial [sic] Copyright Act, these same claims were being made by the tech companies that you are going to force us to over moderate to avoid a liability, and it wasn't true. And look, DMCA is not perfect, but it has largely been fairly effective and [00:33:00] it created a healthy online ecosystem that has allowed us now, for both creators and producers, to monetize, music and movies and art. And so when you have rules of the road, they can actually be very, very good at creating a healthier online ecosystem. And since the companies are incentivized to keep content up, that's the financial side, I think that on balance, this might actually work out even if there is more liability with reduction of 230 protection. 

JEFFREY ROSEN: I would just say that industries that are immunized from suits include lawyers, the ones who are most protected and all the privileges that the courts have protected against ineffective assistance of counsel claims or the lawyer-client privilege, are designed to protect deliberative privilege and First Amendment values; the same with executive privilege, when you can't sue the executive to get the deliberations so that you can get. advice. So, this immunity, as Evelyn [00:34:00] says, for the platforms is designed to achieve a First Amendment value, which is, deliberation and not overmoderating. And it's heartening, despite the really tough questions that are on the horizon involving the scope of the First Amendment, to see a consensus that 230 did achieve its purpose. And there's a reason that the US has a freer free speech platform than Europe, for example, which lacks this immunity, and the consequences of abandoning it might be severe. So, let's just pause during this brief moment of agreement, not to sing Kumbaya, but to say it's great that thinking about this hard, the justices may be inclined to think that 230 isn't so bad after all. 

KARA SWISHER - HOST, ON WITH KARA SWISHER: So, my last question because, that you led me perfectly to it. There's two ways to go here, is that, you know the swirl and how powerful these social media companies are. There's one way where Google, Twitter, Meta, et cetera, gets their ships in order without legislative or judicial action because they should be in charge of all this stuff because they were duly elected by nobody. Or, as Kagan [00:35:00] specifically called out Congress to act, which are our elected officials, as damaged as they may be. Two things: one, who should be running the show here? And let's imagine a world with rational internet regulations, what would those be and what would the internet look like? Hany, you start with the first one and then Jeffrey and Evelyn you can answer the second one 

HANY FARID: There is no evidence that the technology company can self-regulate. The last 25 years has taught us this. And not only that is that the business model that has led to the Googles and the Facebooks and the TikToks of the world continues to be the dominant business model of the Internet, which is engagement driven, ad driven, outrage driving. And that business model is the underlying root poison, I would argue. I don't think we can sit around and wait for the companies to do better. I don't think they will. There is no evidence of it. I think despite the fact that I don't want the regulators putting rules of the road, I think there is no other choice here. Ideally, by the way, the [00:36:00] consumers would have made the choice. We would have said, okay, we don't like the way you're doing business, we're going to go elsewhere. But in addition to phenomenal wealth they have virtual monopolies and so we as the consumer don't even have choices and that means the capitalism won't work here. And so we need the regular regulators to step in.

KARA SWISHER - HOST, ON WITH KARA SWISHER: All right, Jeffrey. Congress should act? My feeling is Congress should have done privacy and antitrust legislation and taken care of this in a whole different way. But, what do you think about that part? 

JEFFREY ROSEN: I guess the quick question first is, will it act and what should it do? And will it? Probably not, because there's not consensus as we've been discussing with conservatives more concerned about content discrimination, for better or for worse, and liberals more concerned about hate speech and harmful conduct. I find it hard to imagine what a national free speech regulation would look like. And in fact, I can't imagine one that's consistent with First Amendment values short of imposing them, which there's an argument for not doing at the federal level because companies need some play in the [00:37:00] joints to take down some more offensive speech than the First Amendment protects, while broadly allowing a thousand flowers to bloom.

The one interesting consequence of this argument is to make me think, you know, the companies, although it's messy and there's lots to object to, it may be better than the alternatives of either really sweeping, imposing a First Amendment standard on the federal level or allowing a great deal more moderation than would be consistent with First Amendment values.

KARA SWISHER - HOST, ON WITH KARA SWISHER: Evelyn, you get the last word. 230 looks like it's going to live to fight another day. 

EVELYN DOUEK: Yeah. There is no rational world where the best way to make tech policy is by nine, you know, uh, older justices weighing in on a case every 20 something years to sort of catch up on what's been going on. That is not how this should happen. Absolutely, Congress, you know, if it could get It's act together it could pass some legislation enabling a digital agency that could be even more nimble, and sort of, you know, gather facts and understanding in which to make [00:38:00] policy that's more sort of finally attuned to the problem. And, you know, then we could talk. Absolutely, Kara. 

You know, you mentioned privacy and antitrust, that would be a hundred percent the sort of place where I would start. I would also really start on transparency legislation and data access. You know, what are these platforms doing and are they doing what they say they're doing? Let's get researchers in. And that's where I'd start. Cause you can't solve problems that you don't understand. And I think that that's step one. And the only other thing, you know, before we close, this has been a very sort of parochial conversation, but there are other legislatures, and Europe is taking action. The Digital Services Act is coming, and so these platforms are going to have to change and adjust anyway, because they're going to be regulated, you know, no matter what the Supreme Court does. 

When AI can fake reality, who can you Trust? | Sam Gregory - TED Talks Daily - Air Date 12-20-23

SAM GREGORY: The last thing we need is a diminishing baseline of the shared, trustworthy information upon which democracies thrive, where the specter of AI is used to plausibly believe things you want to believe and plausibly deny things you want to ignore. But I think there's a way we can prevent that future, if we act now; that if we prepare, don't panic, [00:39:00] we'll kind of make our way through this, somehow. Panic won't serve us well, [it] plays into the hands of governments and corporations who will abuse our fears, and into the hands of people who want a fog of confusion and will use AI as an excuse. 

How many of you know someone who's been scammed by an audio that sounds like their kid? And for those of you who are thinking, I wasn't taken in. I know how to spot a deepfake, any tip you know now is already outdated. Deepfakes didn't blink. They do now. Six fingered hands were more common in deepfake land than real life. Not so much. Technical advances erase those visible and audible clues that we so desperately want to hang on to as proof we can discern real from fake. 

But it also really shouldn't be on us to make that guess without any help. Between real deepfakes and claimed deepfakes, we need big picture structural solutions. We need robust [00:40:00] foundations that enable us to discern authentic from simulated, tools to fortify the credibility of critical voices and images, and powerful detection technology that doesn't raise more doubts than it fixes. There are three steps we need to take to get to that future. 

Step one is to ensure that the detection skills and tools are in the hands of the people who need them. I've talked to hundreds of journalists, community leaders, and human rights defenders, and they're in the same boat as you and me and us. They're listening really closely to the audio, trying to think, can I spot a glitch? Looking at the image, saying, Ooh, does that look right or not? Or maybe they're going online to find a detector, and the detector they find they don't know whether they're getting a false positive, a false negative, or a reliable result.

Here's an example. I used a detector which got the 'pope in the puffer jacket' right, but then when I put in the Easter Bunny image that I made for my kids, it said that it was human generated. This is because of some big [00:41:00] challenges in deepfake detection. Detection tools often only work on one single way to make a deepfake, so you need multiple tools. And they don't work well on low quality social media content. Confidence score; how do you know whether that's reliable? If you don't know if the underlying technology is reliable, or whether it works on the manipulation that has been used. And tools to spot an AI manipulation don't spot a manual edit.

These tools also won't be available to everyone. There's a trade off between security and access, which means if we make them available to anyone, they become useless to everybody. Because the people designing the new deception techniques will test them on the publicly available detectors and evade them.

But we do need to make sure these are available to the journalists, the community leaders, the election officials globally, who are our first line of defense, thought through with attention to real world accessibility and use. Though, at the best [00:42:00] circumstances, detection tools will be 85 to 90 percent effective, they have to be in the hands of that first line of defense. And they're not right now. 

So for step one, I've been talking about detection after the fact. Step two: AI is going to be everywhere in our communication. Creating, changing, editing. It's not going to be a simple binary of, Yes, it's AI, or, Phew, it's not. AI is part of all of our communication. So we need to better understand the recipe of what we're consuming. Some people call this content provenance and disclosure. Technologists have been building ways to add invisible watermarking to AI generated media. They've also been designing ways, and I've been part of these efforts within a standard called the C2PA, to add cryptographically signed metadata to files. This means data that provides details about the content cryptographically signed in a way that reinforces our trust in that information. It's an [00:43:00] updating record of how AI was used to create or edit it, where humans and other technologies were involved, and how it was distributed. It's basically a recipe and serving instructions for the mix of AI and human that's in what you're seeing and hearing. And it's a critical part of a new AI-infused media literacy. 

And this actually shouldn't sound that crazy. Our communication is moving in this direction already. If you're like me, you can admit it, you browse your TikTok 'For You' page, and you're used to seeing videos that have an audio source, an AI filter, a green screen, a background, a stitch with another edit. This, in some sense, is the alpha version of this transparency in some of the major platforms we use today. It's just that it does not yet travel across the internet, it's not reliable, it's not updatable, and it's not secure. 

Now, there are also big challenges in this type of infrastructure for authenticity. As we create these durable [00:44:00] signs of how AI and human were mixed, that carry across the trajectory of how media is made, we need to ensure they don't compromise privacy, or backfire globally. We have to get this right. We can't oblige a citizen journalist filming in a repressive context, or a satirical maker using novel gen AI tools to parody the powerful, to have to disclose their identity or personally identifiable information in order to use their camera or ChatGPT. Because it's important they be able to retain their ability to have anonymity at the same time as the tool to create is transparent. This needs to be about the how of AI human media making, not the who.

This brings me to the final step. None of this works without a pipeline of responsibility that runs from the foundation models and the open source projects through to the way that is deployed into systems, APIs, and apps to the platforms [00:45:00] where we consume media and communicate.

I've spent much of the last 15 years fighting essentially a rearguard action like so many of my colleagues in the human rights world against the failures of social media. We can't make those mistakes again in this next generation of technology. What this means is that governments need to ensure that within this pipeline of responsibility for AI, there is transparency, accountability, and liability. Without these three steps, detection for the people who need it most, provenance that is rights respecting, and that pipeline of responsibility, we're going to get stuck, looking in vain for the six fingered hand or the eyes that don't blink. We need to take these steps, otherwise we risk a world where it gets easier and easier to both fake reality and dismiss reality as potentially faked.

And that is a world that the political philosopher Hannah Arendt described in these terms: "a people that no longer can [00:46:00] believe anything cannot make up its own mind. It is deprived not only of its capacity to act, but also of its capacity to think and to judge, and with such a people, you can then do what you please". 

That's a world I know none of us want, and that I think we can prevent. 

BONUS - Deepfaking Democracy: Why AI Threatens News And Global Elections In 2024 Part 2 - Forbes - Air Date 2-6-24

ALEXANDRA S. LEVINE, FORBES WRITER: One of the most interesting pieces of this, and troubling pieces of this, is that in many cases the deepfake news segments that we found were getting more views and more virality than actual news segments from those same outlets that were posted to their blue check verified social media accounts around the same time.

One example that we found was from Face the Nation. This YouTube and TikTok creator had a segment that was actually one of his more innocuous segments that was about a group of kids jumping in an elevator and the elevator crashes down and then they owe this building more than half a million dollars in damages.

NEWS ANCHOR: Over 560,000 dollars in damages liable after TikToker Krishna [00:47:00] Sahai destroys elevators. 

ALEXANDRA S. LEVINE, FORBES WRITER: So, it's not the most threatening example but what was so fascinating about it was that it was viewed more than 300,000 times and it used again the Face the Nation logo and on the Face the Nation's social media account on TikTok, the post from the same day only garnered 7,000 views.

So, when fake news segments from a creator that uses the outlet's logo or anchors from that station is in fact getting more eyeballs than actual news clips from the actual outlet's blue check social media accounts, you can see how that could become extremely problematic and deter people from actually following what is considered real news.

KEVIN GOLDBERG: So, even deepfake technology is protected by the first amendment, lying is protected by the First Amendment. I could make false statements and I am not going to be punished unless that false statement carries some additional harm with it. Direct harm. Usually harm that is perpetrated against an individual. And [00:48:00] frankly, when you're in, you know, you're in a situation talking, making political statements, that's the strongest protection the First Amendment gives. 

So a general statement of a political nature, which I think a lot of deepfakes we're seeing in this coming year will be, are actually protected, even when they're lies, unless there is some direct harm that is inflicted upon an individual or even, you know, to some degree, a small segment of society. And what we're talking about here are things like defamation. You know, if I say something or if I use a deepfake in a way that makes a false statement about you, harms your reputation, that would be something that is now outside of the First Amendment, not protected by the First Amendment.

While we do have a collective media literacy problem in this country, where people don't know the difference necessarily between news and opinion, or even within news, the difference between a good source and a not so good source or an outright lying source that has an agenda of its own, we're getting better with that. I think people collectively, and this is anecdotal, people collectively are getting better [00:49:00] at identifying, you know, separating truth from falsity. It's harder when you bring in video, because they don't know the same tells that we're already being trained to look for in printed or online information. 

So, there's a level of validity, a veracity to something that they see in video and they go, Oh, it's video. It's really hard to fake that. And it's happening so much, and frankly, it's mostly being perpetrated by people who want to take advantage of it. You know, we know that in the 2020 and 2016 elections, a lot of the misinformation during the election period was coming from overseas. From places we aren't going to be able to get to, to, you know, to punish. And I think that's probably what's going to happen again, which is what makes it so difficult to combat. 

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN ANCHOR: This is the most comprehensive report that we've gotten about the 2020 election and foreign interference by the intelligence community and it does make clear that this massive Russian influence campaign was designed, orchestrated by Putin, to denigrate Joe Biden and to support the re [00:50:00] election of President Donald Trump.

HANY FARID: You know, I've heard people say, Look, disinformation, deepfakes, they can't change an election. And I don't think that's true, because if you look at the last two election cycles, the difference between one candidate or another in terms of the electoral vote came down to some 80,000 votes in a handful of states.

You don't have to move tens of millions of votes. You have to move tens of thousands of votes. And not only that, I know where those votes are. If I'm the bad guy trying to interfere with your election, I know exactly what states, I know exactly what towns, what localities, and I know how to find these people on social media and manipulate them.

That, I think, should worry us. You need a series of defenses, and so you need a series of proactive defenses and a series of reactive defenses, and you need better corporate responsibility, and you need some liability, and you need some regulation, and you need good consumer protection. And so, you know, when you put all those pieces together, I think we can start to trust things that we see online a little bit.

KEVIN GOLDBERG: It's possible. It's difficult. Both in a legal sense and a [00:51:00] practical sense to bring a defamation lawsuit against someone based on their creation of a deepfake. So let's just say you create a deepfake about me. I have to show very specifically that not only you lied, you harmed me in some way and specifically you harmed my reputation. But beyond that, I have to show a number of other things. I have to show a statement, specifically, that you made a materially and substantially false assertion of fact about me that was published and harmed my reputation and that you did it with some level of fault. 

TIM BOUCHER, AI ANALYST: This ability to create so many images so rapidly, it's an incredibly powerful tool.

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: New artificial intelligence technology makes it easy to create fake images that can look very realistic. Like these created by artist and online trust and safety expert, Tim Boucher. 

HANY FARID: I think absolutely we are going to see the campaigns use it against their opponents. We also can see campaigns using it to bolster their own opponent, to create images of them looking more [00:52:00] heroic, or taller, for example. But here's the other place that we can, that the candidates can use it. Imagine now there's a hot mic of a candidate or a sitting president saying something inappropriate or illegal. They don't have to cop to it anymore. They can say it's fake. And so they can also deny reality. So, the deepfake technology is a double edged sword. You can create harmful content, but you can also dismiss real content by simply saying it's fake and muddying the waters. 

ALEXANDRA S. LEVINE, FORBES WRITER: I think the most important thing right now is to remind people to think before they share, to be a bit skeptical of what they are consuming, and to really try to pay attention to the source. If the source is an authoritative news outlet, great. I don't think we can rely anymore on which accounts are blue check verified accounts and which aren't because now we know that many of the social media platforms allow people, any person, to purchase verification where the bar is significantly lower for verified accounts.

But I think that you should really be focused [00:53:00] on where the news is coming from, who is posting it, what their motive may be, and what sorts of perspectives they are including in the clip. I think all of those things are able to help us, especially in a very fast moving news environment, better calculate what is worth sharing versus what isn't, and help us better understand what we are consuming. 

BONUS - The Taylor Swift Deepfake Saga - What Next: TBD | Tech, power, and the future - Air Date 2-2-24

EMILY PECK - HOST, WHAT NEXT: Tell me about the Telegram channel where these images were originating. What is it for? Who’s in it? What do they talk about?

EMANUEL MAILBERG: It’s like, imagine the id of a horny teenager. That’s kind of the vibe. It’s kind of dark. It’s not a pleasant place to be, I have to be honest. It’s a channel with tens of thousands of people. I don’t want to be too specific so as not to direct people to it. 

EMILY PECK - HOST, WHAT NEXT: Yeah. 

EMANUEL MAILBERG: There are like sub communities within it. So, some of them are doing this deepfake stuff, some are doing photoshops, some are doing stuff... I’m just going to say it, and you can cut it out if you want, but it’s like there’s a tribute channel, right? And what is a tribute channel? A tribute channel is people [00:54:00] share photos of celebrities or people that they know in real life, and they film themselves masturbating against the images. And that’s something that people enjoy doing. It’s an underbelly of sexuality and online pornography that is not the kind of stuff that you would easily find on, say, a pornhub, but is readily available if you’re still inclined. And many people are.

EMILY PECK - HOST, WHAT NEXT: And before these images were on Telegram, they were on 4chan. I mean, what does that say about the scope of this issue or problem, do you think? 

EMANUEL MAILBERG: 4chan has been trying to find these loopholes and these free AI tools since they became available. So, last year, in November I think, we reported on this image of SpongeBob SquarePants doing 9/11. I don’t know if you saw that.

EMILY PECK - HOST, WHAT NEXT: Should we be clear that SpongeBob didn’t do 9/11?

EMANUEL MAILBERG: As far as we know, cannot confirm that he was [00:55:00] involved. And they did it with Bing, right? And Bing obviously does not want people to make images of 9/11 with their software. So you couldn’t type in 'twin towers collapsing' or anything like that. But if you were to type in SpongeBob SquarePants in a cockpit of a jet flying towards two tall skyscrapers, it would generate the image, and it would look exactly like the twin Towers. So that is the kind of thing that they’ve been doing for months. And I think just recently it has become apparent that they found loopholes that allow them to do pornography.

EMILY PECK - HOST, WHAT NEXT: But, I mean, for all the horrors of Telegram and 4can, most people saw these images on X for the first time. Do you know how long they were there before everything kind of got amped up and went viral, et cetera?

EMANUEL MAILBERG: I think they went viral within 24 hours.

EMILY PECK - HOST, WHAT NEXT: Wow.

EMANUEL MAILBERG: And I would say within, I don’t [00:56:00] know, 12 hours, 6 hours, the Swifties were on it, and they were pushing it down the feed, and by the next day, it was gone. Even X under Elon Musk with all the terrible content, I think this got so much heat that, I was surprised that it was removed that quickly, given the stuff that they do allow and the stuff that Musk himself puts out there.

EMILY PECK - HOST, WHAT NEXT: So it takes Taylor Swift to get Elon Musk’s X to do any content moderation. 

EMANUEL MAILBERG: It takes the biggest celebrity in the world, with the biggest, most devoted following in the world, to get Musk to move. Yeah, and the White House as well, right?

EMILY PECK - HOST, WHAT NEXT: I mean, what do regular people do? What do C-list celebrities do when something like this happens? What can they do? 

EMANUEL MAILBERG: I mean, unfortunately, I hate to say this, but if you’re not Taylor Swift, you’re kind of screwed. And I see this all the time, and it’s heartbreaking and it’s horrible. This is true both of minor celebrities, Instagram influencers, Twitch streamers, YouTubers [00:57:00] who are deepfaked regularly. It happens every day. I see it every day in my reporting. And they either don’t know that it’s happening, and if they do know that it’s happening and you approach X or you approach whatever platform that is hosting and enabling that content, wherever it is hosted, chances are they’ll do something about it. But that puts those people in the impossible position of policing the entire Internet to remove that content, and it’s not possible. We know people who have tried to do this, and it’s not only very hard to do, it’s retraumatizing. We see this with what’s colloquially called revenge porn. It’s a terrible process. Some people try, some people, it’s like too painful for them to even pursue it. There’s no good answer. Part of the amazing thing about the Taylor Swift story is that you do see action. You see action from Microsoft, you see action from X, you see policy efforts, and [00:58:00] you’re not going to get this as a normal person or a minor celebrity. 

EMILY PECK - HOST, WHAT NEXT: So, I mean, as you've explained, deepfakes took some technical know-how and some effort, but now these image generators, I mean, they’re really easy to use. I even tried the Microsoft tool earlier today and my prompts were generic and boring. So, I’m not a visual artist in any way, but I mean, it’s really easy to use these things. Are we just facing down a potential, just, explosion of these kinds of images of most people? I mean, most women and girls?

EMANUEL MAILBERG: Yeah, we’re in it. It’s very important to make clear that this is primarily targeting women. Overwhelmingly targeting women. And there’s data to back this up. People often talk about the political implications of deepfake and misinformation. And when you look at the data, that is not what happens. Most of what people are doing with it is creating non-consensual images of women. We’re in the thick of it. Like, it’s happening. The [00:59:00] explosion is here, we’re in the middle of it. The good news is that I truly don’t think that it’s going to stay this way. Because when we report on this stuff, the companies that make these tools are embarrassed and horrified, and they make changes. And the thing that we’re doing right now is going case by case, company by company, image by image, and reporting on it. And we’re seeing results. Like, improvements are being made. But I think that in order to see a big improvement, I think something worse is going to have to happen. I think we’re going to have to see some truly horrible, either it’s a specific case that goes to court and somebody gets sued, or it’s like some viral media story about somebody who got really hurt. We need to hit rock bottom, I think, in a way, before we really see big changes.

EMILY PECK - HOST, WHAT NEXT: Emanuel sees a precedent here: another time when there were big changes in porn on the Internet. And that’s what happened at Pornhub. 

EMANUEL MAILBERG: When we started reporting on [01:00:00] Pornhub, the state of the platform was that anyone can upload any video. Obviously, because that was the case, we were reporting on many cases of abuse, and we spent a few years reporting on this, reaching out to Pornhub for comment and telling them what we’re seeing and publishing stories about it. And they were very dismissive. It was always like, You know, we have, it’s like we have moderation methods and you can issue takedown requests and we’re responsive and responsible and blah, blah, blah. But the abuse continued and then the lawsuit started to pile up. There was child abuse. There’s this big GirlsDoPorn case where 400 women were exploited by this porn company that published its videos on Pornhub. And it got to a point where the platform really had to change. They purged it of millions of videos and they changed the rules of the platform, where now every single person who is in a video on Pornhub needs to provide written, active consent for them to appear in the video. Pornhub changed its name, it changed its ownership. [01:01:00] It’s a completely different Internet platform, but it only became that way because things got really bad. And I think that’s the path we’re on.

Final comments on even more dangers from news sites populated with AI-generated content

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: We've just heard clips today, starting with Forbes, looking at reactive versus proactive approaches to detecting manipulated media. CYBER advocated for new federal legislation to regulate tech firms. All Things Considered looked at big tech taking baby steps on self-regulation. Aperture discuss the real world harms that AI is already having on women and girls around the world. On with Kara Swisher considered the difficult balance of freedom of speech and online regulation. And TED Talks Daily looked at three tools to create an infrastructure of authenticity. 

That's what everybody heard, but members also heard bonus clips from Forbes looking further into deepfake news stories made to look like legitimate mainstream outlets, and What Next: TBD analyzed the impact of the recent Taylor Swift deepfakes [01:02:00] event. To hear that and have all of our bonus contents delivered seamlessly to the new members only podcast feed that you'll receive, sign up to support the show at bestoftheleft.com/support, or shoot me an email requesting a financial hardship membership, because we don't let a lack of funds stand in the way of hearing more information. 

Now to wrap up, I just want to add one more thing, at least. I know there's more than one, but for now, I'll add one more thing that you should be worried about regarding AI. Which is that the widespread availability of AI text generation has begun to make it much, much more likely that a random new site you may stumble upon through just a regular Google search will actually just be a wasteland of clickbait content designed to rank highly in search results, but give no valuable information. Sometimes these sites will even manage to get the URLs of former legitimate news sites. 

So, for instance, two local newspapers might merge [01:03:00] and one or both of the original URLs stops being the official site of the new merged paper. Then, if those old URLs are allowed to lapse, you know, the company doesn't keep up on payments and they're allowed to go back on the market, one of these clickbait farms can and likely will grab it and repopulate that site with their own AI generated content, making it look more legitimate thanks to the seemingly trustworthy URL, maybe even a URL that users had been used to going to and trusting for years. So, it's becoming even more important now to get your news from trusted sites or trusted aggregators. For instance, Apple News or Google News or apps like a Ground News, won't be likely to feature articles from unverified sites. You know, there may be a case where they'll get tricked into it, but generally that won't be the case just as, you know, we certainly do [01:04:00] our due diligence researching any news sources that we take on before we feature them here on the show. 

But as it was hopefully made clear in the show today, this is yet another systemic problem requiring systemic solutions. Humanity will have very little chance of overcoming the problem of AI disinformation with a simple libertarian, buyer-beware sort of approach. We are just not wired to function in a world where we have to disbelieve everything we see and hear until it can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. It's actually an evolutionary benefit of ours to have a basic tendency towards trust in other people and in what we see. Human superpower is our ability to work together in flexible ways and that requires trust. We couldn't have evolved to be able to build the complicated society we have today, that can actually sustain the number of humans on the planet, [01:05:00] without bad tendency towards trust. We would have gotten stuck way back along the evolutionary line. 

And to be sure that tendency to trust has been exploited by bad actors all throughout human history, but that tendency towards trust has maintained itself. But now, the ability of bad actors to use people's trusting nature against them is reaching a truly unprecedented level. And we really need to understand it as the existential threat that it is, or existential threat to democracy at least. Society will probably be able to carry on either way, but it may just be in the form of autocratic rule over a subjugated people because as has been well known since at least Thomas Jefferson's time, that, as he said, "an educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people". And that's simply not something that is possible to have when [01:06:00] people are a wash in disinformation.

That is going to be it for today. As always keep the comments coming in. I would love to hear your thoughts or questions about this or anything else. You can leave a voicemail or send us a text at 202-999-3991, or simply email me to [email protected]. 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 our Transcriptionist Trio, Ken, Brian, and Ben, for their volunteer work helping put our transcripts together. Thanks to Amanda Hoffman for all of her work on our social media outlets, activism segments, graphic designing, web mastering, and bonus show co-hosting. And thanks to those who already support the show by becoming a member or purchasing gift memberships. You can join them by signing up at bestoftheleft.com/support, through our Patrion page, or from right inside the Apple podcast app. Membership is how you get instant access to our incredibly good and often funny bonus episodes, in addition to there [01:07:00] being extra content, no ads, and chapter markers in all of our regular episodes, all through your regular podcast player. You'll find that link in the show notes, along with a link to join our Discord community where you can also continue the discussion. 

So, coming to 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 twice weekly thanks entirely to the members and donors to the show, from bestoftheleft.com.

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#1613 Breathless Speculation: Biden's Baggage, Trump's Tyranny, Misleading Media, Courts and Criminality (Transcript)

Air Date 2/23/2024

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JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [00:00:00] Welcome to this episode of the award winning Best of the Left podcast, in which we take a look at this year, 2024, which is already shaping up to be even more of a disaster than expected. The causes for anxiety are many and varied, leaving many of us with questions. And we generally try to avoid topics and commentaries that lean directly into the realm of pure speculation, but today we decided to lean all the way in to answer your most pressing questions about this year. What about Biden's supportive Israel? What about his age? Should he be replaced at the Democratic Convention? How likely is Trump to do the terrible things he promises. And what about his court cases, et cetera? 

Sources today include Breaking Points, Democracy Now!, The Thom Hartmann Program, The Muckrake Political Podcast, All In with Chris Hayes, and Today, Explained, with additional members only clips from Amicus and Today, Explained.

Biden GENOCIDE COMPLICITY US Court Backs ICJ - Breaking Points - Air Date 2-1-24

KRYSTAL BALL - HOST, BREAKING POINTS: There was a court case. It hasn't gotten a lot of attention, but here working its way through the U. S. courts, [00:01:00] accusing Biden of complicity in genocide. And we actually just got a ruling yesterday that is pretty interesting. Let's go ahead and put this up on the screen. Um, so a federal judge just ruled the Biden administration does appear to be supporting a genocide. Um, they go on to say, but he must dismiss the case under the political question doctrine, despite preferring otherwise. 

So, this judge is saying basically because of the political questions doctrine, I can't actually do anything here. But he backs up the ICJ ruling, which found that Israel is plausibly committing genocide in the Gaza Strip. Let me read you a little bit of the judgment here so that you guys can hear the way that this judge lays this out. They say, "Similarly, the undisputed evidence before this court comports with the finding of the ICJ, indicates that the current treatment of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip by the Israeli military may plausibly constitute a genocide in violation of international law. Both the [00:02:00] uncontroverted testimony of the plaintiffs and the expert opinion proffered at the hearing on these motions, as well as statements made by various officers of the Israeli government, indicate the ongoing military siege in Gaza is intended to eradicate a whole people and therefore plausibly falls within the international prohibition against genocide. It is every individual's obligation to confront the current siege in Gaza. But it also is this court's obligation to remain within the meets and bounds of its jurisdictional scope. In conclusion", the judge writes, "there are rare cases in which the preferred outcome is inaccessible to the court. This is one of those cases. The court is bound by precedent and the division of our coordinates branches of government to abstain from exercising jurisdiction in this matter. Yet, as the ICJ has found, it is plausible that Israel's conduct amounts to genocide. This court implores defendants" - that would be Joe Biden - "to examine the results of their unflagging support of the military siege against the Palestinians in Gaza".

So basically, [00:03:00] you know, this is kind of a mixed bag, Emily, for the Biden administration on the one hand. The judge says, Listen, I can't do anything because of the political questions doctrine. But to have an American judge rule that the ICJ is correct and implore Biden directly to cease his aid of what may well be a genocide of the Palestinian people is nonetheless a pretty extraordinary outcome.

EMILY JASHINSKY - GUEST HOST, BREAKING POINTS: And a refresher on the political questions doctrine. I pulled up Ballotpedia here, they write, "The traditional expression of the doctrine refers to cases that courts will not resolve because they involve questions about the judgment of actors in the executive or legislative branches and not the authority of those actors".

So, Biden himself, people who are making decisions at the Pentagon, they say, for example, cases involving foreign policy or impeachment often raise political question concerns. So, foreign policy, which is so heavily controlled and influenced by unelected people at the Pentagon, at the Department of Defense, more broadly by people in the executive branch fall under the political questions doctrine, which is pretty interesting [00:04:00] in this context where you have a court decision by the ICJ that's in question. It makes sense and then it doesn't make sense because again, you have a court decision that you're talking about. So, it's an interesting ruling for sure. And this doesn't make anything better for Joe Biden.

KRYSTAL BALL - HOST, BREAKING POINTS: Yeah. And they have another challenging situation that's going to unfold this week, which is the ICJ is set to rule on another case, this one not about Israel, this one about Russia and Ukraine. And so the US has, they, I mean, again, the level of gaslighting from this administration is outrageous. First of all, they tried to say, Well, you know, the ICJ didn't find that Israel was guilty of committing a genocide. Well, no shit. That wasn't the question that was before them right now. So they've completely tried to dodge. They've said, Oh, actually the ICJ backs up our position on, you know, Israel and Gaza in that... which is, you know, insane if you read the ruling, it's the total opposite of what the U. S. has been claiming and the support that the U. S. has been giving to Israel. [00:05:00] But put this up on the screen. So, judges at the world court are going to hand down a judgment this week in a case in which Ukraine accused Russia of violating an anti-terror treaty by funding pro-Russian forces, including militias who shot down a passenger jet. And the reason this is uncomfortable, Emily, for the U. S. obviously, is you can't on the one hand be like, yay, ICJ, I agree with your ruling when it comes to Russia, but boo ICJ, I disagree with your ruling and I'm not gonna abide by it when it comes to Israel. You don't get to pick and choose. Of course, I mean, you shouldn't be able to pick and choose, but of course they will pick and choose and it just becomes blatantly obvious, the level of hypocrisy and how they just use international law for their own ends. When it's convenient, they, Oh, yes, the international rules based order. And when it's not convenient, then they just ignore it. And even beyond ignoring it, the fact that in the wake of the ICJ saying Israel must increase humanitarian aid to Gaza, people are starving to death and you must do better. And our response on that very same day is [00:06:00] to cut funding to the number one aid agency on the ground in Gaza to the benefit of the Palestinian people. It's not just an, we're going to ignore the ruling, it's we are actively going to flout and thumb our nose at the ruling. 

Moral Failure Democrats Urge Biden to Change Gaza Policy - Democracy Now! - Air Date 2-21-24

AMY GOODMAN: What are you demanding — as the Michigan House majority floor leader — what are you demanding of the Biden administration? You don’t usually take such stands against your own party, but right now the Democratic Party is really dealing with enormous pressure at this point. Can you talk about what you want to see happen?

REP. ABRAHAM AIYASH: Look, I think our demands are simple. We just don’t want our government, our country, to support, to aid, to abet any operation that kills innocent men, women and children. It is not a radical idea for us to suggest that the richest and most powerful country in the history of the world should not be funding what we see as a genocide, that [00:07:00] we have seen nearly 30,000 dead Palestinians at the hands of the U.S.-funded Israeli missiles and bombs, and we want our leadership to not engage in that type of moral failure and that degenerative act that does not dignify the humanity of the Palestinian people. 

So, you know, more than anything, we’re not standing against anyone, but we’re simply reaffirming our stance for humanity and for the basic tenets of human rights, which says it is not a crazy concept that we should not be supporting any effort that is killing any innocent person in the world, especially to the magnitude that we’ve seen in Gaza, where more people have died in this conflict than any war since World War II, which is just a devastating toll.

And we’re hoping to exercise our right. We’re going to use the ballot box on February 27th to show that we are going to not support any effort that is [00:08:00] supporting a genocide and that we’re going to stand firm and, hopefully, allow this administration to change course before the November election.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, I wanted to ask Congressman Ro Khanna, who’s with us, as well — you’ve said that, for example, that President Trump is too dangerous to not support President — I mean, former President Trump is too dangerous to not support President Biden. Your response to those Democrats who cannot in good conscience vote for President Biden, at least in this primary?

REP. RO KHANNA: Well, first of all, I have a tremendous amount of respect for Representative Aiyash, and I’m looking forward to seeing him in Michigan. I do believe the administration needs to change course in foreign policy in the Middle East in order to gain the trust of people who we have lost. You can’t just meet with the Muslim American or [00:09:00] Arab American community and then veto in the United Nations a resolution calling for a ceasefire and, by the way, an unconditional release of the hostages. This is the third time we have vetoed that. It is hurting our moral standing. It is hurting our commitment to human rights. And it is not giving confidence to people that you’re hearing them and changing course.

So, my hope is, in my meetings with Representative Aiyash and others, that we can come up with a strategy that helps change course in the Middle East so we get a permanent ceasefire, so we have a release of the hostages, so we get aid into Gaza, and we have more peace and justice in the region.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And, Representative Aiyash, I wanted to ask you about the meeting you had with Biden officials earlier this month in Dearborn. What did you get out of those talks?

REP. ABRAHAM AIYASH: We're firm in reiterating our points. We want to see an immediate, [00:10:00] permanent ceasefire. We want to see humanitarian aid delivered to the people of Gaza through entities like UNRWA. And we want to see restrictions and conditions on the aid that is sent to Israel. You know, it is unfathomable that we just send a blank check with no conditions to a country that has violated human rights, that has violated international law over and over and over again.

And we reminded the administration that, one, they showed up 124 days into this conflict. They visited a state that happens to be the swing state. So, we are not seeing the level of support. We’re not seeing the level of concern that our communities have demonstrated for months. And we reiterated those messages once again.

And unfortunately, just four days after that meeting, we saw the Netanyahu regime did one of the worst attacks on the Rafah region, and the United States [00:11:00] still did not put the type of pressure on that regime to stop these heinous acts.

AMY GOODMAN: Let me ask Congressmember Khanna: Do you think the Biden administration made a mistake in vetoing yet another ceasefire resolution? And I want to go a little further. Right after the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations issued that veto, President Biden was in Los Angeles at a fundraiser. He was attending a high-dollar fundraiser with the media mogul Haim Saban, well-known Democratic, pro-Israel billionaire. The dinner — the meeting was at, what, $3,300, to cost as much as $250,000. I’m looking at a piece now in Common Dreams. Your thoughts on this and on President Biden continually saying he’s putting enormous pressure privately on [00:12:00] Netanyahu, yet their private acts continue to be against the kind of ceasefire that was put forward and vetoed at the United Nations?

REP. RO KHANNA: It was a mistake to veto the United Nations resolution. At the very least, we could have abstained. I mean, you have 15 countries on that Security Council. Thirteen of them are voting for a resolution for a permanent ceasefire and the release of all hostages, which is the sentiment not just in the world, it’s the sentiment about the majority of American people. And we are the lone “no” vote in the global community. It is hurting America’s standing in the world, especially an administration that is committed to multilateralism and rebuilding international institutions. What does this say about the credibility of the U.N. if we aren’t going to participate in those institutions?

The other issue is that I appreciate that there has been some movement [00:13:00] in the administration because of many of us in Congress who have called for a permanent ceasefire, who have called for the humanitarian aid to Gaza. There has been movement in recognizing the value and dignity of Palestinian lives and the humanitarian concerns. But now we need action. There needs to be clear consequences to Netanyahu and his very far right-wing government. I mean, people in his government are way to the right of Donald Trump, and that is important to understand, people like Ben-Gvir. It needs to be clear to Bibi: He can’t go into Rafah. Our secretary of defense doesn’t want it. Our president doesn’t want it. Who is he to defy the United States of America and then expect us to continue to provide military aid to do that? So, we need to be very, very clear of the consequences, and that is not what has happened so far.

Manufacturing Discontent How Was America SO Easily Convinced Biden’s Brain is Bad - Thom Hartmann Program - Air Date 2-13-24

THOM HARTMANN - HOST, THOM HARTMANN PROGRAM: "Media creates Biden 'fitness' crisis", so writes Judd Legum over at [00:14:00] Popular.info. He's talking about how Robert Hur, the Republican special prosecutor that Merrick Garland appointed to look into Joe Biden, another reason to remove Merrick Garland, now. But in any case, Robert Hur is a lawyer, not a doctor. And yet he's opining about the President of the United States' mental acuity. And this is an actual political threat. But what makes it really bad is how the media dealt with it. When Robert Hur's report came out, the media could have said, You know, uh, Robert Hur had, there's no there, there, Joe Biden didn't commit any crimes, and, uh, they're not gonna prosecute him, and this Republican who did the investigation thinks that he's an old man, but so what? I mean, it could have been dealt with that way. And frankly, I think if it was about Trump, it would have been dealt that way. But because it was about a Democrat, The New York Times, The [00:15:00] Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, the three big national newspapers that we have in this country, all went nuts.

Judd Legum did an analysis. And he says, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal collectively published 81 articles about Hur's assessment of Biden's memory in the four days following the release of Hur's report. Eighty-one articles. The New York Times published 30 stories about Biden's alleged memory issues between February 7 and February 10. The story was covered by 24 reporters, four opinion columnists, and The New York Times editorial board. Only one of those 30 stories in The New York Times mentioned a key fact, writes Jo Legum, that Hur is completely unqualified to render a judgment on Biden's mental capacity. 

The Washington Post featured even more coverage of Biden's memory, writes Judd Legum, in the aftermath of Hur's report. That paper produced 33 articles featuring Hur's opinions about Biden's memory between February 7 and February [00:16:00] 10. Just one of The Washington Post's 33 articles noted that Hur's opinions of Biden were baseless, and that piece was written by their health reporter. The Wall Street Journal published 18 articles on Biden's memory during that time period, those four days. Uh, the Wall Street Journal's opinions pieces were even most caustic, flatly asserting that Hur's report "PROVED THAT BIDEN WAS IN COGNITIVE DECLINE AND HAD A FAILING SHORT TERM MEMORY". Quotes from the article. They did not produce any articles in The Wall Street Journal explaining that Hur has no qualification, no medical qualifications, to determine whether Biden has a functional memory.

I mean, keep in mind, Donald Trump called Victor Orban the leader of Turkey. He said that he defeated Barack Obama in 2016 when he ran against Hillary Clinton. He has claimed that Obama is his opponent right now and that Obama is actually running the country. He mixed up Nikki Haley with Nancy [00:17:00] Pelosi. Um, Trump's mix, and so, you know, did these three newspapers go after Donald Trump for those failures? Judd Legum notes, the tenor of the coverage was markedly different. One of The New York Times articles was a brief recounting of the incident. This is when Trump mixed up Nikki Haley and Nancy Pelosi. It was a brief recounting of the incident without any suggestion that it was a political liability for Trump.

So Robert Hearst says, Biden couldn't remember when his son died, and everybody's like, Oh my God, that's the end of, uh, you know, Biden, we gotta, we gotta move on. You know, get the, get him the hell out of here. Trump mixes up Nikki Haley and Nancy Pelosi and The New York Times, instead of writing 30 articles about it, like they did about Biden, they write one article about it, and that article never mentions the fact that this might hurt Trump politically, when that's the entire focus of the 30 articles that they ran about Biden. The other three articles [00:18:00] briefly note, noted that Haley was using the mix up to attack Trump. The Washington Post published only two pieces about this mix up of Haley and Nancy Pelosi. 

I mean, there's just this huge double standard. We saw this with Comey, the same thing, you know, that if you can provide The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, if you can provide our national media with data to attack a Democrat, the "Dean scream", you know, Gary Hart and Monkey Business. If you can provide the media with something that can be used to attack a Democrat, they will run with it as long and as hard as they can, because they just love this stuff. If you provide them with stuff that they can use to attack a Republican, they tend to downplay it and it's been that way for a long time. 

I remember when Reagan was senile. I mean, a friend of mine - whose name I shouldn't probably disclose because of what I'm about to tell you, but - a friend of mine's wife was one of the court [00:19:00] reporters in the room with Ronald Reagan when he was deposed in Iran Contra. And I will remember this till my dying day. I was sitting in their kitchen, with Michael and his wife in Los Angeles, and, you know, having this conversation about, she had just finished this deposition, like, you know, a day or two earlier, and she was just in shock. She was like, You know, over a hundred times. Ronald Reagan did not know where he was. He didn't know what day it was. Now, this was the 7th year of his presidency. This wasn't after he left office. And it was no secret that, I mean, I'm sure you can still Google it. But did the media go nuts with it? No. They were like, well, you know, Reagan seems to be having some problems remembering things. Right.

Should Biden Be Replaced With Special Guest Max Burns - The Muckrake Political Podcast - Air Date 2-20-24

JARED YATES SEXTON - HOST, THE MUCKRAKE POLITICAL PODCAST: By the way, Nick, I'm going to have you play the second thing here in just a second, but I want to point out the casualness with which Kamala Harris is [00:20:00] absolutely brushed aside in every one of these conversations. Like, it basically always comes down to this. We all know Joe Biden's older, he's lost his step, but the other problem is that he can't just hand it over to his VP. It is a very strange way to handle this, and Ezra Klein does it as well, but Nick, if you could, you could play this clip, I think there's something else that's happening here as well. 

EZRA KLEIN: So yes, I think Biden, as painful as this is, should find his way to stepping down as a hero, that the party should help him find his way to that, to being the thing that he said he would be in 2020, the bridge to the next generation of Democrats. And then I think Democrats should meet in August at the convention. To do what political parties have done at conventions so many times before. 

JARED YATES SEXTON - HOST, THE MUCKRAKE POLITICAL PODCAST: Okay. So very quickly, rhetorically - and Max, I know that like you do the same thing as well - "helping Joe Biden find his way" is a really interesting piece of rhetoric. You know, helping somebody find their [00:21:00] car, helping somebody home, helping somebody with their groceries. This is very, uh, weird choice of language. But on top of that. I think what's being expressed here, and people need to understand, Ezra Klein is not in a bubble. Ezra Klein is really tight with Barack Obama, really, really close with Barack Obama and the entirety of the Obama world. The Obama world does not want Joe Biden to run for reelection. They are very interested in sort of re-establishing the Obama-DNC Democratic Party, and it's been that way for a while. We've heard leaks that Obama keeps trying to tell Biden to change the campaign, to do this, to take this sort of a strategy. And that's the thing is there's a signal that's happening here, and this is what happens when parties sort of, kind of, lose control over the process. No one can keep Joe Biden from running for reelection. It is his choice, but the entire point is everybody is saying somebody needs to do something. And this idea of the brokered convention, which we'll break down in a second, they are saying somebody needs to step in here. 

NICK HAUSELMAN - HOST, THE MUCKRAKE POLITICAL PODCAST: Are you saying that Ezra [00:22:00] Klein is in lockstep with Obama on that podcast? Like, that he wouldn't have been able to record it like that. If Obama said... 

JARED YATES SEXTON - HOST, THE MUCKRAKE POLITICAL PODCAST: Oh, no, no, no, no. I don't think Obama gave him some sort of a signal. I'm saying that they traffic in the same waters. Like, this is a very specific type of liberalism, a very sort of like, you know, today Bruce Springsteen is going to come over and we're going to talk about songs and politics, you know? That's sort of that, like, uh, oasis, I guess you would call it, that sort of pool. But it definitely feels - does it not, Max - as the idea that somebody needs to do something here. Somebody needs to break the glass in case of emergency. 

MAX BURNS: Yeah, and Ezra's doing his best in his calm voice to try and give you a sense of continuity. That this wouldn't be what it actually is, which would be a radical change from the norm and a very destabilizing, not just for politics, but for the markets, for world affairs.

It would create a moment of crisis, even if you don't intend to. But he's saying, no, this is actually just what parties have done [00:23:00] for centuries. They've had conventions and they've nominated candidates. Well, we don't have the party system of a hundred years ago when we went and had contested conventions.

The DNC made the choice, like we talked about earlier, to defund all those parties so they don't have the structures. What you're really saying is we want to take this to a convention and have a group that has already made this decision, put it forward at the convention. And that is radically different from anything that's been proposed before.

JARED YATES SEXTON - HOST, THE MUCKRAKE POLITICAL PODCAST: And I want to put this out there. And I've said it many times on the podcast. I do not think Joe Biden is the person for this moment. I don't. I wish he wasn't running for reelection. I wish there was some sort of a bridge for the future, but I also want to point out: I am 'small d' democratic and I really have a hard time with all these people being like, we just need to get to a convention and the calmer heads will prevail and we'll figure it out.

And that's what happens in all of this, Max, is the punditry is always talking about like, Oh, if we just didn't have pesky primaries, if [00:24:00] we didn't have the electorate and the base figuring this out, we saw this after 2016, when they said, Oh, the parties would have never allowed Donald Trump. But this whole idea is just very, very elitist, and I don't think people understand how big of a shitstorm it would be if we had a brokered convention with the Democratic Party. I really don't think people understand, like, what an absolute disaster that would be. 

MAX BURNS: No, and it's that kind of thing that sort of bugs me about that kind of opinion reporting is that it doesn't inform the way it needs to. 

JARED YATES SEXTON - HOST, THE MUCKRAKE POLITICAL PODCAST: No. 

MAX BURNS: Like, for example, in order to do any of this, you would need to significantly change the party rules. But the rules committee of the DNC is firmly Biden people. They're all very strong Biden allies. So what you're really saying is you need to bring in people to challenge all of those people, which would become a very public, very nasty fight that would be on the national news for days as it rolled out, the convention grinding to a halt, [00:25:00] which makes Joe Biden and the party look even more inept and inadequate.

I mean, I really genuinely think this is a fantasy created by people who learned politics from the West Wing. 

JARED YATES SEXTON - HOST, THE MUCKRAKE POLITICAL PODCAST: Oh, Nick, by the way, Nick, I want to point out and I want you to imagine something because like when we get into like these scenarios, it's always good to imagine. Imagine the field day that Republicans would have: Look at the Democrats behind the scenes, pulling puppet strings, doing all this. And for the record, just because I want to give everyone a reality check, Barack Obama does not want to be seen like that. No politician has been more concerned with their public perception than Barack Obama, besides maybe Bill Clinton. And, like, he does not want to be seen as the person who's pushing out Uncle Joe in order to bring people. But Nick, can you imagine the disaster this would be? 

NICK HAUSELMAN - HOST, THE MUCKRAKE POLITICAL PODCAST: Oh, well, a couple of things. And because I don't see this as a disaster that you guys see it. I see another issue. But the thing about that, I'm getting frustrated with Biden is that he now becomes accused of being [00:26:00] the most corrupt president ever. He also is accused of lying and being the most dishonest, all these things, which, and being a grifter. And it's basically the knee jerk reaction to, because Trump was accused of these things and is accused in the court of law of these things, then you have to then say, well, the other person is just as bad.

And that means, going forward, no matter who you are and how, you know, stellar your reputation is, you are simply going to be accused of all these things without any evidence that people are going to believe it. But so that's really, really a frustrating thing. 

And then as far as the shit storm about a broker convention, I just think it's a time thing. If you're going to wait until - when is it August? Is that what it is? July, August? - you can't run a national campaign in, like, two months. There's no way to ever be able to do that no matter who it is, even if the ghost of, let's say Abraham Lincoln comes back suddenly... 

JARED YATES SEXTON - HOST, THE MUCKRAKE POLITICAL PODCAST: ...switches parties 

NICK HAUSELMAN - HOST, THE MUCKRAKE POLITICAL PODCAST: ...and he runs, like, he wouldn't win if you gave him like a month to run a national campaign. That would be ridiculous. He needs the train. He needs to go across the [00:27:00] country. You need to build all that stuff up. I don't think you could do it. And certainly not with whoever we have in the wings. So that is really the worst part of it for me, is that it would just be, we'd lose the, the, the Democrats would lose this election.

This Law Can Turn America Into a Police State & Trump Wants To Use It! - Thom Hartmann Program - Air Date 2-14-24

THOM HARTMANN - HOST, THOM HARTMANN PROGRAM: ...fix the Insurrection Act before Trump uses it to create a police state. This is actually ver important. This is a big deal. You know, uh, when Senator Tommy Tuberville, the traitor who has now taken Putin's side on the Ukraine invasion - and I'm gonna get to that in the next hour - but when Tommy Tuberville was in the Trump Hotel on the evening of January 5th with the Trump family preparing for the insurrection the following day, the plans had been laid for the Proud Boys to seize the Capitol and for Trump to essentially deputize them, to invoke the Insurrection Act, define them as a militia, [00:28:00] and let them take control of the Capitol. The key to all this was the Insurrection Act. This was a package of laws that was passed between 1792 and 1874, that's been used about two dozen times throughout history. The first by George Washington, the Whiskey Rebellion, and most recently by President George H. W. Bush, in response to the riots in Los Angeles around the beating by police of Rodney King, an unarmed Black man. 

The act allows the president to define what an insurrection is, and that's a huge problem. It also has no time limits. He can declare an insurrection, which ends posse comitatus. He can declare an insurrection and then bring the military into the streets of any American city or all American cities and start rounding up millions of Americans and putting us into concentration camps, which Trump has said he intends to do.

Now, he had this thing all ready to go on January 6th, [00:29:00] and he wanted to invoke it. And the Proud Boys thought he was going to. They were constantly checking their Twitter feed, waiting for him to declare an insurrection. And the problem that Trump had, though, was in order to do this, he had the executive order, it was ready to go. But it would have required Bill Barr as the Attorney General and General Mark Milley as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and Mark Esper, his Defense Secretary, would have required all of them to sign off on it. And none of them would do it. Well, not to sign off on it, to implement it. To put it into effect. And they just refused. 

And that's the problem. Because next time, Trump has told us, he's not going to have people like Milley and Esper and Barr in his cabinet, he's not going to have people who respect even marginally the rule of law in his cabinet. He's going to get nothing but 100% Trump loyalist fascists. And they will implement the Insurrection Act. And they will put it into place on the first day of his [00:30:00] presidency. The law is written so vaguely. That any effort to impede the enforcement of the laws of America constitutes an insurrection under this act. In other words, if five people show up on a street in Washington, DC and block traffic for 30 seconds, under this act, under the current Insurrection Act from the 1790s, that is an insurrection that the President can use to declare martial law across the entire nation. 

This can only be fixed by Congress. And there have been several efforts to do so, and interestingly, several Republicans, Mike Lee, at the lead of this bunch, Mike Lee, the very, very conservative, right wing Republican senator from Utah, has been at the front of that. He offered an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act back in 2021 that would have fixed, in large part, the Insurrection Act. It did not pass. And he and Bernie Sanders and Chris Murphy, two Democratic Senators - well, Bernie's an Independent, [00:31:00] but you get... well, I guess all three now: you got a Democrat, a Republican, and an Independent - all three of them co-sponsored a bill, a stand alone bill, last year, that would have time limited the presidential proclamation of insurrection to 30 days and allowed Congress to give them a one year extension. And that's it.

But here's the problem. Donald Trump and Tommy Tuberville and, you know, MAGA Putin-loving fascists like them are a clear and present threat to our Republic. And we've got to be concerned about this and Congress needs to act.

‘The threat is authoritarian government’ What happens if Trump wins again - All In W/ Chris Hayes - Air Date 12-6-23

CHRIS HAYES - HOST, ALL IN: As we approach what may be a repeat of 2020, there's a growing agreement and acute concern, I think across the political spectrum, about the explicitly authoritarian threat of a second Trump term. Former Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney believes that Trump "will never leave office" if he is elected president again.

The New York Times just published this headline explaining "Why a second Trump presidency may be more radical than his first". And the threat of another Trump term is the focus of a special issue of The Atlantic devoted to the question of what happens [00:32:00] "if Trump wins". In a new piece for that issue, Barton Gellman warns that if he makes it back to the White House, "we know what Trump would like to do with that power because he said so out loud. He is driven by self interest and revenge in that order. He wants to squelch the criminal charges now pending against him. He wants to redeploy federal prosecutors against his enemies, beginning with President Joe Biden. The important question is how much of that agenda he could actually carry out in a second term".

And Bart Gelman, staffer at The Atlantic, joins me now. The sort of top line point that you make, which we talked about on the show, is that you can't forget the fact that the man is literally running for his freedom. And I think it's so easy for it to see abstract, because the man has escaped accountability for so long, he's 78 years old, but, like, he could end up in prison. That's not an insane idea. Like, what prison would look like secret service and what, you know, but like, that's a real thing that he's really scared about and it is motivating more, I think more than anything, to [00:33:00] grab the run and the desire for power.

BART GELLMAN: Yeah, I think that's exactly right. And I think there are people who console themselves with the idea that maybe he'll already be convicted in one of the cases by the time the election comes around, and so they've got him. But that is not what's going to happen. Even if he does get convicted in the DC case, which is the only one that looks likely to run its course before the election, the case will be on appeal when the time comes that it's inauguration day. If he wins, uh, his justice department will move to withdraw the case on appeal. There's a, legal maneuver called confession of error, and they go to the appeals court and say, nevermind, you know, we don't think he should have been convicted. 

CHRIS HAYES - HOST, ALL IN: Withdrawn. 

BART GELLMAN: Withdrawn. And I would be surprised if he doesn't also try to pardon himself. And the interesting thing about the pardon is there's a legitimate [00:34:00] debate among constitutional scholars about whether a president can pardon himself. But like so many other things about Trump, it's sort of irrelevant because if he does pardon himself, there is nobody with standing to go to court and challenge that pardon, except maybe the Justice Department, his own Justice Department. 

CHRIS HAYES - HOST, ALL IN: Well, this speaks to a sort of thing I keep coming back to in this discussion - I was thinking as I was reading your piece, the Liz Cheney line about, you know, he's not going to leave - is that, you know, it all depends what other people do. I mean, he doesn't have unilateral power, right? So when Liz Cheney says he's not going to leave if, you know, he's elected again, I thought, No, the Secret Service is going to escort him from the building at noon on January 20th, 2029, because that's their constitutional duty. And you could say, well, Chris, you're being naive. But at some level, it's like, I guess I, I feel this battle within myself between warning of the graveness of the danger and not ceding the terrain of his power. Does that make sense to you? 

BART GELLMAN: Yeah, that's right. I mean, and, [00:35:00] and we shouldn't exaggerate. There are things the president can do and there are things the president can't do. And we don't know to what extent the guardrails will be holding. There is a career civil service. He wants to politicize it. Uh, there are courts. There are... 

CHRIS HAYES - HOST, ALL IN: And he wants to steamroll them all. 

BART GELLMAN: Right. There's Senate confirmation. But for example, it's not clear to me that even a Republican Senate would confirm Jeffrey Clark as Attorney General.

CHRIS HAYES - HOST, ALL IN: Correct. That's not going to be either. 

BART GELLMAN: They might not. But what Trump's people are doing is very clever. He can put in under the Vacancies Reform Act, he can put someone as Attorney General for most of a year... 

CHRIS HAYES - HOST, ALL IN: Acting. 

BART GELLMAN: ...as an acting, as long as they're in any Senate confirmed position around the US government. So, of course, if he comes into power, uh, in January [00:36:00] 2025, the people already serving in confirmed roles will be Biden appointees. But there's more than a hundred positions that are Senate confirmed and that are held by Republicans right now under Biden because there are all these, like, National Labor Relations Board.

CHRIS HAYES - HOST, ALL IN: Yeah, statutory bipartisan boards and positions. 

BART GELLMAN: Right, they must be party balanced. And the Trump people are looking at those names and trying to figure out, you know, what MAGAs they've got to work with. And then after 90 days, he could appoint anybody he likes, you know, Mike Davis, Kash Patel, you know, as a counselor or a section chief in the Justice Department, as long as there are GS-15 or higher in DOJ, he can then make them acting Attorney General. And he could do that with all the other confirmed positions. 

CHRIS HAYES - HOST, ALL IN: And we've got to say they were very, very aggressive with the Vacancy Reform Act, which is the law that governs a lot of this stuff. Obviously, there's constitutional requirements for advising consent in the Senate. There's a huge sprawling government. The Vacancy Reform Act, which is a pretty loophole ridden piece of legislation. They were very aggressive on it [00:37:00] before. But I guess my point too is, all the things you're describing, like, in the end, what I see in the future is a very immediate constitutional crisis if he's reelected. Or people roll over. It's one or the two. But I think the former is as likely as the latter, which is not like, Oh, great. We're just going to have a constitutional crisis. It's just to say that, like, he's going to go very hard and be very aggressive. And there are going to be some obstacles in his way.

BART GELLMAN: No, well the threat is authoritarian government. The threat is lawless government and people are going to have to stand up to that people are going to have to resist. And I think a Trump presidency would for sure have more than one constitutional crisis. You know, you talk to legal experts and they're all full of thoughts about loopholes he could exploit or residual powers or things that are profoundly against the norm, but that a president could do if he wanted to go completely off the deep end.

But what they don't think about is stuff that's just flat out unlawful. I [00:38:00] mean, there's a legend that President Jackson once said that Justice Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it. Apparently he didn't really say that. But he kind of meant that. And it's not clear to me who enforces a ruling by the Supreme Court if Trump says I'm not doing that. I mean, Trump has said that any law or regulation or article of the Constitution can be terminated, in the right circumstances. The right circumstances in that case being his fictions about the election. He said he could terminate it and it's not clear who could stop him. 

Florida man owes half a billion Part 2 - Today, Explained - Air Date 2-21-24

SEAN RAMESWARAM - HOST, TODAY,EXPLAINED: We're back and Vox's Abdullah Fayyad is here to tell us why Donald Trump's half a billy in Legal debt is everybody's problem 

ABDALLAH FAYYAD: It's everybody's problem because he's running for president of the United States, and what it generally means when any candidate running for public office, let alone the presidency, when they're in debt, is that there can be a lot of leverage [00:39:00] used against them when they're in office by their creditors.

In this particular case, it's not just a matter of Trump being in debt, it's a matter of him potentially being cash strapped, facing nearly half a billion dollars in civil damages from just two civil lawsuits alone. And being on the hook for that money while he's running for office again means that any donor, any special interest group, any bank, any foreign government that's looking to curry favor in a potential second Trump term could swoop in and help bail him out.

It doesn't necessarily mean it would be an explicit pro quo. 

DONALD TRUMP: I want no quid pro quo! 

ABDALLAH FAYYAD: But this is exactly how money in politics works. We see it for every candidate when it comes to fundraising for their campaign. In Trump's case, it's fundraising for his own survival as a businessman. And a lot of people can step in and essentially advance their interest in their second term by having that relationship with him, and having [00:40:00] that leverage over him, potentially as his creditors. 

SEAN RAMESWARAM - HOST, TODAY,EXPLAINED: But I gotta ask, we don't ever really know how rich, how broke Donald Trump is, but we know he owns some serious real estate. Couldn't he just sell a building or two, a tower, or a rosy, gaudy mansion in Florida or something and be done with all of these debts? 

ABDALLAH FAYYAD: He could. And, I think what should be clear to most people is that even after all of this, Trump is still going to be a rich man. The question is just how much cash he has on hand to pay these civil damages right now. He's on the hook for over $450 million that's due soon. Even if he appeals, he has to front a considerable amount of money, potentially the entire amount and even some interest while that appeals process plays out, and the question is where he's going to come up with that cash. Based on his own accounting, last April in a deposition, he mentioned that he had $400 million [00:41:00] in cash, which is a lot of money even for a billionaire in cash, but that's still not enough to cover these damages, which means that yes, he will have to liquidate some of his assets. 

For him, that's an uncomfortable thing to do because A, it's a big part of his personal identity, it's part of his political identity, and it shows that he's in a lot of trouble. It shows a weakness on his part that he really does not like to do on the public stage. And so will he survive this as an individual being able to pay his bond? Of course he can. His net worth is estimated somewhere between 2 and 3 billion, though obviously it's very opaque and we actually know very little about his finances. It's still going to do a good amount of damage, both politically, but also in the short term financially.

The fact that he would have to liquidate some of his assets means that his business is going to suffer. He's going to lose some of his assets in the short term. And that actually could deal a blow to his businesses, which [00:42:00] is by design. This is what these penalties are supposed to do. They're partly supposed to be punitive. And so that's why there's such a high sum. It's because he has such a high net worth. 

SEAN RAMESWARAM - HOST, TODAY,EXPLAINED: Okay, so you're saying basically, yes, he could sell his assets, but he probably won't want to, and that's why we should be concerned. 

ABDALLAH FAYYAD: Not exactly that. It's just a matter of, him having to front so much money in the short term that even if he does liquidate some of his assets in order to maintain his finances, he's probably going to have to take on more debt and take on more loans. And, just for context, when he was running for reelection in 2020, he was, per The New York Times reporting on his tax returns, which were leaked before the election, in 2020, he was running with about 400 million in debt, most of which was coming due in the next four years.

So had he won a second term in 2020, creditors, as The New York Times put it back then, would have been put in the [00:43:00] unprecedented position of potentially having to foreclose on a sitting president of the United States. That's never really happened before. We might be facing a similar situation now. If he has to sell some of his assets, he's still going to have to take on more loans in order to fund his businesses, and the fact that his business will be dealt a blow through these civil damages, he is going to have to likely take on more loans, and that just puts him in a bad situation with creditors. Even if they are big creditors, big major financial institutions that are quote unquote trustworthy, but it's still a serious liability for any candidate to just have that much amount of debt in public.

And just one more thing on this is federal government employees generally are graded on certain criteria to see whether or not they can qualify for security clearance. Having an enormous amount of debt is one thing that's used against giving people security clearance, because it's primarily seen as a tool that can be used [00:44:00] to target people for bribery, and things of that nature, just improper conduct while in office. So that's a window into the ethics problems that could come up should he win a second term. 

Should Biden Be Replaced With Special Guest Max Burns Part 2 - The Muckrake Political Podcast - Air Date 2-20-24

 

JARED YATES SEXTON - HOST, THE MUCKRAKE POLITICAL PODCAST: I also want to say that there's something really weird happening with this too, which is there's still the divide, and this goes back to the first segment that we were talking about—the Republicans and Trump's base, it literally is a cult. And so when Trump tells them, I built a wall, the wall doesn't need to exist. It's there. It's a matter of faith. And actually, what we're talking about right now in terms of quote unquote, resistance or, liberal things, people are being sold on the liberal side with the idea that if they buy these things, if they donate to these things, if they do this, there will be results. And that's still, something of an empirical base sort of society. 

I think a lot of people who have been taken in by this resistance consumerism, Max, I think a [00:45:00] lot of people are looking around, they're saying, ?You know what? I bought all this RBG merchandise and Roe v. Wade's gone." We literally have seen this stuff taken away. And so what we're missing and this is the problem, is I actually think that there are energies out there, and there is momentum in terms of democratic energies, progressive energies that are building up, it just so happens that they are not profitable. You can't put that on a t-shirt. Organizing the local Amazon warehouse doesn't fit on the back of a t-shirt, it just so happens that it's what gets things actually done. 

MAX BURNS: Yeah, and it brings voters out. We saw that with abortion in Ohio. We saw that with all the labor organizing in Bessemer. We're in a renaissance right now of labor organizing, and nobody's printing off shirts for that. And the reality is, these are the issues that bring Democrats to the polls. This is what the national party is supposed to be for, is sending national money to state parties to tell this story. And instead all that money goes [00:46:00] directly up to the presidential races now. We have completely abandoned the Democratic Party's role in funding state parties. And if we're not going to subsidize that message, it shouldn't be surprising that a bunch of for profit grifters have stepped in to tell people who have no other mechanism for learning it what their version of the message is. 

NICK HAUSELMAN - HOST, THE MUCKRAKE POLITICAL PODCAST: The only other problem I think I have with that is that on a local level, up until the state races, it becomes dangerous to run for those positions. You know what I'm saying? Because the other side has made it such a treacherous road where they're going to threaten you and dox you and all sorts of things. Maybe I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure it's mostly the right doing that. And it to the point where who would want to run anyway? 

JARED YATES SEXTON - HOST, THE MUCKRAKE POLITICAL PODCAST: And the apparatus isn't there either. What has happened, and Max brought this up, I think it's one of the most consequential things that's happened in the past few years, the Democratic Party gave up on the 50 state strategy. Howard Dean is one of the most influential people in modern American politics, and the fact that that [00:47:00] stake got pulled up, and instead they've been relying on basically Stacey Abrams in every quote unquote red state that there is. They've just given up on it and hoped that a Stacey Abrams would show up and bring in all this money.

And so what actually happens, Nick, is let's say you're in a deep red state and you want to run for Congress, and you want to run as a Democrat, you're putting your life on the line and the party's not even going to help you put out signs, much less make sure that you're protected and make sure that the environment is actually fair.

Max, does that check out for you? 

MAX BURNS: Yeah, that's the frustration I hear from activists every day. And you see it, Stacey Abrams isn't even exempt. She delivered two monumental turnout performances in Georgia that many Washington based consultants said was statistically impossible to do. And she did it twice. She did it on a shoestring budget. And her reward for that wasn't to be made DNC chair and taking the strategy national. It was for the DNC to say this year, Georgia doesn't look [00:48:00] as competitive, we're pulling funding out, and now her organization is closing down. It is, if anything, one of the most self inflicted wound moments I've seen from the DNC in years. Because now Stacey Abrams has essentially no infrastructure in Georgia. 

JARED YATES SEXTON - HOST, THE MUCKRAKE POLITICAL PODCAST: God, the most self inflicted wound from the DNC. That is, that's not at the Mount Rushmore right there. It's a big ol list. 

NICK HAUSELMAN - HOST, THE MUCKRAKE POLITICAL PODCAST: Max, what do you think? Why? Why did they abandon the 50 states outreach like they had under Dean's vision? 

MAX BURNS: Because Obama won. It's as simple as that. Obama came in and his great contribution at the time was leveraging digital. No one had done it 2008. And there was no politics really on Twitter at all until Barack Obama spearheaded that. And he won big, and then that sort of became orthodoxy. He appointed his people, and the thought became, as long as we protect the White House and Congress, we're great. And as long as we have [00:49:00] that, it's everything. It doesn't matter about governorships. It doesn't matter about state houses. And that worked really well at electing the president. Not so much for anything else. 

JARED YATES SEXTON - HOST, THE MUCKRAKE POLITICAL PODCAST: And I just want to throw in there, Max, and this was one of the things, because we can get deep in the weeds for a quick second. One of the prevailing dogmas of that period was this idea of demographics are destiny. That America was changing, and as a result, we weren't going to have to worry about this anymore. Basically, the Republican Party was going to moderate itself at some point. 

The Marco Rubios, the Nikki Haley's, that, that was the whole idea is eventually, they were going to have to fix themselves. It was both I think, naive but also dangerously ignorant in its own right to believe that somehow or another demographics were going to completely change the entire thing, or that there wasn't going to be a backlash in some way, shape, or form, and eventually you look up, and you have states now where there is no significant democratic [00:50:00] presence. You don't have a neighbor. You don't have a co worker. You don't have anybody in town, basically in any office, anybody around who isn't in a quote unquote satanic cabal. And so as a result, you have states that it's been turned into trench warfare at this point. 

BONUS Is SCOTUS Afraid of Holding Trump to Account - Amicus With Dahlia Lithwick - Air Date 2-10-24

DAHLIA LITHWICK - HOST, AMICUS: I want to ask you another slightly Calvin-ball, feelings-ball... It's right in the middle of Calvin-ball and feelingsball, it's Calvin-feelings. I want to ask you a Calvin-feelings question, which I haven't seen talked about a whole lot, but really struck me only at three in the morning when I was trying to figure out what I thought about oral arguments on Thursday morning, and the thing that I was really clocking that we hadn't talked about, I think, enough is the mob like threat of "nice democracy you got there, would be a shame if something were to happen to it." 

And by that, that was my [00:51:00] mobster voice, by that I mean there is this subtle threat, and it starts in Jonathan Mitchell's briefing. That there's going to be all sorts of chaos and mayhem and violence if this is allowed to happen. We hear it in questions on Thursday from the chief justice. It's there in Justice Alito's questioning about vexatious, frivolous lawsuits that are going to follow up. And I think that we are so used to the menacing tone of, "well, you know, if you allow Colorado to knock him off the ballot, there's just going to be a lot of vexatious, frivolous, pointless suits by people who are willing to weaponize the legal system," and the degree to which you're just telling on yourselves when you do that, that every accusation is a confession. 

There's one answer to that, which is, I think, the answer that Jason Murray gave, which is "no, we actually know [00:52:00] what to do about vexatious, frivolous, threatening suits that have no point." But the other answer is, "I'm sorry, Justice Alito, are you threatening me?"

And we didn't talk about the underground. pinning here of since when do we just accept the idea that if Colorado is allowed to deploy Section 3 of the 14th Amendment in a way that it was intended to be used, other people will use it for shitty outcomes and therefore we should stop it because "nice democracy you got there."

MARK JOSEPH STERN: Yeah, it's a threat, that's it. It's a threat that if a majority of the court allows this case to prevail, if a majority of the court allows Colorado to remove Trump from the ballot, that justices like Alito are gonna come out swinging for the other frivolous, ridiculous cases that should not be compared to this one, which is very much rooted in the Constitution, but that will emerge from red [00:53:00] states that are trying to retaliate. That if Ron DeSantis tries to remove Biden from the ballot for fill in the blank reason, he's an enemy of the state, he's a traitor, a Chinese spy, whatever, that Sam Alito is going to be lining up to refuse to stay the decision from a crazy panel of the 11th circuit keeping Biden off the ballot.

I think our friends Steve Ladeck and Lee Kovarski wrote a great piece about this and MSNBC saying, well, actually the check here is the Supreme Court, you guys, who have full authority to step in and say, "Okay, this is a meritorious case. This is a frivolous one. This is a case that we will consider and embrace. This is a case that we will reject out of hand." It's the Supreme Court for a reason. They have the last word on this, and could easily shut down any of those kinds of absurd retaliatory moves by Red State. 

So this slippery slope argument, and as you said, Roberts cited it, Alito [00:54:00] cited it, classic Alito grievance line, classic "watch what you're doing here, because I'm gonna come back twice as hard twice as fast" to say, " this is all going to redound to your detriment if you happen to squeeze out a win over my dissent. I am going to find a way to get back at you." I mean, was it even a veiled threat, really, or was it just a threat? 

So, yeah, in a way, I think it ties into the piece that we wrote on Thursday about judicial humility where the court said over and over again through Roberts, through Barrett, through Kavanaugh, "well, this could lead to such dangerous places. We have to look at the consequences of our decision. We can't possibly be getting involved in each and every case that will arise out of red states and blue states alike if we let one state, colorado, remove a presidential candidate from the ballot." 

Where is that concern in literally any other case, but especially in gun rights cases [00:55:00] where, I think this is an apt comparison, the Supreme court, in 2022's Bruen decision, declared all gun restrictions presumptively unconstitutional and created an entirely new test out of thin air for assessing them. And we have seen scores of gun laws struck down, and now the Supreme Court's docket is getting flooded with every gun restriction under the sun being invalidated because the Supreme Court decided to completely change the rules and upend and overturn centuries of precedent here.

They didn't care about consequences then. They specifically said, in fact, that judges were not allowed to consider the consequences of gun laws when assessing their Constitutionality. They specifically said we don't care if a gun restriction could save a thousand lives or a million lives, if it doesn't have enough historical analogs from 1791, it is unconstitutional. Judges cannot look to the consequences ever, period, that [00:56:00] is the rule. And here it was all consequence based judging. All of it, top to bottom. 

So I think that it's another example of a hypocrisy and a disparity between the different sides of the court. In Bruen, in the gun decisions, the liberal justices have been very focused on the consequences. They've said, we can't pretend like we can just close our eyes to reality and to what's going to happen in the real world after we render our decision. The conservatives said the opposite. And yet here magically they're all on the same page. Magically justices like Roberts have discovered judicial humility and rediscovered the beauty of letting the people decide and letting democracy work itself clean.

It doesn't sit right, and I can only hope that, again, I'll just keep coming back to this, I can only hope that the liberals wring something good out of this behind the scenes. I know we're supposed to pretend like the justices don't do horse trading behind the red velvet curtain, but we know that they do. [00:57:00] And it would be a really Acutely painful moment for the country if this just turns into a slam dunk win for Trump and otherwise the court continues to let him run out the clock in all of these other cases that matter just as much. 

BONUS Florida man owes half a billion Part 2 - Today, Explained - Air Date 2-21-24

SEAN RAMESWARAM - HOST, TODAY,EXPLAINED: So a lot of granular detail from the attorney general in New York. How does the former president's defense team defend him? 

ANDREA BERNSTEIN: So one of their big defenses is, "no one was hurt here. Deutsche Bank wanted us as a customer. They were willing to give us these incredibly low rates because it was good for them. They benefited. There was no victim." That was one. Another one was, "our accountants figured it out. Our employees figured it out. We left it to them. We trusted them." And then, there was, "Nobody really relied on these statements, and also, it didn't make a difference." 

SEAN RAMESWARAM - HOST, TODAY,EXPLAINED: Okay, so Trump's legal defense team essentially says, "Show us a victim. [00:58:00] Everyone got paid. This was good for everyone." But the judge ultimately decides that's not the case. 

ANDREA BERNSTEIN: Well, the law decides it, right? This law, 6312, is a very powerful law in New York, and it was written in the middle of the last century with the idea that if you have a fraudulent marketplace, you corrupt the business market in New York. And it is the Attorney General's job to defend against that, and to make sure that people don't do this as a course of business no matter who the victims are. Because the idea is that hurts all business in New York. 

LETITIA JAMES - NEW YORK ATTORNEY GENERAL: Today, the court, once again, ruled in our favor, and in favor of every hardworking American who plays by the rules. Donald Trump and the other defendants were ordered to pay $463.9 million. That represents $363.9 million in disgorgement, plus [00:59:00] $100 million in interest, which will continue to increase every single day until it is paid. 

SEAN RAMESWARAM - HOST, TODAY,EXPLAINED: Where does that number come from, Andrea? It's big. 

ANDREA BERNSTEIN: Okay, so let me introduce a concept, which I know Today Explained listeners can handle, which is called disgorgement. It's not actually a fine. What the law says is if you have these ill gotten gains, based on the fact that you lied over and over and over again, you have to pay it back.

LETITIA JAMES - NEW YORK ATTORNEY GENERAL: Donald Trump may have authored the art of the deal, but he perfected the art of the steel. 

ANDREA BERNSTEIN: So a very big portion of the money that Trump has to pay comes from the cash that he Kept by keeping his interest rates so low. If you have to pay 12 percent interest versus 3 percent interest, hypothetically, those are not the actual numbers, but for example, [01:00:00] you save a lot of money.

In this case, the difference in the interest was about $170 million. So that is considered an ill gotten gain, got to pay it back. Then, the judge said, well, because they had all this extra cash that they weren't entitled to, they were able to pour money into A number of properties, two in particular, the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., and the Ferry Point Golf Course, which is in Bronx, New York. They were able to pour so much money because they had all this extra cash, and then sell it and make even more money. So all of that comes back too. So that's how they get to the $355 million. 

SEAN RAMESWARAM - HOST, TODAY,EXPLAINED: Okay. And this is on top of the $83.3 million he already has to pay E. Jean Carroll. 

ANDREA BERNSTEIN: Totally separate case. Correct. 

SEAN RAMESWARAM - HOST, TODAY,EXPLAINED: In the E. Jean Carroll case, the jury awarded her something like $60 million more than her lawyers were asking for. In this latest case, because of disgorgement, the fine is $355 million—big [01:01:00] numbers. Do you think he might be getting hit harder in either case than, say, a less famous former president New York City civilian would?

ANDREA BERNSTEIN: So let's take E. J. Carroll. So one of the things that was so interesting in the E. J. Carroll case is right before plaintiffs wrapped up their case, they played a video deposition of Trump from the business fraud trial. And in the business fraud trial, Trump says, I have four $400 million in cash. That is very unusual for developers. Developers don't usually have that much cash. Mar a Lago is worth $1.5 billion. Doral golf course is worth $2.5 billion. 

DONALD TRUMP: If you take Doral, could be worth two and a half billion by itself. 

ANDREA BERNSTEIN: Now, of course, those valuations have been found to be fraudulent by Judge Ngoran, but the jury didn't know that. So the jury is watching this and E. Jean Carroll's [01:02:00] lawyers say to the jury, "Trump says he has a lot of money. Please have him pay a penalty that will get him to stop. You determine how much that amount is." So in that case, they asked the jury for an amount of money and damages to rehabilitate her reputation, but then they said, "give us some punitive damages, you figure out. This guy says he has billions of dollars, you use an amount that will make him stop," and that's how they came up with the $65 million plus the $18 million for her to repair her reputation. 

SEAN RAMESWARAM - HOST, TODAY,EXPLAINED: Does Trump have to hand over this nearly half a billion dollars, like, tomorrow? When does he actually have to pay? 

ANDREA BERNSTEIN: The $355 million doesn't include the pre judgment interest. The attorney general's office has said it will be upwards of $450 million when you put that all in. Now, Trump is appealing. They say the verdict is wrong. [01:03:00] If past is prologue, they will take every opportunity to appeal this case. It can be appealed first to the first level of New York Appeals Court, which is called the First Department. Then to the highest court, which is called the Court of Appeals, and in most cases, that would be the final word. However, Trump being Trump, they may argue that there's a federal issue involved, so it would theoretically go to the US supreme Court. 

So, all of that has to happen before the money is finally transferred to New York State, but, there is talk about putting up a bond, putting the money in escrow. He can't just go off and say, "well, I'm not going to pay it until we're done." That isn't the way the law works. 

SEAN RAMESWARAM - HOST, TODAY,EXPLAINED: Maybe the half a billion dollar question is, will he still have to pay if he wins the election later this year? 

ANDREA BERNSTEIN: Assuming he loses all his legal appeals, the answer is yes. I wouldn't be surprised if the case is not [01:04:00] resolved. And were he to win the election to hear his lawyers make an argument that even to address this issue is too distracting for the president.

Now, there is Supreme Court law in Bill Clinton and Paula Jones that certain aspects of a civil suit can continue, and this is a civil suit. So, I I hate to say this, because it's so overused in this context, but it's uncharted waters. In theory, yes. In theory, the judgment has been made. If Trump loses all his appeals, he has to pay the money. He has to find the money now to guarantee that he will be able to pay it in the event he loses all his appeals. But what would happen, would he try to argue that? If past is prologue, it's not out of the question.

Final comments on the presidential age debate and what we're really voting for

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: We've just heard clips today, starting with Breaking Points, discussing the Biden administration's complicity in Israel's war in Gaza. Democracy Now! looked at Democrats pushing Biden to shift on Israel policy. The Thom Hartmann Program looked at the media reaction to concerns about the age of the presidential candidates. [01:05:00] The Muckrake Political Podcast discussed the idea of a brokered democratic convention. Thom Hartmann looked at the likelihood of Trump using the insurrection act if inaugurated again. All In with Chris Hayes discussed the constitutional crisis of a second Trump term. Today Explained explained the threat of a president carrying as much financial strain and debt as Trump does. And The Muckrake Political Podcast discussed the positive actions happening among the democratic base that happened to not sell t-shirts. 

That's what everybody heard, but members also heard bonus clips from Amicus discussing the Supreme court oral arguments in the case, looking to ban Trump from the ballot in Colorado. And Today Explained broke down the business fraud case against Trump. Resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars in fines. 

To hear that and have all of our bonus contents to the red seamlessly, to the new members only podcast feed that you'll receive, sign up to support the bestoftheleft.com/support, or shoot me an email requesting a financial hardship membership, because we don't let a lack of [01:06:00] funds stand in the way of hearing more information. 

Now to wrap up, I just want to relay the single best argument for any presidential candidate whose policies you more closely align with compared to their opponent. 

The question in this campaign of age or competence is essentially a distraction, and I think that almost everyone knows it at at least some sort of gut level. The number of people who would really cast their vote based on which of the two candidates had the fewer number of verbal gaffes is, I think, vanishingly small. And it's for the same basic reason that the same Christian conservative family values people who claimed to be completely appalled by Bill Clinton's scandalous behavior, now defend one of the most unethical scandal prone, disgusting people our country has ever produced. It's not about the person, ever, [01:07:00] and it never has been. It's about what they represent, about what policies the administration will push for, and whether that will push the country in the direction that we, as a voter, want or not. 

Back in the 2000s, I loved making fun of George W. Bush's verbal flubs that were so frequent, they were dubbed Bushisms.

GEROGE W. BUSH: I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully. 

Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we. 

We got an issue in America. Too many good docs are getting out of business. Too many OBGYNs aren't able to practice their, their love with women all across this country. 

There's an old saying in Tennessee, I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee, that says fool me once, shame on, shame on you. If [01:08:00] you fool me, you can't get fooled again.

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: But those sorts of things, while fun to mock, weren't really the reason that anyone on the left oppose his presidency. It was the policies he represented, the Supreme Court justices he would appoint, and the direction he would push the country and the world. And there's an old saying in politics, probably in both Texas and Tennessee, that personnel is policy. What that means, and what we should constantly remind people, is that the presidency isn't really about the person on the ballot. It's about the fountains of members of the administration that get hired as the personnel, whose job it is to work toward and implement the policy vision of the administration. That's really what you're voting for when you cast a vote for president. The person at the top is the one on the news all the time, but they're not the one doing all the work of the government single-handedly. 

Literally any conversation or debate you come [01:09:00] across regarding Biden's or Trump's age should be immediately redirected to the existence of staff, and not just the white house staff, the entire administration staff. And what we know without a doubt is that every halfway reasonable person who's ever worked for Trump has come out on the other side. Criticizing him, not just a little bit, but often in the harshest of terms. And we are running desperately low on halfway reasonable people who would even be willing to work for a second Trump administration. Meaning that only sycophants who prove their value through loyalty rather than competence will be the only ones available to fill the ranks of a second Trump administration. 

The number of gaffes and the precision of memory and mental acuity of either candidate will have basically no measurable impact on the country or the world, but the personnel differences between the two couldn't be [01:10:00] starker or more consequential. 

That is going to be a for today as always keep the comments coming in. I would love to hear your thoughts or questions about this or anything else. You can leave a voicemail or send us a text at (202) 999-3991 or simply email me to [email protected]. 

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 our transcriptionist trio Ken, Brian, and Ben for their volunteer work, helping put our transcripts together. Thanks to Amanda Hoffman for all of her work on our social media outlets, activism segments, graphic designing, web mastering, and a bonus show co-hosting. And thanks to those who already support the show by becoming a member or purchasing gift memberships. You can join them by signing up bestoftheleft.com/support, through our Patreon page, or from right inside the apple podcast app. 

Membership is how you get instant access to our incredibly good and very often funny bonus episodes, in addition to [01:11:00] there being extra content, no ads and chapter markers in all of our regular episodes, all through your regular podcast player. You can find that link in the show notes, along with a link to join our Discord community, where you can also continue the discussion. 

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 twice weekly thanks entirely to the members and donors to the show from bestoftheleft.com

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#1612 New Tech and the New Luddite Movement (Transcript)

Air Date 2/20/2024

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JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [00:00:00] Welcome to this episode of the award-winning Best of the Left podcast, in which we take a look at why a Luddite should never have become the epithet that it is, as Luddites were never afraid of or opposed to technological advancement. They only opposed the exploitation of workers and the degradation to society that came with the unfair distribution of the benefits of the targeted technology, which is echoed in the debate over AI and its impact on the future of work today. Source today include Shift, Left Reckoning, TRT World, jstoobs on TikTok, Factually!, torres, and The Majority Report, with additional members-only clips from Factually! and Alice Cappelle.

The New Luddites - SHIFT - Air Date 2-14-24

BRIAN MERCHANT: The Luddites were a band of rebels, basically; cloth workers in the beginning stages of the industrial revolution, who, after trying [00:01:00] various peaceful measures for a long, long time to make sure that they're working lives and their identities and their trades were protected from the march of what we would refer to today as automation, found themselves with their backs against the walls. Tech companies of the day -- entrepreneurs of the day -- were using machines that automated work that sort of did their jobs worse, shoddier and more cheaply, changed course and they started fighting and they started doing the thing that would come to define them: that smashing the machines that were taking their jobs. 

They organized around this the fictitious, apocryphal figure, Ned Ludd, who was probably just completely made up or may have been an apprentice cloth worker who wasn't working as fast as his master wanted him to. So his master had him whipped and he, enraged, took a giant hammer and smash the machine that he had been working on, fled into Sherwood Forest like Robin Hood before [00:02:00] him. They were both in Nottingham and Nottinghamshire and the legend grew. He's Ned Ludd. So the people who followed in his footsteps smashing the machinery of oppression were the Luddites. And they organized themselves into a big guerrilla force that could oppose the forces of industrialization, the elites and the British crown all at once.

JENNIFER STRONG - HOST, SHIFT: The word basically has had a negative connotation ever since. But you wrote an interesting piece for the Atlantic. The term is suddenly in vogue. 

BRIAN MERCHANT: Yeah. Yeah. It's being reclaimed by people who are increasingly turning to this history as a little bit of a contextualizing source, because a lot of the things that happened 200 years ago -- the Luddites rose up in 1811, so about 210 years ago or so -- the conditions are very similar in a lot of ways to what's happening today with AI and gig work, where big companies, powerful people and rich people with a lot of access to resources are using technologies in a certain way. They're adopting [00:03:00] AI in ways that might threaten writers, artists, ordinary workers. The gig app companies are turning to industries that had been organized a certain way for a long time and basically saying we can do this with a peer-to-peer platform now where we take a cut of it, but also cut out the part where you get benefits. And it started with Uber and it started with Lyft and now it's this gig work model is moving on to bigger sectors of the economy like health care and so forth. And all the while workers are feeling like it's pushing them into more precarious situations. 

So a lot of people are recognizing these forces and the similarities to the original Luddites, and they're saying, Hey, the Luddites were not dummies. The Luddites, in fact, used technology in their lives every day for hundreds of years. If you're a cloth worker, if you're a weaver using a hand loom in a cottage, or if you're a stocking frame worker, using it to knit goods, or if you're working a cloth finishing device, a gig mill -- all of these [00:04:00] things were technologies that they had really firsthand knowledge of how to use, and they were opposing these changes, not because they hated the technology, but because they hated how it was being used against them. 

And so we find ourselves in a similar situation today where artists are saying, Hey, wait a minute. And I've talked to many of them in my work as a journalist who are seeing up to 50 percent of their work dry up because they used to draw illustrations for a company that can now do that with Midjourney, or a copywriter that used to work for a corporation, now they can use ChatGPT to get some approximation of it. 

And so these already precarious jobs are drying up a little bit in a way that is very contested because -- just like the cloth workers 200 years ago who complained about the quality and the methods of their work being stolen by the machines and all the labor that they'd put into building a reputation and so forth of England's cloth industry, the machine owners were capitalizing on [00:05:00] that, automating large parts of it, using children to run the machines for less cost and then putting out an inferior product -- well, artists today say, Hey, all of this stuff has been stolen from work we've put on the internet. It's been vacuumed up into these systems that a tech company is going to profit off of to churn out an inferior product. And it's going to not only deprive us of a chance to make a living selling our work, but it's also going to drive the market down in general for the prices for this stuff, 'cause now we're competing with an automated system. 

So the similarities are so numerous and the Luddites I think are increasingly seen as sympathetic and not reactionary or dumb because really that mischaracterization is the result of a propaganda campaign, to put it bluntly, by the Crown at the time that really had an interest in the Luddites, at when they first rose up were really popular. People would join them in the streets, people from other trades who weren't an obvious threat of being automated away in their workplaces -- [00:06:00] the steel workers, the coal workers, the shoemakers, hatters -- they would all come out and they'd join the Luddites. And even some of the authorities at the time would just let them attack the shops. Part of that is because the Luddites were very tactical and at first, especially, they would only destroy the machines that were automating their work. They would leave all the other machinery that didn't disrupt the social contract in place and they would write threatening letters explaining why they were doing what they were doing, they'd give the factory owners an opportunity to take down the automating machines, and they would be blunt: they said, You have erased 300 of our brother's jobs. And you take down the machines or you'll get a visit from Ned Ludd. That's how they would write their letters and go about their campaign. And if they complied, Ned Ludd's army wouldn't show up. But if they didn't, if they kept the machines up, then they'd either sneak through the window or hold up the overseer at gunpoint, and they'd take that hammer to those machines. 

And it was twofold. It was a symbolic tactic, saying "These are the machines being used by the rich to get even richer. If we destroy them, we're also dealing a [00:07:00] blow to these forces that are making society more unequal, less just." And so people could get behind that. 

They were also very tactical. You destroy the machine that can do the work that has caused you to lose a job.

Economies were much less complex. We didn't have globalization to the same degree. It was: your town was probably a cloth-producing town if you were in the Luddite sphere of influence. If you smash the machine in the factory that's doing your job, then they can't use it to take your job anymore.

So, it did serve both purposes. And they were really popular. So people were cheering for them. So the state had to come in and say, Look at these people, they're destroying their own industry, they're dummies, they're against progress. They're fighting against technology and advancement in general. They're deluded." That was the favorite word: they were deluded, and they would always suggest that they were under the influence of some malcontented leader, because common people at the time couldn't be trusted to act on their own accord or to understand what was bad for them. 

Being a Luddite Is Good, Actually ft. Jathan Sadowski - Left Reckoning - Air Date 5-29-21

JATHAN SADOWSKI: Luddism was a glorious moment of [00:08:00] solidarity and collective action by workers. The reason that on TMK, Ed and I are really trying to bring back Luddism is because we think that there's a lot of lessons to be learned in terms of how we think of tech criticism, going back to the beginning of our conversation is understanding tech criticism as something that is fundamentally adversarial, something that should be dangerous to the interest of capital, to the material conditions of capital, while raising up the material conditions of workers.

And at the same time, understanding that the reason why the good name of Ned Ludd has been dragged through the mud is because because of the capitalist, really, saying that this is actually threatening to us, we need to assassinate the character of this. 

Actually, this was one of the first instances of capital asking the state to bring in the army to suppress workers was the Luddite uprising. And they did. [00:09:00] The army came in and killed so-called Luddites and made Luddism a treasonous act because it was so threatening to the interest of capital. 

MATT LECH - HOST, LEFT RECKONING: It's a lesson about activism too, because there's this way that activism is defined, you either have nonviolence or you have terrorism. And sabotage is something different between those two and it's, I think, very threatening to the interest of capital. So we shouldn't be surprised at this reaction to Ludd. 

JATHAN SADOWSKI: I could go off on this and the linkages to sabotage because I think, fast forward a hundred years later from the Luddites, and you've got the IWW, the International Workers of the World, and you've got people like Elizabeth Gurley Flynn writing a brilliant pamphlet in defense of sabotage, saying that like the strike, sabotage is a necessary tool in the workers' arsenal against capital. Like the strike, we should not moralize about [00:10:00] sabotage, we should not look down upon or question the motivations of workers who engage in sabotage, but instead understand why they do what they do and how we might support what they do.

And that is in the same way, I think, what we see of Luddism is it is really about understanding and asking really critical questions. Does this technology contribute to social welfare? Does it contribute to socially beneficial ends? I've called it like the Marie Kondo of techno politics. You hold up this technology, you ask those questions, and if the answer is no, then you throw it in the trash. And we need to get more comfortable with understanding technology as something that is not only political, not only human made, but it's something that therefore can be unmade, can be deconstructed and dismantled by people for good ends. Just because something exists doesn't mean it deserves to exist. 

And I think that's a myth of determinism that we are [00:11:00] sold is that all we need is innovation: more stuff on top of more stuff on top of more stuff. I think we need to start asking more questions about why we have this stuff and if it deserves to exist.

DAVID GRISCOM - HOST, LEFT RECKONING: I think that's on point. And it's a lot of the way that Ludism is properly understood are people who have severe fears of technology or people who don't understand technology. When in fact the picture that you're painting right here is people who very much understand technology and what it's doing to them and doing to their community.

And it's something that should be replicated much more because, especially if you read tech journalism -- I know there's a lot of great folks out there who do good tech journalism, but a lot of it is just, as you were saying earlier, repeating press releases, acting as if these things have no effect on a material reality, but are just expressions of us uncovering the truth of the being, the truth of the world, uncovering the tech that is just always out there instead of a very specific process that is bringing about a particular end. 

And I think it's important for us to [00:12:00] understand not just as workers, but also in politics, because one thing that was so frustrating, for example, is Andrew Yang's campaign in 2020, the way that he talked about unemployment was this is just the consequence of the wheels of history moving in a certain way, because technology and robots and artificial intelligence are just reaching a point, and there's nothing we can do to stop it. But we'll just, put a bandaid on the bottom, right? It was very attractive to some people, especially working people were attracted to it because they're seeing, oh, my job is becoming more automated. There is more surveillance than I've ever experienced. And it's a great tool for the wealthy and people like Bezos who say yeah, this is just the natural order of things, rather than no, the technology is being developed in a certain way because you have been historically put onto this lower rung, like the working class in this country has been devastated for decades and decades. So technology is being used to brutalize you and to turn you more and more into a machine.

Again, these things are not just coming out of nowhere. 

JATHAN SADOWSKI: A lot of the coverage around [00:13:00] Amazon over the last year or so I think also really shows that the conditions that the Luddites were originally reacting against sounds a whole lot like an Amazon warehouse, right?

And it's the fact that these things in capitalism continue to replay themselves. These same relationships continue to replay themselves, but in ways that just are ever intensifying. And I think that the reaction to them also demands an equal and opposite reaction, right? One that is increasingly intensifying to meet capital where it is trying to meet us.

Why this top AI guru thinks we might be in extinction level trouble | The InnerView - TRT World - Air Date 1-22-24

IMRAN GARDA - HOST, THE INNERVIEW: You're sounding the alarm. Geoffrey Hinton, seen as the founder or father or godfather of AI, he's sounding the alarm and has distanced himself from a lot of his previous statements. Others in the mainstream are coming out, heavily credentialed people who are the real deal when it comes to AI. They're saying we need guardrails. We need regulation. We need to be careful. Maybe we should stop everything. [00:14:00] Yet, OpenAI, Microsoft, DeepMind. These are companies, but then you have governments investing in this. Everybody's still rushing forward, hurtling forward towards a possible doom. Why are they still doing it despite these very legitimate and strong warnings? Is it only about the bottom line and money and competition, or is there more to it? 

CONNOR LEAHY: This is a great question, and I really like how you phrase, you said they were "rushing towards", because this is really the correct way of looking at this. It's not that it is not possible to do this well. It is not that it's not possible to build safe AI. I think this is possible. It's just really hard. It takes time. It's the same way that it's much easier to build a nuclear reactor that melts down than to build a nuclear reactor that is stable. Like, of course, this is just hard. So, you need time, and you need resources to do this. 

But unfortunately, we're in a situation right now where, at least here in the UK, [00:15:00] there is currently more regulation on selling a sandwich to the public than to develop potentially lethal technology that could kill every human on Earth. This is true. This is the current case. And a lot of this is because of slowdown. It's just, you know, governments are slow, people don't want, and vested interests. You make a lot of money by pushing AI. Pushing AI further makes you a lot of money. It gets you famous on Twitter. You know, look how much, like, these people are rock stars. People like Sam Altman's a rock star on Twitter. People love these people. They're like, Oh, yeah, they're bringing the future. They're making big money, so they must be good. 

But like, I mean, it's just not that simple. Unfortunately, we're in a territory where we all agree, somewhere in the future, there's a precipice which we will fall down if we continue. We don't know where it is. Maybe it's far away, maybe it's very close. And my opinion is, if you don't know where it is, you should stop. While other people, [00:16:00] who, you know, gain money, power, or just ideological points... like, a lot of these people, it's very important to understand, do this because they truly believe, like a religion, they believe in transhumanism, in the glorious future where AI will love us, and so on. So there's many reasons. But, I mean, yeah, a cynical take is just I could be making a lot more money right now if I was just pushing AI. I could get a lot more money than I have right now. 

IMRAN GARDA - HOST, THE INNERVIEW: How do we do anything about this without just deciding to cut the undersea internet cables and blow up the satellites in space and just start again? How do you actually, because this is a technical problem, and it's also a moral and ethical problem. So, where do you even begin right now, or is it too late? 

CONNOR LEAHY: So, the weirdest thing about the world to me right now, as someone who's deep into this, is that things are going very, very bad. We have, you know, crazy, [00:17:00] you know, just corporations with zero oversight just plowing billions of dollars into going as fast as possible with no oversight, with no accountability, which is about as bad as it could be. But somehow we haven't yet lost. It's not yet over. It could have been over. There's many things where it could be over tomorrow. But it's not yet. There is still hope. There is still hope. I don't know if there's going to be hope in a couple of years or even in one year, but there currently still is hope.

IMRAN GARDA - HOST, THE INNERVIEW: Wait, hold on. One year? I mean, that's... come on, man! I mean, we're probably going to put out this interview like a couple of weeks after we record it. A few months will pass. We could all be dead by the time this gets 10,000 views. I mean, just explain this timeline. One year. Why one year? Why is it going so fast that even one year would be too far ahead? Explain that. 

CONNOR LEAHY: I'm not saying one year is like guaranteed by any means . I think it's unlikely, but it's not impossible. And this is important to understand, is that [00:18:00] AI and computer technology is an exponential. It's like COVID. This is like saying, in February, you know, 'a million COVID infections! That's impossible! That can't happen in six months!', and it absolutely did. This is kind of how AI is as well. Exponentials look slow. They look like, you know, one infected, two infected, four infected, that's not so bad. But then you have 10,000, 20,000, 40,000, you know, 100,000, you know, within a single week. And this is how this technology works as well, is that as our computers get - there's something called Moore's Law, which is not really a law, it's more like an observation - that every two years, our computers get about, you know, there's some details, but about twice as powerful. So that's an exponential. And it's not just our computers are getting more powerful, our software is getting better, our AIs are getting better, our data is getting better, more money is coming into this field. We are on an [00:19:00] exponential. This is why things can go so fast. So while I'm not like, you know, it would be weird if we would all be dead in one year, it is physically possible. You can't rule it out if we continue on this path. 

IMRAN GARDA - HOST, THE INNERVIEW: The powerful people who can do something about this, especially when it comes to regulation, when you saw those congressmen speaking to Sam Altman, they didn't seem to know what the hell they were talking about. So how frustrating is it for you that the people who can make a difference have zero clue about what's really going on?

And more important than that, they didn't seem to want to actually know. They had weird questions that made no sense. And, uh, so you're thinking, Okay, these guys are in charge. I mean, no wonder the A. I. is gonna come and wipe us all out. Maybe maybe we deserve it. 

CONNOR LEAHY: Well, I wouldn't go that far. But, um, this used to annoy me a lot. This used to be extremely frustrating. Um, but I've come to I've come to peace with it to a large degree because the thing that I've really found is that [00:20:00] understanding the world is hard. Understanding complex topics and technology is hard, not just because they're complicated, but also because people have lives. And this is okay. This is normal. People have families. They have responsibilities. There's a lot of things people have to deal with, and I don't shame people for this. You know, like, I have turkey with my family every Thanksgiving or whatever, and, you know, my aunts and uncles, look, they have their own lives going on. They maybe don't really have time, you know, to listen to me give them a rant about it, so I don't. 

So, I have a lot of love and a lot of compassion for that things are hard. This is, of course, doesn't mean that solves the problem. But I'm just trying to say that, like, it is, of course, frustrating to some degree that there are no adults in the room. This is how I would see it. Is that there is sometimes a belief that somewhere there is someone who knows what's going on. There's an adult who's got it all under control, you know, someone in the government. They've got this under control. And as someone who's tried to find that person, I could tell you [00:21:00] this person does not exist.

The truth is, the fact that anything works at all in the world is kind of a miracle. It's kind of amazing that anything works at all with how chaotic everything is. But the truth is, is that there are quite a lot of people who like, who want the world to be good. You know? They might not have the right information. They might be confused, they might be getting lobbied by various people with bad intentions, but like most people want their families to live and have a good life. Most people don't want bad things to happen. Most people want other people to be happy and safe. And luckily for us, most normal people, so not elites, not necessarily politicians or technologists, but normal people, do have the right intuition around AI, where they see like, Wow, that seems really scary. Let's be careful with this. And this is what gives me hope. 

So when I think about politicians and I'm not being in charge, I think this is now our responsibility as citizens of the world that [00:22:00] we have to take this under our own hands. We can't wait for people to save us.

This is not good - jstoobs (TikTok) - Air Date 2-16-24

MEGAN CRUZ - HOST, THE BROAD PERSPECTIVE: I'm becoming increasingly convinced that we are headed towards an artistic apocalypse. I know that sounds dramatic, but this technology should scare absolutely everyone. In case you hadn't heard yesterday, OpenAI announced their newest technology. They're calling it Sora. It is a text to video engine that allows people to use word prompts to create photo realistic video. 

Every single video in this thread is 100 percent AI generated and it's something that absolutely cannot be stressed enough that every single AI generator that exists is trained off of existing art. It is trained off of art and words and writing that often they don't obtain permission from the original artist before they feed them into their generators to learn how to recreate their work essentially.

But before I get into all of the many ways that this is objectively horrifying from a human and artistic standpoint, I want you to think about all of the immediate real world applications of this technology. Think about the way this technology could be used in a surveillance state. Think about the way this technology could be used in a court of law with a potentially corrupt [00:23:00] legal system and law enforcement system.

This technology absolutely will be used to inflict trauma and humiliation by way of things like AI deepfake porn or anything else that you can think of that is humiliating or degrading. The worst things you can think of that could be used with this technology, I guarantee you will be used with this technology.

And the ease of use and accessibility means that children will inevitably have access to this as well. There are a million terrifying applications for this. I cannot even imagine how one would protect themselves from scams or identity theft with technology like this. Of course, there'll be rampant political propaganda, AI deepfakes. Something absolutely everyone needs to consider is the way that this technology could be used to discredit the validity of things like genocide that are happening in the world right now. If you think Holocaust deniers are bad now, imagine when technology like this is normalized and people can see real footage of human suffering being inflicted by, say, an authoritarian government, and say, Well, who even knows if that's real? Or worse, governments using this technology to create artificial evidence of atrocities they claimed happen but have no evidence of. 

Like, this is [00:24:00] absolutely terrifying in terms of the misinformation that is possible, and I personally find it absolutely disgusting that this technology barely exists. It's in its infancy, and the very first application that people want to use it for in this world is to eliminate artists. 

I've seen so many people say, Oh, well, it'll never really be able to replace humans. We'll always know the difference. And the thing is, no, we won't. The way that this technology has advanced in a single year is absolutely astounding. Any deficiency you can think of right now that you can say, Oh, well, it can't do this thing that a human can do. It will learn way faster than you think it will. Artists have been underpaid and undervalued since forever, and it's only gotten worse with the rise of film as the most prolific art form of the modern age.

I think film is great, but it is inextricably tied to capitalism. Art and entertainment are kind of indiscernible from one another sometimes because of the world we live in and the fact that film is art, but film is also a capitalist endeavor meant to make money. Art is born out of passion, and it inspires passion. I just don't understand why that would ever be something that we would want to fucking streamline. People don't go into [00:25:00] art to become rich and famous. I'm sure it's nice when that does happen, but most artists feel a burning need to create. And that comes from needing to connect with people, needing to make sense of the cruel and chaotic senselessness of our existence, to find meaning in this fucking world. And I'm so sorry. But being good at putting sentences together to throw into a generator that's going to spit art out on the other side is not what that is. 

This is the thing about automation and the way AI is going to eventually be used in all industries, is that it is fundamentally stripping us of our reasons to be alive. Like, there are studies that show that once people retire, they die earlier. Work, even busy work, even monotonous bullshit jobs that we hate, give us a reason to get out of bed in the morning and live. And I am all for finding a way to use this technology to improve people's lives, to make it so they have to work less and live more, but that is not the direction that this is going.

And the scariest thing about all this to me, not just as someone who identifies as an artist, not just as someone who really believes that art is one of, if not the most meaningful [00:26:00] things you can devote your life to, but just as a human who has existed in this world that has become increasingly more isolated, increasingly more digital, increasingly more performative, is that I look around and I see the average person does not give a fuck about any of this. Because for over a decade now, we've had this conditional programming, this dopamine hit after dopamine hit, this artificial identity that we have to construct for ourselves to perform on the internet all the time is becoming increasingly our real identity, and people don't care about the real fucking world.

All of this is so strategically designed to stimulate the pleasure triggers in our brain to slowly turn us into these perfect, docile consumers who don't need real world comforts because we have virtual fun. Like, it's fine that we're all getting poorer and nobody can afford anything because we don't actually need real money to do most of the things we want to do online. 

Whether or not you believe it's intentional, this is what's happening. We're being stripped of the things that make us human. Our sense of community has crumbled as we've become more isolated in this digital space and now our sense of artistic expression is being replaced by the literal click of a button. It is so dystopian.

The ACTUAL Danger of A.I. with Gary Marcus Part 1 - Factually! - Air Date 7-2-23

ADAM CONOVER - HOST, FACTUALLY!: Please walk us through your other [00:27:00] proposals for regulating AI. 

GARY MARCUS: So, next thing would be global AI governance. I think we need to coordinate what we're doing across the globe, which is actually in the interest of the companies itself.

You know, large language models are expensive to train and you don't want to have 195 countries, 195 sets of rules, requiring 195 bits of violence to the environment because each of these is so expensive and so energetically costly. So you want coordination for that reason. The companies don't really want completely different regimes in each place. And ultimately, as things do get more powerful, we want to make sure that all of this stuff is under control. And so I think we need some coordination around that. 

Next thing I would suggest is something like the FDA, if you're going to deploy AI at large scale. So it's one thing if you want to do research in your own lab, but if you're gonna roll something out to 100 million people, you should make sure that the benefits actually outweigh the risks. And independent scientists should be part of that and they should be able [00:28:00] to say, well, you've made this application, but there's this risk and you haven't done enough to address it. Or, you know, you've said there's this benefit, but we look at your measures and they're not very solid. Can you go back and do some more? So there should be a little bit of negotiation until things are really solid. 

Another thing we should have is auditing after things come out, make sure, for example, that systems are not being used in biased ways. So like our large language models being used to make job decisions. And if they are, are they discriminating? We need to know that. 

ADAM CONOVER - HOST, FACTUALLY!: But, uh, now all of these regulations sound great to me. They sound important having an FDA-style agency, et cetera. Uh, that sounds like a great thing to do when you've got a technology that's causing problems. The history of that sort of regulation in the United States is that when you have a new field, that field desperately resists regulation with every fiber of its being. And it isn't until there are real, massive harms, people dying in the streets from tainted food that we get, you know, food regulation and, [00:29:00] you know, instituted by Teddy Roosevelt. I told that story on my Netflix show, The G Word. Um, it requires generally like wholesale death and devastation before we start regulating these things. Do you feel that there's any prospect in the near term for the kind of regulations that you're talking about? Or are we going to have a lot of harms first?

GARY MARCUS: It's difficult to say. I mean, when I gave the Senate testimony, there was actually real strong bipartisan recognition that we do need to move quickly, that government moved too slowly on social media, didn't really get to the right place. And so, there's some recognition that there's a need to do something now. Whether that gets us over the hump, I don't know. 

Part of my thinking is, figure it out now what we need to do, and even if it doesn't pass, we'll have it ready, so if there is a sort of 9/11 moment, some massive, you know, AI induced cybercrime or something like that, we'll be there. We'll know what to do. And so I don't think we should waste time right now being defeatist. I think we should figure out what is in the best interest [00:30:00] of the nation and really of the globe and be as prepared as possible, whether it passes now or later. 

ADAM CONOVER - HOST, FACTUALLY!: I agree that we should do as much as possible. I'm just a little bit concerned about the amount of power wielded by the tech industry. You know that this is one of the most profitable industries in America. So it's very easy for those CEOs to go and get a meeting with Joe Biden, whatever they want. And it's harder for folks such as yourself or some of the other academics we've had on the show to have those conversations, but I agree that we need to have those conversations.

GARY MARCUS: I'll say this. I'm in a little bit of a special category, especially after the Senate testimony. But right now it's actually very easy for me to get meetings. I met, um, well, I guess I shouldn't be too explicit, but I'm able to talk to whoever I need to talk to in Washington and Europe and so forth right now. So, people in power right now. are recognizing that they don't entirely trust the big tech companies, that they do need some outside voices. And for whatever reason, I right now am in that position and they're taking me very seriously. If I say I'm going to be in [00:31:00] Washington, could you meet next week? People say, yes. And in fact, I was just in Washington, met a lot of very high ranking people. And then I got on the airplane and then some other high ranking people are like, when are you coming back? I think just by coincidence.

But, you know, people noticed the testimony that I gave, wanna solve this problem, like, they're sincere in wanting to solve it. There's a problem that not everybody agrees about what to do and everybody's trying to take credit for having the one true solution. And like, in some ways it's an embarrassment of riches, everybody's trying to help. In some ways there's a coordination problem. I would say that more than any time I've ever seen before, the government is reaching out to at least some of us who are experts in the field, trying to say, you know, What would you do in this circumstance? So I give them some credit for that.

The Left Luddites and the AI Accelerationists - torres - Air Date - 5-15-23

TORRES - HOST, TORRES: Visions of the future are varied, and for as much as I'd like to believe that the future will be as rosy as these authors do, I find it hard to believe. Take for example the scandalous finding that 40 percent of jobs will be lost to AI. [00:32:00] These findings have been moderated by more measured studies, like a 2016 OECD study that found that less than 10 percent of jobs were likely to be automated. The study was more robust than the previous one for a variety of reasons, and more importantly, it wasn't funded by the companies that are creating AI technology and want to sell you on it. Seriously, if we were to listen to the CEOs, ChatGPT might as well be digital gold. But even then, 10 percent is still a lot of jobs.

The question of whether AI advancements will lead to job loss is, undeniably yes. You won't find one serious person saying otherwise, but there's something we're missing here. Author Aaron Beninov centers his analysis on one primary question. Why are we so obsessed with technologically driven job loss? There's a recurring hype surrounding automation theory, one that's been happening since at least the 1800s, but frankly, I wouldn't be surprised if we found a manuscript by a caveman afraid that the invention of fire was going to cost him his [00:33:00] role as hunter. 

Beninov argues that the cyclical nature of automation discourse has less to do with technology itself and more to do with the nature of capitalist society. Taking its periodicity into account, automation theory may be described as a spontaneous discourse of capitalist society that, for a mixture of structural and contingent reasons, reappears in those societies time and time again as a way of thinking through their limits. 

What summons the automation discourse periodically into being is a deep anxiety about the functioning of the labor market. There are simply too few jobs for too many people. Why is the market unable to provide jobs for so many of the workers who need them? Proponents of the automation discourse explain this problem of a low demand for labor in terms of runaway technological change. But this is misguided. In short, there's a fundamental problem in the labor market that's prompting these fears in the first place.

As [00:34:00] we discussed, a whole lot of jobs people used to do a hundred years ago no longer exist. But this isn't new. Automation is a constant feature in the history of capitalism. What is new, relatively speaking, is that global capitalism is now failing to provide jobs for the people who need them. And those of us who find them are often underemployed, doing jobs we're way too qualified to do. There's higher spikes of unemployment, inequality is only getting higher, something has gone wrong. Labor is in short demand. Automation theorists would argue, "yeah, no shit. That's because of automation, baby. That's what we've been telling you. Robots took our jobs and they're only gonna keep doing it." but Beninov argues we'd be wrong to chalk it up to simple automation, because if you look at the numbers, there's a deep economic rot at the center of this. 

Let's look at manufacturing, an industry that's already seen automation hit it in a big way. Already cybernetically enhanced, we would expect productivity and output to have skyrocketed, right? But this isn't the case. In fact, recent figures [00:35:00] show the manufacturing industry diminishing, growing at a sluggish pace that doesn't compare with the post WWII golden age. It's a classic crisis of overproduction and overcapacity. Demand for goods has stagnated compared to our ability to produce them, leading to a wave of deindustrialization. And manufacturing is only one such industry. 

Across the board, economic growth has stagnated. Some would argue that this is inevitable if we're using the economy after World War II as the baseline. The global economy was booming after the war. Expecting it to stay like that, well, it's not a fair comparison. If we instead compare it to pre World War I levels, things are much more similar, but here's the kicker. As Beninoff explains, in that period, large sections of the population still lived in the countryside and produced much of what they needed to live. Yet, in spite of the much more limited sphere in which labor markets were active and in which industrialization took place, this era was marked by a persistently low [00:36:00] demand for labor, making for employment insecurity, rising inequality, and tumultuous social movements aimed at transforming economic relations. 

In this respect, the world of today does look like this era. The difference is that today, a much larger share of the world's population depends on finding work in labor markets in order to live. Considering how you can't just grow food in your backyard like you used to a hundred years ago, this development is unsettling.

Beninov admits that technological progress does play a factor here, but it's secondary to the primary issue of a stagnant capitalist engine that can't fuel economic growth to keep people employed. The difference today versus a hundred years ago is that the vast majority of the planet is now a part of this wage labor system. If this stagnation continues, it's likely to make the employment insecurity, rising inequality, and social movements of the past century look like child's play. The problem is capitalism, not AI [00:37:00] or automation.

Luddites Show Us The Politics Of Technology | Brian Merchant - The Majority Report w/ Sam Seder - Air Date 11-21-23

SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: We should note that literally a couple hours ago was announced that the UAW came to at least a tentative agreement with GM after announcing, I guess it was yesterday or over the weekend, an agreement with Stellantis. This is on the heels of an agreement with Ford. And it seems like one of the most successful strikes, union demands in modern history, maybe at least in the past 50 years, I think maybe for sure in the past 50 years, it seems. 25 percent pay increase is the top line figure, over the course of a three- or four-, five-year contract, depending on all the details we're going to get a little bit more. But how much of that type of unionism in particular -- one that is really aggressive and more democratic. The UAW had a big -- they were under a consent decree. That brought about this administration of Shawn Fain, which [00:38:00] feels far more democratic, both in structure and processes, but also just in disposition. He is much more in tune to the Membership. It feels like from the outside than we've seen in the past. How much of that is a, descendant of the Luddite movement? 

BRIAN MERCHANT: Yeah. So when the Luddites were rising up, one of the reasons they had to rise up, I didn't mention, was that it was illegal to form a union. There were laws on the books called The Combination Acts. So it tried to collectively bargain and say, Hey, we're all agreed on this, we won't work for this much less, you could be thrown in prison. So part of the outgrowth of the Luddite movement was the reform effort that was really spurred by some of the folks that I follow in the book, Gravener Henson, who was a Luddite himself, but also was interested in pulling the levers of reform and he really fought to the bitter end and with, ultimately, some success to get those Combination Acts repealed and we saw the [00:39:00] beginnings of the union movement take rise. 

But there's a really good lesson from the Luddites in that, so being militant can work. You don't need to actually smash machines, but the industrialists and the elites of the day were terrified of the Luddites. A lot of them gave in and offered demands because they had power and they were popular. And, we've seen as you mentioned with Shawn Fain and the previous leadership of some of our unions had not wanted to mix it up too much. They had not wanted to push against the companies. It had gotten pretty slack. 

So I think seeing these more -- it's not militant, but it's a lot more confrontational, they're leaning into their power a lot more. 

And I would also point out, one of the big things was that the companies were trying to say we have new technologies, right? Where you're going to be working with batteries and electric cars, and that's not as hard to produce. So we need to pay you less. And one of the things the union did was stand up and say, absolutely [00:40:00] not. This is still labor. This is still very labor intensive and skilled work. Just because it's a new technology does not give you the right to say that you should be paid less or take more work off the table. 

Same thing with the WGA. I would say that's another modern example of a very successful Luddite-tinged strike, because they saw the studio saying that we want to be able to use AI to write scripts, and then maybe we'll let you rewrite them for a lesser fee. And they drew a red line.

And I argue, and I think I did argue in one of my columns that that's Luddism in the modern day. You don't need a hammer, you just need to reject what you know is going to be an exploitative use of technology. Because they knew the studios were not going to write a whole movie with AI, they were just going to write a blueprint, bring it to them and say, okay you can get a rewrite fee for this, but we'll own the rights, you don't get residuals, you don't get all this, and it was mostly a way to try to break labor power, to try to degrade conditions. And they drew that red line in the WGA and they said no. They said, absolutely not. If somebody is going to use AI, we're going to have control [00:41:00] over how it's going to be used. The studio can't do it. We'll make that decision. And amazingly, they won that. They won that right to control that part of the labor process. So that's a huge victory, and I think one that is extremely inspiring because we're going to see a wave of these fights coming down. 

SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Do you think that the legacy of the Luddites or the lessons that come out of there are that tactic of militancy that they had, or did they represent a new way of understanding of the benefits/increase in productivity, and who gets a piece of that, who shares in that so-called benefit -- if the sharing of that benefit goes to all the parties, the constituencies involved in that factory or whatever it is, that production line, or just one narrow beneficiary, or is it both?

BRIAN MERCHANT: Yeah, I think it's a little bit of both, but I think it's more the latter. I think it's saying [00:42:00] it is, in fact, you shouldn't be encouraged to question how technology is going to be used in your workplace, in your life, in your daily routine. Is it, Who is a given technology going to serve? Is it going to serve you the worker? Or is it going to serve your boss at your expense? And it's giving, I think, people license again, especially. 

This is really important in this era, where for so long we've been taught that progress is equal to technology. It's Silicon Valley is the bringer of all of these great technological gifts and to question or to resist them was unthinkable for so long. We've seen some of that change with the tech clash and so forth, but there's still a lot of people who are very resistant to even say, Wait a minute, this seems like an awfully raw deal. And we're seeing that I think with, thanks to the writers and to a number of the other folks who are pushing back on this right now, we're seeing that facade start to crack. 

So I think the Luddites [00:43:00] have given us a good example and an important example to look at the way that it's being deployed in society or even in our specific workplaces and to question it. And it's okay to question it. It's okay to be a Luddite. And in fact, there's great power in being a Luddite.

BONUS The ACTUAL Danger of A.I. with Gary Marcus Part 2 - Factually! - Air Date 7-2-23

ADAM CONOVER - HOST, FACTUALLY!: You do have a view on what regulations you feel that we actually need around AI. 

GARY MARCUS: I do. 

ADAM CONOVER - HOST, FACTUALLY!: So let's talk about what a few of those might be.

GARY MARCUS: So I have suggestion from the top level, like macro level all the way down. I don't know how much time you want to go into it, but I'll start with I think that the US and other countries similarly need a central agency or a cabinet level position or something like that, a secretary of AI with supporting infrastructure, whose full time job it is to look at all the ramifications of this, because they are so vast.

And because even though we have existing agencies that can help, none of the existing agencies were really designed in the AI era. And there are all kinds of cases that [00:44:00] slip through what do you do about wholesale misinformation as opposed to retail misinformation? Like if some foreign actor makes a billion pieces of misinformation a day, maybe you have to rethink how we address that.

And so we definitely need someone who's responsibility, somebody who lives and breathes AI follows all of this stuff. We don't want to leave it to, the Senate has to make different rules when GPT 5 comes out from GPT 4 and from GPT 6. That's not what they're there for.

ADAM CONOVER - HOST, FACTUALLY!: So we need a regulatory agency similar to the EPA or another agency where, when facts on the ground change, that agency can issue new regulatory rules without having to go through Congress, which is how we regulate. We've got the FAA, we've got NHTSA for highway safety, et cetera.

GARY MARCUS: We obviously need this for AI. It's obvious to me, it's probably obvious to you not everybody in Washington agrees. People will tell you it's very hard to stand up a new agency, which is true. There arex complications, it is not trivial, but we need it. So that's one thing I would say. 

ADAM CONOVER - HOST, FACTUALLY!: Do you have any concern? Let me just ask you Gary about that first, because agencies of that type in the [00:45:00] past have become captured by those groups. If you look at the FAA and, the Boeing 737 Max, that really falls at the feet of the FAA is, having lax regulation. You can look at other agencies that have that problem. And why is that? It's because you have the revolving door. 

GARY MARCUS: My understanding, I'm not an expert, but my non expert understanding is that they got tricked on that one. They got told this is not really a new vehicle and it really was. It was, there were not fundamental changes. I think that the general answer to that question is you have to have independents, mostly scientists, outside scientists who can raise their hand and say, no, they're telling you that this is, just the same airplane, but they've gutted all of these systems and replaced them. And we need to understand these new systems. They're nice on paper, but we need data to see if this is actually going to work. We need, for example, to understand how the pilots are going to respond to these new systems, which in principle, mathematically correct, but if they fool the pilots, then you're going to have all kinds of mayhem. And we need to look into that. And so you have to have independents. 

[00:46:00] What you don't want is regulatory capture where the companies being regulated, we already talked about this are the ones who are making the rules. And so, Boeing shifted things and framed things in a way that suited their purpose, but didn't suit the public's purpose.

ADAM CONOVER - HOST, FACTUALLY!: Yeah, that's my concern is that we stand up this agency. And then 10 years from now, the person running it is like Sam Altman's brother or whatever, because he has the power to get his buddy appointed to run the thing. And that's been the case with agencies in the past, especially when an administration changes, but that's just good government. That's a problem of good government that exists for any field. 

GARY MARCUS: And it's a serious problem, it's not to be ignored, but I think we have to face it. So my second, recommendation I just already talked about. Which is scientists have to be involved in this process. We just cannot leave it to the companies and the governments alone. And the governments have been running around putting out press releases and doing photo ops with the leaders of the companies without having scientists in the room or without prominently displaying the scientists that are there, and that turns my stomach every time I see that. They did that in the UK, they've done that in the US, where they roll out some top government [00:47:00] official and they have OpenAI and Deep Mind CEOs or things like that, and you have to have scientists there to send the message that this is not just, my brother in law running the organization kind of thing that you just talked about.

ADAM CONOVER - HOST, FACTUALLY!: Not only do you need to have scientists there, it would probably be better not to have the companies that you are seeking to regulate in the halls of power. If the point is to regulate, the use of AI and regulate these companies, then you probably shouldn't welcome them all to the White House for a big summit where you do what they say, right?

GARY MARCUS: You actually do need them in the room. They have a lot of knowledge about what's practical and where things are. They should have a voice and they're affected and we don't want to. Regulate our way into losing the AI race with China. Like there, there are lots of reasons to have the company in the room, but it has to be in moderation with other voices too. They just can't trust them for the whole deal. 

BONUS The anti-tech movement is back. - Alice Cappelle - Air Date 6-15-22

ALICE CAPPELLE - HOST, ALICE CAPPELLE: Recent anti-tech sentiments echoes the skepticism around Web3, cryptocurrencies, the metaverse. The numerous TV reports, articles on data exploitation, online [00:48:00] surveillance, big tech monopolies have succeeded in making the majority of people across all ages, social classes dubious of big tech.

Cryptocurrencies, NFTs appeared for many as the solution to fight against the lack of transparency of big tech. But the language used -- blockchain, smart contracts, etc. -- the scammy practices, its shortcomings, the volatility, and the massive online backlash it received, really reduced its potential and scope of influence.

Web3 and the crypto world thought to establish themselves as the only alternative to big tech's hand on society and all the problems it brought. Bella Hadid's latest NFT ad is a good example of that. Bella talks about a private society, a new global nation built on peace, love, compassion to escape the imperfections of our world.

As someone commented, private society? For who? New meta nation? For who? Everyone wants sustainability, compassion, peace, and love. This is terrifying. I found it terrifying too, not gonna lie. [00:49:00] Everybody wants sustainability, compassion, peace, and love, and that can be achieved outside of technology.

The idea that progress should be the aim of every nation stretches back to the Enlightenment, where scientific discoveries, the democratization of knowledge and literacy, meant that people could see society advance quickly in their lifetime.

This obsession with progress translated into a new economic model, capitalism, into greater liberties for individuals, new forms of government like democracy, greater power to parliaments. 

Technological progress went hand in hand with social progress, and we can argue that it's still the case. Technological advances have enabled people to live longer, healthier. They have facilitated manual labor. They have allowed us to come together and internationalize social movements through hashtags. 

Technologies aren't inherently bad. That's not the point I'm making here. I won't be a romantic here. I won't talk to you about indigenous communities who live in harmony with nature as an argument against our technology-obsessed societies. I think this argument is used way too often by people who [00:50:00] refuse to give them the technological tools that they deserve and they demand. I mean, they are doing great! Let them do their own thing with nature while we continue to pollute over here. I've seen this argument presented by right wing people, but also by people who claim to be progressive.

I'm not saying that we shouldn't embrace those communities and listen to what they have to say. I think the direction the climate movement is taking, a.k.a. including more indigenous people, is absolutely necessary. Their knowledge of nature is so precious. What I find more questionable is that we romanticize, almost fetishize, a sustainable way of living that only a tiny little fraction of us would be willing to embrace. And we use that argument to continue to isolate them from modern technologies. We all have a right to access modern technologies, so drinking water, medical services, transportation, efficient transportation, in case those services aren't local. 

What seems problematic to me is the reward system we have built around those technologies, that is fed by the ideology of constant progress, but also by our economic system, to the point where [00:51:00] it has become quite hard to define what progress really is.

Think about this. In the West, a new revolutionary cancer treatment gets the same media coverage as a new iPhone. But are we really talking about the same kind of progress? As Tom Nicholas argued in his video on the fake futurism of Elon Musk, the ideology of never-ending progress keeps people hopeful that the future can be bright, that humanity will always find a solution to the problems it faces.

But who is really benefiting from that sort of technological progress? By that I mean high speed tunnels for five-people-max cars, rockets to see the earth from space, or Bella Hadid's meta community. These are toys for the wealthy who ultimately want to leave this planet. 

On the other hand, vaccines patents were kept private by Western companies, and people like Bill Gates claim that we shouldn't give patents to non-Western countries and wait till the West can produce vaccines and send them to them. Of course, they came last on the list and suffered economic and social consequences as a result of that. 

I really want to argue that the [00:52:00] belief in constant progress is an ideology, a.k.a. an idea that has been repeated so many times that it appears as the truth. And one way to show it is to look at how it trickled down to us, how we have internalized it.

Let's take the phrase "be the best version of yourself." That's a good example. Becoming your best version means that you need to improve a little bit every day. The body and mind are perceived as a machine that needs to be improved, yes, every day, month, year, to increase its performance. The individual who seeks to become the best version of themselves will work on their physique, mental health, strength, intelligence, using scientific data to figure out what's the best way to achieve their goals.

In fact, scientific based methods of training at the gym, of memorizing for an exam, are now super appealing. Let's imagine that we make two videos with the same advice, but one is titled, "My 5 Tips to Lose Weight," and the other one, "5 Scientifically Proven Ways of Losing 10 Pounds in a Month." Guess which one is gonna get the most engagement?

Smartwatches tell you how many hours you slept last night, [00:53:00] how deep the sleep was, encouraging you to improve your stats. They also calculate how many steps you did per day, how many calories you burned. My experience of tracking steps, calories in the past completely changed my relationship with things that, in my opinion, should be intuitive: eating, working out, being active. A workout session was only good if I had reached the right amount of calories burned. A meal was only good only if I had met all the macronutrients targets. 

But anyway, closing the parentheses here. To conclude and connect everything we've said with ideas I hear more and more in left wing circles, especially in France at the moment, is the right for intimacy in the sense that we should be able to turn it all off, to be left alone. We are constantly invaded with lights, sounds, notifications, and it's not always our fault. Being stimulated has become the norm and prevent us from having time to just think.

I'm not saying that we should distance ourselves from the outside world, from politics, or any of that. You know you're not like that. What I'm saying is [00:54:00] that the constant flow of stimulation puts us in a state of paralysis. We're numbly being drawn back and forth by the waves of information, of so-called progress, without reflecting on them.

I'll end with this quote I found in the book Psychopolitics, written by Byung-Chul Han. It's [French philosopher Gilles] Deleuze talking, and he says, "It's not a problem of getting people to express themselves, but of providing little gaps of solitude and silence in which they might eventually find something to say. Repressive forces don't stop people from expressing themselves, but rather force them to express themselves. What a relief to have nothing to say." 

Final comments on the fork in the road and a look at our options

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: We've just heard clips today, starting with SHIFT, laying out an overview of who the Luddites were. Left Reckoning discussed the middle ground between peaceful and violent protest. TRT World explained some of the potential dangers of AI. jstoobs on TikTok described the cultural dystopia of AI video generation. Factually! discussed how government is attempting to regulate tech. [00:55:00] torres looked at the problem of capitalism and AI. And The Majority Report discussed the Luddites as a labor movement. 

That's what everybody heard, but members also heard bonus clips from Factually! discussing the process of setting up regulation for AI, and Alice Cappelle looked at who benefits from big tech and who can opt out. To hear that and have all of our bonus contents delivered seamlessly to the new members-only podcast feed that you'll receive, sign up to support the show at bestoftheleft.com/support, or shoot me an email requesting a financial hardship membership, because we don't let a lack of funds stand in the way of hearing more information. 

Now to wrap up, I have an excerpt from a New Yorker piece on Luddites and the book Blood in the Machine, the end of which may repeat some things that have already been said, but really sum things up pretty well. "The tragedy of the Luddites is not the fact that they failed to stop industrialization, so much as the way in which they [00:56:00] failed. In the end, parliament sided decisively with the entrepreneurs. Blood in the Machine suggests that although the forces of mechanization can feel beyond our control, the way society responds to such changes is not. Regulation of the textile industry could have protected the Luddite workers before they resorted to destruction. In the era of AI, we have another opportunity to decide whether automation will create advantages for all, or whether its benefits will flow only to the business owners and investors looking to reduce their payrolls. One 1812 letter from the Luddites described their mission as fighting against 'all machinery hurtful to commonality'. That remains a strong standard by which to judge technological gains". 

So, fundamentally this fork in the road we are standing in front of is about who the government or society more broadly [00:57:00] is going to back. And I must say it's an interesting time to try to guess what the government might do in this area, given that the right seems to be a leaning, you know, even if only slightly, a bit anti-corporate these days, you know, not for the same reasons that I am or you might be, but this could be one of those cases where we get back to the world of politics making strange bedfellows. We've actually been so hyperpolarized for so long now that that doesn't happen much anymore. But the efforts to reign in or break up big tech could be one of the first big ones in a while. 

 The second thing I want to highlight is the conclusion drawn in an episode of a show called Things Fell Apart that tries to trace the origins of our current culture wars. In the episode about managing online speech, or maybe our tendency to not think we need to manage online [00:58:00] speech until really, really forced to, they talk about the first time anyone was ever shamed for something they posted online. Back during the proto-Internet, an antisemitic joke was posted and it sparked a debate about whether to moderate such things or just let it run free. Initially, after much deliberation, it was decided that it was important to do some sort of content moderation for the sake of a healthy online discourse. However that stance was immediately attacked from a more libertarian perspective that would ultimately win out and set the tone for Silicon valley.

A Scottish Jewish joke - Things Fall Apart - Air Date 1-25-22

JON RONSON - HOST, THINGS FALL APART: John McCarthy was horrified at the thought of speech codes becoming the norm online. So he published a ferocious riposte to the ban, calling John Sack an "underling, who had spent those weeks not deliberating, but gurgling". He launched an [00:59:00] online petition too, one of the very first in internet history, gathering a hundred signatures from faculty. Then, as now, the power of the online petition was formidable. The ban on Brad's joke page was quickly reversed. John McCarthy's winning argument, John Sax says, had boiled down to: "We're really exploring the leading edge of computing here. Let's keep exploring it. Don't try and cut it off. We need to discover the boundaries of free speech by essentially running into them or crossing them." And that's the internet we have all lived in for the decades that followed. A libertarian engineer's utopia, where free speech thrived unencumbered, with no regard for the dangers it might cause society. And by dangers, I mean not only offensive speech, but fake news, too. And [01:00:00] because unencumbered free speech leads to conflict, which keeps people online longer than harmony does, it's a profitable ideology for the tech companies. It's epitomised best by how Twitter's UK general manager described the site in 2012 as the "free speech wing of the free speech party". "The interesting thing about Twitter is it's sort of Silicon Valley native, so maybe it all does tie back to the libertarian bent in the engineering culture". 

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: Now, maybe it's obvious, but I play this because I see it as another inflection point in the evolution of the relationship between technology and society. So it's clear that these kinds of moments are really important to think through with a long view in mind. What I would argue is that to side with the capitalist and big tech during this AI inflection point, you know, essentially co-signing the [01:01:00] idea that AI can and will replace massive numbers of jobs and the benefits of those advances should go exclusively to the capitalist class, we'll ultimately bring about a destructive wealth stratification that really only has a chance of bringing mass misery. 

However, there's also a left wing, socialist vision of a techno future of full automation where the fruits of those advances are shared across society and people are freed from long hours at bullshit jobs. Maybe only a handful of hours a day and only a couple or a few days a week would even be spent working, leaving people free to live their non-work lives to the fullest. That is a possibility, certainly better than the alternative. But it does also come with the danger of taking work away from millions of people who derive their inner sense of purpose from the work they do, leading to a massive mental health crisis [01:02:00] even if their economic needs are taken care of. Not to mention the way that AI is tending to tackle art as well. Some neo-Luddites hasten to remind us that, much aside from work, the creation of art is also one of the greatest sources of meaning for people and if AI sort of swamps the art scene as well then that could have similar effects as taking away people's work. 

So it really strikes me as a choice between economic hyper-stratification and economic abundance for all, but with the danger of there being too little of what gives life purpose to people. Now of course, given that stress levels are at all-time highs brought about by overwork and a general sense of time poverty. I suppose bringing down work hours and days should start to create improvements for people before it goes too far in the other direction, but all of these things are concerns to keep our eye [01:03:00] on. 

That is going to be it for today. As always keep the comments coming in. I would love to hear your thoughts or questions about this or anything else. You can leave us a voicemail or send us a text to 202-999-3991, or simply email me to [email protected]. 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 our Transcriptionist Trio, Ken, Brian, and Ben, for their volunteer work helping put our transcripts together. Thanks to Amanda Hoffman for all of her work on our social media outlets, activism segments, graphic designing, web mastering, and a bonus show co-hosting. And thanks to those who already support the show by becoming a member or purchasing gift memberships. You can join them today by signing up at bestoftheleft.com/support, through our Patrion page, or from right inside the Apple podcast app. Membership is how you get instant access to our incredibly good and very often funny bonus [01:04:00] episodes, in addition to there being extra content, no ads, and chapter markers in all of our regular episodes, all through your regular podcast player. You'll find that link in the show notes along with a link to join our Discord community, where you can also continue the discussion. 

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.

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#1611 Higher Education: the Myths, McCarthyism, and Change Makers (Transcripts)

Air Date 2/17/2024

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JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [00:00:00] Welcome to this episode of the award-winning Best of the Left podcast in which we take a look at how the debate over education has been derailed from the legitimate concern to the past, focused on the downfalls of No Child Left Behind and Common Core policies into a cul-de-sac of ignorance over opposition to diversity, equity and inclusion programs and the teaching of critical race theory, not to mention the new McCarthyism that has sprung up to squash any criticism of Israel's genocidal war in Gaza. 

Sources today include the At Liberty podcast, The Majority Report, CounterSpin, The EdUp Experience Podcast, and Virtually Connecting & Equity Unbound, with additional members-only clips from The EdUp Experience and The Majority Report.

How to Dismantle the Anti-DEI Machine - At Liberty Podcast - Air Date 2-9-24

LEAH WATSON: So, in 2020, there was really a moment where people paused and considered racism. Professor Tillery just spoke about the importance of the racial reckoning in the workplace, but the [00:01:00] reckoning didn't just happen in the workplace. There was reflection about how all of our American institutions could become anti-racist institutions. Particular to education, as there is social progress, there's always immediate retrenchment, as we talked about. And almost immediately, in the face of these commitments to anti-racism and racial justice to embrace students of color in classrooms in a system that has never fully embraced them, to be honest, conservatives coordinated an attack, alleging that critical race theory was infiltrating schools. They started to create educational gag orders, primarily in the form of legislation, but also in the form of executive orders, school board rules, and attorney general opinions that prohibit discussion of racism and sexism, particularly systemic racism and sexism in classes.

And so the first educational gag order really built on [00:02:00] an executive order, 13950, that was signed by President Trump in September of 2020. And this was an executive order that prohibited discussion of eight enumerated concepts deemed to be divisive in workplaces, really in trainings for federal contractors.

And so after President Trump signed the executive order, it was challenged in court, struck down on constitutional basis in a preliminary injunction and was rescinded by Biden on the first day of the administration. But it really planted the seed for how to attack conversations that conservatives just frankly did not want to have.

So we saw legislation designed to prohibit these concepts and courses. It's called educational gag orders because it limits teachers from having these discussions with students. And legislation was introduced in over 40 states, laws were passed in over 20 states. 

These laws were in the K-12 context, but also in higher ed [00:03:00] too, and we've seen an increasing focus on higher ed in 2022 and 2023 as a way of limiting the ideas that people learn. 

So the ACLU is very proud to be at the forefront of this fight against classroom censorship. It is unprecedented in many respects. We filed the first challenge to an educational gag order in the country with co-counsel Lawyers Committee Under Civil Rights and Schulte, Roth and Zable. We filed this challenge in Oklahoma to HB 1775, alleging constitutional violations. We also filed a challenge in Florida with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and Ballard Spahr. I should mention that both of these are with the ACLU of Oklahoma, the ACLU of Florida as well. And in that case, we continue to allege constitutional violations in the Florida's educational gag order, which is called the Stop Woke Act.

The Stop Woke Act prohibits discussions of systemic racism and sexism in K-12 [00:04:00] classrooms, higher education classrooms and workplaces. In that case, we were able to obtain an order, a preliminary injunction, blocking the state of Florida from enforcing the higher education provisions of the Stop Woke Act. And we are defending or arguing in support of that preliminary injunction before the 11th Circuit currently. 

Finally, we filed a case in New Hampshire on behalf of K-12 teachers challenging HB 2 and that case is proceeding as well, also, on constitutional grounds. There's a number of organizations involved in that case. I won't list all of those co-counsels, but we've really been leading this charge from the beginning, setting a framework for challenging these laws on unconstitutional grounds, obtaining favorable orders where the laws had been substantively reviewed by courts, and we're continuing to hold the line on what is permissible in classrooms, both in the K-12 and higher education setting.

KENDALL CIESEMIER - HOST, AT LIBERTY: Leah has [00:05:00] been busy. The education gag orders she's fighting against, and all of the anti-DEI efforts we've mentioned, are all a part of this same playbook, drawn up by the same people. 

But there's one person who is touted as the brains behind this whole operation, and that's conservative activist and journalist Christopher Rufo. Rufo is not a politician, but so many of his ideas have emerged to the forefront of conservative politics. 

CHRISTOPHER RUFO: What I'm concerned about and what millions of parents are really concerned about is things that are happening in hundreds of public schools in Illinois and Chicago, where they're teaching children as young as kindergarten, that whiteness is the devil.

What I've discovered is that critical race theory has become in essence the default ideology of the federal bureaucracy and is now being weaponized against the American people. 

LEAH WATSON: Individual conservatives, primarily Chris Ruffo, really manufactured hysteria around critical race theory by [00:06:00] utilizing Fox News to deliver reporting that has been, at best, identified to misrepresent the facts, at worst, debunked in some respects. But he's gone on Fox News a few times and stated the government is using critical race theory. It's infiltrated our workplaces and schools. Fox News collaborated in creating hysteria by using the term "critical race theory" more than 3,900 times in 2021, having Rufo on at least 50 times in 2021 and then continuing to stoke concerns using the Great Replacement Theory that any progress by BIPOC people comes at the expense of white people. And we've seen this very dangerous rhetoric resulting in violence against BIPOC communities. 

And so people felt like something new was happening and it was really bad for their students. Christopher Rufo said, "The goal is to have the public read something crazy in the newspaper and immediately think critical race theory. We [00:07:00] have decodified the term and will recodify it to annex the entire range of cultural constructions that are unpopular with Americans." And I think that quote is just so powerful because it's not about CRT and it's not about DEI. It's really about controlling what people have access to and what is said in our culture.

Fighting Back Against The GOP’s War On College w. Bradford Vivian - The Majority Report - Air Date 2-8-24

EMMA VIGELAND - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: We hear constantly from the right wing that no one can disagree anymore. No one can disagree anymore on college campuses, like the pink haired, pronoun youth are creating this chilling effect and there's no more free speech anymore on university campuses. When and how did that narrative really begin to form, based on your research into this phenomenon?

BRADFORD VIVIAN: Terrific. Right. So there is a story to this. And I think for US society, what I describe as the language of campus misinformation, really kicks into high gear around 2017. And that's for [00:08:00] very strategic reasons. If listeners think of the things they might have been reading in op eds and clickbait media around that time, there were many, many stories about speakers on college campuses who had, quote unquote, conservative views or traditional views, who were being protested and shut down and there were mobs, quote unquote, of coddled undergraduate students irrationally reacting to the mere idea that somebody would express a dissenting viewpoint on college campuses.

So the way in which that was reported, this language of describing what's allegedly happening on campuses, which was very scary and frightening and seemed anti-free speech, became popularized around 2017. But what I think was underreported was the fact that this was a strategic reactionary movement that was trying to make relatively free, diverse, pluralistic college campuses, where a lot of disagreement and [00:09:00] competing viewpoints are tolerated, seem very ugly and confrontational and try and drive down public support, particularly for state funded higher education. And if you think about what those speakers would have been speaking about, these were conscious efforts to try and antagonize and create some sort of conflict. What was allegedly so controversial on college campuses were not, say, talks about biology or ancient archeology or obscure parts of history, all these sort of myriad different academic subjects, but they were always forms of speech that were about antagonizing marginalized groups on college campuses to create very intentionally a spectacle, a confrontation, for a bunch of provocateurs and, for the most part, propagandists to market themselves that way. And this has become unfortunately sort of legitimized with a lot of pop psychology.

EMMA VIGELAND - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Well, it's a cottage [00:10:00] industry, too. i'm just thinking about just a few off the top of my head of these grifters that have made a ton of money off of this kind of thing. Brett Weinstein left college because he couldn't say what he wanted to say about, what was it? He's a biologist -- 

BRADFORD VIVIAN: The day of absence and stuff like that.

EMMA VIGELAND - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Oh, yeah, it's, it's nonsense. But now he has his COVID misinformation podcast. He's cashed in. Charlie Kirk, his whole thing with Turning Point USA is going to college is thickened here a diversity of viewpoint, and it hasn't been effective, but it's made a lot of people wealthy.

For your money, who are some of the most egregious actors in this space, currently propagating this myth? 

BRADFORD VIVIAN: It falls into what I would describe as a few groups and I think, right, there's definitely a sort of easily-described grifter group like you're describing. The number of organizations out there, for example -- and this is in the interest of free speech, they can do this, but I'm just describing what they do -- Turning Point USA, for example, YAF, [00:11:00] traditionally conservative speakers organizations. They speak on college campuses all the time. It's a very slim minority of incidents where you'll get a protest or some sort of conflict, but they make a lot of money and they gain a lot of political capital by speaking on campus, and on those campuses saying they're not allowed to speak on college campuses anymore.

So I think we should just be honest about the duplicity of that sort of unconstructive take on what's allegedly happening on campuses. 

I also think a lot of egregious things are happening when hyper-partisan, as I described them, reactionary legislatures in different states take up these narratives as pretexts for why actually we allegedly have to have tighter state control over higher education. We have to put political litmus tests on to ensure a mandatory pro-and-con viewpoint is getting taught in every classroom, which is not the way free circulation of ideas should [00:12:00] take place. 

And then finally, there's a lot of outside organizations who their ideas are not part of the normal process of university research and teaching. I'm thinking of groups like Heterodox Academy here, and books like The Coddling of the American Mind by attorney Greg Lukianoff and, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt. These have a lot of populist centrist appeal. It goes across the board. but these are groups and messages that are about criticizing institutions of higher education from outside those institutions to try and create a negative perception of them in public discourse. 

Wadie Said on the New McCarthyism - CounterSpin - Air Date 12-22-23

JANINE JACKSON - HOST, COUNTERSPIN: The FBI, as you also point out, they're trying to enlist campus law enforcement on these crackdowns and on these lists. And again, it's a kind of authority versus authority, and we've seen campus law enforcement resist those efforts when it comes to immigration, for [00:13:00] example. So in other words, these tools that are being used to get onto campus and name people who, we're going to call violators of law, campus authorities have had an opportunity to say the degree to which they're gonna get federal law enforcement involved in what they're doing, and they've chosen against it other times. So there are tools they have to use if they want to resist this kind of encroachment. 

WADIE SAID: That's a really interesting point because I think in the context of immigration, there's an understanding on behalf of university leadership around the country, private and public universities that immigration and foreign students and being attractive as a place where foreigners would want to come and study is a critical interest of the American university system and how it operates and generates, I hate to use this horrible phrase, but generates revenue. Basically it's a critical component [00:14:00] in the way the American university markets itself.

So, like you said, universities, when faced with draconian immigration laws and calls for crackdowns on immigrants, they resist, universities resist, and university administrations resist. What we saw, I think it was two weeks ago, with the university presidents of Harvard, MIT, and Penn being called before a committee on the House, to testify about, on campus tumult and the issue of anti Semitism, and they were faced with representative Stefanik saying that Intifada is a call for genocide of Jews, and from the river to the sea is a call for the genocide of Jews, which to me is an a factual assertion at best and a malicious falsehood at worst. And when that occurred, none of the university presidents challenged her [00:15:00] on the facts and said, this is an outrageous assertion that you're making. 

So, for example, in the Palestinian context, the 1st Intifada from 1987 to 1993 was a largely peaceful uprising against what was then and still now the longest military occupation of modern time. So it's a kind of a moment of great pride in the Palestinian consciousness, and she was basically equating it to a call for genocide of Jews. And the issue of the phrase from the river to the sea is also intentionally misunderstood and misused for purposes that don't reflect the facts of what it stands for. And none of the university president said anything about that. They didn't say, well, actually your assertion is wrong. They just dithered and wound themselves up, which provided fodder to people like Representative Stefanik and those who share her position, that this was somehow endorsing calls for genocide, which is, of course, a kind of monstrous twisting of the facts.

And [00:16:00] it's on that note that I think university administration don't fully grasp or are scared to grasp, and I can't figure out which it is. In my mind, for example, my question was, "do these university presidents really not know what the term Intifada means?" It means shaking off in Arabic. Or loosely translated an uprising. Do they really not know that? Or do they know, and are they scared to engage? Either way, it's alarming. 

So, I think that in that context, there's a real deep fear that university administrators must have. In grappling with these issues that they don't, for example, in the context of, say, immigration.

JANINE JACKSON - HOST, COUNTERSPIN: Just to pivot from that, I feel a certain sense of desperation in terms of anybody asking questions is supposed to shut up, and then you go on TikTok or any other social media and you see all kinds of people, not only young people, saying, [00:17:00] "I just don't believe what the media is telling me. I see the message they're trying to give me, but I'm just not buying it.": And the idea that questioning and dissenting should mean that you should go away doesn't read to people, it doesn't land in the same way as maybe some folks will think that it is. 

But I do think that it has to do with some people's understanding, including my own, of law. You think that there's a law. Surely this is against the law, and if we just apply the law... and I remember this from a conversation I had with Noura Erakat a couple of years ago, the importance of not equating law with justice, and of helping the public conversation understand that law and justice are not the same thing. But it's a difficult thing to interpret and understand. 

WADIE SAID: It is for sure. So, one thing I think that you mentioned that was [00:18:00] exceedingly important to my view is that you're seeing the call for a crackdown, you're seeing attempt that what has been deemed McCarthyite or a new type of McCarthyism, and you're seeing young people to not letting it deter them. They're not being deterred, which is, I think, a real point of hope, a point of departure from the past from the McCarthy era itself. And. I think that when you have, for example, wealthy billionaires, hedge fund managers, saying they want to know what students are saying so that they don't hire them, I think you're hearing the message from students that also they don't really care to work for people like that. So they're going to continue to advocate for the principles that matter to them as opposed to kowtowing, to people they think are. Not worthy of their time or energy anyway, to begin with. There's no meeting of the mind there. [00:19:00] 

And to feed it into the last point, and what you were talking about with Noura the law itself is clearly, in this context, the material support law, but other laws that kind of target Palestinians and pro Palestinian advocacy, like we've seen over 30 states with anti BDS laws, et cetera, is there is a reckoning that's taking place between what people in this country believe about what they think their freedom should be, what they think their rights should be, the First Amendment at the heart of it, and the laws that the government has passed. 

It was really interesting to me that very early on in this current Israeli assault on Gaza, when the calls for the 1st, and a poll came out within a couple of weeks, when the 1st poll came out that said the majority of Americans support a ceasefire and, almost no one in Congress has called for it at this point. And Pramila Jayapal, the leader of the progressive caucus in Congress, [00:20:00] mentioned something, she said, the American people are not where Congress is on this issue, or she maybe said it the other way around, congress is not where the American people are. 

It's very interesting because you see popular support for a ceasefire continues to grow. The latest polls were, for example, that the handling of this current war, assault on Gaza, the 5th major one in the last 15 years, by the way, people are overwhelmingly unhappy with the Biden administration's response, and the Biden administration doesn't seem to understand why. So, the issue of justice and what is right and what is the country we should be standing for still incredibly contested despite government and certain political leaders on certain business leaders taking the opposite stand, and people are standing up for them, which is, I think, giving those of us who are deeply concerned and highly alarmed at what's going on in Gaza, and the [00:21:00] Middle East, more generally, a source of hope.

The Education Myth - How American Changed It's Relationship With School w. Jon Shelton - The Majority Report - Air Date 8-20-23

JON SHELTON: I'm a historian who does primarily late 20th century, and when I undertook this book, I was trying to understand how it was that Americans think about education over time, because I think there's something really important how Americans think about it recently, and what we expect it to do, and how that's led to some disastrous political consequences—I'm sure we'll get into that. 

But to answer that question, I had to go all the way back to the nation's founding and think about what it was that people, Americans at the nation's founding expected the education system to do, and, it's not that I was surprised, but when I studied this systematically, it was pretty clear to me that for the vast majority of American history, Americans didn't see education in terms of helping people get jobs. It was about everything but that. So, you go back to Thomas Jefferson in the 1770s, and let's not romanticize Jefferson. He only saw white people as being capable of, being citizens in a democracy, but he argued for a public education system in Virginia because he said, [00:22:00] Americans needed to be able to understand power and, in a new democracy, understand corruption and its many forms in order to ensure democracy continued. 

Going to the 19th century, you've got education reformers like Horace Mann pushing for education in order to, again, help Americans be citizens in a democracy. Mann was really thinking a little bit more about reigning in some of the impulses of democracy, but the point was he wasn't pushing for education and job training. And then, you can take this into, after the civil war, when freedmen and freed women in the, during the reconstruction era in the South, we're pushing for public education, but again, not because of that connection to job skills, but because they understood full quality of citizenship as connected to education and being good citizens. 

And you can go into the 20th century. Some of your listeners might be familiar with this presidential commission in the 1940s called the Truman Commission, which was obviously convened by President Truman. The Truman Commission is a fascinating thing to read because this commission essentially argued for two years of [00:23:00] tuition free higher education, but not because Americans needed job skills, because in the context of an increasingly complex world, Americans needed to be trained as citizens, they needed to be able to think broadly and understand that context.

So it's only very recently, comparatively speaking, relatively speaking that Americans have seen education primarily in terms of job training. 

SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: And what I find fascinating about that brief history of the promotion of education as tied to the civic knowledge, people as citizens, is that it crosses over different periods in terms of technology and industry. Look, to become educated in Jefferson's time, the idea of it being a vocational investment would be absurd. You go and you apprentice, and I think that's arguable, well into the late 19th century. And then to see Truman, when we're certainly deep, [00:24:00] deep into the industrial revolution and past essentially, the idea that still you don't go to school to increase your earning potential, you go because there's an inherent value to society to have educated citizens. That's what I think is really fascinating about that broad stroke of history. 

JON SHELTON: Yeah, Sam, and that's such an important point because, if you take the flip side to that, which is, how is it that Americans thought about economic opportunity and economic security. And the way they thought about it, especially after the in the context of the Industrial Revolution and more and more working people effectively losing their economic independence, —having to work for wages in the marketplace and really having their economic fortunes dictated by increasingly wealthy employers—is the primary means that working people used to fight for a better future, it wasn't to, argue to their kids to go out and get a good education, it was "let's [00:25:00] organize unions." It's "let's push for minimum wage laws and maximum hour laws and child labor protections," which, up until very recently I thought was a settled question in this country, but apparently it's not.

Then that all culminates in the 1930s with the New Deal, where you have the institutionalization of many of these calls from working people, things like the Wagner Act, which enshrined workers rights to organize and collectively bargain and go on strike, which people at the time called labor's Magna Carta, social security. And then, in the 1940s, in the context of World War II, FDR even calls for an economic bill of rights, a second bill of rights, kind of crystallizing a lot of these things that working people have been pushing for. It was deeply popular. And that really framed the conversation in American politics after World War II for the next 30 or 40 years.

And I think, to a large extent, Americans have forgotten that. I don't want to romanticize that era by any means. We know that there's a lot of racial inequality that continues to exist, which is why the civil rights movement is there. It's a kind of breadwinner model that disadvantages is [00:26:00] women in the labor markets. But at the end of the day, the premise of American politics during those years was to try and secure and expand as many economic and social rights for Americans as possible. And that's really what we've lost in the past few decades. 

Resistance to Change in Higher Ed - with Dr. Brian Rosenberg - The EdUp Experience Podcast - Air Date 11-7-23

JOE ALLUSTIO - HOST, THE EDUP EXPERIENCE: And this raises what you define as a dilemma. And you say, "we've created a system in the United States in which we expect colleges and universities, especially those that are private, but increasingly those that are public as well, to come up with their own sources of funding. In essence, to act like businesses, even if they are nonprofit businesses, then we blame them for acting like businesses and call them greedy or duplicitous. We speak of higher education as a public good, fund it as a private good, and then blame it for developing strategies for maximizing revenue in an increasingly competitive environment." We're just getting hit from all sides, so how do you, as a leader, how would you recommend a president navigate a [00:27:00] situation like this, where you have this need for change, but then you have this dilemma that you describe here?

How do you press forward? 

DR. BRIAN ROSENBERG: Yeah I wish I had really easy answers and I would be the first to acknowledge that the book is much better at diagnosing the problem than at prescribing the cure, but I think that there are certain things that, if one studies change, presidents and other leaders within higher education simply have to acknowledge. 

One is that transformational change is not going to come through trying to build consensus. Every person who writes about change, everyone who studies change says the same thing, which is that more or less consensus is the enemy of innovation. This doesn't mean that you don't engage people in the process. It doesn't mean that you don't try to socialize some of these ideas, but typically what colleges do is look to engage as many people as possible, as many [00:28:00] constituencies as possible in the process of developing strategic plans and the process of change. And what you end up with is something that is the least objectionable to the largest number of people. 

The system that we have in higher education was designed to allow for very slow, very incremental change. In effect, it's a system designed to prevent dramatic change. And for much of the history of higher education, that has more or less worked, in the sense that colleges and universities tend to be institutions that have been around for a long time. And in part it's because they haven't zigged and zagged with every change in the job market or change in politics, but the question that I think everyone has to confront right now is, is that system really suited to this moment? 

That is, is a system that's designed to allow for very slow change [00:29:00] suited to a moment where the industry is under what I would describe as unprecedented financial pressure, unprecedented loss of public confidence, demographic problems, very much more diverse population and student body. Is that system, which is designed to move things along at a pretty glacial pace, is that system suited to the moment in which we are living right now? 

JOE ALLUSTIO - HOST, THE EDUP EXPERIENCE: I love this because I I personally feel like higher ed, it creates this, and I've written about it before, it's an assimilation culture. Where, if you believe you're a change maker and you try to create change, the structures exist to sap the energy from you almost. And if you're trying to do something yourself or your, there's so many layers that you have to break through that by the time you get the, at some point during that change, you have this moment where you go, [00:30:00] is this really worth it? And it's at that moment that you assimilate to the culture of higher education. Because a lot of times you'll go, "No, it's just not worth it. I'm going to leave that alone. It's not important right now. But could it help students? Could it make the business move faster?" it's like breaking through layer after layer. There's another brick wall there behind you. And you eventually assimilate to these 

How have you found that people who want to create change can stay focused on creating change without getting wins all the time? Because it does sap your innovative spirit. 

DR. BRIAN ROSENBERG: Yeah, well, first of all, you're exactly right, and the story with which I begin the book is essentially a story of exactly what you described—of pushing for a particular, at least a particular discussion and deciding after meeting a lot of resistance, and I literally say that we just decided it's not worth it. Too much energy, too little likelihood of success, too many other things to do. [00:31:00] And that is a very, very widespread experience within higher education. 

What I, and this gets to the earlier question about what I'd recommend to leaders, I think what you need to do is to give those people, and they exist on every campus, the people who do want to do things differently, who do want to come up with innovative ideas, try to give them some freedom to operate within some limited space without running into those walls. In change theory, it's sometimes called an ambidextrous organization. That is, one part of the organization, the main part, just goes on with business as usual. You don't ask everybody all of a sudden to change. 

But you have this other part off to the side. It can be very small. It could be an individual. It could be a small team. It could be a small group and you tell them run with your idea. Maybe you run an experimental course or an [00:32:00] experimental program, or you try teaching something in a different way. You don't try to convince 150 faculty members to do it that way, you just tell five faculty members, "okay, give that a shot. I'm not gonna I'm not going to stand in your way. I'm going to give you some funding to do that. Let's see if it works."

There is some evidence, based on research done mostly in Europe, that ideas that start in what we would call honors colleges where they do things differently and where people are given a lot of freedom, can then seep back into the main institution and change the way things are done.

What I would do with those people, if I were a leader is just give them as much freedom as possible to pursue their ideas without having to try to convince everyone at a faculty meeting that that's the way we should do things. And only after the ideas have proven to be successful, only after this evidence that, this might actually work, this might actually be interesting, do you then [00:33:00] widen the circle. I think too often we try to start with very large groups. 

So if you think about the way strategic plans are done, you'll get a call from the institution that goes out to everybody, alumni, faculty, students, "We're developing a new strategic plan. Send us your ideas." To me, that's the inverse of the way you should do it. That is, you should bring together a group of people who are the most open to change, who are the most creative, and have them work on really innovative ideas. And then you take the best ones, and you try gradually to sell those to the rest of the community. So you need to get those impediments out of the way of those people in whatever way that you can so that they don't finally say "it's not worth it."

Fighting Back Against The GOP’s War On College w. Bradford Vivian Part 2 - The Majority Report - Air Date 2-8-24

EMMA VIGELAND - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: I want to return to the William F. Buckley example that you give, because, as with most things in conservatism, what is new is old, and what is old is new again. The tropes are pretty easy to [00:34:00] identify once you cover this as much as I do, at least. The fact that this is a similar exploitation of the cultural anxiety that he engaged in. Do you mind drawing some parallels to campuses in the fifties and in the sixties at this time, and what's happening today? 

BRADFORD VIVIAN: Absolutely. Well, I think a lot of the crux of -- and I use the word "reactionary" because I think it's a little bit more specific, and I think a lot of self-described conservative politics about college campuses is really what I call reactionary, in a pretty standard political science definition there, is a movement that wants to say, okay, we've had enough change. We've had enough expansions of rights and culture has become open enough. And now we have to start putting limits on that or roll it back. They're reacting to change in a backward-looking notion. 

So I think we're in an era then of what I call ongoing [00:35:00] desegregation. We're not in a post-segregation era with respect to publicly-funded education and even private Ivy League education. A lot of what was going on in Buckley's time, if we think about his idea that college campuses are too liberal, that just doesn't live up to an understanding, basically, of what college campuses were like at that time. In the 50s, 60s, only until recently, there was a change where college campuses, very historically recently in the US, used to be primarily reserved for cultural and economic elites. Primarily women, people of color were largely systemically barred from those communities. And we can go on down the list. In Buckley's time, college meant more like almost exclusively Ivy League or distinguished state institutions.

And so I think, interestingly, the parallel is that we have a lot of messages now about saying, well, college campuses have [00:36:00] become too diverse and so forth. When you just start to get those percentages, we're really just within a generation or two where there are significant amounts on many university campuses of people of color, of people openly identifying as being from the LGBTQ community, international student populations.

The irony is then that a lot of these messages are reactionary, as I described them, because they sound like those things that people like Buckley and all kinds of radio hosts and ideologues were saying to resist desegregation in the 50s and 60s. And now we're in an era where we're truly, historically speaking, just starting to get something like a more authentically diverse representative, and fact-based for that reason, free speech, all these different people, these communities. We're approaching something like a more diverse meritocracy and trying to attain it. And that's [00:37:00] where I think the reactionary kickback comes from and why it seems so reminiscent of some of those pro-segregationist ideas from the 50s and 60s to keep university education exclusive and out of reach for many people.

EMMA VIGELAND - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: You can see that in the two Supreme Court decisions that we just saw, the overturning of Biden's student debt cancellation and the affirmative action one. We want to keep these universities as institutions of capitalistic reproduction, as opposed to ones that are more emancipatory or allow for more diverse opinions and diverse people to have success. It's re-stratifying those lines. 

And you talk about this in the context of even the war on education more broadly with the anti-CRT stuff. And I would put Don't Say Gay in there as well and that kind of legislation. 

Can you talk about how [00:38:00] rapidly the war on colleges and universities, the free speech stuff trickled into legislation about public education, broadly down to kids in kindergarten and K through 12.

BRADFORD VIVIAN: Absolutely. It was quite rapid. So as I mentioned, I started being concerned about hearing all these messages about what's allegedly happening on campuses. And then it just not resembling the profession as I understood it very much at all. That was in about 2017, 2018, as I mentioned.

And when I was revising the book and it was going to press last year, I have notes in there about things that were just starting to happen in the Florida legislature under Ron DeSantis. But really we're living -- and that's why I say it's an ongoing struggle to fully desegregate campuses. You've had a lot of activity for several years now. There is a crisis of free speech and academic freedom in publicly-funded education. And the crisis is not coddled undergraduate [00:39:00] students, it's increasing political interference with what should be free, relatively self-governing academic affairs. And so I mentioned in the book for years now, the Goldwater Institute, a hyper partisan think tank has been marketing in political circles, politically marketing all kinds of draft legislation that now not only in Florida, it's also being adopted throughout numerous state legislatures. And I think it's very important for listeners to understand that, as you mentioned, the K through 12 education, you have these broad slogans now, the idea that students in K through 12 are being ideologically indoctrinated, there's no teaching going on, or that they're digesting critical race theory, or it's being forced upon them. Or that they're being sexualized by teaching about the full spectrum of gender and sexual diversity and humanity from a fact-based perspective. All these claims were first beta tested about college [00:40:00] campuses. So the disturbing thing for democracy, as well as K through 12 education, is that when you have these anti-university messages, they become a good engine for generating these political pretexts.

And now we have a historically significant wave of outright state censorship in these state legislatures. My objection to them is not because it's primarily from one political party. My objection to them is because it's anti-democratic, it's anti-academic, it puts a brake on basic liberties. 

And so there you have really a crisis now in what, if you look at what a lot of scholars describe as K through 12 education in addition to higher education, these are some of the most democratic spaces in the country, because they're governed by locally elected officials. You can go to your school board. But just like on college campuses, now we have provocateurs and propagandists trying to [00:41:00] gum up the works of what's in US culture, one of our, relatively speaking, more open and self governing forms of institutional decision making.

How to Dismantle the Anti-DEI Machine Part 2 - At Liberty Podcast - Air Date 2-9-24

KENDALL CIESEMIER - HOST, AT LIBERTY: For anti DEI dissenters, identity neutral practices are purported as the best solution, the antidote to racial inequity in our society and the most fair means of institutional decision making, as educational institutions continue to be among the fiercest battlegrounds for the anti DEI movement. Leah explained why protecting identity conscious practices is crucial at this time. 

LEAH WATSON: Research has shown, academic scholarship has shown for decades that racial colorblindness does not work. it's simply a mask to construe the perpetuation of our current systems of oppression. This is the exact type of instruction that our plaintiffs in Florida are teaching their students that have been recognized as foundational in their disciplines. And now, not [00:42:00] only has this research been challenged by conservatives without cause, they're seeking to eliminate any efforts to implement and to build upon the understandings that we have. 

Studies have shown that culturally responsive teaching methods benefit all students. They increase engagement, they increase attendance, they increase retention of material, students score better on tests because they can connect what they're learning to the world. These benefits are felt by BIPOC students, or the students whose identity is being featured as a way of bringing them into the learning, but also for white students as well.

And the benefits aren't limited to just academic achievement, but also how students relate to each other and are able to Identify and understand and appreciate each other's differences and collaborate together. Those benefits are something that's really important. And the Supreme Court has recognized that our schools are nurseries of democracy. They are supposed [00:43:00] to teach students not only academics, but prepare them for life in a multicultural society. 

KENDALL CIESEMIER - HOST, AT LIBERTY: Efforts to thwart these crucial DEI practices are so steeped in politics, and with the presidential election fast approaching, it's important to consider what implications the anti DEI machine could have. From presidential competitors Donald Trump and Nikki Haley, to race dropouts Ron DeSantis and Vivek Ramaswamy, anti DEI is a cornerstone of Republican campaign strategy, and one that we should all keep a close watch over as the race continues. 

ALVIN TILLERY: It's all a political tool. The reason they've captured the courts and all of these things is because they believe that white grievance politics will carry the election for them. That's how they set strategy. And it's fundamentally backward because we know that in the modern day, I'm gonna let you in on a little secret, most white people don't hold overtly racist ideals. And so [00:44:00] that's both heartening and scary, because part of the reason the Republicans are committed to more authoritarian tendencies is because they know that they can't win fair and free elections anymore, because nobody likes their ideas.

And so you might say, like, "why did Ron DeSantis tank?" Ron DeSantis tanked in part Because this stance about DEI and anti wokeness is wildly unpopular. It's not surprising that Nikki Haley doesn't want to say that slavery was the cause of the Civil War, she went to a white segregation academy. 

But here's the other side of the coin. Right now, I watch Mr. Biden struggling for re election with Black voters, talking about Bidenomics and all of these things that he believes should be, you know, "Oh, I'm going to reduce the fees that you pay for overdraft at Chase." Oh yeah, that's going to get Black folks standing five hours at the polls in Atlanta for you.

The three things that my polling, and I'll share it [00:45:00] with you, show that Black people want the president to talk about are people getting shot, CRT bans, and DEI bans. For Black people, these are economic issues. I can't educate my kids to get into a good school and they can't be themselves. Mr. Biden is been not talking about any of this stuff. I'm not saying that he could win the fealty back of young people necessarily, but at some point, you've got to go negative against the other side and start saying what they're clearly going to do. And if you start messaging on that and get away from Bidenomics, whatever that is, you're going to have a chance.

KENDALL CIESEMIER - HOST, AT LIBERTY: All of this can seem really overwhelming. But the good news is that people like you and me actually have a role to play here. I asked Leah what we could do to help support her and her team in this effort, and what we could do ourselves. [00:46:00] 

LEAH WATSON: The efforts can honestly feel overwhelming sometimes, but I do think that there are a few things that anyone can do to stand up against what is happening right now, and it's very important to take action right now.

The first is to have conversations, talk about how you want students to learn about racism and sexism. How you want to have anti racist trainings in your office because you don't want to perpetuate systems of oppression. And so having those discussions to just counter the view, because the opposition is so loud with this vocal minority, it can feel like they have the majority of people and that's not true. And that hasn't ever been supported by polling that has been done or research that has been done. 

I think another thing is continuing to hold a line. If you are a business owner and your business has a DEI program, keep it. There's a huge chilling effect because of the threat of litigation, high profile litigation that's been filed, and then the conservatives are saying that [00:47:00] DEI is dead or DEI is illegal. They're making representations far broader than any court has made, and so continuing to maintain the programs that are in place now, voice your support for programs that are in place now is really important. 

KENDALL CIESEMIER - HOST, AT LIBERTY: Another thing that comes to mind is showing up at those contentious school board meetings and offering the opposite perspective. I think the last time that there was a school board election in my hometown, all of this subject matter came up. It was really interesting to see it hit my small suburb of Chicago, which just speaks to the fact that it's happening everywhere, and people did actually show up and counter the folks who were trying to ban some of this subject matter from being taught in schools. So we can actually show up in opposition or show up in even positive support for the expansion of culturally responsive education in our towns and communities. 

A Manifesto for Higher Education for Good with Laura Czerniewicz & Catherine Cronin - Virtually Connecting & Equity Unbound - Air Date 8-21-23

CATHERINE CRONIN: We [00:48:00] didn't want it to be glib hope. It is rooted in the actual and in theory and so on, but the whole goal is hope because we were inspired by work in climate justice, like Mary Robinson's work and social justice that doesn't just diagnose what's wrong, but really looks to paths towards hopeful futures. We're really inspired by those kinds of works and we wanted the book to be in that party, in that kind of literature.

We end the introduction and we send the book to its life once it finds readers as really a reflection on hope and hope in all its different guises as bomb, as antidote, as continual one of my favorite quotes again, "hope is invented every day" from James Baldwin.

And our last slide is from one of the authors of the book. This is Sherri Spelic who contributed a chapter that consists of a small collection of poems. 

LAURA CZERNIEWICZ: Shall I read it?

CATHERINE CRONIN: Please, Laura. Yeah. 

LAURA CZERNIEWICZ: If my students and I [00:49:00] build anything, we must build imaginations. If my students and I build a city of care, a province of justice, a nation of acceptance, we are never done and always beginning.

BONUS Resistance to Change in Higher Ed Part 2 - with Dr. Brian Rosenberg - The EdUp Experience Podcast - Air Date 11-7-23

JOE ALLUSTIO - HOST, THE EDUP EXPERIENCE: Maybe we could talk about some of the impediments that you mentioned in your book, and kind of at the top of your list is 'ineffective pedagogy'. And you talk a lot about self-directed learning. And maybe you could tell listeners a little bit about this idea of how the current model just doesn't scale. It just gets more expensive and it's affordable to fewer people, and somehow we need to harness this self-directed learning, this sort of active learning that you talk about. Maybe you could share a little bit more, some of your thoughts about ineffective pedagogy and what you see as some potential solutions to it. 

DR. BRIAN ROSENBERG: Right. So, you know, as far as the ineffective pedagogy goes, you know, there is evidence based upon years and [00:50:00] years of research that people learn better by doing things than by listening to things, that engaged learning, active learning sticks more than sitting in a lecture hall and listening to someone talk to you. This is not to say that some lectures aren't brilliant. They can be works of art. They can be enjoyable, but ultimately the question is not how good is the lecture, but how much of the knowledge that is communicated in a lecture sticks. And there's a lot of evidence that if you're just a passive listener, it doesn't stick as well as if you are doing something.

And yet, we still consume an enormous amount of time and cost in higher education by simply sitting and delivering information to rooms full of students. And technology could do that in different ways and more efficient ways now so that that really valuable face to face time could be used for much more active, higher levels of learning.[00:51:00] 

Uh, but let's grant for a second. Look, I was a president of a really good liberal arts college for 17 years. If I could take the Macalester model and recreate it for every student across the world, I'd say, Sure, you know, it's great. You know, a smart faculty member in a room with a small number of students. But the simple reality is that that's a fantasy. That model is really, really expensive. And so it is not scalable to the extent that we need higher education now to be scalable at a cost that people can afford. And this was really brought home to me through this work that I'm doing in Africa.

Right now, in Africa, 9 percent of the students who graduate from high school go on to a college or university. It's the lowest percentage in the world. And if you wanted to increase that percentage by building American- or European-style universities, it would be simply impossible. There aren't enough [00:52:00] PhDs. It's too costly to build campuses and the resulting product would be much, much more expensive than even the middle class in Africa, which is small, could afford. 

So the question is, how do you take something that is unaffordable and make it into something that is more affordable and accessible? Now, an easy answer, is just slap everything online. But the problem with slapping everything online is that most of those purely online universities right now are not very good. The completion rates are awful. If the students are sitting and passively listening to something on a computer, it's even worse than sitting and passively listening to something in a classroom. And so, and now I'm quoting, Fred Swaniker, who founded the African Leadership University, 'if you're in a place like Africa, you don't build the university around scarcity, which is faculty, you build it around abundance, which is students and you ask yourself how much can a student [00:53:00] accomplish by taking control of their own education'.

I don't know that we fully know the answer. People have been writing about self-directed learning for centuries. John Dewey was writing about self-directed learning well over 100 years ago. And the reality is that there is some evidence that people can accomplish a lot with the right guidance and direction without necessarily needing someone with a PhD sitting in the front of a room and talking to them.

So, to me, as I think about potentially reducing the cost of education, figuring out how much students can take control of their own learning, with guidance, you don't just leave them on their own, and not necessarily be dependent upon a large cadre of traditional faculty members, ultimately, that's the only way to lower the cost. At every college and university in the country, roughly two [00:54:00] thirds of the budget goes to pay for people, right? And so when people talk about lowering the cost, it's not going to be fixed by printing on 2 sides of paper or by reducing shared insurance co-ops. You have to go to where the expenses are. The expenses are people and facilities. 

And so the only way to change the cost structure to bend the cost curve is to look at those 2 big areas, which means you can't continue to rely on traditional, very, very, very expensive campuses, and you can't continue to rely on very, very low student faculty ratios with people who are very highly trained with PhDs, graduate degrees. It's just, for the schools that continue to can continue to afford that, you know, Harvard is going to do that until the end of time because they can afford it. And, you know, good for them. They can do that. But the vast majority of schools are not in that situation, and so they need to [00:55:00] explore other models. And I think to me the experiential student-centered model is one that is promising and that has not been yet fully explored.

BONUS The Education Myth - How American Changed It's Relationship With School w. Jon Shelton Part 2 - The Majority Report - Air Date 8-20-23

EMMA VIGELAND - CO-HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Yeah, you mentioned the Vietnam War. I didn't want to pass through that before asking you about this. How conscious was the threat of kind of like an educated citizenry that was standing up to, especially young people, powerful actors in government? Because it seems to me that, yes, obviously, the shift of education being to make citizenry versus to make workers is, you lay that out so well. But the conjoining political factors, too, of consciousness and social movements, also I feel like it has a story here.

JON SHELTON: Yeah, so that's such a great question. And I don't write extensively about this in the book, but there's a moment in the 1970s, it sounds like tinfoil hat stuff, like political conspiracy, but all you have to do is kind of just go and read it. There's literally a [00:56:00] report by the Trilateral Commission in the 1970s, which is this commission that's put together by all these political elites, David Rockefeller, you know, from the Rockefeller family connected to banking interests, and this is 1974-75, Carter's, uh, Zbigniew Brzezinski was a member of the Trilateral Commission and became a big part of the Carter administration. And again, it sounds tinfoil hat, I hesitate almost almost to bring it up. But effectively, what the Trilateral Commission argues is that for the stability of the West, the Western democracies, basically they had to tamp down the democratic aspirations that young people were pushing for. And it's not an accident that you see the party, the Democratic party in particular, move in that direction.

So, in 1976, Humphrey Hawkins, which was a bill that was co-sponsored by Hubert Humphrey, this liberal Mid-Westerner, and Augustus Hawkins, founder of the Congressional Black Caucus, who represented [00:57:00] Watts, they were basically saying we need a jobs guarantee. There's high unemployment. We've got to do something for working people. 

Coretta Scott King actually organized to, um, you know, [she] sort of led the effort to mobilize grassroots support. She called it Martin's legacy. There were hundreds of demonstrations across the United States. And Carter, who was again, you know, kind of, I think, influenced by this line of thinking and just sort of looking at the direction the Democratic party was going, literally says in 1978, in the State of the Union address, we need to accept that government can't do everything. It can't give people a job. We people need to lower their expectations. And, you know, so there is a direct moment in the 1970s when the Democratic Party kind of moves pretty explicitly in that direction. 

SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: But like, you know, that period of time and we've, you know, over the years interviewed so many people, from Lily Geismar, who is really focused on this era quite a bit... 

JON SHELTON: Her book is incredible, by the way. 

SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: And, um, and both of them actually, I mean, and [00:58:00] having grown up in Massachusetts around that time, you know, and seen some of this. But this is such a big jump in the course of, like, six years, right? I mean, you know, six-eight years. And, yeah, the education thing fits in with this push for neoliberalism, which had been growing since Mont Pelerin and in the late forties. And, we see, Milton Friedman gets sent out down to Chile and gets a chance to do a dry run here, of this, and this push for education, so the people understand how it fits into the neoliberal framework. It is just providing juice for someone to enter the marketplace, essentially, energy within the marketplace. It's like the marketplace is going to settle it out. The input is not going to be structurally touching the marketplace at all, it's just that we're going to train people for the marketplace better. And that's where this twist on education comes. And we get a guy like [00:59:00] Carter, who had some positive aspects, but also very anti-union, coming from the South, and education just almost like on a dime starts to become a commodity that has like a dollar value that you can place upon it in the marketplace, as opposed to an important thing for society to maintain for the stability of the society just broadly speaking.

Final comments on the tradeoffs we make when we allow culture wars to dominate the education debate

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: We've just heard clips today, starting with the At Liberty podcast, explaining the efforts of the ACLU to defend against educational gag orders and censorship. The Majority Report dove into some of the myths about the reaction to speakers at colleges and the grifters who profit from them. CounterSpin that looked at the new McCarthyism around criticism of Israel on campus. The Majority Report explored the history of education in the US. The EdUp Experience podcast described a theory of change universities should [01:00:00] engage in to innovate. The Majority Report explained to the historical conservative perspective on universities, going back to William F. Buckley. The At Liberty podcast bluntly explained to the benefits of DEI programs and why Republicans oppose them. And Virtually Connecting & Equity Unbound closed out the show with a call for the building of better educational systems to never be done. 

That's what everybody heard, but members also heard bonus clips from the EdUp Experience describing a promising but untested educational method. And The Majority Report discussing the importance of education for democracy. To hear that and have all of our bonus contents delivered seamlessly to the new members-only podcast feed that you'll receive, sign up to support the show at bestoftheleft.com/support, or shoot me an email requesting a financial hardship membership, because we don't let a lack of funds stand in the way of hearing more information 

Now to wrap up, I want to draw attention to [01:01:00] one example of what gets overlooked while we're being distracted by nonsense attacks on education. As part of our research for today's episode, I came across a Slate article written by a college professor lamenting the very obvious drop in reading skills exhibited by students over just the past few years. This is undoubtedly from a variety of factors, the article points out. Some that come to mind quickly and others that don't: growing up with the ever-present distraction of phones is almost certainly a culprit as is some of the learning loss from COVID. But the writer pointed out that college students starting a few years ago were the first cohort to have been raised entirely in the No Child Left Behind and Common Core standards era that completely incentivized 'teaching to the test' more than anything, which has consistently been criticized by child education experts. You can go back more than a decade to hear episodes that we had done on that topic. 

When I [01:02:00] started this podcast, after the turn of the century, you know, back in the mid aughts, that was the entirety of the debate over education. George W. Bush's plan to test our way to learning, and then the Obama era changes that didn't change nearly enough. So, for anyone who's been paying attention for that long, it shouldn't be a surprise that kids are falling behind what used to be considered standard not too long ago. 

But there's one thing that's also been going on in the background specifically related to reading. Now, I grew up when phonics was the standard teaching method for reading. And I didn't even know until this week that it has gone in and out of fashion over time. The Slate article mentioned another teaching style that has risen in popularity recently that de-emphasizes the skill of sounding out words, which critics argue is the fundamental skill required to be able to read any new word that one hasn't previously [01:03:00] learned. And to be clear, you know, that teaching concept was definitely recommended by people who thought they were helping. There's no evil scheme to stop kids from reading, but that was a change that was made, not everywhere, but in many places, which may have been missed by, you know, people in the general public due to other distractions.

I also read an article about all of this in the New York Times, and this paragraph sums up the problem pretty well. "It may not inspire political campaign ads, the way Critical Race Theory does, but the debate over how to teach children to read, perhaps the fundamental skill of all schooling, has been just as consuming for some parents, educators and policy makers." So, I'm taking this as a reminder, and I think you all should to, that boiled way down to the essence, when you say yes to one thing, you are inevitably saying no to everything else. Meaning when you choose to focus on [01:04:00] something there's a trade-off happening, that means your focus cannot simultaneously be on something else. 

When Critical Race Theory becomes the all encompassing debate regarding education in the US it will inevitably push other issues out of the way. And meanwhile, as we've spent the last decade or so, getting pulled into culture war nonsense, the real discussions about how best to educate children and young adults has gotten pushed to the periphery. Obviously, there are people working hard, deep in the weeds on these problems. And there are even people who have strong feelings about both CRT and reading phonics. It's not that an individual can't be aware of more than one thing at a time. But the media attention leads to political attention, which results in school boards, getting yelled at by parents for, you know, creating trans safe bathrooms or history curriculums that tell more of the real story of the US. 

So, that's where all the attention goes. It sucks [01:05:00] up all the air in the room. And as much as we may wish that we could all stay focused on implementing the best educational practices as well, when we get sucked into the world of culture wars, the actual nuts and bolts of educational standards are going to naturally be pushed to the side. And then the people left fighting those battles, ignored and fighting for attention against the tidal wave of culture wars, are going to be the people most personally impacted by it. And so a lot of the people are actually dyslexic. People are parents of dyslexic children who've been like leading the fight against this new form of reading, because it's so profoundly negatively impacts them personally. But because the general population is distracted away from actual, you know, education standards and methods, they end up being sort of [01:06:00] left on their own, trying to fight that battle. Whereas, I like to imagine, you know, living in a healthy society where we have conversations and debates about things that actually matter, a lot more people could be aware of an issue like slipping reading proficiency and the underlying causes for that. And we may think that's the thing that we need to take action on. That's the thing we should show up to school board meetings to talk about, not how we build our bathrooms and whether or not White kids are being made to feel bad by the reality of our history.

As always keep the comments coming in. I would love to hear your thoughts or questions about this or anything else. You can leave me a voicemail or send us a text to 202-999-3991 or simply email me to [email protected]. 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 our Ttranscriptionist Trio, Ken, Brian, and Ben, for their [01:07:00] volunteer work helping put our transcripts together. Thanks to Amanda Hoffman for all of her work on our social media outlets, activism segments, graphic designing, web mastering, and bonus show co-hosting. And thanks to those who already support the show by becoming a member or purchasing gift memberships. You can join them by signing up today at bestoftheleft.com/support, through our Patrion page, or from right inside the Apple podcast app. Membership is how you get instant access to our incredibly good and very often funny bonus episodes, in addition to there being extra content, no ads, and chapter markers in all of our regular episodes all through your regular podcast player. You'll find that link in the show notes, along with a link to join our Discord community, where you can also continue the discussion. 

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 twice weekly thanks entirely to the members and donors to the show from bestoftheleft.com.

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#1610 The Border, and Our Border Politics, Are a Mess (Transcript)

Air Date 2/14/2024

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JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [00:00:00] Welcome to this episode of the award-winning Best of the Left podcast in which we take a look at how the entire political system has lurched to the right on immigration, as Democrats adopt the talking points of the Republicans and the MAGA Republicans put Trump's election chances over the policies they claim to support. 

Sources today include The Readout; The Majority Report; The Damage Report; Today, Explained; The Brian Lehrer Show; All In with Chris Hayes; and Deconstructed; with additional members-only clips from Amicus and Deconstructed.

‘Basically a cult’: Trump's MAGA Republicans slammed for vowing to block immigration reform bill - The ReidOut with Joy Reid - Air Date 2-5-24

JOY REID - HOST, THE REIDOUT: We begin tonight with an emergency, a crisis, a catastrophe! At least that's what Republican lawmakers have spent the last few months calling the situation at the southern border. 

REP. MIKE JOHNSON: One thing is absolutely clear. America is at a breaking point with record levels of illegal immigration. It is an unmitigated disaster, a catastrophe. And what's more tragic is that it's a disaster of the [00:01:00] president's own design.

REP. ELISE STEFANIK: The border crisis, which is the top issue across the country. The numbers do not lie. Our country is being invaded right now, right in front of our very eyes, because of Joe Biden's catastrophic border policies. 

REP. MARK GREEN: We cannot allow this border crisis to continue. We cannot allow fentanyl to flood across our border, or criminals to waltz in undeterred. 

REP. CHIP ROY: This is very clearly an invasion. It is a purposeful one and it's inflicting dangerous consequences on our country and the people of Texas. 

JOY REID - HOST, THE REIDOUT: Wow, well given such alarmist rhetoric, you'd think that these lawmakers would want to act immediately to get this catastrophe under control, right?

Well, as of yesterday, they actually had the chance to do that. After months of talk, Senate negotiators finally released a sweeping bipartisan border security deal. The proposed bill would raise the standard to grant asylum, send away those who don't qualify, and expedite cases for those who do. It would also give the president new authority to effectively shut down the border to migrants when attempted crossings are high and end the [00:02:00] practice of catch and release, while also providing billions of dollars in funding for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan, as well as humanitarian assistance for civilians in Gaza. 

But just hours after the bill was released, leading Republicans in the House said, Nope, we don't want it. Almost immediately. House Speaker Mike Johnson, along with Steve Scalise and Elise Stefanik, took to social media to throw cold water on any hopes of even debating the bill. And earlier today, they released a statement putting the final nail in the coffin, writing that any consideration of this Senate bill in its current form is a waste of time. It's dead on arrival in the House. We encourage the Senate to reject it. 

Instead, the Speaker is proposing a standalone bill providing aid to Israel, completely cutting out the border and aid to Ukraine. 

So let's just be very clear: The same people who are going on and on and going on these trips to the border to stir up outrage and yell about an immigration crisis were [00:03:00] handed the opportunity to help fix the issue on a silver platter, a bill that was negotiated by conservative Republican Senator James Lankford. And this is not some liberal wish list. It's actually the most conservative and aggressive border bill that we've seen in decades, that Democrats and President Biden were willing to bite their tongues and support, despite the fact that it offers no path to citizenship and doesn't even address the Dreamers. A bill that the Border Patrol Union, which has been very critical of President Biden, even they endorse it, saying, " while not perfect, it is a step in the right direction and is far better than the current status quo." And MAGA Republicans say, nah, we're good. 

Make it make sense. Because right now, even Senator Lankford is calling his party out on their foolishness. 

SENATOR JAMES LANKFORD: Are we, as Republicans, going to have press conferences and complain the border's bad and then intentionally leave it open? Are we going to just complain about things, or are we going to actually address and change as many things as we can? If we have the shot, and [00:04:00] it's amazing to me... if I go back two months ago and say we had the shot under a Democrat president to dramatically increase detention beds, deportation flights, lock down the border, to be able to change the asylum laws, to be able to accelerate the process, no one would have believed it. And now no one actually wants to be able to fix it. 

JOY REID - HOST, THE REIDOUT: But the Republicans refusal to even consider this bill makes a lot more sense when you see the reaction of the guy who -- let's just be real -- is calling all the shots here: Donald Trump. Posting on his fake Twitter site, he declared that the "ridiculous border bill is nothing more than a highly sophisticated trap for Republicans to assume the blame on what the radical left Democrats have done to our border just in time for our most important election. Don't fall for it!!!!" Lots of exclamation points. 

Never mind the fact that when Trump actually was the president, he never passed a single immigration bill, even when his party controlled the House and the Senate. He never even closed the border, which he keeps saying needs to be closed. But I guess facts don't [00:05:00] matter to these people. The only thing that does matter is getting Donald Trump elected. I've said it before and I'll say it again: they don't want a solution, they want the chaos. Because they'd rather run on the problem than give Joe Biden a win in an election year on what voters say is one of the most important issues to them.

Democrats Fully Embrace Trump’s Immigration Narrative - The Majority Report w/ Sam Seder - Air Date 2-9-24

SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: I don't think the Democrats would have done this were it not for Biden pushing it, and we'll hear him say that in a moment. Basically want to provide at least part of that authority to the president, in addition to setting up a system which makes it even harder for asylum seekers and immigrants in this country. Again, we went through this yesterday, you can be in this country for over a decade, legally, with legal documents and working papers, still not have the opportunity for citizenship. This is just about, ultimately, preventing non-white people from coming in. [00:06:00] 

First of all, the majority of undocumented people in this country have overstayed their visas. They came in, they had documents, they overstayed. The majority of people coming in through the border now are apparently Chinese. I'm talking the southern border. On one hand, we talk about how oppressive the CHICOMs are, and the other hand, we're like, well, but we don't care about any of the people there. Who are they oppressive to? 

EMMA VIGELAND - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Exactly. There's a few things, those two clips would have made so much more sense, especially the Chip Roy one, if this was literally Trump in office proposing this bill. The way that they're talking about, we need the executive authority here, it's like unitary executive theory, but for the border, that would allow for the White House, essentially, for the presidency to have this emergency authority, and you can activate [00:07:00] it on a discretionary basis and say like, "no, no, no, we're going to override international law on asylum and then also domestic law on asylum because I've decided to."

And so Biden proposes, this is in favor of this. What happens when the Republican gets an office? They don't care about that because, I don't know, Biden ideologically doesn't care, but also wanted to make this point for 12 Morning Joe viewers that the Republicans are unreasonable and can't make a deal, but now this is where the center of the conversation is to your point, which is really scary, really, really scary. 

This bill was as far right as you can get in terms of a bipartisan effort to address immigration there, and when you're saying they don't want non-white people in this country, that is true, and that's what motivates the base of the Republican party, but for a lot of Republican party, big money donors and supporters, and for Republican politicians with deep pockets, what they also want is to create an underclass of workers who are terrified and have a [00:08:00] deportation hanging over their head so they can take lower wages, work in horrible conditions, and be silent, but working, and really...

SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Without any type of protection. 

MATT LECH: It's interesting, Chris Murphy was going around talking about, "Oh, look at how the Republicans won't even meet us when we would say we want to do what to do." It's interesting that Chris Murphy and the Senate and all these people can get together on bipartisan coups when it comes to places like Venezuela or whatever, but they can't get together on actually dealing with the fallout of our policies like that. 

SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: I mean, let's be clear here, this is Initial push for border legislation was a sweetener to get the supplemental funding for Ukraine, and then Israel passed. That's the way this was offered. And now, the Biden administration has made it the primary focus of this legislation. They have moved the Democratic position on Comprehensive immigration reform from a place where we'll give you more border patrol [00:09:00] agents if you give us a path to citizenship and provide citizenship for people like the Dreamers. That was where the position was then. 

And now it's just. We're racing to see who can put more money into the border. Here is Joe Biden yesterday and it is him admitting, this is what he's saying, this is what the subtext of this entire exercise is, "the Republicans are right. We're being invaded. This is a crisis. I just don't have the tools to do it, and now I can't convince the Republicans to do it." 

Well, what is the average American to make of that? 

EMMA VIGELAND - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Weak.

SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Well, A, weak, and B, who's the guy who's going to solve this massive invasion crisis? Because I've only got two choices. It's either this guy, or the other guy.

Here he is. 

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: For much too long, as you all know, the immigration system has been broken. [00:10:00] It's long past time to fix it. That's why months ago I instructed my team to begin negotiations with a bipartisan group of Senators to seriously and finally fix our immigration system. For months now, that's what they've done. Working around the clock, through the holidays, over the weekends, it's been an extraordinary effort by Senators Lankford, Murphy, and Sinema. 

The result of all this hard work is a bipartisan agreement that represents the most fair, humane, reforms in our immigration system in a long time and the toughest set of reforms to secure the border ever Now, all indications are this bill won't even move forward to the Senate floor. Why? A simple reason. Donald Trump, because Donald Trump thinks is bad for him politically. Therefore, even though it helps the country he's not for it. He'd rather weaponize this issue than actually solve it. 

So for the last 24 He's done nothing, I'm [00:11:00] told, but reach out to Republicans in the House and the Senate and threaten them and try to intimidate them to vote against this proposal. It looks like they're caving. Frankly, they owe it to the American people to show some spine and do what they know to be right.

SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: I can't even watch this anymore. 

MATT LECH: You're not energized by that? 

SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Aside from me not being energized, I mean, listen to what he's saying. My opponent in this race is all powerful and has the ability to govern as non president.

You can't even say like you don't want him to be president because if he's president, he's going to push this exact same bill. He wants this bill, the legislature wants the bill, but he doesn't want it to happen until he gets into office. And now the bill is not going to happen. So the American public is supposed to go like, Oh, well, I'm going to punish him for being so powerful and keep you in office, even though you won't be able to [00:12:00] solve the problem that you are now telling us is so urgent, that it has to be solved now. 

Well, in 11 months and 12 months, it's going to be that much more urgent. So I want the guy who's just going to come in and be able to do it, who has control of these people. Like none of this makes sense. None of this makes sense.

Republican CALLS OUT Trump By Name Over Outrageous Border Lies - The Damage Report - Air Date 2-10-24 

REP. CHIP ROY: No, we're not going to just pass the buck and say that, oh, any president could walk in and secure the border. I saw former President Trump make that allegation earlier today on one of his social media posts. All the president has to do is declare the border is closed and it's closed. Well, with all due respect, that didn't happen in 2017, 18, 19 and 20. There were millions of people who came into the United States during those four years.

 So, where's the lie exactly in that? Now, look, I don't know exactly what his long term goal is in that. He could be attempting to continue to demonize the fact that "look, even under a Republican, tons of these [00:13:00] immigrants came in," but he is right.

JOHN IADAROLA - HOST, THE DAMAGE REPORT: They claim you can just shut it down. Biden doesn't need this bill. He can just do it anyway by enforcing the law or snapping his fingers and then we're done. So we don't need to do a bill. We don't need Donald Trump to be mad at us. That's just a lie. And I would love to see Donald Trump answer why, if you can just shut down the border, he never did. If you can just do that, if it's that easy, just snap your fingers, you're done. Why is it that so many people crossed the border under Donald Trump? 

There's of course no answer to that, so they will do what they always do when faced with reality. They will completely ignore it. They will tuck tail and run. They will just hide behind their convenient lies. And there are so many in this topic. There are lies about the 5,000 migrants a day threshold. Look, we're not going to relitigate all of it. We've been going over for a solid two weeks at this point, but they're massive liars, and I love that you have at least one Republican who's willing to admit it from time to time.

Sharon, what are your thoughts? 

SHARON REED: Yeah, the band is, is breaking up here. Okay. They don't even need Yoko. The band is [00:14:00] breaking up. These defections, all this little stuff, there's infighting. And speaking of if petty was a person, George Santos is, miss me yet?" Okay. It's a beautiful thing to see when people who do nothing but lie and orchestrate, beyond normal politics, are now caught up and in a family feud. It's a beautiful thing to see, except, oh yeah, what about running the country? What about the rest of us?

JOHN IADAROLA - HOST, THE DAMAGE REPORT: Look, and I'll admit, this is my closing thought, I am delighting this. I love to see them fail to do things that they never should have tried to do in the first place. But I will also remind you, there is an opportunity cost to all of this, and it's the functioning of Congress. Yeah, they're failing to do stupid stuff. They're not doing anything else. This is what they're doing. They name a post office, they fail to impeach someone. They name another post office, they talk about impeaching Joe Biden. That's literally it. And the thing is, people [00:15:00] do need help. They don't just need antics.

The border standoff in Eagle Pass - Today, Explained - Air Date 2-7-24

NOEL KING - HOST, TODAY, EXPLAINED: We hear about places along the US-Mexico border where there are floods of people coming through, but I'll admit, Eagle Pass is not a city that I'd heard that I had heard much about until recently. Is this a place where you have huge numbers of migrants, typically?

ARELIS HERNÀNDEZ: Historically, no, this is not a place where people cross. But this part of the river that is bordering Coahuila state, which is reportedly one of the more safer states in Mexico to cross, has become a huge crossing point, and Eagle Pass because in part, the river is pretty wide and shallow. And right by Shelby Park has become a staging area for the processing of thousands of migrants, unprecedented numbers of people crossing at the same time. It's not unusual to hear local officials talking about having watched a thousand people like a sort of wave of humanity, just cross the river together.

SEN. TED CRUZ: One day last week, they had in a single day, 4,000 cross illegally into [00:16:00] Eagle Pass. 4,000 people in a town of 28,000, that’s about 14% of the city’s population. 

NOEL KING - HOST, TODAY, EXPLAINED: In Eagle Pass you have two groups that are claiming responsibility for securing the border, so to speak. You've got the Border Patrol, which is a federal force, and then you have the Texas National Guard. How do those two groups normally interact in Eagle Pass? Whose job is it to oversee migration? 

ARELIS HERNÀNDEZ: In the beginning aughts of Operation Lone Star, which is this border crackdown that Governor Abbott has undertaken since 2021. They actually worked together pretty well. 

NOEL KING - HOST, TODAY, EXPLAINED: Shocking!

ARELIS HERNÀNDEZ: Right. I mean, most people who do any kind of border law enforcement work together quite, intimately. And so you had both of these agencies, they're keeping a lookout, whereas Border Patrol are the only ones who actually have the jurisdiction and the immigration enforcement powers to detain people, to screen them for any number of immigration-related processes and to take them into custody at their self cited [00:17:00] facility. National Guard can't put their hands on migrants unless they're trying to help or save them. And we had that tragic incident of that one National Guardsmen who actually drowned after trying to help a couple of migrants. But, yeah, no, this is a no-fuss kind of thing. Border Patrol would welcome more boots on the ground. They're chronically asking for more help while Border Patrol is processing folks and running them through these screening processes, they're not watching the river. And so they would have – they welcomed the National Guard, watching the river and keeping an eye out. Now they're at odds because their leaders are at odds. 

 Since 2021, Governor Abbott has been beating this drum, saying that the federal government is essentially abandoning its duty to protect Texas's borders. 

GOVERNOR GREG ABBOTT: The Biden Administration’s open-border policies have created an open season for human traffickers, for drug smugglers, for cartels and gangs. Because [00:18:00] the federal government is failing to respond to these dangers, Texas is stepping up to secure the border and to keep our communities safe. 

ARELIS HERNÀNDEZ: So it started with, sending state troopers down to the border. It started with sending National Guardsmen.

GOVERNOR GREG ABBOTT: This is necessary because more than 45,000 people have been apprehended crossing our border in just the last three weeks. 

ARELIS HERNÀNDEZ: It's building state border wall. It was busing migrants from the NGOs to other cities across the country.

GOVERNOR GREG ABBOTT: Before we began bussing illegal immigrants up to New York, it was just Texas and Arizona that bore the brunt of all of the chaos and all of the problems that came with it. Now the rest of America understands exactly what is going on.

ARELIS HERNÀNDEZ: And then it was arresting migrants accused of trespassing. You need landowners to sign onto that, so they were getting permissions from various landowners, riverfront property [00:19:00] landowners to be able to arrest people and run them through, a sort of specially-created justice system. And so Abbott, little by little, has been taking bites out of this apple until we get to this point where, Shelby Park is a municipal park, and they decided that, the fact that Border Patrol was using this park as a staging area that was allowing thousands of people into the country, at least from their point of view, that they needed to shut that down. 

GOVERNOR GREG ABBOTT: So, Texas has the legal authority to control ingress and egress into any geographical location in the state of Texas. And that authority is being asserted in that park in Eagle Pass to maintain operational control of it. 

ARELIS HERNÀNDEZ: And basically the Biden Administration asked the Supreme Court to intervene because of a confrontation that happened. We’re still mulling through the details, but essentially the National Guard kept Border Patrol from entering the park in a moment of what they considered a medical emergency, [00:20:00] that there were migrants that were in distress. Now, if you ask Texas National Guard and Texas state troopers, they’ll tell you that those people had already drowned, but it's the fact that Border Patrol couldn't go in when they wanted to and have access to the border that pushed the Biden administration to say, "Hey, SCOTUS this can't be happening - this is an enumerated power in the Constitution that we have. Texas has no leg to stand on here." 

WQAD: Tonight, a narrowly-divided Supreme Court delivering a victory for the Biden Administration, clearing the way for federal agents… 

NOEL KING - HOST, TODAY, EXPLAINED: Can we talk a bit about how Abbott is framing this for his constituents, for the people of Texas? What is he saying when the Supreme Court says, "hey, buddy, you got to step aside?" 

ARELIS HERNÀNDEZ: Well, he invoked the Constitution, that Texas has a right to defend itself and that this constitutes—the tide of humanity that's coming across the border—constitutes an invasion.

GOVERNOR GREG ABBOTT: Because Joe Biden has completely abdicated and abandoned his responsibility to enforce the laws of the United States, I have used a [00:21:00] clause in the Constitution that empowers states to defend themselves. It is Article 1, Section 10, Clause 3. 

ARELIS HERNÀNDEZ: It's the kind of rhetoric that has been used by extremists throughout all of this. And so, Abbott is saying, "Look, Texas is going to do whatever it can to defend itself against what it fears is an invasion." And a lot of people in the state agree with him. While they might not agree specifically with his methods, the numbers are such and the images are such that it provokes concern. Whether you're a Republican Democrat, whether you're progressive or a conservative, across the spectrum. 

NOEL KING - HOST, TODAY, EXPLAINED: Where does this leave us? Where does this stand right now?

ARELIS HERNÀNDEZ: We’re waiting on the courts to help us figure out who's actually in charge here and who has authority as enumerated by the Constitution to continue to operate on the border. We have this border deal that [00:22:00] came through over the weekend that Republican leaders are saying is dead on arrival. So we're just kind of in stasis the way that the border has been in stasis now for almost four decades. I mean, migration has changed. The hemisphere is on the move, and it's not just folks from Central and South Americans, it’s folks from all over the world. So the question is, how much work is the United States willing to put into working with Latin America to try and staunch some of these flows, which it already has—and conversation in Mexico has gotten a lot more aggressive with migrants, and that's why you see the levels plummeting the way they have in January, in terms of crossings. But, we're also entering the spring, and then the summer, when migration traditionally and historically has continued to increase. It's just a matter of wait and see what happens in the courts, what happens in Congress, and what the United States is able to do with its partners in Latin America. 

Republicans Forge Ahead to Impeach Mayorkas - The Brian Lehrer Show - Air Date 2-1-24

JACQUELINE ALEMANY : This has been ongoing for about a year now, really ever since Republicans took back the House [00:23:00] majority in the 117th Congress, when you just all heard those vows from people like Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene and others who, even before any impeachment investigation or proceedings began, promised voters that they were going to impeach Alejandro Mayorkas.

The main players that we're seeing lead this charge forward and finally execute this impeachment right now is the chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, Congressman Mark Green of Tennessee, who is leading the committee and, this week, introduced two articles of impeachment against Alejandro Mayorkas. One, a betrayal of public trust, and the other really boils down to the allegation that he's broken the law by refusing to enforce immigration statutes that would prevent migrants from entering the United States.

Obviously, right now, there have been record numbers of migrants that have been crossing the border, [00:24:00] but the issue at play here is essentially that what Green is charging Mayorkas for does not actually arise to high crimes and misdemeanors. Ultimately, the migrant crisis won't be addressed by impeachment at all. Rather, the proceedings and negotiations taking place in the upper chamber with regards to the border deal that's being negotiated on a bipartisan basis by lawmakers is what could address that crisis. We're seeing a split screen in Congress right now.

BRIGID BERGIN - HOST, THE BRIAN LEHRER SHOW: Absolutely. Jacqueline, you started to get into this. We know that the issues at the US-Mexico border are the backdrop for this hearing with a record number of migrants entering the country. We even heard President Biden say this recently that if a bipartisan immigration deal was passed, he would do this.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: It'll also give me, as president, the emergency authority to shut down the border until it could get back under control. If that bill were the law today, I'd shut down the border right now and fix it quickly.[00:25:00] 

BRIGID BERGIN - HOST, THE BRIAN LEHRER SHOW: Why do we hear this new hard line from President Biden and how does it connect to the hearing that happened this week?

JACQUELINE ALEMANY : Yes, I think that there's a two-fold reason. There's obviously a political calculus here. This is something that Biden has not gotten very good reviews on as border crossings has caused a major strain to federal, state, and local governments and resources. It has become a very overheated conversation on the right and that has further been inflamed by the, essentially, de facto nominee of the Republican Party for the 2024 election, former President Trump, and House Republicans who have mimicked his language.

You've seen the Biden administration finally try to address this head-on and get ahead of some of the messaging battles that they've previously been losing. Secondly, this deal actually does address a lot of the [00:26:00] policy issues that have been under discussion, policy issues that actually Republican lawmakers have been saying and clamoring for Congress to address for years now. 

One of my colleagues has a really good layout of all of the things that Republican lawmakers have said over the past few years about what needs to happen on the border. Just a few years ago, Trump had wanted Congress to work on changing asylum laws and basically taking legislative action. Now, you've seen in this election cycle as we get closer to November, people like House Speaker Mike Johnson, people like Senator Ted Cruz, who obviously represents a border state, claim now that Congress isn't needed to address the crisis at the border and that, actually, the President has enough powers to do this himself. Really, [00:27:00] a 180 on what they were previously arguing about.

How this all relates to the hearing this week is that as the House has been trying to impeach Mayorkas and blame him for what a lot of people, constitutional experts, even Republican constitutional scholars have argued amounts to a policy difference, which they have claimed is an impeachable offense, the upper chamber has been working on addressing these policy differences.

It's been hard to reconcile, as you can imagine, in one chamber, Alejandro Mayorkas, being criticized as the cause of the surge at the border. While in the other chamber, he's been someone who's been integral to the negotiations taking place between lawmakers for months now. Over the Christmas break during recess, [00:28:00] he was spotted back and forth on the Hill sitting in the room and trying to get this deal past the stalemate and finalized. 

BRIGID BERGIN - HOST, THE BRIAN LEHRER SHOW: Certainly, the membership of the Homeland Security Committee includes Congress member Marjorie Taylor Greene. She was also referenced in Congressman Thompson's opening remarks as someone who has made this an issue since the start of this Congress and has also potentially fundraised off this issue and may also be angling for a political future in 2024. What is your reaction to that piece of this equation?

JACQUELINE ALEMANY : Well, at the end of the day, it's not just Marjorie Taylor Greene in the House GOP conference that wants to impeach Mayorkas. Overall, the House is dramatically more conservative than the Senate. There is this growing unanimous consent amongst Republican members that impeaching Mayorkas is the [00:29:00] most politically expedient thing to do for them, especially with such a slim majority where it's really hard to push things through legislatively.

This is a welcome distraction, something that even vulnerable members are in agreement about, especially as base voters have been clamoring for accountability. Oversight is obviously a big responsibility for a majority in any Congress and this would be the first promise that I think lawmakers have made to constituents about impeachments that have been going on for several years now that would actually be executed.

It's highly unlikely that the Senate would ultimately vote to impeach Mayorkas. You've heard Republican senators say that they're not in favor of it, that they feel like the House needs to get a grip and actually get something done legislatively. There is some agreement that this is good politics, especially as you have people like Donald [00:30:00] Trump explicitly saying that, at the end of the day, the House should not give President Biden a win on the border and not to pass this bill.

BRIGID BERGIN - HOST, THE BRIAN LEHRER SHOW: Jacqueline, just to underscore this, and I know you've said it already, but what are the specific crimes Republicans are accusing Mayorkas of? What makes up these two articles of impeachment?

JACQUELINE ALEMANY : Yes, that's a really good question, and it's definitely under debate right now. They have charged that Mayorkas was lying under oath about the state of the border. This is under the charge of the betrayal of the public trust. This surrounds this term that he used when he testified before Congress in 2022 when he said that the Department of Homeland Security had "operational control."

The definition of this according to Mayorkas, as employed by the Border Patrol, is the ability to detect, respond, and intercede border penetrations in areas deemed as high [00:31:00] priority. There was a 2006 law that was called the Secure Fence Act, and that defines the term a bit differently as "the absence of any unlawful crossings of migrants or drugs", so they've tried to nail Mayorkas on that. They've also said that he has been obstructing their investigation. They listed 31 different requests that have been partially or completely unsatisfied by Homeland Security, but Mayorkas, as the department has noted, has actually been one of the most cooperative cabinet members appearing before Congress dozens of times. 

The primary charge though is that he's broken the law by refusing to enforce immigration statutes. This means that he's failed to uphold certain aspects of immigration law, which they believe is a constitutional crime. Policy experts and, again, constitutional scholars and past secretaries of Homeland Security, and there have been [00:32:00] some former legal advisors too, former President Trump, who noted that they do not agree with this assessment of it rising to high crimes and misdemeanors as laid out by the Constitution. At the end of the day, the presidential administration does have wide latitude in how to control the border and that they do not feel like Mayorkas has exceeded those authorities that have been given to the executive branch.

Fox News fearmongering backfires on live TV - All In With Chris Hayes - Air Date 2-9-24 

CHRIS HAYES - HOST, ALL IN: You cannot overstate how much vile demagoguery about migrants constantly appears on Fox News, day in, day out. 

FOX NEWS ARCHIVE CLIPS: This is a government jobs program that lets in more migrants. Not to mention how much we're paying for the migrants kids to go to school. But now the migrants are shutting down the hospitals in Denver more than COVID ever did. We shouldn't be allowing even one migrant into the country. Isn't this really an attempt, ultimately, to destroy the country internally? That's exactly what it is. 

CHRIS HAYES - HOST, ALL IN: It's poisonous stuff, and Fox News executives don't seem to [00:33:00] care if what they're saying is true, as quite famously demonstrated when they paid out a nine figure settlement to Dominion Voting Machines. And when they defended a now-former primetime host from a slander lawsuit by just telling the court his Fox News show did not really do news, so he couldn't be guilty of defamation. 

Which brings us to what happened the other night. Fox News host Sean Hannity tried to get some synergy with another brand you might remember from the 80s: the Guardian Angels and their vigilante founder, Curtis Sliwa. Do you remember him? His gang was going to make the streets safe for regular people by rooting out criminals, as he told the Today Show back in 1982. 

CURTIS SLIWA: Because the criminal is very violent, and operates in what we call the wolf packs. You see them by the way they dress, their style, almost like modern day pirates, and that's what keeps you in fear.

Once they've smelled fear from you, once they've seen you change your path of entry, or to cross the street from where they're hanging out, they descend upon you like wolves.

CHRIS HAYES - HOST, ALL IN: [00:34:00] Oh my god, like a time warp to my childhood in the Bronx. 

Fast forward to Tuesday night when Hannity interviewed Curtis Sliwa, live in Times Square, about 40 years older, back in his costume, like it's the Kiss reunion tour, talking about the hellscape that is New York under the migrant invasion. And they had a remarkable Fox TV moment. 

SEAN HANNITY: If you divide 53 million by 500, that's a $106,000 debit card. Not a bad deal. I don't think they're giving them to vets that are homeless in New York City, not that I've heard, Curtis. 

CURTIS SLIWA: Well, in fact, our guys have just taken down one of the migrant guys right here on the corner of 42nd and 7th while all this is taking place.

SEAN HANNITY: Can you pan the camera? 

CURTIS SLIWA: They've taken over. They've taken over. Light the camera over there if at all possible. He is out of control. Out of control. They had been shoplifting first. The Guardian Angels spotted them, stopped them. He [00:35:00] resisted. And let's just say we gave him a little pain compliance. His mother back in Venezuela felt the vibrations. He's sucking concrete. 

CHRIS HAYES - HOST, ALL IN: What a despicable, despicable exhibition. So, Sliwa says the man they were assaulting was a migrant shoplifter, the one that was "sucking concrete." A perfect story that Donald Trump and Fox News are telling their audience about the illegals and the rampant crime -- except, guess what? After the cameras turned off, a little more reporting and digging revealed that the man Sliwa's gang wrestled down was not a migrant, but -- drumroll -- a New Yorker from the Bronx. And while Sliwa claimed he was a shoplifter, there was no evidence of that, and he was not charged with shoplifting by the police. He was issued a disorderly conduct summons, apparently for being disruptive during Curtis's live shot. In other words, a New Yorker in the middle of Times Square was interrupting a live shot of Curtis Sliwa and his goons assaulted him. 

Yesterday, Fox [00:36:00] once again had to do some cleanup to avoid another lawsuit.

SEAN HANNITY: Now, Curtis said that the man was a migrant and that he was shoplifting. Fox News has since spoken to the NYPD. Apparently the statements made by Curtis that the man is a migrant is not true. Curtis said, in part, quote, "I shouldn't have been listening to the crowd. That was my mistake. I should not have had that knee jerk reaction."

Again, on this show, we always want to set the record straight. 

CHRIS HAYES - HOST, ALL IN: Oh, they sure do. Some good advice there, life advice generally for folks. I shouldn't have been listening to the crowd and shouldn't have had the knee jerk reaction. 

You know, in America, there is a real issue we have right now with migration flows at the southern border, both in terms of what danger and uncertainty it presents for the people that are showing up there, and also the sort of strain it puts on various social systems here in New York and Denver and Chicago and a whole bunch of other places. It is a real thing. And there's lots of folks working very hard [00:37:00] to deal with it.

And then there's the disgusting garbage that is being pumped out by Fox and other parts of the Rupert Murdoch empire, like the New York Post. Just the vilest, most dehumanizing, disgusting filth you can imagine. 

Do you remember the nationwide shoplifting panic that turned out to be completely belied by the statistics? Or the splashy stories of a migrant caravan apocalypse that never came? 

Please, remember those every time you hear a viral story -- in a city that, by the way, where crime has dropped significantly last year during the migrant surge -- when you hear one of those viral stories, I am urging everyone, in the words of Curtis Sliwa, don't have a knee jerk reaction. Wait for a bit for the truth to emerge.

The Case for Open Borders Part 1 - Deconstructed - Air Date 2-2-24

RYAN GRIM - HOST, DECONSTRUCTED: You say, “open borders doesn’t mean a rush to migrate.” Because the running assumption among a lot of Americans is that everybody wants to be in America, everyone around the world, all [00:38:00] 9 billion people. And then, if you just gave everyone a green card and a plane ticket, that, tomorrow, you’d have all 9 billion people on the planet here within the borders of the United States, and we’d have social collapse immediately.

You’ve actually got some interesting research on this. To me, that never scanned, because most people like the place that they grew up, it’s where they’re comfortable, it’s where their family is, it’s where their friends are, it’s what they know. But you’ve dug in a little deeper on that.

So, what did you find on this question, of mass migration being sparked by an open border policy?

JOHN WASHINGTON: Well, I want to reframe two things here really quickly. One is, when people talk open borders, I don’t think folks mean a green card necessarily right away or a plane ticket. And the reason I’m harping on that for a second is because there have been so many claims about current asylum seekers getting gift cards, getting free plane tickets, and that’s just not the case.

RYAN GRIM - HOST, DECONSTRUCTED: Five-thousand dollar is [00:39:00] one of the myths circulating on the right. Just, you get, that you just get a card with $5,000 on it.

JOHN WASHINGTON: Completely false. I’m in Arizona, we have one of our Senate candidates here, Mark Lamb, who claims to have knowledge of this happening, and it’s just not true.

That’s not happening. No one is getting plane tickets, or vouchers for anything, who are crossing the border.

But the other reframe I want to do is something that I think a lot of folks in the United States see as an issue that affects the United States [uniquely] . And the current migration problem — and I agree that it’s a problem — is not a United States problem, it’s not an American problem. It’s a regional problem and it’s a global problem.

If you think about it in [terms of] just, where people are going currently, a lot of people are coming to the United States, a lot of people have always come to the United States. We can get into some numbers on that in a second, I think that’s really important work to do as well.

But look at, for example, the number of Venezuelans and the number of Nicaraguans who have [00:40:00] resettled in neighboring countries, compared to how many have come to the United States. There are, approaching, 3 million Venezuelans in Colombia right now, and over the past 20-some years, the number of Venezuelans who have come to the United States hasn’t even topped 1 million.

Nicaraguans are largely resettling — or maybe temporarily resettling — in neighboring Costa Rica. Some of them are coming up through Central America, Mexico, and trying to get into the United States as well, there’s been a parole program. But people generally stay close to their home countries.

This is the same for Africa as well; there’s a number of African states who have become “receiving countries,” in immigration speak. Gabon, which is a country probably a lot of people never think of and couldn’t necessarily point to on a map, has been an enormous receiving country for a lot of African refugees right now. Same with Uganda, for people from other different countries in Africa. Turkey, as well, for Syrians, [00:41:00] has welcomed far, far more people than some of the neighboring states in Europe that have complained and cried foul for supposedly being overrun.

So, I think, if you consider where people are going, they typically don’t want to go far. And there have been a number of examples of, when the border has been effectively open — you mentioned that in the 19th century — there was a lot of immigration in the 19th century in the United States. Something like 50 million Europeans went from different countries in Europe to the United States over a hundred-year period, ending in the late 19th century.

But there are a number of other examples where… I think Puerto Rico is a telling case. Puerto Ricans can move freely. They’re U.S. citizens, they can move to New York, to Miami, to wherever they want to go. And plenty of them have, but not all of them have. And you can look at even some of the [00:42:00] economic differences between the island and different parts of the United States. You’d think, well, we have higher wages here, we have all these other things that people think would attract migrants, and sometimes does, but it doesn’t empty out, and hasn’t emptied out Puerto Rico.

You can go case by case and see that people want to stay where they are. If they can, they will. And if they can’t, they’ll often go to the next easiest place to get to. Of course, there are exceptions to this, and a lot of those exceptions are due to prior relationships.

But if you look at the history of colonialism, a lot of the states who have gone in and meddled with these so-called “developing nations” are now receiving citizens of those same countries, where the empires have destabilized, have engaged in conquest, have tried to exploit as much as possible. So, there is a connection, and so, some people will go further than their neighboring [00:43:00] states, but it’s not an inevitability.

Migration costs money, it’s expensive, and opening the gates doesn’t necessarily mean people are going to rush, because it costs a lot, both monetarily and emotionally, professionally. They’re going to leave behind everything they knew, and folks don’t tend to do that.

RYAN GRIM - HOST, DECONSTRUCTED: All right. So, to push back on that a little bit, you’re seeing record numbers of migrants approaching the U.S. border over the last months and year-plus. So, what does that tell us about how much kind of pressure there is on outward migration, and what we might see if you actually did just fully say, you know what? Come on in.

JOHN WASHINGTON: Well, I think it’s too early to say if this is just another peak, and we’re going to drop down into a valley in terms of numbers of migration, or if this is going to be necessarily a steady upward trend.

If you look at the big picture, [00:44:00] there are right now about 270 million international migrants; that was based on last year’s count by the U.N. That’s about 3.5 percent of the global population. That number, 3.5 percent, has held steady for about a hundred years. If you look at forced migration — so people who aren’t just migrating for economic or family reasons, but are actually forced out of the country — the count topped 110 million last year. And that, too, is about the average of the global population. It’s a little bit hard to count, because the tabulations weren’t done as thoroughly in the mid-last century, when we newly defined what a refugee was.

I’m going to give you another number, and then I want to get into that, what this means about the outward pressures of migration. The United States, too, a little bit less than 15 percent of all people living in the country are [00:45:00] foreign born, and that number is almost identical to what it was 100 years ago.

So, there’s a number of things to think through that might imply that these numbers are going to increase. I mean, climate change is the biggest one of them. Large parts of the world are becoming less habitable because of all the reasons we know and, increasingly, strong storms, droughts, floods, heat, etc. So, we might be in a new era, but I think it’s so far a little bit too early to tell, going back to that 100-year perspective.

And then you can go further than that, too. There’s something that is true here, is that humans are moving, and humans have historically moved. That is how humans have always been, and that has been true before the rise of nation states, that has been true before the rise of empires.

So, I think the question is not how to stop migration, but how do we respond to [00:46:00] migration? 

Greg Abbott and the Battle for the Texas Border - Amicus With Dahlia Lithwick | Law, justice, and the courts - Air Date 1-20-24 

DALIA LITHWICK - HOST, AMICUS: On December 18 of 2023, Texas Governor Greg Abbottt signed into law a measure that makes it a crime under Texas state law for non-citizens to enter or re-enter the United States without authorization.

 It allows Texas state law enforcement authorities to stop, arrest, and jail those suspected of having committed that offense.

 It empowers state judges to issue deportation orders, de facto deportation orders, against folks convicted of violating this new law.

 Can you just walk us through whether this just is a sort of shabby stunt or whether this is a kind of sea change in the way he is attempting to do immigration law in Texas?

ROCHELLE GARZA: Yeah, I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that SB4 threatens to destroy the very foundation of our nation’s immigration system. We are required, as a country, the United States is required to speak with one [00:47:00] voice, one set of laws, and SB4 is challenging that very aggressively. And Governor Abbott is implementing these unconstitutional, hostile takeovers of immigration law in the form of SB4.

 So SB4 creates essentially two new criminal laws, illegal entry and illegal reentry into the State of Texas. These are mirroring what we have on the federal level. But now there is a state scheme around this, and untrained officers across the state are expected to enforce this law, and magistrates and judges across the state are expected to enforce the law as well. And just to kind of situate things, Texas is a very big state. We are also 40% latino.

 So there are many threats this law has not just on immigrant communities, but latino communities, because it stokes anti-immigrant, anti-Latino sentiment. But [00:48:00] there is no limitation on where it would be implemented.

 This can be implemented in West Texas and El Paso. It can be implemented in the panhandle in Amarillo. It can be implemented in south Texas, where I live in Brownsville. So there is no uniform way that we’re going to see this law implemented.

 Nonetheless, Greg Abbott has put this forward. I’m very proud of what we have done as an organization, Texas Civil Rights Project, along with ACLU and ACLU of Texas have sued to challenge SB4. It is set to go into effect in early March. We filed a preliminary injunction very recently on the 12th of January, and so we’re challenging this in court and trying to stop the implementation of this law.

DALIA LITHWICK - HOST, AMICUS: Look, we’ve been fighting about immigrants and immigration policy and about the alleged nexus between crime waves and immigrants, about whether the president or Congress sets immigration policy. I [00:49:00] mean, we’ve been having this fight and also kicking this can down the road every election of recent memory. And it feels as though, and I know you agree with me, that Abbott’s take on this is sort of particularly cruel and particularly opportunistic and showboaty.

 But there is this underlying immigration problem, and I wonder if you can just situate from where you are sitting on the ground why we’re doing this Groundhog Day iteration again of claims, largely false claims about immigration in an election year. What does it signal to you about where our heads are on this question nationally?

ROCHELLE GARZA: I can speak to my experience. I grew up in a border community. I grew up in Brownsville, Texas, my family’s fifth generation Texan. I have a personal experience of what it’s like to live on the border, in border [00:50:00] communities and seeing how it plays out on the state level and then seeing how it plays out on the national level and the border immigration.

 Immigrants are always being used as a wedge issue, as a talking point, something for divisive politics. And Greg Abbott is very intentionally using this during an election year to position himself. I don’t know for what exactly. He may be positioning himself for a future run. He may be positioning himself to be the pick for vice president.

Regardless, this is just about politics for Greg Abbott. It is not about really addressing the needs of Texans. Greg Abbott has put in close to $10 billion in border enforcement in the State of Texas through Operation Lone Star, now through SB4, through a bunch of different legal means.

 And these power grabs that he’s engaging in instead of investing in the communities in the state, instead of investing in Medicaid expansion or making sure [00:51:00] that colonias and communities across the borderlands have running water.

DALIA LITHWICK - HOST, AMICUS: So, you mentioned in response to, I think, my first question, Rochelle, that you all are involved in a lawsuit. There’s a whole bunch of different lawsuits challenging different parts of Lone Star, challenging SB4. And I wonder if you can just kind of walk us through what the challenge is, because I think if you and I are agreeing that this feels like almost a textbook constitutional crisis, right? This feels like a standoff between state and federal authority. Can you walk us through why it is that this is unbelievably consequential, even though it’s not getting the attention it deserves and what the sort of predicate is for the legal challenge?

ROCHELLE GARZA: Yeah, absolutely. I think what we’re seeing here is an unprecedented exercise of state control [00:52:00] over what is clearly within the federal purview, within federal control, which is immigration law. There are essentially three cases here.

 There’s SB4, which we are part of the challenge against with the criminalization of immigrants through these state schemes of illegal entry and re entry.

 There’s also a case around the concertina wire that the State of Texas and our military force put along the border.

 And there is also litigation around the buoys that were originally placed inside the river, in the middle of the river, with razor wire. And the buoy case is still pending at the Fifth Circuit.

 But what all of these cases come down to is what is within the federal government’s power versus what is in the state government’s power. The Supreme Court was very clear back in 2012 with Arizona, the US, that the federal government has exclusive control over [00:53:00] immigration laws. They are the sole enforcer of federal immigration laws.

 And there are a plethora of reasons for that, because the United States should be the only one to have control over its borders, its national borders, but also its relationship with foreign nations. And so the threat here is if you allow Texas to create its own immigration system, to pick fights with Mexico or any other latin american country, it drags the entire United States into this problem.

 We cannot have 50 different states with 50 different immigration laws or enforcement laws. It undercuts the basic structure of our country, of federalism, of our constitution. And I think it’s incredibly dangerous what we’re seeing happen.

The Case for Open Borders Part 2 - Deconstructed - Air Date 2-2-24

JOHN WASHINGTON: We do have these cross-cultural ties. You’re basically describing open cultural borders right there. People playing Fortnite from Brooklyn to [00:54:00] Gabon, or whatever. Think of everyone else who has open borders as well.

I mean, most people who are citizens of the United States effectively can waltz through the world as if there were completely open borders. And that is true, also, of the wealthy from many other countries in the world. Much of Western Europe could do basically the same. The ultra wealthy in many even so-called developing countries can do much the same.

The U.S. military, what border stops the U.S. military right now? Maybe a few are contested? But there’s, what, 800 bases, nearly, American bases spread throughout the world? 

RYAN GRIM - HOST, DECONSTRUCTED: That reminds me of a moment that I’ve really never forgotten. A friend of mine, Christian Parenti, and I were down doing reporting in Bolivia, and we were able to tour a Bolivian military base, and interview military figures, and they were going to talk to us about the war on drugs and all this. And, while we’re waiting, there’s a couple soldiers, they’re kind of just sitting in the waiting room with us, and one of them says to us, [00:55:00] “Why are you guys allowed to walk around our military base, when I’m not even allowed to come into your country?” And Christian said, “It’s called imperialism,” and he kind of nodded along.

But that was a moment that always stuck with me, because it did seem bizarre to me. That, well, what am I doing here? Like, why am I able to just wander around here and be welcomed onto this base?

JOHN WASHINGTON: I think imperialism is a good answer. I have another one, too. I think it’s also just definitionally called apartheid. There’s different laws for different people, and when you zoom out from just within a nation, we are allowed to do things that other people are not. How is that fair?

RYAN GRIM - HOST, DECONSTRUCTED: Like, global apartheid.

JOHN WASHINGTON: Global apartheid. I mean, it seems like a silly question, or almost a juvenile framing, but I think fairness is actually key here. Some people are allowed to do and have the freedoms that others do not. That is the way that the global [00:56:00] border system works right now.

RYAN GRIM - HOST, DECONSTRUCTED: Right, based on where they’re born or their ethnicity. We understand that as apartheid inside the borders of a country like South Africa, but when we stretch it out to the entire globe, we say that’s just how it is.

JOHN WASHINGTON: Right. So, you asked about the rise of federal immigration law. For the first hundred-plus years of the existence of the United States, there was no immigration law. There was maybe something like implicit understanding of who would be allowed in, based on tradition, based on just common practice, based on the definition of who a citizen could be, which was, you know, white men.

There were some state laws that go back, actually, to before there was a United States, that tried to keep poor people out of their states, or poor people out of their towns and cities. And then we really saw the rise of immigration law in the late 19th century, with anti-Chinese legislation that [00:57:00] barred Chinese people from being allowed into the country. There was some version of these Chinese Exclusion Acts that were on the books well into the 20th century; it lasted a really long time. 

Those Laws were based on previous anti-Irish sentiment, and you can see, there’s sort of this idea, there’s almost this concept of whack-a-mole. The newest incomers are the ones that are going to be scapegoated, the ones who are going to be said to be un-American, impossible to assimilate.

I was doing some research about this situation in New York, the crying foul of Mayor Adams, and this idea that New York is existentially in peril is ridiculous, and ahistorical. And yet, that is the sort of rhetoric that has been used by politicians for a long time.

And so, going back to the 1850s, when a much larger percentage of new migrants were coming into New York City at that time, people were terrified. They were [00:58:00] mostly Germans and Irish, and New Yorkers thought that they couldn’t handle it. But the percentage was like 30 percent of the population of New York arrived to New York City in a single year. Right now, it’s like 1 percent or something like that, the asylum seekers who have come to New York City in the past couple years.

And it is expensive, and it does change things, and there does need to be some, I think, help with resettling. But, that New York can’t absorb 160,000 people and be actually invigorated by them, by those new incomers, I think is just completely ahistorical, and betrays the very essence of New York City, which I think also stands in large part for how we can think about the United States as a whole, or any other country with immigration.

RYAN GRIM - HOST, DECONSTRUCTED: Since your book is called The Case For Open Borders, rather than the case against closed borders, you make the point that there has to be a vision, a positive [00:59:00] vision of what benefits this is going to bring to humanity, rather than just a knocking down of the arguments against it.

So, to you, what is the vision that makes the case for open borders?

JOHN WASHINGTON: Yeah. I grapple with that a lot. You know, I’m not a policymaker. As a reporter, what I do is find, basically, malfeasance, or major traumas, and report on them. And I’ve documented for years now the problems that borders cause. And so, it was a stretch for me to start thinking about the benefits of this hypothetical future, of something with open borders, of a world with open borders.

But I think it comes down to looking at some examples that are already in existence. The United States of America is a good one. We transit freely from California to Virginia, from [01:00:00] Florida to Nebraska, wherever, and it’s pretty seamless. People can move wherever they want. There are enormous economic and cultural differences between different places in the United States, and people kind of figure out where they want to settle, where they can settle, and do so. And it doesn’t upend the political system.

You mentioned previously, people also traveling freely within the Schengen zone in the European Union. And that, too, there was a lot of nerves about that, especially as they incorporated some more Eastern European states. But those Western states haven’t been overrun, despite the claims of the Brexiteers, and now the rise of the far right in the Netherlands, and France, and elsewhere. And people go back and forth with relative ease, and they settle where they want to settle.

And what incentivizes people to move are open [01:01:00] jobs, that’s one of the major incentives. And when there are open jobs, it’s good that they’re filled. There are a lot of open jobs in the United States right now, and they need filling. And so, if there are not open jobs, I think they won’t be filled, and people won’t move as much.

So, I think that this also goes back to your question of, there won’t be a run, or will there be a run on the United States border if suddenly it was open? It doesn’t seem to be, because I think people are driven by the things we’re all driven by: opportunities. And, if they’re not there, they won’t go.

So, there’s a number of other free migration zones in the world. There’s a Nordic Passport area, there’s a Trans-Tasmanian area, there’s the Central America-4 region, and Mercosur in South America. There are so many that we don’t think of — also, there’s a couple in Africa — where people can cross borders easily. And expanding it, I think, seems to be a very doable thing, and [01:02:00] that’s based on the evidence that we’ve seen with, as I was mentioning, the now past steady expansion of the E.U., or the incorporation of new states in the United States.

There’s a good quote that I think about a lot [by] Nicolas de Genova, who’s a researcher, and he says, “Without borders, there is no migration, there’s only human mobility.” And I think he’s absolutely right, but what’s interesting is that there’s human mobility no matter what. That people will move, as I’ve said before, and the way that we see it and term it, and the way that we designate it, whether it’s migration or just movement, I think is actually less important than people really realize.

Final comments on the incentives for our politicians to fail at governing

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: We've just heard clips today, starting with The Readout, looking at the politics that derailed the proposed immigration bill. The Majority Report looked at the Democrats move to the right on immigration. The Damage Report highlighted the Republican who's actually mad at his own party. Today Explained explained the Texas [01:03:00] border stunt. The Brian Lehrer Show discussed the GOP attempt to impeach the Secretary of Homeland Security which, just before publishing this episode, they succeeded in doing. All In With Chris Hayes highlighted the danger of Fox News is hateful framing on immigration. And Deconstructed made the case for open borders. 

That's what everybody heard, but numbers also heard bonus clips from Amicas diving deeper on the legal ramifications of Texas border stunt, and Deconstructed continued the discussion about the nature of humans to move and the inequality of the rich already having the privilege of free movement around the world. 

To hear that and have all of our bonus contents delivered seamlessly to the new members only podcast feed that you'll receive, sign up to support the show at bestoftheleft.com/support, or shoot me an email requesting a financial hardship membership, because we don't let a lack of funds stand in the way of hearing more information. 

Now to wrap up, I want to tie together a couple of stories that really [01:04:00] highlight the structural dysfunction of our democracy right now. First, I'll start with the unsurprising story. I'll take it as granted that you already heard about the migrant busing story where asylum seekers were put on buses and planes from Texas to be driven to cities, run by Democrats as a craven political move that used real life human beings as political pawns to score points. It was inhumane, gross, and probably illegal human trafficking because lies were told to some people to get them on those buses. 

But the seed of truth underneath that policy was that people coming across the border who are processed through our underfunded and understaffed system who then needs somewhere to go to wait for their court dates, need to be moved away from border towns because it's completely unreasonable to expect the border region to absorb all of those people alone. So way down underneath all the political games [01:05:00] and treating humans like placings, that was the primary argument. The logistical burden of processing asylum seekers should be spread across the country. And I completely agree. And so do immigration advocates working at NGOs dedicated to helping migrants once they've entered the country. The woman who runs the Val Verde Humanitarian Border Coalition was working with the State of Texas on the logistics of coordinating services for the migrants at their destination cities. 

The state would organize the bus rides, give that information to Tiffany Burrow of the Val Verde Humanitarian Border Coalition, who would in turn coordinate with NGOs in the destination cities so that there could be people waiting to receive the buses and give guidance to the migrants when they arrived. 

The people working at these NGOs believe in the need for the busing program. They're not just there to mitigate [01:06:00] harm. They see it as necessary to relieve pressure from border communities. However, the story I'm actually highlighting is that after Texas and these NGOs had been working in partnership for a time, Texas suddenly decided to stop providing the bus route information that allowed the advocates to organize logistical support. No details or reasons were given other than that they just sort of felt like they didn't need to. 

Of course, the result was to maximize chaos at the destination cities, which was very likely the point. The whole policy, though necessary, has always been conducted in a way to maximize the spectacle of it, not to be an example of good governance or policy, or even to help people. Democratic officials have criticized the busing policy, but less about the existence of the policy and more for Texas governor Abbott's refusal to coordinate with [01:07:00] other governors and mayors in the process. And we know why there is a political motivation that rewards more political clout to those who make the other party look bad than to those who govern well. Abbott is definitely seen more favorably in the eyes of Texas Republicans because of his cartoonishly cruel busing policy intended to make Democrats look bad than he would if he devised a well-organized, well coordinated policy that accomplished the goals of spreading the logistical burden of incoming migrants, but without all the drama. 

I will say one thing for Abbott stunt though: he also made clear that it was intended to bring attention to the lack of federal support for the logistics of dealing with the influx of migrants. And it did succeed at that. In fact, I was surprised to learn that there wasn't already a system in place to transport migrants around the country because, of course, we need something like [01:08:00] that. But the perverse incentives to not enact reasonable effective policy, don't just flow in one direction. 

As reported by CBS, federal officials considered setting up just such a federally coordinated effort that would transport migrants from the border around the country, so they could be processed in their destination cities, easing the strain at the border. The system would work with organizations in those cities to ensure that migrants could be accommodated and worked with the cities directly, unlike Texas's bussing effort of course. 

Now reading from the CBS article: "But the proposal was blocked by the White House due to concerns about the political optics of the federal government transporting migrants across the US and objections from some of the cities asked to take part in the program, according to three current and former US officials. The White House officials said the plan is no longer under consideration. [01:09:00] A former Biden administration immigration official said 'the interior processing plan would have distributed migrants and resources more proportionally across the US in an orderly way. Interior processing capacity would have provided access to additional resources and taken pressure off many cities'. The White House rejected those plans in 2021 and 2022 due to politics and the requirement that the White House would need to own the coordination, the former official said." 

In short, the fear that it would look bad to attempt to create a well-organized thoughtful policy to manage the influx of border crossings stopped the effort entirely. And I suspect that they feared it would look bad regardless of whether it went well or poorly. If it went well, the GOP would frame it as Biden actively helping migrants who are probably mostly [01:10:00] criminals and terrorists so that they could vote for Democrats. And then if it went badly, then it would just be seen as more evidence that the government doesn't work. So the idea was scrapped. On the bigger picture. We obviously need to get back to a politics where politicians are not dis-incentivized from attempting to create good policy. That's sort of the core of democratic governance. Without it we are totally screwed. 

On the smaller picture, looking at immigration specifically, here's my proposal. We obviously need a coordinated effort to manage immigration because it is going to happen whether we are organized or not. So we'd better get organized and the very core of that effort needs to be fairness. No ad hoc system like Texas is running could ever be fair or just so the federal government needs to step in. The CBS article mentioned that some cities might complain about being asked to help support the effort and to [01:11:00] them, I would invoke the promise of fairness. No city should be asked to do more than their fair share. And therefore every city needs to do what they can to help spread the effort. 

Also, I am sick to death of the right claiming a monopoly on patriotism. And to any who criticize an effort to create a well-organized immigration system, I say e pluribus unum, 'from many, one'. It was our unofficial motto from the very beginning until the godless communists scared us into adopting 'In God We Trust' as our official motto back in the fifties. But e pluribus unum is still on our money and it still goes deeper to the heart of what the US is supposed to be about than any other option. 

And the best thing about it is how nicely it's scales. Originally it just referred to the coming together of the original 13 colonies. But it seamlessly scaled to include every additional state that was added. It could just as easily have been [01:12:00] referring to the origin countries of everyone who's ever migrated to this land. And we'll continue to encompass everyone who comes from abroad and become an American citizen. 

But most importantly, for our current politics, it should be a reminder of the necessity for all parts of the country to work together when facing issues that affect us all. There's a recent headline in the LA Times. I quote, "Half of Republicans say California isn't really American". Which isn't surprising considering the rhetoric coming from Trump and his MAGA supporters and other Republicans who may or may not be following reluctantly, but are following all the same. Their whole game plan is to do two Democrats writ large, what they have done to every group they've decided to target based on race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity throughout the ages. They are attempting to frame anyone who doesn't agree with them as [01:13:00] fundamentally un-American and, for those willing to use the more extreme rhetoric which Trump has recently embraced, not fully human. And fighting back against that with 'no, you're the one being un-American' is never going to work. The left needs to define a positive vision of functional government and inclusive democracy. We've never been a homogenous country full of people who get along well with each other and we're not about to start now, but we have gotten to an extremely bad divide, even in a history full of pretty bad divides. And I think the path back to sanity might start with a full-throated embrace of one of our oldest shared beliefs. 

We may not agree on much other than that we have grudgingly agreed to co-exist because we recognize we are stronger and better off working together than going it alone. E pluribus unum. Out of many, one. 

And besides immigrants are good for the [01:14:00] economy and tax base. So even if you don't care about treating them like humans, you can think of immigrants as a source of a future tax base to help pay down the national debt or whatever pet economic concern you have. 

That is going to be it for today as always keep the comments coming in. I would love to hear your thoughts or questions about this or anything else you can leave a voicemail or send us a text at 202-999-3991, or simply email me to [email protected]. 

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 our Transcriptionist Trio, Ken, Brian, and Ben for their volunteer work helping put our transcripts together. Thanks to Amanda Hoffman for all of her work on our social media outlets, activism segments, graphic designing, web mastering, and the bonus show co-hosting. And thanks to those who already support the show by becoming a member or purchasing gift memberships. You can join them by signing up today at bestoftheleft.com/support, through our Patrion page, [01:15:00] or from right inside the Apple podcast app. Membership is how you get instant access to our incredibly good and often funny bonus episodes, in addition to there being extra content, no ads, and chapter markers in all of our regular episodes, all through your regular podcast player. You'll find that link in the show notes, along with a link to join our Discord community, where you can also continue the discussion. 

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 twice weekly, thanks entirely to the members and donors to the show, from bestoftheleft.com.

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