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#1598 Kiss of Death: Henry Kissinger's Bloody Legacy of Indifference (Transcript)

Air Date 12/12/2023

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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 will look at how Henry Kissinger, it turns out, was actually a pretty good representative of the United States, the foreign policy actions we took, and the reasonings we gave for them, oh for the past, you know, century or less. He embodied the idea that the U.S. is always on the side of right, the world and its inhabitants are merely a game board and pieces for us to manipulate to our own ends, and that lives, particularly foreign lives, lost in pursuit of our interests are not of much concern. Sources today include the PBS NewsHour, The Brian Lehrer Show, The Majority Report, Democracy Now!, and The Take, with additional members only clips from Against the Grain and The Mehdi Hassan Show.

A look at the consequential and controversial legacy of Henry Kissinger - PBS NewsHour - Air Date 11-30-23

NICK SCHIFRIN: Heinz Alfred Kissinger was born in Germany in 1923 to a Jewish family. When he was 15, they fled Nazi Germany for New York. He was drafted into the American military, and [00:01:00] deployed to his home country to help with denazification. He taught at Harvard, giving him access to elite foreign policy circles, until President Richard Nixon named him National Security Adviser and later, simultaneously, Secretary of State.

HENRY KISSINGER: There is no country in the world where it is conceivable that a man of my origins could be standing here next to the President of the United States.

NICK SCHIFRIN: The moment that would make him famous led to what Nixon called "the week that changed the world," a secret 1971 trip to Beijing, ending more than two decades of mutual hostility.

The next year, Nixon made his own trip, setting a path to U.S.-China normalization. In that room that day, Kissinger aide and later Ambassador to China Winston Lord.

WINSTON LORD: Maybe it would have happened at some point, but it was still a very courageous and controversial move in the early 1970s. This meeting set the stage for the subsequent discussions and the opening up the relationship, which had a major [00:02:00] impact immediately by improving relations with the Soviets. It helped us end the Vietnam War. It restored morale in the United States that we were an able diplomatic actor, despite all our problems. It restored American credibility around the world.

NICK SCHIFRIN: But before he could end the Vietnam War, Kissinger had expanded it. Beginning in 1969, the U.S. secretly bombed Cambodia to try and disrupt North Vietnamese supply routes. The campaign is estimated to have killed hundreds of thousands of civilians.

GREG GRANDIN: He had a remarkable indifference to human suffering. How many thousands of U.S. soldiers died as a result of that? How many thousands of Vietnamese soldiers died of that? His secret and illegal bombing of Cambodia resulted in 100,000 civilian deaths. But, more than that, it radicalized what had been a small nucleus of extremely militant communists. That brought Pol Pot to power. And that led to the "killing fields" and the [00:03:00] millions dead. I think he does have an inordinate amount of blood on his hands.

NICK SCHIFRIN: By 1973, Kissinger and his team negotiated an end to the Vietnam War in Paris, where Winston Lord was again by his side.

WINSTON LORD: Henry and I went out in the garden and we shook hands, and he looked me in the eye and said: "We've done it." And this had particular poignancy, because I'd almost quit over our Cambodia-related policy to Vietnam a couple of years earlier on that very subject. And so, after all we'd been through, this was a major moment.

NICK SCHIFRIN: The moment allowed Kissinger to share the Nobel Peace Prize with his North Vietnamese counterpart. But, two years later, the U.S. fled Saigon, and North Vietnam and Vietcong troops conquered U.S.-ally South Vietnam.

HENRY KISSINGER: The withdrawal from Vietnam was an American tragedy.

NICK SCHIFRIN: Kissinger never expressed regret over Vietnam or any decision. In 2003, he told Jim Lehrer the priority was to put Vietnam aside so he could focus [00:04:00] elsewhere.

HENRY KISSINGER: All you could do is try to preserve a minimum of dignity and save as many lives as you could.

NICK SCHIFRIN: Kissinger's peace efforts extended to the Middle East. In October 1973, Egypt and Syria attacked Israel on Yom Kippur. Kissinger held so many regional meetings, he helped create the term "shuttle diplomacy." It helped lead to Israeli-Egypt negotiations and edged the Soviet Union out of the Middle East. 

Kissinger's concern over communism and his realpolitik peaked in Chile. In 1973, the U.S. helped the military overthrow the democratically-elected socialist government and install General Augusto Pinochet. Pinochet's military dictatorship caused the death, disappearance, and torture of more than 40,000 Chileans.

But Kissinger's priority was preventing communist dominoes from falling, as he told the NewsHour's Elizabeth Farnsworth in 2001.

HENRY KISSINGER: First of all, human rights were not an international issue at the time, the way they have become since. We believed that the establishment of a Castroite regime in Chile would create a sequence of events in all of at least the southern cone of Latin America that would be extremely inimical to the national interests of the United States, at a time when the Cold War [00:05:00] was at its height.

NICK SCHIFRIN: Kissinger's Cold War strategy called for detente with the Soviet Union. In 1972, President Nixon and Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev signed SALT, the first limits on Soviet and U.S. ballistic missiles and ballistic missile defense. It opened decades of arms control agreements.

HENRY KISSINGER: The benefits that accrue to the United States are the benefit that will accrue to all participants in the international system from an improvement in the prospects of peace.

NICK SCHIFRIN: By then, Kissinger had reached his popular and policy peak. He was charming, funny, craved proximity to power, and was, in his supporters' eyes, a steady steward of American interests.

After Nixon's resignation, he remained President Ford's Secretary of State.

WINSTON LORD: I think his most significant achievement was holding together America and its foreign policy in the wake of Watergate and the ending of the Vietnam War. Kissinger remained untainted by the scandals, [00:06:00] pursued remarkable diplomacy under the circumstances, and maintained America's position in the world, as well as restoring some morale in the United States itself. It was a remarkable achievement.

NICK SCHIFRIN: But, to his critics, Kissinger symbolized the pursuit of order over justice and the kind of preemptive action that paved the way for continuous war.

GREG GRANDIN: I think he was absolutely indispensable in creating a sense of keeping the United States on a permanent war footing, this war without end, in which everything is self-defense.

Henry Kissinger's Huge but Deeply Problematic Legacy - The Brian Lehrer Show - Air Date 11-30-23

FRED KAPLAN: Chile elected, in a fair and free election, a socialist, Salvador Allende, and Kissinger basically plotted to overthrow him, saying, "Why should we allow a socialist country in our hemisphere just because the people in the country were irresponsible?" Now, the reason why it's the darkest -- it's not necessarily the most damaging thing that Kissinger did, but it's the one [00:07:00] incident where the blame for what subsequently happened can be laid entirely on Kissinger. Many other things -- it could be Kissinger and Nixon, or Kissinger and somebody else -- but in this one, Nixon was actually about to have an appointment with a State Department underling of Kissinger's to talk about possibly forming some kind of modus vivendi with the Allende government. Kissinger got that meeting canceled and went to Nixon himself and convinced him that, no, we have to make the Chilean economy scream.

Kissinger, who was National Security Advisor and Secretary of State, became the chairman of a special committee, which consisted largely of CIA agents to overthrow the Chilean government. They worked hand in hand with the Teamsters, which organized a big trucker strike in Chile so that the economy would scream. What ultimately happened is that Allende was overthrown [00:08:00] by General Pinochet, who then launched a campaign to arrest and kill thousands of dissidents, during which time Kissinger told him basically do what you need to do, and instructed the State Department not to issue any démarches against what he was doing. Later, Pinochet was found by the international courts to be a war criminal and was barred from many countries. He was almost arrested once when he went to England. And one of the murders by Pinochet and his people took place in the streets of Washington DC. An exiled economist named Orlando Letelier was blown up with a car bomb as his car drove by the Chilean embassy, killing him and an American colleague. There's never been any apologies for any of this.

BRIAN LEHRER - HOST, THE BRIAN LEHRER SHOW: Oh, that's just what I was going to ask. If Kissinger ever expressed regret for empowering [00:09:00] Pinochet and all that he brought?

FRED KAPLAN: No... well, for one thing, the full extent of the US involvement in this wasn't even revealed until years later when Seymour Hersh uncovered it for The New York Times. It was denied until documents came out confirming it. 

Among many other things, Kissinger was actually a witty man, and often, he would just not address charges like this. Sometimes he would kind of dismiss it with a joke. For example, one time he said something like, " Illegal things, we do very quickly. Unconstitutional things, it takes a little longer." Everybody ha, ha, ha. He charmed people with this kind of thing. There have been whole books written about each one of the places in the world where Kissinger did dreadful things. 

BRIAN LEHRER - HOST, THE BRIAN LEHRER SHOW: One that people probably are not very familiar with that you said in your article is him being soft on a human rights [00:10:00] violating coup in Pakistan, which you say led to the deaths of millions of civilians. Millions?

FRED KAPLAN: Yes. Gary Bass wrote a book about just this sometime ago based on declassified documents. Yes, there was a coup in East Pakistan led by General Agha Muhammad Yahya. Because Pakistan was aligned with China against India, Kissinger did not want -- and there's one memo where he tells his staff, "Don't squeeze Yahya." Nixon and Kissinger were both very complicit in what went on. They used American weapons to do what they did. 

The horrible thing is that things that happen in places like East Pakistan, another one was Indonesia's invasion of East Timor, which resulted in the deaths of about a hundred thousand civilians. These kinds of spots on the map tend to be overlooked. The politics involved are [00:11:00] very complicated. I think there's probably some racial things that go into a lot of people just not taking a close look. Argentina was another case where there was a coup that he turned a blind eye to the excesses of killing thousands of dissidents and making them disappear. You might remember that phrase from the time. In that instance, he told the foreign minister of Argentina, "We would like you to succeed." That is, to succeed in suppressing these dissidents. The bombing of North Vietnam and Cambodia, those are probably the deadliest things that he was involved in, but there, he shares the stage--

BRIAN LEHRER - HOST, THE BRIAN LEHRER SHOW: And probably the most well-known.

FRED KAPLAN: Yes, because we were involved in a war there at the time. Thousands of Americans were getting killed too. There, he shares responsibility for a war with President Nixon as well.

BRIAN LEHRER - HOST, THE BRIAN LEHRER SHOW: He also shared a Nobel [00:12:00] Peace Prize for negotiating an end to the Vietnam War. Do you think that at least was deserved, or that his escalation policies helped hasten the wars end in any way?

FRED KAPLAN: No, I think it's disgraceful. For one thing, it's long since been shown that when Nixon was running for president in '68 and Kissinger was signed on to be his National Security Advisor, Kissinger arranged for communications to be sent to South Vietnam, whose leaders were engaged in peace talks with North Vietnam in Paris at the time, saying, "Don't negotiate. You'll get a better deal when Nixon is president." This was while President Johnson was negotiating talks. There was progress in these talks.

Now, it may or may not be that those talks would've resulted in an end to the war, but Kissinger's [00:13:00] communiqué to the South Vietnamese leaders to, "Hold on, don't take any deal now. You'll get a better one from Nixon." That very well could have prolonged the war by many years, and tens of thousands of American deaths. Then the peace treaty that he did come up with, it wasn't really a peace treaty at all. It was just a way to provide cover for an American withdrawal and an almost instantaneous collapse of the South Vietnamese government. That's one of the Nobel Prize's least stellar chapters.

Kissinger: An Architect of Genocide - The Majority Report w/ Sam Seder - Air Date 12-5-23

EMMA VIGELAND - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Nixon and Kissinger were immensely deceitful in what they would say publicly about the Vietnam War and what their designs were behind the scenes after Nixon got elected, and they expanded the war quite quickly after taking office.

And then during that time, when did Kissinger become Secretary of State? 

TIM SHORROCK: 69. Secretary of State was later. He was National Security advisor first. 

EMMA VIGELAND - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: He was National Security Advisor at that time, and then he's the only person to have ever held that position simultaneously so [00:14:00] just to give people a sense of how powerful -- he was Secretary of State and National Security Advisor for quite a while. What was that like at that time, when LBJ was opening up some measure of diplomacy at the sunset of his presidency and then Nixon and Kissinger come into office and expand and then also launch the secret carpet bombing of Cambodia?

TIM SHORROCK: 1968 people might remember Johnson was relentlessly bombing Vietnam and the anti-war movement was really building up at home and people were really disgusted with the war and the violence being inflicted on Vietnam. And I remember marching in 1968 in Tokyo, Americans Against the War. And we were opposing the bombing of North Vietnam at the time, and also all the bombing and strafing that was going on in South Vietnam. And then during the election of '68, Nixon was promising a secret plan to end the war. And as we all learned later, Kissinger was telling anti-war [00:15:00] folks that Nixon was really serious and he himself -- Kissinger -- was really serious and agreed with the critics of the Vietnam War. And then it turned out that when these negotiations were going on with the Johnson administration in Paris to end the war, Kissinger was there feeding information from the South Vietnamese side to Nixon. And they basically persuaded the South Vietnamese government and its military government not to go along with any agreement until Nixon came in. And this is like this really cynical action. And that's kind of treasonous, to be sending top secret information back to a presidential candidate to undercut these negotiations. And then Nixon announces, Vietnamization, or, let the Vietnamese do the fighting, and the U. S. is going to slowly withdraw. But they just use this immense power of bombing and massive firebombing and, of course, they bombed Cambodia secretly for years, invaded Cambodia supposedly [00:16:00] to clear out the Vietnamese sanctuary, so-called. 

But it was such utter hypocrisy and, all this time, of course, he's working with Nixon to reopen relations with China, which was a good thing overall, but basically they opened relations with China and they wanted what Kissinger later called "a decent interval" to basically let the South Vietnamese government collapse, which everyone knew it would. And that finally happened in 1975. But it was all done through lies and deceit. 

And I was glad to see Lê Đức Thọ, who was the Vietnamese negotiator when they did reach the 1973 peace agreements, Kissinger and Lê Đức Thọ were given the Nobel Peace Prize. And Lê Đức Thọ refused to accept the award because he knew what a complete hypocrite and deceitful person and violent person Kissinger was, and to his credit, he [00:17:00] refused a Nobel Peace Prize. This was a piece after just mass murder in Indochina. 

And that's how I got into journalism was during the Vietnam War and looking at the economic factors, the role that business played in making the weapons and the military industrial complex and how it wanted more war. And that's how I started into journalism, but I kept pretty careful track of what was going on in the seventies. And I think that one of the worst things he did was to give a green light when he was working for president Ford in 1975 was going to Indonesia, meeting with General Suharto -- who had taken over in a very bloody coup in 1965, where over 500,000 people, communists and Chinese, were slaughtered in Indonesia -- and gave them a green light to invade the newly independent [00:18:00] nation of East Timor, which was alongside one of the islands in that archipelago there. And East Timor had just been decolonized, there had been a kind of revolution in Portugal and they had let go of their colonies. And so East Timor became an independent nation. And there was oil near there. And, the government that was taking over in East Timor was a progressive government. They wanted to better the conditions of its own people. And they gave him green light for Suharto to invade this little tiny defenseless island that had hardly any kind of military at all. And for years they did. And it was a genocide, hundreds of thousands of people were slaughtered in East Timor and it was a virtually unknown kind of struggle, but it just represented the kind of -- he just didn't give a rat's ass about people, any other countries, it's just the power of the United States and just use war [00:19:00] and bombing to get your way. 

And of course we all know what happened in 1973 in Chile, where he was behind the overthrow of Allende and undercutting that democratically-elected government, just a disgraceful record. 

And, it's just sickening to see all these political figures laud him for his statesmanlike actions and what he contributed to American foreign policy. Yeah, he contributed blood.

MATT LECH: I'm curious to hear you reflect the pride of place that he's maintained in American politics. Has it surprised you or is it just symptomatic?

TIM SHORROCK: It's symptomatic of the way the system works. We reward people who do things like this. Hillary Clinton. I saw Chris Christie praising him the other day. Democrats, Republicans that are in power and out of power, wanna get into power -- they love this guy because what he represented was ultimate use of American power to crush any kind of [00:20:00] opposition to US power anywhere in the world, and to use the most cynical means, the most violent means. But that's considered statesmanlike. And it's just appalling to hear these liberals, especially, praise this guy.

GREG GRANDIN: 

Henry Kissinger and the Moral Bankruptcy of U.S. Elites - Democracy Now! - Air Date 11-30-23

GREG GRANDIN: Kissinger’s life is fascinating, because it spans a very consequential bridge in United States history, from the collapse of the postwar consensus, you know, that happened with Vietnam, and Kissinger is instrumental in kind of recobbling, recreating a national security state that can deal with dissent, that can deal with polarization, that actually thrived on polarization and secrecy and learning to manipulate the public in order to advance a very aggressive foreign policy.

I mean, we can go into the details, but I do want to say that his death has been as instructive as his life. I mean, if you look at the obituaries and notes of condolences, [00:21:00] they just — I mean, they just reveal, I think, a moral bankruptcy of the political establishment, certainly in the transatlantic world, in the larger NATO sphere, just an unwillingness or incapacity to comprehend the crisis that we’re in and Kissinger’s role in that crisis. They’re celebratory. They’re inane. They’re vacuous. They’re really quite remarkable. And if you think of — just think back over the last year, the celebrations, the feting of his 100th anniversary — 100th, you know, birthday, his living to 100 years. I think it’s a cultural marker of just how much — how bankrupt the political class in this country is. So his death is almost as instructive as his life.

NERMEEN SHAIKH - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: [00:22:00] Well, we had you on, Greg, when he turned 100, when Kissinger turned 100.

GREG GRANDIN: Right.

NERMEEN SHAIKH - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: In that interview, you said that the best way to think about Kissinger isn’t necessarily as a war criminal. Could you explain why?

GREG GRANDIN: Yeah, because that is the way — I mean, Christopher Hitchens popularized thinking about him as a war criminal, and that has a way of elevating Kissinger, in some ways, as somehow an extraordinary evil. And it’s a fine line, because he did play an outsized role in a staggering number of atrocities and bringing and dealing misery and death across the globe to millions of people. But there’s a lot of war criminals. I mean, you know, this country is stocked with war criminals. There’s no shortage of war criminals.

And thinking about him as a war criminal kind of dumbs us down. It doesn’t allow us to think with Kissinger’s — use Kissinger’s life to think with, [00:23:00] to think about how the United States — for example, Kissinger started off as a Rockefeller Republican, you know, a liberal Republican, an adviser to Nelson Rockefeller who thought Nixon was far out of the mainstream and a dangerous sociopath, I think, as he put it. And yet, when Nixon won — and he actually helped him win by scuttling a peace deal with North Vietnam — he made his peace with Nixon, and then went on, you know, into public office. And he thought Reagan was too extreme, and yet he made his peace with Reagan. Then he thought the neocons were too extreme, and he made his peace with the neocons. Then he even made his peace with Donald Trump. He called Donald — he celebrated Donald Trump almost as a kind of embodiment of his theory of a great statesman and being able to craft reality as they want to through their [00:24:00] will. So, you see Kissinger — as the country moves right, you see Kissinger moving with it. So, just that trajectory is very useful to think with.

If you also think about his secret bombing of Cambodia and then trace out that bombing, it’s like a bright light, you know, a trace of red, running from Cambodia to the current endless “war on terror,” what was considered illegal. I mean, Kissinger bombed Cambodia in secret because it was illegal to bomb another country that you weren’t at war with in the 1960s and 1970s. It’s his old colleagues at Harvard, who were all Cold Warriors, none of them peace liberals, who marched down to Washington. They didn’t even know about the bombing. They went to protest the invasion of Cambodia. And now, you know, it is just considered a fact of international law that the United [00:25:00] States has the right to bomb countries that — third-party countries that we’re not at war with that give safe haven to terrorists. It’s just considered — it’s just considered commonplace. So you could see this evolution and drift towards endless war through Kissinger’s life.

Kissinger’s life is also useful to think about how, you know, as a public official, first, national security adviser, and then Secretary of State to Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, Kissinger created much of the chaos that would later necessitate and require a transition to what we call neoliberalism. But then, out of office, as the head of Kissinger Associates, Kissinger helped to broker that transition to neoliberalism, the privatization of much of the world, of Latin America, of Eastern Europe, of Russia. So you see that, you know, that transition from [00:26:00] a public politician or public policymaker and then going on to making untold wealth as a private citizen in this transition.

So, you know, there’s many ways in which Kissinger’s life kind of maps the trajectory of the United States. You know, they celebrated him at the New York Public Library as if he was the American century incarnate. And in many ways, he was. You know, he really — his career really does map nicely onto the trajectory of the United States and the evolution of the national security state and its foreign policy and — you know, and the broken world that we’re all trying to live in, as your last two segments showed so. 

AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: Greg, I want to go to Henry [00:27:00] Kissinger in his own words. He’s speaking in 2016, when he defended the secret bombing of Cambodia.

HENRY KISSINGER: Nixon ordered an attack on the base areas within five miles of the Vietnamese border, that were essentially unpopulated. So, when the phrase “carpet bombing” is used, it is, I think, in the size of the attacks, probably much less than what the Obama administration has done in similar base areas in Pakistan, which I think is justified. And therefore, I believe that what was done in Cambodia was justified.

AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: So, that was Henry Kissinger in 2016. He was [00:28:00] speaking at the LBJ Library. The late celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain once said, “Once you’ve been to Cambodia, you’ll never stop wanting to beat Henry Kissinger to death with your bare hands. You will never again be able to open a newspaper and read about that treacherous, prevaricating, murderous scumbag sitting down for a nice chat with Charlie Rose or attending some black-tie affair for a new glossy magazine without choking. Witness what Henry did in Cambodia — the fruits of his genius for statesmanship — and you will never understand why he’s not sitting in the dock at The Hague next to Milosevic.” If you can just respond to that?

GREG GRANDIN: Yeah. Well, that quote contains more moral and intellectual acuity and intelligence than the entire political establishment, both liberal and — both Democrat and Republican. It’s morally correct. It’s intellectually correct. And, you know, [00:29:00] it’s more accurate than most diplomatic historians, who trade on making Kissinger more ethic — morally complicated than he was.

In terms of Kissinger’s quote himself about Cambodia, there he’s playing a little bit of a game. So he’s lying. I mean, he carpet-bombed Cambodia. The United States massively bombed Cambodia and brought to power within the Khmer Rouge the most extreme clique, led by Pol Pot. You know, when you massively bomb a country and you destroy a whole opposition, you tend to bring to power the extremists. And that’s exactly why Kissinger is responsible, to a large degree, for the genocide that happened later on under Pol Pot. The bombing brought to power Pol Pot within the Khmer Rouge, which previously was a larger, broader coalition.

But Kissinger isn’t wrong when he [00:30:00] links it to Obama’s bombing of Pakistan. That was the point I was trying to make earlier. You know, Kissinger just had to do it illegally back — covertly back then, because it was illegal. It was against international law to bomb third countries, you know, in order to advance your war aims in another country. But now it’s accepted as commonplace. And it is true, he’s not wrong, when he cites Obama’s drone program and what Obama — and, you know, the continuation of the logic in the “war on terror” that started under George W. Bush. He’s not wrong about that. And that’s one of the lines that you can trace from Vietnam and Cambodia and South Asia to today’s catastrophe that we’re living in.

 

The Case Against Henry Kissinger: War Crimes Prosecutor Reed Brody on Kissinger’s Legacy of “Slaughter” - Democracy Now! - Air Date 12-1-23

AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: So, when you talk about international human rights and war crimes, what are the avenues to hold a public official accountable? Why wasn’t Henry [00:31:00] Kissinger held accountable, tried for war crimes — where would he be tried for war crimes — when he was alive?

REED BRODY: Well, that’s a very important question. Of course, the modern era, let’s say, of international criminal justice began 25 years ago, 1998, with the creation of the International Criminal Court, on the one hand, and the arrest of General Pinochet in London, on the other hand; an international tribunal, on the one hand, and national courts using their universal jurisdiction to prosecute individuals, on the other hand. And that’s actually when we began to look seriously at the alleged crimes of Henry Kissinger.

Now, what’s interesting is that all of these things predated Henry Kissinger’s involvement in Cambodia, in Laos, in East Timor, in Pakistan, predated that modern era. But what’s really interesting is that in each of [00:32:00] the instances I’m talking about — Cambodia, East Timor, Pakistan — there actually were tribunals set up afterwards to look at war crimes. So, as you know, in Cambodia, the United Nations, after the Khmer Rouge fell, created an international tribunal to prosecute the crimes committed in Cambodia. But, of course, the U.S., which backed the tribunal, insisted that the jurisdiction of that tribunal only cover the Khmer Rouge period, not go back to the period of U.S. bombings. And, in fact, every time there was a tug of war between Hun Sen and the United States over the tribunal, which Hun Sen tried to — in fact, did control and made sure none of his people were involved, were investigated — he would threaten, said, “You know, we could go back and look at what you guys did.” [00:33:00] And so, you had a tribunal for Cambodia. It just didn’t include what the U.S. had done.

Same thing in Pakistan. There was eventually a tribunal established in East Pakistan, or in Bangladesh, as it’s called now, to look at crimes committed during that genocide. But it, too, did not take jurisdiction over those people who were not living in the country.

And finally, in East Timor, at the very end, after East Timor gains its independence and a reckoning began into who was responsible for what — and, of course, the East Timorese Truth Commission specifically talked about the United States’s role in creating the horrors and in supporting the Indonesian massacres — the East Timor [00:34:00] tribunal also chose, in fact, not to go back and look at the U.S. period.

So, very rarely — I mean, it was very unusual in the pre-1998 world, in the pre-International Criminal Court world, to have tribunals looking at past actions. In each of these three cases, you did have tribunals, but in each of these three cases, there was a choice made not to go back and look at what the United States, under Henry Kissinger, had done.

AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: And why was that? Was the U.S. behind that, putting pressure on these countries? And also talk about the double standard. I mean, when you look at, for example, the International Criminal Court, how often it is not leaders from countries like the United States who are put in the dock?

REED BRODY: Well, of course, Amy, in the world I operate in of international justice, double standards is[00:35:00] the main obstacle. It’s the main sticking point. It’s very, I mean, still — it’s never easy to bring people to justice, even Third World dictators, but it is sometimes possible. But international justice has always fallen flat when it comes to dealing with powerful Western interests. We see at the International Criminal Court, for instance — of course, the International Criminal Court, it should be pointed out, in 21 years, and at the cost of $2 billion, has never actually sustained the atrocity conviction of any state official, not just Western, any state official, at any level, anywhere in the world. The only five final convictions at the ICC were five African rebels. But there have been attempts by the ICC to prosecute leaders, all in Africa, in fact. And, of course, now, more [00:36:00] recently, we have the indictment of Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia.

And I think, you know, many people are contrasting — I mean, I would contrast — the international justice response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the Russian war crimes in Ukraine — in that case, we saw a very vigorous and heartwarming response internationally. The prosecutor of the ICC, Karim Khan, immediately went to and made several visits to Ukraine, a country that he called a crime scene. Forty-one Western countries gave the ICC authority, jurisdiction, or triggered an investigation. Karim Khan raised millions of dollars in extrabudgetary funds to address the situation in Ukraine, and [00:37:00] within a year, of course, indicted Vladimir Putin. This is as it should be. This is exactly what the International Criminal Court is there for.

The contrast is, you know, in Palestine. As we talked about on your show once, for 15 years the Palestinian complaints at the ICC have been given this slow walk by the prosecutor, first several years — by three prosecutors — by the first prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo, who spent several years evaluating whether or not Palestine was a state — was a state — before finally punting the issue. Then, after the General Assembly of the U.N. determined and recognized Palestine as an observer state, there was a lot of pressure on Palestine not to ratify the [00:38:00] ICC statute. Friends of the ICC, countries like Britain, and, of course, even the United States put pressure on the Palestinian Authority not to ratify the ICC treaty, because they didn’t want to inject justice which could interfere with the peace process, which of course was not going on. But Palestine did ratify the ICC treaty and filed a request for an investigation. And then the second prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, spent five years looking at whether there — crimes had been committed, finally determined, just as she was about to leave office, that there was sufficient evidence to believe that crimes may have been committed, crimes including illegal settlements, war crimes on both sides, and gave it to this prosecutor. This prosecutor, Karim Khan, has had those issues sitting on his desk for two years. He had one person in his [00:39:00] office investigating that case. And it wasn’t until October 7th and, you know, what has happened since that the ICC has kind of sprung into action. But the question has always been, you know: Why was Palestine treated differently? Why were the complaints, why were the issues there treated differently, until now?

 

The world Henry Kissinger built - The Take (Al Jazeera English) - Air Date 12-1-23

SPENCER AKERMAN: Kissinger, in order to make sure that he benefited in 1968, in terms of getting a senior political appointment, spied on and ultimately sabotaged talks to end the war in Vietnam, a war that continued with thousands and thousands and thousands of deaths, which led directly to the secret and illegal bombings of Cambodia and Laos, all for power. 

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: Cambodia and Laos bordered Vietnam, and [00:40:00] Kissinger ended up overseeing a secret campaign to carpet bomb them.

ARCHIVE NEWS CLIP: During the Vietnam War, American planes dropped around 285 million cluster munitions on Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.

...secret U. S. bombing of Cambodia that killed as many as 150, 000 civilians that Kissinger authorized during the U. S. war in Vietnam. 

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: It's been called a war crime by journalists like Spencer and others, and it's what Sophal Ear remembers most.

SOPHAL EAR: I mean, you know, they say only the good die young. In this case, he obviously lasted a hundred years. 

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: Sophal is Cambodian American and fled Cambodia's brutal dictatorship with his family when he was a baby. A dictatorship that U. S. Cold War policy enabled, known as the Khmer Rouge. 

SOPHAL EAR: I'm a survivor of the Khmer Rouge, having escaped in, uh, '76. Having had the [00:41:00] opportunities that I've had to advance my education and career. 

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: Today, he's a professor at the Thunderbird School of Management in Arizona, and he's learned a lot about Henry Kissinger's role since. 

SOPHAL EAR: His involvement was far more hands on than I knew at the time, you know, you think of these policymakers as, yeah, they write memos. But over time, having studied what, you know, how much he actually chose targets, it's clear that it was more than just policymaking. It's an involvement that's unusual in its extent. 

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: And Sophal says he would hate for history to be written in a way where Kissinger's legacy in Southeast Asia is forgotten.

SOPHAL EAR: You know, obviously, he will be idolized by those who see him as a titan of foreign policy, of a genius who brought China to the United States and the United States to China, who served as Secretary of State for eight [00:42:00] years as National Security Advisor, as the very man who gave us the phrase, "there are no permanent friends or enemies, only interests", but who obviously had severe consequences on Cambodia, where I was born. 

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: Over the years, there were calls from around the world for Kissinger to apologize for the bombing of Cambodia and Laos. He never did. This was him speaking about it decades later. 

HENRY KISSINGER: In my 90s, so I've heard it. I think the word war criminal should not be thrown around in the domestic debate. It's a shameful, it's a reflection on the people who use it. 

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: He went on to compare the actions he sanctioned to the Obama administration's drone campaign in Pakistan. 

HENRY KISSINGER: Which I think it's justified. And therefore I believe that what was done in Cambodia was justified.[00:43:00] 

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: And it was a tactic that the U. S. continued to use as the war in Vietnam dragged on. 

ARCHIVE NEWS CLIP: On Christmas Day, 1972, the U. S. launched an air war on North Vietnam to convince Hanoi to resume peace talks. 

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: The 1973 Paris Peace Accords followed. That marked the beginning of the end of the U. S. war in Vietnam. Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, though it was later revealed that he had derailed talks years earlier, says Spencer.

SPENCER AKERMAN: You know, shudder to imagine how many people would still have been alive had Kissinger not sabotaged the Paris Peace Accords, which ultimately, and extremely cynically, he would win a Nobel Peace Prize for.

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: The wars in Vietnam and Cambodia were all part of the U. S. campaign to stop the spread of communism. But when it came to the Soviet Union and communist [00:44:00] China, Kissinger turned to diplomacy. He helped Washington and Moscow negotiate their first arms control treaties. In 1972, in a move that shocked much of the world, the U. S. made its opening to China. President Richard Nixon visited Beijing. Kissinger spoke about that approach years later as well. 

HENRY KISSINGER: Our strategy was to position ourselves in such a way that we were closer to Soviet Union and China than they were to each other. So that in every crisis, we had more options than they did.

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: But it wasn't just Asia and the Soviet Union. Kissinger left his mark around the globe. Backing military governments to stave off this perceived communist threat in Greece, Argentina, and Chile. 

HENRY KISSINGER: There was no policy, since, to assassinate any foreign official. [00:45:00] 

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: That was Kissinger not long after the coup in Chile, but secret White House recordings later revealed Kissinger knew the CIA helped General Augusto Pinochet launch the coup. And not only that, the U. S. State Department had tried to warn Pinochet's government against killing his political opponents. Kissinger canceled those warnings. 

HENRY KISSINGER: Sometimes statesmen have to choose among evils.

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: For Spencer, Chile stands out in memory. 

SPENCER AKERMAN: It was a place where the Cold War became, perhaps you might say, its truest self.

It is difficult to understand the world we live in today without understanding, particularly in a place like Chile where, with Kissinger's crucial support for overthrowing a democratic socialist government in 1973 of Salvador Allende, through the [00:46:00] creation that followed of the Pinochet dictatorship and its use as a laboratory for neoliberalism, we see in a really important and direct way, a template for the neoliberal age enforced by American power that we currently live in.

Henry Kissinger’s Reactionary Idealism - Against the Grain - Air Date 10-11-17 

GREG GRANDIN: Oswald Spengler was a, you know, early 20th Century historian and one would use the word historian lightly because he actually rejected the empirical basis of history, he rejected the idea of the kind of a positive notion of looking at facts and analyzing the facts. And so historians less philosopher that wrote a very influential book that looked at the rise and fall and civilizations, used use climactic language, talked about civilizations that were in their springtime and that were in their summer period and then their fall and then their winter. And Spengler is very influential among not just Kissinger, but he influenced Dick Cheney. He influenced a [00:47:00] lot of these New York conservatives. He is, you might, one might think of him as a kind of low-rent Nietzsche, you know, listeners might be more aware of that kind of German romanticism associated with Nietzsche.

 But Spengler is of that tradition. And it's a legitimate tradition. And you know, it's a philosophical tradition and continental philosophy. And Kissinger in his undergraduate thesis revealed himself to be extremely influenced by it. But he rejected Spengler's pessimism. Spengler's analysis was based on the idea that all civilizations rise and all civilizations fall. And you can document the moment of decline when the bureaucrats take over, when the accountants take over, when the economists take over, when the poets and the priests and the warriors and the creative types that tap into the spirit, the Zeit of a [00:48:00] civilization, when they recede into the background, civilizations become over-bureaucratized. They become over-rationalized. They rely too much on fact and not enough on wisdom. 

And this is something that Kissinger, this analysis, Kissinger embraced fully. But he rejected the pessimism. Spengler basically said that there was no way to avoid it. That once the pessimists, once the bureaucrats show up, once the game theorists, once the accountants, once the economists, once the numbers coaches, once the Nate Silvers show up, you know, it's all declined, because they mistake information for wisdom.

Kissinger embraced the analysis, but rejected the determinism. He said that individuals - and by "individuals" he meant great men, great statesmen, right? For him, history took place in the realm of diplomacy, in the realm of international relations. So, great men, great statesmen can intervene, intercede in history and bend the curve upward.

So, if you actually look at his analysis, the terms of the way that [00:49:00] he criticized the Eisenhower administration in the 1950s, the Kennedy administration, or Robert McNamara as the head of the Department of Defense during the Vietnam War under JFK and LBJ, it was exactly in these terms that, they know they can do something, but they forgot why they should do it. They've mistaken numbers for wisdom, information for knowledge. And these are the terms of his criticism to this day. I mean, you could open up his latest book that came out last year, World Order, and it's exactly the same thing.

You know, they know how to get somewhere, but they don't know why we're going. And why this is important is because this is this kind of notion of the importance of intuition in history, in diplomacy, the notion of hunches, the notion of action, is exactly the terms of the neoconservative pushed in the early 2000s.

SASHA LILLEY - HOST, AGAINST THE GRAIN: But what's so interesting, though, in this, is that reading these early writings that you cite in Kissinger's Shadow, one is struck by [00:50:00] the emptiness of the argument. It seems to be action for action. So, as you say, he criticizes the technocrats and the bureaucrats for the how, but not the why. But one is left wondering what his why is.

GREG GRANDIN: Well, there is no why, and that's what's fascinating about it. One of the things that Kissinger is associated with is with purpose. You know, and he'll always, he'll use that word often. And a lot of this comes from this critique, this Spenglerian critique of technocracy. That we need to know not just how to do something, but why we are doing it. So, this notion of purpose. We have to know where we want to be in ten years time. But if you actually dig it out, there is no there there. There's an emptiness. Exactly what you say. There's a hollowness. There is no there is there. 

Kissinger's an extreme relativist. I wouldn't say that he's amoral, but that morality is really based on power. He has a morality based on power and there is a hollowness where ultimately when he talks about purpose, when [00:51:00] you excavate that concept, there is no sense, you know, we could say that the purpose of a good society is, you know, social justice to bring about a decent standard of living for the majority of people. That would be purpose, but there is no purpose. And that brings back to exactly what you're saying, the circularity... meaning is created through action. On this point, Kissinger is unfailingly clear. He said, he said it in 1950 and he said it in 2015. He believes that reality exists, he's not a solipsist, he doesn't believe that we as subjective beings have access to that reality other than our own, other than the meaning we bring to bear that's created through our action. So we always have to act. It's through action that we create meaning, that we come to our sense of understanding of ourselves, that we come to our sense of our interests. There is no such thing as objective interests. Interests are created through action. And this creates an extremely dangerous circularity, you know, circular kind of reasoning, that we have to act in order to [00:52:00] avoid inaction.

Power creates purpose, and our purpose is basically the projection of power. It's exactly that, and again, I would say that if you peeled back the layers of neoconservative justification of why we had to go into Iraq, setting aside the specific fallacies of weapons of mass destruction and democracy and all of that nonsense, it was ultimately a sense to give ourselves meaning, that we had become flabby as a civilization, that we had lost the will to act. And if you lose the will to act, then you won't be able to act when you need to act. So, therefore we have to act all the time in order to maintain that will. That's the neoconservative will to power and will to purpose.

MEHDI HASAN - HOST, THE MEHDI HASAN SHOW: 

Amb. Martin Indyk Pens Kissinger Book - The Mehdi Hasan Show - Air Date 11-12-21

You go through years of Kissinger's diplomacy in that region in hopes that the U. S. can learn lessons from it. In all the documents and interviews and archives you combed through, including, I believe, 12 interviews with the man himself, what do we learn about Kissinger and that period that's new? I mean, this is a man who's published a 3,000 page memoir on himself. [00:53:00] What's unique in your book, Martin? 

MARTIN INDYK: So, I think what's unique about it is that there's been no serious, deep history of Kissinger's work to try to achieve peace in the Middle East, or at least lay the foundations for an American-led peace process. And the, well, the controversy about Kissinger is focused on his activities in other areas of the world. Mostly when he was National Security Advisor, whether it was Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Chile, and so on, and Bangladesh. But here, Kissinger was trying to make peace, or actually trying to establish order using the peace process as his mechanism. And he was quite successful at that. And having tried and failed several times myself out of the Clinton administration, the Obama administration, I thought we could learn something from that. That's why I went back and took a look at it. I tried to illuminate the story, which is documented, a treasure trove of documents at Israeli archives, uh, with my own experiences to [00:54:00] try to figure out how to and how not to make peace. 

MEHDI HASAN - HOST, THE MEHDI HASAN SHOW: But Martin, isn't Kissinger, though, an embodiment of everything that's wrong with U. S. policy towards Israel? I mean, he was openly biased, as even you acknowledge in your book. We know he said himself his policy was to "isolate the Palestinians". He refused to basically acknowledge their existence, blocked the PLO from negotiations at the time. He embodied the double standard towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And yet you're saying, including in a recent piece in The Atlantic, perhaps Biden could learn something from him. Do you really want us to go backwards to the 70s in our approach to the Palestinians? 

MARTIN INDYK: No, I don't think Kissinger's approach to the Palestinians today is the same as it was in the 1970s. Let's think back to the 1970s before you were born, I guess. But in those days, the PLO was an out and out terrorist organization. On Kissinger's watch, they murdered two American diplomats in Sudan,[00:55:00] and they were dedicated to the overthrow of King Hussein in Jordan, another ally of the United States, and to the destruction of Israel. So it's not unreasonable that Kissinger took the position he did at the time, but nowadays he accepts the idea that the Palestinians should have a state. And he talked specifically about, you know, the need for the Palestinians now to have attributes of sovereignty. 

MEHDI HASAN - HOST, THE MEHDI HASAN SHOW: Yeah. 

MARTIN INDYK: A state in the making. And that's part of his gradualist incremental approach, which I think is very relevant today to a situation in which the Palestinians are so divided and the Israelis are so divided that neither side can find a pathway to get to a two-state solution. So, we've got to find a more step by step approach. That's what I argue. 

MEHDI HASAN - HOST, THE MEHDI HASAN SHOW: I mean, the problem, of course, with gradualism and incrementalism is, in theory, it's great for you and I to sit in Washington, DC and America and say this stuff, but the [00:56:00] Palestinians are living under the longest military occupation on Earth. So, that's the problem with the whole gradualism and incrementalism thing. 

But before we run out of time, I do want to ask a very important question. This is a book on Kissinger and the Middle East, which has a sympathetic tone at times. It's at times very admiring of him and his achievements, I think it's fair to say, in that region. But I wonder, was it a deliberate decision to focus on Kissinger and the Middle East and avoid his role in Pakistan, Bangladesh, East Timor, Chile, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, places where he was accused of war crimes, complicity in genocide? I mean, this is a man, Martin, who according to Yale University historian Greg Grandin, has the blood of three to four million people on his hands.

MARTIN INDYK: Yeah, as I said, he's a controversial character. But my purpose was to study his role in the Middle East, which hasn't been studied. And that's my area of expertise. And all the other issues that you talk about have been dealt with in great detail. But his efforts [00:57:00] at actually trying to make peace in the Middle East has not. And so that's the justification for looking at the book. On top of that, because he is master of the diplomatic game, I wanted to see what we could learn from that. 

MEHDI HASAN - HOST, THE MEHDI HASAN SHOW: That's a valid argument, but I guess, put yourself in the shoes of some of his victims. You could say, Well, you know, it's very hard to write a book about him in isolation, to compartmentalize a man accused of so many crimes. Even if we accept he did a good job in the Middle East, a big question in itself, how do you divorce that from all the war crimes elsewhere? It's like saying, Hey, let's write a book about how Mussolini made the trains run on time. 

MARTIN INDYK: Well, I'm not divorcing it from it, I'm just focusing on one area as the other books have focused on those areas, like The Blood Telegram, that looked at his role in Bangladesh. So, I'm not ignoring it. I've stated upfront in the book itself. And the book itself, while admiring of his diplomatic prowess, is nevertheless quite critical of opportunities he missed to avoid the [00:58:00] Yom Kippur 1973 war and opportunities I think he missed and document there to make pace, particularly to advance the cause of the Palestinians, at that time in a Jordanian context, but which could have changed the whole trajectory of the Palestinian cause in a more positive way than the way it turned out. 

Final comments on our year-end membership drive

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: We've just heard clips today, starting with the PBS NewsHour, giving a broad biography of Henry Kissinger. The Brian Lehrer Show focused in on Kissinger's role in overthrowing governments around the world. The Majority Report discussed the secret and illegal bombing of Cambodia during the Vietnam war. Democracy Now! looked at how the ruling class in the US celebrates Kissinger. And Democracy Now! also looked at why it was so hard for the world to get any accountability. And The Take connected the dots between Kissinger's role in overthrowing democratically-elected governments with establishing the neoliberal order we still live with today. 

That's what everybody heard, but members also heard bonus clips from [00:59:00] Against the Grain, looking at Kissinger's main philosophical influence, and The Mehdi Hassan Show for a counterpoint invited on an author making the case for Kissinger being a good diplomat that we should look to for inspiration. 

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. 

Now, I'm quite sure that we've all heard enough about war crimes for the day, so I don't think I have anything to add about the person who one show referred to as "the Forrest Gump of war crimes." And instead, I'll just remind you that we have about two and a half weeks remaining on our year-end membership drive. 

The absolute reality is that a show like ours, which isn't plugged into any massive content suggestion algorithms -- think YouTube recommendations -- we just have a harder time finding our audience, while at the same time, being more dependent on them. Paying members [01:00:00] make the show possible and help us invest a bit in trying to grow our audience. 

So if you get value out of this show and/or want to help others find it, become a member today. And we have a 20% off special going right now, so you can access our weekly bonus shows and all of the bonus clips that are in each regular episode at a discount. And that same offer is good for gift memberships as well. So take advantage of that while you can. 

All the details are at BestOfTheLeft.com/support. And you'll find that link in the show notes. 

That is going to be at 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, Bryan [01:01:00] and LaWendy 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. 

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So coming to you from far outside the conventional wisdom of Washington DC, my name is Jay!, and this has been the Best of the Left podcast coming to you twice weekly, thanks entirely to the members and donors to the show from BestOfTheLeft.com.

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#1597 The rise of fascism around the world driven by economic insecurity (Transcript)

Air Date 12/8/2023

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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 shall look at how neoliberalism has created a lot of economic suffering and insecurity over the past few decades and how now, in what may be the most devastating result of the ideology yet, neo-liberalism may be leading much of the world toward fascism, bolstered by legitimate grievances about economic precarity, which are co-opted by the false promises of right-wing populism. Sources today include The ReidOut, The Democracy Paradox, Democracy Now!, On the Media, and The Bradcast, with additional members only clips from On the Media and The Democracy Paradox.

Far-right extremism on the rise around the globe - The ReidOutwith Joy Reid - Air Day 11-28-23

JOY REID - HOST, THE REIDOUT: And we begin tonight with a dark moon rising around the globe. Just before we all broke for the Thanksgiving holiday, we received disturbing news from the Netherlands. The Dutch people handed anti-Islamic populist Geert Wilders a stunning and resounding victory. [00:01:00] What he offered his country was a referendum on leaving the European Union, or "Nexit", a complete hold on asylum seekers, and a migrant pushback at Dutch borders. He's also called for the de-Islamization of the country, which includes no mosques and no Islamic schools. It was a stunning swing for the country, which is one of Europe's most socially liberal, and has prided itself on tolerance. 

Now many of you probably don't know or remember Wilders, but he has been an opposition force in the country for years, and he's best known for his bottle blonde hair. He's also well known for his Islamophobic rhetoric, which has made him a magnet for extremists and popular among ultra-nationalist leaders worldwide. He once compared the Qur'an to Mein Kampf. His victory comes as Europe and the rest of the world go through this spasmotic tug of war between liberalism and ultra-nationalism.

Roughly a week ago, the Argentine people elected [00:02:00] self-proclaimed anarcho-capitalist libertarian Javier Milei as president. In 2020, as he announced his entry into politics, Milei told the world that he wanted to "blow up the system". He also defended the country's dictatorship and their atrocities. We'll soon get to see what that looks like. Milei has already promised to ban abortion, ban gay marriage, and slash the size of government. 

In October, the Polish people, who've been ruled by a conservative party that dismantled the judicial system, mainstreamed nationalism, and set the country at odds with the European Union, well, they voted that party out. Meanwhile, in Italy, Giorgia Meloni was elected prime minister. Her party, the Brothers of Italy, has roots in nostalgia for fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. Meloni has moderated her stance, which is what Wilders has vowed to do. But he will have to bring together a governing coalition first. 

Naturally, you can't [00:03:00] help but wonder if this is what's in store for the U.S. Given that we are dangerously close to reelecting Donald Trump, a man who's made vengeance, xenophobia, and authoritarian crackdowns his 2024 political platform. Trump spent Thanksgiving "Truthing" unhinged promises about repealing Obamacare and screaming about his legal cases when he wasn't confusing Joe Biden for Barack Obama again. We already know what he wants to do to migrants in the United States, and it's a plan based on President Eisenhower's 1954 deportation campaign, offensively called "Operation Wetback", which is fitting for Trump trump wants to conduct sweeping raids to round up millions of migrants, shove them into camps and have them forcibly deported. This will be paired with a ban on immigration from Muslim-majority countries, and he plans to revoke visa status for foreign students who participated in anti-Israel or pro-Palestinian protests. He also plans to end temporary protected status for people like Haitians and Afghan immigrants fleeing the [00:04:00] Taliban. 

And for all of those who want to take to the streets and protest, well, he's already stated his desire to use the Insurrection Act to direct the U. S. military to crush dissent in mostly democratic cities. And frankly, the way our laws are written, and given the weakness and fecklessness of Trump's political party, there isn't much that can stop him. The signs we're seeing at home and abroad make it clear that we continue to face an existential crisis. And as Perry Bacon Jr. notes in the Washington Post, "it's more than democratic versus anti-democratic. It's whether we want a multiracial democracy or no democracy at all."

How Can Democracy Survive in an Age of Discontent Rachel Navarre and Matthew Rhodes-Purdy on Populism and Political Extremism - Democracy Paradox - Air Date 11-28-23

JUSTIN KEMPF - HOST, DEMOCRACY PARADOX: Rachel, do you feel that discontent is just inherently anti democratic, or do you think that it's just a dissatisfaction with the way that we approach democracy?

RACHEL NAVARRE: I think there are some that do decide that, yes, you know, democracy doesn't work and, that, you know, the experiment has failed. But I do think a lot of it is a [00:05:00] discontent with how we expect democracy to occur, you know, the folk theory of democracy that we have. 

If you are in a community or something, you see everybody... well, most people around me feel like this, so why can't the politicians do anything? And it doesn't always have to be a feeling. I mean, we know that there are issues where the public's opinion is very much out of sync with what the politicians think the public opinion is and, like, the United States and stuff.

So, I think the fact that you do also have these anti-majoritarian policies and democracies, which, for the most part, I'm a little bit more in favor of those constitutional protections and stuff than that, but that might sound a little that that's not for constitutional protections. But I'm a little bit more on the rules to protect the constitutional order, I guess.

But I think it's this idea that, you know, if we're the majority, why don't we always get what we want? And not understanding [00:06:00] that sometimes there are these problems that we do see where there really is an outline where the government doesn't want to do what the people want. And sometimes that doesn't exist for protections of minority groups or things like that. And I think people do get frustrated when they look at a government and say, Well, we're the majority why aren't our policies what's winning?

JUSTIN KEMPF - HOST, DEMOCRACY PARADOX: So, Levitsky and Ziblatt just recently came out with a book, and I talked to Daniel Ziblatt about it called The Tyranny of the Minority. But it focuses a lot on specific circumstances related to the United States. The fact that the United States has so many different checks and balances, like Francis Fukuyama calls it vitocracy in the United States. You make the case that it's not just the United States that has what you call "weak voice", that many democracies throughout the world, both in Latin America and Europe specifically, don't necessarily always follow through on policies that have broad, widespread support. [00:07:00] And we're not just talking about things that affect minority rights. I mean, we're talking about policies that are bread and butter issues sometimes. So, Rachel, why is it that, in your words, that democracy has produced such weak voice in so many different countries?

RACHEL NAVARRE: I mean, I think a lot of it has to do with institutional structure. Some of it is also just the pressure of winning elections. You know, we had this period of neoliberal consensus where you start to see a lot of agreement on policies. So you start seeing the center left party or the left parties become closer and closer to the right parties, and the right parties also have the same thing.

But I think what it has to do a lot [with is] the growing agreement between the left and the right. You see this in the '90s, you see this after the fall of communism, we see the Washington consensus emerge, and we see left parties and right parties becoming more similar. So you have the rise of the [00:08:00] new left. And what happens is that gives parties or people less of a chance to go... different. So if you happen to want more left wing policies or more social safety net, the space for that has really diminished in very many countries. And so it gives the idea that, first off, all the parties are the same, they're all serving the same interests, they're all serving the same things. And so it gives an opportunity for the supply side of populism to come in and say, Look, look at these policies. They both want free trade, they both want to cut the social safety net, they both want to do this. They're exactly the same. Why don't you vote for me? At least I'm something different.

MATTHEW RHODES-PURDY: Yeah. That consensus, that lack of differentiation between left and right, I think is the big driving factor. That's not an accident either. You know, we focus on the role of economic crises, that sort of acute mode as the spark that sets things off. But, you know, a spark doesn't make fire without fuel and the fuel, we argue, is this long standing [00:09:00] process, this inversion to neoliberalism and particularly deindustrialization, which critically undermine the organizational strength of the popular sectors throughout the democratic world. And what that means essentially is that effective voice is impossible. The effective voice of the popular sectors requires organization in order for people who don't necessarily have all the time or all the resources or all the educational resources to become politically effective on their own, to get together with others and become politically effective. 

So, you asked earlier, is discontent inherently democratic? I mean, there are aspects of it that are always dangerous because it's an aggressive form of politics. But I think the key variable there is, are there effective channels to where it can become a pro-reform impulse? And the answer in most contemporary democracies is no. Because of the organizational weakness of the popular sectors, to the point where, you know, Rachel mentioned people who want left wing policies, I think we're actually past that. People who sort of need or would benefit from left wing policies, [00:10:00] but really are so disconnected from other people, disorganized in terms of being part of the popular sectors that would benefit from them, they may not even really understand the policies that would benefit them or have a conception of what the possible solutions are.

JUSTIN KEMPF - HOST, DEMOCRACY PARADOX: Yeah, I think one of the problems with thinking through economic crisis as a cause of discontent, populism, or however else you want to name it is the fact that a lot of the parties that have been emerging, particularly in the United States and Europe, but even within Latin America in recent years, the parties of discontent, the parties of populism, are coming from the right. They're not necessarily coming from the left. I mean, we saw Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, but that happened a decade before the financial crisis actually occurred. The more recent examples seem to be coming from the right, which seems to have a very different explanation, which of course you guys get to, and we're going to kind of touch on that.

First, I'd like to kind of understand a little bit [00:11:00] more about the connection though, between discontent and populism, because I feel like we're going to mix those terms up and use them interchangeably in a lot of ways. Matt, do you think that discontent is a true cause for populism or do you think it's a specific type of populism?

MATTHEW RHODES-PURDY: Actually, I think populism is rather a specific form of discontent. Discontent is sort of the umbrella term. It's this vague sense that the way things are being done is not working, that democracy is not effective, that it's not serving my interests, so on and so forth. And how that manifests. Really depends on the circumstances in a particular country and for a particular person. So, essentially, when people have these vague feelings, they generally go forth and search existing social narratives in order to explain why they feel the way they do, why they have these sentiments. And populist narratives capture that sense of discontent and give it more specificity, particularly they give it an [00:12:00] explanation. You feel discontented because these elites are evil and they are ignoring you, not you, the individual, but you, who is a member of this imagined unity that is called the people. It sort of morally ennobles the person and makes their discontent valid, which everybody wants to be validated. And it also gives them a very clear opponent to strike at, which is the elite and whoever's interests they are serving instead of the people.

Argentina's Trump Far-Right Javier Milei Wins Presidency with Echoes of Past Dictatorship - Democracy Now! - Air Date 11-21-23

AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: Can you talk about the significance of this victory? I mean, months ago, Milei was hardly known to the general population of Argentina, became famous as he carried a chainsaw with him and would use it during his speeches. Talk about the significance of that and what he represents.

FRANCO METAZA: Hi, Amy. Very pleased to greet you. Well, what Milei implies for Argentina today [00:13:00] is uncertainty. He got to win the election with some promises. You mentioned one of them. And the main one is the dollarization, to change our current currency for the U.S. dollar. So, he made great expectations in the population. People want to earn their salary in dollars in the next month. And that would be impossible. So, what is one of the main issues? The uncertainty and the expectations for the U.S. dollar. And the other thing that I want to underline is the human rights. We are in a country that has a very deep history for the dictatorship we had. It was one of the most terrorific ones in the region. And we could [00:14:00] got all of them and make justice for the victims, and the genocides are in jail now. And he wants to take them out of jail. So, those are the main issues we are experiencing these days here.

JUAN GONZALEZ, CO-HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: And, Franco Metaza, could you talk about why the incumbent Peronist coalition, a center-left coalition, lost this election? What factors do you think contributed to that? And also, how you expect that Milei will be able to govern, since he doesn’t have a majority in the Legislature?

FRANCO METAZA: Well, I think we lost because of the inflation. When one analyzes all the elections in Argentina, they always have to do with the economy. And we have a very high inflation. What did cause that [00:15:00] inflation? Well, it began when the IMF gave us — not us, but the right-wing government of Mauricio Macri — the biggest loan in the history of IMF. They gave us $45 billion. And that’s even three times the amount they are giving to Ukraine to recover from the war. And we were not in a war. Even the pandemic hasn’t happened then. It was a political loan. And that make us — that make our country to pay a lot of money per month, and that is extremely difficult for our economy. So, we lost because of the inflation caused by the IMF.

And the second question you made is very interesting, because he doesn’t [00:16:00] have majority, but he has a political association with Mauricio Macri, so they will get more senates and more representatives than they have today. And that’s very important, because he got to win the election saying that he was the new, that he came up with new people, not the old politician, not the traditional elite, and finally, he will be part of this elite. He says — he said today who is going to be his minister of economy, and it was the same minister of economy of our former President Fernando de la Rúa, who ended with a crisis of 2001 that you might remember, and it was the same president of the central bank of Mauricio Macri, the previous right-wing government that lost the election with us in 2019.[00:17:00] 

How Can Democracy Survive in an Age of Discontent Rachel Navarre and Matthew Rhodes-Purdy on Populism and Political Extremism Part 2 - Democracy Paradox - Air Date 11-28-23

MATTHEW RHODES-PURDY: The other thing is, yeah, this is a process. People go out and look for narratives and they hear these ideas. They tend to get radicalized over time. They start out with relatively antiseptic, but still prejudiced and bigoted ideas about, Oh, the government only wants to help people of color, it doesn't want to help me, and then they kind of go layer by layer into radicalization as they go, they find increasingly, you know, extremist narratives and then get down into radical right populism. And I also think there is a taboo against sort of open bigotry and racism in most contemporary societies. And that taboo needs to be worn away. I think particularly in the United States, you see sort of opposition to Obama among conservatives taking increasingly racialized tone, repetition of the birther conspiracy. These things over time, they get mainstream, more and more people in office or in positions of authority or people in the media are at least treating these as plausible. And I think gradually that emboldens people [00:18:00] to visibly support these kinds of prejudicial politics, which is all laying the foundation for something like Trump.

But it does certainly take time because you don't switch away from a society where those ideas are considered taboo and also just, you know, those are outsider ideas. People who believe these things are not serious political actors because serious political actors don't believe these things. 

RACHEL NAVARRE: I mean, I think to what also happens, and this is something in the United States. In the United States, we have a tradition of the outsider. Everybody kind of always uses a little bit of populism, in the United States, especially. Everyone's always campaigning against Washington. And so I think part of it is, like Matt said, you have to have these narratives floating around and sometimes it takes time for them to come in. And Matt and I were both grad students in Texas when, say, Ted Cruz started his, you know, rise to power. And Ted Cruz would say, You vote for me, we're going to get rid of Obamacare. But he doesn't have the votes. There was no way they were [00:19:00] ever going to get rid of Obamacare. But if you're telling people, Hey, you vote for me, and I'm going to make this big change for you, a specific change, and that change doesn't happen, the conservative firebrand in the Senate has just gone further and further right. Why? Because every one of them is saying we're going to do this, we're going to get rid of whatever, we're going to get rid of Obamacare, and then they don't do it. They get elected and they don't do it. So this also sends people searching for people that will do it. And I think it can get further and further away.

And then you can also have this problem of the other side not recognizing what they're dealing with. So, going back to Obama and immigration, Obama was trying to get the Republicans to buy in desperately to the immigration package. You know, the amount of spending that went into the border, the amount of enforcement that went in. You have left groups calling Obama the "deporter in chief", and there's a bunch of debates about how deportations are counted and [00:20:00] things like that. But at the same time, so you see Obama kind of cracking down on immigration to try to get Republicans to say, Yes, the border is secure, but the Republicans were never going to say that they were never going to compromise. So instead you get a bunch of people on the left who see Obama being deporter in chief and not getting any of this comprehensive immigration reform that we want.

So, you're getting people frustrated with that. But you're also getting people frustrated on the right, with those that say, Oh, we're going to stop immigration completely, or we're going to shut down the border, or we're going to get rid of Obamacare. They can't do that. So, you get people that are frustrated with the way things are going on. You get politicians that are telling them, Oh, we can actually do this. And it just ends up getting people further and further into looking for new solutions and more and more upset with how things are going.

JUSTIN KEMPF - HOST, DEMOCRACY PARADOX: But where I'm struggling to understand is, because populist politicians do the same thing, that they make promises that they can't achieve. Donald Trump is a great example because [00:21:00] he did the same exact thing that Ted Cruz did. He said that he was going to repeal Obamacare and replace it with something that was significantly better. Not only did they not replace it with something that was better, they couldn't even repeal Obamacare. Another example of Trump in terms of immigration is he said that he was going to build a wall along the border. And I actually think that he probably could have found a compromise with the Democrats to be able to get more funding, to be able to build the border fencing and a wall if he had tried a little bit harder to be able to work for that. But he didn't. I mean, they didn't really make much progress on that. He didn't make any progress on immigration reform. Things are still kind of at the same point that they've been. And yet Trump has enormous loyalty from his supporters. So what is it about these populist politicians, both in the United States, in Latin America with Bolsonaro in Europe, with so many of the different [00:22:00] populist politicians, why is it that they have so much loyalty, even when they deliver results?

RACHEL NAVARRE: Typically once they're in power for a long time, it tends to fall apart. The problem is you can always go and blame, especially with populists who really go wholeheartedly in. Part of Ted Cruz's problem is he's not willing to go all the way he needs to go and no one likes him. So that also makes deals hard. But yeah, you know, Donald Trump is also willing to go in and just torch everything. You know, Donald Trump is willing to be fully conspiratorial. The reason it didn't work? Well, because those elites are still there and they're blocking us. The solution is for you to give me more power and more time. 

MATTHEW RHODES-PURDY: Yeah, Justin, I think your previous statement makes sense outside of the populist context. I actually think you're operating on a false assumption, which is that he would have been better off building the wall through compromise than not building it through aggression. Compromise would have hurt him. The whole point of the [00:23:00] wall is punitive. It's 'we're going to build a wall and make Mexico pay for it'. People forget that second part a lot. You know, think about the other catchphrase of Trump, 'lock her up'. These are deliberate, aggressive acts against perceived wrongdoers, whether the Mexican government for exploiting the United States and sending immigrants here and taking our jobs, yada, yada. Or, you know, Hillary Clinton for being corrupt, although he really wasn't ever talking about her. He was talking about her as an avatar of the entire political establishment, who she was as a person really wasn't all that relevant. And so the aggression really is the point. 

People who are charismatically attached to these figures are in a kind of identity crisis, they lose the ability to distinguish themselves from the leader. You know, when you see this in the leader's rhetoric, they say things like, I am your voice, or I am the people, I am the voice of the people. You know, Trump has used this language, Chavez used this language in Venezuela, it's a very common trope in populism. And the idea is, they're giving people vicarious satisfaction [00:24:00] because they alone are sufficiently powerful to go out and confront this elite that has evaded popular accountability for so long.

That said, once they get into power, that fiction becomes harder and harder to maintain. I mean, because the populist worldview is a sham. Like things are bad not because the elite are all bad people. They might not be all that great people. I mean, you can believe that, but that's not the reason. There are structural issues, historical issues. There's all sorts of stuff going on here that one person at one moment cannot overcome. However, they've already primed their followers at that point to follow them down the rabbit hole. And this is where conspiracy theories come in. We actually have a subheading in the book that a conspiracy theory is a warm hug. 

And the idea is that charismatically [attached] individuals, when they see this supposedly superhuman figure they follow faltering, it's terrifying. It's psychologically intolerable to accept that this person they followed is, in fact, you know, a venal and selfish and very stupid and incompetent human being. And so, it's much easier to accept that the deep state is doing this. I mean, QAnon, this whole conspiracy theory that we [00:25:00] talked about, is a really interesting example, because it's sort of a merger of old sort of antisemitic conspiracy theories on blood libel and the Protocols of of the Elders of Zion, but it actually started out pretty simply. And it was just this idea of, Trump was supposed to be destroying corruption, how is it that this respected Republican figure, Robert Mueller, is investigating? Those things don't go together. And so the narrative that emerges is, the investigation is a sham. Boy, it's actually an excuse for him to work with Trump to take down the deep state. So, if you actually look at the origins of this real bizarre conspiracy theory, it's excusing Trump's failure and corruption.

Media Coverage of the Trump Movement is Missing Vital Context - On the Media - Air Date 11-29-23

BROOKE GLADSTONE - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: In his Veterans Day speech a couple of weeks ago, former President Donald Trump said this about his political enemies: 

SPEAKER 2: The proposals include leveraging the Department of Justice to go after his political rivals.

BROOKE GLADSTONE - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: On the campaign trail, he has been equally vivid in outlining his proposed agenda for a second term in office. 

SPEAKER 2: The 2025 agenda would also expand the hardline immigration policies Trump pursued during his first term in [00:26:00] office. 

TRUMP: We will begin the largest domestic deportation operation in American history.

BROOKE GLADSTONE - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: Trump currently faces 91 felony counts in 4 criminal cases in Washington, New York, Florida, and Georgia. Back in June of this year, right around the time he was receiving his second indictment, we observed that some of the messages in defense of Trump from members of the GOP were incomprehensible to the casual reader.

For instance, Representative Clay Higgins from Louisiana tweeted that the summoning of President Trump to the Miami federal courthouse in June was, quote, "a perimeter probe from the oppressors. Hold. Our POTUS has this. Buckle up. 1/50K. Know your bridges. Rock Steady Com. That is all." 

JEFF SHARLET: Yeah, after Representative Higgins tweeted that, a lot of people were delighted. They said, this was word salad, and look at these goofballs and they're harmless. [00:27:00] 

BROOKE GLADSTONE - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: Jeff Sharlet is the author of the book The Undertow: Scenes from a Slow Civil War, and a professor in the art of writing at Dartmouth College. For the book, which was published earlier this year, he crossed the country to trace the undertow.

I asked him back in June to translate Representative Higgins malicious speak for me. 

JEFF SHARLET: For a nation so steeped in war movies, I was surprised that more people couldn't figure out that a perimeter probe is testing the enemy. Our POTUS is real POTUS, the real President of the United States. But most importantly, 1/50K is 1 to 50,000. It's the scale of military-grade maps and maps used by the U. S. Geological Survey for areas mostly around military facilities. And "know your bridges," what he's referring to is a kind of longstanding militia fantasy, which rose out of a white supremacist movement, that the highest legal authority in the United States is actually your county [00:28:00] sheriff who has the right to nullify laws. The fantasy in militia world is that the feds are coming to take your guns, they're coming to invade the perimeter probe. It's an attack. They're getting ready for a big strike. Get ready to defend yourself. 

BROOKE GLADSTONE - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: I knew that there was something going on in his tweet that I didn't understand, but is it important? Is he important? 

JEFF SHARLET: He is. Representative Clay Higgins, longtime sheriff, in many ways a media creation, the result of years of positive coverage from so-called liberal media for his kind of tough-on-crime viral videos. In the current Congress, he's Chairman of Border Security on the subcommittee on the Homeland Security Department. Moreover, he has militia credibility. He doesn't say he supports militias. He says he is militia. He identifies as a 3 percenter. 

So I've been driving back and forth across the country and the first thing I notice is more guns [00:29:00] than I've seen in 20 years. And I'm not afraid of guns. I'm a gun owner. But this is really something different. Churches arming up militias.

And you take any one of these stories individually, yeah, it seems fringe. But the better way to understand this is there's a great mass of fringe which is making the fabric of what I think we can, plausibly and without hyperbole argue, is an American fascist movement now. And I don't use that term lightly. And in fact, I've argued against it in the past, but here we are. 

BROOKE GLADSTONE - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: I'm wondering how Trump's own reaction to this indictment reinforced and built on some of this. He tweeted that in the wake of the indictment, "the seal was broken" and that went right over my head. 

JEFF SHARLET: It's a seal on the indictment. A lot of people hear it as the seventh seal of the book of Revelation. It marks the coming of Jesus in this apocalyptic final battle, which Trump has been talking about for a while now. I've been writing [00:30:00] about the broadcast and the reception of Trump, paying attention always to these stories since 2015. In Trump's speeches of past, you would have long segments describing, in detail, stabbings, rape, decapitation, disembowelment.

TRUMP: These men took the bullets, the 50 bullets, dropped them in the pigs, swished them around. 

BROOKE GLADSTONE - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: This is an old yarn about how General Jack Black Pershing killed Muslims a century ago. 

TRUMP: So there was blood all over those bullets, had his men, instructed his men to put the bullets into the rifles. And they shot 49 men.

JEFF SHARLET: Really violent, gory, horror movie rhetoric. But his post-indictment speech last Saturday:

TRUMP: We have a record crowd here today, so that's... 

JEFF SHARLET: represented a turning point in his rhetoric. He was talking about the final battle, which he's been doing. 

TRUMP: This is the final battle. This is the most important election we've ever had.

JEFF SHARLET: But then there was another element. He's speaking of [00:31:00] obliteration. He's saying, not only is there a risk of World War III, there will absolutely be World War III unless I am returned to power. 

TRUMP: I will prevent World War III. I will prevent it. And now people believe it, too. 

BROOKE GLADSTONE - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: Well, he said the same thing in the speech that just preceded January 6th.

He said, you have to fight as hard as you can or you won't have a country. 

JEFF SHARLET: Oh, no, that's not the same thing. When he means World War III, he's not talking about not having a country. He's talking about nuclear obliteration. 

TRUMP: This won't be a conventional war with army tanks going back and forth shooting each other. This will be nuclear war. This will be obliteration, perhaps obliteration of the entire world. I will prevent it. Nobody else can say that. 

JEFF SHARLET: I alone can stop it, which is of course a classic of fascist rhetoric. 

BROOKE GLADSTONE - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: The Democrats are just gonna fire off a nuke for no reason? 

JEFF SHARLET: Yeah, I think that is how it's being heard, that we are very close to nuclear war [00:32:00] with Russia, that he alone can stop it.

But it's even more abstract than that, right? So when he says, 

TRUMP: At the end of the day, either the Communists win, and destroy America, or we destroy the Communists, because that's what they are. They may go by a different name -- fascists, Marxists. 

JEFF SHARLET: He opens and closes the speech with some kind of classic antisemitism, talking about globalists and Marxists.

He's expanding the potent conspiracism of antisemitism so that it applies to all of his enemies. But, lest anyone be confused, he doubles down in the middle by talking about Jack Smith. 

BROOKE GLADSTONE - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: The special counsel who indicted him. 

TRUMP: Jack Smith, what do you think his name used to be? I don't know, does anybody have it? Jack Smith, sounds so innocent. 

JEFF SHARLET: What is his original name? What's his real name? It's Jack Smith. But it couldn't be, that sounds so innocent, by which he means it sounds so all-American white. And then at the end, and this was new, he said: 

TRUMP: We will drive out the globalists.[00:33:00] We will cast out the Communists. We will throw off the sick political class that hates our country and wants to destroy our country. 

JEFF SHARLET: This is a reference to driving out the money changers, Jesus driving out the money changers. And to make sure you don't miss it, he refers -- the speech writer, I should say -- refers to both the Gospel of John and the Gospel of Matthew. The money changers, historically in antisemitism, are understood as the Jews, but in this moment, it's understood as the enemy. And the enemy is, it's Jack Smith, it's whoever is on the other side. 

BROOKE GLADSTONE - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: That's interesting. Rather than cast the Jew as enemy -- that's the tradition -- here, that's already assumed, and so you cast the enemy, whoever that may be, as Jews.

JEFF SHARLET: Yeah, the Jew becomes metaphor, and he's got plausible deniability because, of course, there are enough right wing Jews, maybe Stephen Miller, who is Jewish, wrote that speech for him and has not been shy of using that language before, [00:34:00] so he can say, this isn't about Jews, in a way. For Trump, it's really not. His enemy is whoever is against him and his power. And then since he's become proxy, when I go out and I speak to everyday people, they see him as a martyr.

'Democracy on a Knife's Edge' Far-right electoral victories in Argentina, Holland; Trump threatens Insurrection Act - The Bradcast - Air Date 11-28-23

BRAD FRIEDMAN - HOST, THE BRADCAST: Trump has spoken openly about his plans, should he win the presidency, including using the military at the border and in cities that are struggling with violent crime. His plans also have included using the military against foreign drug cartels -- a view, by the way, that has been echoed by other Republican primary candidates. For example, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley, the former UN Ambassador and South Carolina Governor. You may recall that we discussed that after the the recent GOP presidential primary debates where both Ron DeSantis and the latest GOP sweetheart, Nikki Haley, both suggested, with little or no pushback from either the [00:35:00] other candidates on the stage, or most notably, from the moderators, that yes, they would send the US military into Mexico to fight drug cartels, which of course would be going to war against Mexico.

And you would think that would invite a follow-up question or two from the debate moderators, but apparently not. Apparently, maybe, that's one of the reasons why Republicans don't seem to be particularly troubled about Vladimir Putin marching into his neighboring country of Ukraine. Because, hey, sounds like a good idea. We could do that to Mexico, couldn't we? 

Now, on a side note today, in case Republicans come to their senses once primary voting starts and decide that they would prefer someone who'd be more difficult, most likely, for Joe Biden to defeat next year, the Koch networks, Charles Koch's network Americans for Prosperity, the AFP superPAC has now decided to, for the first time, to endorse a Republican presidential candidate in the primary, they have decided [00:36:00] to endorse Nikki Haley on Tuesday, and to unleash their tens of millions of dollars -- that's low balling it, it's more like hundreds of millions of dollars and a huge. boots-on-the- ground organization in all 50 states -- They've decided to unleash all of that behind her, behind Nikki Haley.

Will it make a difference with Trump still leading by -- I don't know, 30, 40 points, whatever -- I don't know, but the right-wing Koch-funded groups that are putting together Project 2025, the plan for the next Republican president, theoretically it's a plan for no matter who that Republican president turns out to be, includes, among other things, invoking the Insurrection Act on day one.

And those folks have a whole lot of money to spend on their favorite Republican next year. And by the way, in recent head-to-head polling, Nikki Haley is doing better against Joe Biden than either Ron DeSantis [00:37:00] or Donald Trump. That's why I say if Republicans come to their senses, I think Nikki Haley would be much more difficult for Biden to beat. At least according to the polls, at least according to the data that we have currently.

Attempts to invoke the Insurrection Act and use the military for domestic policing, the AP's Fields adds optimistically here, I think, would likely elicit pushback from the Pentagon, where the new chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is General Charles Q. Brown. He was one of the eight members of the Joint Chiefs who signed a memo to military personnel in the aftermath of the January 6, 2021 attacks on the U. S. Capitol. That memo emphasized that the oaths they took -- and it cited those oaths and called the events of that day -- which were intended to stop certification of Joe Biden's victory over Trump -- quote, "sedition and insurrection."

And I say that Fields cites that optimistically because, though the tenure [00:38:00] of the joint chief chair spans presidential terms, so C.Q. Brown would in theory still be the the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff of the military under whoever serves in the next term of the presidency.

I suspect that pushing him out, if it was Donald Trump, forcing him to resign in protest for any particular reason to then be replaced by someone more amenable to Trump's authoritarianism, I suspect that wouldn't be all that hard. Trump and his party retained wide support among those who served in the military, according to AP's in-depth survey of more than 94,000 voters nationwide. It's called their VoteCast survey. They found that almost 60 percent of US military veterans voted for Trump in the 2020 presidential election. And in the 2022 midterms, 57 percent of military veterans supported Republican candidates. 

And it's not [00:39:00] as if Trump wouldn't be able to cite precedent for unleashing the US military for domestic purposes in order to offer a sort of a patina of legitimacy for all of this, because American presidents have done it before. In fact, they have issued a total of 40 proclamations invoking that law. It's not that unusual. All the other presidents did. Why shouldn't Donald Trump?

Lyndon Johnson invoked it three times in Baltimore, Chicago, and Washington in response to unrest in cities after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. back in 1968. Presidents Johnson and John F. Kennedy and Dwight Eisenhower all used the law to protect activists and students desegregating schools. Eisenhower sent the 101st Airborne to Little Rock, Arkansas to protect black students integrating Central High School after the state's governor activated the National Guard to keep the students out. 

So Donald Trump wouldn't really be doing much different than that, right? Just keeping the peace. [00:40:00] 

George H. W. Bush was the last president to use the Insurrection Act in response to riots out here in Los Angeles in 1992, after the acquittal of the white police officers who beat black motorist Rodney King. 

"There are a lot of institutional checks and balances in our country that are pretty well developed legally, and it'll make it hard for a president to just do something randomly out of the blue," said Joseph Nunn, a national security expert at Brennan Center for Justice, who specializes in US defense strategy and the use of military force. He said, "But Trump is good at developing a semi-logical train of thought that might lead to a place where there's enough mayhem, there's enough violence and legal murkiness to call in the military." 

How Can Democracy Survive in an Age of Discontent Rachel Navarre and Matthew Rhodes-Purdy on Populism and Political Extremism Part 3 - Democracy Paradox - Air Date 11-28-23

JUSTIN KEMPF - HOST, DEMOCRACY PARADOX: One of the themes of the book is the fact that neoliberalism has taken away a lot of the security that government would provide people. It's kind of hollowed out government [00:41:00] resources for people. The final chapter that you have is titled, "Is neoliberal democracy sustainable?" You answer that in that chapter, but what I'd like to ask you is, do you feel that that's enough? That if we shift away from neoliberalism, that that would be enough to avoid future discontent? And for those who are currently discontented, is that all that's necessary to happen to be able to alleviate those emotions of discontent that would normalize politics? Is that what we need to do? And is that all that we need to be able to do at this point? 

MATTHEW RHODES-PURDY: So a couple of answers to your question. 

First of all, the things we do to avoid discontent and the things we do to get rid of it once it's already there and built up are probably two very different things. I think we know much less about how we deal with discontent once we've had full-blown effective polarization throughout society. It becomes self sustaining. I [00:42:00] think there are very different interventions that need to take place there. And some of the things you do to prevent discontent in an ordinary situation might actually be problematic in an already-polarized polity. 

The short answer is, moving away from neoliberalism, no, is absolutely not sufficient. Because neoliberalism has two effects. First of all, it's the economic insecurity, but it's also the hollowing of the democracy that needs to take place in order to support neoliberalism. Because technically speaking, I think very few people in ordinary society, very few of them are genuinely neoliberals. Theda Skocpol’s book on the Tea Party kind of lays this out.

People are neoliberal for groups that they don't like and socialist for themselves. They want to protect their own benefits and they want to get rid of benefits for young people or people of color or whoever they feel is outside of themselves. And so in order to actually build an effective democracy that also marries itself to neoliberalism, you have to essentially reduce democratic voice to the point where popular majorities really can't influence policy. Which is basically what we have in the United States. And it's what's happened in [00:43:00] the rest of the world, not so much through institutional veto points like we have here, but just through the breakdown of popular sector organization, the breakdown of unions, the center-left parties that have relied on them to advance their interests.

So if you just get rid of neoliberalism, you still have these hollow democracies that make people feel unheard and voiceless. And here's the thing: I also don't think you can get rid of neoliberalism. The people who are at the top like it and benefit from it. You need the re-democratization in order to accomplish the move away from neoliberalism to some sort of more pro-social economy.

And so my big focus that I've always said is democratization has to come first. You have to democratize the system, moving veto points, making systems more responsive, more representative. But a big part of that is actually outside of the state structure in most places, and it's about trying to figure out, how do we organize popular sectors effectively in this new post-industrial world? And I think you alluded to this when you talked about Podemos trying to not be a political [00:44:00] party, wants to be a movement of movements. Podemos, as far as I can tell, is doing that rather poorly, frankly. But there are political parties, one of which is the Broad Front in Uruguay, we discussed at length, is actually one that has effectively employed that strategy to provide voice.

So I think re democratization is absolutely critical and is in fact a necessary condition for increasing economic security because it's not going to happen without a push. 

RACHEL NAVARRE: Yeah. I mean, I think Matt's got a very good point. What we do to prevent it could be very different than what we do to solve it.

And, I am seeing very good signs in the United States, I think, that the hot labor summer and pushing back and having more people think about unions and seeing unions do really good stuff and getting the support for the Hollywood strike is huge. And so I think, seeing some of that in this talk of the UAW telling people, Hey, we need to have all of our union contracts come up in 2028, so we can see this movement. You're [00:45:00] starting to see some of these links that have been destroyed being built back up. So it's not quite the bowling alone scenario, but it is a little bit. We do have these disconnects between the people and the party. We're not seeing the same sort of influence.

So I think bringing that in is a good way to help stop populism rising on the left of the United States. But I do think that might be different than what you have to do once populism also exists. So I think bringing back in voice, recreating the social safety net. 

Now, of course, this still leaves problems, because while we focus on emotional transfer from economic crises, we don't focus on emotional transfer that might be caused by other crises.

So if you happen to have a cultural crisis or something like that, which is oftentimes more associated with the right, that can still have your emotional transfer as well. [00:46:00] So I think once you get into that stage, it's a little different. I don't think we have much to say on that yet..

BONUS Media Coverage of the Trump Movement is Missing Vital Context Part 2 - On the Media - Air Date 11-29-23

JEFF SHARLET: When I saw Ashley Babbitt, white woman, who led a mob, climbed up to a broken window, and a Capitol Hill police officer shot her and killed her. So we saw only the hands of the officer, and is a black man, and I understood immediately, as a student of American mythology and history, this is the lynching story: innocent, white womanhood killed by a black man. This is the template of Hollywood. You go back to the Birth of a Nation, one of the most influential movies of all time, 1915, based on a novel called The Klansman. It's a positive story about the Ku Klux Klan and a white woman flees from a dangerous black man and jumps over a cliff and dies, and thus the Klan must ride to avenge her.

Ashley Babbitt was such a productive martyr because she's wearing an American flag outfit, she's the only woman in this crowd, but she's really fierce and tough. She's also a veteran. And I started traveling around the country watching the myth in formation. [00:47:00] Who Ashley Babbitt was doesn't matter to them.

BROOKE GLADSTONE - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: Given all the myth making about Ashley, you looked into her life and what did you find? 

JEFF SHARLET: She documented her life very extensively, 8,000 tweets, she made a lot of videos. I found someone I think would surprise a lot of people. Ashley Babbitt, from deep blue Southern California, a beach person. Votes for Obama twice, thinks he's the best president ever.

BROOKE GLADSTONE - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: How did she get from there to here? What was the turning point? 

JEFF SHARLET: She talks about a houseless man in Southern California defecating on her front lawn. And the compassion she's tried to have in her life, she just says, to hell with it. And Trump is right there with this story. You know what? That anger you feel? It's not anger. It's love for your country. You don't have to swim against the current. Give into the undertow. Let it take you out. Here's white supremacy. It's ready to carry you. And now she's got a leader and she's got a mythology, and it's so easy to go with it. 

BROOKE GLADSTONE - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: [00:48:00] You call what's going on "a cult of militant eroticism"? Can you talk about that? 

JEFF SHARLET: Part of the aesthetics of fascism has always been titillation and the thrill, because the eroticism is of transgression. Think of Steve Bannon. Not an attractive man, and yet, here is a man, he does what he wants, he eats what he wants to eat, he smokes what he wants to smoke, if he was a truck driver, he'd be driving a coal roller, spewing out black, he lives fully.

BROOKE GLADSTONE - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: They're bad boys. 

JEFF SHARLET: Yeah, the same thing with so many of these right wing politicians doing ads where they're firing guns. For some people, that's sexy. And it's also saying, you know what, I'm free. And free is exciting. 

BROOKE GLADSTONE - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: And after reporting your book, you concluded that we're in the midst of something you call "a slow civil war. That is, we're in the undertow." 

JEFF SHARLET: In spring of 2021, I started noticing academic [00:49:00] historians talking about civil war, and I'm married to a historian. Historians are necessarily cautious. They know that history usually moves slow. I came to the term "slow civil war" as I started to think no, wait a minute. There already are casualties, when we look at the wave of queer and trans suicide, the ways in which many people are now criminalized in 20 states and counting; all the pregnant people dying or in trouble for lack of reproductive rights; and so many of the victims of mass shootings. 

What I do is I read the manifestos and I see how each one builds on another. Literally, they cut and paste from the last one, and then they say, here's how I did it, and I'm probably going to die. In fact, that's my plan. But I hope the next man can learn from what I did and can carry this forward. 

When I look at the men who line up with AR-15s outside of hospitals and libraries and schools and bars.

BROOKE GLADSTONE - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: Isn't that just performative? 

JEFF SHARLET: [00:50:00] Oh, this, that's my favorite question, Brooke. For so long, the political press, which was built to report on a fairly stable establishment, wants to dismiss anything outside of that as just theater. And that works really well for the growth of fascism, because fascism is theater. No "just" about it. 

BROOKE GLADSTONE - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: You say that the mainstream media is reluctant to use the word fascism to describe the movement Trump fueled in road to power. Why is fascism a better characterization than the much more often used "crisis of democracy"? 

JEFF SHARLET: I'm actually against the term "the crisis of democracy", and I'm against "climate crisis." I understand why people use them. But crisis is, narratively, a word that supposes this is a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end. It's going to have a happy ending or a sad ending. And that's not the nature of the situation we face. Some things were [00:51:00] lost. Fascism is understood in the press as a kind of an "F word," as opposed to describing a political movement. Look at these elements: the cult of personality, the idea that a strong man leader alone can fix it, that he transcends the normal rule of law, a persecuted in-group, a mysterious out-group that can take any form. But most importantly -- and I think this is also, this goes back to the militant eroticism -- not just a rhetoric of violence, but of pleasure and violence. That's a key part of fascism, and I think, inasmuch as we resist it, and I'm sympathetic to that resistance, but what if we don't see it as a crisis, as a final battle, but say, hey, that's the condition. How do we get through this? 

BROOKE GLADSTONE - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: Do you think this is a coast versus Midwest, rural versus urban divide? 

JEFF SHARLET: Both sides in this conflict want to believe that. But I know it's not, because I've been driving around the country and I can cross the [00:52:00] front lines, the battle lines in any given county in the United States.

BROOKE GLADSTONE - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: But if you set out looking for fascists you're gonna find them. How widespread is it really? 

JEFF SHARLET: I think it's a powerful minority. There's all kinds of arguments: don't worry, they're just a minority, we're the majority; don't worry, the country is diversifying; don't worry, they're aging out. I'm 51. Since I was a teenager, I've been hearing that: don't worry, conservatism is dead, your generation's gonna save us we didn't save squat. The diversification story is ignoring the latest American contribution to fascism, what scholar Anthea Butler, author of White Evangelical Racism calls "the promise of whiteness." it brings in increasing numbers of people of color who believe that they can be part of this. 

So that's not going to get us out. I don't think you can just sit there and let a current carry you out of fascism. Democracy is not something you have. You have to actually go and do it, right? 

I think about that group, the 3 Percenters. A militia movement with which Congressman Higgins identifies, and they [00:53:00] believe that the American Revolution was fought only by 3%. So from their perspective, it only takes 3 percent to overthrow an empire, right? The British Empire. This isn't true. Scholars say the number is closer, maybe 25, 26%. But what matters is what 3 percent can do in terms of disrupting things.

And the reality is fascism, it's a minority, but it has a hold of more than 3%. I live in deep blue Vermont. I go up the road, I see the flag of Trump as Rambo. I go the other direction, I can see a Confederate flag. That ripples across the state. 

BROOKE GLADSTONE - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: I don't see it in Brooklyn. 

JEFF SHARLET: You don't see it in Brooklyn. And the reality is, you want to know what? There are more Pride flags in America than there are fascist flags. There are. If you say that settles it, I guess we win. 

I think a better way to understand it than in terms of crisis -- which is narratively a word that supposes this is a story with a beginning, a middle, and an [00:54:00] end -- it's a little bit like we're striking matches. And none of them are flaring, thank God. 

BROOKE GLADSTONE - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: January 6th was a flare. 

JEFF SHARLET: January, it was a flare, right? But the flame didn't last. And that left a lot of them broken hearted for a while until they saw, oh wait, we're not going to show up to be arrested by the FBI. That's a trap. We're going to work in different ways. 

JUSTIN KEMPF - HOST, DEMOCRACY PARADOX: A

BONUS How Can Democracy Survive in an Age of Discontent Rachel Navarre and Matthew Rhodes-Purdy on Populism and Political Extremism Part 4 - Democracy Paradox - Air Date 11-28-23

 big part of the theory is that economic insecurity eventually leads to emotions that produce cultural backlash. One of the problems that I have wrapping my head around this idea is that many of the people that are experiencing cultural backlash tend to be older. They tend to be older in terms of age demographics, at least according to Pippa Norris and the Ronald Inglehart study on cultural backlash. They tend to be the most economically secure because they have a government pension. They have government health care provided for them. Oftentimes, [00:55:00] they oftentimes have savings that younger people don't have. They're dealing with kids. They're dealing with lots of different problems. They could get laid off at any moment. Why is it that those people, who I would think would be less concerned that the government actually puts more resources towards to be able to take care of, why is it that they're the ones who are experiencing the most cultural anxiety, rather than the younger people who should be experiencing the most economic insecurity?

RACHEL NAVARRE: Well, so we kind of talk about this and it's not so much your actual - you know, if we lay it down and put it on paper - it's not so much the actual insecurity you have. If you've never had anything, you don't have much to lose. It's the perception and it's the mismatch of where you perceive you should be in your expectation of what you should be. Because I mean, yeah, you know, it's not the guy that's contracted to work with the plumbing company, the low level [00:56:00] employee of the plumbing company, that's the Trumper. It's the plumbing company owner who's driving around in, you know, a $90,000 pickup truck. Because there is more to lose, they're not where they think they should be. And they also kind of perceive more of it as a zero sum, that if someone else gains, I'm losing. So, it kind of evolves into this sort of perception, and how do you feel. And, you know, they do have a lot to lose. You have one bad medical emergency and your nice, comfortable middle class life is gone. You get unemployed for a year, there is no safety net for you. It's either this continues to go and you continue to do good, or you could lose everything. So it's those people that have something to lose and that also perceive that they should be doing better and perceive that someone else maybe is getting ahead of them. 

MATTHEW RHODES-PURDY: Yeah. I mean, you think about people who retire [00:57:00] in the wake of 2008, I mean, the kind of people we're talking about who are Trump voters, if you're retiring in 2009-2010, you're not having the kind of retirement you thought you were going to. Social Security and Medicare are kind of cold comfort, right? Your 401k has been destroyed. The fact that the 401k is how you retire these days and not on a fixed pension for a lot of people is indicative of the kind of long term erosion of Social Security that we talk about throughout the book.

You're exposed to the vicissitudes of the market now. You don't have the kind of guaranteed lifestyle into old age and into death. But I think Rachel really hit most of it, which is just, yeah, a lot of Trump voters and a lot of the populace in general, particularly on the right, are comfortable. They have good lifestyle in terms of nice houses and nice cars, but yet, insecurity I think is underappreciated.

You know, there's been a lot of focus on deprivation. Recently, we've been talking a lot about inequality. What we conclude in the book is that really, insecurity is what's driving this. It's people who expected to have [00:58:00] comfortable middle class lifestyles, and expected to be able to provide those for their children, are now feeling like their children are going to be worse off than they are. 

Final comments on preparing for the 2024 election

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: We've just heard clips today, starting with The Readout making the connections between the election of a right-wing populists in the Netherlands and the continuing threat of Trump in the U.S. The Democracy Paradox looked at the failures of neo-liberalism and the need to re-establish real democracy. Democracy Now! discussed the election of a far right libertarian populist in Argentina. The Democracy Paradox dove into how unfulfilled right-wing promises help foster the conspiracy mindset. On the Media spoke with Jeff Sharlet about the slow civil war. The Bradcast warned that democracy in the U.S. appears to be balanced on a knife's edge. And The Democracy Paradox looked at how economic policy changes would be beneficial for reducing discontent, but insufficient for fully reversing the levels of [00:59:00] polarization and discontent that already exists. That's what everybody heard, but members also heard bonus clips from On the Media discussing how the media misses the importance of what it considers simply far right performative theater. And finally The Democracy Paradox got deep into the weeds of how economic procarity feels to different groups of people. 

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. And during December, we're offering 20% off on memberships for yourself or as gifts. So definitely take advantage of that while you can. Or you can simply 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. 

For more on the international far right and the connection to neoliberal economic policies, I have a couple of our past episodes to suggest: # 1491 is [01:00:00] titled "Mismanaging Capitalism Can Lead To Fascism" and it was published back in May 2022 and focuses on how economic distress can destabilize societies. And #1519 titled "International Fascist Movement On the Move" is from October 2022 and looks at elections in Italy, Sweden, and Brazil, as the far-right was looking to make more gains in those countries. So check those out. Again, those were episodes 1491 and 1519. 

Now to wrap up, I'll just leave you with this. As nerve wracking as it is to face another potential Trump election, that is how much energy needs to go into election activism over the coming year: voter registration drives; voter inspiration drives, you know, phone banking, in person canvassing, and the like; support for organizations that fight against voter disenfranchisement through overly strict [01:01:00] voter ID laws; anything that any of us can do to help move the needle in next November's election will be crucial. I've been warning for a little while now that we should all be bracing ourselves for this coming year. Ever since it became clear that the bulk of Trump's trials would be playing out in the middle of the primary elections next year, it was obvious that the next 11 months will be an absolute shit show. But I've also been saying that the best way to manage the anxiety that 2024 will assuredly bring is to take action. There is so much we can't influence and that causes stress. But there are some things that we can influence and stepping up to do our part in support of maintaining at least a somewhat functioning democracy we'll not only be good for the country and the world, but will actually help each of us individually manage the disorienting and, sort of, likely overwhelming upheaval we are [01:02:00] headed for in the next year. 

So don't wait until you are potentially frozen with stress and anxiety next year to figure out what you're going to do. Make a plan for your activism now, so that you can look to that plan six months from now when things are looking bad for one reason or another, because they certainly will be. So have your plan ready because hope that others will act in sufficient numbers is not a plan. That is not a winning strategy at all. 

So here's just one option: VoteRiders provides voter ID assistance to help every American cast a ballot that counts, which is a caveat that I wish we didn't need, but we do. VoteRiders will help voters identify the documents needed to get an ID, request and pay for the documents, pay the DMV fees, and even drive voters to the DMV for free. They also help [01:03:00] educate on confusing voter ID laws for each state, including the new ID requirements needed to vote by mail in states like Texas and Florida. So voters can call or text to their helpline at 866-ID-2-VOTE, that's 866-432-8683, or go to VoteRiders.org/FreeHelp to check state laws or submit an online form to get assistance. And if you don't need an ID, you can become a volunteer to help make sure that voters know the information they need and get the help they need or donate to support their sadly needed work. It's just one of the many concrete ways that you can help improve access to the ballot box leading up to the 2024 election. 

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 [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 Trio, Ken, Brian, and LaWendy 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 at bestoftheleft.com/support, now available for 20% off and you can join them by signing up today. It would be greatly appreciated. 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 members and donors to the show from [01:05:00] bestoftheleft.com.

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#1596 Building a positive future by first envisioning it and then designing it (Transcript)

Air Date 12/5/2023

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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 will look to some positive visions for the future to get away from the doom cycle of complaining about what's going wrong all the time. Some positive visions include rethinking human nature, re-imagining our relationship with consumerism, reconsidering how design can work with nature instead of against it, and understanding how cooperation is actually better than individualistic competition from an evolutionary point of view. Sources today include Andrewism, Against the Grain, The Human Restoration Project, The New Humanitarian, The New Abnormal, and Our Changing Climate, with an additional members only clip from Your Undivided Attention.

What We Get Wrong About Human Nature - Andrewism - Air Date 1-11-23

ANDREW SAGE - HOST, ANDREWISM: Who are you? Who am I? What is the essence of humankind? What does it mean to be human? Human nature refers to the fundamental traits of humanity, [00:01:00] our most basic and natural ways of thinking, feeling, and acting. Human nature is supposed to be this universal concept that, regardless of nurture, regardless of our environmental, social, political, and psychological conditions, we cannot truly transcend.

I disagree. There are certain instincts we possess that I might consider universal to humanity, for instance fear as a means of basic survival, or disgust as a means of self preservation from disease. Yet not everyone experiences fear or disgust, and what we fear or disgust varies considerably from person to person, place to place, culture to culture.

Some people fear the depths of the ocean. Others fear the peaks of the mountains. Some people are disgusted by even the IDEA of eating crickets. For others, it's a healthy treat.

The balance of our hormones may also play a role in determining how we behave. But we are not slaves to our [00:02:00] hormones. We can and do override our base impulses when the situation calls for it.

We also, obviously, have certain shared needs: things like air, water, food, sleep, and shelter. We want safety, respect, and connection. We seek pleasure. But how we meet those needs vary also, according to culture, climate, and identity.

If human nature is just what humans do, then it is a concept of contradiction. Humans hate and humans love. Humans are violent and humans are peaceful. Humans destroy and humans create. Humans form hierarchies and humans tear them down. 

But when people bring up human nature, particularly in arguments about the viability of liberation from systems of oppression such as capitalism, patriarchy, and the state, they never seem to highlight our noblest features, only our most despicable. Humanity is defamed by humans themselves. To [00:03:00] the misanthropes and their ilk, we are all just agents of chaos and wanton environmental destruction. They sweep aside the vast antagonisms of class, gender, and race. They dismiss the distinctions between authoritarian empires and stateless societies, assign an all equal accusation.

Capital H U M A N I T Y overrides the examination of the social relationships and institutions that have forged our present outcomes. 

So the question persists. Our journey begins, to discover what exactly constitutes human nature. 

Another first person to explore the idea of human nature -- across history and throughout the world -- theorists and philosophers have posited different interpretations of the concept. Socrates believed that the life most suited to human nature involved reasoning. His student Plato, and [00:04:00] Plato's student Aristotle, developed a notion of the human soul in the fourth and fifth century BCE that consisted of two parts: one, home to instinct, passion, and desire; the other, home to logic and reason. Aristotle, in particular, also recognized man as political, meaning able to develop complex communities and systems, and mimetic, meaning able to use his imagination to create artwork. I say man, not humanity, because Aristotle saw women as subject to men. Of course. 

Elsewhere, Mencius, a Confucian philosopher in the 4th century BCE, argued that human nature was good, with an innate tendency to an ideal state formed under the right conditions. To him, the four beginnings of human nature's morality were a sense of compassion that develops into benevolence, a sense of shame and disdain that develops into righteousness, a sense of respect and courtesy that develops into propriety, and a sense of right and [00:05:00] wrong that develops into wisdom. He believed that the development of virtues came from reflection, and if one didn't reflect, they wouldn't develop their moral constitution. According to Mencius, evil came from a lack of reflection and self development in one's natural direction.

However, another Confucian philosopher in the 3rd century BCE disagreed. Junzi believed human nature was essentially bad, and that learning was the only cure for the destructive and competitive natural ways of humanity. Later on, the legalist framework of human nature would embrace the notion of it being inherently evil. However, unlike Junzi, they didn't think even education or self cultivation could eliminate or alter one's fundamentally sick nature.

Echoing many of today's proponents of capitalism, third century BCE legalist philosopher Han Fei argued that everyone is motivated by their unchanging selfish core to take [00:06:00] advantage of whoever they can, especially when they know they can get away with it. Similarly, Emile Durkheim believed humanity to be naturally egoistic, and David Hume assumed humans were driven by selfishness and emotions and needed society to make them more reasonable.

However, Hume also recognized that humans had an innate sense of honor, beauty, and nobility. In contrast, according to Akan philosophy, what it means to be a person is to selflessly contribute to one's family and community -- of course, adjusted for one's level of opportunity. The size or type of contribution matters far less than the practice itself.

Further east, along the West African coast, the Yoruba held similar beliefs. To be a person is to be substantially dependent on others. The community is the basis for the actualization of one's values and personality. This position can also be found in the Pan African philosophy [00:07:00] of Ubuntu, a form of African humanism developed in the 1950s that sees humanity as a quality we owe to each other. It can be neatly summarized by its particularly iconic phrase, "I am because we are." The Yoruba philosophy also recognizes that while humanity retains certain activities and needs, the way those activities are carried out and those needs are met are subject to change according to ever evolving material conditions.

Karl Marx's concept of species being was similarly informed by materialist analysis. He argued against traditional concepts of human nature as incarnating in individuals, in favor of human nature forming within social relations. To Marx, human nature wasn't permanent or universal, but rather always determined in a specific social and historical formation. Humans change their environments, and their environments, in turn, change them. The Rarámuri [00:08:00] tribe in the Sierra Madres region of what is now Mexico have traditionally believed in iwigara, the idea that all lifeforms are interconnected and share the same breath. Even the land itself and the winds that blow through it share kin.

Obviously, the sheer variety of the philosophies of indigenous cultures cannot be painted with one broad brush. But we can identify certain similarities. Many indigenous philosophies have recognized that we cannot be divorced from our environment. There is no neat separation between human and nature. We are part of the same family. Life can only be viable when humans view nature as kin, all part of the same ecosystem, enhancing and preserving, giving and taking. Anthropologists refer to this way of seeing the world as animism. Because animists believe all beings are related, they heavily regulate their interaction with living systems. For the most part -- and asterisks do indeed apply -- that means that while they may fish, hunt, gather, and [00:09:00] farm, they do so while remaining cognizant of the sustainability of those systems. They do so in the spirit of reciprocity, not extraction. They live by the principles of what today's ecological economists would call a "steady state" economy: never extract more than ecosystems can generate, and never waste or pollute more than ecosystems can safely absorb. 

The decline of animist ontology has coincided with the rise of capitalism, which has continued to sever our bond with nature, leading to many people embracing the view that human nature is fundamentally destructive. Human presence has come to be seen as a threatening corruption of the natural world. We've become estranged from our role as a species of stewards. 

Gabor Maté on Illness, Human Nature, Capitalism, and Socialism - Against the Grain - Air Date 5-30-2

SASHA LILLEY - AGAINST THE GRAIN: One thing that I think has been striking about the ways that the status quo has been justified and the system of capitalism has been framed as permanent and inevitable [00:10:00] and no way to transcend it or get beyond it is an evocation of human nature, that human nature is, at its root, based on a kind of individualistic selfishness, and we'd have to do great harm to each other if we were ever going to live in a more collective way, and hence, the gulag is evoked. 

You write about the uses that a notion of human nature can be put to. Can you say what you think about human nature and what it does or doesn't constrain in terms of our possibilities? 

GABOR MATE: Sure. Well, to quote two people I've already mentioned, one is Robert Sapolsky, who said that human nature is not to be constrained by our nature. And Noam Chomsky said that, and I quote both of them in my chapter on this, is that -- I say my chapter, by the way, I need to acknowledge my son, Daniel, with whom I wrote this book, so -- our chapter, our chapter on this -- is, there's no defined human [00:11:00] nature, that if Jesus was a human being and if Buddha was a human being and Hitler was a human being and Stalin was a human being, if Martin Luther King is a human being and Donald Trump is a human being then what is a human being? Then what is human nature?

So what is human beings? And human nature? And by the way, in this society, it's very common to say, when somebody does something selfish or manipulative or greedy, we say, oh, that's just human nature. But what about when people are kind or giving? Do we say, oh, that's just human nature? Why not? The kindness is very common. And all of us, when we're kind and open-hearted, we feel much better in our bodies. So why do we identify selfishness with human nature? 

We evolved as communal creatures for millions of years, hundreds of thousands of years, including if even the existence of our species, Homo sapien sapien, can be encapsulated in 60 minutes on a clock, then until [00:12:00] five minutes ago, we lived in small band hunter-gather groups where the communal need determined individual behavior, individual thinking and individual feeling. So giving, receiving, supporting, collaborating, that's what we did. We would not have survived as individualistic hostile creatures. We would not have survived. We could not have lived that way. Monkeys couldn't. Wolves couldn't. No mammals could. 

So, what we tend to do is to identify behaviors in a certain society with some kind of global human nature. It doesn't exist. What we know does exist are human needs. And, what I can tell you is human children have certain needs of warm attachment relationships where they're accepted for exactly who they are; where their emotions are accepted and welcome; where they don't have to work to make their relationship work with the parents; where there's free play -- free, genuine, authentic, [00:13:00] spontaneous play out there in nature that helps the brain develop properly, which is essential for brain development.

If you meet those conditions, you're gonna get human beings that are compassionate, for the most part collaborative, and they don't think in terms of individual greed as the way to satisfy their needs. 

This society, we don't bring up people like that. You see a prevalence of behaviors that are selfish, and not only are they prevalent, they're even celebrated. But it's a cultural construct. 

So you can't extrapolate from the way people are in a certain culture to some general idea of human nature. I don't think there's a human nature that dictates how we are. We have human needs, and we have certain conditions that will promote the healthy development of human beings, other conditions that will undermine it.

So that's how I understand human nature. 

Imagining a Solarpunk Education - Human Restoration Project - Air Date 5-11-23

NICK COVINGTON - HOST, HUMAN RESTORATION PROJECT: In July 2022, Dr. Henry Giroux presented a keynote at the inaugural Conference to Restore Humanity, where he spoke on the topic of critical pedagogy in a time of [00:14:00] fascist tyranny. In this keynote, he connects our fading visions of the future to the lack of hope that we can ever actually imagine something radically different from the present.

DR. HENRY GIROUX: The commanding visions of democracy are in exile at all levels of education. Critical thought and the imagining of a better world present a direct threat not only to white supremacists, but also to those ideologues who narrowly embrace a corporate vision of the world, in which the future always replicates the present in an endless circle, in which capital and the identities that it legitimates merge with each other into what might be called a "dead zone of the imagination" and "pedagogies of repression."

NICK COVINGTON - HOST, HUMAN RESTORATION PROJECT: And, more simply evoked by theorist Mark Fisher, it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism. And that's a well we have absolutely run dry in our desire for dystopia. We've imagined the world destroyed by AI, by climatological disaster, even by zombies. Judging by pop [00:15:00] culture, you could assume we have a preference for annihilation.

Stuck in this doom loop, we've created an entire media apparatus that not only imagines ever-worsening and horrific futures, but nostalgizes the past to keep us trapped in existing banal dystopias. In an era of increasingly rehashed ideas, corporations now openly flaunt reboot culture, negating any ability to imagine something new. "Nothing comforts anxiety like a little nostalgia," haunts the Matrix Resurrections, as a 2021 sequel to the nearly 20-year-old trilogy. 

Escaping the drudgery of futures imagined for us is no small feat. Philosopher Jean Baudrillard believed that our world had become so engrossed in the hyper-real that we are no longer able to distinguish between what is real and what is imagined. Or, as he wrote on Disneyland, 

NARRATOR: It's meant to be an infantile world, in order to make us believe that the adults are elsewhere in the real world, and to conceal the fact that [00:16:00] real childishness is everywhere. Particularly among those adults who go there to act the child in order to foster illusions of their real childishness.

NICK COVINGTON - HOST, HUMAN RESTORATION PROJECT: Teaching is the most stressful job in America. 86 percent of teachers report being stressed. 73 percent struggle with anxiety and 67 percent with ongoing depression. And even amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, these shocking statistics dwarf healthcare workers and other highly stressful positions. So it isn't surprising that so many educators have become jaded and nihilistic about the state of education.

Stressed, depressed, and demoralized teachers, who are looking for an exit or believe that their classrooms have become a lost cause, are less likely to be able to create spaces of joy, wonder, and curiosity for students because, at the end of the day, why does any of it matter? 

The Doom Loop connects a dismal view of the future to lived realities within classrooms everywhere. Underfunded, risk-averse schools are [00:17:00] pressured to adopt an empty or scripted pedagogy, a standardized system, where the same thing is taught the same way to every student. In this way, the ends justify the means. Sold as a back to basics way to alleviate teacher stress and improve outcomes by simplifying instruction and assessment, standardizing classroom management, and securing higher scores by aligning curriculum with the demands of state tests.

With the best intentions, empty pedagogy means to make it easier to produce similar outcomes for all students. But the reality is that it's easier to sell scripted curriculum to a de-professionalized workforce that lacks the collective power to make pedagogical decisions, or even the collective understanding that there could be other educative outcomes worth pursuing.

An empty pedagogy eliminates the need for advanced degrees, certifications, and the deep pedagogical understanding that comes from years of experience, [00:18:00] opting instead to treat educators like easily replaceable, low skill, low wage employees at the bottom of a technocratic hierarchy. Of course, it also removes the artistry and personal connection that draws virtually all teachers to the profession, replacing purpose driven professionals with trained technicians, thus perpetuating the doom loop as educators burn out in a profession void of personal identity and the capacity for meaningful action.

As teachers burn out, it can be tempting to embrace scripted techniques to make the job easier, but this can be dangerous at the level of the system itself. The more schools come to value an empty pedagogy, the more sterile the classroom becomes. And the more sterile the classroom becomes, the more classrooms become isolated from society, unable to address the problems of today, let alone the future; content to batch process students with standards and objectives, but rarely in a direction or [00:19:00] with a purpose. 

Of course, young people can find this on their own, but systems that embrace the back-to-basics standardization of classroom curriculum lead young people to have to fight back against the demeaning and soul-sucking nature of school. In this way, schools become a vector of the doom loop itself. 

The majority of young people also find themselves bored, stressed, or tired in high school. Horrifically, the suicide rate of students increases between 30 to 43 percent during the school year. And as chronicled in Huck Magazine, young people are embracing nihilism. One young person states, "We are all just little grains of sand on a seemingly infinite beach." And numerous accounts show people not bothering to fight for just causes, such as environmentalism or social justice, because, after all, what's the point if the apocalypse is right on the horizon? 

The promise of a college-to-career pathway with a livable wage, stable job prospects and a decently sized home, nuclear family, and [00:20:00] other elements of the American dream have become structurally unattainable.

But the article also outlines the growing movement of positive or sunny nihilism. Australian writer Wendy Seyfried says that nihilism can be a gateway to a radical decentralization of the self, saying, "If you have been forced to recognize that the things you thought were going to promise you a good life aren't available anymore, you look beyond yourself to protect something bigger." she believes that when you embrace nihilism, you can start to recognize what the philosopher Nietzsche said about rules, laws, and morals: they're all social constructs. You can begin to reimagine yourself and the world around you in entirely different ways. And it becomes liberating to change the world because you recognize that all of it is, well, made up.

As one young person puts it: 

NARRATOR: It doesn't matter to me that it will all return to nothingness eventually. It exists, simultaneously with my [00:21:00] existence, and I get to climb trees, run about, and swim, all thanks to the earth. Human existence is beautiful, even if it's all for nothing. 

What science fiction teaches us about imagining a better world - The New Humanitarian - Air Date 1-11-23

KIM STANLEY ROBINSON: I think what I did by accident was fill a hunger people had for a vision of things going well, despite the awful situation that we're in. There aren't that many books like it, and actually, Malka’s is one of them. But basically, it's an empty ecological niche in our cultural imagination. You say, ‘Oh, I want to read about things going well in the year 2050. I'll go to that shelf in the bookstore’. It is empty, that shelf is empty. And so people, when they find it, they begin to share it.

HEBA ALY - HOST, THE NEW HUMANITARIAN: 'The shelf is empty', that's interesting. But also, the few books that are on the shelf, the wider science fiction shelf, are often written by a very specific slice of the population. So if we talk about the politics of science fiction, and whose vision of the future is most [00:22:00] valued, science fiction is often dominated by White men – sorry, Stan – but with no particular social justice agenda, which is not your case. And the voices that are a bit more marginalised, don't often have the ear, when it comes to science fiction fans, that they might hope for, despite the a really rich tradition of people from, as I say, more marginalised communities trying to write themselves into the future or reimagining futures that might better serve them. And Afrofuturism, which really centres Black history and culture, is an example of that. So, maybe, Malka, is science fiction any less susceptible to oppressive power structures than any other field?

MALKA OLDER: Well, I mean, when we're talking about science fiction here, what we're talking about is publishers, right? Those are the people who decide not what gets written, but what gets to readers. I do think it is changing somewhat, and we're seeing that reflected in what's getting out. There's still a long way to go, obviously. But I think what's even more regressive than what's coming out in print [00:23:00] is what's been made into TVs and movies. And that's unfortunate, because that does actually reach, sadly, way more people and get more way more money funnelled into production. And I think that's, actually, a big part of the problem, because when you're spending a lot of money to make a show, it also means that there's a lot of people who have an interest in saying, Oh, we must make sure this is profitable, and we're gonna guess what's going to be profitable by looking at what was profitable last year. And that doesn't always work very well, and it also leads to very slow change, and sometimes really boring shows. Because those stories, again, affect how people think about the future, what they think is possible, what they're afraid of, what they hope for. 

To come back for a second to print, while we're starting to see more marginalised voices being published. The area that I think is really lacking, especially when we think about it from the humanitarian perspective, is translations and people from other countries, other parts of the world, and trying to get more of those voices. As we talk about [00:24:00] global futures, as we talk about global government, we really need to be doing more of that: more translation, more publishing. And it's hard to get that done in the US. That's one big issue that I think we need to keep looking at.

KIM STANLEY ROBINSON: Yeah, Octavia Butler is having a moment now. And she's been dead a couple decades. And when she was actually publishing those books, she was quite marginalised. So there's such a desire for those kinds of narratives that there's some backfilling; people go back into the tradition, and I really hope people start reading Joanna Russ, for instance, as an incredibly powerful, hilarious, and angry feminist voice in science fiction and one of the great stars of her time. And Ursula was more famous the longer her career went on, because of a desire for those kinds of narratives. So, science fiction can have everything ideologically, it can go from hard right reactionary QAnon type conspiracy [00:25:00] theory set into the future to communist and far left manifestos of liberation for all humanity. It's just the same as any other form of literature in terms of its ideologies. But if you're looking for positive visions of a mutual aid future for the world, then indeed, science fiction is the right place to look, then you have to kind of go hunting and pecking to get past the same old same old ray guns and lasers and blowing things up and spaceships zipping around, which is typically war stories or stories of feudalism. And a lot of fantasy is of course, straight feudalism: the kings, the servants, the troubadours, the dragons, it's all straight medievalism taken as a kind of an escapism, or a metaphorical vision of the present, where you wish you could have a magic sword and just chop their heads off. So a lot of escapism in all of literature in all of art. And when you try to have [00:26:00] committed or activist literature, then as Malka said, you run into the business of publishing: Who's gonna buy this? When they're looking for escape, and you write a gritty story of humanitarian work, who's going to buy it? Very few, because people read and watch TV to escape their current trapped reality rather than engage and understand it. So you have to perform some pretty convoluted Judo tricks and Cirque du Soleil-type jumps to make the kinds of things we write about entertaining, and get it through your industry to a readership that enjoys it, even though they're looking for escape. One of the escapes that would be nice is to imagine that things could still work out. So it could be that my novel Ministry for the Future is just as much a fantasy as a Game of Thrones or Harry Potter, because it isn't clear that we're going to be able to run the table and put all of the bricks in place in time to keep from having a [00:27:00] universal crash. But I'm very interested in, say, the refugee camps. So a Ministry for the Future has about maybe six or eight plot strands, and one of them is refugees. It's pretty much Syria: a country that's falling apart. They get to Switzerland, and then they're in a refugee camp for 20 or 30 years, and then they get out and they're Swiss citizens on a kind of Nansen passport. It takes up at least 15 to 20 percent of the text in Ministry for the Future, and nobody talks about it. Nobody. What can you say? It's an intractable situation. As a life, it's boring. Even though I was intent to write it, because the only solution I can see to the oncoming humanitarian refugee crisis, climate refugees, is a holistic solving of all the problems, at which point you don't have millions of people wandering the earth homeless and without much in the way of an ability to control their fate. [00:28:00] So…

HEBA ALY - HOST, THE NEW HUMANITARIAN: But when you say nobody talks about it, you mean in the reviews of the book, that's not a part of the book that is popular.

KIM STANLEY ROBINSON: Right. Exactly. Yeah. Not discussed. Let's talk about central banks. Let's talk about the carbon coin. Let's talk about geo-engineering. Let's talk about eco-terrorism. Let's talk about anything except for a life spent in the camps.

HEBA ALY - HOST, THE NEW HUMANITARIAN: And so how do you go about popularising a book that is essentially about – it's both a cynical and optimistic book at once, I suppose but – a book that is essentially about the future of human suffering. How do you go about making that something that people want to think about and understand?

KIM STANLEY ROBINSON: Well, some people go into survivalist fantasies: ‘oh, if the world fell apart, then my life would suddenly be more exciting’, which is not true. The other thing would be simply to do creative non-fiction and live the life; go in there interview people; and write that story up. And there are some great accounts out there in the non-fiction literature. How do [00:29:00] you find a plot that tells that story? The way I did it was to make sure that that was part of a larger global story that you had to remain interested in like, these are the stakes that are involved in solving climate change. These people will have their Nansen passports, you could imagine … I'm thinking about your specific issues, the involuntary migrants, the refugees, the climate refugees, could be a workforce to quickly decarbonise the planet, full employment plan, where governments gathered together and said, “Look, we need lots of workers, we have lots of people, could we put them to work in decarbonising fast so that we decrease the climate emergency?” Well, it would be hard, but it wouldn't be impossible. Can we match the solutions to the problems, which is sort of putting people in the right places and giving them agency and giving them expertise. It's a… it's a messy problem, and it's bearing down on us [00:30:00] hard. And when things bear down on us hard people tend to freak out and go back into fantasy land.

MALKA OLDER: Yeah, I just, I want to pick up on some of those things, because I think there's a ton of interesting stuff in there. I have a very small and brief refugee subplot in my second book, Null States, and basically, there's a war going on, and there's a bunch of refugees, and there's a fair for them, where all the governments from around come by and try to promote their governments as the place where these refugees should go, because in the world I created, population is power, almost as much as information is. So countries – they're not countries but the governments, there's these entities, these political entities – want people to choose them and want people to come to them. So, I would like to think that's imminent. I have hoped for it happening someday, because generally, studies show that refugees, migrants, are good for the host countries they land in, in a variety of different ways from [00:31:00] economic to social. But there's such a powerful narrative against that right now, unfortunately. But I have hoped that might change. And in the meantime, I hope that by writing about it in that way, it might trigger at least a few people to think about how ridiculous the current system is, which turns all this research on its head and says, ‘Oh, this is a huge problem that you have to worry about.’ Having these these visions and presenting them can be really useful for for even if you don't get to that place of like all the countries coming and having a fair where they like, 'look at our wonderful government, come to our city', even if we don't get that far, maybe we can get to a point where it's not: ‘Go away.’ Governments should be working a lot harder for our allegiance.

Elon Musk Has Become the Very Thing He Hates Most - The New Abnormal - Air Date 11-20-23

 

DANIELLE MOODY - HOST, THE NEW ABNORMAL: There are so many elements of your writing that is truly extraordinary because it isn't just imagining a post-apocalyptic world. It is imagining also what is possible. One of the elements of your writing [00:32:00] that I find that travels throughout is this intermingling between technology and plants. Between how we are utilizing the topography, our plants, the air, water, all of these things, and infusing that with technology. Your buildings are living. Your homes are living. The ships [sic] that Binti travels on is a fish. And so where does that imagination come from? Because it feels like, Oh, this is where our innovation and what it means to be building "green" should be, could be, if we continue to be attached to extraction and violence and mining and things that harm us. So where does that come from? 

NNEDI OKORAFOR: Yeah, that's really good because that's like the core of my imagining when it comes to the future. Like one of my basic philosophies is that nature is the greatest technology. That's the foundation of everything for me. Nature is the greatest technology. [00:33:00] Therefore... and I've always felt that like human technology, if it went more along with nature, we'd be greater. It's like going with the wind, as opposed to against the wind. We could move faster, we could do more if we went with what nature already was constructing because nature is the greatest technology.

So that's always been the standpoint that I come from. When I think about technology, when I think about what do I want to see, and then also looking at things in a not so dystopic way, you know, I feel like a lot of the ways that humanity looks at technology to begin with, is already dystopic because we view nature as something to control, something to jail. And I think that's where we go wrong. And that's like at the foundation of a lot of the technology that we create, that controlling aspect, that need to be the ones, the God of nature, which is, it just doesn't make sense to me. It doesn't make sense to me. And [00:34:00] so I just feel like, if we kind of addressed that within us, and a lot of it is due to ego, a lot of it is due to... the need to control comes out of fear, the need to control is fear. So it's like, I think that if we address that aspect in us and then kind of took it from there, I think a lot of the technologies that we create would be very different. And so, like, when we talk about Binti taking off, leaving the planet, in something living, I know exactly where that idea came from. Because when I think about space and space travel, what would I want to be in? I would not want to be in this bulk dead metal thing. I want to be in something that's alive. I feel more. It just, I'd feel more secure and safe in something that's alive.

And so like this idea of space travel and body and moving around in that way, in that fashion, I think that's where all of that comes from. I just feel like nature is the greatest technology. If we come at it from that point, then you get [00:35:00] living ships, you get living buildings, you get homes that are made of plants that are growing and that those plants are not necessarily things that we can control. There are things that we we move with. So if it wants to grow a room over there, then we figure out, Oh, this is how it... yeah, that's really, that's my philosophy. 

DANIELLE MOODY - HOST, THE NEW ABNORMAL: I love it because your idea, your vision of space and the future to me is a space that I actually want to be in, right? It is one that there is a coexistence and a co mingling between humanity and nature and technology. And I feel As if it's like, we're at this extraordinary tipping point in our reality where every headline is about artificial intelligence, every headline is about the end of humanity, and there was something that I gravitated to during the height of the pandemic in your stories, where I was just like, I need to get the fuck out of this place that seems impossible and move to a place that seems possible. And, you know, part of what is so [00:36:00] beautiful about your stories, too, is that there is both something that is ancient and futuristic elements about them. The tools that your protagonists are using are things that you yourself have researched and found throughout going and traveling in Nigeria and other parts of the continent. And I want you to talk about this one piece because I am so obsessed with it, when you posted it on your Instagram, which was the astrolab. So can you talk about this magnificent astrolab, which I thought, I'm going to tell you, I thought that you created out of your imagination. And then when you posted it, I like went down a Google rabbit hole.

NNEDI OKORAFOR: Yeah, there's so much. Oh my God. It's basically the first GPS. It's the first GPS. It is a tool that helps us to navigate the world. It is an ancient tool. This is not new. And I was obsessed with it [00:37:00] because what I learned about, I learned about it when I was in Sharjah, which is in the United Arab Emirates, they were talking about this device that was perfected by this woman. And then, and first of all, like the idea of, you know, an Arab woman in ancient times perfecting a technological device that reads the stars. I mean, come on. The minute I heard that, I was like, Ohhhh. 

There are times where, like, as a writer, when I hear certain things, I learned certain pieces of information, pieces of history, pieces of things that exist, where it's like something starts vibrating in my head. And when I learned about the astrolabe, I'm like, Oh, my God, this is a big one. And so, like, I immediately became obsessed with it. I went down the rabbit hole that you just talked about going down. And I was like, Why do I not know about this? Why? How did I not hear about, you know, how is this just coming into my orbit? And so, yeah, I mean, so then that went directly into the writing and the philosophy [00:38:00] behind Binti, this ancient... basically it was like talked about in a lot of the research that I was reading that it was the first GPS. And I love the idea of the old in the new. I'm obsessed with the old in the new and tools from the old and knowledge from the old in the new, that one is not better than the other and that they can play off of each other and they can commingle to create something greater. Like, I'm not all about leaving the old things behind, but I'm also not all about acting like new things cannot exist and that some of the old things need to be left behind. Like, it keeps coming back to Nigeria. It comes back to... the way I started writing science fiction was like seeing the juxtaposition and the commingling and the interaction between the ancient and the modern and how they are not always directly in conflict. How sometimes they are at play with each other. Sometimes they are married with each other. The astrolabe was just a great example of that once again, and it's like my favorite subject. So when I discovered [00:39:00] it, my head like just blew up. 

DANIELLE MOODY - HOST, THE NEW ABNORMAL: I bless you for that discovery because then my mind blew up and I was like, I need to understand it. Now I want one.

So, I also want to talk to you about this idea in your Akata series of the 'in between', the wilderness. This in between of the spirit world and our conscious human world. And what it means to bring also in these African traditional ritual practices intermingling with sci fi, intermingling with this idea of magic, and where this in between, this wilderness, came from for you.

NNEDI OKORAFOR: The wilderness... it's like you're bringing up all my themes, cause all of these are connected, all of them. The wilderness is the spirit world, right? But also one of the Igbo tenets, and it's not just Igbo, but I'm Igbo, so that's [00:40:00] where it comes from for me. The mystical and the mundane coexist. So like in a lot of Western ideas, they're separate. So you have to go to these places. They're complete. But the mystical and the mundane coexist at the same time. It's almost like the ancient and the modern idea. They're commingling. And that's, when I talk about African Futurism, that's something I need to be understood because it is a worldview. That is the reality. It is not magic. That is the way a certain part of the world thinks and sees the world. That the mystical and the mundane coexist. There are mystical things happening all around us. That's normal. So you take that idea, you take that point of view, And apply it to science fiction, so therefore the mystical can appear in a science fiction narrative. That's what African futurism is.

How We Can Build A Solarpunk Future Right Now (ft. @Andrewism) - Our Changing Climate - Air Date 4-20-22

CHARLIE KILMAN - HOST, OUR CHANGING CLIMATE: Drive out into the high desert surrounding Taos, New [00:41:00] Mexico, and you'll find beautifully unique houses that look as if they were crafted by the elements. These are Earthships, dwellings that are the brainchild of architect Michael Reynolds, who in the 1970s sought to build a completely off grid house that could withstand the extreme cold and heat of New Mexico.

Earthship design principles focus on core tenets like passive heating and cooling, using recycled and local materials, and fostering self reliance through integrated greenhouse gardens. And all of these methods are implemented in ways that look right out of a solarpunk drawing. The foundation of an Earthship, for example, is built with recycled tires stacked on top of each other with dirt tightly packed into them.

This not only provides structure, but as Earthship dwellers like to say, it acts as a battery. The sheer mass of an Earthship's walls soak in the warmth of sunlight during the day, which the roof is perfectly angled to let in the right amount, [00:42:00] and then the wall slowly emits that collected heat out into the room during the cold of the night.

As a result, some Earthship owners claim to not need any external heating sources. The Earthship is built around living with, and embracing, the natural world. It does so with technologies that are tangible and readily available. It uses other people's trash, like old tires and glass bottles, and the dirt around them to build something that's appealing and comfortable. And it does this in a way that ties people to the land. 

But to live in an Earthship is not some Eden. There are drawbacks. For one, recycled tires do eventually break down, releasing toxic gases into the air. Reynolds and Earthship builders claim that plastering the walls around the tires Protects homeowners from this off gassing. But other builders claim that you would have to be constantly sealing up cracks to have peace of mind. And claims of independence from the water grid through rainwater collection [00:43:00] are dubious in desert climates like Taos. And if you're hoping to heat your house through sunlight in an Earthship in a cloudy area, think again.

While Earthships certainly aren't perfect, they offer up promising ideas of how to integrate nature into everyday living. They are a solarpunk answer to the question, How can we live comfortably with the natural world? They won't work everywhere, but individual pieces of them can be integrated into housing anywhere.

Imagine homes using passive heating and cooling systems so they don't have to run the air conditioning or heating all the time. Imagine building gardens within a house. Imagine incorporating filtered rainwater into our plumbing. And imagine building a house with as many local and recycled materials as possible.

The Earthship shows us that there are already ways to live well and lightly on the land right now. And it does so in a way that melds low tech and [00:44:00] high tech ideas into a beautiful structure. This is solarpunk, finding the appropriate technologies to build aesthetically stimulating and livable dwellings that tie us tightly with the landscape.

Along the Hudson River in New York, Sam Merritt runs a zero carbon shipping company. No, he doesn't run a fleet of electric trucks, nor does he bike. Merritt ships local goods up and down the Hudson River by sailboat. That's right, in the age of massive gas powered cargo ships making globe spanning trips, Merritt has created a fossil fuel free cargo company based on sailing, one that is at the whims of the weather and the seasons, but makes the buyer appreciate the ebbs and flows of the natural world around them. This epitomizes a solarpunk future. Solarpunk envisions a world in which the technologies we use help us to appreciate and tune into the rhythms of the planet, and sailing in the 21st century has the potential of making that [00:45:00] happen.

Merit shows us that it's already feasible to do on a small scale, and when considering that sails and ropes for ships could support a thriving hemp farming operation that sequesters thousands of tons of carbon with each crop, Sailing cargo locally is an appealing possibility, but sailing in the 21st century runs the gamut of low tech rigs like Merritt's schooner to futuristic technologies that are beginning to see their first real world tests.

Right now, engineers and cargo companies are in the midst of wrestling with the polluting reality of international cargo, and are on the hunt for high tech solutions for big shipping. While solarpunk emphasizes the local, it can still embrace global travel and transport with emerging technologies, like retrofitting cargo ships with column-like sails that reduce fuel use by possibly as much as 30%, or future-thinking cargo ships with retracting rigid sails.

A solarpunk future that involves [00:46:00] international cargo recognizes the need for these high tech sailing solutions because they are appropriate for their high seas context. But what's important is that these high tech cargo ships are not viewed as a silver bullet. In a regional or local setting, hemp sails and schooners are a much more suitable and nature reliant solution.

So while a solarpunk future might envision rigid sail cargo ships traversing the open ocean to facilitate a thriving hemp trade between continents, a smaller canvas sailboat might bring those goods the last mile to markets. But at this point, you might be thinking, wait, wouldn't sailing mean that there'll be delays? Won't everything take a long time to get to me? To that, I would say that solarpunk does not prioritize Amazon Prime-like convenience. That kind of convenience is something people in the imperial core will have to learn to do without. It comes at the cost of the planet, and the people forced to work grueling [00:47:00] conditions and hours to get that package to your front door in one day.

Solarpunk envisions a world wherein we don't have to crush people and the planet in order to find comfort in our lives. So, yes, things might be a bit slower, but I would gladly slow down my life. If it meant that my community and my surroundings thrived. 

Although Earthships and sailing cargo do exist in this world, they aren't prevalent. Looking around, I usually see the plumes of smoke rising from cargo ships, not the undulating waves of a sail, and I see concrete buildings instead of earth-packed dwellings. So, what's holding us back? There is no simple answer. There are a huge host of reasons, but when it comes to these beautiful solarpunk worlds that artists around the world have begun to render, I can't help but think about, you guessed it, capitalism.

The profit centered global economy we've built, has driven us to create [00:48:00] technologies that, for the most part, function to expand margins and make more money for the capitalist class. Ideas and inventions that can't compete in the market, regardless of whether they are zero carbon or build community health, are pushed to the margins. Merritt's sailboat cargo company is a novelty because it can't compete with the monopoly of Amazon Prime or industrial shipping companies like Maersk. 

Solarpunk dares us to dream of a world outside of capitalism because even though these technologies do exist right now under capitalism, they are not widespread or "successful". The labor required to ram hundreds of tires full of dirt for an Earthship, for example, would bleed someone's bank account dry, while the wind reliant nature of a sailboat means that it can't provide the regimented convenience of one-day shipping. 

Combining low and high tech solutions, solarpunk demands a future built not on profit, but instead on [00:49:00] community and a strong relationship with the natural world. So, instead of focusing on technologies that make the most profit, solarpunk urges us to seek out ideas and tools that deepen our interpersonal relationships, as well as our ties to the earth beneath our feet. 

The Race to Cooperation - Your Undivided Attention - Air Date 2-2-23

ASA RASKIN - HOST, YOUR UNDIVIDED ATTENTION: David, I think you have a story about chickens that might help explain this. Starting with the question, where do the noble traits come from and the conundrum that hit Darwin when he is like, "There's a thing that my theory can't explain." And that seems like a really gripping way to get people into these questions.

DAVID SLOAN WILSON : Yeah, I actually used a story in my conversation with His Holiness, the Dalai lama, which was an interesting experience and it bears directly on animal welfare. So I mean, this is a cool example with many implications, but it's also something which is important in its own right. So I mean, let's say that you're an animal breeder and you want to breed a strain of chicken that [00:50:00] lays more eggs. What do you do? So chickens have always lived in groups, nowadays, it's cages, I'm sorry to say, but you have many groups of chickens. You monitor the egg laying of each hen and then you select the most productive hen to breed the next generation of hens. So that seems to make sense except what you've actually selected is the biggest bully within each group. And after five generations, you've bred a strain of hyperaggressive hens that are literally murdering each other, plucking each other's feathers in their incessant attacks. And so, what seems to be like a benign form of competition turns out to be pathological.

So back to the drawing board. Now, let's say you monitor the productivity of whole groups and you select all the hens within the most productive groups to breed the next generation of hens. Now, you get a strain of cooperative hens that don't bully each other. 

And so, now in both cases, there's competition. [00:51:00] Competition is not a bad thing. In fact, competition is needed for change, but it's the level of competition in this case that makes all the difference. And that's what Darwin discovered way back when. And it was a gradual process for him because at first, he thought that his great theory could explain everything that had been attributed to a creator. But gradually he realized that traits that involved doing unto others was the one thing he couldn't explain. Because if natural selection is about favoring individuals that survive and reproduce better than other individuals, then it's the pro-social individual that loses that contest. But what Darwin realized was that there is the version of the second chicken experiment that even though selfishness beats altruism within groups, groups of altruists will robustly outcompete groups whose memories cannot cohere. 

And so, the second part of that statement is altruistic groups feed selfish groups, everything else is commentary. [00:52:00] And so, self-preservation is a good thing. Self-dealing is not. Helping kith and kin a good thing until it becomes nepotism and cronyism. My nation first, a good thing until it leads to international conflict. Strong growing economy is a good thing until it leads to global warming. And so, what you find is almost everything that we see is a problem, everything pathological, is actually a form of cooperation at a lower scale. And so, that is not hard to understand, but it explains so much that what we think we want actually gives us a world that we don't want. And this is why evolution doesn't make everything nice. It's what all creatures, all life forms inflict upon each other unless the levels of selection are configured the right way.

ASA RASKIN - HOST, YOUR UNDIVIDED ATTENTION: This is so profound that I think it's worth stopping and dwelling on because [00:53:00] it is a root diagnosis for climate change, for inequality. Every time that what's good for me is bad for a group above me or our nation, or what's good for our nation is bad for everyone, that can be explained by seeing the world through this competitive landscape and then asking, "At what level are we optimizing for?" and when we look then through the lens of tech, we are almost always optimizing for individuals, individual usage, individual engagement. So would it be surprising at all that it would cause the thing above it, like groups, coherence, governance to start breaking?

TRISTAN HARRIS - HOST, YOUR UNDIVIDED ATTENTION: Yeah, your point about the chickens, I think, it's really worth pausing for people. So if I'm optimizing for what's the most producing chicken, if I just make a transplant of that metaphor to [00:54:00] Twitter, what's the most producing attention user on Twitter? Well, it's going to be the out grouping, aggressive, loud mouth, cynical, commenting on everything as loudly as possible because that's what's going to get me the most attention. And so, how do we create these cooperative mechanics is what the core of your whole work is. And I would like for you to respond to the idea that cooperation is for patsies, the peaceful tribes get killed by the warlike tribes, Daniel Schmachtenberger talks about that. The extractive energy economies win over the sustainable energy economies because they just get more resources and then kill the other guy and take their stuff. What you're talking about is a flip to the logic. How do we switch from this kind of ruthless Hobbesian war of all against all individual selection into this group selection?

DAVID SLOAN WILSON : It's here that we could begin to outline an optimistic picture about how the end of the day we really have a blueprint, you might say, an optimistic blueprint for how to make things better at all scales, all contexts, [00:55:00] including the global scale. But it begins with, I need to add a new concept which is the concept of major evolutionary transitions. And so, in nature, I mean, so often, we think that nature left to itself strikes some kind of harmonious balance. We could look at ecosystems or something and there's wisdom for us to learn and so on. But certainly most primate societies, including chimp societies, one of our closest ancestors, you would not want to live in those societies. Those societies would be despotic in human terms, naked aggression is over a 100 times more frequent in a chimp community than in a small scale human community.

And so, in most species and ecosystems, you see some cooperation, but you also see a lot of disruptive self-serving behaviors. But sometimes what happens is you get a shift in the balance. So that basically [00:56:00] altruistic groups beating selfish groups is what prevails. And when this happens, the higher level unit, the group actually becomes the new organism. And that explains what makes our species so special. Unlike so many animal societies where there's a little cooperation and a lot of competition, our ancestors evolved mechanisms to suppress bullying behaviors. So that between group selection became the predominant evolutionary force. And so, that's a major evolutionary transition. We're selected to cooperate originally in small groups, of course, just very small groups. But nevertheless, that cooperation caused the group to be the organism to a large extent.

And so, cooperation is required to explain our nature as a species. And I think it's become clear, it's a guarded form of cooperation. It's not just that we evolved to be nice, it's that we evolved to be vigilant [00:57:00] and capable of defending ourselves against within group disruption. And so, if human history is a process of cultural evolution leading to ever larger scales of cooperation. So you can't just say the cooperation often loses, absolutely not. Cooperation wins much of the time and we need to cause it to win more so in a larger scale.

Summary 12-5-23

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: We've just heard clips today, starting with Andrewism, looking at why our general conception of human nature is wrong. Against the Grain explored the theme of human nature even further. The Human Restoration Project looked at the relationship between our education system and nihilism in the youth. The New Humanitarian looked at the benefits of Si-Fi with a positive vision for the future. The New Abnormal looked at Si-Fi that incorporates traditional knowledge into the future. And Our Changing Climate looked at architectural design techniques that can be an inspiration for building in a way that [00:58:00] works with nature rather than against it. 

That's what everybody heard. But numbers also heard a bonus clip from Your Undivided Attention, looking at the relationship between culture and evolution, and the benefits of working cooperatively and not always in competition with one another. 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. 

And now we'll hear from you.

Geoengineering concerns - Bud from Idaho

 

VOICEMAILER BUD FROM IDAHO: Hi, Jay. This is Bud from Idaho. I was just listening to your climate change episode, #1594, and I'm very interested in some of the geothermal options. I especially was impressed with the idea of using existing oil drilling resources, I [00:59:00] guess you would say. But the scariest part of it was the idea of geoengineering. There's two main things that I'm concerned about. One was that what you concentrated mostly on was reflecting solar away. And my fear there is probably two or three fold. One is that my freshly installed solar array might not work as well, and I may have to expand that. I would imagine that they would take that into consideration and that would be one of the first. The other two things that concern me about that are how long would it last, or would it be reversible? And then the other is, it sounds like, if I'm understanding what he said, this would cause more acidification of the oceans and more acid rain. So, I suppose it's all on a spectrum. If the water's cooler, maybe it won't be quite as acid? I don't know. [01:00:00] And then, finally, the last thing that concerns me about solar reflection, I guess, is that the - I'm assuming this, I don't have any actual - but, really anything to do with geoengineering would have to be done on such a scale that any unforeseen results, any unforeseen consequences, would also be on a global scale, which is very frightening. But, it was still a very informative episode. Keep up the good work. I'll talk to you next time.

Final comments clarifying some details about using Solar Radiation Management as a geoengineering strategy

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: Thanks to those who call into the voicemail line or write in their messages to be played as voicemails. If you'd like to leave a comment or question of your own to be played on the show, you can record or text us a message at 202-999-3991, or send an email to [email protected]. 

Thanks to Bud for calling in with his concerns. I will do my best to address them all, I think. Not that I can explain them away,[01:01:00] because there are some real concerns here, but I can at least add some clarification. So, the first was reducing the solar energy efficiency, like on Bud's personal personal solar array. I can't speak to this one directly, but I believe we are talking in terms of reducing the percentage of solar radiation in the very low single digits. Of course, all of this is subject to change and needs more research, et cetera. But I believe that they're looking at only reflecting in the range of 1 to 2% of the sun's radiation hitting the earth away. So yes, that could impact solar energy generation. But not hugely. 

Then there was a question, how long would it last and is it reversible? And we are certainly getting into the crux of the matter here. In terms of it being reversible that's like a "yes", with a giant asterisk. So, the sulfur dioxide that would be [01:02:00] injected into the stratosphere naturally dissipates in only a few years. So if we tried to do this for like a year and we didn't like the result, then yes, it is reversible in a fairly short amount of time. But the question of how long we would choose to make it last is a stickier problem. In theory, we should only need it for as long as it takes us to decarbonize our society. But, even if we do it really well, that's going to be probably a decades long process. Right? And because the capacity of the atmosphere to trap heat is continuing to go up, if we were to start solar radiation management, we really wouldn't want to stop it once we'd been implementing it for more than just a few years. Because if we were to stop, there would be a shock to the system. As the shading effect wore off in a short amount of time and the [01:03:00] full impact of the warming would be felt, it would be sort of sudden and could be dangerous. So, if we do go down the path for more than a few years, we'd really want to be totally committed to the project and avoid going off of it to avoid the shock effect that could be dangerous. 

But now for some good news. Solar radiation management does not make ocean acidification worse. So, I think there was a bit of misinterpretation there. Ocean acidification is caused by an over abundance of carbon in the atmosphere. So, we're already causing that problem. Solar radiation management prevents as much heat from entering the system from the sun. But it doesn't increase nor decrease the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere or how much of it gets absorbed by the oceans. So the point that Mike was making is that solar radiation management isn't a cure-all[01:04:00] and gave ocean acidification as an example of, like, See? This isn't going to be fixed by it. And so we should all understand that using solar, radiation management, is not an excuse to continue to do anything other than decarbonize the economy as quickly as possible. I think there was a double negative in there. No one should say, Okay, now we don't have to decarbonize as much because, you know, we're shading the sun, so it's okay. We don't have to worry. No, no, no, no. Because ocean acidification is still a major problem, we need to deal with it regardless. 

Now as for acid rain, that's a problem when sulfur dioxide is in the lower atmosphere, like we get from dirty cargo ship fuel emissions. The idea for the intentional geoengineering using the same chemical is that it would be put into the stratosphere. So, you get the same shading effect without the direct air pollution that impacts people. At least that's the [01:05:00] idea; as always, more research needed. 

And finally, concerning the unintended consequences that would be felt globally, that's definitely what further research would attempt to work out. And yes, some of it would be unavoidable and negative. But that's why we need enough information to be able to make a comparison between bad options. We already know that the status quo is a really bad option. So, what kind of problems are we going to create with this other idea and how do they compare with the terribleness of the status quo? 

But on that note, I did hear one pretty good idea that addresses multiples of these concerns. It was suggested that the solar radiation management program should only aim to reduce the warming of the planet by half of our actual goal. So say we're headed for a two degree increase over comfortable temperatures. We shouldn't reflect enough sunlight to reduce the warming [01:06:00] by two degrees, but by only one degree, and here are the benefits. One, it doesn't stop anyone's motivation to decarbonize because temperatures are still rising, just slower to give us more time to react. But still, we need to react. And two, if we aim to reduce the warming by only half, then hopefully the unintended negative consequences would also only be half as intense. And therefore more manageable. Which really brings us back to the need for international cooperation and agreement on a path forward. And that can only come with more research and information to make informed decisions. And of course the best case scenario is that we do the research and then we ended up not needing to use it after all because of a combination of other factors like new high-tech geothermal power that no one predicted until recently. Fingers crossed. 

That is going to be it for today. If you have any more thoughts or questions to add, please send them my way. Thanks [01:07:00] 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 LaWendy 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 at bestoftheleft.com/support. You can join them by signing up today and it would be greatly appreciated. You'll find that link in the show notes, right 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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#1595 Pushing for Medicare For All in the Laboratories of Democracy (Transcript)

Air Date 11/29/2023

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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 are honoring the death of Medicare For All activist Ady Barkan, who passed away this month, by looking at the progress of the movement for universal health care, as well as the efforts to reign in the power of Big Pharma that's used to gouge the American people with exorbitant prices for life-saving prescription drugs. 

Sources today include Democracy Now!, The Weeds, Code WACK!, the Thom Hartmann Program, Economic Update with Richard Wolff, and The Laura Flanders Show, with an additional members-only clip from The Brian Lehrer Show.

Healthcare Activist Ady Barkan Dies of ALS; Watch His 2021 Interview on Demanding Medicare for All - Democracy Now! - Air Date 11-27-23

AMY GOODMAN: Healthcare activist Ady Barkan has died at the age of 39 of the neurodegenerative disease ALS. After his diagnosis in 2016, Ady Barkan dedicated his life to the fight for single-payer healthcare. He continued to speak out even after ALS left him physically unable to talk, communicating with a computerized system that [00:01:00] translated his eye movements into spoken words. In 2019, Ady used the device to deliver powerful opening remarks at the first-ever congressional hearing on Medicare for All. His story is told in the documentary, Not Going Quietly. In 2021, I spoke with Ady Barkan just ahead of the film’s premiere.

 We end today’s show with one of the most remarkable healthcare activists in the country. His name is Ady Barkan. He’s a 37-year-old lawyer and father who’s dying of terminal ALS. Since his diagnosis in 2016, Ady has dedicated his life to pushing for Medicare for All. He’s continued to speak out even after losing his voice. He now uses a computerized system that tracks his eye movements and turns them into spoken words. Ady’s story is told in the new documentary, Not Going Quietly. This is the trailer.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN: Now, I want to have a chance to tell the story about my friend Ady Barkan.

JON FAVREAU: He’s been an [00:02:00] activist and an organizer all of his life.

REP. JIM McGOVERN: With us today is Ady Barkan. I can’t do Ady’s story justice. I will let him tell it.

ADY BARKAN: After Carl was born, we felt like we had reached the mountaintop.

Say hi.

And then, out of the clear blue sky, we were struck by lightning.

I was diagnosed with ALS today.

The knowledge that I was dying was terrible, but dealing with my insurance company was even worse. I wanted to spend every moment I had left with Rachael and Carl, but then Congress came after our healthcare. I couldn’t stay quiet any longer.

BROOKE BALDWIN: My next guest made headlines when he confronted a Republican senator on an airplane.

ADY BARKAN: This is your moment to be an American hero.

All right, ready to rumble.

We decided to start a movement.

To urge [00:03:00] people to stand up, confront the elected officials.

Paul Ryan, I’m going to knock on your door!

REPORTER: Did you just get out of jail? Are you going to keep protesting on Monday?

ADY BARKAN: [bleep] yeah!

PROTESTERS: What do we want? Healthcare!

ADY BARKAN: I am willing to give my last breath to save our democracy. What are you willing to give?

Liz, I’m having trouble breathing.

LIZ JAFF: I think we have to stop.

ADY BARKAN: Our time on this Earth is the most precious resource we have.

Carl, I love you so much.

Movement building allows me to transcend my body. And that’s the beauty of democracy, that together we can be more than our individual selves.

AUDIENCE: Ady! Ady! Ady!

ADY BARKAN: [00:04:00] The paradox of my situation is, the weaker I get, the louder I become.

RACHAEL SCARBOROUGH KING: Who’s that?

CARL BARKAN: Abba!

AMY GOODMAN: The trailer to the new documentary Not Going Quietly. It premiered last night in Los Angeles and tonight at the Angelika theater here in New York. On Thursday, just before the L.A. premiere, I had a chance to speak over Zoom with Ady Barkan, who was at his home in Santa Barbara, California.

 Ady, I wanted to start off by saying this is one of the great honors of my life to be talking to you. So, thank you so much for making this time, right before the documentary is airing about your life.

Let me start off by asking you about the enormous emphasis on healthcare in this country right now, even in the corporate media, because of the pandemic. Yet [00:05:00] there is very little talk about Medicare for All, an issue you have dedicated your life to. Can you talk about why you have dedicated yourself to this issue?

ADY BARKAN: That is so generous, Amy. Thank you for your career of leadership.

Only a truly radical departure from our exploitative, for-profit model to one that guarantees healthcare as a right for all will ensure that we no longer live in a nation where people go bankrupt on account of their medical bills. Take this last year as a prime example of the breadth of cruelty possible in our for-profit healthcare system. COVID disproportionately devastated poor communities and communities of color. Death rates in Black, Indigenous and Latinx communities were over twice that of their White counterparts. Millions lost their jobs and, as a result, their health insurance. Hospitals that [00:06:00] primarily serve Medicaid patients shut down, prioritizing profits over people. Meanwhile, private insurers saw their profits double, because Americans delayed much-needed care. A system that profits off of death and people forgoing medical care is a system that is beyond repair. We need Medicare for All now.

AMY GOODMAN: What gives you the strength, Ady, to be the relentless activist that you are?

ADY BARKAN: You know, building a progressive movement means having your heart broken all the time. This comes with the territory. We organize for a better world, not in spite of our own pain, but because of it. We push forward because we are faced with no other option but to struggle for our freedom.

These last five years have been really tough, both personally and also collectively as a society. But take a breath and look around. You will find evidence of the profound beauty that our society has forged from the depths of pain, [00:07:00] especially this past year. Of course, there is a lot of work to be done. But placed in this context, it means there is also more community, more creation and more healing that is bound to emerge from our labor.

Why your health insurance is tied to work - The Weeds - Air Date 10-18-23

DYLAN SCOTT: The whole idea of a medical profession was pretty new. Like, up to that point, you know, there'd been, people might have gotten care at home, maybe there was somebody in your community who served as more of like an informal healer kind of person, but, like, medical science was in its very rudimentary forms. 

You know, it was around that time, the turn of the century, when medical did start to become more professionalized. You saw the creation of, you know, formal medical schools, different kinds of credentialing and accreditation, and hospitals. More hospitals started to be constructed and started to become a center where people might receive critical kinds of healthcare if they were really sick or got injured or something like that.

So, around that time people were sort of, like, Alright, maybe, you know, having to pay just [00:08:00] full freight every time I show up at the doctor or go to the hospital isn't the best way to do this. So, you started to see some early experimentation with different kinds of health insurance. One famous example, back in the Dallas area in the 1920s, there was this group of teachers who came to an agreement with Baylor University Hospital that, like, they could go to the hospital for so many days per year if they, you know, were paying this monthly payment, an early version of a premium, in order to be guaranteed that kind of access. What emerged over time was the Blue Cross, a form of hospital-based insurance, like coverage specifically for hospital services. And in parallel, you know, the physicians, doctors out in the community, family doctors who didn't see people in the hospital, they saw that model emerge and they were like, Hey, we, like, want to get in on the same idea. And so the Blue Shield version of plans emerged in the 1920s and 1930s. 

So, this was a pretty, you know, informal, totally, you know, locally driven kind of organic [00:09:00] system for providing an early version of health insurance for people, you know. It wasn't necessarily comprehensive, but the insurance scheme that would emerge in the United States was starting to take shape.

JONQUILYN HILL - HOST, THE WEEDS: So, the function of hospitals and doctors changed and, in turn, so did how we paid for them. And then another major change came. This one was largely shaped by the great depression and FDR's New Deal. 

DYLAN SCOTT: In 1932, as dole queues lengthened across America, 13 million were out of work. Nearly a third of the people relied on handouts from private charities. There was no welfare state to help them. His allies in Congress, you know, they wanted the retirement program that would become social security, they wanted other forms of employment support, stuff like that. They were reluctant to include health insurance as part of the New Deal, even though it might have seemed like a natural fit.

Nowadays, people think of social insurance as including health insurance, but in those days it was a much less set [00:10:00] idea, and they were trying to decide what to prioritize, what wasn't worth the risk, and while his advisors cited medical coverage as one possible area for legislative action, as part of the Social Security Act.

Over time, its importance was de-emphasized. You know, they were facing already in those days backlash from doctors, from hospitals, who had partly encouraged these voluntary private insurance schemes in order to kind of stave off a more comprehensive government control of healthcare. And FDR just basically made the calculation that it wasn't worth fighting with the hospitals and the doctors over national health insurance when he had all these other things he wanted to do as part of the Social Security Act and all the other related New Deal provisions.

JONQUILYN HILL - HOST, THE WEEDS: I would love to dig into something that shaped the way American health care functions in the middle of the century, and that's the U.S. [00:11:00] entering World War II. 

ARCHIVAL NEWS CLIP: We interrupt this program to bring you a special news bulletin. The Japanese have attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, by air, President Roosevelt has just announced.

DYLAN SCOTT: A couple of important things happened. For one, obviously, like, a lot of men of working age who were the bulk of the labor force at that time were instead being deployed overseas to fight the war. And so a lot of women were entering the workforce at that time. Like, there was a real shakeup of the labor force and all of the labor dynamics. 

ARCHIVAL NEWS CLIP: Tens of thousands of women are already at work in aircraft. More are being added as fast as they apply. 

DYLAN SCOTT: Because we had, like, seven million working age men fighting a war instead of working in factories or other jobs, there was a huge labor shortage. Businesses were desperate to find workers and were willing to do a lot and offer all kinds of enticements to try to get people to work in their jobs instead of any of the other many available jobs that were open to them at the time. 

That obviously creates a [00:12:00] concern about inflation, which would obviously be a serious challenge to the economy when it's already on this war footing. So, FDR in what turned out to be a very consequential executive order, issued a directive that wages would have to be frozen. Employers started to work around those new restrictions and they were offering employees other benefits other than just higher wages. And those included the offer of health insurance benefits. 

That kind of starts to become the norm. Employers see this as an attractive opportunity to attract a workforce. And so the Internal Revenue Service decides to lend them an additional hand. In a 1943 decision, the IRS said that health insurance benefits... Being offered by employers to their employees should be exempt for taxation. Now, suddenly, like not only can you offer these additional benefits above people's wages to try to entice them, but then you can deduct the cost of those health insurance benefits from your taxable income. And so very quickly over the course of the 1940s, [00:13:00] there were about 20 million Americans who had some kind of health insurance, and I think we should be clear that, like, this could have been pretty bare bones, but nevertheless, like, they had some kind of health insurance in 1940, just 20 million people. By 1950, 140 million people had some kind of health insurance. 

Rethinking the path to winning single payer - Code WACK! - Air Date 4-10-23

BRENDA GAZZAR - HOST, CODE WACK!: The movement to win Medicare for All may be slowed at the federal level, but it's a different story in the states. In 2021 alone, 18 single payer bills were introduced in states including Massachusetts, New York, Colorado, and Oregon. Yet, as the most populous state in the nation, winning in California could be a game changer.

What's the latest single payer bill introduced in California, and how is it different from previous bills? To find out, we spoke to Michael Lighty, president of the Healthy California Now Coalition and former constituency director for Bernie 2020. Hi, Michael, welcome back! It's been such a long time since we've had you on and you've been busy. Tell us what you've been up to. 

MICHAEL LIGHTY: Well, thanks, Brenda. It's great to be here again.

Well, [00:14:00] at Healthy California Now, we've been developing a campaign, ironically enough, called Healthy California Now campaign. And the idea is to create a viable path towards single payer in California, so that we can guarantee health care for all residents of the state that is better, better care and lower cost. The idea is that if we take a set of steps to engage stakeholders, that is people with a real stake in the system, and bring them together to collaborate, at the same time we would talk to the federal government about the kind of approvals that they will do, which are necessary to establish a guaranteed healthcare program in California, that those two tracks can come together and we can create recommendations to the legislature to then ultimately pass a full-scale single payer bill.

This process is embodied in Senate Bill 770, introduced by State Senator Scott Wiener from San Francisco. And the idea of the bill is [00:15:00] essentially that let's set up a process, support discussions with the Biden administration to get an understanding of what they would approve once California formally applies for that approval, and to also bring in folks with a real stake in the system to collaborate and engage with each other to formulate support for those discussions and ultimately recommendations to the legislature on a full-scale program. 

BRENDA GAZZAR - HOST, CODE WACK!: Thank you. As you mentioned, you're working with Senator Scott Wiener on this single payer bill. What's behind the choice to work with him? Does he have a special interest in this issue, or is it mainly because he's on the Senate Health Committee?

MICHAEL LIGHTY: Well, it is because he's on the Senate Health Committee. It's also true that he has a special interest in this issue. As you may know, San Francisco is certainly a place where, I don't know, 80 percent of the people in the city support Medicare For All-style reform, and he, of course, was a co-author of Assembly Bill 1400 last session in the legislature.

BRENDA GAZZAR - HOST, CODE WACK!: [00:16:00] Right. The CalCare bill would guarantee comprehensive, high quality health care to all California residents. 

MICHAEL LIGHTY: So, he's a long-time supporter of single payer, he is on the Health Committee, and he has a reputation for getting legislation done. 

BRENDA GAZZAR - HOST, CODE WACK!: Wonderful. Senate Bill 770 seems to build on the Healthy California for All commission report. Even the campaign is named Healthy California for All now. Can you give us a brief refresher about the commission and its conclusions? 

MICHAEL LIGHTY: Well, it's not a coincidence that these have similar names, because the Healthy California for All Commission came out of work that the Healthy California Coalition had done back in 2018, 2019.

And so, the Healthy California for All Now campaign essentially builds upon the recommendations of the Commission. Because you hear in the media, oh, advocates say it's going to save money to do single payer. Well, in fact, it's the Commission that says we're going to [00:17:00] save money. And we can save money through single payer at huge levels. In fact, the comparison between a single payer approach and doing nothing is $500 billion over 10 years. A half a trillion dollars over 10 years is the difference between doing nothing and adopting single payer. That's a huge amount of savings.

But that's really secondary to the lives saved, 4,000 lives saved, the ending of medical bankruptcy, the ending of medical debt, the ending of out-of-pocket copayments, premiums, deductibles -- gone. And the peace of mind that comes from that and the equity that comes from that -- all of those things were part of the Healthy California for All Commission official report. So if you've got an official report of a pretty diverse group of folks saying, "Hey, this is a better system. We can save lives. We can save money," then of course we want to build on that momentum. And so Senate Bill 770 says, yeah, [00:18:00] legislature, adopt the findings from the Commission, build on those recommendations, and resolve those policy issues that remain from the Commission's work and formulate a program that the legislature can act on.

And that's why we have set up this process. We can't really do it in one fell swoop, but we can do it in sequential steps, building on the commission's report. 

BRENDA GAZZAR - HOST, CODE WACK!: So why can't we do it in one fell swoop? 

MICHAEL LIGHTY: It hasn't worked. We've been trying it since the nineties. And so it's not really like we couldn't do it, it's just that evidence and experience shows we haven't been able to do it that way. And so we need a different approach. And if we can understand what the federal government's likely to approve, use that to inform the legislature. If we can actually get supporters of single payer to collaborate on what policy recommendations they'll make to the legislature, and how we can [00:19:00] finance it, then the legislature is actually in a position to approve it, much more likely than just presenting them with a "take it or leave it" approach. We've got to engage in a process first with the federal government and also among ourselves to collaborate. And that produces a result that we think will be much more likely to succeed. 

BRENDA GAZZAR - HOST, CODE WACK!: Got it. So you mentioned California would have to get federal approval for single payer to move forward. Can you tell us more about the federal waiver process? 

MICHAEL LIGHTY: Well, the official process under the Affordable Care Act requires that the state legislature pass a bill that then is submitted to Federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, called CMS, and they decide on whether to approve that application for a waiver of certain provisions that exist in federal law and, as a part of that process [00:20:00] then, the monies that say have been allocated from the federal government to California through the Affordable Care Act, through Medicaid, through other federal programs can be pooled into a single source as the commission anticipated and as, of course, single payer supporters understand.

So the idea then is, in our process, let's get an informal discussion going with the federal government, as the Newsom administration has done, and let's support that, and let's provide assistance to that, and set deadlines so that there's a concrete timeline for getting those informal discussions done, getting a recommendation to the legislature, and then getting the legislature to act while we're certain that the Biden administration is still in position to approve it. So that's the other piece of this: getting the legislature the information it needs to make a timely decision to create that guaranteed healthcare system and to actually [00:21:00] set forward a process to move the Newsom administration and the legislature to a decision.

And that's what we haven't had before either. 

How Can This Predatory Exploitation Be Considered Health Care - Thom Hartmann Program - Air Date 11-15-23

THOM HARTMANN - HOST, THOM HARTMANN PROGRAM: This is also the big thing that Republicans are using to beat up President Biden. And again, the big companies are all in on this. Gas companies jacking up prices. Why? Because they can. Big retail stores jacking up price. Why? Because they can. Amazon did this test -- it had a code name even, where they just randomly jack -- or not randomly, they're very carefully organized -- jacked up prices on things to see what would happen. They made an extra billion dollars in profit, because they have basically monopoly control of the online marketplace. We've got five big insurance companies, too. And we've got five big hospital chains, maybe six or seven now across the United States, but basically we've seen consolidation in those areas as well.

To that, Congressman Ro Khanna, who's a regular on this program -- I'm assuming he'll be back with us on Friday this week most likely, Lord willing and the crick don't rise, and Mike Johnson doesn't do something insane -- but[00:22:00] Congressman Khanna just introduced a state based, it's called the State Based Universal Health Care Act.

See, here's the problem: Vermont and California have both tried to do single payer health care. And in both cases, what stopped them was that Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, in order to prevent fraud, because these are federal programs, track the dollars as they go to the states, to make sure that those dollars are ending up paying for actual health care services for the individual citizens of those states.

If you're Vermont, for example, with 600,000 citizens, and you've got 70,000 people on Medicare, retired people on Medicare, if you go to a universal healthcare system in Vermont that is entirely paid for by the state, there is no provision for those 70,000 people on Medicare to have that state insurance.

Or, more importantly, Vermont probably has about 100,000 low income people on Medicaid. There's no provision [00:23:00] for Medicaid for that money to continue to come into the state. If you say, we're going to do it ourselves, suddenly the Medicaid money vanishes, the Medicare money vanishes. And the state can't afford to do it any longer.

So this waiver would be a waiver to those laws around Medicare, Medicaid and other health programs, WIC and all these other programs, that would say these programs can, instead of directing their money to the individuals in the states, they can direct it to the state itself, and the state can roll that into the money that they are using to pay for the healthcare for those individuals.

We need this. So now might be a good time, if you're keeping a list, to call your representatives, this is in the House of Representatives right now. Obviously it's not going to pass with Republicans controlling the House, but still, we need to start building the pressure. Typically it takes a year, two years, three years, sometimes four or five years before a piece of legislation is ripe, before it's got enough support, before it's well known enough that it has enough support that politicians actually take it seriously. 

So the phone [00:24:00] number is 202-224-3121, 202-224-3121. And that gets you to the switchboard in Washington, DC. And just say, Congressman Khanna has introduced the State Based Universal Health Care Act that provides waivers for states that want to go single payer. Please support it. It's that simple. He said, "Our failing healthcare system, where millions are burdened by debt and nearly half of all Americans report struggling to afford the care they need, has increased the demand for state and federal action. We must empower states, including those such as California and New York that are working to create state based, single payer healthcare systems to guarantee that their residents can get the care they need when they need it." Great stuff. Important stuff. This is what we need to be doing. 

And, this is how Canada got single payer healthcare all across the nation. The province of Saskatchewan, their equivalent of a state, Saskatchewan did it first, Tommy Douglas was the governor, the premier, and he put into place single payer healthcare system in [00:25:00] Saskatchewan back in the 1960s, and pretty soon, next door, Alberta said, hey, that's kinda cool, we want that, and then Ottawa said, hey, we want that, and then British Columbia, oh no, we want that, and then, Ontario said, we want that, and pretty soon the whole country had it.

This is how you do it.

Biden vs. Big Pharma Medicare to Begin Negotiations to Lower Price of 10 Costly Drugs & Insulin - Democracy Now! - Air Date 8-30-23

AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: The Biden administration has taken a step to rein in the soaring costs of prescription drugs in the United States. On Tuesday, the White House released a list of the first 10 prescription drugs Medicare can negotiate lower prices for. The list includes medication used to treat diabetes, cancer and heart disease. The Biden administration also added some insulin products, which surprised many. The White House says the price negotiations could lead to a savings of some $100 billion over the next decade. The move is seen as a major blow to Big Pharma, which has been fighting the plan in courts, filing at least eight lawsuit [00:26:00] since the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act last year, which gave Medicare the authority to negotiate drug prices. President Biden spoke Tuesday.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Big Pharma is charging Americans more than three times what they charge other countries, simply because they could. I think it’s outrageous. That’s why these negotiations matter. Reducing the cost of these 10 additional drugs alone will help more than 9 million Americans. And by September 2024, HHS, Health and Human Services, is going to publish the prices it negotiated. In January of 2026, the new prices will go into effect.

AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: Independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont responded to the news by saying much more needs to be done to stop Big Pharma from charging higher prices in the United States. Senator Sanders pointed out one diabetes drug made by Merck costs $547 [00:27:00] a month in the U.S. but just $16 in France.

Joining us now is Peter Maybarduk. He’s director of Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines Program.

Welcome to Democracy Now! So, talk about why this has taken so long, but also why this is such a landmark announcement from President Biden and Vice President Harris.

PETER MAYBARDUK: Well, it’s obviously terrible that Medicare hasn’t had the ability to negotiate prices until this point. It was a corrupt deal when the Medicare prescription drug benefit was created nearly 20 years ago. And Pharma was against the reform, until it was for it, because it was able to ride out the possibility of negotiation. And so, since that time, a generation of health advocates have been working to give the government the basic right to negotiate drug prices with the monopolists [00:28:00] that our laws create and support. Countries around the world have that right. And not negotiating makes, obviously, our drug prices high and our tax dollars not go as far.

So, this list, long-expected announcement coming shortly after the one-year anniversary of the Inflation Reduction Act, shows us where our government will begin negotiations, based on some of the most — the drugs that are most expensive to Medicare. And we expect the savings to be quite substantial. It includes six very commonly used medications to support heart health and fight diabetes. My father-in-law takes four of these drugs. They’re very important to seniors. It also includes three very expensive rare disease drugs, or drugs against arthritis and a blood cancer. But, as you mentioned, the inclusion of insulin is a welcome surprise — well, not just insulin, but six insulin products sold by Novo Nordisk, something that Insulin [00:29:00] for All activists have been fighting for for quite some time. One-point-three million Americans ration insulin. And this is another step toward breaking the back of the insulin cartel, that we’re very glad to see.

JUAN GONZALEZ: But, Peter, why so few drugs in the first batch that are going to be negotiated, compared to the thousands of drugs that are out there? And also, doesn’t this take effect, people will only feel the impact, in 2028? Why so long a period of time?

PETER MAYBARDUK: So, there’s a statutory mandate. They have to begin with 10 drugs, but they will add 15 drugs in the following year and another 15 drugs in the year after that. So the impact is going to grow substantially over a period of time. We, of course, would have liked to see the initial legislation be more aggressive and bring more drugs immediately into the negotiation portfolio. The VA negotiates on behalf of veterans already. They handle it with a large number of drugs. But this is the deal that was cut. But that [00:30:00] impact is going to grow.

The prices will take effect on January 1st of 2026, and it does take some time. There will be a negotiation. There will be an exchange of information this fall with the companies. CMS, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, will sit down with patient groups and hear their perspective. And then there will be an initial price offer from the government in February and negotiations next summer.

But the Inflation Reduction Act, more broadly, already is having positive impacts on drug prices. Beyond the negotiation provisions, there are measures to curb price spikes — the “Pharma Bro” Martin Shkreli problem — that also is a standard industry practice, to increase the prices of their drugs that are already on the market year by year. In fact, AARP found that for the top 25 Medicare drugs, Pharma has tripled the price of those drugs since they came on market. Prices are going up, not down, after they put a drug on market. Anyhow, the Inflation Reduction Act also [00:31:00] includes, and has penalized so far — CMS, I believe, has penalized about 40 companies for taking price spikes, and ensuring that that practice stops. So, IRA is already holding prices in place for some drugs, and over time we will see price reductions through the negotiation. But, as Senator Sanders mentioned, there is quite a bit left to do and more that needs to be done outside of IRA

Inequality Undermines Health & Healthcare in the U.S. - Economic Update with Richard D. Wolff - Air Date 11-14-23

RICHARD D WOLFF - HOST, ECONOMIC UPDATE: Here's a question that has come at us, I don't know, for the last two to three years, at least once every other week. And it goes something like this. The United States health system, being the health system of one of the richest countries on the planet, seems to have done really poorly in dealing with COVID, and everybody wants to know why, given the number of people who died, the number of people who got ill, the number of people suffering long COVID, and all of that. Was it the president, Mr. [00:32:00] Trump, at the time? Was it the government that had the bad, wrong policy? Or was it part of an older and larger problem of poor health in the United States? What does your research suggest is the explanation for the poor performance of the United States?

STEPHEN BEZRUCHKA: Let's begin by looking at the term you used, "U.S. health system". That implies that there's some structure in the country designed to produce health. Now, health is different than healthcare. So, I tell my students every time, when you use the word health, do you really mean healthcare? So we should be speaking about the U.S. healthcare system, and was it responsible for our shameful COVID outcomes? And that word change makes you realize we conflate the terms health and healthcare in this country all the [00:33:00] time. Just think, we pay for health, access health, get health, insure health. We do nothing of the kind. We pay for healthcare, insure healthcare, get healthcare. So, I always ask the question, do you want health or healthcare? Because most people can't distinguish the two. 

So, then we have to ask, how much does healthcare do for improving health? What is the evidence there? And the evidence is very strong that at best, in terms of averting death, healthcare accounts for at most 10 percent of the ability to avert death. And, uh, you know, since we spend, well, in 2021, 4.2 trillion on healthcare, a sixth of our total economy, and which ends up being about [00:34:00] half of the world's healthcare bill, we're consuming healthcare, and there's no reason that should provide health, 10 percent at best. 

So, what about the COVID outcomes? Well, there are many studies linking COVID outcomes to economic inequality. Among the U.S. States, in a study in 2020, death rates were higher in the states that had higher income inequality. Among 84 countries, the same relationship was seen. There's something about inequality that produces conditions that lead to worse health. And that's, uh, you know, the reason for the title of my book, Inequality Kills Us All. The "kills us all" implies there's none of us that can escape the toxic effects of inequality. 

RICHARD D WOLFF - HOST, ECONOMIC UPDATE: Yeah, it sort of, it reminds me, because historically there's a mountain of [00:35:00] evidence of that. That's why we know about, you know, great plagues and great other moments of collapsed health in the world, because it affected everybody. If you let the poorer part of your people be sick, have bad health, you can't prevent the spread of that, there is no effective way really to do that, so it becomes self destructive even for the rich to allow poverty because it will come back to bite them in the proverbial rear end. 

Big Pharma Explained Why Are Meds So Expensive [& The Solution] - The Laura Flanders Show - Air Date 6-12-23

LAUREN FLANDERS - HOST, THE LAURA FLANDERS SHOW: Dana, to you. Can you just underscore for people here who perhaps are unfamiliar or less familiar than they should be with the whole concept of public ownership, what makes that structure different? 

DANA BROWN: So what's happening in California is categorically different, because there's no profit motive here, there aren't shareholders, there's not a CEO in some other country who's making a lot of money for this. The public sector is going to be producing or entering into contracts to produce insulin [00:36:00] at cost or at a little bit more than cost to begin with. So no one's paying this extra amount of money to satisfy Eli Lilly or Sanofi or another corporation, and we as a society benefit. 

I'd also just like to underline that there are huge benefits for everyone. It's not only important to me as an American that Kevin, because he's a great person, gets his insulin, but it's actually important as a taxpayer and a human that millions of people get to participate in the workforce.

And that's also helpful. They pay taxes, right? People get to go to school and participate in their communities. This has economic and social benefits for all of us. 

And last thing, having the public sector take a bigger role in the production and distribution of medicine categorically starts to shift the balance of power.

With some of the examples that Luis brought up earlier, governments are often reluctant to take any action to regulate Big Pharma, for fear that they're [00:37:00] just not going to bring new drugs to market, or they're not going to cooperate with us. And the only reason that works is because they're the only game in town. If Big Pharma are the only folks making drugs, then they have all the leverage. Once the public sector is also making drugs, it starts to rebalance things and erode some of the regulatory capture and open up policy space for other reforms like price transparency and negotiating prices and all of those things.

LAUREN FLANDERS - HOST, THE LAURA FLANDERS SHOW: How common is this outside of the United States, Luis? 

LUIS GIL ABINADER: We have seen a number of different public pharma initiatives in countries like Brazil, Sweden, Cuba, and several others. In Cuba, they have the ability not just to manufacture things like vaccines, but also to do the research and the development. And we saw that during the COVID-19 pandemic, where the Finlay Institute and the Center For Engineering and Biotechnology in Cuba, both of them, each of them [00:38:00] launched their own COVID-19 vaccines. 

And so because of what we saw during the COVID-19 pandemic with vaccine inequity, what we're seeing is an increase in this type of initiatives where governments say we're not going to just rely on Big Pharma to get our vaccines and treatment. We're going to produce it ourselves with public funding and with sovereignty. 

And so for example, now Columbia, which 20 years ago had the ability to manufacture vaccines, but stop ped making those investments, stopped sustaining those public manufacturing capabilities because of neoliberal policies. They have realized that not sustaining that manufacturing capacity was a mistake. And so now they are creating, in the city of Bogota, the facilities to manufacture vaccines and other treatment now with the support of the federal government. 

LAUREN FLANDERS - HOST, THE LAURA FLANDERS SHOW: Has the IMF that imposed a lot of those neoliberal structural adjustment programs on countries like Colombia changed? Is it singing a different tune, Luis?

LUIS GIL ABINADER: [00:39:00] Many international organizations are now realizing that the idea that developing countries should do like agriculture or textiles, and rich countries should control the technology, I think across the board, we're seeing international organizations realizing that was a mistake. And also governments in the global South are realizing that not sustaining their manufacturing capacity for things like vaccines is a mistake because you must have access to this type of products, and especially during health emergency, you cannot rely on big pharmaceutical companies that are driven by profit and governed by shareholders. 

LAUREN FLANDERS - HOST, THE LAURA FLANDERS SHOW: Kevin, coming to you. Luis conveniently mentioned Cuba, which reminded all of us, I'm sure, of the backlash that's likely to come knocking at Gavin Newsom's reelection campaign. "It's socialism, it's anti the private profit motive, and it's, of course, stepping on the private rights and and freedoms of private corporations." How important is this moment to that [00:40:00] confrontation? 

KEVIN WREN: I think the opposition is purely free market capitalists that are just cutthroat and want to exploit the system. When this bill originally passed in 2020, it passed 31 to 8, so this is a bipartisan effort. In Washington state, where I'm from, we passed insulin copay caps almost unanimously. There was one abstention. This is a bipartisan issue and an apolitical issue, too. These are drugs that need to be regulated like a utility because they offer so much utility to people like me. Roughly 10 percent of the population has a chronic illness and they're exploiting and extorting our need for this drug and it's coming to an end.

LAUREN FLANDERS - HOST, THE LAURA FLANDERS SHOW: We produce this program with no money from private pharmaceutical companies. But boy, there's an awful lot of private pharmaceutical Big Pharma money in media these days. Dana, coming to you, you touched on the democracy questions early on, as did Luis. What's the Biden administration and what's Gavin Newsom up against?

DANA BROWN: You're right that it [00:41:00] makes sense to expect backlash in the current kind of political climate that we're in and also given the power of Big Pharma. But to echo Kevin, A, this is a pragmatic solution that I think is really bipartisan in nature. And the people that conveniently say, oh, it's California, therefore it's a radical thing. But you have to remember the state of Massachusetts has been producing vaccines and other biologics, biologic drugs in the public sector for over 125 years. The state of Michigan used to do it in the public sector; their lab was privatized in the nineties, but now there's a resurgence of interest from a Republican state senator who's been talking to the Democratic governor about reviving that tradition of producing drugs in the public sector.

A, this is a tradition in the United States. We've developed and produced medications in the public sector at various scales, from small public health labs at the municipal level to nationally under the Department of Defense, and this has been going on for [00:42:00] a century or a century and a half.

So really, we're actually just relearning how to do something that we already knew how to do as a country, and in terms of how can the public support, follow the Insulin for all folks on Twitter and social media, they will keep you focused on the prize. And really, I think, too, I, we just have to remember that we are "We the people" and the public sector belongs to all of us, and it's just our job to help remind it that it's supposed to work in our interest.

Bonus The Challenge of Caring for Our Elders Part 2 - The Brian Lehrer Show - Air Date 11-15-23

BRIGID BERGEN - GUEST HOST, BRIAN LEHRER SHOW: Reed, you found that in many instances that was part of what people had to do, that in order to qualify for Medicaid coverage, people needed to reduce their assets. Is that correct? 

REED ABELSON: Yes that's very much correct.

And I think, what's very tough is sometimes you have a couple, and the question then becomes do we spend everything down, but then what happens to the surviving spouse or partner? And that's a truly [00:43:00] difficult decision. We came across some families where the decision was to keep someone at home, even though at times that they were at risk. And we found in other cases, the decision was yes, we'll spend down and hope for the best if the healthier spouse survives.

BRIGID BERGEN - GUEST HOST, BRIAN LEHRER SHOW: In your reporting, Reed, you note that the U. S., compared to other wealthy countries around the world, really lags when it comes to national response and investment in long term care. But just for our perspective, how far behind are we? How much does the U. S. not invest in these needs? 

REED ABELSON: It's interesting. I think we truly don't invest, we're behind a lot of other European countries. And what's frustrating, obviously, is that there have been a series of attempts, but we've never had the political will, and maybe even the cultural will, to tackle this. 

BRIGID BERGEN - GUEST HOST, BRIAN LEHRER SHOW: And, that's very much why we're [00:44:00] having this conversation, because obviously if we had better federal policies in place, we wouldn't be worried about the patchwork that doesn't seem to be holding together. But some policies have been proposed. What are some of the measures that Congress has considered, and what kind of political opposition have they faced? 

REED ABELSON: I think there is an argument and, many Republicans argue this, that this is something where people really have a responsibility to save, or to take other planning steps trying to find a long term care insurance policy.

But Congress has tried to address this. President Biden tried to increase some funding so that caregivers were paid more, but that funding was dropped in the final legislation. 

The difficulty is that this costs money. And so far, there just really hasn't been an appetite to fund this kind of care.

BRIGID BERGEN - GUEST HOST, BRIAN LEHRER SHOW: I want to go to Fred in Manhattan. Fred, thanks for calling [00:45:00] WNYC. 

CALLER: Thank you for taking my call. I am a 67-year-old single son of someone who's about to turn 101. I took care of her sister, her brother, my father. I'm very good at it, and I get them through very old ages in pretty good shape. But it has entirely ruined my career and my earning potential.

And a very specific recommendation that I would make, among many, Is that social security benefits be provided, or the credits be made, for people who basically have given up their own work in order to care for others. If I were a paid caregiver, I would get social security benefits. As someone who cannot be paid because I'm a relative, I had to give up everything. And I do it out of love, and I am proud that I've gotten my relatives to such good ages and such good shape. But there's no awareness of the next generation. When COVID [00:46:00] came, we avoided COVID, but I had to basically lock down with my parent for four years. And she's still alive, and she's still managing, but cannot manage on her own even for five minutes. So it requires constant presence. 

BRIGID BERGEN - GUEST HOST, BRIAN LEHRER SHOW: Fred, thank you so much for your call, and thank you for everything that you're doing for your family. They are very lucky to have you. Reed, what I think Fred is suggesting there in terms of a credit sounds similar to what you said President Biden had attempted to include in the Build Back Better. But it seems to be very hard to get the political will to support those kinds of policies. 

REED ABELSON: Yes. I think it is possible that there could be specific changes to things like Social Security or trying to do tax credits, and I know under Medicaid, some Medicaid programs, family members who are caregivers can [00:47:00] get paid. But it's very difficult, and we don't take a sort of step back and think broadly about how to make lives better for people.

And I do want to echo that one of the true findings was that even when children managed to get their parents through, they were convinced -- and probably appropriately so -- that their own retirement years and older years would be really much more challenging. That they had either spent a lot of money, that they didn't have a pension, that there were a lot of factors that were going to make it even more difficult for them. 

BRIGID BERGEN - GUEST HOST, BRIAN LEHRER SHOW: Some of the other interesting -- there's so much that is in this series that we could talk for a very long time. But I wanted to spend a little bit of time seeing if we can offer some news or information people can use. One of the findings that I was struck by was that fewer than half of American adults have seriously discussed long term plans with a loved one. From your reporting, from everyone you spoke to, what kind of conversations do you think people should be having, and when should they be having them? 

REED ABELSON: I think they should be having them early on, [00:48:00] before there's a crisis. And it's absolutely true that we spoke to a lot of families who were in a crisis mode with having never really talked to their parents about what their financial situation was, and even more importantly, what their wishes were. And so I think that's a conversation definitely worth having. Thinking about, are there steps that one can take now to make it easier later? And what can they do? How can they think about this?

So I agree with you. That was stunning to me that more people hadn't had that discussion. 

Final comments on more good news from the fight against climate change

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: We've just heard clips today, starting with Democracy Now! replaying an interview of theirs with Ady Barkan. The Weeds explained the origin of our private health care system. Code WACK! looked at California's efforts to implement universal health care. Thom Hartmann explained the process of achieving universal health care one state at a time. Democracy Now! reported on the [00:49:00] Biden administration's efforts to reign in the cost of prescription drugs. Economic Update described the difference between health and healthcare. And the Laura Flanders Show looked at the option of producing vaccines and other drugs as part of the public commons. 

That's what everybody heard, but members also heard a bonus clip from the Brian Lehrer Show, looking at some of the challenges in longterm care for elders. 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 today. I just want to acknowledge that we've been a bit more positive than usual, which might feel a bit off-brand for us. I know you don't come to Best of the Left expecting to be uplifted. So, if that's been off putting for you, I apologize. Besides today's [00:50:00] episode looking at some progress being made toward a more just health system, we've recently been looking at positive visions beyond neo-liberalism, hopeful experiments to fight climate change, and, coming up, we're even going to look at some utopian visions to try to counteract all of the predictions of dystopia that we are practically swimming in right now. But not to worry: democracy is still on the brink in multiple countries around the world and, uh, I want to assure you that we will be panicking about that soon enough. 

But for today, I am sorry to say that I have a little bit more positive news to share. Just a day or two after publishing our episode on new high-tech geothermal drilling techniques that have the potential to breathe new life into the geothermal industry and make clean energy from below ground available in vastly more places around the world, this story from the AP caught my eye. The headline is "New Google geothermal electricity project [00:51:00] could be a milestone for clean energy". And keep in mind, the TED Talk that we heard in our climate episode describing this exact new geothermal design was a couple of years ago, and it was talking about how we may be on the brink of implementation. Well, here, we all are already living in the future as this story describes this new power plant that has just come online. From the article, "An advanced geothermal project has begun pumping carbon free electricity on to the Nevada grid to power Google data centers there", Google announced Tuesday. And the CEO of Fervo Energy, that's the company that Google partnered with, says, " I think it will be big and we'll continue to vault geothermal into a lot more prominence than it has been". And this current project is basically just a pilot program to prove the concept. It's adding around 3.5 megawatts of energy onto the grid. And you don't need to know how much 3.5 [00:52:00] megawatts is to know that it's a lot less than 400 megawatts. From the article, "Fervo is using this first pilot to launch other projects that will deliver far more carbon free electricity to the grid. It's currently completing initial drilling in Southwest Utah for a 400 megawatt project. And then the article goes on looking at the bigger picture. It says, "Google announced back in 2020 that it would use carbon free energy every hour of every day wherever it operates by 2030. Many experts believe huge companies like Google can play a catalytic role in accelerating clean energy". And the head of decarbonisation for Google noted that the company was also an early supporter of wind and solar projects, helping those markets take off.

But wait, there's more. The article continues talking about the governmental angle. "Last year, the Energy Department launched an effort to achieve aggressive cost reductions [00:53:00] in enhanced geothermal systems. This month, in announcing 44 million to advanced geothermal deployment nationwide, DOE said the United States has potential for 90 gigawatts of geothermal electricity, the equivalent of powering more than 65 million American homes by 2050". And then finally, it was discussed in Jamie Beard's TED Talk featured in our climate episode that as counterintuitive as it may be for environmentalists, it may actually be former oil and gas engineers who are needed to bring their drilling expertise to the geothermal industry if it's going to be able to scale up fast enough to make an impact. Well, it turns out, unsurprisingly, the CEO of Fervo Energy is a former drilling engineer in the oil and gas industry who's now helping transition away from coal, oil, and natural gas as quickly as possible to reduce carbon emissions, according to the article, and of course make money for his company, obviously. The [00:54:00] article doesn't mention that. And that fact, you know, may very well have been important in the actual working of the company, but it was definitely impactful in terms of the company being able to get funding to do its work. A partner with an investment firm that actually bought into the company, said that they invested "primarily because the company was really ready to start adding energy to the grid while others were lagging behind", and the that, referring to the CEO, "it's a plus that Latimer used to run a drilling rig. It was the right team who knew what kind of company that we're building". And I'll admit it does feel pretty weird to be cheering on oil and gas engineers because I never foresaw that there would be a path for them, not just ideologically, but like literally. I didn't foresee that there would be a path for them to be able to pivot away from fossil fuels. But here we are. 

Oh, wait, there is one last thing. I'm not sure that the point was hit [00:55:00] hard enough in the climate episode - the importance of the fact that geothermal is a 24 7 clean energy source - solar and wind will still have their place undoubtedly, but the biggest criticism of them has always been that the sun doesn't always shine and the wind doesn't always blow. And that's true. But it's not just that they can't generate energy during those times, and so that's a bummer, it's that it means that there needs to be some other source of what's called base load power generation that is always partnered with solar and wind. And it's always been assumed that that would need to continue to be some version of fossil fuel or potentially nuclear. And advanced geothermal being a clean energy with the ability to provide base load power 24 hours a day is a real game changer. Again, apologies for all the good news. I'm as surprised as anyone. 

That is going to be it for today as always keep the comments coming in. I would love to hear your thoughts or questions [00:56:00] about this or anything else you can leave us a voicemail or send us a text 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 LaWendy, 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 at bestoftheleft.com/support. You can join them by signing up today, and it would be greatly appreciated. You'll find that link in the show notes, along with the 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 [00:57:00] members and donors to the show from bestoftheleft.com.

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#1594 Testing New Climate Solutions: Geothermal and Geo-Engineering (Transcript)

Air Date 11/26/2023

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JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [00:00:00] During today's episode, I'm going to be telling you about a show I think you should check out: it's the Talking Politics and Religion Without Killing Each Other podcast. And come to think of it, I probably should've promoted that before Thanksgiving. But anyway, take a moment to hear what I have to say about them in the middle of the show, and then listen wherever you get your podcasts. 

And now, welcome to this episode of the award-winning Best of the Left podcast. As the hottest year in about 125,000 years or so begins to come to a close, we turn to two projects still in their infancy that have big plans to decarbonize our electricity generation on one hand, and give us a bit more time to turn our climate futures around on the other. 

The first is a reinvigoration of the geothermal power industry, with the hopes of scaling up globally. And the second is geoengineering, which aims to reduce the solar radiation hitting the planet, [00:01:00] to reduce devastating climate impacts while the world finishes up the work of going carbon neutral. Both ideas are a little scary. Either or both could be brilliant or disastrous. But the two things that are clear to me are that failure in the face of climate chaos will definitely be disastrous, and any ideas with a reasonable chance of helping deserve further study. 

Sources today include PBS Terra, Vox, a TED Talk from Jamie C. Beard, the vlogbrothers, Volts and Radiolab. And I will close the show today with an interview with climate activist Mike Tidwell to get a bit further into some of the arguments and counter-arguments surrounding geoengineering, and members will get an extended version of that interview.

Have We Made ANY Progress on Climate Change? Here's The Data, You Decide - PBS Terra - Air Date 12-20-22

MAIYA MAY - HOST, WEATHERED: With all the bad and often terrifying news about climate change, doomsday may seem like it's just around the corner. But is it? There are electric cars, [00:02:00] solar panels, and wind turbines everywhere. Still, we've wasted a lot of time arguing over if and why global warming is even real, let alone a priority.

So, how are we doing? Well, in the early 2010s, a set of emissions scenarios called RCPs, ranging from very stringent climate policy to no climate policy at all, was developed to represent what warming could look like by 2100. To get an idea of how we're doing, we asked experts in the field which one of these scenarios looks most likely today.

These scenarios were developed in the wake of the global financial crisis when emissions dropped for the first time in the history of many developed countries. But by 2010, they had begun to rebound along with the economy, and developing countries with enormous populations like China and India were planning massive investment coal plants to power economic growth for billions of people.

SEAVER WANG: If you had asked me 10 years ago [00:03:00] whether I thought we would be in the place we are today, I would've thought that it would've been very unlikely. I would've thought that there's no way that that that's possible.

MAIYA MAY - HOST, WEATHERED: So where are we today? And where are we going? The RCP origin story can help us understand. 

ZEKE HAUSFATHER: Back in the lead up to the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report that came out in 2013, the energy modeling community developed four pathways, which were essentially four different possible warming outcomes at the end of the century.

SEAVER WANG: Now, the representative concentration pathways all come with a number. For example, RCP 2.6, RCP 4.5, or RCP 8.5. That number is essentially the imbalance in Earth's energy budget resulting from human influence on climate. And that number is expressed in watts per meter squared. 

MAIYA MAY - HOST, WEATHERED: So in the case of RCP 8.5, this means that humans would have emitted enough greenhouse gases into the atmosphere to add an additional 8.5 watts per meter squared of solar radiation into the [00:04:00] climate by 2100.

And considering how many square meters are on Earth's surface, that's a lot of watts. This many, to be exact, each of the RCP levels projects an estimated average of global warming. RCP 8.5 is close to 5 degrees. RCP 4.5 is just below 3 degrees and RCP 2.6 represents the Paris Agreement goal of limiting warming to well below 2 degrees.

RCP 8.5 with its associated 5 degrees of warming is truly an apocalyptic scenario. It means game over. An existential threat. It models a world with no climate policy. And it's hard to argue that we had or have an effective climate policy either domestically or internationally. 

ZEKE HAUSFATHER: Because RCP .5 was the only one of the RCPs run with no climate policy, a lot of people started referring to it as "business as usual," or in a world without climate policy, we'll have five [00:05:00] degrees of warming. 

SEAVER WANG: Emissions were just increasing year after year after year. There was the Kyoto Protocol in 1992, and it was widely considered to have been a failure. It really seemed feasible that we could end up on a pathway where coal use would continue to expand, where we would continue to prioritize fossil fuel economic growth throughout the remainder of the century. 

MAIYA MAY - HOST, WEATHERED: And a real problem seemed to emerge with reducing emissions. So far in the 20th century, increasing carbon emissions had been correlated with increasing gross domestic product, and even reducing poverty. China's emissions were growing very fast along with their economy, and even with all the problems associated with rapid development, they were lifting citizens out of poverty.

Other developing nations hoped to follow their lead, and coal was the fuel of choice. Could the developed world, comparatively rich after more than a century of burning fossil [00:06:00] fuels, really asked them to give up on coal? 

And that's when something very important changed. In the 2008 global financial crisis, the emissions of many developed countries did what they had always done: they followed the economy, downward this time. But then economies rebounded. After a brief uptick, the emissions of large carbon polluters like the US, EU, and Japan surprisingly continued to fall, even in a world with no functioning climate policy. And GDP continued to rise. 

ZEKE HAUSFATHER: We're not in "business as usual" anymore, or at least business as usual has changed.

MAIYA MAY - HOST, WEATHERED: So what exactly changed, and should we still call RCP 8.5 "business as usual"?

ZEKE HAUSFATHER: RCP 8.5 is very much a world dominated by coal. By 2100, global coal use has increased six fold above 2010 levels, and global emissions have tripled. In the real world, global coal use has been flat, if not slightly declining, [00:07:00] since 2014. Clean energy costs have fallen dramatically, solar is 90 percent cheaper in the last decade, wind is 66 percent cheaper, batteries are 90 percent cheaper, electric vehicles are about 14 percent of new vehicle sales globally now, and upwards of 20 percent in places like China and Europe.

And so, we're having an energy transition that was not accounted for in these worst case scenarios a decade ago. 

MAIYA MAY - HOST, WEATHERED: Seaver described this transition as one where activists, advocates, and even scientists pushed for emission reductions. No one got exactly what they wanted, but there was just enough government and society support to create a tailwind for innovators, even while the US was busy pulling out of international agreements. 

SEAVER WANG: You can't really disentangle state policies from real acceleration in private sector clean energy. It was actually because of early subsidy programs in Japan, in Germany, and in China in particular, to help fill in the gap between what was economically [00:08:00] feasible and what needed to happen.

MAIYA MAY - HOST, WEATHERED: This is all extremely good news. And we're no longer in a no climate policy world. At least, not entirely. In 2015, the Paris Agreement was signed creating voluntary benchmarks for countries to meet in order to stay well below 2 degrees of warming or RCP 2.6. However, almost no countries are actually on target to meet their benchmarks, and the four largest emitters have a long way to go to even get close. So at this point our RCP 2.6 is also not very likely.

ZEKE HAUSFATHER: And so that's the reason why we think now that the world is probably headed toward a bit under 3 degrees under current policies and technological development, rather than close to 5 degrees, where some people thought we were headed. 

MAIYA MAY - HOST, WEATHERED: But even if 2 degrees of warming is still hugely ambitious, isn't it cause for celebration that we've come so far from the old projections of 5 degrees? 

ZEKE HAUSFATHER: You know, it's probably not [00:09:00] literally the end of the world. I think humanity could survive in a world of three degrees, but it's not a world we want to leave to our children.

Batteries are dirty. Geothermal power can help. - Vox - Air Date 11-1-22

CHRISTINA THORNELL - HOST, VOX: Indonesia has the world's largest proven nickel reserves. Most of them are found here. So is a large concentration of the country's nickel processing plants. A lot of this nickel supplies the steel industry, but most of the growth the industry has seen in recent years is driven by the demand for EV batteries, demand that's predicted to skyrocket.

To extract the nickel, the rocks have to be smelted at really high heats. And that energy is almost exclusively provided by coal-fired plants that spew greenhouse gases and pollute the air.

Nickel is essential for a green future, but using coal-fired plants isn't actually necessary, especially in Indonesia. . Indonesia sits along the Pacific Ocean's Ring of Fire, a stretch of hundreds of active volcanoes that sit on top of pools of hot magma. We only really see the immense power of this heat when it pierces through the Earth's surface. [00:10:00] But when it's close to the surface, that magma also heats the water trapped beneath the Earth. That hot water can provide a continuous and renewable flow of energy called geothermal energy. To capture that energy, we need to drill down to reach underground water. Then, hot water, or steam, rise up to a well.

In a power plant, that hot water is often used to heat a different liquid that is then vaporized and used to turn a turbine to generate electricity. Meanwhile, the clean water extracted is funneled back into the ground where the earth's magma reheats it once again. 

PATRICK DOBSON: And that fluid is recycled. So there are no emissions of any gases to the atmosphere. In that sense, it's a completely green, carbon-free energy source.

CHRISTINA THORNELL - HOST, VOX: Plus, it doesn't rely on the weather like wind or solar energy do. Indonesia is the second largest geothermal producer in the world. On the same island where coal-fired plants are powering nickel production, there's a [00:11:00] plant tapping into geothermal power. There are about 20 active geothermal plants. There are also tens of sites explored for development.

One of the biggest things holding geothermal back in Indonesia, and other parts of the world, is cost. 

PATRICK DOBSON: And once you've got evidence that there's a resource, the idea is then to figure out how big is the resource, how hot is the resource, and how much would it cost to develop that type of resource. Longer timeline, higher risk factor, and higher initial investment costs are all things that make geothermal more challenging to put online.

CHRISTINA THORNELL - HOST, VOX: And while geothermal maps like this one can help identify possible hotspots, you never know what you're going to find until you actually drill. Over time, the hope is that geothermal exploration will become cheaper, more predictable, and so efficient that it'll bring the costs down.. But it can be tough to change an existing industry, especially if there's a lot of money in it.

Encouraged by Indonesia's push to attract foreign investment and deregulation of [00:12:00] environmental protections, Chinese companies have invested or committed about $30 billion to nickel plants in Indonesia. Particularly in Morowali, where new coal-fired plants like this one are being built to power the investment.

For people like Esvina, the fact that geothermal doesn't produce emissions or air pollution could make it the solution they are looking for. Because if nothing changes, they might have to leave their homes.

Today, geothermal plants are mostly confined to volcanic areas. But our EV batteries are made of metals and minerals from around the world. And about 60 percent of the energy we use to process them comes from fossil fuels. There's enormous potential for cleaner EV battery production in all these yellow and red regions if we dig deeper and find ways to tap into the underground heat, whether there's underground water or not. 

Like every new resource, the work we do to harness it requires careful consideration. 

PATRICK DOBSON: How do you preserve parklands and how does that coexist with geothermal [00:13:00] development? 

CHRISTINA THORNELL - HOST, VOX: The other issue that seems to come up a lot when I read about geothermal is seismic 

activity.

PATRICK DOBSON: Most of the geothermal-induced seismicity that occurs is very low level seismicity, but the goal is to not have significant seismicity that could cause damage and distress to local communities. The challenges are to make these environmentally, socially and economically viable. 

CHRISTINA THORNELL - HOST, VOX: And that's a very important challenge, especially if we think of geothermal as a solution to clean up the supply chain that powers our green energy. Because all too often, it's poor and marginalized communities who live next to power plants, smelters, mines, factories, pipelines, waste plants. As we move towards a better future, it's important to make sure it isn't just green, but fair.

The Untapped Energy Source That Could Power the Planet | Jamie C. Beard - TED - Air Date 10-28-21

JAMIE C. BEARD: We have Engineered Geothermal Systems, or EGS. In this concept, several wells are drilled. At the bottom of the well, the rock is fractured. It creates a [00:14:00] reservoir under the surface. Think of it as a pot where you boil your water underground, right? You send a fluid down, it percolates through the fractures, it comes back up really hot, and we use it for all sorts of interesting and important things, like heating buildings directly, or we can run it through a turbine to produce electricity.

Now, EGS can take a lot of forms. This is an area of intense innovation right now. You can engineer these systems in a variety of ways, but the basic concepts stay the same. 

Then we have closed loop systems. Closed loops are pretty new. It's another really hot area of innovation. Same concept, basic as EGS. You have one or more wells drilled, you create a reservoir underground, but in closed loops, instead of fracturing to create that reservoir underground, it's entirely drilled, like a radiator in the rock. And they take many forms, too, just like EGS. Check it out. You can see in closed loop systems how useful it is to be able to turn and steer that drill bit, totally enabling in terms of getting these concepts to work. 

Another really [00:15:00] cool aspect of closed loop systems, another fierce area of innovation right now, is what we're putting in these systems as the working fluid to harvest the heat. Most of the time, it's water. But what if we could optimize a fluid to perform better than water, so it heats up faster than water at lower temperatures than water?

And the really cool thing about closed loops is the going candidate, one everybody loves right now to put in these systems to most efficiently harvest heat, is actually a substance that's the center of our climate angst right now. It's around us in excess and abundance. It's CO2. Super cool!

So then there's hybrids -- not the cars -- geothermal hybrids. You take the best of both worlds. You get the increased surface area and heat that you get from fracturing rock. You combine that with a closed loop well design so you can use that optimized fluid. The goal of hybrid systems is to extract the [00:16:00] most heat, minimize drilling costs.

So that's what's happening right now, a lot of innovation. It's really, really cool. But these concepts, none of them are without their technology challenges. But y'all, these are not moonshots. They are not moonshots. We are talking about making very incremental changes to existing technologies, methods and techniques, with an eye on more, hotter and deeper geothermal development. 

And these also aren't just ideas. There are teams right now in the field demonstrating these concepts. Teams like Sage Geosystems, a team that I mentor. This is a well that they are demonstrating this summer in -- get this -- Texas. Not in Iceland, not on the side of a volcano, not in the Ring of Fire. This is a Texas pasture where you would never suspect the enormous geothermal resources that [00:17:00] lie below. And this well is an existing abandoned oil and gas well that they have repurposed for this geothermal demonstration. If all goes well with this demonstration, by 2022 -- that is next year -- they will have a geothermal power plant in Texas.

There are dozens of examples like this right now in the field. These are all startups. They're out there proving geothermal concepts. New technologies, new drilling, the concepts that I showed you in the slides. We are in the midst of a geothermal renaissance. In the past 18 months, more geothermal startups have launched than in the past 10 years combined. If even one of these startups is successful at proving a scalable geothermal concept, we are literally off to the races in developing this massive, reliable, 24/7 clean energy source anywhere in the world. And by off to the races, I mean that, right? [00:18:00] Like, we gotta go. The clock is ticking, we need scale. It's gonna be cute if it works, but we've got to have global scale. 

So how do we do that? It brings me to my proposition. So, it turns out that there's an industry that is perfectly positioned to take us from the few geothermal power plants we have today to the hundreds of thousands that we need to meet demand. The industry that everyone loves to hate, who cares about the environment and climate, is that industry. To scale geothermal, what do we need to do? We need to efficiently, effectively, and safely drill below the surface over and over and over and over again. And who does that now? The oil and gas industry does that now.

The oil and gas industry is a global, specialized workforce of millions, backed by almost [00:19:00] 200 years of breakthrough technological innovation, all aimed at exploring for, drilling for, and producing energy from deep underground. You flip the switch, and you have green drilling. And oil and gas keeps its current business model, the business model that keeps them firmly rooted in hydrocarbons now.

They're doing what they know how to do, which is exploring for, drilling for and producing a subsurface energy asset. But what we're talking about here is a pivot, from hydrocarbons to heat. A global workforce of millions -- highly skilled and trained -- doesn't need to be retrained. They can keep doing what they already know how to do, but this time around for clean energy.

If we're able to pull this off and team up to do it, we are talking about the ability to meet world [00:20:00] energy demand. We are talking about the ability, over the next few decades, to put more geothermal energy on the grid than we currently have in dirty energy. Geothermal energy at oil and gas scale. 

So I bet I know what some of you are thinking, because I was that person, too. I used to think it. And so I will tell you how I got from there to here. 

I used to feel that we just needed to let the oil and gas industry go away. So I'm a climate activist and a lifelong environmentalist, the kind that would have chained myself to a tree if I needed to, of that flavor. I grew up and got a job, became an energy lawyer and then an energy entrepreneur, and entrepreneurship took me out into the field for product deployments. And I ended up living on drill rigs. And I had a complete epiphany. It was a total mind shift, bias out the door, because I got to [00:21:00] know many individuals in the oil and gas workforce. And, y'all, that's grit. I mean, it is incredible grit. Those people are there for it. 

But I also got to know the amazing technological innovations of that industry. And what I've come to believe is those are assets -- the workforce, the technologies, they are assets that we can leverage now to solve climate change. 

So what I do for my job is I recruit oil and gas veterans to the cause of geothermal. If we want to turn the ship, we recruit the sailors. And it's working.

A Messy and Unhinged Introduction to Geoengineering - vlogbrothers - Air Date 10-4-23 

HANK GREEN - HOST, VLOGBROTHERS: First, let's define the term. What is geoengineering? The definition is controversial. But broadly, it's any time you take an action to intentionally change the systems of planet Earth. More specifically, these days, when we talk about geoengineering, we're almost always talking about the amount of heat.

There is other geoengineering, like if you wanted to restart an ocean current, if you wanted to change ocean acidity, if you wanted to [00:22:00] decrease the amount of storms, all those things would be geoengineering. 

Now, importantly, intent does matter, because if it didn't, then the last hundred years of burning fossil fuels would all be geoengineering. We would have been engineering the planet to get warmer. But it wasn't engineered, it was accidental. We did it for other reasons, and so it's not geoengineering, it's just an oopsie. It was initially an oopsie. It's not really an oopsie anymore. Now it's, like, a stop hitting yourself kind of situation. 

So, these days we're mostly talking about intentional actions taken to decrease the amount of heat in the planet Earth's system. And, importantly, there are lots of different ways to do that. We talk about geoengineering as if it is one thing. And it is not. Like, already we are doing some geoengineering. We paint roofs white? And that is like a main benefit of decreasing the air conditioning bills for those buildings, which also decreases energy consumption. But, additionally, it does reflect some amount of energy back to space. Not a measurable amount, but that's part of the reason why we do it. So, painting roofs white is geoengineering. But, heading up the ladder of complexity and impact and [00:23:00] controversiality, here's an incomplete list of other geoengineering things: 

High albedo crops, like crop plants that are more reflective and lighter colors, could make the planet more reflective. 

Ocean mirrors could reflect sunlight back to space. 

Marine cloud brightening would seed clouds over the ocean, reflecting more light up. 

High altitude cloud thinning would thin the wispy cirrus clouds that actually do a better job of trapping heat in the system than reflecting it back to space.

And finally, stratospheric sulfur injection would mean putting a ton of sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere because those sulfur particles are good at reflecting light and they'd stay up there for a long time. 

Each one of these has advantages and disadvantages. And as we went down that list, we got more impactful and scarier. Like, high albedo crops would have a small and mostly local and temporary reversible effect. Whereas, stratospheric sulfur injection would have a large and global and long-term effect. 

Now, the argument in favor of doing these things, and each one of them is a solar radiation management technique. That's the term we use for managing the amount [00:24:00] of the sun's energy that gets trapped in the system. The reason why we do that is because the heat is a big part of the problem. It's not the only part of the problem, like ocean acidification would not be helped by any of these things, and that's also a big problem. But the amount of heat in the system already is making life harder on the planet, and that's just gonna keep getting worse decade by decade for a while. And honestly, we don't know exactly how much worse it's gonna get. And in fact, that is another vote in favor of doing geoengineering research. It could be that things get worse than we expect, faster than we expect, and it would be nice to have a tool in our back pocket just in case we need it, even if we don't want to use it, even if we're not sure if it's gonna work, or we don't understand all the harms it's gonna do. 

The arguments against are many, and they are varied, and I have sort of different feelings about them personally. And I'm gonna give them to you as I understand them, and this is gonna be biased. First is, this is gonna be good for fossil fuel companies, because they're gonna do a lot of this work whether it's, like, moving carbon around, or it's doing all the chemistry that's necessary to do geoengineering. 

I don't care, [00:25:00] I...look, I wanna be on the record. I do not care who gets rich saving the planet. I would give the guy I hate the most in the world all of my money, if I knew for sure he could fix this problem. I would hate it. I would hate... I'm thinking of who it is. I would hate giving him all that money, but I'd do it. I might even say nice things about him afterward. Maybe. That would be harder, honestly. But, relatedly, number two, this would be good for fossil fuel companies, because we'd just keep burning fossil fuels forever if we didn't have to worry about the heat. If we could manage the heat, then we'd just keep burning. This doesn't worry me that much because I just think it's wrong. I recognize that there are people who are like this, who are like, We should just spend the money to do geoengineering and not change anything. But, ultimately, renewables are just better. I would be more worried about this if the cost of solar and wind and batteries hadn't gone by, like, a thousand times since I graduated from college. But they have! And already, in most ways, they are better than fossil fuel infrastructure, and I think 10-20 years from now, they will be way [00:26:00] better than fossil fuel infrastructure, and we just won't use fossil fuels, because they're worse. 

Now, onto the things I find more compelling. Number one, this is going to be, by definition, a trolley problem. What do I mean by that? I mean that if you're trying to do something that's going to help the whole planet, there will be areas of the planet that are harmed. The scientists I've talked to are quite uncomfortable with this. They understandably do not like the idea that they might be put into a position where they'll be asked to advise on whether we should take an action that will, like, save a million lives, but actually cause the deaths of thousands of people. And this is, like, not abstract. 

Now, for clarity, we already do this with accidental release of carbon dioxide all the time - not accidental, incidental. We make decisions here in America to produce carbon dioxide, and that's gonna have a negative impact on the world and it will result in death and suffering. It's not a comfortable idea, but it's a real idea. But we're not doing it on purpose. We're doing it so that we can go visit our family in Indiana. It matters when you're doing it on purpose. And part of me thinks it shouldn't matter, but it does. 

So, say [00:27:00] like low level example, you just do some marine cloud brightening. You're just making it so some low level temporary clouds are over the oceans and that increases the amount of sunlight being reflected to space. But maybe the water that's forming clouds there now would have formed clouds over land and fallen as rain and you're creating a different rain pattern and those people's crops fail. So they don't have the income they expected. They don't have the food that they expected and there's a famine. So yeah, trolley problem, uncomfortable. 

Now, we do that nationally, all the time, like when we say we're gonna shut down a coal fired power plant, or we don't want as many coal fired power plants, that has negative impact on people, but we do it because it has positive impact on more people. But that's very different when that's one country making decisions for itself than if it's one country making decisions for another country, which leads me to the second thing that is a good thing to point out: actively doing geoengineering could cause war. So, say one country is taking actions that's making it better for the people in that country, but it's resulting in less rain falling or [00:28:00] flowing into another country, and that country has instability because of that. They're not gonna like each other. And that feels intentional and different in a way that having like the US and China burn a bunch of coal and then having a global impact doesn't. And I'm trying to get comfortable with the idea that the way that it feels matters. Uh, because the way that it feels matters. 

Third, if we did it for a while, and then suddenly stopped, that's very scary. So, basically, if we're doing this radiation management, the amount of heat that would be in the system, if we weren't, is going up and up and up, but we're getting that heat out of the system through radiation management. If one day, through an accident, or a policy decision, or the fact that, like, one country was doing it and the other countries were like, you need to stop, if suddenly it all stopped after having done it for a while, climate models don't like that. That could result in, like, a very chaotic series of events for the planetary system. There's even a term for it. It's called termination shock. That's scary both practically and because the term. That's just a [00:29:00] scary term. That's a good one. Neal Stephenson. 

Next on the list... Miriam really drove this point home to me and helped me understand it. This isn't a thing that should be done unilaterally, but it is a thing that could be done unilaterally. It's inexpensive enough to do some pretty large scale geoengineering that a single country, and not even a big one, could start doing. Also, it's totally possible that the countries doing that would be the ones who created the problems and might be doing it without regard for local impacts that would happen. So, you want to do this in a way that involves ideally all of the countries kind of coming together and reaching some sort of agreement. And in a complicated system like the Earth and a complicated idea like geoengineering, that sounds very hard, and almost like it literally couldn't happen, but maybe it could. Like, we've done diplomacy on big hard things before. 

Next, and this is the second most compelling of all of these arguments to me, we actually don't understand this stuff that well yet. Miriam was talking about how, like, of all the variables in climate models, the [00:30:00] things that, like, increase the error bar the most, is actually aerosols. So, like the effect of particles in the air reflecting light back to space. That's a lot of what we're talking about in geoengineering and we don't understand yet very well the mechanism of how that works and how it much, it does what it does. And this isn't just about like energy out, energy in. If it was just energy out, energy in, then we'd understand it. But what it's also about is how it's going to affect the climate system as a whole. If we do stratospheric sulfur dioxide injection, and it decreases the temperature of the planet by a degree, that would be amazing. But what if it also dried up the monsoon season in Southeast Asia, and then hundreds of millions of people are now food insecure when they were not before? If that's a thing that might happen, you don't want to do that. 

Which leads me to the last, most important thing. On the list of reasons to be very cautious about geoengineering, which is, we just got one planet, this is the only one. We're already messing with it, and that's [00:31:00] really scary, and to solve the messing with it problem by messing with it is understandably terrifying. And I'm like, okay, so we gotta understand it better, and Adam makes a great point. Which is that, in order to do an experiment that actually will tell you about the potential impacts of geoengineering, you kind of already have to be geoengineering.

Smog Cloud Silver Lining - Radiolab - Air Date 9-22-23

HANK GREEN: I had been confronted by a lot of really sort of apocalyptic ...

ARCHIVE CLIP: We are reaching the end.

HANK GREEN: ... doomsday prepper kind of people on TikTok.

ARCHIVE CLIP: Having a panic attack for the last hour.

HANK GREEN: Who were looking at the temperature of the North Atlantic Ocean.

ARCHIVE CLIP: ...unprecedented warming.

HANK GREEN: And it was hotter than it had ever been.

ARCHIVE CLIP: Ever been in recorded history. And things are only getting worse.

 It's not good.

 ... the holocene extinction, the sixth extinction event, is probably starting now. 

I'm gonna explain this with a visual aid.

LULU: And all of these TikTokers are pointing to this one chart.

SOREN: And here, I can show it to you right here.

LATIF: Oh, you just shared it to me? Okay.

SOREN: Yeah.

LATIF: Okay.

SOREN: So it's basically a graph of the sea [00:32:00] surface temperatures in the North Atlantic over the last couple decades.

LATIF: It's kind of a pretty graph, yeah.

SOREN: Yeah, it's a bunch of squiggly blue lines going up and down, and that's sort of the seasonal change. And then you can see the average is going up over time. But then ...

HANK GREEN: There's a red line, which is this here.

LULU: Mm-hmm.

HANK GREEN: And that line is creeping up, up, up. And then it has a spike.

SOREN: Sudden red, uh-oh!

HANK GREEN: Yeah, yeah.

LULU: And that line is, like, way above the average, even the seasonal ups and downs.

LATIF: It's not even close. Like, the high jumper has cleared the pole.

LULU: Yeah.

HANK GREEN: Yeah.

SOREN: And this spike is happening over the course of months or weeks, or ...?

HANK GREEN: I think it's days.

SOREN: Days? Oh!

ARCHIVE CLIP: An existential threat to everything we know.

SOREN: So all the TikTokers are basically like ...

HANK GREEN: This is it. It's happening now.

SOREN: This is us falling over the cliff.

HANK GREEN: We're falling over the cliff.

ARCHIVE CLIP: Figure out your relationship with Jesus Christ.

LULU: And are you watching this stuff literally, like, while you're getting chemo, or ...?

HANK GREEN: Yeah, I probably didn't see it, like, during the moment when the chemo was going into my body, but certainly [00:33:00] during the ...

SOREN: That does tend to be when people doom scroll.

LULU: I'm just picturing you—yeah.

HANK GREEN: [laughs] Yeah, but anyway, so I'd seen this, and ...

ARCHIVE CLIP: Are we all about to die? You may have seen this graph. If you haven't, I'm sorry ...

LULU: And Hank decides to hop on TikTok himself.

HANK GREEN: Like, I made a little series that was, like, trying to, like, contextualize it.

 We're not there yet. We're not anywhere close to there.

 At the time I was seeing it and I was like, I don't—like, it's probably just some kind of natural variation where it's, like, cooler than average right now in some parts of the world, and it's hotter than average in other parts. And also, we're entering an El Niño. So, an El Niño is just like a warmer climate time generally.

SOREN: And you take one little spot on the globe and blips happen.

HANK GREEN: You know, there's natural variations across the Earth.

LATIF: I don't know. That—that doesn't mean we shouldn't be worried. Like, now is not the time to say, "Hey, it's getting a lot warmer, but no big deal."

LULU: Totally. And to be clear, Hank takes this [00:34:00] stuff very seriously.

HANK GREEN: As a person who's been worried about climate change for—my dad was the state director of The Nature Conservancy in Florida when I was growing up. So, like, we're a family of environmentalists. My mom's a sociologist who worked on sustainability. Like, and I'm—like, I have a degree in environmental studies. Like, I've been in this for a long time, and it's very scary. This is, like—like, this is the biggest problem humanity has ever faced but, you know, there's sort of a debate that's like, do we need to get people more scared about climate change, or do we need to get people more hopeful about climate change? Because they can go around a bend eventually, where it's like, there's nothing to be done and I will just be hopeless and sad. And I think a lot of people are there.

LULU: Right. If you're too scared, you, like, tip into nihilism, kind of?

HANK GREEN: Yeah. And this is like, it's gonna be like a bell curve of worry that we're all on somewhere, and in order to get, like, everybody [00:35:00] to the appropriate amount of worry, we're always pushing some people to way too worried. And, like, there's like, not really too worried about climate change until and unless you give up on trying to solve the problem.

LULU: Mm-hmm.

HANK GREEN: So, like ...

LULU: So according to Hank, when it came to this temperature spike in the North Atlantic, his sense was that these people online were being way too alarmist.

HANK GREEN: There was a sort of a mathematics of gambling guy.

LULU: [laughs]

HANK GREEN: Which isn't a climate scientist. As you might expect. Who was getting traction by tweeting about how this was a really big deal, and then he was, like, getting on the news ...

LULU: Huh!

SOREN: And so Hank thought maybe this is a moment to dampen rather than, you know, fan the flames, but also keep the conversation focused on things that we might be able to do.

HANK GREEN: Over the next week or two on my TikTok, I'm gonna make some videos about the things that we are actually doing right now and will be doing in the future to help take care of this.

LULU: So that is how Hank is spending this hot, hot summer: going through chemo, holding a candle for [00:36:00] hope, battling climate nihilism. And then ...

HANK GREEN: I was scrolling science news in bed late at night, like, before going to sleep, like I do.

LULU: [laughs] Yeah.

 ... he comes across a link to an article that made him sit straight up in bed.

HANK GREEN: Yeah. It's like 11:00 at night. I have to get up at 7:30 in the morning, and I'm like, "Oh, I'm gonna read a lot right now." [laughs]

LULU: [laughs]

 Okay, so the thing he sees, it's this article in Science, it's a write-up of three recent studies, and what they found is that the spike in the North Atlantic sea temperatures, this, like, troublingly warming water ...

LATIF: This year's spike.

SOREN: That one we were talking about, right.

LULU: This year's recent spike ...

LATIF: Yeah.

LULU: ... may have been caused by this thing, which is that a few years ago, the UN put into place some regulations that forced cargo ships to start burning cleaner fuel to, you know, reduce the pollution that they make. [00:37:00] And that, doing that good thing, these papers said, that caused the water to get warmer.

HANK GREEN: Yeah.

LATIF: Wait, so they're saying that getting rid of pollution, that you would think would make the problem better, is actually, in this one spot for a while at least, making the problem worse?

SOREN: Right.

LATIF: How?

LULU: All right, so let's go back to before this regulation, this change had happened. All these big, hulky cargo ships are criss-crossing the North Atlantic, chugging along with their big smokestacks, puffing out big plumes of smoggy smoke.

HANK GREEN: Cargo ships burn, like, the dirtiest oil. It's like the oil that's left at the bottom.

LULU: Like that mayonnaise-y black, black mayonnaise-y like ...

HANK GREEN: You have to, like, heat it up before it'll even flow kinda oil.

LULU: And so there's all this carbon dioxide going out into the air, of course, but there is also all this sulfur dioxide going into the air.

LATIF: Okay.

LULU: And that's horrible.

HANK GREEN: Sulfur dioxide is bad for people. It's like it's bad [00:38:00] to breathe, and then it is also bad for the environment because it turns into sulfuric acid when it mixes with water, and then it falls down to the Earth as acid rain. So that's where acid rain comes from.

LATIF: Hmm, right.

SOREN: Which is why the UN wanted to regulate it.

LULU: But it turns out that in addition to being horrible for human health and making acid rain, sulfur dioxide also does something else.

HANK GREEN: It actually can seed clouds. As the ship goes by and it pumps the sulfur dioxide up, you can see, just like kind of a contrail that a jet would leave behind, you can see—they're called ship tracks.

SOREN: Hank actually showed us a picture of this that was taken from space.

LULU: These tracks are like, so big. It just looks like giant zebra stripes over the ocean of just white.

HANK GREEN: When there's the right amount of heat and water in the air, you get all of these extra clouds that you normally wouldn't get.

LULU: Okay.

HANK GREEN: And the clouds reflect the energy of the sun into space. So instead of hitting the water and heating up the surface of the [00:39:00] ocean, it hits a cloud. You know, you could think of it just like a very thin umbrella. And then there's a shadow on the ocean.

SOREN: Which keeps the water at least a little bit cooler.

LULU: So suddenly you take that away, you burn cleaner fuel, and then it's like taking away the beach umbrella. You're suddenly just—you're the ocean.

LATIF: Ohh!

LULU: And the ocean is getting blasted by the sun.

LATIF: Got it.

HANK GREEN: It's not unanticipated. This is actually something that climate scientists have known about for decades. But it is non-intuitive. And what this means is that overall, we have not seen the actual full effects of the carbon dioxide.

SOREN: It's like the—the warming from carbon dioxide has been worse than you thought up to now. It's just been sort of hidden by all the dirty clouds that we've had blocking light.

LATIF: Right.

SOREN: And if you get rid of that, you're gonna realize just how bad this really is.

LATIF: Right.

HANK GREEN: Yeah, and ...

LULU: That feels like, oh, things are—this is doom-y, like, I don't ...

 This now seems like a doom [00:40:00] on a doom to me, right?

LATIF: Yeah, I agree. I feel like it's a double-decker doom. Yeah.

LULU: ... just gonna burn. Like, I go more to nihilism.

HANK GREEN: I mean, I—I was—I found this very exciting and, like, fascinating.

LULU: But not to Hank Green. He reads this study and sees a silver lining, a literal silver lining in the smog cloud.

SOREN: A smog cloud that isn't there anymore.

LULU: Right.

HANK GREEN: The thing that excited me the most about it is we did it, and then we undid it in order to make life better for people who are now not breathing that sulfur dioxide into their lungs, but now we have a chance to study what that looks like.

LULU: He sees these papers, and he's like, we have just done a pretty monumental experiment.

LATIF: Yeah?

LULU: Because for decades we had been letting these ships put out these pollute-y, smoggy smoke trails, which just so happened to act like umbrellas [00:41:00] and shade the ocean, and now that we've taken the umbrella away, we can measure how big or small that cooling effect was.

HANK GREEN: But then the broader—the broader question is can you then—if we were doing it before, and we know what the effect was, can you then find another, better way to do it intentionally without putting the acid rain stuff, smoggy stuff in the air?

 

 

How to think about solar radiation management Part 1 - Volts - Air Date 2-24-23

Kelly Wanser: I think one of the things that struck me about coming into the climate space was it wasn't very well-equipped to think in terms of portfolios. So if you look at the risk profile, it's sort of like we're having these debates about should it be wind and solar, or nuclear? Should it be emissions reductions or these things? But if you look at the risk and uncertainty involved, there's a lot of uncertainty involved in all the different ways of responding to climate change. And there's a huge amount of risk, [00:42:00] potentially existential risk. And so from a portfolio perspective, methane reduction is one of my absolute favorites. And there are some great things happening in that field. Adaptation is a harder problem, and it was made harder because people didn't want it in the portfolio 20 years ago. And they didn't want people to think it was adoptable. So they didn't want people looking at it. Well, it turns out when you look at it, you find out it's not easily adoptable, really. You can see, like, look at Pakistan. These big extreme events happen. They're pretty overwhelming. And even in the US, we're arguably one of the best equipped places in the world to manage these things, and Austin, Texas, had, you know, a third of the city had no power.

David Roberts: Yeah, we managed to bungle it regularly, even with all our money.

Kelly Wanser: But really what it was about is saying, [00:43:00] Okay, we should have a rich portfolio here. If you thought of this as, like, shares, or you thought of this as insurance policies, we'd have a portfolio of things so that when you brought that portfolio together and those things that are different profiles and there are different levels of uncertainty, we have a lot of coverage.

David Roberts: Right.

Kelly Wanser: And the problem is that this part of the portfolio, like, if you needed to arrest climate change quickly, if you really needed to get in there and say, Uh oh, the ice sheet is about to go, the wet-bulb effects in India are happening and we can't take it, and you needed something that operated in a sub-decade time horizon, then that's the key part of the portfolio that's empty. And we don't want to do those things. But from a risk management point of view, in terms of what's at stake, even evaluating whether we have them, that's something on deck that we really should [00:44:00] be doing.

David Roberts: And one more thing about the risk question, the short-term risk question, and I feel like maybe more climate types have grown cognizant of this recently, but it's really an under-discussed aspect of all this, is the aerosol effect. So, maybe just tell us what it is and why that adds to these worries about short-term risk.

Kelly Wanser: That is a great question, because as I was digging into this and finding out the things I'm telling you, this came up. Effectively, there are forces in the atmosphere that trap heat and help keep us in this sort of temperate zone that we're in. And there are forces in the atmosphere that reflect energy away. And so the particles and clouds in the atmosphere, they're reflecting sunlight away from Earth, which is part of what keeps us in this Goldilocks zone. When you look at the Earth from space and you see that shiny blue dot, that's what that is.[00:45:00] 

And these particles that come into the atmosphere, they create clouds, they live in the atmosphere. They're part of that whole system, and they come from nature, but they also live in pollution. And the particulates in pollution that come from coal plants, that come from ships over the ocean, they are mixing with clouds that are living in the atmosphere in ways that make the atmosphere slightly brighter. And it's this effect that scientists have reported is cooling the planet currently by reflecting sunlight back to space. And they don't know exactly by how much, but they think it's between a half a degree Celsius and 1.1 degrees Celsius.

David Roberts: That's not small.

Kelly Wanser: No, it's not small. It could be offsetting half the warming that the gasses would otherwise be making.

David Roberts: Yeah. Just to sum that up. So, our particulate pollution to date has had the sort of perverse effect of reflecting [00:46:00] away a bunch of solar radiation, with the consequent problem that insofar as we clean up our pollution, which we are striving to do, we are going to lose that cooling effect and maybe get another one whole degree of warming which would double...

Kelly Wanser: That's right.

David Roberts: ...our warming since preindustrial times. So, that's a little wild.

Kelly Wanser: I was just going to say it's right there in the climate reports. And it's been there consistently, but not prominently noted, not highlighted in the sort of climate discussion. And so it's surfacing more now recently, that this was there. And we're getting very good at cleaning up pollution. One of the features of this problem is that in climate reports, when they show these effects, they'll have bar charts that show the different effects on the climate system. And they have these lines that show how much uncertainty [00:47:00] there is. This is the most uncertain thing about the climate system.

And that uncertainty has been unchanged for 20 years. We have not been able to improve our understanding of that. And so when we in SilverLining are talking about our advocacy, we're saying we need to improve our information base, we need to quickly improve our ability to do that problem. That problem happens to be the same or very similar to the problem of what if I want to achieve this effect actively. So we think it's kind of a no brainer for society to say we need to go after that problem really hard, like the human genome, and understand what's going to happen when we take the pollution away, and [ask] is there a cleaner, more controlled version of this that might help.

David Roberts: L

How to think about solar radiation management Part 2 - Volts - Air Date 2-24-23

et's just briefly touch on the main subject of your latest report, which is just research, advocating for [00:48:00] research. I come into this sort of, like, leery about doing things like this that we know so little about. But when I got into sort of reading about the kind of research we need, what's sort of remarkable is probably like two thirds of the research you're advocating is not even directly on doing these things. It's just understanding what's in the atmosphere right now, like, [asking] what are the risks of short term rapid changes now. Just very basic climate science stuff that you would think we would already be researching. I mean, I think even sort of the most committed opponent of these schemes would agree that it's crazy how little we know about this whole area of study. 

David Roberts: So, maybe just talk about what, when you advocate for research, just talk about sort of the basics of what you're advocating for here. I mean, I think people will be a little bit shocked that some of this stuff doesn't already [00:49:00] exist.

Kelly Wanser: Well, thank you for that. You're exactly right because I think we were shocked, not coming from this field and just kind of looking at it as an information problem. And the problem you want to do is you want to be able to project and evaluate the risk of what the climate system is going to do. So I'd really like to be able to project with some confidence how the Earth system is going to respond to this warming over the next 30 years and then what it would look like if you change the things that are influencing it, either in the warming direction, the greenhouse gases, or in the cooling direction, what scientists call aerosols, these particles. 

So, we're coming at it saying, Okay, we just want to help set us up to do that problem and evaluate what it looks like if you are introducing aerosols in different ways and how does that improve or not, like, the risk profile of what's happening. And so then we bump into [00:50:00] these gaps and what the problems that we can't do in the models and a lot of them center right in the atmosphere, that the models don't represent all the phenomenon that are happening in the atmosphere very well, and that we don't have the observations that we need to improve them.

David Roberts: It's like insane. It's like five, six decades now of talk about climate change and talk about all this, but we still on some very basic levels are just not watching what's happening in the atmosphere.

Kelly Wanser: I think people assume that it's like, Hey, we've got this, right? And you hear there are these satellites and you hear the scientific studies coming out that are projecting what climate is going to do. We have satellites looking at everything. And then you sort of dig under the hood and that's where solar radiation management just has an analysis problem. Because what some of the scientists in our circles have said is people want a higher standard of evidence for this. [00:51:00] So they're saying, well, you need to be able to tell us what will happen and what the impacts will be. And we shouldn't be having that standard of evidence for what greenhouse gas is doing and what these other aerosols are doing, but we haven't. And so we get in there and say, Okay, if you really want to do this problem, here's what you need. So, to give you [an] example, the very top candidate for this is putting particles in the stratosphere, and so if you want to project what will happen, you first need a baseline of what's in the stratosphere. And it turns out we don't have that. We can't characterize what's in the stratosphere currently. So then it's very hard to do that problem.

And so the first thing that we did when we started talking to members of Congress and working with NOAA is just to say, We have this problem of having a baseline of what's there, which is a really important problem to solve. If you want to know if somebody else is adding material to the stratosphere, if you want to know what it will do, and so that was our starting point. [00:52:00] And it's similar kinds of things now, where even in the low cogler [?] we're working on a program to put instruments on ships like the current ships that travel, that would just be taking atmospheric readings of that low atmosphere so that you would have a baseline and you'd be able to help the models and even the satellites interpret what's going on.

David Roberts: Right. So just gathering more data about what's actually in the atmosphere. So we have a baseline, because one thing the report emphasizes over and over again is that it doesn't really make sense to talk about the risk of doing these things in isolation. It's always, What is the risk of this intervention versus the risk of not doing this intervention? What are the risks we're facing as a baseline against which we are measuring the risks of this intervention? And we just don't know. That's what's wild to me. We just don't know what the current risks are. So [00:53:00] there's no way to make an informed risk judgment because you don't know the differential.

Kelly Wanser: That's right. And we haven't really invested in it, which is another quite eye-popping reality.

David Roberts: It's wild.

Kelly Wanser: Like, globally and in the United States, climate research investments have been relatively flat for decades.

David Roberts: That is wild to me. I know every time I read that - I read that statistic periodically, and every time I run across it - I'm shocked all over again. Like, all this talk, all this international action, all this agita and angst, and we're not spending any more on climate research than we were two decades ago.

Kelly Wanser: This really baffled me. Coming into this, I didn't understand it, and I sort of learned there was quite a long period of time where there was an orientation that I'm kind of sympathetic to, which was, we know what we need to know. We need to reduce emissions. And so if you think about it as like two sides of an equation, and you look at the reduced emissions side of that [00:54:00] equation, and you just focus everything on that, and you say, don't spend your energy on figuring out what's going to happen if it gets warmer, because we're not going to let it get warmer.

And really, that combined with a lot of other pressures on climate science, climate science has been in lockdown mode. I can still remember, like ten or twelve years ago. It's brutal.

David Roberts: Under siege, yes.

Kelly Wanser: Terrifying. But now we're seeing these extremes, and we've had a flat level of investment. And inside that flat level of investment in climate research, in the part that looks directly at the atmospheric observation of atmospheric basic science has actually declined in real terms.

David Roberts: Oh, my God, that is mind-boggling.

Kelly Wanser: It's heartbreaking. And that's the fulcrum for everything we need to know about what's happening and [00:55:00] how we evaluate what we're going to do. So the good thing is it represents an opportunity if we can improve it. And I'll just finish by saying climate research investments in the United States are about three and a half billion a year, and that's everything on that side of the equation. And if you compare that to the 55 billion we spent on the three most recent storms.

David Roberts: Yes.

Kelly Wanser: And even the big money that's gone into these other programs. What we're saying is, Hey, to invest an additional 60 or 70% in that bring it up to 5 and a half, 6 billion a year, that seems reasonable.

Final comments and interview with Mike Tidwell about the arguments for and against geo-engineering

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: We've just heard clips today, starting with PBS Terra, giving us the current state of our best climate predictions. Vox looked at geothermal plants through the lens of manufacturing EV batteries. Jamie C. Beard gave a TED Talk in 2021 explaining her work to convert the oil and gas industry into the [00:56:00] geothermal industry. The vlogbrothers described some of the highlights and low lights of geoengineering. Volts in two parts looks at the prospects of studying geoengineering, solar, radiation management to stave off climate impacts. And Radiolab told the story of some of the accidental geoengineering we've already been doing with the sulfur dioxide coming from cargo ships. 

Now to finish up, I want to introduce you to Mike Tidwell, to talk through a few more concerns about geoengineering. 

Mike has been a climate activist for around 20 years and runs the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. He has done a lot of good work in that time, but he's also made the questionable decision to hire me way back in 2007. So, his record is definitely not spotless. And it was from Mike either that year he hired me or the next year, 2008, that I first heard about the concept of geoengineering. So, he's clearly been thinking about this for a long time, which is why I had him in the back of my mind as we were making this [00:57:00] episode and why I wanted to get his personal take on some of the arguments and counter arguments for and against doing geoengineering research or even possibly implementing those ideas. 

Spoiler alert. He is in favor of studying it. So I just wanted to ask him to explain his reasoning. He started by describing the sense of urgency we need to feel about all potential climate solutions.

MIKE TIDWELL: The major things that I have tried to pay attention to over the last 20 years as a climate activist is, number one, how fast are we making the switch to clean energy? The good news is we're making that switch. substantially, we really are, especially culminating with the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. We're going to see up to 1. 7 trillion dollars in clean energy investments over the next decade. It's just amazing. The problem is we waited too long to get there. As Bill McKibben [00:58:00] says, winning slowly is the same as losing. So we're winning, and that's encouraging. But with each passing year, especially in the last five years, the news on accelerating climate impacts, the degree of warmth, the rise of sea levels, et cetera, has become startling and it's clear that the science is telling us we've waited too long to begin to make the transition to clean energy.

So if we've waited too long, therefore what? All the things that we're seeing now across the planet, James Hansen has predicted, and now he is saying our most accurate prophet of climate change, James Hansen, our top climate scientist, formerly at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Dr. James Hansen has been saying the last few years and really shouting it from the rooftops this year that we have to not only switch to clean energy as fast as we can, [00:59:00] not only do we need to try to sequester carbon and suck carbon out of the atmosphere as fast as we can, but we also have to reflect sunlight away from the planet, or at least we need to really study it, in detail, with billions of dollars put into experimentation and research to at least rule out the truly crazy stuff and focus on the stuff that we have a high confidence level will A) cool the planet and B) do so with the least amount of negative consequences as best we can tell. 

I don't know if it's inevitable that we're going to do this. I'm not saying with complete certainty that I know we need to do this. What I believe and I think what Dr. James Hansen and hundreds of his colleagues who signed a letter to this effect in February of 2023 are saying is we need to at least study it and have that emergency [01:00:00] option available to us, because the trends are depressing now, and the warming is accelerating beyond most predictions now, 2023 being about to become the warmest year by far in the history of the planet going back at least 125,000 years, blowing 2016, the last record year, out of the water. It is now time for us to begin seriously studying and considering a plan B that involves reflecting sunlight. 

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: And a quick note for the members. These next two questions will be for members only. So if you're hearing this, thank you for your support and enjoy this extended bit of the interview. 

The first specific argument that I asked Mike about was the most philosophical of all the arguments against geoengineering. That being that the type of dominionist thinking that humans sort of control nature, and we get to do whatever we want with it. That's the sort of thinking that got us into this mess in the first place[01:01:00] and that it is that same well of thought from which the idea of geoengineering has been drawn. And so to get nature back into balance, humans need to adjust to the demands of nature, not try to manipulate it further. 

MIKE TIDWELL: I think it's a valid consideration, except for one central problem, and that problem is, nature is over. As Bill McKibben wrote in 1989 in his seminal book, The End of Nature, there is nothing natural on the planet anymore. When you change the atmosphere, you change every square centimeter of weather conditions all over the world. So, listening to nature, yielding to nature, following nature on this planet as a solution to our problem is not possible. 

One thing that we have done over the last 300 years of the [01:02:00] Industrial Revolution and the beginning of the rapid warming of the planet through our use of fossil fuels, we have not only simultaneously warmed the planet, we've also created cooling, which is a strange concept to hold at the same time. We've been warming and cooling the planet at the same time. The aggregate trend toward more warming, but by burning fossil fuels, especially coal, we also inject sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere, and that sulfur reflects sunlight. So, we've been masking the full severity of the warming. We've already been geoengineering the planet for 300 years. We've been inadvertently engineering the planet toward warming overall and now the idea is we could advertently [sic] engineer the planet toward more cooling for at least the next several decades while we complete the [01:03:00] transition off of fossil fuels. 

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: I also asked about the divide in thinking within the community of climate scientists. Many are on board with studying geoengineering, even if they currently oppose implementing it. But there are others who believe it's a false and unnecessary solution. So, how should we nonscientists know who to trust? 

MIKE TIDWELL: James Hansen has argued that the IPCC has consistently been too conservative in its projections of coming warming. They've been too conservative in their confidence that clean energy can make the switch in time to stabilize the climate. And part of that criticism that Hansen has of the IPCC right now is that the IPCC is saying to stabilize the climate in the next century, we have to suck unbelievable amounts of carbon out of the atmosphere. [01:04:00] We have to draw down so much carbon, like a hundred gigatons per year by 2100, which by the way, is like three times more CO2 than we're putting into the atmosphere last year. So the idea that we're going to successfully draw all this carbon out of the atmosphere is increasingly becoming unlikely.

There are academics who call this "carbon unicorns". We can't plant enough trees. We can't build enough machines that can suck the CO2 out of the air. Carbon direct capture, today, that technology, is where solar energy was in the 1970s. I mean, we are way behind. So Hansen says, look, we're not making the switch to clean energy fast enough. We don't have the technology to withdraw CO2 from the atmosphere fast enough and both of those trends implicate the IPCC as [01:05:00] being too conservative, too optimistic in their predictions. And if that's the case, then we need to consider reflecting sunlight away from the planet. And that's where I see things. I come to this not as a scientist, not as a techno... Silicon Valley technology is going to solve all our problems. I come to it as a climate activist, someone who's paid serious attention to the progress of the transition to clean energy, who's paid a lot of attention to the science, multiple camps of the science, but who now in 2023 rely on James Hansen as the proven most reliable voice in what should come next in our climate movement and what he's pointing to. Is we need to study this issue of solar geoengineering reflecting sunlight away from the planet to have any hope of stabilizing the climate

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: I [01:06:00] then asked about one of the major arguments against geoengineering, which is that it could potentially sap the motivation for society to continue to decarbonize our energy infrastructure. Like, well, if we're doing this and it's making climate change a better than, I guess we don't need to actually reduce our emissions as much. Right?

MIKE TIDWELL: There are those who are afraid that if you go down the path of trying to reflect sunlight away from the planet, you create a so-called moral hazard that you create the circumstance where by taking that action, by using sulfur dioxide to reflect sunlight from the planet... and you're talking about just reducing between one and two degrees the amount of sunlight coming into the planet. This is not a radical reduction. Volcanoes have done it in the past. But the idea is if you start doing that, then why stop burning fossil fuels? You'll just create an excuse to keep burning fossil fuels. That's the so called moral hazard of solar geoengineering.

There [01:07:00] are several things to consider here. One is that same argument can be applied to sequestering carbon, to direct carbon capture, to trying to suck carbon out of the atmosphere. That, too, could have a moral hazard. I mean, why get off fossil fuels if you could just burn the coal, send the CO2 to the atmosphere, and then suck the CO2 out of the sky and bury it under the earth. So, this issue of moral hazard applies to things that the IPCC has already embraced, i. e. carbon capture. But the biggest issue here is that there is no stopping the clean energy revolution. I mean, it's happening. We are winning too slowly, but we are winning. The transition is happening. I mean, when California and the European Union all declare that by 2035, they are not going to permit the sale of [01:08:00] internal combustion engine cars in their jurisdictions, that's going to influence the whole world. I don't know why anyone would buy stock in ExxonMobil when it is certain that the cars that that oil would power aren't going to exist much longer by statute in much of the world. And that's just cars. I mean, look at the progress we're making in solar, the prices, I mean, utility scale solar with battery storage is the cheapest form of energy in the history of energy. And it's here today being deployed. There is no stopping that. That genie is out of the bottle. 

So I'm not concerned about the moral hazard when it comes to solar radiation management. I'm not concerned that it's going to stop the clean energy revolution. It cannot. And then there are additional arguments for why even if you can cool the planet artificially why you should not continue to [01:09:00] burn fossil fuels because it is acidifying the oceans. We have ocean acidification that could take down human civilization on its own. So, there are many arguments to get off fossil fuels.

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: Next up is the rogue nation concern. It was said during the show, solar radiation management "isn't a thing that should be done unilaterally, but it is a thing that could be done unilaterally". And so there's this fear that just studying it could help boost to the associated engineering to help make it happen and then even if all the scientists are super cautious and advise against anyone doing anything rash, their work could be used by desperate people, likely those being most adversely affected by climate impact, or maybe some corporation with the idea that this is the way to go and so they're just going to take it upon themselves to do it. Anyway, that someone might act unilaterally using the scientists' research, which would be dangerous for us all. So, maybe it's too dangerous to [01:10:00] even study. 

MIKE TIDWELL: The other issue that people bring up when it comes to reflecting sunlight from the planet is that if you start to study it, then you create enough knowledge for rogue nations, perhaps prior to some international agreement to do this in an orderly, reasonable way, some rogue nation that's under particular climate stress might obtain that science and technology and do it on their own in an act of desperation. And I would argue that rogue nations can do that today, because, honestly, the blunt technology needed to try to cool the planet already exists.

I mean, you could use artillery, you know, high elevation artillery shells to send sulfur dioxide into the lower stratosphere now. You could use converted aircraft to do the same. Individual countries can do it today. China could do it. The United States could do it. [01:11:00] Brazil could do it. And it won't be long before you know, some coalition of Pacific Island nation states could probably do it.

So, It's because it's so easy now that we really ought to study it and rule out the really crazy technology and try to settle on what might be the highest probability success technology. Spend 10 years really bringing the smartest people together, not saying this is inevitable, not saying we're definitely going to do it, but saying it looks like this sure might be necessary, let's really study it carefully, let's have an international agreement that no one's going to use this technology until this international academy makes its recommendations by some fixed future date and then let's try to enforce those rules. 

So, I think the rogue nation fear is already here, and if you want to reduce the likelihood [01:12:00] that a nation could go rogue on this, you're better off studying it as an international community and trying to come up with international rules for its use

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: And finally I asked about one of the stickiest problems, which is the need for international cooperation and good governance over the course of several decades to properly manage solar radiation through geoengineering with the risk of termination shock, which we heard described in the show, if we can't keep things running smoothly. And no one listening right now needs to be reminded that both national and international politics is a bit on the chaotic side right now. 

MIKE TIDWELL: Maintaining global political stability is certainly a challenge right now in 2023, no doubt. And those who argue that it is nearly impossible to conceive of an orderly international body and decision making process to govern the reflection of sunlight away from the planet is a [01:13:00] reasonable concern for sure. However, we have to do difficult things in this century. We have to overcome amazing obstacles. We have to deal with the warming and the politics at the same time and to give up on either one of those to say, Oh, there's too much warming. There's no hope. Let's just burn coal and forget about it and take what may come, that's absurd. To point to political instability and the rise of fascism and all the other issues that we see in the world, including multiple wars and therefore throw up our hands and say, we can't ever have a stable political system sufficient to save ourselves from runaway warming, is also absurd. We're going to have to try to accomplish these difficult things. And I would just, speaking of the politics, you know, the Biden administration's Office of Science and Technology put out guidelines in June [01:14:00] of 2023 for the possible study and experimentation of solar radiation modification, reflecting sunlight from the planet. They don't embrace it. They don't say it has to happen. But what they put out were guidelines to say, if we study this, if we experiment with this, these are some of the considerations and guidelines that scientists and politicians should adhere to. And you can find that online, it's readily available, it came out in late June of this year.

What I took away from that report was an approach that they called risk versus risk management when considering whether to study and possibly deploy solar radiation modification techniques. And what they basically say is that attempting as a international community through science to reflect sunlight away from the planet to therefore [01:15:00] relieve global warming while we get off of clean energy is terrifying and it is risky. Yes, it is risky. There are risks involved. But what they ask is, is it risky compared to what? And "the what" is runaway climate change, the kind of unbelievable warmth that we've seen in 2023 times three or four or five orders of magnitude down the road, which means synchronized global bread basket collapse, you know? Agricultural problems, sea level rise in the meters, not in the feet, et cetera, et cetera. We have to compare the risk of studying and potentially deploying solar geoengineering versus the risk of not doing it. And I think it's a study worth engaging in. I think it's a conversation worth having. And the risk also applies to our politics. Is it risky to try to [01:16:00] assume that we can bring the world's countries together to try to have a decision-making process on solar radiation modification? Is that risky? Yes, of course it is. Is it going to be fraught with problems? Of course it will be. But compared to what? Compared to not trying and not talking and not trying to appeal to our mutual common interests, to not bringing China and the United States together to really consider all possibilities to preserve agriculture?

I think that we can't just see reflecting sunlight is some inherently dangerous scenario without considering not doing it. And I think that's what the Biden administration has said in their report, and it's a conversation we need to have, and if we're going to believe James Hansen, who's been right on these climate issues and the major crossroads and forks in the road over the last several decades, James Hansen has been correct [01:17:00] in his predictions, his diagnoses on the problem, and I think he's correct today in saying the world's governments must begin studying this issue of how to reflect sunlight away from the planet and must be prepared to hold it as a plan B in case it becomes necessary

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: Thanks to Mike for taking some of his very minimal free time that he was spending with his family on a holiday weekend to talk us through all of that. And now I'll just finish with this thought about the debate, not over deploying a geoengineering strategy, but just over studying it. 

I had this thought before talking with Mike, and then he echoed the same sentiment, which is that solar radiation management through sulfur dioxide in the stratosphere is so easy and cheap that it doesn't seem likely that a desperate rogue nation would need for research to go any further than it already has for them to think that they should give it a try. In fact, a [01:18:00] geoengineering startup company in January of this year already started launching weather balloons to deploy sulfur dioxide. So, the fear that doing more research may open the door for rogue entities is a classic case of closing the barn door after the horse has already bolted. So, given that, I find it hard to take any arguments against further research very seriously. Because the best case scenario is that we do a bunch of research, learn a lot of great stuff, some of which will almost certainly be useful in ways we can't foresee, and then we'll never have to actually implement geoengineering of any kind because maybe we'll have figured out scalable geothermal energy so that we begin to decarbonize faster than anyone dared hope. 

But failing that, by having done the research we'll have given future generations one more tool in their tool belt that they can choose to use or not. As [01:19:00] James Hansen, who we just heard a lot about said, "We have no right to ban the right to search for a solution for the mess we created". And so I absolutely believe that everyone has the right to withhold judgment on whether or not we should ever implement a geoengineering strategy. But doing the research to learn more about it. I can't help it come down on the side of saying yes, we need to learn more.

That is going to be at 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 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 LaWendy, for their volunteer work helping put our transcripts together. Thanks to Amanda Hoffman for all of [01:20:00] 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 at bestoftheleft.com/support you can join them by signing up today, and it would be greatly appreciated. You'll find that link in the show notes, along with a link to join our Discord 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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#1593 Beyond Neoliberalism: Dreaming a new economic system into being (Transcript)

Air Date 11/14/2023

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JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [00:00:00] During today's episode, I'm going to be telling you about a show I think you should check out. It's the Future Hindsight podcast. So, take a moment to hear what I have to say about them in the middle of the show and listen wherever you get your podcasts. 

And now welcome to this episode of the award-winning Best of the Left podcast in which we shall take a look at how the Supreme Court turned the tables on average working people back in the seventies, when they empowered wealthy individuals and corporations to have an outsized role in our politics. And now we are trapped in the reality that shift in power created, but are dreaming of a better way to manage our economic and political systems for the benefit of all people. Sources today include the Thom Hartmann Program, Jim Hightower's Radio Lowdown, the Ralph Nader Radio Hour, Economic Update with Professor Richard Wolff, OFF-KILTER with Rebecca Vallis, and the Zero Hour with RJ Eskow, with additional members-only clips from Citations Needed and OFF-KILTER.

How Things Work Congress's Revolving Door - Jim Hightower's Lowdown - Air Date 11-9-23

JIM HIGHTOWER - HOST, JIM HIGHTOWER'S LOWDOWN: Hear it? What's that [00:01:00] sound? Ooh, it's Washington's revolving door, allowing corporate interests to come directly inside Congress to pervert public policy. That door is now spinning fast because there's a new boss operator in Congress. He's Mike Johnson, who was recently unanimously chosen by Republicans to be their Speaker of the House.

He's a corporate wet dream, an affable ultra conservative from Shreveport who consistently backs the plutocratic agenda of big business over workers, the poor, consumers, and most other Americans. Moreover, Johnson maintains it was God who elevated him to his new position of authority, and that the Bible will guide his policy views. Well, selected parts of the Bible. Don't expect much mercy, justice, and peacemaking from this hardcore laissez faire ideologue. 

For example, guess who he's chosen to be his director of policy? Big Pharma's top Washington lobbyist. Dan [00:02:00] Ziegler has been the chief influence peddler for a dozen multi-billion-dollar drug giants, including Eli Lilly, Merck, and Pfizer. Ziegler has furiously opposed every legislative effort to stop the rampant price gouging, even though 90 percent of Americans are clamoring for Congress to clamp down on pharmaceutical rip offs. But we 90%ers don't control the revolving door. Mike does. 

Johnson piously cloaks himself in both the Christian gospel and libertarian myth of free markets. Yet he has consistently pushed government action to restrict competition and protect drug monopolies. Now, in his first substantive action as Speaker, he is literally bringing Big Pharma inside to sit with him in the seat of legislative power. 

This is Jim Hightower, saying drug pricing reform will soon come up for a vote in Congress. Before Mike's lobbyist buddy tells him what to do, let's demand that he re-read the Sermon on the Mount. 

Citizens United Has Destroyed America Why Is Nobody Talking About It - Thom Harmann Program - Air Date 10-27-23

THOM HARTMANN - HOST, THOM HARTMANN PROGRAM: This all started in 1976 [00:03:00] when James Buckley, William F. Buckley's older brother, he was the, I believe he's older, he was the senator from New York, the Republican senator from New York, and he wanted to be able to use, he was a multi-millionaire, he wanted to be able to use his own money and his campaign to basically wipe out his opponent. And federal election law at the time, in 1978, er, 1976, said, No, you can't do that. There are limits on how much money anybody can spend, including the candidate himself. So he took this to the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court said, Hey, it's your money, you can do whatever the hell you want with it. And the rationale that they used was that without billionaires being able to put money into politics - and get this, this is amazing - without billionaires putting money into politics, or let me rephrase that. The rationale was that restrictions on rich people behind political office, this is a quote from the Buckley case in 1976, "necessarily reduce the quantity of expression by restricting the number of issues [00:04:00] discussed, the depth of the exploration, and the size of the audience reached. This is because virtually every means of communicating ideas in today's mass society requires the expenditure of money". In other words, the Supreme Court said, if you're a billionaire or a multi-millionaire and you want to pour money into politics, that's going to help politics, because, you know, you'll have, uh, we'll have a discussion, a more in depth discussion, more topics, because the money is going to expand political discussion.

Which raises the immediate question, okay? That's fine for the top 1, 2, 3 percent of Americans who can afford to, you know, throw thousands of dollars a year or millions of dollars a year into politics. But what about the 97%? What about the rest of us? Our free speech is pretty much limited to how loud we can stand out in front of our house and yell. It's limited to our ability, you know, our ability to vote, I [00:05:00] guess, is a form of speech. Our ability to say something on social media, but what about our right to have our political views aired? Well, the Supreme Court had no interest in discussing that in 1976. So, James Buckley won that case, and the Supreme Court, for the first time in the history of the United States, legalized rich people basically owning politics.

Two years later, in 1978, in First National Bank [of Boston] v. Bellotti, they did it again. They said this is true of corporations as well. If corporations want to put money into politics, no problem. And then in 2010, they tripled down on this and overturned hundreds of American laws nationwide, state and federal laws, and just gutted any protection that Americans have against rich people, against billionaires, basically owning our political systems. So now we have a [00:06:00] situation where every single Republican in the House of Representatives, and most of them in the Senate, frankly, are terrified of the billionaires in the industries that can harm them. And every Republican in the House of Representatives is there. I mean, they're just, like, you know, Please don't ask us to restrict guns. The gun manufacturers will pay for advertising for our primary opponents. Please don't ask us to do something about Medicare Advantage ripping people off. The health insurance companies will devastate us in the next primary. I mean, it doesn't take, you know, in a primary election for the House of Representatives, half a million dollars is enough to take a person down in most parts of the country. It doesn't take a lot of money. When you've got an industry, you know, the health insurance industry, for example, is making literally a billion dollars a week in profits, probably. I don't know the exact number, but I'd be amazed if it wasn't at least a billion dollars a week. They can easily peel off a half a [00:07:00] million bucks. Chump change. That's like pennies in the couch, right? They can easily peel off a half a million or a million dollars to take down some politician who decides he wants to do something about Medicare Advantage. Or guns. The gun industry is making billions. They can do the same thing. I mean, it just goes on and on, right? The fossil fuel industry, making billions. They own every Republican. In fact, Sheldon Whitehouse, this is, I found this on his website last night. Sheldon Whitehouse points out that prior to 2010 - keep in mind, 2010 was Citizens United - prior to the Citizens United decision, Republicans were actually in favor of doing something about climate change. Seriously. John McCain ran for president on doing something about climate change. He said, "While we cannot say with 100 percent confidence what will happen in the future, we do know the emission of greenhouse gases is not healthy for the climate. As many of the top scientists throughout the world have stated, the sooner [00:08:00] we start to reduce these emissions, the better off we'll be in the future". He was the lead co sponsor for the Climate Stewardship Act, which had other Republican co-sponsors. The Clean Air Planning Act was supported by Republican Senators Lamar Alexander, Lindsey Graham, and Susan Collins. Republican Senator Olympia Snowe was the lead co sponsor of the Global Warming Reduction Act of 2007. Multiple Republicans supported the Low Carbon Economy Act and the Clean Air Climate Change Act. In 2009, Republicans supported the Raise Wages, Cut Carbon Act and the Waxman Markey Carbon Cut Cap and Trade Proposal. Maine Republican Susan Collins was the lead sponsor of the Carbon Limits and Energy for America's Renewal Act.

Republican susan Collins said, "In the United States alone, emissions of the primary greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, have gone up more than 20 percent since 1990. Clearly, climate change is a daunting environmental challenge". And then came 2010, and everything [00:09:00] changed. Clarence Thomas, who'd been groomed for over a decade by right wing billionaires and fossil fuel billionaires, the Koch brothers, had been groomed for this, became the deciding vote on Citizens United, legalizing bribery of, not only politicians, but also federal judges like Clarence Thomas himself. And once the fossil fuel industry could pour unlimited amounts of money into either supporting Republicans who deny climate change, or destroying Republicans who assert climate change, once that happened, the entire Republican Party went silent on climate change. Sheldon Whitehouse, on the floor of the Senate, "I believe we lost the ability to address climate change in a bipartisan way because of the evils of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision". Amen. 

RAPH NADER - HOST, RALPH NADER RADIO HOUR: So, if we want to do anything, if we want to do anything about student debt, if we want to do anything about the quality of our schools, if we want to do anything about health care, if we want to do anything [00:10:00] about climate change, if we want to do anything about, you know, banks and airlines ripping us off with fees and things, if we want to do anything that takes on any major industry, we have to overturn Citizens United. That has to be done first. 

Corporate Bullsh*t Legal Bullsh*t - Ralph Nader Radio Hour - Air Date 11-11-23

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RAPH NADER - HOST, RALPH NADER RADIO HOUR: Most individuals, throughout life, if they're accurately described as serial liars, people stop believing them. They just say that's another bit of magical thinking from Joe or something. Why is it that corporations and corporate executives never seem to lose credibility with the public, even after this is all publicized, they're proven wrong, the public benefits from these health and safety issues and other protections of consumers, environment, worker, children, patients, and the like. Why don't they lose credibility? 

DONALD COHEN: It's the key $64 million question, but I'd say a couple things. One of which is, in some cases, the things they say when they said them have the patina of plausibility. [00:11:00] Maybe jobs will get cut if we make auto and companies spend more money on something, things like that. So they sometimes have a patina of plausibility. But the second is we don't go back and say, you said that before and it didn't happen, you said that before and it didn't happen, said that before and it didn't happen. They just go forth. They've learned that you come up with your talking points, you say them, you hammer them, and they've been effective.

What we need to do is ridicule them. Say, listen, it's just a game. What you're playing here is a game, and you're playing a game with lives, and the planet, and all of that, which is, again, it's the purpose of the book. Every time they say something, our natural instinct is to debunk it, which means we're playing on their playing field.

We want to pre-bunk it. We say, that's bull. You're just playing a game, and listen to how you've done it in the past, because there's, many of the quotes in this book are hilarious, actually. We want to make fun of them, and we're hoping that this becomes a little bit of a vaccine going forward.

RAPH NADER - HOST, RALPH NADER RADIO HOUR: You talk about the sanction of shame, that you want to have people read this book and [00:12:00] then say, basically, shame to these corporations, and to shame them, ridicule them, expose them. Is that enough? 

DONALD COHEN: I don't think it's enough, but first of all, the other word I would add is dismiss them, right? You remember Reagan used to say to his opponents, "Oh, there they go again." It was just the best dismissive line, right? So we want that. But no, it's not enough. You've got to have the power to take it all the way home in America. You've got to pass laws that expose their self-int-- not expose their lie, you could do that, but it's really expose their self-interest.

And, you talked about lead. The interesting thing about lead is, they say that, lead's healthy for you all the way from that period of time when it was in paint and when it was in gasoline, early part of the last century. And then finally more than halfway through the century, standards were established, where lead was taken out of paint and gasoline. They knew -- just as the fossil fuel companies, just as the opioid makers, just as the tobacco companies -- they knew the scientific truth. 

So these were lies, and they were in [00:13:00] their self-interest, and lives were lost because of it. So I think that's part of the shame, is to say, it's not just a game, but it's a game that you're playing with people's lives, and you know it.

RAPH NADER - HOST, RALPH NADER RADIO HOUR: Millions of lives, we're talking, we're talking the denial of coal dust creates coal miner pneumoconiosis, that's a half a million lives in the last century of coal miners lost, horrible asphyxiation deaths. Then there's the 450,000 people who die from smoking-related, tobacco related diseases. Just add that up year after year. And then there's at least 300,000 people, workers mostly, who died from asbestos exposure. All of this was denied. "There's no proof asbestos creates cancer. Or mesothelioma. There's no proof that tobacco smoke creates cancer, heart disease" -- until the Surgeon General's report started coming out in the mid-1960s.

This is more than just lies, falsehoods, [00:14:00] off-the-wall predictive phoniness. It's more than that. It's deadly. In other words, it's not just rhetoric. It's not just craziness. It leads to the suppression of the society's response to foresee and forestall hazards, rip offs, and the like, and to engage in preventive activity, regulations, opening up for lawsuits under tort law, and deterrence.

So we're dealing here with not only malicious pattern of rhetoric, we're dealing here with deadly delays. A lot of these phony denials delayed the reaction, as you point out in the book, delayed the reaction of the public to correction. 

By the way, readers should know that in this book, called Corporate Bullshit: Exposing the Lies and Half Truths That Protect Profit, Power, and Wealth in America, it's not just corporations, it's not just their trade associations like the US Chamber of Commerce. It's academics, [00:15:00] it's publications like the National Review. It's reporters who should know better in terms of their reporting, it's headline writers that have inaccurate headlines because of their predisposition against the content of the story, like broadening healthcare protection in the country.

Here's an interesting transition, Donald, that you probably have thought of. People listening to Trump, starting out in 2015, his campaign, look at this guy. He just lies every day. Just in four years as president, he made 35,000 lies or false statements, according to the Washington Post, which tracked his rhetoric day by day, led by Glenn Kessler, the reporter. And people would ask me, how does he get away with this? Why do people believe this? I said one simple answer is that millions of people have been believing phony advertising for years. This product is good for your nutritional needs when it's [00:16:00] phony. This color product is pretty and it will attract your kiddies when it's bad for them, all kinds of phony assurances in the credit industry, in the auto industry, these pharmaceutical products, over-the-counter pills, they're safe and effective, and so people were predisposed in their consumer activity to believe these advertising lies.

So what Trump did was, he just took that kind of pattern and moved it big time into politics. And he had a constituency that was already programmed, so to speak, to be gullible enough or trustworthy enough to believe these corporate advertisers. And they took in his lies and his falsehoods. Any comments on that?

DONALD COHEN: A couple of things. I think we all know repetition is key to propaganda and advertising, right? We know that if somebody says something as many times long enough, it penetrates into a belief. It goes past the [00:17:00] intellect, and it just becomes a fact that we believe is true. I think that's part of what Trump is doing. He just says it over and over again. And then they decide they believe him. And once they decide they believe him, then everything he says is the truth as well. So I think that's really what's going on. Corporations have said it over and over again, and we go it must be true.

And then one other thing: part of the assault on the specific things that we've been talking about in terms of the laws and regulations and health and safety and all that, is in parallel, there's been an assault on government, on the idea that governments need to do things, the idea of government, the institution of government. There's this drumbeat for 50 years. 

And so that's the sea you're swimming in. And when that's the sea we're swimming in politically, in public opinion. So if the next thing you say is, and another regulation is going to be bad for all of us, it's not operating from scratch. It's operating on top of what have become negative attitudes towards government action. 

How Media's Use of 'The Economy' Flattens Class Conflict - Citations Needed - Air Date 11-1-23

KIM KELLY: I'm really glad that the UAW president, Shawn Fain, [00:18:00] brought that up and really laid out that kind of contrast, the tension that I think a lot of normal people, you know, working class people, poor people feel when it comes to "the economy". For us, the economy is something that happens to us, and for the folks at the top, meaning, you know, politicians and corporations and the wealthy, the elite, whatever, that's something that they control. It's something that they feel very personally, because it's their money, it's their profit. Like, all of those billions, all that economic impact, all of these, you know, numbers and things that are bandied about in studies by well-funded think tanks, like, that is not my business. That is not something that normal people... it doesn't impact us really in the way that it impacts people that benefit from it do. We're just trying to survive "the economy". Now, that's a crucial difference. And I think that's something that just is not recognized by the people that do have that [00:19:00] economic privilege and are in those more rarified circles and have power over us.

Well, I'm glad that Shawn Fain brought it up, like, wrecking their economy. Like, the strike, the UAW strike, has cost the economy 4 billion dollars, allegedly. That's, I think, one of the latest headlines I saw. Who felt that pinch? It wasn't me. It wasn't my neighbor. It wasn't normal people throughout the country. It's the shareholders. It's the C suite. It's the people that are expecting to make that money. They are feeling it. They are upset about it. And we're supposed to care that this is a problem they now have. Meanwhile, you know, I live in Philadelphia, man. We're the poorest major city. Thousands of my neighbors are unhoused or are struggling with addiction or just struggling in general. The fact that the big three "lost" four billion dollars, that is not part of our reality. And I think it is very helpful and useful that Shawn [00:20:00] Fain just kind of brought it up as the idea that we're not all living in the same economy. We're not all trying to survive the same economy. For most of us, the economy is a bludgeon. It's not a tool. It's not something in which we engage. It's something that we try to survive. 

NIMA SHIRAZI - CO-HOST, CITATIONS NEEDED: So Kim, I love this idea that there are different economies or even that "The Economy" writ large - capital T, capital E - is something to be survived by the working class. But there's this corollary issue here, right, that the hardship and brutality of strikes themselves don't mostly fall on, as we've been saying, the economy, but actually is felt.... now, as you've been talking about your neighbors and you wrote a whole book on this, I'd love to talk about what you've seen being the hardship experienced first hand and how this " economic impact" is routinely ignored by the media, right? That workers lives, rather than The Economy writ large, are not [00:21:00] often discussed. So, can we talk about who is actually harmed by strikes that drag on and on when employers, when corporations don't allow for more worker rights, for more worker power, and how would maybe acknowledging this difference in what we understand as the economy versus what workers are actually experiencing, help reporters and those consuming media actually delineate the harm of, you know, corporate bosses refusing to negotiate in good faith, thereby demanding, really, through that refusal, that strikes go on and on, until the demands are met?

KIM KELLY: So, here's the thing, right? When workers go out on strike, they're not drawing a paycheck. Some of them, in some instances, they lose their health insurance. They're out in the cold, they're on strike, they're not at work. But the people in charge, the people who are refusing to negotiate In good faith, or refusing to meet their demands, or refusing to provide them with a safe working [00:22:00] environment, they're still getting paid. They're still at work. They're not feeling anything, but perhaps varying levels of annoyance or anger at the sheer audacity of the workers for daring to stand up for themselves. 

To strike is to disrupt. It's supposed to cause problems. It's supposed to shut down production. It's not supposed to be easy for anybody. But the burden falls on the workers themselves. They're the ones taking the risk. They're the ones feeling the bite. They're the ones worrying about paying their bills. They're the ones who are taking on all of the risk for the hope of a reward. That is the thing. 

And now, during this UAW strike, and during so many of the other high profile strikes we've seen over the past couple years especially, you will invariably hear from "the other side". Because the media, we love hearing both sides, and the other side is invariably some very angry old White guy [00:23:00] with more yachts and more money than God going on Fox News or going on CNN and talking about how the workers are hurting the company, about how they're greedy, they're unreasonable, like they told us during the writer's strike.

Meanwhile, this man's making millions of dollars. Or perhaps this woman is making millions of dollars, girl bossing her way into the corporate elite. There's a disconnect there when we see headlines about how this strike is hurting companies or hurting the economy. Because you know who's feeling the pain? The workers who aren't getting a paycheck. The workers who are walking a picket line for eight hours a day and hoping that their health insurance doesn't get ripped away from them and, if it is, hoping that their union is able to cover them while they're out. 

There is an example that I always return to because it's something that became a very big part of my life for several years, and I was just a bit player. You know? Imagine how it was for the people actually living through this. But for two years, twenty three months, [00:24:00] in Brookwood, Alabama, starting in April 2021, a thousand coal miners who are members of the UMWA, United Mine Workers of America, were on strike. And for almost two years, they held the line. They were able to continue existing and living a life because their auxiliary, which was led predominantly by spouses and retirees, were able to solicit donations and launch a mutual aid effort and keep the strike in the news and do everything they could to support their people who were on the picket line.

They were lucky, actually, to be part of a union that does furnish its members with strike checks. So, they got, you know, a few hundred bucks every couple weeks, which, sure, Alabama's not Park Avenue, but it didn't go nearly as far as it needed to for so many people, so a lot of people had to find side jobs, some of their spouses who had never worked before had to go to work.

It really just shattered the whole fabric of that community, and nobody really [00:25:00] cared about that. The people in charge of that company, Warrior Met Coal, they were very clear and explicit about their desire and their plan to starve them out. Local politicians abandoned them. The GOP, for which many of those folks voted, abandoned them. They were just left to starve. And eventually they had to go back to work, they're still trying to get the contract they deserve. There wasn't an easy, tidy end to that strike. And sometimes that happens. Sometimes strikes don't work. And who's left holding the bag? Who's left having to go back to work under a bad contract? The workers. The people at the top , they're going to keep getting their bonuses, they're going to keep making their money, they're going to keep being able to hold on to this reserve of sort of entitlement and opposite world class resentment at these workers that dared to challenge them and ask for more.

 

What Socialism Needs to Succeed - Economic Update - Air Date 10-31-23

PROF RICHARD WOLFF - HOST, ECONOMIC UPDATE: For thousands of [00:26:00] years, working people, whether they were villagers, or slaves, or serfs, or proletarian workers, have had dreams of a way of working radically different from what they were subjected to, a way of working that was a community of equals who got together to produce something the larger society needed. They wanted to do that as a community of equals. We have seen efforts to do that in every society, in every religion, as a noble effort to break out of the dichotomy master-slave, or the dichotomy lord-servant, or the dichotomy employer-employee. 

What socialists could've and should've integrated into the core of what they're about is not just to bring the state and [00:27:00] society in to the economic decisions, to not let a small minority of capitalist owners, profit-driven, be the intermediary who decides everything. That's not enough. 

And that's what the 21st century is teaching socialists. It's not enough. It was a big step. It was an important step. You made huge gains. You established an important law of society being directly involved. But society has to be directly involved inside every factory, office, and store, too.

It turns out that socialism faced a question it did not come to terms with. Here's that question. Maybe it's the case, and let's put it as a question: Can you sustain a socialist revolution that puts the state in a powerful position in society as a whole without putting workers in a powerful [00:28:00] position inside the workplace?

I think history's answer to that question is, you cannot. You cannot even sustain the socialism you were successful in establishing, starting with the Russian Revolution and spreading ever since. You weren't able to save it, to preserve it, to sustain it. And maybe, question, maybe was that because you didn't change the reality inside, where people work: the factory, the office, the store, and that other place where people work, the household, the family.

Maybe the revolutions that changed families when slavery gave way to feudalism, that changed families again from feudalism to capitalism -- maybe the whole concept of family has to be rethought, re-understood, questioned. Socialists have to have the [00:29:00] daring to recognize the omission of that level of society when the revolution was discussed.

Fix it. Bring the revolution into those areas from which it was excluded. If democracy is the central principle we want to uphold, then we have to democratize the workplace, too. Democracy in the workplace is the opposite of the autocratic dictatorship of the CEO in a business, of the owner, of the operator.

Either you live in a community and understand the community as necessarily democratic, or you don't. Socialism can reimagine itself, redefine itself, and become even more powerful in the 21st century, in my judge, if and to the [00:30:00] extent that it offers a vision of a new workday life. That's where most adults spend most of their lives: at work. And work can be a democratic community that you enjoy, that you want to go to, where you learn, where you are nurtured in your relationships with other people. Not a place of being a drudge, being a drone, and listening to the orders of employers whose only interest is making money versus building a society.

A socialism with that kind of vision, that will be a socialism that builds successfully on what it did in the 19th and 20th century, but also recognizes what it didn't do, what wasn't enough, and what will be necessary to win the support of the mass of working people in the years ahead.

Prof. Richard Wolff Why Not Democratize Big Auto Companies - The Zero Hour - Air Date 10-28-23

PROF RICHARD WOLFF: I mean, either you believe in democracy, in which everybody, you know, the [00:31:00] basic idea is if you're affected by a decision, then you have a de facto right to participate in it. Are there limits to that? Sure. But the basic principle is why we have elections. So that we have some input over the people whose decisions affect our life. If the mayor determines the tax rate, or if the city council determines the tax rate I have to pay, well then I have some input onto that process, and we don't allow that in the corporation. And we act as if that's a dictate that has to be. 

I want to remind folks of a little historical lesson here. Under slavery, in various parts of the world where we've had slavery, sometimes for centuries, even if we took the example of the United States as a colony and then in, you know, up until the Civil War, we said that a slave, and [it] was enshrined in the law, [00:32:00] is a property of the master, of the owner of the slave. That's a relationship. And I can show you endless literature that said that this was the way God meant it to be, because otherwise, how could it be otherwise? You know, God made the earth. Seven days. Works fast. And he got this all done. And it would last forever. It was a great system. It recognized that some people are masters, and other people aren't.

And in feudalism, we did the same game, only we changed the names, and we changed the relationship. It became lord and serf, and the serf wasn't owned by the lord, but entered into a mutual obligation. And then we come to capitalism, where we don't have masters and slaves, and we don't have lords and serfs, we have employers and employees.

But the point of the history is, nothing is forever. There's nothing written in the stars [00:33:00] that says it has to be this way or that way. And the irony of ironies, if you go back far enough... and as a key point here, to village economies and many examples in Asia and Africa, sizable groups of people lived without a hierarchy. They divided the labor, they divided the decision making, but to give a small number of people the outsized dominance that masters have over slaves, lords over serfs, and employers over employees was deemed inappropriate. And we acted on that basis. 

Last little point. I know when people get into this conversation, they sometimes avoid it by saying, Oh these other arrangements, these democracies, can only work for little enterprises, they couldn't work for a big one like Ford or something else. This is wrong two ways. Number [00:34:00] one, when capitalism emerges from feudalism, it always starts with a little capitalist and a half a dozen workers. It took a long time for capitalism to figure out how to manage large corporations, and it invented the corporation along the way. 

Right now, in the world, there is a worker co-op called the Mondragon Corporation in northern Spain. It's large, it's about, 130,000 people are part of that corporation. They've demonstrated, in the 75 years they've been going, that you can go from small - they began as a parish priest in northern Spain, with six parishioners as the workers - to the 130,000 that they are today. Tremendously successful economic growth. They're the seventh largest corporation in all of Spain. They're a family of worker co-ops. 

So, we've done the [00:35:00] work. The marvelous thing is not to have an idea about it. That's easy. That's what I do. But I'm in a position of saying the realities are all around us. The examples are there. The history is documented. There's no possible excuse for tabooing it out of the conversation so that even workers who know they can run the enterprise, who know how badly they've been treated by their employer, do not think through with their leadership to put that issue on the table alongside the other issues that ought to be democratically decided.

RJ ESKROW - HOST, THE ZERO HOUR: A comment and a question. First of all, when it comes to autoworkers, I have a, you know, a pretty, I have a middle class car. I have a Subaru Forester. My Subaru Forester tells me when I'm drifting out of the lane. It tells, it shows me where I'm backing up into. It beeps if I'm [00:36:00] getting too close to something in the front and back. Seems to me if the auto industry is capable of finding these, developing these systems to navigate a car, then we as a society can develop systems for navigating a democratically run company. Because people say, Oh, it's too complicated. How would you do that? Well, no, we can, I'm pretty sure we're smart enough to figure that out. 

I wanted to switch to another labor dispute. We have the strikes in Hollywood and the Writers Guild has come to an agreement, the actors have not yet, but in a piece I did, I worked on a lot and didn't publish, maybe I'll publish it anyway at some point, I looked at Netflix because I think this is an example of another problem with the way we govern companies. You read the business press, especially when the strike began, it was filled with all the trouble that Netflix was in, and Wall Street was down on it, and there were these problems. It goes up and down. It may have changed since then. And that's [00:37:00] why they couldn't give their creative workers what they needed, so I looked at it. Netflix's total revenue in 2022 was $36.6 billion, 10 times more than it had been a decade earlier. Its net income was 4.492 billion, which to me is a lot of money, but its stock price took a dive that year. And why? Because the trend lines didn't look good enough for Wall Street. Now, there were reasons for that. People were going back to work and they weren't, you know, watching media as much, but, so it was down, 22, it's down a little bit from 2021, but its 2021 income was nearly double that of the year before. 

So, over a two year basis, it was doing great. But the fact is, Wall Street, it seems to me, thinks in terms of trends, because that's where they make their money, right? It seems to me, but correct me if I'm wrong, [00:38:00] when stocks go up, and then the incentive packages for the small groups of people who run these companies are based on Wall Street's valuation, so they have no incentive under this system, the CEOs or their investors, to just let the company make a healthy profit and pay all its workers what they deserve.

If the workers took it over, I would think they don't have to worry about it all this crap. They can just say, you know, when it's up one year, down another year, but we're doing great. We're solid. We put out a good product. For the time being, we're good. Let's pay our workers what we need. And by the way, a democratically run Netflix would probably have better product.

AISHA NYANDORO: S

Redefining Wealth–with Aisha Nyandoro - OFF-KILTER - Air Date 11-2-2

o, the Magnolia Mother's Trust is a guaranteed income program that we really started dreaming about in 2017. And we started dreaming about it because as an organization, Springboard To Opportunities works directly with families that live in federally subsidized, affordable housing, and we pride ourselves on being a radical, [00:39:00] community driven, meaning that every program, every service, every activity that we provide is one that the residents within those communities have indicated they need in order to be successful in life, school, and work.

AISHA NYANDORO: In 2017, we became concerned that we weren't moving the needle on poverty. And what that meant for us was that we were not seeing a successful transition out of the affordable housing communities that these families live in. And it's not as if that was our goal, but for so many of the families that we work with, that is their goal. They either want to live in market rate housing because they want the privacy, or they want to move into home ownership. And so we realized that we weren't accomplishing that. So we went to families and we simply asked, what is it that we're missing? And everything that families indicated we needed was more money.

And so it really was, how do you go about giving individuals that live in affordable housing, mainly Black mothers, cash without restrictions? And that's where the Magnolia Mother's Trust came from. So, it's a guaranteed income program that provides [00:40:00] $1,000 a month for 12 months, $12,000 total. We are, in essence, doubling the income of the women that we work with. We've been doing this work now since 2018. We are on our fifth cohort of women. Not only do we provide a guaranteed income for the moms, we also provide 529 accounts for their kids, because we believe not only in investing in the moms now, but investing in the future of their kids. 

And I tell people all the time that cash is important, and it's significant with the work that we do. But it is the least sexy part of what it is that we do within the Magnolia Mother's Trust. It's just one small piece of it. It's the changing the narrative on poverty, it's allowing these women to actually be able to show up in their full selves, their full abundance, the ability to show up and have their dreams actually be listened to and actualized.

And the fact that we have really had a small part on the play in how we talk about cash and the need for better cash-based benefits within this country, and the fact that all of this started [00:41:00] right here in Jackson, Mississippi from an organization that is led by Black women working with other Black women has been an amazing testament to the power of community and the power of movement work.

REBECCA VALLAS - HOST, OFF-KILTER: And for anyone who's not familiar with the Magnolia Mother's Trust, and I feel like guaranteed minimum income, universal basic income, there's a lot of those buzzwords that have gotten a lot more visibility and a lot more play in recent years. The child tax credit expansion, for example, that was just a sadly one-year experiment. It was allowed to end in the earlier part of the pandemic because of pandemic legislation, and that was a piece of legislation that actually cut child poverty in half. These are things that have really raised the visibility of this idea, guaranteed minimum income. It's taken it from being a talking point, something we heard Martin Luther King and even President Nixon arguing for decades ago, but really took that idea and said, hey, actually, this is something that we really can do and this really is something that we should do.

[00:42:00] Your project, I feel like a lot of folks increasingly have heard about it. For anyone who hasn't and who is interested in the subject and wants to know more, we've had you on the podcast now several times talking in greater depth, so I'm going to put a few of those links in show notes so folks can go and check out the other episodes with you. Because what I'm really excited to get to do with you today is to actually really zoom out, and to ask that bigger picture question that you were asking in your TED Talk, which is, what does wealth mean to you? And as I mentioned, you're -- spoiler -- a big part of that talk and a big part of what we're going to be talking about today and the message that you're really getting out to the world is, it's time for us to redefine wealth as a country. And that's really important for us to do if we're in the business of talking about economic justice, economic liberation, and we want to do more than just tinker around the edges of the status quo. So I feel like the right place to kick off that conversation, and I'm excited to spend really the entire episode getting into this in depth [00:43:00] with you; this is going to be fun! But I want to ask, what was the story behind how you chose this as the theme and the lead for your talk: What does wealth mean to you?

AISHA NYANDORO: So, actually, the thing for my talk, really, I was thinking about, can we be brave enough to reimagine wealth? So that was really where I was coming at it from. But even with the reimagining wealth and having those conversations, it really is something that I've been thinking about for the last year and a half, last two years, and it's directly connected to the work that I do each day with the Magnolia Mother's Trust and the work that I get to do with the women of Springboard as a whole.

And so as we have been doing this work and as we see more women moving towards a place of income stability where they're not under the backdrop of financial scarcity, they were starting to talk about wealth, and I say that in my talk. And the way that they were talking about wealth was not the way that my colleagues and friends in the space of the economy, foreign economic justice talk about wealth.

[00:44:00] And it made me realize that we were missing, our language wasn't connecting, and so since our language wasn't connecting, that we were excluding from the conversation the very population that we need to be including if we are talking about how do we go about resolving for wealth in this country, and how do we go about making wealth accessible to everyone?

And so it really was, okay, we're thinking about the women that we work with, how do you define wealth? What is wealth to you? And how do we use that as the entry point to the conversation, recognizing that that definition of that of wealth is valid, recognizing that that definition of wealth has merit? And instead of saying that, okay, oh, how you define wealth isn't actually wealth, we meet you where you are. And we say, okay, you know what, that is wealth. And that's a reorientation for us rather than a reorientation for them. 

But so many times we don't do that. We are coming into the conversation with this capitalistic frame that, okay, wealth has to be six months worth of savings. Wealth [00:45:00] has to be equity in your home. Wealth has to be XYZ. Well, for a population that's just moving from income instability and now saying that you have to have XYZ in order to have wealth, it continues to exclude them, and they continue to not feel as if they can actually be a part of the larger conversation that we actually should be centering in.

And so that's really where it came from, just thinking through how do we actually use the wisdom of community, and use the wisdom of these women to actually reorient our conversation into a conversation that actually, it's a conversation of equity, and it's a conversation that actually does get us to liberation, more so than this narrow frame that we have been using. 

Inside West Virginias New Economic Bill of Rights–with Troy N. Miller - OFF-KILTER - Air Date 11-9-23

TROY N. MILLER: And so I see this, and I'll just read off the ten of them here: "The West Virginia Democratic Executive Committee affirms support for a 21st Century economic bill of rights, affirming the right to a job that pays a living wage; the right to a voice in the workplace through a union and [00:46:00] collective bargaining; the right to comprehensive quality health care; the right to a complete cost free public education and access to broadband internet; the right to decent, safe, affordable housing; the right to a clean environment and a healthy planet; the right to meaningful resources at birth and a secure retirement; the right to sound banking and financial services; the right to an equitable and economically fair justice system; and the right to vote and otherwise participate in public life.

I think that these are all very sort of middle of the road thing... I think these are American values. I don't think that this should be at all a partisan thing. And I've seen some interesting responses where, you know, one sort of progressive Twitterer weighed in and said, Well, no wonder that the West Virginia Democrats support this. This is very moderate, right? This is just saying that they won't get in the way of you having a job that pays a living wage, right? And you and I can understand that there's two ways to understand rights. There's negative rights that say the government isn't going [00:47:00] to prevent you from having these things. The right to free speech, for instance, is really a negative right that says the state is not going to interfere with, it's not necessarily guaranteeing that the state is going to provide a platform for everyone, but, you know, it's not going to interfere there. 

I think these are affirmative rights. I believe that these are absolutely not saying that the state won't interfere with your access to broadband, but will actually Facilitate your access to broadband. These are, I think, as I was reading through these points, I could think of different episodes of this program where each of these things has been highlighted as an economic justice issue, a disability justice issue. You know, if you can't participate in public life, if right now, if you don't have broadband: Whew! Lord knows, through the pandemic, I don't know how you were going to school, and I know that there were people sitting in McDonald's parking lots and Starbucks parking lots using the free Wi Fi in order to get their education, which is also not necessarily fully guaranteed right now.

Now, [00:48:00] the other criticism I've seen from it is, Well, this is nice, this is a lot of nice words, is there any enforcement? And one has to go, Well, no, not at the moment. First of all, we're a state party, we can't actually create laws like that. Well, can you throw somebody out if they don't believe that? Maybe we can get there. We're not there yet. But what it is saying, and I haven't talked to a single person within the party who hasn't said, This is great. Thank you. Now we know what we're organizing around. Now we know how to make the conversation happen without having to respond to the "other size" categorization of us. And I think part of this, part of the problem is that since the 1990s, Newt Gingrich and others within the Republican Party were very, very, very good about taking control of rhetoric nationally with the Contract for America and various other... um, the whole choose your topic. It's been colored by the Republican narrative. It's Obamacare. Okay, well that's been [00:49:00] turned around and he decided to make that an affirmative thing, but that was not how that was intended and we ended up with that as our rhetoric anyway, right? Same thing with death panels, right? And now, Joe Biden has started talking about any commission to discuss cutting Social Security benefits as a death panel and that's, I think, really brilliant rhetorically, but it's nonetheless, we had to take their rhetoric and turn it around.

The Democrats have been playing reactively for how they're defined, and I see this at every level of government, where the news cycle is, This side does this, and Democrats say this about it. And it's never the Democrats out ahead of an issue defining it on their own and forcing the other side to react to it. And so I really am looking forward to when Republicans start trying to attack these things and say - or anyone, I mean, whether it's a Republican, a Democrat, or anywhere in between - no, Americans don't have a right to a complete [00:50:00] cost free public education. You know, you don't have the right to medical care. You don't have these very basic rights that, to paraphrase Senator Sanders, the richest country at the richest time in our history, should be able to offer these things. 

And, again, I go back to what I was saying earlier about this perverse sense of government services exist to make a profit or exist to make certain numbers go up, and if those numbers, if those measures, aren't going up, then we might as well cut the program. And it makes me think of Robert Kennedy Sr., before he was assassinated in 1968, who gave a great speech that I think about a lot, where he talks about what the gross national product can measure and it can measure the bombs that we drop, it can measure the ambulances on our roads, it can measure the quality of our roads, how much we're spending on textbooks, all of these types of things. But what it can't measure is the quality of our play. It can't measure the quality of our leisure. It can't measure the actual quality of [00:51:00] education and the civic leaders and civic participants that we are fostering through our expenditures on education. GDP and gross national product are both incredibly limiting measures. And if we use those alone to dictate our policies rather than, you know, asking the hard questions of, Well, what does it mean to have the right to a clean environment? Is it just what the parts per million concentration is of a given poison, whether it's PFAS or another one, or are we actually working not to just limit the poisons but to create a proactive, you know, so that we're not necessarily having to just measure things constantly to say, Oh, now that's too dangerous. But it was just under too dangerous before, right? How do we proactively stop another Flint, Michigan from happening? How do we proactively say that, Hey, maybe our municipal water services shouldn't exist to make shareholder profits at all.

Bonus How Media's Use of 'The Economy' Flattens Class Conflict Part 2 - Citations Needed - Air Date 11-1-23

ADAM JOHNSON - CO-HOST, CITATIONS NEEDED: This idea that it's just going to all be doom and gloom. Now, of course, [00:52:00] people don't strike for the left. They strike for a, it's a calculated risk towards another end. And one headline one never sees is "UPS strike could lead to 30 billion dollars in gains for workers", or "Threat of UAW strike could lead to billions more in the hands of the working class", or "Potential railroad strike could give workers much needed paid vacation to go to their kids plays and go to funerals and hospital visits". There's never a sense that the economic impact of a successful or semi-successful strike... and in many ways, I think it's born from a general misconception people have that workers' rights were handed down to them by like, do-good Protestant bureaucrats in the 1930s, right? There's no sense, like we completely erase labor history in this country. We've talked about this in the show before. Nobody has any idea about the radicalism of the '10s, '20s, '30s, like no idea. There was just like a bunch of nice Protestant members of the Roosevelt administration who one day woke up and decided to bestow workers' rights. And so there's no sense that like the struggle has "economic impact" for working people. So, if you could kind of talk [00:53:00] about the asymmetry of this idea that it's all doom and gloom and there's no sense that like this is a temporary form of medication for a larger cure or partial cure down the line. 

KIM KELLY: Yeah, I think there's three little pieces here. The labor history piece, of course, like that's not something that you learn about in school. We don't learn, unless you are maybe in grad school or in a very specific program or have a really cool school, the lack of understanding of what it took for us to even get here in our current flawed state of affairs... I mean, kids don't necessarily learn about the Battle of Blair Mountain. They don't learn about the thousands upon thousands, ultimately millions, of workers that went on strike going back to 1824, when young women and girls in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, launched the first factory strike in American history, because they were being forced to work 14 hours a day and take a pay cut, instead of their usual 12. Like, the amount of work it's gone into to get us to even this [00:54:00] point, it's wild.

I mean, I wrote a whole book about it. Lots of other people that are much smarter, more educated than me have written very good books about it, too. It's really unfortunate that our own history is kind of either kept from us or just not made accessible to us. Because I think if we knew what it has taken, what it took, what people did to get us here, we might feel a little bit more agency over our own economic destinies, right? Like, Okay, knowing that someone just like me, 400 years ago, told their boss to take this job and shove it, might give me a little bit of the boost I need to tell my terrible supervisor to go F himself.

And people are surprised when they learn about labor history, about the history of these strikes, and these workers, and these leaders, about the fact that, you know, an anarchist couple led the first May Day parade in Chicago in 1886, shout out to Lucy and Albert Parsons, you know, like there's so much throughout our history that [00:55:00] is kept from us and I mean, that's kind of why I wrote a book about it, right? To make it more accessible, to bring it out into the sunlight. 

But in terms of this issue where we're talking about the framing in the media specifically, there's two things that play there too, right? Like most of the media, especially the corporate media, it is not in their best interest to support workers and support unions, like, they're making money. They are part of the elite. They do not necessarily care about what poor and working people are dealing with, especially at places where they have a union. I mean, we've seen how the New York Times has treated its various unions. And we see the kind of headlines that run at the New York Times or the Washington Post, we know who owns that. I think it's a little complicated when you're in that corporate media space, which also makes it so important to support independent and progressive media, whether it's Labor Notes who have been killing it with the UAW strike, or In These Times, or The Real News, like all of these other options who understand and who do embrace that framing and [00:56:00] do get it. They just have less money and less visibility because they are more dangerous. And some of it, I do think, comes down to the class composition in some of these newsrooms, too. Especially when you're talking about these elite, legacy places that tend to dominate the headlines, like whether it's in TV news or in corporate media.

I think a lot of the folks who are making the decisions about those headlines are not necessarily gonna be sympathetic to workers because it wouldn't occur to them. Fancy, wealthy, well educated, like, upper class people don't necessarily care about what people like me or people in the picket line, or people like my neighbors in Kensington are dealing with. It's alien to them. It's not in their interest to support what we want, what we need, because it's diametrically opposed to what they need. There's just a lack of understanding of unions and their import and class politics and class delineations in those newsrooms, you know. At the risk of sounding self [00:57:00] aggrandizing, like, I think perhaps a few more people with my perspective in those spaces might shift the balance in ways that would be helpful for the rest of the normal people out there trying to get some goddamn attention. 

ADAM JOHNSON - CO-HOST, CITATIONS NEEDED: Well, that was one of the things about the whole, there was this whole 'Trump is going to go talk to autoworkers' media narrative that was completely fabricated. And people, to give some context for those listening, Trump announced he was going to like, in a very vague way, go to Detroit to talk to striking autoworkers. That was not true. It was never going to be true. Turned out, of course, not to be true. But for about 10 days, the media carried this narrative of, some even said he was going to join the picket line, which was never something that they even said through osmosis. And everyone said, Well, why, you know, why are they softballing Trump here? And then you realize that it's actually very much, it's about that, yes, but it's also very much about cultural, institutional elitism in newsrooms about the average autoworker as being a mindless sort of... because again, they perceive them as White, which is not true at all, by the way. The UAW is very much not just White, but there's, again, there's cultural [00:58:00] stereotypes about UAW workers that they're all just a bunch of like racist clapping seals who just will give in to any demagogue who pumps his fist, rather than a kind of well oiled union machine that is not going to be fooled by it, and they weren't fooled by it.

Bonus Redefining Wealth–with Aisha Nyandoro Part 2 - OFF-KILTER - Air Date 11-2-23

REBECCA VALLAS - HOST, OFF-KILTER: Wealth, you say, is about a sense of agency, a sense of freedom, the collective well being of the whole. It is not an individual pathological pursuit. Talk a little bit about that incredibly powerful line and unpack that for us. 

AISHA NYANDORO: Yeah, no, I think it goes to what you were saying earlier about so many times we look at wealth as the consumer aspect of it. It is just capitalism. What can I buy for the betterment of myself? I, I, I, I, I, I. But in the conversations that I have with the women and the research that I've done, the way that they define wealth, it's about the collective whole. It is what does this allow, what is this sense of freedom allow for me to do for others? How does this allow my agency be able to show up differently? How does it [00:59:00] allow me the breathing room to be more imaginative? It is never a Well, if I have more money, what will I do for myself? Or what can I buy myself? It's okay if I have more financial security, this will look like XYZ for my family. That will look like XYZ for my kids. It is a reframing that is beautiful and significant, and it's one that, if we're willing to take the lesson from, can get society as a whole to a place where we actually are operating as a society and not just a collection of individuals taking up space in the same physical location with each other.

REBECCA VALLAS - HOST, OFF-KILTER: I love all of that. And also, just to step back and acknowledge, this is a radical redefinition that you're arguing for. It is actually a massive paradigm shift and it's beautiful. But also this is a stepping onto a very different playing field when it comes to the imagination space that it takes us to.

I feel like part of where I want to take us next [01:00:00] is to give you the chance to talk a little bit about some of what you've heard from the mothers in the Mother's Magnolia Trust when you ask them the question, What wealth means to them? And that was some of what you did in prep for your talk, because you say some of how we do this, right? People might be like, oh yeah, redefining wealth, that sounds great, but like, where do we start? How do we do something that sounds that big? You say, well, how we do this is by listening to others and listening to ourselves. You started by listening to the mothers who are the co-designers of this project with you, what did you hear from mothers in the Mother's Magnolia Trust when you asked what wealth means to them?

AISHA NYANDORO: I've heard so many different things, and that's really where this reframing came from. Like I said, I've been thinking about this about a year and a half, two years. And it really was, as it relates to what are the next steps as it relates to our work? So we had done the hard work of getting people to income stability, and we had more and more colleagues and myself as well were thinking about, [01:01:00] okay, if you're now at income stability, let's begin to think about how you can go about building that wealth and that traditional definition of wealth. And as we were having conversations with our moms about, okay, well, what would that look like if we really helped you to deal wealth? Will that be --? And we were coming at it initially with the traditional set up, would that be helping you start a business? Would that be helping you learn more about the stock market and opening investment accounts and all of those pieces. And all of that was projected, quite frankly, blatantly by the women that we work with.

And it wasn't that it was rejected with the lack of understanding. They knew very well what those pieces were. It was rejected in a sense of, no, that's not what I need. That's not how I define wealth. 

And I remember the conversation that like, I can see where I was and everything. I remember it that vividly, the conversation where I was having with one of our moms, where I first asked the question, well, how would you define wealth if what you're telling me is not making sense? And she said, okay, if something were to [01:02:00] happen to me, my family wouldn't have to set up a GoFundMe account. They would have the money to bury me. It punched me in my gut. And it took my breath away. And I was like, Oh! 

And when I sat down and thought about it, I was like, that actually does make a lot of sense. Because when you look at the data, we know that people of color, typically when they pass, they leave debt, and so being able to think about what that does to that family and having that responsibility to shift to your family, again, it was not about her, it was, okay, making sure that my family wouldn't have that responsibility.

And so it was a reframe that I needed, and I was like, okay, let me come at this conversation in a way that I always come at this conversation, which is centering the wisdom of community, and not coming in with my research, economy, economist mindset, and so that's really where we started asking the question, and it was everything from the funerals, it was, I remember one mom saying, [01:03:00] I want to have a two-car garage, because I want to be able to come into my house and put my car in my garage, and nobody knows that I'm at home.

And so it was those very specific things that they talked about. They talked about the joy of being able to go on vacation annually with their kids -- and not some lavish vacation, talking about going down the road to the beach and those kinds of pieces. 

And so it really was "We hear you. We're affirming what it is that you're saying." And not only I think it's important that it's, we hear you, but then also how do we reframe the conversation for ourselves as well? Because it's one thing to hear someone because then it's like, okay, oh, yes, poor you. That's how you're defining that. It's another thing when we then turn it inward and say, okay, actually, let me be brave enough to interrogate what I believe about wealth. Do I actually believe wealth to be all of these things that I'm working towards, [01:04:00] or have I just been caught up in a cycle of the status quo, doing what it is I feel like I have to do for respectability politics, or am I actually doing the thing that gives me joy and feeds my soul and actually aligns to my beliefs and my principles?

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: 

Final comments on how a shifting baseline obscures the inequity of our economic system

We've just heard clips today, starting with Thom Hartmann, describing the shift in power, granted to the wealthy by the Supreme court. Jim Hightower on his radio Lowdown looked at the impacts of Washington's revolving door. The Ralph Nader Radio Hour discussed corporate bullshit. Richard Wolff on Economic Update described a forward-looking vision of socialism. OFF-KILTER discussed ideas of how and why to redefine wealth. The Zero Hour interviewed Richard Wolf about democratizing workforces. And OFF-KILTER looked at the new economic bill of rights from the democratic party of West Virginia. That's what everybody heard. But members also heard bonus clips from Citations Needed looking at media framing and rhetoric around recent worker strikes. [01:05:00] And OFF-KILTER continued their discussion about redefining wealth. 

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: 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. 

For more on creating a positive vision for our economic future, I think it's really worth going back to the old classic that I just republished this year, "The Fight for the Four Freedoms", looking back at the four freedoms and economic bill of rights proposed, but ultimately unfulfilled, by FDR. The episode is originally from 2019, but you'll find it in the podcast feed around June 23rd of this year. 

Now to wrap up, I just want to talk for a minute about shifting baseline syndrome. And I will get to the economics, but I first came across this term related to the environment and reductions in wildlife abundance. So, the "shifting" [01:06:00] refers to the change in the situation over time. Before there were such and such number of birds, and now there are this many fewer, or bears or insects or whatever. But the "baseline" of shifting baseline syndrome refers to us and our perception. Each generation of people comes along and is introduced to the world as it is at the time of their childhood and their formative years. And that becomes our baseline. So someone in their twenties may go out into the world and find it to be a wonder of plenty and natural beauty, while someone in their eighties may see the current world as a diminished version of its past self and feel sorrow over that. So the shifting baseline syndrome is the difficulty of each succeeding generation in accurately placing themselves within the larger context that extends far back before their birth and their own personal experiences. 

Now, [01:07:00] you know, as an example, like maybe you've been really, really lucky to have gone snorkeling near a tropical beach somewhere and you've been overjoyed to have seen a giant sea turtle swimming in the ocean. And that's great. It's an ancient creature that's still part of the natural world and our real thing of beauty. What a world of abundance we live in. But what is also true is that Christopher Columbus wrote in his journals that his sailors were kept awake at night by the thousands of turtles in the ocean bumping noisily into the hull of their ship. That kind of a shift is a lot harder to keep in our minds compared to what we experienced personally.

So, this brings us to economics. There's an endless debate about how much money is a good and moral amount of money for a person to be paid for their labor. Not to mention all the non-monetary resources we all have to ration out, like access to healthcare. [01:08:00] And as a side note, I do say that on purpose in that way, because it is a myth that we don't ration healthcare in the United States. We say that that's something that only happens in countries with socialized healthcare systems, but no, we ration care as well, but instead of rationing it by need, we ration it based on ability to pay. But back to the debate over how much people should actually be paid for their work. My point today is not just to argue that a higher percentage of corporate profits should be distributed to the workers rather than the management and the investors. Or that worker ownership is a better way to achieve that basic goal, of course, but to put that current debate into a larger context and expose how shifting baseline syndrome is playing a role. 

There are plenty of people alive today who were born into a world in which a middle-class family with only one person earning a paycheck could build a more prosperous life for themselves than is possible today, by a long shot. And there are a [01:09:00] lot of reasons for that. But because that was the emerging norm at the time, there was no sense like these people were greedy or decadent or anything like that. But now we live in a time after decades of neo-liberalism has been relentlessly making incremental shifts in economic norms and corporate power in which people, both individually in their minds and collectively through how we interact with each other, have been taught to do more work and expect less compensation for it. And if you stand up and say that people should make more money or that we should get more time off, the response that we often get is an accusation of decadence or laziness. But rather than simply debate that point or argue back and forth about the right level of work versus pay versus free time, et cetera, I would suggest that you within yourself sort of interrogate why you think what [01:10:00] you do and encourage others to do the same. 

Have your opinions been shaped by short-term perspectives, hampered by shifting baseline syndrome? Or Do you have a larger historical perspective? There's a lot of evidence that the expectations of our current economic system is causing widespread burnout. Millennials have been called the burnout generation. All of this coincides with the rise of the gig economy and the grind set. The idea that to get ahead, one must simply work harder, claw and scrape at every opportunity to earn money. And it has gone so far that people who suffer from clinical burnout who needed desperately to take time away from work to rest and recuperate, feel like to do so would be selfish and decadent. 

The culture of neo-liberalism, not just the economic policies, but the culture, the collective mindset, the judgment [01:11:00] from other people, has created this toxic stew where doing something that is healthy for ourselves is often looked down on. Hm, must be nice, someone might say, you know, dripping with judgment when a coworker suffering from crippling stress and anxiety finally decides to take an extended vacation. Meanwhile, the culture of neo-liberalism congratulates those who have amassed hundreds of unused vacation days. Good for you, never miss a day, grind it out, build that wealth, right? It is a cultural ratchet, but only turns one direction. And it's not just the rich and powerful who have somehow brainwashed everyone thinking that overwork and underpay are laudable. We now do it to ourselves and each other with every little judgemental comment, every suggestion that not taking that vacation is the path to promotion. And it all drives people to work ever harder and expect [01:12:00] ever less. 

The only way to truly shift the economic system is to also shift the culture around it, to call bullshit on the premise that this is the best we can do, that corporate profits and the carrots of possible raises and promotions hung in front of us are things worth sacrificing our health for. It's a sort of mass delusion, but it's an understandable one because most people working today grew up in this environment and never knew anything different. They didn't live through the time of enormous union power that helped keep corporate profits and labor wages on track with one another. They've mostly lived through this period of corporate power, record profits, and flat wages. 

It really is understandable that people would simply adjust to the new baseline, the same way we adjust our expectations about how many turtles we should see in the ocean. This is how the world is. This is how the world works. This is what I need to do to survive. Let's [01:13:00] get on with it. But history shows that it's always worth trying to find ways to improve the situation for the vast majority of people on a structural level, not just by encouraging everyone to work harder and meditate more if they're stressed out. But we also need to use our imagination to strive for something better, even if the past is better than the present, why would we imagine that that's the best we could do? The past should be inspiration, not a blueprint. And we need to be guided by human needs more than any economic metric. Widespread burnout, stress, and anxiety: these are symptoms of the disease. Our economic system and the associated culture aren't the only problem, but they are a real big part of it. So, we have to work collectively on breaking the delusion that we've been doing things right for the past few decades and that any problems that may arise, you know, people being stressed out, people going bankrupt from healthcare costs, anything in between, that, [01:14:00] you know, these are just problems to be dealt with on an individual level that maybe you should have just worked harder and clocked a bit more time on that meditation app.

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 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 LaWendy, 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 at bestoftheleft.com/support. You can join them today by signing up. It would be greatly appreciated. You'll find that link in the show notes, along with a [01:15:00] link to 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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#1592 Israel and Palestine are less complicated than you think (Transcript)

Air Date 11/10/2023

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JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [00:00:00] During today's episode, I'm going to be telling you about a show I think you should check out. It's The Black Guy Who Tips podcast. So take a moment to hear what I have to say about them in the middle of the show, and listen wherever you get your podcasts.

And now, welcome to this episode of the award-winning Best of the Left podcast in which we'll take a look at how violence and oppression are corrosive to both the victim and perpetrator, and why this goes a long way toward explaining many of the dynamics at play in the Holy Land between Israelis and Palestinians. 

Sources today include AJ+, The Mehdi Hasan Show, The Bitchuation Room, Owen Jones, This Is Hell!, Inside the Hive, Factually! with Adam Conover, and Democracy Now!, with an additional members-only clip from Against the Grain.

Why Hamas Attacked Israel - And What's Next For Gaza - AJ+ - Air Date 10-13-23

DENA TAKRURI - HOST, AJ+: Just after dawn on October 7th, 2023, Palestinian fighters belonging to the group Hamas broke out of the besieged Gaza Strip. After blowing through Israel's high tech fence, [00:01:00] they attacked several of the surrounding military bases and overran them, before moving on to Israeli communities near the border.

At least 1, 300 Israelis were killed, and dozens were captured and taken into Gaza to be used in a future prisoner swap. Many of the dead were deemed civilians under international law, and children were also among those killed. Many governments have rallied behind Israel, which has already bombarded Gaza with airstrikes, flattening neighborhoods, and killing at least 1, 900 Palestinians at the time of this recording.

Israel has also cut off water, electricity, fuel, and food to the people there, and declared a total siege. So why did Hamas attack Israel?

A lot of the condemnation of the Hamas attack has called it unprovoked. But is that accurate? Now, the purpose here isn't to condone or justify it. It's to understand why it happened, because if we don't, then it's more likely that we'll see this happening over and over again. 

While things may have been calm and normal for [00:02:00] Israelis until then, for Palestinians, daily life was intolerable pain. In fact, for 16 years, Gaza has been under an Israeli siege so severe that it's often called the world's largest open-air prison. The Secretary General of the United Nations has described Gaza as hell on earth. And way back in 2012, the UN warned that if Israel's policies in Gaza didn't change, this tiny strip of land that's one of the most densely populated places on earth would become unfit for human living by 2020. It's now 2023. And in fact, analysts who had been paying attention were trying to sound the alarm, that things were getting worse, that the status quo was getting more and more untenable, that an explosion was inevitable. 

The siege began when Hamas took over Gaza in 2007, a year after winning the Palestinian Authority elections.

You see, Hamas was founded in Gaza in the late 1980s, 20 years into Israel's occupation of the territory. The group [00:03:00] has a military link, but it's also a political party. Its stated goal is to liberate all of Palestine and the return of Palestinian refugees exiled during Israel's founding in 1948. And it has always said that the only way to achieve that goal is to fight.

For the 2. 3 million Palestinians who live in Gaza, the 16-year siege means that Israel controls basically everything about their lives, and it has created a humanitarian catastrophe for them. The economy is devastated because Israel limits Gaza's trade with the outside world, leaving most of the population unemployed.

The health sector has also been in crisis, with medicines frequently running out, and patients denied Israeli permits to leave for life-saving health care. And electricity only lasts a few hours a day because Israel limits the amount of fuel let into Gaza. At one point, official documents showed that Israel calculated the number of calories allowed into Gaza, just enough to keep people from starving. 

Nearly half of Gaza's population is under 18. That [00:04:00] means most of the people living there have never been able to leave Gaza. They've never stepped foot in Jerusalem or met a fellow Palestinian from the occupied West Bank. And they've survived several major attacks, leaving them with unimaginable trauma.

Tens of thousands of homes and buildings were targeted and destroyed by Israel during these assaults, which left thousands of Palestinians dead. For example, in the summer of 2014 alone, at least 2,100 Palestinians, including at least 500 children, were killed by Israeli bombardment. In that conflict, 72 Israelis were killed, 66 of them soldiers.

Despite some international criticism, Israel has never faced serious calls to end its siege on Gaza. In 2018, tens of thousands of Gazans tried to break the siege by marching nonviolently onto the boundary fence with Israel every Friday for almost two years. They were met with gunfire. For weeks, Israeli soldiers shot at those attempting to get close, resulting in hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries, [00:05:00] including medics and journalists.

Even before Hamas took control of Gaza, Israel had subjected the territory to a closure since the 1990s. This meant that Palestinians could rarely enter or exit Gaza unless they had a rare Israeli permit. This policy is part of a larger Israeli military occupation of Gaza and the West Bank that's now lasted more than half a century. Multiple human rights groups around the world have found that Israel actually runs a system of apartheid, with separate laws for Israelis and Palestinians. Ultimately, this means that Israel is a state that, based on ethnicity, denies citizenship and rights to the millions of people over which it rules, i.e., the Palestinians. 

Under international law, Israel's occupation, which is now in its 56th year, is illegal. And apartheid is a crime against humanity. 

Meanwhile, the occupied West Bank is ruled by Hamas' political rival, the Palestinian Authority, which rejects confrontation with Israel, hoping to end the occupation through US-led peace talks. But since those peace talks began 30 [00:06:00] years ago, Israel has only expanded its illegal settlements on Palestinian land, and the occupation has become more entrenched. Time and time again, Palestinians have seen that negotiations, peaceful marches, and other nonviolent means of protest have not gotten them any closer to achieving freedom and rights.

In the overall situation for Palestinians living under Israel's occupation has steadily gotten worse. The current Netanyahu government, the most right wing and anti-Arab in Israel's history, includes leaders who have openly called for the renewed ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, and the destruction of entire Palestinian towns.

In 2023 alone, they've incited several attacks on Palestinian villages in the West Bank -- attacks that even Israeli observers refer to as "pogroms", referring to the antisemitic rampages suffered by Jews in Eastern Europe. Armed Israeli settlers smashed homes, burned cars, and set fire to fields. When Palestinians try to defend their property, Israeli forces shot at them, both with live [00:07:00] fire and rubber-coated bullets, as well as tear gas.

Israeli politicians and settlers have also repeatedly entered the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, the third-holiest site in Islam, where Israeli forces have attacked Palestinian worshipers. By the way, they've been open about their attempts to destroy the mosque and build a new Jewish temple atop it. And the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli soldiers and settlers in the West Bank hit a 20-year high in 2023.

The scale of the Hamas attack was unprecedented in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While dis- and misinformation has spread widely in the aftermath about precisely what happened, there's no doubt that Israeli civilians were targeted. 

OMAR BARTOV: It's important to remember that Israel has one of the best equipped militaries in the world, and the backing of many Western governments. That's why it's always been able to inflict far more death on Palestinians than vice versa. 

'The possibility of genocide is staring us in the face' in Gaza: Holocaust studies professor - The Mehdi Hasan Show - Air Date 11-3-23

OMAR BARTOV: I think that the situation we're facing now, as the statement that you read earlier that I co-signed indicates, is one [00:08:00] where the possibility of genocide is staring us in the face. You have cited many statements made by Israeli politicians, by Israeli generals, which indicate an intent, one of the most difficult aspects to prove in genocide, and in fact these leaders have used statements that appear to show an intent to genocide, to commit genocide. My own view is, as far as I can tell, uh, being here and not on the ground there, and depending on reports like most of us, is that what is happening right now in Gaza can quite clearly be seen as war crimes, potentially also crimes against humanity, possibly may become genocide. I don't think that what is happening there right now is genocide, and there are conflicting statements also from [00:09:00] commanders on the ground who are claiming that they are using a great deal of military force, but what they're trying to do is to kill Hamas operatives, and they are trying not to kill civilians, although, as you've said, they have not done so very successfully. But I think it's very important to stress that the danger of genocide is right there, and that, if things progress, as they're going right now, what we are seeing now may become much worse.

There are also very threatening statements that you haven't cited, which have to do with an intent to ethnic cleansing. One statement that became public is from the Ministry of Intelligence, which is not a particularly important ministry right now, but that is talking about removing all the Palestinian population from Gaza to the Sinai Peninsula, to the Egyptian side of the border. That would clearly be an indication of ethnic cleansing. [00:10:00] And one thing we know about genocide is that it often begins with ethnic cleansing. In fact, that's what happened in the Holocaust. So what we are seeing is a very, very dangerous moment. And if no stop is brought right now, things may very quickly deteriorate.

MEHDI HASAN - HOST, THE MEHDI HASAN SHOW: So, Professor, some defenders of Israel point not just to steps taken by the Israeli military to ostensibly reduce civilian casualties, like dropping leaflets, telling Gaza to evacuate, but also to the fact that the Palestinian population in both the West Bank and Gaza has increased over the decades. So how can Israel be behaving in a genocidal way, they say? The British writer Simon Sebag Montefiore, in a very viral essay for The Atlantic last week said, "Demographic shrinkage is one obvious marker of genocide, and yet the Palestinian population has grown", he says, and continues to grow. Is that a fair defense?

OMAR BARTOV: No, I don't think so. No. Um, look, one issue with genocide, and when you referred [00:11:00] to Russia and Ukraine was quite relevant, is in the case of Russia and Ukraine, Russia refuses to accept the possibility of there being an independent Ukrainian state. It doesn't want to kill all Ukrainians, it wants to actually destroy the idea of a Ukrainian nation. And Israel has had some agreements with the PLO, with Palestinian political leadership, but by and large, there is a very strong push in Israel with the Netanyahu, the multiple Netanyahu administrations, to make the Palestinians somehow go away. This is actually not happening only in Gaza, but also on the West Bank, where violence by settlers, protected by the military and often with the help of the military, increasingly exercising violence against the Palestinians there, and there are dangers, and many Palestinians would say so, of a second Nakba, of another expulsion of [00:12:00] Palestinians.

So, in that sense, numbers, you know, people in Gaza, and I actually served in Gaza many years ago as a soldier, in the 1970s, the population was 350,000, and now it's between 2 and 2.5 million people. So the population has grown, conditions have greatly deteriorated, and Gaza has been besieged for 16 years now by the Israeli authorities, and if the intention is to move people out of their territory, then what you can say is that there's an indication of ethnic cleansing. 

MEHDI HASAN - HOST, THE MEHDI HASAN SHOW: Let me ask you this, Professor. What would you say to Israelis, to fellow Jews, who say it's outrageous to accuse us of genocide, given what we've endured in our history, and especially when we're fighting against Hamas, which has expressed genocidal intent towards us? What would you say? 

OMAR BARTOV: So the first thing I would say is that indeed Hamas has expressed genocidal intent, and the massacre that is [00:13:00] carried out was clearly a war crime and a crime against humanity. So I don't think there's any question about that. To me, as someone who has studied and written on the Holocaust for decades now, what is most outrageous is that an Israeli government, the government of the only Jewish state in the world, is pursuing policies that can easily be identified as policies of war crimes, of crimes against humanity, and is making genocidal statements. That is the most outrageous aspect about this government, a government of a state that was created in the wake of the Holocaust, that has said repeatedly, never again. And 'never again' is not only never again against Jews, but never again, never again genocide. 

Shock Doctrine Israel with Naomi Klein - The Bitchuation Room - Air Date 10-31-23

NAOMI KLEIN: I think there's lots of different ways of understanding this extremely reckless, treacherous blanket support that the Israeli state is getting right now, some of [00:14:00] which has to do with this kind of Second World War do-over loop that we're in, where it's like, Okay, well we let it happen last time, we waited way too long, even when we intervened to stop Hitler, you know, we didn't do things like bomb the train tracks on the way to the camps. I mean, so there's this way in which this narrative, and this is a separate question, but I just want to be clear that there's a lot going on right now. And some of it is this idea that Israel cultivates a positioning, like freezing itself in the Holocaust moment and equating blanket support for Israel with this is your chance to stop another Holocaust, never mind that we are the ones committing massive war crimes and pre-announce we plan to commit genocide and then target civilians, collective punishment. This is a [00:15:00] genocide in progress, but while doing it, we are the ones saying, no, we're the ones facing genocide and now here's your chance to get it right this time. That's a lot of it, but that is not all of it. That doesn't explain all of it. It explains some of it, that's a piece of it.

Another is this idea of the lab. That they are the lab for every country that has a similar model of security without justice or peace in this incredibly unequal world, and it is connected with climate, it is connected with our other wars that our governments are waging and funding, and the mass displacement connected to that, and the fact that Israel is not the only country that is just trying to have a bubble of "normalcy" in the midst of mass incarceration of another people. It's just a hyper exaggerated example of that, right?

FRANCESCA FIORENTINI - HOST, THE BITCHUATION ROOM: It's a modern day, I mean, what I love about what you're saying is that [00:16:00] I think a lot of us, like, look at Israel as kind of this vestige of a colonial past, like, that's happening in real time, a modern day colonialism, but you're saying that actually it is mirroring the other ways that Western countries are trying to build higher borders, I mean, taller walls to keep out refugees from countries that we helped, you know, destroy. So it is kind of got one foot in both of these... it's a 75 year old, you know, wound, but then it also is continuing on... 

NAOMI KLEIN: Our own settler-colonial states are trying to protect themselves in these ways. And oftentimes with Israeli-supplied technology. Because this is the pitch of security without peace, security without justice, that the Israeli government has been selling in its so-called start up nation, is like, you too can have the wall, you too can have the, you know, the biometric sensors and the rest of it and this is part of what allows Israel to have security without peace, because this is a booming economy. This is part of what fuels Israel's [00:17:00] economy, is the sale of these technologies and weaponry. 

So, when Hamas penetrates that wall on the scale that it did on October the 7th, that is a security failure not only for Israel. It calls the whole project of security without peace or justice for the entire globe into question. And so I think part of what we're seeing in the ferocity of Israel's response and the seeming insanity of the support for it from Biden et al., is we cannot let this model fail because what does that mean for our own borders? What does that mean, you know, for the saws and the buoys in the Rio Grande? What does it mean for the barges the UK government is now using to deport migrants? You know, what does it mean for Australia's detention camps on islands like Manus? Like it's, this is a global project and Israel's a kind of [00:18:00] an intensified avatar for it. 

And so that's partly how I understand what doesn't seem to make any sense of this blanket support. But yeah, it's also about the fact that it is a settler-colonial.... and this comes to the material in Doppelganger that looks at Israel as, you know, I quote a scholar, um, in the UK, Caroline Rooney, who calls Israel's formation an example of doppelganger politics in that it becomes a doppelganger of the European nationalism that so many Jews were fleeing. And you know, she's not saying it's a doppelganger of the Nazis, but she is saying it's a doppelganger of that sort of hyper-nationalism that fermented the pogroms, for instance. And of course, Israeli society has this, like, doppelganger at the center of it, which is this idea of the new Jew, right? It's a doppelganger of the old Jew, which is like hyper-masculinist, militarist, that holding the gun instead of the book, basically. And it's like, we will [00:19:00] defeat the other through brute force. 

Antisemitism: An Evil, An Enemy Of Peace - Owen Jones - Air Date 10-31-23 

OWEN JONES - HOST, OWEN JONES: Our opposition to what the Israeli state is doing is driven not by hatred; it is driven by a universal humanity, and from that same universal humanity must spring an absolute, visceral opposition to antisemitism.

The reasons for opposing the mass suffering of the Palestinian people, then, and the atrocities committed against the Palestinian people, must come from the same place as our opposition to antisemitism. 

Now, this is important on its own terms. Antisemitism is a great evil, an evil which is responsible for hideous crimes, but it will also be impossible to achieve a lasting peace in Israel, Palestine and beyond, unless antisemitism is truly eradicated, which we'll talk about. 

Now, the reason I decided to do this video now primarily is because of the events in Dagestan, Russia, in which an antisemitism mob went on a rampage searching for Israelis and also set fire to a Jewish center [00:20:00] under construction in a neighboring Russian republic. Here's a clip of what happened. [Video of angry mob]

Now these scenes we'll find in many Jews in whichever country they live, and that's more than understandable. What I want to talk about, as one often agrees, some history is so important to discuss. This isn't a lecture, those of you who are already familiar with all of it or most of it, but it's impossible to frame this argument without going over it.

Now, in Europe, antisemtism has a pedigree going back for around two millenia. And that's crucial to understand because it's ingrained in our culture. That means it's possible to absorb and replicate antisemitic ideas, imagery, tropes, without even realizing it. And the history of antisemitism in Europe cannot be, obviously, divorced from the defamatory myths of Jewish collective guilt for the killing of Jesus Christ. Now, whether or not Christ existed and, for nonbelievers like myself, there's a respectful disagreement with devout Christians about whether he was the son of God -- but nonetheless, he was, according to scripture, [00:21:00] killed by the Roman Empire. He was himself Jewish, and clearly, in any case, the Jewish people, either at the time or since, were not collectively responsible for his crucifixion.

In any case, it was a hatred which led to blood libel. For example, the idea that Jewish people were ritually murdering Christian children. Jews were blamed for the bubonic plague, not least in the 14th century, when a third of the European population perished. The claim was they were poisoning wells, that kind of thing, and that led to the massacre of Jews.

There were repeated expulsions of Jews in the 13th century in England. So the 12th century in England -- or 13th century -- sorry, the 14th century in France, 15th century in Spain and Portugal, and the rise of Protestantism also drove new forms of antisemitism. 

Now it should be noted that in these periods It was far safer to be Jewish in the Middle East, where they were given the status of dhimmi, a term meaning essentially protected people, granting them legal protection alongside Christians. That didn't mean they couldn't suffer persecution, they could and did, they didn't enjoy full rights, but their [00:22:00] plight was generally considerably less severe than in Europe, and many Jews actually fled Europe to the Middle East in the Middle Ages. 

Now Jews and Muslims actually allied together against the Crusaders, for example, in Haifa in 1099, and were massacred by the Crusaders together, in Jerusalem, where Frankish Crusaders burned Jewish worshippers to death in a synagogue.

Now, what's important to know is, in the 19th century, the nature of European antisemitism changed. Before then, it was based on religion. If a Jewish person converted to Christianity, they were treated as a Christian and therefore spared persecution. But with the advent of colonialism, we saw the rise of biological racism. The justification for colonialism came on the grounds that, for example, African people were an inferior race. That's how you could justify stealing their land and treating them in the most abominable way possible. And this biological racism, with its rise, then came to apply to Jewish people who are now racialized. And for this new wave of antisemitism, Jewish [00:23:00] people were always considered Jewish. It didn't matter if they converted to Christianity. Or, they weren't believers at all, or whatever, they were still considered Jewish, and therefore could never be spared persecution. And we saw an increase in this period of pogroms, not least in Eastern Europe, under Russian Tsarist rule, where the Tsarist authorities intentionally stirred up antisemitism. It's the context where the fabricated Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion were distributed, which claimed a Jewish plot for world domination, which circulated in the early 20th century onwards. And you can see, of course, the pogroms in eastern Europe of that period, the echoes of that today in Dagestan.

Now many Jews fled to western Europe in this period. In the 19th century saw the rise of the Jewish population of the UK, for example in the East End, who were then targeted by antisemitism, with the Conservatives' Alien Act of 1905 tapping into rising hostility to Jewish refugees at the time. 

Now, obviously, antisemitism existed in the Middle East, but it is a historical fact that was [00:24:00] fueled to a significant degree by the export of forms of antisemitism originated in Europe, which then got assimilated locally.

And that's why it does remain true that the Palestinians are today, in large part, being forced to pay for the crimes of Europeans.

Far Right Exploiting Gaza War to Spread Antisemitism and Islamophobia / Shane Burley - This Is Hell! - Air Date 11-7-23

CHUCK MERTZ - HOST, THIS IS HELL!: What do we miss in our understanding of the reaction to the war in Gaza so far when we only see the binary of supporters on either side saying what can be defined as hate speech toward the other? What do we miss in our understanding when we only see that as the two sides?

SHANE BURLEY: I think part of it is the way that we frame discussions about Zionism and anti-Zionism, where anti-Zionism is seen as potentially antisemitic by its very nature. And that kind of dispels the reality, which is that there are people who argue in favor of Israel and maintain antisemitic views, and there's people who maintain against Israel and maintain antisemitic views, but the vast majority of [00:25:00] people in the Palestine Solidarity Movement are there because they support freedom and justice in Palestine.

There are other people who come in, not because... they really own those goals, but because they see it as a way of diverting anger towards Jews as a supposedly collective entity. So, when they're talking about Zionist occupied government, they're talking specifically about a Jewish occupied government. When they're talking about Israel, they're seeing it only as a Jewish collectivity. And because they know there's a lot of anger right now, and they know that people are flooding into the streets and they want to take action, they think that this is an opportunity for them to divert people away from the mainline Palestine Solidarity Movement and into their weird corner of it.

CHUCK MERTZ - HOST, THIS IS HELL!: So, uh, being, or seeing Jewish people as a collective entity, do you see that also taking place within, not just on the fringes of the far right, or even those on the far left, but do you see that also taking place in the establishment corporate media? 

SHANE BURLEY: I think that it happens in a weird way on the sort of pro-Israel right a little bit more, where you [00:26:00] find right wing commentators speaking to what they hope is a Jewish audience to create sort of an allegiance between them by showing this kind of explosive support for Israel, while at the same time having other kind of far right politics that typically harm Jews. So it's a way of sort of buying a certain amount of loyalty by saying, Hey, well, look, I support Israel. And isn't that your collective entity? Isn't that the thing you care about the most? And that is something that, for example, Donald Trump said very explicitly when trying to garner Jewish votes, very explicitly in his treatment of, for example, moving the embassy to Jerusalem. All those sorts of things are built on this idea that they want to communicate with a Jewish audience by making this connection between Israel and Jews firm. 

CHUCK MERTZ - HOST, THIS IS HELL!: There have been polls recently that show President Biden's support among Arab-Americans is dropping due to the policy, his policy, his administration's policy on Gaza and Israel. Meanwhile, Fox [00:27:00] News is supposedly benefiting from the war as those supporting Israel have found what has been described as a refuge for pro-Israel as well as anti-Palestinian perspectives. That would suggest White nationalists and Fox News would be at odds over Israel. Is there a divide right now taking place between Fox and White nationalists over the Gaza War?

SHANE BURLEY: Absolutely. And this is actually a split that's not new. It's one that happens between White nationalists and the more establishment side of the far right, the one that's associated more with the GOP and the electoral system. Because that dividing line is about whether or not they "name the Jew". If they think that Jews are at the center of this kind of global cabal, this global problem that they're locating, if they explicitly say it, that's usually the breaking point that they have with the mainstream right. The mainstream right uses Israel as its absolute key to the Middle East, right? They see it as an ethno-nationalist state, in a good way. They want to emulate that. They want to [00:28:00] have a sort of brutal military occupation against largely Muslim folks in the Middle East. And so this is something that they actually push for as a real centerpiece of how they view foreign policy. That is not the same as a lot of White nationalists who instead see Israel as simply another machination of Jews controlling global policy. They believe that Israel is what controls the U.S. and that, you know, funnels money and gets the U.S. into foreign wars, things like that. So that dividing line has been maintained for decades. And in fact, it's one of the ways in which they want to pull from disaffected areas of the far right electoral base. So, they're going to say, Hey, if you're dissatisfied with what's happening, you know, if you have an isolationist idea, or you have a more libertarian perspective, come over here, because we actually support criticizing Israel. We're actually going to break with the establishment. And this has always been the recruiting strategy, because what they want is disaffected people from the far right electoral sphere. They want to pull people who no longer feel represented by Fox [00:29:00] News or Tucker Carlson. 

CHUCK MERTZ - HOST, THIS IS HELL!: So, you've been citing White nationalists now for a couple of decades. Do White nationalists, do they spend a lot of time arguing over who they should hate most? 

SHANE BURLEY: Absolutely. I mean, this is a centerpiece of how they define themselves. And just like you see in any online culture, you have people trying to one up each other, name Jews more explicitly, but what really defines explicit White nationalism, particularly in the U.S., is how central the Jews are. Because you have to remember, White nationalists believe in a global plot against White people. And there's only one way that that really makes sense: if there's a little cabal at the top that's manipulating people. And so the Jews make a perfect totem for this, because the way that they sort of racialize them is excessively smart, conniving, that they have their hands in world affairs, that they manipulate the modern world, and so that is how they piece it together. Without that, their whole idea would fall apart.

Naomi Klein on 'Selective Information' About Israel and Gaza - Inside the Hive - Air Date 11-2-23

NAOMI KLEIN: I think it is one of those moments [00:30:00] where the most powerful forces on Earth, you know, backed by nuclear arsenals, whether we're talking about the U.S. or Israel, seem to be acting on pure emotion, which is not what one wants from leaders with that level of power. And this idea of just sending a message through brute violence, you know, I remember from post-9/11 of just, you know, we are going to teach them a lesson. That's not the way lessons work.

I mean, I think we are still in the world created by the brute violence after 9/11. This idea that you teach the world a lesson by destroying residential areas, hospitals... that breeds more terrorism from what I saw in my reporting in Iraq. And... I guess what I find shocking is that there seemed to be a sense that we learned a lot, like we told ourselves we learned some of the lessons from 9/11 about what violence can and cannot do, and now it just seems like [00:31:00] we are really doubling down.

BRIAN SELTER - HOST, INSIDE THE HIVE: When you say "we", who is the we? 

NAOMI KLEIN: We is the Western world. I mean, you know, I'm speaking to you from Canada. I have dual U.S.-Canadian citizenship. I've lived in the States. I'm Jewish. So here I am a person that could have three citizenships if I wanted to. I am part of the intensely privileged world, as I think you are as well, but we live in an unbelievably unequal world and increasingly, I think, the privileged parts of the world believe that we can maintain really untenable levels of injustice and inequality through walls, prisons, force, you know, this is some of what I get into in the book, including, you know, the book does end in Gaza, strangely enough. So, when I say "we", I'm talking about all these governments and all the Western governments that have said to Israel, "We stand with you". I mean, I don't stand with Israel, I stand with international law. I stand with an international humanitarian legal architecture that grew out of the [00:32:00] Second World War and the atrocities of the Holocaust that says, You can't target civilians. So I condemned the targeting of civilians when it was Hamas doing it. But what I see in Gaza, with the leveling of apartment blocks, the collective punishment, and the discourse of, It's our turn to do Dresden, it's our turn to do Hiroshima, is actively unlearning everything that was learned from the atrocities of the Second World War. 

I think this is a moment where we stand with what we already decided after the Second World War, which is you do not target civilians. You do not collectively punish and you do not attempt to eliminate a people in whole or in part. And when you have documents emerging from Israeli intelligence about moving large parts of the population of Gaza into Egypt, that is decimating a people in part. So, you know, I'm just trying to stay true to these agreements that our predecessors came up with in the aftermath of the Second World [00:33:00] War. I don't know what else to do. 

BRIAN SELTER - HOST, INSIDE THE HIVE: One of the things that's really horrified me and baffled me are these massacre deniers. You know, these folks who are claiming that there wasn't actually a massacre in Israel, that it's made up by the media or by the Israelis. There has been a critique, there's been a claim, at least, that some on the left have been unwilling to condemn the Hamas massacre in Israel. Have you wrestled with that? Have you noticed this? 

NAOMI KLEIN: I have wrestled with it. I wrote a piece in The Guardian that was explicitly about this, not that there was a denial, that's a separate thing, around the denials. 

BRIAN SELTER - HOST, INSIDE THE HIVE: Yeah. The denial is a separate thing. 

NAOMI KLEIN: I think that's quite marginal. 

BRIAN SELTER - HOST, INSIDE THE HIVE: Okay. 

NAOMI KLEIN: And I think it's important to say that there are people on the left who are in denial about the brutality of the targeting of civilians, the massacres on Israeli kibbutz, like B'Eri, the music festival, and very selective editing of information. It is massacre denialism, [00:34:00] and it serves no one to engage in that. There was, separate from what you're describing as denialism, there were comments that were made, you know, October 9th, 10th, 11th, that were just, somewhat celebratory, right? Or at least not reckoning with like, it's kind of an excitement about the image of the paraglider, right, of this image of freedom. And let me tell you, I mean, I've been to Gaza, I've reported from Gaza, it is absolutely an open air prison. And so I can understand 16 years into a siege when you just see a paraglider and you don't know where that paraglider is going, that that is an image of liberation. Right? 

So, those initial responses of this is a jailbreak, I absolutely get. Once you know where they were going, it has a completely different meaning. And I think we need to acknowledge that. And I think there have been, there's been, there has been acknowledgment. I mean, there have been groups that, tweeted those images and, since taking them down. 

Like I said, I think we need to [00:35:00] stay true to international humanitarian law. I think you can say Palestinians have the right to armed resistance. Up to the point of targeting civilians. That is not a complicated thing to say. That's not a complicated thing to acknowledge. People under occupation do have the right to resist. They don't have the right to target civilians. And if you want to have an ethical left, you can't celebrate violations of international humanitarian law in the morning and invoke them in the afternoon when it's the Israeli military that is violating international law. That's not how international law works. You have to believe in it all the time because really all it has is its moral force. So, it does matter and I think there have been many, many ethical Palestinian voices and voices on the left and this is why I am proud to be on the board of JVP, that have been very consistent in their application of international humanitarian law. 

When I condemn what Hamas did, I condemn it as a war crime. [00:36:00] I am calling that a war crime, because that is what it is. But the way a lot of this has been discussed, and I think quite deliberately, has been as a hate crime against Jews. As a pogrom. As if they were just out hunting for Jews, right? And I understand why it feels that way, because it feels that, like, when I hear an Israeli official or a U. S. official say - what's the line? - that this is the most number of Jews were killed in any day since the Holocaust. 

BRIAN SELTER - HOST, INSIDE THE HIVE: Since the Holocaust, yeah.

NAOMI KLEIN: Right. So, that makes it sound like they were killed because they're Jews. But I'm not sure they were killed because they were Jews. I think they were killed because they were Israelis. But that universalizes it. It takes it out of its geopolitics. It takes it out of a conflict over land and borders, and it says that this is just a hate crime, an antisemitic hate crime. And I think we should interrogate that a little bit. I'm not saying Hamas isn't, you know, I'm not saying that there wasn't hate there, of course, you know, I don't think you can kill people if you don't hate them, but I think it's a very [00:37:00] political choice and it is part of the information war to call it a pogrom, to put it in the context of the Holocaust, as opposed to in the context of a geopolitical, grinding battle over land and borders, and then call it a war crime. 

What’s Happening in Israel and Why with Nathan Thrall - Factually! with Adam Conover - Air Date 11-1-23

NATHAN THRALL: The center-left president of Israel, the former head of the center-left Labor Party, in prepared remarks -- it's not even off the cuff -- he says, "There are no innocents in Gaza." There is no such thing as an innocent civilian in Gaza. It's shocking. The people of Gaza are as surprised by that attack as the Israelis were.

So 2. 3 million people for a center-left politician to prepare the ground for mass slaughter of innocents? The level of rage, the level of shock, you cannot overstate it. On a per capita basis, this is [00:38:00] much bigger than 9/11 for Israelis. The US invaded two countries, changed its domestic laws, it had a profound effect on American society, and that was when it was by a bunch of attackers from Saudi Arabia, more than an ocean and a continent away. And this is right next door. 

ADAM CONOVER - HOST, FACTUALLY!: This is New York attacking New Jersey, this is right next door.

NATHAN THRALL: And the most frightening thing is that, for the first time in my life, I can imagine this descending into a kind of Balkan civil-on-civil conflict, because people are not just blaming innocent Gazans, they're blaming the Palestinian people as a whole. And there are Palestinians who are citizens of Israel, there are Palestinians who are residents of East Jerusalem. There are Palestinians in the West Bank. And we already got a little taste of what that civil-on-civil conflict [00:39:00] can look like in May, 2021 when there was an escalation in Gaza. But I think we're at the beginning of something much worse.

ADAM CONOVER - HOST, FACTUALLY!: The people who run Hamas must have known, as you said earlier, that they would provoke this kind of response. What would their justification be, or what would cause them to take after decades of "Hey, we fire a few rockets, we go back and forth, we're in this sort of stasis, yada, yada." What would the reason be to suddenly go in this huge, again, unconscionable attack?

NATHAN THRALL: Yeah. Precisely that. It's precisely that. This pattern of, we throw rockets at Israel. Israel bombs us, and then Egypt and Israel come and with the United States and propose a ceasefire where Israel promises to slightly ease the choking of Gaza. Gaza's kept at all times with its nose a millimeter above water.[00:40:00] These people are under siege. 

And so this pattern of rockets and bombs and a leveling of Gaza with a ceasefire with promises that are broken within weeks or months to ease the restrictions on Gaza, that wasn't working. Another round wasn't going to change that situation. And this is clearly an attempt to turn the whole table over, with enormous risk to themselves, to the civilian population of Gaza, who are really -- 

ADAM CONOVER - HOST, FACTUALLY!: This is not just risk, almost guaranteed devastation. 

NATHAN THRALL: Guaranteed, yeah. Risk is understating it. Yeah. Guaranteed. 

But the thing about it is that as horrible as that attack was, and as horrible as it is now in its consequences for the civilians in Gaza, if you look at it strategically, from Hamas's perspective, right now they are in a position of -- [00:41:00] even after launching the greatest attack against Israel, and Israel's making comparisons to the 1940s, and they have to do everything to eliminate Hamas, and all the society is behind the collective punishment of 2.3 million people and depriving them of food, water, and electricity -- even with all of that, Hamas has Israel in a corner. Israel does not have any decent option for what to do now. Israel doesn't know how to get those hostages out. It doesn't know how to answer the demand of its public: How is this never gonna happen again? It's not never gonna happen again if it's just another bombing, no matter how severe, of Gaza. There'll still be tunnels there, there'll still be Hamas there, even if you kill a bunch of guys, there'll be new ones, and with every quote unquote round in Gaza, Hamas got stronger and stronger. So that cannot be an answer to the Israeli public, which wants to know, how is this never gonna happen [00:42:00] again?

So then Israel is forced to actually try and execute on its stated aim, which is to quote unquote, eliminate Hamas -- which again, that's impossible, but they can do something short of it, but that is extremely costly. They've got 360,000 reservists called up right now. It's costing their economy a billion and a half shekels a day. They cannot continue for this for months, and it would take months to do what they claim that they want to do in Gaza, and even after doing that, who are they going to get to come in and administer Gaza, help rebuild it? They can't find an international force that would want to take on this task, and would that international force really have a mandate to shoot at Palestinians who are creating new rockets, for example, or doing new attacks against Israel or preparing for them? Hard to believe. 

So Israel really has no decent options. [00:43:00] And so Hamas is in a position of great strength right now, even after doing this attack. They've got 200-plus hostages. As time passes, right now the attitude of Israeli government is "we lost 1400, we can lose another 200 to achieve this higher goal," which shows you how shocked they are. Because that's a total reversal of the entire Israeli ethos. Before this, it was, we are trading 1027 Palestinian prisoners for one Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, in 2011. Now it's "we can lose 200 by bombing Gaza and then going in with ground forces. 

But again, the strategic goal that Israel has, which is to have some other force in place in Gaza, doesn't look very achievable. So at the end of the day, they're looking at having Hamas in place, battered, beaten, whatever, but still having Hamas in place in Gaza. So that's a total failure if you compare it to [00:44:00] their rhetoric, and potentially doing a massive prisoner exchange, potentially releasing every Palestinian prisoner. And if Hamas does that, it'll be the greatest achievement of any Palestinian organization in history. 

ADAM CONOVER - HOST, FACTUALLY!: But at the expense of thousands of Palestinians being killed, untold misery, thousands, obviously, of Israelis being killed -- it seems you've painted a picture where that's a moral victory in some narrow strategic sense, it's a horrible loss for almost everybody in the region in every way.

NATHAN THRALL: And especially for Hamas's own constituency that they're supposed to be taking care of, the people of Gaza. They are paying the highest price. And it's clear that Hamas is willing to have them pay that price. 

Ta-Nehisi Coates Speaks Out Against Israel's "Segregationist Apartheid Regime" After West Bank Visit - Democracy Now! - Air Date 11-2-23

TA-NEHISI COATES: When we went to Hebron, and the reality of the occupation became clear. We were driving out of [00:45:00] East Jerusalem, I was with PalFest, and we were driving out of East Jerusalem into the West Bank. And, you know, you could see the settlements, and they would point out the settlements. And it suddenly dawned on me that I was in a region of the world where some people could vote and some people could not. And that was obviously very, very familiar to me. I got to Hebron, and we got out as a group of writers, and we were given a tour by our Palestinian guide. And we got to a certain street, and he said to us, “I can’t walk down this street. If you want to continue, you have to continue without me.” And that was shocking to me.

And we walked down the street, and we came back, and there was a market area. Hebron is very, very poor. It wasn’t always very poor, but it’s very, very poor. Its market area has been shut down. But there are a few vendors there that [00:46:00] I wanted to support. And I was walking to try to get to the vendor, and I was stopped at a checkpoint. Checkpoints all through the city, checkpoints obviously all through the West Bank. Your mobility is completely inhibited, and the mobility of the Palestinians is totally inhibited.

And I was walking to the checkpoint, and an Israeli guard stepped out, probably about the age of my son. And he said to me, “What’s your religion, bro?” And I said, “Well, you know, I’m not really religious.” And he said, “Come on. Stop messing around. What is your religion?” I said, “I’m not playing. I’m not really religious.” And it became clear to me that unless I professed my religion, and the right religion, I wasn’t going to be allowed to walk forward. So, he said, “Well, OK, so what was your parents’ religion?” I said, “Well, they weren’t that religious, either.” He says, “What were your grandparents’ religion?” And I said, “My grandmother was a Christian.” [00:47:00] And then he allowed me to pass.

And it became very, very clear to me what was going on there. And I have to say it was quite familiar. Again, I was in a territory where your mobility is inhibited, where your voting rights are inhibited, where your right to the water is inhibited, where your right to housing is inhibited. And it’s all inhibited based on ethnicity. And that sounded extremely, extremely familiar to me.

And so, the most shocking thing about my time over there was how uncomplicated it actually is. Now, I’m not saying the details of it are not complicated. History is always complicated. Present events are always complicated. But the way this is reported in the Western media is as though one needs a Ph.D. in Middle Eastern studies to understand the basic morality of holding a people in a situation in which they don’t have basic rights, including the right that we treasure most, the franchise, the right [00:48:00] to vote, and then declaring that state a democracy. It’s actually not that hard to understand. It’s actually quite familiar to those of us with a familiarity to African American history.

NERMEEN SHAIKH - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: Well, Ta-Nehisi Coates, last night you were asked about the significance of Martin Luther King’s words on Vietnam. You said it’s taken you years to, quote, “understand nonviolence as an ethic” and that you understood that ethic in Israel. Could you explain?

TA-NEHISI COATES: Yeah, sure, I mean, and I think the thing to do is just to proceed off of what I said. Martin Luther King dedicated his life to the fight against segregation. His was a segregated society. The Occupied Territories are segregated, de jure segregated. It’s not, you know, hard to understand. There are different signs for where different people can go. There are different license plates forbidding different people from going different places. Now, what the [00:49:00] authorities will tell you is that this is a security measure. But if you go back to the history of Jim Crow in this country, they would tell you the exact same thing. People always have good reasons, besides, you know, “I hate you, and I don’t like you,” to justify their right for imposing an oppressive regime on other people. It’s never quite that simple. And so, that was the first thing.

But the second thing I think that you’re referring to is, you know, I — you know, this is like really personal for me, because I came up in a time and in a place where I did not really understand the ethic of nonviolence. And by “ethic,” I mean the notion that violence itself is corrupting, that it corrupts the soul. And I didn’t quite understand that. If I’m truly honest with you, as much as I saw my relationship with the Palestinian people and as much as it was clear what the relationship was, it was at the same time clear that there was some sort of relationship with the [00:50:00] Israeli people, too. And it wasn’t one that I particularly enjoyed, because I understood the rage that comes when you have a history of oppression. I understood the anger. I understood the sense of humiliation that comes when people subject you to just manifold oppression, to genocide, and people look away from that. I come from the descendants of 250 years of enslavement. I come from a people who sexual violence and rape is marked in our very bones and in our DNA. And I understand how when you feel that the world has turned its back on you, how you can then turn your back on the ethics of the world. But I also understood how corrupting that can be.

I was listening, actually, to my congressman last night, or I guess it was two nights ago, talk on the news. And a journalist asked him, “How many [00:51:00] children, how many people must be killed to justify this operation? Is there an upper limit for the number of people that could be killed, when you would say, 'This is just too much. This just doesn't — this just doesn’t, you know, compute. This does not add up’?” And I will tell you, that congressman couldn’t give a number. And I thought, “That man has been corrupted. That man has lost himself. He’s lost himself in humiliation. He’s lost himself in vengeance. He has lost himself in violence.”

I keep hearing this term repeated over and over again: “the right to self-defense.” What about the right to dignity? What about the right to morality? What about the right to be able to sleep at night? Because what I know is, if I was complicit — and I am complicit — in dropping bombs on children, in dropping bombs on refugee camps, no matter who’s there, it would give me trouble sleeping at night.

Beyond Settler-Colonialism - Against the Grain - Air Date 10-31-23

MAHMOOD MAMDANI: Are Jewish people in Israel settlers or immigrants? [00:52:00] The Jewish population of Mandate Palestine belonged to three groups. Those who had never left, these were the natives. Those who had returned on a pilgrimage, seeking a religious homeland. They were content to be part of the existing polity. This was the First Aliyah, of immigrants. Those who wanted their own exclusive polity, a Jewish nation state in place of the existing polity. They came in the Second and the Third Aliyah. These were the settlers. 

The Zionists striving for a nation state cannot be understood, unless we also grasp the lesson they drew from Germany. Victims of the nation state project in Germany and in Europe, Zionists decided to set up a nation state in Eretz Israel. The Zionist state project has unfolded in two phases. The first reduced the Palestinians from a majority to a minority. This was the Nakba in 1948. The Zionist project has continued to demonize the [00:53:00] minority that remained within the territorial boundaries as a demographic threat, demanding that their numbers be further cut down.

Gaza is testimony that the Nakba continues today. Palestinians inside Israel do not participate in sovereignty. They have rights, even political rights, including the right to vote, but they do not participate in power. This vision has become clearer as the state project has been redefined, from Israel as a Jewish and democratic state to Israel as a Jewish state.

I have already spelt out the significance of the debate on one state versus two state solution. One state would be akin to direct racial domination, whereas a two state solution would create a protectorate and lead to indirect colonialism under Zionist rule. The history of the African slave in America shows that a one state solution is a better framework for building alliances and broadening the frame and depth of the [00:54:00] resistance. But to have a future that resistance needs to look for a third alternative. I propose that we look at the South African transition from apartheid to glimpse the vision of a third alternative. So let's take a second look at South Africa. 

I argue that the anti-apartheid resistance took a creative turn in the 1970s, leading to an epistemological and political breakthrough for the anti-apartheid movement. Before the 1970s, anti-apartheid politics was largely derivative. It reproduced the architecture of apartheid. Each racial group organized separately, as defined by apartheid power. Africans as African National Congress, Indians as Indian Congress of Natal, coloreds as Colored People's Congress, and Whites as Congress of Democrats. By reproducing the architecture of apartheid inside the resistance [ it] gave apartheid a natural flavor. 

[00:55:00] The apartheid mindset was broken only in the 1970s. The key initiative came from the student movement, starting when Black students, led by Biko, left the liberal, White student organization, formed their own separate body, and went on to organize township dwellers, starting with Soweto. Left in the wilderness, radical White students turned to organizing hostile workers on the fringes of townships. Out of this experience was born an epistemological awakening that White and Black are political identities, and that political identity is historical, not natural. "Black", said Bico, "is not a color. If you're oppressed, you are Black". There was nothing inevitable about the impact of Black consciousness on the anti-apartheid struggle. Black consciousness, or BC, could have led to a nation state consciousness, claiming that South Africa is a Black nation, of the Black majority, thus essentializing Black as a trans-historical identity. [00:56:00] This summed up the call of the PSE in later years. Instead, it led to an epistemological awakening, the consciousness of "Black" as a historical political identity. 

Afrikaners made a journey from being junior partners of British colonialism to being part of the anti-apartheid notion. But there was no consensus. The rift inside the Afrikaner community was demonstrated by the publication of a book by Rian Malan, the great-grandson of a Boer state president. The book was called My Traitor's Heart. Malan was a crime reporter for the Joburg Star. His beat covered Black townships. Each chapter of his book focused on a specific type of what was then called "black on black violence". One chapter was devoted to the Hammer Man, a big Black man who wielded a heavy hammer to smash the skull of his equally Black victims, most of whom were poor and would yield small booty. Malan's subtext was not difficult to [00:57:00] decipher. If they can do this to their own, what will they do to us, given half a chance?

The South African moment was born in the 70s and 80s. There was a three fold shift in vision from opposition to apartheid. It looked for an alternative to apartheid. Rather than just turning the world upside down, it dared to think of a different world from a state of the majority, the national majority, the Black majority. It looked to create a state of all the people. From opposition to Whites, it went on to oppose White power. 

Nineteen ninety-four was the birth of a new political community, instead of a rupture into two separate communities - one of victims of apartheid and another of perpetrators - Blacks and Whites, which would have required a partition of South Africa. Let us not forget that in 1994, Afrikaners divided, with a minority asking for a homeland where Afrikaners would have their own state. The political community that did emerge [00:58:00] in 1994 was that of survivors of apartheid, not just victims who had survived, but all survivors, whether victims, perpetrators, beneficiaries, or bystanders. 

The anti-apartheid struggle was not directed from a single center, but from multitude centers. Not only did the struggle include multiple initiatives, they were sometimes contradictory. Take the example of the anti-apartheid boycott, which was directed from outside the country, and the internal political struggle which demanded reform of the political process to allow the excluded majority, non-Whites, the right to participate in the political process. Whereas the anti-apartheid boycott made no distinction between South African state and society, calling for a boycott of both, the internal political struggle proceeded by building alliances with all sectors of White society, so long as they did not openly and actively support the apartheid state.

Apartheid [00:59:00] power was not defeated. Neither did Apartheid win. The situation in the mid-1980s could only be described as a stalemate. Why then did Apartheid power agree to negotiate in 1990? Two considerations made captains of Apartheid rethink their primary reliance on a military strategy. One, the possibility that anti-apartheid mobilization may spread from the townships to Bantustans. But more important was the second possibility that signaled the likelihood of an even more scary outcome. Boers realized that the hitherto pro-Apartheid Boer intelligentsia was gradually beginning to abandon Apartheid as a state project. 

The principal critique of 1994 is that there was no social justice. This critique both states a truism and misses or undervalues the political birth that did happen in 1994. I argue that we [01:00:00] should see the rebirth as the beginning of political decolonization. The turning point was when anti-apartheid forces reformulated their demand from Black majority rule to non-racial rule.

Rather than deny the existence of race as phenotypical difference, they refused to endow racial difference with a political significance. The first step to decolonizing the political was de-racialization. The next step would be de-tribalization. Rather than deny the cultural significance of tribe as an ethnic group, de-tribalization would decouple the link between culture and territory, ethnicity and homeland, citizenship and identity forged under colonialism. To do so would be to reverse the politicization of culture under Apartheid, which had led to the creation of homelands, homeland authority, and customary law. The result would be to create a single citizenship, not multiple citizenships based on separate [01:01:00] identifications, race in the central state and tribe in the homeland.

Nineteen ninety-four created formal political equality in South Africa regardless of race. It has yet to create formal political equality in the former homelands regardless of ethnic identity. My claim is that a successful struggle for social justice will need to cut across the political divide imposed by race and tribe without political equality. The mobilization for social justice will be fragmented into so many races and tribes.

Final comments on an extraordinary case of looking the find the humanity in the inhumane attacks on Israel of October 7th

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: We've just heard clips today, starting with AJ+ with an analysis of the October 7th attack on Israel. The Mehdi Hasan Show look at the dangers of imminent genocide. The Bitchuation Room spoke with Naomi Klein describing the unjust, unstable idea of security without peace or justice. Owen Jones explained why, to advocate for Palestine, it is important to fight anti-Semitism. [01:02:00] This Is Hell! looked at the strategies of Nazis to use the opposition to Israel's actions as a recruiting tools. Inside the Hive spoke with Naomi Klein about the simplicity of applying international law against war crimes and crimes against humanity consistently. Factually! With Adam Conover dove into some of the unavoidable difficulties Israel faces in achieving their stated goals. And Democracy Now! spoke with Ta-Nehisi Coates about the clarifying simplicity of understanding the mechanisms of injustice that exists for Palestinian people under the control of Israel. That's what everybody heard but members also heard bonus clips from Against the Grain featuring a very interesting analysis of South Africa, comparing it to Israel, but not just as a condemnation of Israel's version of Apartheid, but looking at how the anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa could help show the way in the Israel and Palestine conflict.[01:03:00] 

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, this is our fourth episode on Israel recently, each one approaching from a slightly different angle. So, I do think they're all worth your while. As a refresher, in case you missed any, #1584 is from September and it described the political turmoil in Israel before the attacks by Hamas. #1589 gave much needed context to the attack when it happened. And 1591, the most recent, looked at the role of traditional and social media in how people come to understand this conflict. So check all those out again. It's 1584, 1589, and 1591. 

Now, to wrap up, I just wanted to [01:04:00] read an excerpt of an article that I found fascinating. I'm actually frustrated because I think I saw an article dedicated entirely to this topic that will be discussed, but I didn't read it when I saw it and now I can't find it. So this is a very small excerpt from a very long article that will just have to do. So this article is "In the Cities of Killing" by David Remnick from The New Yorker. And he in this section is speaking with an Israeli named Brodutch whose family had been kidnapped during the October 7th attack. So here's the article. 

"Brodutch made it clear that he wanted to deliver a message that was out of keeping with the dominant emotions of the day. The hunger for vengeance, the outrage at the failure of the Israeli government to protect its citizens. Brodutch allowed that the state had failed. 'This is a colossal disaster that will be investigated in years to come'. But he was painstakingly deliberate in [01:05:00] his comments about his family's kidnappers. His wife and his children were in the hands of Hamas. And Hamas was keenly aware of what was being written and said about the organization abroad, including in Israel. Every time Israel dropped a bomb, he worried that it might kill his family. Quoting him again, 'I have to hope that there is someone watching over them. It was overkill by Hamas. I don't think they thought things would go that far. At least, I want to believe that. Their religion is peaceful. No religion can be successful for long if it is not peaceful'. He was terrified by the prospect of a ground war. 'We are going the wrong way. We've had a sign from God and if we read it as a sign to go to war, that is one thing. We should be sending humanitarian aid to women, children, and the elderly. Hamas believes that women, children and the elderly should not be attacked, but something on their side went very wrong. I don't think they thought this attack would be so easy and they just lost it'".[01:06:00] 

So that was that excerpt and I wanted to highlight it because number one, I find the perspective expressed here to be very plausible. Basically, it's an attempt to find the humanity within the people who committed a brutal war crime, not just in general, but against the person who is speaking. And in my experience, anytime there's an attempt to find the humanity within a person or group of people, you will find it. The existence of truly irredeemable examples of pure evil in human form are vanishingly rare. Otherwise, you just need to scratch beneath the surface to find the story a person is telling themselves that paints them as the good guy. That explains the moral universe in which they are on the side of righteousness. 

And the second reason that I find this interesting [01:07:00] is because of who is expressing it. You know, it sounds like something an academic would say based on their years of research of historical cases, in which groups of people get out of control and given to mob mentality, and maybe a plan to attack becomes an out of control rampage. But for a family member of a kidnap victim to make that point shortly after the attack, even if they are doing it knowing Hamas may be listening to my words, I'm being quoted in the media, they may read this, and I want to do everything I can to curry their favor so that they will protect my family's lives, even if that is what he is doing and that is the reason he is saying those things, still I find it quite extraordinary. 

Now I do wish that I could find a more in-depth piece on this idea. The headline I believe I saw was something along the lines of, like, "How the Attack Went Wrong", or "How it Went Out of Control", [01:08:00] or "How it Did Not Go To Plan", something along those lines. If you know what article I'm thinking of, please send that my way. 

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 tireless research that went into all of these Israel episodes. I know it took a toll and it's really appreciated. Thanks to our Transcriptionist Trio, Ken, Brian, and LaWendy, 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 at bestoftheleft.com/support. You can join them by signing up today, and it would be greatly [01:09:00] appreciated. You'll find that link in the show notes, along with a link to 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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#1591 Broken News: Understanding traditional media and social media reporting on the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza (Transcript)

Air Date 11/6/2023

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JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [00:00:00] During today's episode, I'm going to be telling you about a show I think you should check out it's the Left Reckoning podcast. So take a moment to hear what I have to say about them in the middle of the show and listen wherever you get your podcasts.

And now welcome to this episode of the award-winning Best of the Left podcast in which we should take a look at why media literacy is a basic requirement for understanding the war in Gaza as propaganda, misinformation, and disinformation is being distributed for both ideological and financial reasons. Sources of today include On the Media, Today Explained, Citations Needed, Deconstructed, Now This News, Democracy Now!, and CounterSpin, with additional members only clips from Citations Needed and Democracy Now!

Breaking News Consumer's Handbook Israel-Gaza Edition - On the Media - Air Date 10-27-23

Brooke Gladstone: Now our Breaking News Consumers Handbook: Israel and Gaza Edition. We begin with number one, the hardy perennial of breaking news advice. When perusing headlines about a war, don't swallow without [00:01:00] chewing.

Joe Kahn: The early versions of our coverage, the headline, and the news alert ended up attributing our description of what happened at the hospital to a Hamas government official. And the information that that government official passed along turned out to be inaccurate.

Brooke Gladstone: That's New York Times Executive Editor Joe Kahn, representing one of many major news outlets who failed to contextualize an unreliable source offering comment within minutes of an explosion at Gaza's Al-Ahli Hospital.

Joe Kahn: That early version with the benefit of hindsight was not as good or as accurate or verified as it could have been.

Brooke Gladstone: Conflicting video evidence is still being parsed. The prime evidence, fragments of the munitions responsible, cannot be examined because says, a senior Hamas official, "The missile has dissolved like salt in the water", something that bomb and shell fragments definitely are not known to do. 

On to point number two, be aware of the biggest spreaders [00:02:00] of bad information about this conflict. That's not so hard. We know who they are.

Mike Caulfield: Seven accounts. And for those top seven accounts, we saw over that three-day period, they accumulated 1.6 billion views across a total of 1,834 tweets.

Brooke Gladstone: Mike Caulfield is a research scientist leading the University of Washington's Center for an Informed Public. His team analyzed the accounts on X that were getting the most views in the first three days after October 7th. Then they looked at popular news sources like BBC World, CNN Breaking News, and found that--

Mike Caulfield: Over the first three days of this crisis, we found that the seven accounts had 1.6 billion views. The highly-subscribed traditional news accounts had 112 million views.

Brooke Gladstone: Note that these non-traditional accounts usually don't link to the source of their information. If they do have a citation--

Mike Caulfield: Very often it's just typed out with no link, no article name. Just below it, it might say, BBC World, or something like that, but not a link to the [00:03:00] source.

Brooke Gladstone: Another common characteristic, most of these sites post a lot.

Mike Caulfield: Hundreds of times a day. Very quick granular posts. So, text posts very often with a image or with a video is decontextualized media, decontextualized rumor, and just coming to people in the stream.

Brooke Gladstone: Most of these sites are very emotionally charged.

Mike Caulfield: It's high intensity, one way or another, either the newness or the nature of what you're watching, which might be about violence. It might have a culture war angle. The thing that we found was the experience of going through it is very disorienting because you're just seeing intense video and hearing intense rumor one after another, and you're never getting to any deeper treatment of that.

Brooke Gladstone: They use the language of journalists posting breaking news.

Mike Caulfield: You might get a police siren or all-caps BREAKING, that sort of thing.

Brooke Gladstone: These accounts are not affiliated with any news outlets, which is partly what endears them to X's owner Elon [00:04:00] Musk, who has actively promoted some of them.

Mike Caulfield: One of the top accounts has been repeatedly promoted by Musk as an example of what he calls citizen journalism he wants to see.

Brooke Gladstone: One of those seven accounts is @WarMonitors known for misinformation and antisemitism, including using the word Jew as a slur as in, "Mind your own business, Jew." The other, @ sentdefender, is notorious for fake news and has been called by a researcher at the Atlantic Defense Digital Forensics Research Lab, a "absolutely poisonous account." That's two of the big seven massively trafficking in BS. You can find them all at U. Washington's Center for an Informed Public. 

Meanwhile, many of the worst sites love to pass themselves off as real open-source researchers, when in fact they're merely grabbing stuff from platforms like Telegram. More on that later. Real open-source intelligence or OSINT researchers stay up nights tracking images back to the source, scrutinizing landmarks and the angle of the light. [00:05:00] Aric Toler is one of those, a reporter at the Visual Investigations team at The New York Times. He says that in this conflict, he's seeing a lot of the bad stuff he's seen before.

ARIC TOLER: The classic things you see in every conflict. You find old misattributed videos, something from Syria or Afghanistan, or Yemen, they repackage. Or from Palestine that is just old that they repackage and reshare. That's par for the course. This happens in every conflict.

Brooke Gladstone: But he's noticed one change. In recent conflicts like the Russia-Ukraine war, Twitter is no longer a driver of new information. It's just another aggregator.

ARIC TOLER: Similar to what Facebook and Reddit and some other platforms became from other conflicts.

Hearts, minds, and likes - Today, Explained - Air Date 10-23-23

CHEYENNE SARDARZADEH: The technical definition that most people who do this job seem to stick to is that misinformation is mostly content that is shared online which is false, but there's no malicious intent behind it. But disinformation, it takes it a notch above that. That's when somebody is putting content out that is misleading and false, because they think there'll be something, there'll be some gain for them [00:06:00] from it.

NOEL KING - HOST, TODAY, EXPLAINED: Okay, so misinformation is mistakenly put out; disinformation is deliberate. During this war, for the past two weeks, what sorts of things, what sorts of misinformation and disinformation are you seeing being spread?

CHEYENNE SARDARZADEH: I have seen -- I think it reminds me of the first few days, first few weeks, actually, of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Very similar. We have had in the first two weeks of this war, a torrent of misinformation online: videos being shared and posted, viewed by tens of millions of people that have had nothing to do with the war. I have seen videos from past Israeli mass conflicts. 

NEWS ANCHOR: This video of an attack by Israeli forces on Gaza is in fact that what it purports to be, but it's from May, not from this current set of attacks.

CHEYENNE SARDARZADEH: From the war in Syria, from the Ukraine war, from some of the uprisings in the Middle East, I've seen content from football celebrations, I've seen video game footage. 

NEWS ANCHOR: Take this video, saying Hamas militants started a new airstrike on [00:07:00] Israel. You see that? That video, that is actually from a video game. That's not even real. You see the exact same video posted to YouTube here. 

CHEYENNE SARDARZADEH: I've seen military exercise videos on YouTube that have been shared on TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, X, and have been viewed millions and millions of times. 

NEWS ANCHOR: This video allegedly shows dozens of Hamas fighters paragliding into Israel. Through a reverse image search, we were able to geolocate the area. The white building in the background is the Military Academy in Cairo. 

CHEYENNE SARDARZADEH: And it's not just videos, by the way. Same thing with images, and in some cases, same thing with posts that do not contain any video or image, but make a very incendiary claim during the fog of war that shocks people, and then it turns out it's completely unsourced. There's no evidence for it, somebody's just made it up. 

And then we get into people who, for whatever reason, create fake accounts, say, fake IDF account or fake Hamas account or fake account from an Israeli politician and try to get engagement off of it.

So I've seen all of those and some more.

NOEL KING - HOST, TODAY, EXPLAINED: I want to understand how your job works [00:08:00] in real time. Can you walk me through the process of checking one of these claims that you've discovered is misinformation? 

CHEYENNE SARDARZADEH: Yeah, sure. I'll give you two. One misinformation, one disinformation. 

So obviously we know the way this particular conflict started was that on the Saturday, 7th of October, Hamas militants infiltrated Israel and killed something between 1,200 to 1,300 Israeli citizens. And we know that some Israeli citizens were taken hostage during that attack that was unleashed on Israel. 

So a rumor began on the Sunday morning that some senior Israeli generals had been taken hostage by Hamas militants, and then a video came out in the afternoon, our time in the UK that got millions and millions of views online. It was on X, it was on Facebook, I saw it on Instagram, I saw it on TikTok. It's a 30-second video, and in it you see a big black van, and then you see several men wearing military uniforms who look like security agents and balaclavas, with three men being escorted by security agents and the caption on the video said [00:09:00] "several high profile Israeli generals captured by Hamas fighters," quote unquote. That's what it said. 

When I saw that, I was like, okay, we have reporters on the ground, they're not telling us anything like it. They've contacted the IDF. They're not saying any of the generals have been taken hostage. So let's properly check this. And if you check the video, there's a moment in the video that one of the security agents wearing a military uniform has the logo DTX on there. And I just searched for DTX and, lo and behold, DTX is the state security service of Azerbaijan. So then I thought, okay, this video must have been shared at some point, somewhere of the Azerbaijani security service arresting some people. So then I went on YouTube, went on Instagram, went on TikTok and started putting search terms, using Google Translate in the local language, in Azerbaijani language, looking for that video. And I found a video uploaded on the 5th of October on YouTube, by the official account of the Azerbaijani State Security Service, with, a verified YouTube channel, [00:10:00] that was the longer version of that video and of higher resolution. So somebody had basically taken a 30-second clip of that video, and all the captions were in there. And it made it perfectly clear that it was the state security of Azerbaijan arresting Karabakh separatist leaders. Then I searched online to see whether any Azerbaijani news sources had reported this happening on the 5th of October and I found several. So that was it. To me then, at that point, it was clear this video is false. It has got nothing to do with the conflict between Israel and Hamas. Those are not Israeli generals. This video was taken in Azerbaijan and is related to the dispute there between Azerbaijan and Armenia. 

The first instance of that video being shared was on the platform Telegram, which is a messaging app, which is really, really popular in some parts of the world, maybe not necessarily in America.

So it was initially shared there, wasn't very viral. Then some people who have big followings on platforms like Twitter or Instagram or TikTok had basically seen that video and they posted it to their accounts and that's how it took off and became really big.

NOEL KING - HOST, TODAY, EXPLAINED: That sounds like disinformation to me. That sounds deliberate to me. You [00:11:00] said it's misinformation. What do you think? 

MARC OWENS JONES: I would categorize that as misinformation because I think most of the people who shared it had no idea what it was. 

If I wanted to give you an example of disinformation that I've seen in the last two weeks, we saw a video shared online that it looked like, it was like a minute and a half, and it looked like a BBC News video. So somebody had gone through the effort to copy our branding and style and logo in a very convincing way. And the content of the video said that BBC News was reporting that the Hamas militants who infiltrated Israel and killed Israeli citizens had got their weapons from Ukraine. Now, this wasn't something that we had reported at all. This wasn't a video we'd created. It was 100 percent fake. Ukraine has got nothing to do with this conflict. And then, lo and behold, the day after that, Dmitry Medvedev, the former president of Russia, posted online, putting out exactly that same narrative that Hamas militants were using the weapons given to Ukraine by Western powers.

So you have to wonder why anybody would go through [00:12:00] the effort of producing a fake BBC video to say the government of Ukraine is actually in cahoots with Hamas. 

NOEL KING - HOST, TODAY, EXPLAINED: What tends to be the motive of people who spread myths and disinformation? 

MARC OWENS JONES: Misinformation, most of the time comes from people who are doing what is known as engagement farming. And on platforms like, say, TikTok or YouTube or Twitter, they can make significant sums of money off of it if they get massive engagement. One of the examples I saw was on TikTok, somebody was claiming that they were running live streams of the conflict from the ground in Israel, and they had something like two, three million people who were watching their live stream, the footage was actually from a military exercise from five years ago, but people were watching it, and he was making money off of it. 

Social media platforms, their algorithms are designed to make content that is shocking. The algorithms want that type of content, want us to see that type of content. That type of content goes viral, regardless of whether it's true or not. So that's one incentive. 

But then when, with the example I just gave you -- and I can give you several more -- either somebody is trying to shape the opinion [00:13:00] of a group of people, or a group of nations, some politicians, some influential people about what is going on, which is politically in their favor, or somebody has an actual economic interest mixed with politics in what's going on and they're doing this because they will have something to gain from it.

US Media, Washington Rush Head First into 9-11 2.0 - Citations Needed - Air Date 10-11-23

ADAM JOHNSON - CO-HOST, CITATIONS NEEDED: And you see all these "This is 9/11, this is 9/11" -- and not to say that 9/11 didn't also have antecedents -- although I don't think the comparison is good at all, because, again, I think the engineers and rich kids who actually did 9/11 with the help of Saudi intelligence, they weren't living in a cage, right? And their grievances were somewhat incoherent, to say the least. So I don't think the analogy is good other than it's " Hey, remember when Muslims did a violence?" It's a racist generalization. But that's why it's so important to 9/11; it aids through all these racist analogies. But also to say this is new, or this is something that is unprovoked or out of the blue, right? That sort of clear blue sky in New York on a Tuesday, out of nowhere. And of course, again, everybody knows that's not true. Haaretz knows that's not true. We all know that's not true. It's now taboo to say that, because then it's seen as excuse making or whatever. Or seen as insensitive. And why not to be careful about how we [00:14:00] talk about these things? Because I know that, it's sensitive for a lot of people watching this. 

But we have to be realistic about what the antecedents to these things are. And the fact that there is a total double standard. There's been a double standard since before I was born, and the double standard has been very acute this week. And the double standard is not just morally wrong, it's intellectually incoherent. And if you can't properly analyze a problem, you can't work towards any kind of meaningful solution. And all this jingoistic gung ho, Israel's 9/11, we stand with Israel, we stand with Israel, while they turned Gaza into rubble, which already was, and turning it into rubble even more, in the most gratuitous and cruel, inhumane, haphazard, and vindictive way. Cause as far as I know, the U S government doesn't fund and arm Hamas. I know Fox news wants you to think Joe Biden does. But as far as I know, my tax dollars don't pay for Hamas. My tax dollars pay for the F-22s, and the bombs, and the tanks, and the surface-to-surface missiles, which is why I think those within the US left have a unique obligation to speak out on that, because it's our country, in our name, doing these things, [00:15:00] and have been doing them for, again, before we were born. And it's gotten more acute, it's gotten more violent, it's gotten more desperate. 

NIMA SHIRAZI - CO-HOST, COUNTERSPIN: But see, that idea is always completely suppressed in the media in favor of Hamas as an Iranian proxy, right? You always hear where Hamas gets their funding, Hamas gets their weapons. And then Israel defends itself against that, right? Defends itself against Hamas, defends itself against Iran, and against Hezbollah in Lebanon. But obviously the " who funds and arms Israel" is never explained in the same way, right? It's not like a kind of common Homeric epithet that is put along with Hamas. It's not US armed Israel as mirroring this Iran-backed militants, right? And so you get this asymmetry of language because we're supposed to see the evil and the villain in the one side, and then the noble, innocent defending itself from the savagery on the other side.

ADAM JOHNSON - CO-HOST, CITATIONS NEEDED: Yeah, and that basic lack of humanity, lack of [00:16:00] anyone giving a shit, relatively speaking, is so ingrained in our media culture I don't know how you undo it, I know people try, again, there's been a lot of viral clips on social media of older, more grizzled Palestinian politicians, activists, academics, politely explaining the situation.

One guy began by talking about how six members of his family, including nephews and cousins, had died. And the first thing they said was, do you condemn Hamas? The guy just said his children died. And again, this is not a question that's asked of anyone who does the Rah, right? Marco Rubio was doing incitement to violence, Nikki Haley. They don't say, do you condemn killing civilians by Israel? That's never, do you condemn the occupation? Do you condemn apartheid? They're never asked to condemn that. Because that's just not something you're obligated to do, even though you actually fund it and support it, right? 

NIMA SHIRAZI - CO-HOST, COUNTERSPIN: And literally politicians are, even more so than just paying your taxes and knowing where it's going, billions of dollars every year. But then you actually have politicians or former politicians who are actually responsible for casting votes or approving funding, and they are never asked. They are never asked to condemn [00:17:00] any violence when it is Israel doing the violence, right? And I think, as you said, Adam, this kind of 9/11ing is now one of the standard talking points.

There were immediate analogies made with Al Qaeda and ISIS because of the Hamas attacks actually inside Israeli territory, something that has really never happened like this before. And then, almost immediately, you started really seeing this turn into one of the main narratives.

Representative Adam Schiff stated on Sunday, October 8th, this, quote, "Right now, Israel is being brutally attacked. It is a victim of terrorist attacks. And the only sentiment I want to express right now, when Israel is going through its own 9/11, is unequivocal support for the security and the rights of Israel," end quote.

You also had Eurasia Group's Ian Bremmer say this" quote, "Massive attacks by Hamas leadership into Israel. This is no less than Israel's 9/11," end quote. CNBC over the weekend had this headline: "Israel's [00:18:00] 9/11: Political analysts react to deadly Hamas attack." And PoliticoEU, Politico, had an article on Monday, October 9th, with this headline: "Israel's 9/11 put spotlight on Netanyahu," end quote. This is now becoming one of the main analogies for this, and very few of these articles use the 9/11 analogy as anything other than shorthand, Adam, for a wake up call, like a wake up call via violence that then needs to be reacted to, and, that there's going to be mass violence but it's righteous, as opposed to, I would argue, maybe more accurate historical analysis of what 9/11 did, which is the analysis that violent revenge visited on millions of people who had nothing to do with the actual instances of violence that you are really reacting to, that were so shocking and horrifying and motivating, that actually you then destroy entire countries, you displace millions upon millions, you kill men, women, children, et cetera with no regard to any [00:19:00] kind of humanity, any kind of restraint. That is the lesson of 9/11, possibly, but that is not how the media or politicians using this are assessing the situation. It is really just the shorthand for "this is a wake up call that needs to be avenged." 

ADAM JOHNSON - CO-HOST, CITATIONS NEEDED: Yeah. And I know we spent the last episode last week dumping on Ken Roth. To his credit, a lot of -- hey, I know he's not associated with Human Rights Watch anymore, but other organizations are calling for deescalation. They're calling the Israelis not to take their vengeance out on Gaza. This is not a fringe position outside the US political realm. It really is coming from a lot of, it's big, it's bipartisan, it's Democrats, it's the president. It's we stand with Israel no matter what they do, let them do their thing.

The New York Times had an extremely curious phrasing in their editorial, supporting Israel to this whatever shutdown platitude about defending yourself. They said, quote, "Already the Israeli government is cutting off power and water to Gaza, and it ordered a siege to starve Hamas of resources. This tactic, if it continues, will be an act of collective punishment." 

So it's not one now. It's a great liberal phrasing, because it's [00:20:00] like, if they do it for too long, they can have a little bit of war crimes as a treat, but if it goes on for too long, it makes liberals too squeamish, then we'll -- 

NIMA SHIRAZI - CO-HOST, COUNTERSPIN: Then we're gonna start tsk-tsking, tut-tutting, hand wringing. 

ADAM JOHNSON - CO-HOST, CITATIONS NEEDED: It's very specifically phrased to say, yeah, you guys can do it now, but if it goes on, if it drags on for too long and makes us squeamish, then we'll intervene. 

NIMA SHIRAZI - CO-HOST, COUNTERSPIN: But don't worry, we haven't intervened for the past 17 years, let alone 75, so it'll probably be fine.

Fog of War The Media and the Israel–Palestine Conflict - Deconstructed - Air Date 10-13-23

RYAN GRIM - HOST, DECONSTRUCTED: As people have been trying to follow this, there’s been a confluence of — as Yousef was talking about earlier — basically no Western press in Gaza. Gazans running low on battery power, internet, finding it increasingly difficult to communicate, coupled with the takeover of Twitter by Elon Musk, which … Twitter was never necessarily the most reliable place for news but, in previous crises, you could at least distinguish between more authoritative and less authoritative sources, and it just seems that there’s been a proliferation of hoaxes and fraud, coupled with outright propaganda, getting pushed to the point [00:21:00] where it’s very difficult for people to have any idea what to believe and what not to believe.

You’ve got a piece on The Intercept on this phenomenon. What are you finding that’s different this time? And do you have any advice for people to navigate this?

Alice Speri: Yeah. I think this has been a huge issue, and not just with this weekend’s violence, we’ve seen this also last year with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The amount of just unverified uncorroborated information that was going viral within minutes, and very little effort to verify. [It’s been] very challenging for journalists to verify, although I’ll say a lot of journalists have contributed to spreading some of the information.

There’s a lot we’ve seen in the last few days. We’ve seen horrific reports coming out of both Israel and Gaza, and then we’ve seen some really incendiary ones spreading, aided by U.S. political figures, by Israeli political figures …

RYAN GRIM - HOST, DECONSTRUCTED: Including the president, even.

Alice Speri: Right, yes. Some of, basically, what we’ve been trying to do at The [00:22:00] Intercept is just tracing the origin of some of these claims which we have not independently verified, but the IDF has not independently verified. And I actually just spoke with the IDF about some of the most egregious claims about beheaded babies, for instance, which is something that multiple U.S. politicians have repeated, that it’s all over the networks. And the Israeli military itself would not confirm something that is being attributed to soldiers.

So, this kind of shows you some of the challenges. And I think, certainly, that the transformation of Twitter under Musk is contributing to that. It’s not the only problem, but it just kind of shows the enormous responsibility we have, particularly at a time when information is just so lopsided.

I mean, we know of people in Gaza losing electricity, not being able to report. Citizen journalists who usually document life in the strip that are unable to do so. We know that at least six journalists have been killed in Gaza since this started. And this is not unique to this latest violence, [00:23:00] of course; Palestinian journalists have been targeted, as we know very well. We, at The Intercept, have covered Shireen Abu Akleh's killing for the last year.

And so, we see, really, an attack on those that are kind of seeking to provide the information, at the same time when you have all of this unverified information that’s spreading online.

RYAN GRIM - HOST, DECONSTRUCTED: Yousef, how have you been navigating this kind of information and media space?

YOUSSEF MOUNAYER: You know, there’s a tremendous amount of misinformation right now. Any time you have these massive events, there are people that look to take advantage of this. There are people who look to spread misinformation. You have to look at the role, also, of state actors trying to deliberately manipulate the scene, because of what their interests are on the battlefield or elsewhere in terms of diplomacy.

We saw that in 2021, when the Israelis flat out lied to the media, and then had to admit that they did. And, of course, they targeted a building belonging to the Associated Press — and Al Jazeera, as well — at that time.

RYAN GRIM - HOST, DECONSTRUCTED: What was the lie they told at the time? You [00:24:00] mean about Hamas being in that building?

YOUSSEF MOUNAYER: No, no. I think it was involving troop movements or something like that. They essentially used the media for operational purposes at the time, and outraged many, many people.

RYAN GRIM - HOST, DECONSTRUCTED: Oh, that’s right.

YOUSSEF MOUNAYER: And it’s certainly not the first time that there [was] disinformation sent out by the Israeli military. But, you know, at the same time, Twitter has become something of a wasteland, it is extremely unfortunate to see. But the first time I remember finding Twitter useful was around world events, because it is so hard to reach certain voices around the world and hear from them in the mainstream media here in the United States.

Many people remember the Green Revolution In Iran being one of these major moments where they started following world events on Twitter but, for me, it was Israel’s war in 2008/2009 on Gaza. The only Western reporters on the ground were working for Al Jazeera English, and the only way that they were getting information out was on Twitter.

And so, for people who are used to following events like [00:25:00] this in places like Gaza and other war zones, and other places where voices of people from the region are underrepresented, it remains an essential space to navigate despite all of the misinformation and attempts by others to manipulate the discourse.

Hate Crimes, American Media & the 'Free Palestine' Movement - NowThisNews - Air Date 11-1-23

ALIYA KARIM: There has been an uptick in violence and suspected hate crimes against Muslim Americans and supporters of Palestine. Since October 7th, the ugliness has only been increasing. A six-year-old Muslim boy was stabbed 26 times in Illinois. Across the nation, peaceful pro-Palestine marches have reportedly been met with hostility and violence.

In Cleveland, a Palestinian-American man was hit by a car. The driver allegedly yelled, "Kill all Palestinians" and "Long live Israel." Harvard students were doxxed for condemning Israel in a letter, with their personal information having been splashed across multiple websites. And social media platforms have been under fire for shadowbanning users from posting about Palestine, suppressing Palestinian voices, and even labeling some users as terrorists.

So why is this happening? We spoke with William Youmans, a professor at George Washington [00:26:00] University for some insight. 

WILLIAM YOUMANS: Even in this country, we see a constant attack on Palestinian-American free speech. Not just Palestinian-Americans, but anyone who's supportive of the Palestinian position. We see college students losing job offers. We see state laws being passed to make it impossible for people to support boycott, divestment and sanctions, despite this being a nonviolent source of resistance. 

ALIYA KARIM: Youmans, who is Palestinian-American, researches international communication with a focus on US-Arab relations. He's been attending demonstrations in support of Palestine since he was a kid.

WILLIAM YOUMANS: So to be Palestinian means to be displaced, it means to be in exile, it means to basically witness the homeland from far away. Every Palestinian-American is a student of history, not by choice, but by family folklore, by self-identity, by coming to realize who they are. 

ALIYA KARIM: The Council on American-Islamic Relations noted at least 15 hateful incidents and threats that have happened across the country since October 7th. And those are just the tip of the iceberg.

The Department of Homeland Security warns [00:27:00] there could be more that have gone unreported. Muslim congressmembers are seeing a spike in death threats as well. Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar told NBC News that one of the many voicemails she's received threatened, "I hope the Israelis kill every f*cking one of you." The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee has been flooded with reports of FBI visits to mosques and individuals, echoing the post-9/11 era when thousands of Arab and Muslim men faced interrogations.

WILLIAM YOUMANS: Who really makes me worried are the partisans, the people who are ideologically committed to Israel. These are the people behind most of these physical attacks, so I'm not sure that they're going to go away. In many ways what they reveal to me is a degree of desperation, where you see your narrative being challenged in ways that you cannot counter.

ALIYA KARIM: This skewed narrative has deep roots. 

WILLIAM YOUMANS: Historically, Israel has not been a credible source of information for conflicts that it's involved in. We've seen this time and time again. In 1996, when Israel shelled a refugee camp that was run by the UN, killing over 160 people in Qana, [00:28:00] Lebanon, Israel denied it was responsible. We saw with the murder of the Al Jazeera journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh, which caused an international outrage, she was killed by a sniper. Israel denied that it was responsible. 

ALIYA KARIM: Despite the questionable credibility, Western media continues to rely on Israeli sources. In fact, a 2019 study that examined 50 years worth of headlines from major US newspapers found they were two and a half times more likely to cite Israeli sources than Palestinian ones.

And it's not just about narratives, it's also about harmful rhetoric. An October 16th tweet from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's official account stated, "This is the struggle between the children of light and the children of darkness, between humanity and the law of the jungle." That tweet was later deleted.

On October 9th, Israel's defense minister ordered a complete siege on Gaza by saying this: [Hebrew language]. This sort of rhetoric has found its way into interviews with Palestinians and Palestine supporters on major news networks. 

BASSEM YOUSSEF: I'm gonna be even ahead of you because I see the question coming. Do you condemn Hamas for the atrocities? Yes, I condemn Hamas. 

DIANA BUTTU: If [00:29:00] you want me to renounce Hamas because they're anti-woman, anti-everything, then I'm also going to sit and renounce Israel, which is also anti-woman, anti-free speech, anti-gay, anti-everything. 

WILLIAM YOUMANS: The interview host would often ask them about condemning terrorism and then interrupting them constantly to make sure that they condemned Hamas, which is a vicious rhetorical move that forecloses the possibility of a conversation.

Unfortunately, in the United States, we don't have a robust debate on Israel policy, in part because politicians are completely aligned on this issue, and the clear explanation for that has to do with the power of the Israeli lobby, which is a well-organized, well-established set of organizations that have been around for more than 50 years.

ALIYA KARIM: The reality in Israel and Gaza is being reported on based off a mess of inconsistent accounts. Even President Joe Biden had to walk back claims about alleged Hamas atrocities. 

WILLIAM YOUMANS: Newspapers throughout the world picked it up uncritically. It was a perfect example of how misinformation can come from the top [00:30:00] in a way that can powerfully shape public opinion.

ALIYA KARIM: Yet there is some hope as activists challenge the status quo, and fight back against dangerously persistent rhetoric. 

WILLIAM YOUMANS: I find Gen Z far more informed about the world than my generation was and certainly the generation before me.

We've seen a dynamic protest movement emerge, led by groups like the Palestinian Youth Movement, by Jewish Voices for Peace, by If Not Now, by a whole range of organizations. And I would encourage anyone who cares about this, about bringing peace, about bringing justice for the Palestinians, bringing a resolution to this conflict now, should be joining these kinds of organizations.

Being active means being part of a community, of having places to go, of having people who you're working closely with, together towards a common cause. So it's not just enough to speak on social media. You have to get out and do things, and that will break the feeling of isolation or demoralization. 

It's important to remember that we can be empowered and that we can speak back and we can force those in power to hear [00:31:00] us, and eventually they will have to answer to these voices. 

ALIYA KARIM: Youmans is also shedding light on the past by producing a documentary about the unsolved 1985 assassination of Alex Odeh, a Palestinian American activist in Orange County, California.

WILLIAM YOUMANS: People should care about the murder of Alex Odeh, even though it was 40 years ago, because it's connected to the spread of a hateful ideology that's poisoned the Israeli political scene.

This is an ideology of hatred that calls for the mass transfer of Palestinians from their homes in the West Bank, Jerusalem, and Gaza. And unfortunately, I think we're seeing this ideology at work in the massive bombardment of Gaza today.

12 Journalists, Mostly Palestinians in Gaza, Killed in Deadliest Time for Journalists - Democracy Now! - Air Date 10-16-23

AMY GOODMAN: In the first week of fighting in Gaza, the Committee to Protect Journalists reports at least 12 journalists have been killed. More are missing and injured.

We’re joined now by CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator, Sherif Mansour.

Welcome back to Democracy Now!, Sherif. In these last few minutes we have — we’ve heard the story of Issam — tell us what you understand about what’s happened to journalists. He was on the [00:32:00] Israel-Lebanon border. Israel says they’re looking into it. What’s happening in Gaza?

SHERIF MANSOUR: Well, this is the deadliest time for journalists in Gaza. That is, according to our count, one of the highest tolls for journalists covering the conflict since 1992. Since 2001, we’ve recently published stories of 20 Palestinian journalists who have been killed over the years covering IDF operations. Many of them, 13, were in Gaza before the start of this war. But right now we’re looking at at least 10 Palestinian journalists, mostly freelance photojournalists, for taking outsized challenge and risk in order to tell the story of what’s happening. But there are, in addition to Issam, from Lebanon, at least one or two journalists from Israel who have been killed and went missing since the beginning of the raid on October 7. We are also still investigating a lot of damages to media [00:33:00] facilities in Gaza that were bombed over the course of the week, reportedly at least 48 or so. Many were injured. Many lost their homes. And many cannot access the outside world because of lack of internet.

AMY GOODMAN: So, let me ask you: What are the international laws and conventions in place to safeguard journalists and hold those responsible for their killings?

SHERIF MANSOUR: Well, we call on Israel to immediately investigate what happened to Issam and his six colleagues who were injured. We support the Lebanon complaint in the U.N. to make an investigation. And we also call on Brazil, who is presiding right now, on this week, on the U.N. Security Council, to make sure that journalists’ safety is included in any talks that’s happening diplomatically.

AMY GOODMAN: And let me ask you — last week, BBC Arabic journalists Muhannad Tutunji and Haitham Abudiab were reportedly stopped, [00:34:00] assaulted and held at gunpoint by Israeli police in Tel Aviv. What do you know about this situation?

SHERIF MANSOUR: Unfortunately, censorship is widespread, not just on covering Gaza in Israel, and we’ve seen and reported a lot of journalists being threatened live, including from Al Araby TV just couple of days ago. And journalists have told us they have received threats, in addition to all the misinformation that has been spread to justify those attacks against those journalists. And we saw the Israeli government right now making decrees to censor and close Palestinian media outlets and inciting against even Israeli journalists who “harm national morale” during the war.

AMY GOODMAN: And I wanted to ask — on Friday, the U.S. news organization Semafor reported, ”MSNBC has quietly taken three of its Muslim broadcasters out of the anchor’s chair since Hamas’ attack on Israel last Saturday amidst America’s wave of sympathy for Israeli terror victims.” The article detailed how Mehdi [00:35:00] Hasan, Ayman Mohyeldin and Ali Velshi have all seen their roles reduced over the past week, even though the three have some of the deepest knowledge of the region at the network, Semafor reported. Your final comments on this?

Brooke Gladstone: Well, journalists must provide accurate and independent account of what’s happening, including in time of crisis. We rely on them so that the misinformation that we see does not fuel the conflict. We rely on them so that we know the motivation and the implication of all the warring parties. And we rely on them to expose the potential of human rights violation or war crimes. So, we call for the absolute resilience of journalists and the support of their editors so that they can do their job fairly, without censorship. . 

Breaking News Consumer's Handbook Israel-Gaza Edition Part 2 - On the Media - Air Date 10-27-23

Brooke Gladstone: You've been posting social media threads with tips and tricks for verifying information about the conflict. You created a fake BBC tweet. You showed how it was done. You showed how [00:36:00] you could identify a fake tweet.

Shayan Sardarizadeh: One of the textbook ways people mislead on the internet is they claim to have taken a screenshot of a genuine post and then they share it on another platform without linking to the actual post.

Brooke Gladstone: So you can't go to the actual thing, you're only looking at a picture.

Shayan Sardarizadeh: Yes.

Brooke Gladstone: One rule for a listener might be very suspicious if you can't link to the original tweet

Shayan Sardarizadeh: 100%.

Brooke Gladstone: That's point five. Check the attribution and be careful of the source you're pulling from and learn about some of the basic verification tools at your disposal. Apparently, it's easier than you may think. I ask Sardarizadeh, can you give me an example that people can go to of how you used readily available tools to verify a picture?

Shayan Sardarizadeh: Yes, of course. It was a picture of two children and a convoy of tanks with Ukrainian flags on them, and this was shared two days after the outset of the war in Ukraine, February 2022. This image [00:37:00] went really viral. I remember European politicians, US politicians, influencers shared it because it was a touching moment. The way I checked that one was I use a tool which is called Google Lens, and it allows you to crop a social media post in this case the image that I want in that post, and then go through the archive of pages that Google has and see the first use of that particular image on Google.

After searching for a while, I was able to find one example from Flickr from 2016 with that image shared by the official account of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry in 2016. Although that was a picture of two children seeing off a convoy of tanks of Ukrainian troops, it had nothing to do with that particular moment in time.

Brooke Gladstone: Now is Google Lens easily accessible?

Shayan Sardarizadeh: Anybody can go to it. Just type in images.google.com in your web browser, whatever browser you're using, and you will see in the search box what appears to be a camera logo. You click on that camera logo and all you have to [00:38:00] do, if it's a link with a social media post with an image, you just copy-paste that link into the search box and then it will do the job for you.

All you have to do is just go through the results that it brings up for you. The most important thing is try to find examples from authoritative sources, news organizations, people who you can trust at least to some extent, and then you want to find the earliest example of its use. Say with the image that we just spoke about, if you find the image shared on the internet in 2020, you already know something is wrong there. That image cannot have appeared on 2020 and also 2022 at the same time.

Brooke Gladstone: Right.

Shayan Sardarizadeh: If like me, you want to find a full context about it, you have to spend a bit more time go through the results, and I found the actual original use from 2016.

Brooke Gladstone: He's very keen on a plugin called InVID because it enables you to make simultaneous use of a bunch of different verification tools like Yandex or TinEye, each of which has particular strengths, but that's for the next class. I'm sticking to Verification 101 today. Still, it's all there [00:39:00] ready for you. All you have to do is be on the Chrome browser and install the InVID Chrome extension.

Shayan Sardarizadeh: You will find how much easier verifying images on the internet will become.

Brooke Gladstone: It's not just for experts anymore. [chuckles]

Shayan Sardarizadeh: Hopefully not, and it shouldn't be. This is something that in this day and age, in the 21st century, this is necessary knowledge for everybody.

Brooke Gladstone: Shayan Sardarizadeh is a journalist at BBC Verify. You can find his X feed @Shayan, S-H-A-Y-A-N, 86 for tips and tricks on how to interpret what you see online. You need some level of media literacy to navigate these muddy waters, but it also takes time. It takes commitment, and that's point six. Aric Toler of The New York Times described what it took his team to put out an investigation earlier this week that showed that a piece of video evidence US and Israeli officials were using related to the hospital explosion was [00:40:00] not what they believed it to be.

ARIC TOLER: These videos don't have timestamps on them. You have to watch hours and hours to find the right sequence of a flash here, a flash there, a missile goes up here, and like, "Oh, wait, those are the same," or, "Oh, the clouds match up." It's very labor-intensive work.

Brooke Gladstone: Of course, they're doing granular OSINT work, not just basic image verification.

ARIC TOLER: We looked at this data, we looked at these videos, you can look at them here, and this is how things line up on the satellite map, which you can look at the same as us, and if you don't trust us and you don't believe us, then that's fine. We've given you what we got. We've shown our work.

Brooke Gladstone: Even so, sometimes the experts get it wrong.

ARIC TOLER: Even if you go through all the same tools and you kind of do the labor and you get on the satellite maps and match up imagery and all that stuff, even then sometimes you don't get to the answer. It's not easy, I mean, you see the seasoned accounts, who've been doing this stuff for years and years and years who get fooled by some photos and videos that come out.

Brooke Gladstone: Point seven, is less a directive than a suggestion, that goes back to our very first handbook, think before you repost. Some of this is on you. What you do [00:41:00] matters. It's so easy to further pollute the toxic stew that is our media ecosystem with a casual retweet of bad but affirming information. Take a moment, look for the source, check and see if it's an easy-to-fake screenshot. Any of the stuff we talked about or if that's too time-consuming and it may well be, maybe just don't click 

Peter Maybarduk on Paxlovid, Maya Schenwar on Grassroots Journalism - CounterSpin - Air Date 11-27-23

JANINE JACKSON - HOST, COUNTERSPIN: And, you know, I think we as media consumers, as people, are recognizing that you give us 18 minutes, we give you the world, is not really the proper relationship to information. You know, the idea that it just kind of washes over you, and if you watch 28 Minutes at 6 o'clock, you're going to learn everything and know everything that you need to know about what's happening around the world or even in your neighborhood.

MAYA SCHENWAR: Yeah, exactly. Well, and I think the expansion of all of these different types of online media has both [00:42:00] introduced kind of this increasingly vicious phenomenon of disinformation, but also has exposed people to more of this. And I think that's a reality that has always been true, that depending on your source, you can be getting a completely different version of the news.

You can be absorbing those 18 minutes as the truth, but not only is it too short, not only is it too brief, but depending on which channel you're watching, those 18 minutes will look completely different and I think this is the exact right moment to be discussing this because right now we're witnessing Israel perpetrating this rapid genocide in Gaza with U.S. complicity. And meanwhile, much of the dominant media is still completely misrepresenting the situation, removing the context of 75 years of colonization and occupation, apartheid and ethnic cleansing, and representing the [00:43:00] current situation as a both sides situation. And so, I think increasingly, even people who haven't realized this before, but are tuned in to that issue, are recognizing, Oh, media is such a political force.

JANINE JACKSON - HOST, COUNTERSPIN: Right. And that would point out, you just have a piece up on Truthout right now with Sara Lazar about the siege in Gaza, which I found hopeful ultimately in the awareness that safety can only come through collective liberation. I found it a useful exploration of ideas and folks should check that out.

But listeners will know Truthout.org as a publication, as a news source, uh, on a range of movement issues. But you see yourselves as part of an ecosystem. And it's that understanding that led to this new project, to the Truthout Center for Grassroots Journalism. Tell us about that. What is the need that you're looking to address? What kinds of work are you hoping to lift up with that project? 

MAYA SCHENWAR: So, we're in this moment that's pretty tough for [00:44:00] truly independent journalism, and particularly movement journalism. We have seen outlets shut down. We've seen some shrink, we've seen a lot kind of hovering on the edge of precarity and part of it has been because of the process changes in social media, some of it has been economic disruptions and so on. But also in some ways we've been seeing less collaboration among those media organizations nationally. There's certainly been some great collaborative regional projects, but on a national scale, we're seeing a little bit less of the collaboration than we did years ago when there used to be organizations, particularly in these media consortium, which brought together movement media around the country.

And that type of collaboration can help fields grow stronger, can help movements grow stronger. And at Truthout, we've been thinking a lot about, Okay, [00:45:00] like, we want to exist as a publication, but we can't do it alone. We don't want to be anyone's sole news source. We want to have this vibrant ecosystem of different publications that are helping enrich people's understandings of the world and propel them toward action on all these different fronts.

So the Truthout Center for Justice Journalism is a little corner of Truthout, which is focused on supporting and assisting smaller movement media organizations, using the lessons that we've learned at Truthout over the last 22 years of sustaining ourselves primarily based on small reader donations, of figuring out how to broaden our reach and bring in new audiences, and figuring out how to build a news organization that is able to approach even issues in which there's [00:46:00] a lot of controversy, and uplift particularly what social movements are doing.

ADAM JOHNSON - CO-HOST, CITATIONS NEEDED: So in addition to kind of that support and assistance and mentoring, we're also focused on bringing together movement media and social justice news organizations of all sizes around the country. This is aspirational, but working on it now. You know, we recognize that what's going to allow us to survive, and when I say us, it's not just Truthout, it's all politicians that have social justice at their heart, you know, who reject this idea of objectivity and are looking to make media that are going to ultimately help the human race survive, and support each other in ways that are going to uplift the movement that got us there. 

Gaza Siege and the Liberal Handwringing Industrial Complex - Citations Needed - Air Date 10-18-23

ADAM JOHNSON - CO-HOST, CITATIONS NEEDED: After October 7th, when it was retribution time, Israel and a lot of pro-Israel commentators thought was going to happen, that they were going to get the kind of Ukraine treatment, where, like, once this horrific attack unfolded, [00:47:00] that everyone was going to kind of rally around them to do this, you know, go get 'em. And I think that's what they were banking on. A lot of their messaging seemed to be banking on that. And then, but the problem is, is like, the Russian military is 10 times bigger than Ukraine military. So even while the CIA is helping and the U. S. Defense Department is helping one side, people intuitively can understand that Ukraine is a smaller country than Russia. They can understand that they are, in many key ways, the underdog in that conflict, very obviously, right? And they're the ones who were invaded versus the ones being invaded. 

NIMA SHIRAZI - CO-HOST, COUNTERSPIN: And that is completely inverted. And that's not the case here.

ADAM JOHNSON - CO-HOST, CITATIONS NEEDED: Right. Because people aren't stupid. They can look at a map. They can see what Gaza is. 

NIMA SHIRAZI - CO-HOST, COUNTERSPIN: The analogy simply doesn't work. 

ADAM JOHNSON - CO-HOST, CITATIONS NEEDED: They can look at the rubbled, you know, so that, again, even if you're pro-Israel, one can still understand that, like, Gaza doesn't have an airforce....

NIMA SHIRAZI - CO-HOST, COUNTERSPIN: Maybe the nuclear armed occupying state that is one of the most powerful militaries in the history of the world might not be the underdog here.

ADAM JOHNSON - CO-HOST, CITATIONS NEEDED: Right. And so they didn't really get that treatment because the apartheid has made it so cartoonishly one-sided, again, even with this "unprecedented" attack - which, you know, it is in terms of against Israel - that it was sort of a hard sell especially as the body count began, to mention it, as the genocidal rhetoric from senior leaders including the [00:48:00] president of Israel came out, where it was like, Oh wait, there's a very clear possibility here that the goal is to basically make Gaza unlivable so they all move to the Sinai and they're going to use IMF loans that Egypt has to try to parlay that into creating what has been a very popular plan on the right for some time now in Israel, which is what they call the "new state solution", which is to effectively make the Sinai and parts of Gaza and southern Gaza into a Palestinian state and hands it basically over to Egypt. Yeah, and completely militarize the border and then annex the West Bank. And, uh, that's been a plan that's been floated for many years. This seems like, you know, again, Netanyahu wouldn't be the first leader to ever use a crisis to advance ulterior agendas. So it's not like totally out of the question. 

This is where a lot of the fears from ethnic cleansing are coming, which is like, Oh, they're trying to get like, at the very least, half of the population or three quarters of the population to basically go to Egypt. Because in Zionist lore, right, sort of extreme right wing Israeli lore, Palestinians are just frustrated Egyptians and frustrated Jordanians. They're not a real people and so they may as well just go. They're just Arabs, right? This is why people [00:49:00] frame it as sort of Israeli-Arab conflict because it sort of flattens the existence of Palestinians. 

NIMA SHIRAZI - CO-HOST, COUNTERSPIN: Also, why Israel and a lot of Israel supporters call Palestinians who currently reside within the pseudo-borders of Israel "Arab citizens of Israel", as opposed to "Palestinians".

ADAM JOHNSON - CO-HOST, CITATIONS NEEDED: Because that necessarily implies existence. 

NIMA SHIRAZI - CO-HOST, COUNTERSPIN: It de-nationalizes. 

ADAM JOHNSON - CO-HOST, CITATIONS NEEDED: And so this is why the fear, people started beginning to use the word genocide, which is a word I use very carefully. I sort of traditionally don't use it in the context of Israel-Palestine in a micro level, macro level. Like, yeah, what the Nakba was was a genocide. I think that's pretty clear. But if you're doing forcible population transfers from Gaza into Egypt, which is to say from taking Palestinians out of Palestine and putting them somewhere else, that is a textbook definition, right?

NIMA SHIRAZI - CO-HOST, COUNTERSPIN: We're also talking about a, population in Gaza ,many of whom are refugees from Palestinian villages in what is now southern Israel, or at least the descendants of those refugees. So they understand what it means to be told to leave and then not be allowed back. [00:50:00] Terrorized into leaving your home, and then you will never be allowed to return. So there is really, I mean, I think the kind of strong thought, and this is beyond the fact that, like, there are a lot of elderly people, sick people, wounded people, wounded and dying people, people who are hospitalized, who literally cannot just pack up and leave. There's also no clear routes for them to take, ambulances are being bombed, roads are being bombed by Israel, as they say, " evacuate south". So, you know, our tagline includes, you know, the term "PR", along with "media, power in the history of bullshit", and there's so much PR going on in the evacuation call, in the reports that Israel spread all over that, you know, they've, returned water service. Well, you know, water pumps don't also work if the electricity's still off. Or if you bomb them. So, I mean, there's also this aspect of that evacuation order, Egypt needs to open the Rafah crossing, which now has been bombed multiple times by Israel, because also of the very real history of [00:51:00] ethnic cleansing. You know, the ethnic cleansing of Palestine to create the state of Israel, whereas Palestinians were threatened, terrorized, massacred, often, uh, out of their homes, never to be allowed back.

ADAM JOHNSON - CO-HOST, CITATIONS NEEDED: So, yeah, let's talk about the forcible transfer to Gaza and why even, like, normie mainline organizations are saying this looks proto-genocidal, right?, even, to sort of be reserved here, why people like Ken Roth, who, again, we criticized two weeks ago, but is actually pretty decent on this. 

NIMA SHIRAZI - CO-HOST, COUNTERSPIN: It's a low bar.

ADAM JOHNSON - CO-HOST, CITATIONS NEEDED: Well, the legal technical lawyer stuff I think only gets you so far, but Israel is this weird artifact from like the 19th century. They do like a 19th Century-style colonialism. And whenever you criticize that, they're like, Well, what about the United States? What about this? It's like, No, no, they're evil. They're just evil in like more sophisticated ways. Like you're doing, old school, and the issue with expelling people into the Sinai, and why it kind of reeks of that is because what they'll say is, they'll say, Oh, well, Hamas lives within the population. Therefore we have to move them out of the way to kind of, I don't know how that works exactly, I guess they can't go with the population, I don't know, they want to see the tunnels? I don't know. But like...

NIMA SHIRAZI - CO-HOST, COUNTERSPIN: If you're a member of [00:52:00] Hamas, your feet are cemented into the floor, and so when everyone else leaves, you're left there.

ADAM JOHNSON - CO-HOST, CITATIONS NEEDED: Yeah, it's like when you pull the tablecloth, all the stuff stays there. Hamas just goes, what? Little cartoon eyeballs. They say, Oh, well, Hamas just sort of lives with the population, therefore we have to remove the population. That is literally what every ethnic cleansing in the history of ethnic cleansings has said. They've always said, This is not an ethnic cleansing, this is a military operation. They live amongst the people. Therefore... I mean, literally, I mean name one, that's the pretext they've used.

NIMA SHIRAZI - CO-HOST, COUNTERSPIN: We are doing our best to save civilian lives. By moving them out of harm's way...

ADAM JOHNSON - CO-HOST, CITATIONS NEEDED: This is why, when the first idea of like a humanitarian corridor came up, a lot of Palestinian academics and writers were like, Well, wait a second, you're spinning a humanitarian corridor as some humanitarian gesture, when really, again, without any kind of assurance or enforcement mechanism, which there's none, how do we know we're going to come back?

The easiest way to prevent the human suffering is to just stop the bombing, not sort of have a more humane way of doing a trail of tears into the Sinai. And yeah, this is what makes the humanitarian... because it became very trendy as well, for people like Elizabeth [00:53:00] Warren, and even some people who called for a ceasefire to call for a humanitarian corridor. And in and of itself, it's not necessarily bad because they have to go somewhere, but the obvious question that sort of no one was addressing, which is like how are they going to come back? Because the last time they were told they were going to come back... 

NIMA SHIRAZI - CO-HOST, COUNTERSPIN: Yeah. Israel denies the right of return, which is guaranteed under international law. 

Not in Our Name 400 Arrested at Jewish-Led Sit-in at NYC's Grand Central Demanding Gaza Ceasefire - Democracy Now! - Air Date 10-30-23

AMY GOODMAN: Israel is intensifying its aerial bombardment and ground invasion of Gaza. Palestinian officials say the death toll has topped 8,300, including over 3,400 children. On Friday, Israeli ground troops, backed by tanks and armored bulldozers, entered Gaza amidst a communication blackout that cut off contact, electricity and cellular service between Gaza and the rest of the world. Communications have now been partially restored.

On Friday, the U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly voted in support of a humanitarian truce, but Israel and the United States voted against the resolution.

Massive demonstrations calling for a ceasefire in Gaza continued this weekend, including here [00:54:00] in New York City. On Friday night, thousands of members of Jewish Voice for Peace-New York City and their allies shut down the main terminal of Grand Central Station during rush hour. It’s the largest sit-in protest the city has seen in over two decades. Many wore shirts that said “Not in Our Name” Banners were unfurled, reading, “Palestinians should be free” and “Israelis demand ceasefire now.” One sign read, “Never again for anyone.” The multiracial, intergenerational movement says about 400 people were arrested, including rabbis, famous actors, and elected officials.

Democracy Now! was there. Today we bring you some of the voices at Grand Central, including Rosalind Petchesky, professor of political science at Hunter College.

PROTESTERS: Ceasefire now! Ceasefire now! Ceasefire now! Ceasefire now!

ROSALIND PETCHESKY: My name is Rosalind Petchesky. I’m here with maybe a [00:55:00] thousand others, a lot of us Jews. But we are here to protest the genocide that is happening in our name. It has to stop. We are crying every minute. When we listen to your show, we are crying. I have a dear friend, Mohamed, with his little family in Gaza. He almost got blown up today. We can’t let this go on. We believe in justice and the right to live for everyone. But Palestinians have been the victims of oppression for 75 years, and it has to stop. That’s why we’re here, to say 'Not in our name.' I am older than the state of Israel.

AMY GOODMAN: [00:56:00] There’s Jewish prayers in the background. The sun is going down, and it’s the Jewish Sabbath.

ROSALIND PETCHESKY: It is. And on Shabbat, we have to pray. We have to recommit ourselves to justice. I believe that Judaism and Jewish ethics — this is how I grew up thinking — are about justice and about Rabbi Hillel’s statement: If I am not for myself, who am I? And if I am only for me, what am I doing here? I glossed over it a little bit. And if not now, when? Now! Peace now. Ceasefire now. President Biden and Blinken, listen to what people are telling you, especially the young people and lots of Jews.

PROTESTERS: Not in our name! Not in our name! Let Gaza live! Let Gaza live! Let Gaza live! Let Gaza live!

INDYA MOORE: My name is Indya Moore. I am standing here, I’m resisting and protesting in solidarity with Jews, trans people, queer people, Black and Brown victims of colonization, and [00:57:00] Americans, just like you and I, to stand against our tax dollars being used to decimate Palestinians. And we’re standing for peace. We’re standing for compassion. And we’re standing for self-determinating justice and liberated Palestine.

PROTESTERS: Stop the genocide! Free, free Palestine! Stop the genocide! Free, free Palestine!

SUMAYA AWAD: My name is Sumaya Awad.

AMY GOODMAN: And why Grand Central?

SUMAYA AWAD: Because this is a symbol of New York. This is a symbol of the United States in many ways. And so, we’re here. We’re saying this is ours. This is where we go to work. This is how we get to our children. This is how we go to school. And we want the same thing for Palestinians in Gaza. We want them to be able to live their lives in dignity and freedom.

DR. STEVE AUERBACH: My name’s Dr. Steve Auerbach. I am a pediatrician, licensed physician in the state of New York. I’m here to say that many Jewish pediatricians are [00:58:00] calling for stopping the killing of children and their families, calling for a ceasefire now, and not in our name.

I’ve never been prouder to be a pediatrician than when, back on Friday, October 13th, thoroughly mainstream organization, the New York state chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics said that “We stand with the children of Israel and the children of Gaza. We love all children, all families equally,” and calling for an immediate ceasefire. So, that was back on October 13th. Unfortunately, children and their families continue to be killed. These sorts of collective actions, collective responsibility is illegal. These sorts of mass killings of civilian areas, mass bombings of civilian areas are illegal and immoral.

The United States should be leading to call for a ceasefire now. I’ve never been prouder of the 18 congresspersons who have called for a [00:59:00] ceasefire now. And I’m calling on President Biden and Senator Schumer and my assemblyperson, Nadler: Please, please, these are not Jewish values. It is not a Jewish value to be dropping bombs on children, killing children and their families.

SEN. JABARI BRISPORT: I am state Senator Jabari Brisport, the 25th State Senate District in Brooklyn. And I’m here calling for a ceasefire in order to allow for the release of hostages and humanitarian aid. I carry the Not on Our Dime legislation with Assemblymember Mamdani, which will stop New York from allowing for fake charities that claim to be charities to help Israeli citizens but actually fund displacement and destruction and settler violence in Palestinian territory.

Summary 11-6-23

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: We've just heard clips today, starting with On the Media, giving tips on the need to check sources. Today Explained looked into the differences between mis- and disinformation and the motivations for spreading them. Citations Needed discussed the use of 9/11 rhetoric to rally support to [01:00:00] Israel. Deconstructed looked at the changing role of Twitter now acts in following world events from traditional and citizen journalists. Now This News looked at the structures of narrative in the Israel-Palestine conflict. Democracy Now! discussed the dangers faced by journalists covering the war. On The Media gave more advice on being skeptical of images without links to their sources. And CounterSpin had a conversation with a guest from Truthout discussing the importance of understanding the differences between the sources of news. That's what everybody heard, but members also heard bonus clips from Citations Needed diving into some of the deeper details behind the rhetoric of the war, and Democracy Now! highlighting the voices of mostly Jewish protesters in Grand Central Station opposing a war in Gaza in their name. 

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 [01:01:00] 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. 

And now we'll hear from you.

The influence of calling congress - Craig from Ohio sequence

VOICEMAILER: CRAIG FROM OHIO: Hello, Best of the Left. It's Craig from Ohio, and I just wanted to call in to respond to Andrew's question about whether it makes sense to contact your representatives. Because I appreciated your response, Jay, which was basically any action that you can take is helpful, and I totally agree with that.

But I really wanted to emphasize and answer specifically his question about calling because it's something that has frustrated me for a long time that progressives, the left, however you think of yourself, are not as active in contacting our representatives as the right wing is, and it's part of why we do not have the kind of influence that the right does on their party.

So I try to make it a habit to once a week [01:02:00] call both my senators and my representative, even though my representative is a Republican toady, who's really, I mean, as far as I can tell, not very bright and just does whatever the party wants him to do. He's a rubber stamp for their agenda. But I still call, because know a lot of people on the left like to rationally point out that is kind of futile because nothing seems to change and we're a minority. Which is true, even the Democratic coalition, the larger faction of the liberals they don't, as far as I can tell, call their reps a lot, either, but they also have a further right wing perspective so that's why we see Joe Biden and the Democratic majority take actions like in the one currently in Israel that we, I disagree with.

So basically, I called my reps this week, I told them, Please do [01:03:00] not send any more weapons into that conflict. I don't think weapons are the answer. Now, do I expect that's going to have any, you know, change or result in any perspective that I would like? No, but if we really could start to realize our power, and on any issue, whatever it is, every week, make phone calls, that does impact power. So, please, I implore you, if you listen to Best of the Left, you're obviously engaged, start calling your representatives on a regular basis.

Thank you very much. Bye bye.

Final comments on a case study in war media manipulation

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: Thanks to those who call into the voicemail line or write in their messages to be played as a VoicedMails. If you'd like to leave a comment or question of your own to be played on the show, you can record or text us a message at 202-999-3991, or send an email to [email protected]. 

Also thanks for your patience as we come back from vacation a little later than expected due to a badly timed cold that actually knocked me out for [01:04:00] several days. You may even be able to still hear it in my voice. I certainly can.

Today, just real quick, I want to give a bit of a case study. And we're talking about media, bad media, understanding media. 

And I came across a debunking of a -- very small -- this is not like the New York Times putting the wrong headline on the hospital bombing kind of story. This is like a small inconsequential person on Twitter who calls themselves a journalist, but I have no idea really how much experience they have. 

But I came across this little debunking because this person posted something that went a little bit viral and it was worth it to Snopes to check into the claims. So the person is James J. Marlow, never heard of him before. His Twitter bio describes him as a foreign and defense [01:05:00] analyst and broadcast journalist with focus on Israel, middle east, and USA, and has contributed to a variety of sources, GB News, LBC Radio, Talk TV, I 24 and others. That's what the bio says. So this person on November 1st, posted a picture of Gal Gadot. She is an actress who played Wonder Woman. And with the caption: " Israeli actress Gal Gadot, who played Wonder Woman in the Hollywood movie, turns up for army service." And the picture is of her wearing a backpack and giving a little salute. And to post that on November 1st of this year certainly makes it sound like she's signing up for Israeli military service now, because, if that's not the case, why in the world would you post that? And this person's tweet was written in the [01:06:00] present tense. However it doesn't explicitly say that the photo is recent. But really, I mean, if it isn't, then what's the news value? So they posted a followup tweet after it, after the original started to go a little viral, and it says, "To clarify, this is not a new picture. And when it was sent to me today, I automatically posted it without checking. But many have liked it. And the words do not say it is from today. So I hope this clarifies the post." End quote. 

And that leaves me with so many more questions than answers. First of all, who sent it to him? He automatically re-posted it without checking. Who sent it? Was it someone who wanted to use a journalist, maybe a particularly dopey journalist, to spread propaganda like implying that Gal Gadot had just signed up to support Israel in this current war. Did the person who sent [01:07:00] it already know that this person would share it without checking, either because they're kind of dopey or because they're a little bit of a propagandist? I'd be interested to know.

And a quick look at his Twitter feed shows that he is clearly a pro-Israel person. So that begs the question, did he share it because he thought it was newsworthy, because he was tricked into thinking it was recent, that he thought, " Oh, great! She signed up for the army! I'll post that." Or did he share it because he knew others would be tricked, but he could claim that he didn't write anything untrue, because technically he didn't. Snopes pointed out Hey, technically, he didn't write anything that wasn't accurate. It's just incredibly misleading. Or did he really just think that it was a neat picture of Gal Gadot serving in the Israeli military from 15 years ago? 

So Snopes got in touch with this person James [01:08:00] and his clarifications to Snopes are not much better. He says, " I was going to take it down because it misled some into thinking Gadot joined this week. But I couldn't believe how many were re-tweeting and liking it. And so I added a tweet to clarify and left it up because I thought it did no harm. It was not my intention to add to the false news all over X, Twitter, and I never wrote it was this week. It was just a nice pic and I clarified it with a second tweet." [ laughs]

So again, so many questions. But ultimately, how bad of a journalist -- not to mention how dumb of a person -- must one be to have had no idea how a post like that would be misinterpreted by people on the internet.

And of course the bottom line is there is no good answer to any of these questions for this person, James Marlow. And we are left with the eternal question of cause and effect [01:09:00] between stupidity and ill intent. 

But I liked this story because it is such a great example of how media manipulation is everywhere. It is going to be everywhere. It can be in the stupidity of a journalist, as this person seems to claim. Actually he seems to try to have it both ways. He tries to say, well, I didn't check, so I didn't know. But he also said, Hey, I never said it was from this week, so that's your fault for misinterpreting, right? So he's having it both ways. But is he dumb? Is he a bad journalist? Did he do something without thinking? Did he actually think a 15-year-old photo was newsworthy? There are so many reasons why people might put misinformation -- or potentially disinformation -- onto the internet to serve their needs to get more clicks to whatever their personal motivations are. Or [01:10:00] maybe he just has a weird thing for Gal Gadot and really enjoyed posting that photo of her. 

There's no telling.

But this is why media literacy is -- no, I don't know if it was ever a luxury, but you got to be on your toes for every single thing you see. And, I admit, it's exhausting. Which is why the propagandists are kind of winning. That's why they get a lot more views, a lot more clicks and people are being misled, left, right and center. 

I do want to clarify, this is not something that I think like, well, because he supports Israel, he'll put out propaganda or do stupid things. It's not like this is one side or the other. People may follow their biases or want to push their perspective using misleading information on either side. This one just happened to be from the Israeli side and it was a perfect, right down the middle example of total buffoon [01:11:00] or cynical propagandist. It is almost impossible to tell. 

As always, keep the comments coming in. You can leave us a voicemail or send a text to 202-999-3991, or send an email to [email protected]. 

That is going to be it for today. Thanks to everyone for listening. Thanks to Deon Clark and Erin Clayton for their research work for the show and participation in our bonus episodes. Thanks to the Monosyllabic Transcriptionist Trio, Ken, Brian and LaWendy for their volunteer work helping put our transcripts together. Thanks to Amanda Hoffman for all of her work on all of our social media outlets, activism segments, graphic designing, web mastering, and bonus show co-hosting. And thanks to those who support the show by becoming a member or purchasing gift memberships 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 funny bonus episodes, in addition to there being extra content and no ads in all of our regular episodes, all through your [01:12:00] regular podcast player. 

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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#1590 Red Caesar and Project 2025: A fascist fever dream being given a vaguely respectable coat of paint by the Claremont Institute and the Heritage Foundation (Transcript)

Air Date 10/23/2023

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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 shall take a look at the people who want to pull the country in directions that are only supported by a small minority of the population, and therefore have to develop a very intricate plans to have any hope of succeeding. This is the story of the latest plan to establish unchecked rule, to implement unpopular policies supported only by the far right. 

Sources today include The ReidOut, Keeping Democracy Alive, The Majority Report, Wisecrack, Leeja Miller, and The Thom Hartmann Program, with an additional members-only clip from Tom Nicholas.

‘The endgame of election denial is that we shouldn't have elections’: Authoritarianism expert - The ReidOut - Air Date 10-6-23

JOY REID - HOST, THE REIDOUT: On Thursday, Fox's Greg Gutfeld went on the air and said this: 

GREG GUTFELD: We had a war over slavery. We knew slavery was inhumane and immoral, but somehow we couldn't solve slavery peacefully. It was an evil, but one side refused to acknowledge that it was evil because it was too big of an admission for [00:01:00] them to make.

Doesn't that feel that way now, that this defiant refusal to reverse this decline argues against the survival of a country? What does that leave you with? It leaves you with, you need to make war to bring peace, because you have a side that cannot change, because then that means an admission that their beliefs have been corrupt all the time.

So in a way, you have to force them to surrender. Or we could make love, not war. Ah, I tried that once. Or we have an election. I had to go to a doctor. Right, election. Yeah. No, elections don't work, we know that. We know they don't work. 

JOY REID - HOST, THE REIDOUT: Just stop for a second and think about what he just told millions of Americans, that this country needs war to bring peace because you have a side that cannot change. You have to force them to surrender. And he couched his little rant in the Civil War, a war in which the people who could not change and whose beliefs were corrupt the whole time, shot and killed US troops and declared war on the United [00:02:00] States as well as secession for the purposes of keeping millions of people in bondage.

So what exactly are you suggesting, Greg? Because in addition to civil war, it sure sounds like you're calling for an end to elections. So, then what? Are you calling for violence against Democrats until they bend the knee? And what happens next? Do you militarize democratic states and cities and force the 84 million people who voted for President Biden and the majority of Americans who want women to own their own bodies and gun reform and police reform and to save the climate and let LGBTQ people live their lives? Will that majority have to live under armed occupation? 

This is the madness that is being broadcast to millions of Americans on one of Fox's most popular shows, apparently with the full support of Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch. 

To be clear, no normal news network would allow that to be said on air, but you can say it on Fox.[00:03:00] 

I should note we reached out to Fox, but we did not receive a response in regard to whether or not this is acceptable. 

The same day that Greg Gutfeld was calling for a new civil war, we learned that a man was arrested in Madison, Wisconsin, because he illegally brought a loaded handgun into the Wisconsin Capitol, demanding to see Democratic Governor Tony Evers. Then, after posting bail, he returned to the Capitol with an assault rifle. Fortunately, the governor was not there. 

Less fortunate is the indigenous justice activist who was shot in the chest last week by a man wearing a Make America Great Again hat during a protest against the reinstallation of a statue honoring a Spanish conquistador in New Mexico. According to the arrest affidavit, the perpetrator was smiling and laughing during an interview with investigators. 

These are just two recent examples, but in the age of Trump, we have seen a long list [00:04:00] of violent attacks. From the antisemitic terrorist attack that took place at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh; the deadly stabbing of O'Shea Sibley, a black gay man who was murdered for dancing with friends at a New York City gas station; to the deadly massacre at an El Paso Walmart, where the gunman said, quote, which the gunman said was, quote, "a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas," mirroring rhetoric that continues to be used by major conservative political figures and media organizations. And, of course, there is the assault on our Capitol back on January 6, 2021, when thousands of Trump supporters stormed Congress, assaulted police, and looked to lynch elected officials, including the Speaker of the House and the Vice President of the United States, for the apparent crime of certifying an election that was over, according to the US Constitution. The list just goes on and on and on. 

And yet, despite all of these events, Republican [00:05:00] rhetoric remains authoritarian and violent because that is what their leader does. 

Violent Authoritarianism: How Did This Become the GOP? - Keeping Democracy Alive with Burt Cohen - Air Date 11-23-21

JOSEPH LOWNDES: There's no way to think about the violence in the Republican Party or the violence on the right without seeing the ways in which there's a glorification of masculinity, and new kind of expressions of masculinity, which are really at work here, whether you're talking about the Proud Boys or the militias, or obviously Trump himself had a particularly potent and brutal form of masculinity. 

And if you look at a lot of the mass killings on the right that have happened in the last decade or so, over half of those have been incel killings. Half of those have been this kind of rageful, anti-woman violence. So I just wanted to say, I think you're absolutely right there. 

That the Kyle Rittenhouse thing is also the return, in some ways, to earlier forms of masculinity, masculine violence. He depicts himself as a helper, as kind of a community protector, as someone who is there not just to harm people, but to protect the community. And so he's almost like a Norman Rockwell figure of civic nationalism. There's pictures of him scrubbing graffiti off the walls and [00:06:00] that kind of thing.

But you know, what was particularly dangerous about Kyle Rittenhouse is that he can essentially enact far-right political violence and have it not seen as anything particularly nefarious because he's not identified with a white supremacist organization. 

So if you go back just a couple years earlier, James Fields, the white neo-Nazi who killed Heather Heyer at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, the neo-Nazis at Unite the Right were roundly condemned by everyone, except for Trump himself. But even Steve Bannon, every Republican wanted to keep their distance from Unite the Right and say these were not our people, we have nothing to do with them, and James Field was tried and given life imprisonment. 

Fast forward a couple years, you have Kyle Rittenhouse, who takes an AR-15 and shoots to death two people and wounds a third,[00:07:00] and he can be treated in a very different way, partly because, I think, two reasons.

One, now political violence in the right has become so commonplace that there's more room for it. There's more room for Republicans to embrace this kind of thing. But the other part of it is that the far right has begun not using the language of white supremacy, but of American nationalism, of law and order, of protecting people and property, and in doing so, they're able to reframe far right violence and reframe far right politics. And even to go further, actually to package it as anti-racist. My colleague Dan HoSang and I wrote a book, came out two years ago called Producers, Parasites, Patriots. And partly it's about the strange racial politics on the far right, that even though it's white supremacist, it incorporates themes of anti-racism. The Proud Boys, they always trumpet their multicultural membership.[00:08:00] And it's true, they're not wrong about that. And there are other elements of the militia movements now which were not tied openly to white supremacy, but to an idea of American nationalism.

So, if you were to go before January 6th to the websites of, say, the 3 Percent Militia, which is one of the most prominent paramilitary organizations involved in many of the attacks in the summer of 2020 on Black Lives Matter activists, but also during the January 6th riots, if you go to their website, if you go to their About page, the first thing you see is, in all caps, WE ARE NOT WHITE NATIONALISTS, WE ARE NOT WHITE SUPREMACISTS. They want to make it clear that race was not their agenda. If you went to the Oath Keepers website, the other major paramilitary organization involved in January 6th, on the front page is a YouTube video of a black member of the Oath Keepers, and the caption under it is, Oath Keepers come in all colors. So there's a way in which the far right has come to understand that if you want to advance right wing politics in this country, [00:09:00] you can't do it under the banner of white supremacy, you have to do it under the banner of American nationalism and ideas of law and order. There's other things you can throw in there: evangelical politics, anti communism, among a number of other things. But open racism, it's kind of a non-starter, I think. 

And so you have Kyle Rittenhouse comes out in an interview with Tucker Carlson and he says, I support the Black Lives Matter movement, and I believe in institutional racism, and there's really nothing surprising about that. There's nothing surprising because Kyle Rittenhouse never framed himself as a racist to begin with. He said he was just protecting against disruptive forces. And that's what makes the current movement of the far right that much more dangerous, is that it now can enter the mainstream, because it doesn't have any kind of open identification with neo-Nazi organizations.

And so we're in a very dangerous place now, where someone like Rittenhouse can be seen as a heroic, lionized figure of American civic nationalism, of somebody who's just a caretaker, a protector, and his whiteness is clearly at [00:10:00] the heart of this, and so is his masculinity, but it's not done, it's not expressed in a way that it can be easily attacked as white supremacist.

BURT COHEN - HOST, KEEPING DEMOCRACY ALIVE: Interesting. And I'm reminded, I read a book a while ago called 1848 about the revolutions in Central Europe largely, which were pre-Marxist, but I found it fascinating that some of the aristocracy's most ardent defenders were the peasants. And now, I do find it interesting that masculinity, a lot of women support Trumpism and the far right. I guess it's comfortable and familiar to have this protective masculinity myth out there. And who would have thunk it? Rather than risking, I suppose, feminism and homosexuality and, that kind of social and cultural freedom, it's there, and it's often mystified me why some of the poorest people support the really, really wealthy [00:11:00] people. But that's what happens. 

And clearly America's founders set us up in direct opposition to an all-powerful monarchy. Trumpists put this aside as they enthusiastically and openly embrace executive authoritarianism, the very thing we rebelled against, and they claim to hold the true patriotic banner, which they showed on January 6th. 

And they still call themselves conservative, which kind of baffles me. This is the antithesis of conservatism. And the Republican Party seems to have gone from genuine conservatism to radical, anti-traditional Americanism.

Analyzing The Dark Roots Of Modern Conservatism - The Majority Report w/ Sam Seder - Air Date 10-15-23

JOHN S. HUNTINGTON: The early 20th century is very, very important for the rise of conservatism, especially the 1920s, I think, were a really important moment because you have this renewed fundamentalist vigor, you know, fighting against evolution being taught in public schools, you've got the rise of the second [00:12:00] Klan, and the nativism and racism that that brought to the forefront, and that version of the Klan had some one to three million members, including men of society, politicians, it was not, you know, just a bunch of ex-Confederates in the backwoods. I mean, this was a real legitimate movement. And then, when you build into the 1930s, when Franklin Roosevelt becomes president and starts instituting the New Deal, empowering labor, creating larger government programs, it kind of consolidates a large amount of the conservative, I guess opposition to the New Deal.

You have businessmen who don't want empowered unions. You have southern segregationists who don't like the fact that, you know, Black and Brown people are getting government benefits or are getting government jobs, and that might, you know, prevent them from being exploited in other ways that they had historically.

You have, you know, conspiracy theorists who believe that Franklin Roosevelt is going to bring, you know, communism to America, and there was also legitimate fascist [00:13:00] movements happening in the 1930s, the German-American Bund, the Silver Shirts. And so all of this together is this broader kind of conservative ecosystem that was trying to fight against New Deal liberalism and the advent of or the implementation of social democracy in America. 

EMMA VIGELAND - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Were they, uh, as coordinated as they became later in history, or was this really kind of different factions, you know, which, again, you could totally extrapolate onto modern day anti-communism, the racists, and the anti-labor part of conservative, or I guess you can put the anti-communist, anti-labor together. But based on FDR's success and popularity, and again, that had to do, obviously, with factors, you know, the Depression as well, but outside of the conservatives' control, but were they not as organized, as you would say, as they became decades later?

JOHN S. HUNTINGTON: That's a really interesting question, and in terms of kind of the themes of conservatism, I will say the song very much remains the same, but I would definitely argue that [00:14:00] they do become more consolidated later for a number of different reasons. In the 1930s, the conservative movement that I write about is a little bit more disconnected, right?

You had guys like, for example, there was a group called the Jeffersonian Democrats, and their whole goal was, what they would view it as redeeming their Democratic party, they didn't like Roosevelt, they felt like he had perverted their party. And so their main goal was just to get him off the ticket and get a real conservative on there, but Roosevelt was so popular that they struggled to do this, so instead they pivoted to actually supporting the Republican, who himself was kind of like a moderate to even liberal sometimes guy named Alfred Landon. And so as a result, their politics was very much centered on getting rid of Roosevelt. Later on, the conservative movement will coalesce in a way that they will eventually take over the Republican party, right? And that's where figures like Barry Goldwater and even William Buckley become important because they are spearheading a broader [00:15:00] conservative coalition than the oNes in the '30s and '40s..

EMMA VIGELAND - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: So, can we talk a bit more about the second coming of the Ku Klux Klan, and how that fit into, particularly, what was it, 1915, when they were founded once again, into that time Birth of a Nation comes out... We were chatting about this before the show and Matt, our producer, was saying that some people call the Klan the first real U. S. fascist organization in the United States. Is that a fair assessment? And, perhaps, you can draw comparisons to the present as well. 

JOHN S. HUNTINGTON: So, I am not necessarily a scholar of fascism, but I do think that there are notes of fascism, certainly, within the Ku Klux Klan, the authoritarian inclinations, the calls to replenish America somehow, you know, not to put too fine a point on it, but make "America Great Again" is very much a, you know, we need to renew, we need a renaissance in this country, and that's what the Klan was offering, and they very much, you know, clung [00:16:00] both to the flag and to the cross at the same time, using Christianity and patriotism as a way to otherize certain people, whether it was immigrants, or Black Americans, or whomever, to create a Whiter nation, or at least a nation in which White people had all the power.

And, you know, so I do think that there is an element of fascism in that. A lot of those notes are very similar. And part of the problem with the fascism conversation, which I'm sure, if you guys on Twitter, you know very well, it's been debated very much by academics. Part of the problem is that, you know, many people will only say, well, if it wasn't... Nazi Germany or Mussolini's Italy, then it can't be fascism. But I think that misses the point of political culture, right? A culture of violence, a culture that says that, you know, we need to bring America back to when it was great, usually which means a Whiter, more restrictive, less democratic America, you know, these very much are the same sort of appeals that previous fascists have made. And I do think that that connection is warranted.

How Often Do YOU Think About the Roman Empire? - Wisecrack - Air Date 10-16-23

MICHAEL BURNS - HOST, WISECRACK: How often do you think about the Roman Empire? Now, this is a question [00:17:00] that recently took over TikTok and lots of mainstream media. Now, Mehdi reacted with disbelief upon discovering that the people closest to them are just secretly daydreaming about the ancient civilization. Like, all the time.

TIKTOKER: Babe? 

TIKTOKER'S BOYFRIEND: Yeah? 

TIKTOKER: How often do you think about the Roman Empire?

TIKTOKER'S BOYFRIEND: Three times a day. 

MICHAEL BURNS - HOST, WISECRACK: Now, while it might feel a little cliche today, this phenomenon is actually nothing new. In fact, the West's obsession with Rome has shaped history for centuries, ever since the last great empire's toga orgy had its last call at the Coliseum Bar. As writer Johann Chapoutot notes, just about every ambitious ruler since Rome's fall has sought to assume the faded robes of the defunct imperium romanum.

Now Rome's loomed especially large since the dawn of Italian humanism in the 14th century, which flowered into the Renaissance as scholars rediscovered classical works of history, poetry, and science, a canon that fueled Western thought, art, politics, and so on for centuries. And of course, this makes sense because the whole point of history [00:18:00] is to learn from it, right?

Well, the problem is, whether it's an 18th century monarch or a catpoop666 on X, people typically don't talk about Rome with a clear historical understanding, at least according to scholar Peter Bondanella. Rather, they invoke the powerful Roman mythos, a narrative that has modified, changed, or even distorted historical fact over the centuries. It's a mythology so powerful, Bondanella argues, that it's no less than changed the course of history. Because Roman history contains multitudes on multitudes, you can use it to symbolize practically anything.

Now, many trace the beginning of Western modernity to the French Revolution and its twin American showdown. Ironically, that means modernity owes a lot to images of antiquity. Philosopher Hannah Arendt argues that Roman republicanism gave French and American revolutionaries both the blueprint and the courage for their unprecedented uprisings.

Now, most of America's founding fathers were classically educated, [00:19:00] and especially after the Revolution they sought to model after Roman republicanism. George Washington used the Roman play Cato to inspire downtrodden troops. And historian Nicholas Cole notes, that Thomas Jefferson replicated Rome's architecture in Virginia's state capitol to evoke the notion of legitimate authority. And to this day, just about every government building in America has followed his lead. 

In the late 19th century, a rising American empire deemed itself a new and improved heir to Rome, holding what Malamud calls the view that America was exceptional, that it could embrace wealth and empire whilst indefinitely or permanently avoiding Rome's imperial decline. That's because, unlike Rome, America was Christian and therefore impervious to imperial corruption and power lust. 'Cause as you all know, if you're a Christian, you can never have, you know, a lust for corruption or imperial power because no one who is Christian has ever done imperialism. 

Roman [00:20:00] imperialism was celebrated in American culture through a wave of Roman inspired urban architecture, which created a deeply satisfying illusion of imperial grandeur, civic order, prosperity, and authority. Now, fast forward to the more-is-more 1980s, when images of Roman imperialism would permeate culture and spectacles like Vegas Casino Resort, Caesar's Palace, and later its Roman themed shopping mall. 

RON CAREY, AS SWIFTUS, IN HISTORY OF THE WORLD, PART I: Just the best gig in all of Rome, a date that every stand up philosopher, including Socrates, would die for. Believe it or not, you are going to play Caesar's Palace. 

MICHAEL BURNS - HOST, WISECRACK: Now, according to Malamud, these nostalgic sights of splendor collapse the historical specificity and diversity of ancient and modern empires. At the same time, she adds, they also sanction and even glamorize the contemporary exploitative behaviors of America's corporate elites. Cloaked in decadent Roman imagery, she notes, rampant consumerism takes on a historical bent and justification. 

Now, back in the 1930s, Roman imperialists were depicted as the enemy of the working man. [00:21:00] But by the 1980s, they become aspirational symbols of America's excessive wealth and consumerism. Rome's sheer malleability, as well as its sprawling history has made its mythos easy to fit just about any agenda. As such, Malamud argues, representations of the Roman past tell us little about the real Rome, but a lot about the prevailing attitudes and perspectives of the times when the representations were made. Given all this context, it no longer seems particularly remarkable that we've all still kind of got the hots for ancient Rome. But given the checkered legacy of the mythos, what agenda is today's vision of the Roman Empire serving? A complicated one. 

Now, obviously, plenty of women love a good biography of Brutus, and in fact, tons of top classical scholars are women. But as became clear on TikTok, the fascination with Rome doesn't really seem to be a gender neutral matter. And it makes sense, because Rome was not a fun place for women, who, depending on your class status, were reduced to either daughter/wife who never leaves [00:22:00] the house, or slave. So, you know, not really a ton to feel nostalgic for. But for men, Rome offers a safe space to explore its masochistic patriarchy. It's far enough in the distance that the violence and oppression associated feel less vivid and, uh, less icky. Similarly, super violent video games set in antiquity offer an escapist sight for projecting our voyeuristic fascination while watching heads fly off, when they get cut off with swords and stuff. However, presenting ancient violence as normal serves another purpose. Scholar Irene Berti writes, "the modern interest in ancient violence appears to be at least partially driven by a desire to legitimize contemporary violence". 

In both these ways, fantasizing about ancient Rome lets us safely indulge in images of patriarchal power. And that's potent in an era of widespread male anxiety about shifting gender roles, the post industrial decline of male dominated blue collar labor, and so on.

The Conservative Plan to Take Over the Country Part 1 - Leeja Miller - Air Date 9-26-23

RICHARD NIXON: Well, when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal. [00:23:00] 

DONALD TRUMP: It's a thing called Article 2. Nobody ever mentions Article 2. More importantly, Article 2 allows me to do whatever I want. 

PAUL DANS: Our common theme is to take down the administrative state, the bureaucracy. Preparing to march into office and bring a new army of aligned, trained, and essentially weaponized conservatives ready to do battle against the deep state 

LEEJA MILLER - HOST, LEEJA MILLER: For the last 18 months, conservatives from every corner of the far right establishment, from extremist think tanks to former members of the Trump administration to tenured academics, have been working both publicly and privately on a new project.

The project's goal: to rescue the country from the grip of the radical left, uniting the conservative movement in the American people against elite rule and woke culture warriors. And the stakes are high. According to this group, if we fail, the fight for the very idea of America may be lost. Last month, this group of far right leaders, known as Project 2025, released a 920-page manifesto titled [00:24:00] Mandate for Leadership: The Conservative Promise.

In it, the document's 35 different named authors, united and copyrighted by the far right Heritage Foundation, lay out an explicit, comprehensive plan to completely overhaul the US government from the inside out, with the ultimate goal of furthering far right wedge issues and concentrating as much power as possible in the hands of the President. Project 2025 is touted  as the ultimate solution to paving the way for the next conservative dministration, which they  believe will take power in January 2025. While the entire project mimics the same talking points that Trump has harped on throughout his presidency and current campaign, the leaders of this project make clear that the plan is not dependent on a specific person winning the Republican nomination and ultimately the White House. Instead, it's a blueprint for the next conservative executive, whoever they may be, to push the limits of presidential power so far that they will answer to no one, wreaking havoc on the delicate balance of our three branches of government that have allowed us to function as a democracy for nearly two and a half centuries.

This is the conservative plan to take over the country. 

Launched in April 2022, Project 2025 is the brainchild of the far right think tank, the Heritage Foundation. Project 2025 is systematically building the future of the conservative movement and promoting policy objectives that would have [00:25:00] devastating consequences not only in our government, but for every person living in this country.

That might sound hyperbolic, but I'm telling you, I cover a lot of batshit stories about conservatives, and this one has me spooked as hell, y'all. 

Their plan to further these goals has four pillars. Pillar number one is the policy, embodied in that 920-page manifesto they dropped last month. Pillar number two is the personnel database, described as the conservative LinkedIn. The objective of the database is to collect resumes and information for thousands and thousands of conservatives from all walks of life and industries, in order to source the best candidates to pack every branch and administrative body in Washington and throughout the states. To ensure that this database of personnel and the chosen warriors who will infiltrate the government at every level are properly prepared to represent the conservative goals set forth in the policy, Project 2025 relies on pillar number three: training. Through an online institute, Project 2025 will prepare the foot soldiers of the conservative agenda to push their policies from day one. And because they've been preparing for years, they will be ready [00:26:00] on day one of the new conservative presidency thanks to pillar number four. Pillar number four is the 180 day playbook, the step by step guide for the next conservative president to implement the policies laid out in the manifesto as quickly and systematically as possible in the first 180 days of their term.

Through these four pillars - policy, personnel, training, and the playbook - Project 2025 aims to overhaul the entire U. S. government from the inside out, putting in place draconian policies and gutting important government agencies, all in the name of the Constitution and good, White, Christian family values.

The note at the beginning of the paper, authored by Project 2025 director Paul Dans, a former Trump official, lays out what's at stake. "The long march of cultural Marxism through our institutions has come to pass. The federal government is a behemoth, weaponized against American citizens and conservative values. With freedom and liberty under siege as never before, the task at hand to reverse this tide and restore our republic to its original moorings is too great for any [00:27:00] one conservative policy shop to spearhead. It requires the collective action of our movement. With the quickening approach of January 2025, we have two years and one chance to get it right". 

The language throughout the policy manifesto and the Project 2025 website is militant. Clearly meant to play into the fears and the patriotic duty that far right constituents feel so strongly. The same militant language that led to the righteous anger of the January 6th insurrection.

The report starts with, "We want you. The 2025 Presidential Transition Project is the conservative movement's unified effort to be ready for the next conservative administration to govern at 12 noon, January 20th, 2025. Welcome to the mission. By opening this book, you are now a part of it. Indeed, one set of eyes reading these pages will be those of the 47th president of the United States, and we hope every other reader will join in making the incoming administration a success".

This is positioned as a mandate, making readers, ostensibly the conservative foot soldiers who'll do their bidding, feel like they're in on a top secret mission, like this is [00:28:00] some G. I. Joe mission shit, because the authors know that that is the absolute conservative wet dream and they're playing into it. 

The foreword includes a tidy summation of all the conservative wedge issues and talking points that have been flying around over the last few decades, all of which are addressed at length in the document.

"Look at America under the ruling and cultural elite today. Inflation is ravaging family budgets, drug overdose deaths continue to escalate, and children suffer the toxic normalization of transgenderism, with drag queens and pornography invading their school libraries. Overseas, a totalitarian communist dictatorship in Beijing is engaged in a strategic, cultural, and economic cold war against America's interests, values, and people. All while globalist elites in Washington awaken only slowly to that growing threat. Moreover, low income communities are drowning in addiction and government dependence. Contemporary elites have even repurposed the worst ingredients of 1970s radical chic to build the totalitarian cult known today as the Great [00:29:00] Awokening. Most alarming of all, the very moral foundations of our society are in peril". The foreword goes on to list the four broad fronts that the policy mandate will cover. Those are, "1) restore the family as the centerpiece of American life and protect our children; 2) dismantle the administrative state and return self governance to the American people; 3) defend our nation's sovereignty, borders, and bounty against global threats; 4) secure our God given individual rights to live freely, what our constitution calls the blessings of liberty". And the manifesto goes on to lay out over 920 pages and 5 sections how they plan on furthering those four fronts.

Chief among the policies promoted in the manifesto are a gutting of the administrative state and furtherance of the unitary executive theory.

The GOP’s "Red Caesar" New Political Order Plan Marches Forward - The Thom Hartmann Program - Air Date 10-3-23

THOM HARTMANN - HOST, THE THOM HARTMANN PROGRAM: An awful lot of this is a handful, maybe 20, 25 Republicans in the GOP caucus, in the Republican caucus, who are dancing to the tune of Vladimir Putin via Donald Trump. And that's [00:30:00] really what's going on here. 

Which brings me to the GOP's Red Caesar's new political order plan. Seriously. Damon Linker is a senior lecturer at Penn State University's Department of Political Science, and he said, "30 years ago, if you'd told me that a bunch of billionaires and intellectuals on the far right are waiting in the wings to impose a dictatorship on the United States, I would have said that you were insane." He says, "But it's no longer insane. It's now real. There are those people out there. And the question is, will they get their chance?" 

This is what's really going on. The simple reality is that Republicans are rejecting democracy right across the board. Whether it's a Supreme Court Justice in Wisconsin who is elected with a substantial majority of the voters that Republicans are trying to impeach. Whether it's purging some 40 million people from the voting rolls in the last decade. 17 million people purged from the voting rolls just in two years, the first two years that Donald Trump held power. [00:31:00] Massive gerrymandering, making it harder for particularly people who live in blue cities that are located in red states, like Houston, where the Republicans just took over the entire voting system for the the city. It's one in six Texas voters. Dark money TV carpet bombing campaigns filled with lies and half truths, like the one going after Sherrod Brown right now. And now, North Carolina, the legislature in North Carolina just created its own gestapo force answerable to the Republicans who are running the House and Senate.

Now, North Carolina, actually, the majority of North Carolinians vote for Democrats, which is why they have Ray Cooper -- or is it Roy -- is their governor. He's a Democrat. Because the majority of people in North Carolina vote for Democrats, but the Republicans control their House, their Senate, and their Congressional delegation. Why? Because of gerrymandering. So these guys in North Carolina created their own police force, answerable not to the governor, but to [00:32:00] them, to the Republicans. They created this thing called the Joint Legislative Committee on Government Operations, or GovOps. And Judd Legum is writing about this over at Popular.info, he said basically now anybody who is a contractor, subcontractor, works for any non-state entity, receiving directly or indirectly public funds, including charities and state universities, the Government Ops staff can now bust into your home without a warrant, go through your papers, go through your apartment, take your computer with them, go through your computer, go through your phone. He writes, "This includes the private residences of subcontractors and contractors. Alarmingly, public employees under investigation will be required to keep all communication and requests confidential." In other words, if this Republican-controlled gestapo comes after you in North Carolina, you can't tell anybody about it. They cannot alert their supervisor to the investigation, nor [00:33:00] consult with legal counsel. You can't even have a lawyer. Violating this rule shall be grounds for disciplinary action, including dismissal. Those who refuse to cooperate face jail time. In the event the Government Ops searches a person's home, these rules mean that the person, number one, must keep the entry secret; number two, cannot seek outside help; number three, could face criminal charges if GovOps deems them uncooperative. 

Meanwhile, down in Florida, Ron DeSantis has created two armed forces: his Election Integrity Police -- election integrity is the Republican phrase that means stop black people from voting -- and his new State Guard. As Charlie Crist, the former Republican governor, said, No governor should have his own hand-picked secret police.

You got armed fascist movements, basically the reincarnation of the Klan all across the country. Donald Trump saying if he gains the White House again, it'll be the last election ever, he's gonna put his political opponents in prison, and he's gonna shut down [00:34:00] NBC. This is pretty clear fascist stuff.

Trump said that, in January of last year, he said that he wanted to terminate the Constitution. And now some of the Republican thinkers are talking about a post-Constitutional new political order. In fact, they're trying to get together to rewrite the Constitution itself. As Robert Reich says, these are not the elements of authoritarianism, they are the essential elements of fascism.

Meanwhile, the Republicans are calling people like you and me fascists. They're calling Democrats fascists. Honest to God. This has been going on all, I've been doing this radio show for 20 years, and during that entire period of time I, from time to time listen to my colleagues on the right, and they are constantly talking about how Nazis are actually leftists. Don't you know? Nazi is short for National Socialist. Socialist is left. Not so much, actually. Nazis are on the right. But in a survey, 76% of Republicans said that fascists are on the left side of the [00:35:00] spectrum. 68% of Republicans think Nazis are left of center, and 43% say Nazis are the pinnacle of leftism.

Democrats and everybody else understands that Nazis are on the right. They wanna bomb Mexico. They want to defund the FBI. They're promoting homophobia, misogyny, racial hatred. They stole $50 trillion from America's working class families and put it in the money bins of the morbidly rich.

What we're looking at here is the road to fascism right here in the United States. 

The Conservative Plan to Take Over the Country Part 2 - Leeja Miller - Air Date 9-26-23

LEEJA MILLER - HOST, LEEJA MILLER: The unitary executive theory says, actually, inherent in Article Two of the Constitution, the president has complete control of the executive branch, so Congress can't create all of these agencies and put power in the hands of agency heads to make decisions. That power is supposed to be concentrated in the hands of the one singular executive.

Reagan's lawyers came up with the idea in order to push deregulatory efforts. Bush Jr. used it to lend validity to [00:36:00] his exercises of power after 9/11. While Obama expressed a more modest view of presidential power initially, he too exercised authority that circumvented Congress in several policy areas, especially in the deployment of US military forces overseas.

And then Trump, of course, came in and was like, hold my Big Mac. Let me try this. And he frequently tested the bounds of acceptable exercise of executive power, from Muslim bans, to the border, to threatening sanctuary cities, he declared over and over that his authority extended to overriding congressional laws and funding authority.

As one judge stated in response to Trump's threats against sanctuary cities, "The separation of powers acts as a check on tyranny and the concentration of power. If the executive branch can determine policy and then use the power of the purse to mandate compliance with that policy by the state and local governments, all without authorization or even acquiescence of elected legislators, that check against tyranny is forsaken".

Trump considered himself and his presidential powers not only beyond the bounds of Congress, but even beyond the bounds of judicial review, [00:37:00] arguing that his travel ban was unreviewable by the federal courts. The judge in that case declared, "There is no precedent to support this claimed unreviewability, which runs contrary to the fundamental structure of our constitutional democracy".

Even scholars who are in favor of wide reaching executive power are appalled at Trump's behavior. John Yoo advocates in favor of the unitary executive theory and famously wrote a memo defending the legality of waterboarding under Bush. But he also wrote a New York Times editorial entitled, "Executive Power Run Amok", saying, "Even I have grave concerns about Mr. Trump's uses of presidential power". Yikes. 

But it appears that Project 2025 is supporting the idea that the president should constitutionally be entitled to vast levels of control over all administrative agencies, what they do, and who runs and staffs them from the top down, and Congress should have no ability to check that executive authority.

Many, many constitutional law scholars argue that this is beyond the bounds of the constitution, no matter [00:38:00] how you look at it. But the first administration of Donald Trump, whether or not there's a second, has already done the damage. As Jeffrey Crouch writes in his 2020 book, On the Unitary Executive Theory - yes, there are entire books about this - "Once precedents have been established for presidents to exercise expansive presidential powers with little pushback, future chief executives will be less likely to feel responsible for dialing them back.

And Project 2025 is betting on just that, with its expansive overhaul of every administrative agency in the country. If he does get back in the White House, Trump has made clear that he'll finish what he started, declaring he will find and remove the radicals who have infiltrated the Federal Department of Education and promising to demolish the deep state.

DONALD TRUMP: We will expel the war mongers from our government. We will drive out the globalists. We will cast out the communists, Marxists, and fascists, and we will throw off the sick political class that hates our country. 

LEEJA MILLER - HOST, LEEJA MILLER: He plans to do this in part through what's been called Schedule F, a plan that Project 2025 appears to adopt as well. In the [00:39:00] waning days of Trump's presidency, he passed an executive order called "Creating Schedule F in the Accepted Service". This order removed employment protections from career officials, those who work in government agencies in a non-political, non-appointed position, deeming them Schedule F employees who may be fired at will by the president, presumably if they don't show sufficient loyalty or execute the duties of the agency in the way the president deems necessary, effectively stripping any sort of checks or balances on the president's ability to control federal agencies from the top down. 

In fact, two former Trump White House aides, Johnny McEntee and Russell Vought, who were instrumental to Schedule F, are also involved in Project 2025, indicating a continuation of the policy by whatever conservative president next takes the White House. McEntee is quoted as saying, "Our current executive branch was conceived of by liberals for the purpose of promulgating liberal policies. There is no way to make the existing structure function in a conservative manner. It's not enough to get the personnel right. What's necessary is a complete system [00:40:00] overhaul".

And that is at the heart of Project 2025's plan. None of their policies and wedge issues work without gutting the administrative states and concentrating more power in the hands of the president. Of course, their goal is also to pack Congress and the courts with as many conservatives as possible, but that's less of a problem when you establish an executive with unchecked power and through that unchecked power, the new conservative executive will be able to gut agencies and put people in place to further conservative agendas. Those include a push away from environmental protections in favor of becoming a fossil fuels industry leader, a move away from what they call globalism, including encouraging corporations to bring jobs back from overseas, and the forward to the manifesto declares, "Those who run our so-called American corporations have bent to the will of the woke agenda and care more for their foreign investors and organizations than their American workers and customers. Today, nearly every top tier U. S. university president or Wall Street hedge fund manager has more in common with a socialist European head of state than with the parents at a high [00:41:00] school football game in Waco, Texas. Many elite's entire identity, it seems, is wrapped up in their sense of superiority over those people. But under our Constitution, they are the mere equals of the workers who shower after work instead of before."

And while that passage is absolutely unhinged for many reasons, there are a few things we can agree on here. American corporations absolutely do care more for their foreign investors and organizations than their American workers and customers. And yeah, they hide behind woke language, like DEI, while also being awful for workers, the environment, and equality writ large. But I think conservatives genuinely think that corporations actually believe the DEI bullshit they spew, and that it's not just a way to avoid lawsuits. Like, come on guys, I thought you were a little smarter than that. Also, I would wager a bet that the framers of our constitution, largely products of the academy, did not consider themselves equal to laborers who showered after work. 

Okay, so I hope that I have sufficiently communicated the gravity of this plan. If a Republican wins the presidency in 2024, they will [00:42:00] be handed this plan. They, of course, aren't required to do anything with it, in theory, but given that Trump and DeSantis, the two frontrunners for the nomination, are both batshit fuckin' off their damn rockers, it seems likely that whoever wins the nomination would wholeheartedly back most, if not all, of the policy items put forth by Project 2025. Lord knows Trump isn't going to read any of this, so he'll likely just hand it off as-is to be implemented by people who can read good and stuff. 

So what do we do? We make extra damn fuckin' sure that the Republican doesn't win the election in 2024. This is an all hands on deck situation, my friends. Do I want Biden? No! But he is, once again, the best choice that we have. You also need to vote in Democratic senators and representatives as well. You need to bring your roommates and your partners and your family members and make sure that they vote. You need to call them ahead of time and be like, Hi, what's your plan for voting? You need to be thinking about this early and often. You need to be just a little bit scared. Not to be fear mongery, but this is genuinely a terrifying prospect for our [00:43:00] government that feels really, really imminent. 

Of course, any of these unilateral actions that a Republican president could theoretically take could then also be challenged in courts, but he's packed the courts, including the Supreme Court, and the result of attempting to implement all of these new policies in the first 180 days would be sheer chaos.

John F. Kelly, Trump's literal chief of staff, has said, "It would be chaotic. It just simply would be chaotic because he'd continually be trying to exceed his authority, but the sycophants would go along with it. It would be a nonstop gunfight with the Congress and the courts". Even if the theoretical Republican president couldn't get through all of these policy proposals, it would still create a level of chaos that could further undermine trust in the government as a whole.

The good news, if you could call it that, is that Project 2025 is radical. It does not comport with how the majority of Americans feel. 71 percent of Americans support same sex marriage. 85 percent of Americans believe abortion should be legal under at least certain circumstances. And only 13 percent say it should be illegal under all circumstances. [00:44:00] 69 percent of Americans believe that the U. S. should take steps to become carbon neutral by 2050. The number of adults in the U. S. who identify as Christian has fallen by 25 percent since the 1990s. 

For most people - Democrats, centrists, and even some Republicans - Project 2025 goes way too far. And represents an upheaval and existential threat that is beyond what most people want to see in the US government. So my hope is that the more people who know the actual contents of the Project 2025 plan, the more people will get out and vote to make sure the hellscape it presents never comes to fruition. 

Think Tanks: How Fake Experts Shape the News - Tom Nicholas - Air Date 5-13-23

TOM NICHOLAS - HOST, TOM NICHOLAS: The story of the modern day think tank begins in America in 1916 with this brilliantly bearded fellow Robert S. Brookings. 

Brookings was very much a Bill Gates or Michael Bloomberg of his day. He'd made his fortune manufacturing, transporting and selling wooden furniture. And he must have had a pretty good eye for dining room tables, because by the age of 47, he'd become [00:45:00] so unbelievably wealthy that he was able to pack in his day job entirely and focus on the larger questions in life. Which, I mean, it's not like a businessman getting into politics has ever been a bad idea, is it? See, if you were a wealthy industrialist in turn of the century America, then you were all about the two Ps: philanthropy and progressivism. By philanthropy, I, of course, mean sharing a portion of your wealth with honourable causes. This was the era of Carnegie and Rockefeller, both of whom loved to dish out cash in return for the modest gesture of having their names chiselled in massive letters on the side of a library or lecture theatre. By progressivism, I mean a new political philosophy that was taking the American elite by storm.

Now, while related, it's important to say that the progressivism that gained traction at the beginning of the 20th century wasn't quite [00:46:00] the same as what's sometimes referred to as progressivism in American political commentary today. These titans of industry weren't about to call for a Bernie Sanders style political revolution. Instead, for rich folks, turn of the century progressivism was all about taking a more evidence-based approach to politics. In an era of continuous labour disputes, strikes and lockouts, figures such as Robert S. Brookings felt that politics had grown too ideological and that society would benefit, instead, from a more reasoned approach, which found solutions to society's ills in the then blossoming field of economics and other social sciences. It was to this end that, in 1916, Brookings founded the Institute for Government Research. His goal was for this organisation to hire a ragtag bunch of economists and other social scientists to conduct studies [00:47:00] and undertake research which could then be shared with politicians, and those who vote for them, to help them make more informed, rational decisions.

Again, allergic to what he thought of as ideological thinking, the Institute was to be, in Brookings own words, "free from any political or pecuniary interests, and would simply lay before the country in a coherent form the fundamental economic facts, as objectively as possible". And, in case anyone's worried that Brookings was being a little modest in his founding of the Institute for Government Research, fear not. He renamed it the Brookings Institution a few years later.

Of course, it's important to acknowledge that this notion of being able to transcend ideology and enact a perfectly logical politics is a load of rubbish. As Abigail Thorn of Philosophy Tube highlights in her video on Jordan Peterson, what one considers to be [00:48:00] ideological and what one views as just logical is itself informed by one's ideological view of the world. This is, in turn, often shaped by one's material interests. It speaks volumes, for instance, that the Brookings Institution was a committed opponent of the New Deal, arguing instead that FDR should have responded to the Great Depression with the implementation of austerity measures. 

Nevertheless, there was clearly some degree of intellectual freedom at the Brookings Institution. In 1933, for example, one Brookings researcher wrote a paper which called for the nationalization of the American coal industry, which is unlikely to have been the natural political position of the institution's capitalist benefactor. Brookings' reputation for high quality, independent research led to a small coterie of similar organizations popping up over the following decades. The National Bureau for Economic [00:49:00] Research and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, for example, both similarly hired researchers to produce reports on economic trends and defense policy. In all honesty, these early think tanks were pretty boring. They largely consisted of a bunch of policy nerds sitting in offices, writing books, and compiling studies that very few people actually read. 

Yet soon, all of that was to change. See, as the 20th century wore on, this brief trend among the super rich for having a social conscience began to wane. The economic elite in both America and Europe increasingly began to embrace a politics of libertarianism or what's now often called neoliberalism. These political philosophies viewed most state intervention in the economy, whether that be progressive taxation, the provision of unemployment benefits, or the requirement of workplaces to comply with health and safety regulations, [00:50:00] as denying rich people their fundamental human right to get even richer. What they needed, however, was a way of making this clearly self-interested worldview palatable to the general public. 

A key figure in this campaign was a British businessman called Antony Fisher. Fisher first became interested in neoliberal economics when he read an abridged version of Friedrich Hayek's The Road to Serfdom, which is essentially the sacred text of people who like to shake their fists at big government. Fisher sought out Hayek at a public lecture at the London School of Economics and explained that the book had inspired him to embark upon a career as a politician. Hayek, however, convinced Fisher that he could have far more influence over politics by using his time and wealth to found a research institute devoted to producing evidence to [00:51:00] support the implementation of right wing policies.

There were a handful of pre-existing organizations which Fisher was able to draw inspiration from when he founded the Institute of Economic Affairs in 1955. Since the mid 1940s, concerned groups of businessmen in the United States had begun to similarly fund so called research organizations which, on the surface, seemed similar enough to the bureaucratic offerings of the Brookings Institution. With names such as the American Enterprise Institute and the Foundation for Economic Education, they certainly sounded boring enough. Yet, these organisations were driven by a far clearer political agenda. Their role was no longer to undertake research which could inform recommendations for political policy, but to pick a conservative, libertarian or otherwise right wing policy their funders would want to see implemented and then [00:52:00] work backwards to piece together some research which showed that policy to be beneficial.

Antony Fisher's creation, the Institute of Economic Affairs, was an overwhelming success. Over the course of 20 years, it waged a quiet yet dedicated campaign to popularize free market economic ideas among both British politicians and those who voted for them. These efforts would pay off in 1979, when Margaret Thatcher was elected as Prime Minister, and began to implement many of the IEA's favorite policies.

Fischer was not content with influencing British politics, however. Spurred on by the victories of the IEA, he soon set about internationalizing this model of propaganda with an academic facade, founding the Manhattan Institute in America, the Fraser Institute in Canada and the Centre for Independent Studies in Australia. [00:53:00] In fact, all in all, Fisher has been credited with contributing to the founding of 150 of these institutes across the globe, all with the goal of providing advocates of unregulated capitalism with academic sounding evidence to support their arguments.

The most influential of what was slowly becoming known as "think tanks" in the United States, however, was not one of Fisher's. The Heritage Foundation was founded in 1973, with a donation of $250,000 from Joseph Coors, then president of the Coors Brewing Company, a position we can only assume that he obtained through merit. If Antony Fisher established the model for the modern day think tank, Then the Heritage Foundation perfected it. The Foundation did away with book length studies and boring original research almost entirely, instead focusing on the publication and circulation of policy briefs. These consisted of [00:54:00] super short pamphlets containing, uh, evidence to prove why a certain bill being considered by the US Congress was good or bad, and which would be distributed to politicians and journalists to try and shape the political and media conversation around that bill. Much like the Institute of Economic Affairs in the UK, the Heritage Foundation, and other right wing think tanks like it, played a key role in popularizing libertarian and neoliberal ideas among the American public. In doing so, they helped lay the groundwork for the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. 

As more and more businesses and rich folks began to donate greater and greater amounts of money to support their work, the Heritage Foundation also began to put pressure on politicians themselves. When Reagan first took office in 1981, Heritage presented his administration with a 3, 000 page, 20 [00:55:00] volume report called Mandate for Leadership, which detailed all the policies that they thought he should implement. And It worked! By the end of Reagan's first term, he had enacted around half of the reforms that the Heritage Foundation had pushed for.

While the first think tanks were founded with the intention of having at least a modicum of intellectual independence, then, during the second half of the Twentieth Century, they became increasingly partisan. Later organisations such as the Institute of Economic Affairs and the Heritage Foundation were able to draw upon the relatively good reputation of firms such as the Brookings Institution to dress up their propaganda as legitimate, serious research.

Final comments discussing the Red Caesar movement and our strange allies opposing it

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: We've just heard clips today, starting with The ReidOut, looking at the now explicit calls to simply do away with elections and have a civil war. Keeping Democracy Alive, looked at how the GOP has embraced toxic and outdated modes of [00:56:00] masculinity. The Majority Report looked at the historical conservative movement of the past 100 years. Wisecrack discussed the fascination lots of people seem to have with ancient Rome. Leeja Miller, in two parts, explained project 2025 from the Heritage Foundation. And Thom Hartmann gave a laundry list of examples of the GOP using authoritarian tactics here and now. 

That's what everybody heard, but members also heard a bonus clip from Tom Nicholas who looked into the history of think tanks, like the Heritage Foundation, that help shape so much of our politics. 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 actually thought we should dive just a bit deeper into the Red Caesar idea because it turns out we might actually be a little bit early to [00:57:00] this party, at least on the left. So I had a chat with producer Deon who helps produce this show about the horrifying research he did, including listening to lots of right-wing takes both for and against an emperor taking over the country. Weird times, right?

All right, Deon, welcome to the show. This is a special occasion because this is a special topic, I think. We're a curation show. We try to pull interesting thoughts and information from outside sources and pull them together. Red Caesar, though, and its slightly more respectable cousin, Project 2025, is... I think we're a little on the cutting edge of this discussion, would you say?

DEON: I think so.

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: And the left has not fully caught on yet, and so you sort of submitted as tribute to be thrown into[00:58:00] the darker areas of the internet and have learned not just about Project 2025 that we heard plenty about on the show today, but the Red Caesar-fascist-fever-dream-4chan- troll version of this. And so we thought, well, I guess we just have to hear from you what you heard. So, um, who are the people putting forward the Red Caesar theory?

DEON: The Red Caesar movement is definitely supported by what you would call, like, the 4chan troll type people. It's the people that have bronze busts in their, uh, Twitter, or X avis. It's the people that think that all the wrongs that are going on in society can be righted by one strong male figure in the mold of a Caesar. And the Claremont Institute [00:59:00] is pushing in that direction. I'm not sure if they specifically have ever said they want a Red Caesar, but that's the type of organization that wants it. The Heritage Foundation is the foundation that's behind the Project 2025 that is buttoned up. It seems semi-respectable until you really read it and it's scary and terrifying. But it seems more respectable. The Red Caesar movement is just, We want an authoritarian daddy to rule us.

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: Does anyone ever explain why they think that the authoritarian daddy will agree with them personally on everything they want to have happen? Or do they not dive that deep?

DEON: The people that are against it, like, especially the people on the right that are against it, say almost explicitly that. It just tracks naturally that if you have a strong man, one person in charge, the chances that he's [01:00:00] going to agree with you, specifically, are pretty slim. And that is like a big pushback. And I found this borderline hopeful, in the sense that, when researching this, that the biggest pushback was on the right. What we would call conservative Christians or whatever you wanna label 'em. They're not in favor of it. Maybe we don't agree on the reasons why we should be against it. Maybe they think there should be a different version of this. I don't know. But they definitely disagree with this movement specifically because they see it as hedonistic. There's an odd kind of unaddressed but maybe slightly addressed homoeroticism that goes along with it because it is a worship of a strong, bronzed, shirtless man. That's the idea. So those are some of the objections from the right specifically.

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: Yeah. And we were sort of theorizing that, I mean, as I said at the top that we, for a left wing [01:01:00] show, might be a little cutting edge on this. And it may just be that we're hearing more pushback from the right because they're actually catching wind of it first

DEON: Yeah, that's real.

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: Because like they're the people who are trying to be recruited into this movement and much to our, maybe, surprise but, joyful surprise, like, there's plenty of pushback on the right. You also wanted to dive a little bit into the sort of philosophical underpinnings of it, like what draws people towards these things, romanticizing the past, and so forth? 

DEON: I think this really taps into something that the people that I agreed with that disagreed with it on the right seem to disagree with it for the wrong reasons. But a lot of their beliefs are also based in this Western-centric, Western civilization history teaching that we all get here in America and in Europe, that the [01:02:00] past, no matter how fully it's discussed, is if it's so central to all of history, then it must be the most important history. So, clearly, they had the right ideas. Clearly, we need to go back. And that's the conservative mantra like, Make America Great Again, what they're talking about is going back to a better time. Well, maybe go back even further to when it was even more greater, the greatest of great times. Like, let's go back to when they actually had the columns and the coliseums. And I think that's a huge draw of it. And you can see that I instantly thought of 300. I looked up some people trying to talk about 300 to connect it to it. And I couldn't really make it fit. But, like, right after 9/11, that movie 300 with the painted-on abs, hero men pushing back the hordes of the unwashed masses of vaguely brown and black people, that's the draw. And I think that there are [01:03:00] people who spend more time online that are more drawn to it, and the people that, like, in Heritage Foundation or like, the Christian conservatives that are on the Bulwark podcast talking about how terrible this is, they don't feel the same draw. They're more intellectual in their version of a conservative ruling class, and these are more visceral, more emotional connections to a past that probably never existed.

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: Right. I mean, the thread, from our perspective, sort of like completely outside of this movement, seems really clear, that you've got like, absolute, misogynistic trolls who want an unauthoritarian daddy, who are being represented sort of officially by the Claremont Institute, which is maybe like the ugly stepchild that the Heritage Foundation would probably disown, even though they have a lot more in common than they would maybe [01:04:00] want to admit, 

DEON: Yeah. 

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: But I think that the divide that you were describing before we started recording was like, almost like a pure masculinity versus a Christian ideology. Like that's kind of the divide, whereas on the left, we see those as blended so seamlessly, but we're diving so deep into this right wing rabbit hole that we're finding the divergence between those almost. 

DEON: Yeah. And that's like the hopeful aspect of it to me is that maybe some of the people that are opposing this movement will do some introspection and see that it's just an outgrowth of the things that they have believed and pushed. The only thing missing from that is instead of God being the center of it, it's just man. Man is the most important, and men specifically need to rule. And not with the backing of some divine creator's rules, but just the rules of the jungle. [01:05:00] Like, I think that's, that was brought up like a lot. It's just that violence brought about peace and we need to have righteous violence. And it's hard to say that and disconnect it from "because God told me to", as opposed to, "because that's just what men do", right?

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: Yeah. The fractal of diverging thought on this is endlessly fascinating to dive into. I think you and I both separately found the same potential video from a literal Oath Keeper, absolute boogeyman to the left, who, you know, they're militiamen, they're crazy, they're racist, to me they would stand out as, like, one of the first groups who would stand up in favor of some sort of a Red Caesar figure, and this guy getting 200 views on his video, was railing against the MAGA cult, who were dedicated [01:06:00] to tearing down the system and the constitution that he swore an oath to protect, and was like, ready to take up arms against his fellow far right maniacs because of that divergence in thought.

So, yeah, I mean, that is definitely the happiest conclusion we're gonna come to, is we've got the strangest bedfellows have ever come across in this fight. But, man, that Heritage Foundation has the ear of Republican presidents like no other think tank and, as was described in the show today, they will hand that manifesto to the next Republican president, and they will rubber stamp it so fast there will be no discussion about it, and it will be chaos.

DEON: It's called Project 2025. If it doesn't work out in 2024, it'll be called Project 2029, be called Project 2033, that's what they're going to do.

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: Yeah, there's a comedian, Lee [01:07:00] Camp, who I used to play on the show a lot, and we had, as happened with a lot of people on the left, we ended up on opposite sides of the major divergence that happened on the left, sort of around the Bernie Sanders campaign, and continued splitting from there, but there is a segment, a bit, that he did 12 years ago, that I still quote on a monthly basis, at least, and with no other subject ever has it been more fitting than right now.

LEE CAMP: You know the difference between the good and the evil in this world, the caring and the selfish, the Mel Gibson circa Lethal Weapon and the Mel Gibson circa Apocalypto? The difference is that bad people have plans. They always have a f*cking plan. Good people don't have plans, or missions, or agendas. They just stumble through life, thinking we'll all treat [01:08:00] each other right if given the chance. Evil people have dry erase boards, and PowerPoint presentations, and iPad apps, to keep track of just how the evil's coming along, whether it needs a course correction, because this quarter's evil is 3.5% lower than last quarter's. Good people don't have PowerPoints. Good people have donuts and word jumbles. Bad people have plans. We don't have plans. I don't have a plan. You don't have a plan. Your plan was, I'm gonna watch internet videos. Meanwhile, Halliburton's plan was to cause a military coup in the sovereign country of Eritrea, a place neither you nor I ever knew existed. But they know, because they also have maps. They have dry erase boards and f*cking maps. I'm just saying the good people on this planet are never gonna get the upper hand until we get some f*cking office supplies up in here. 

DEON: Perfect. 

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: Back in my day, when I started [01:09:00] this show, it was the Project for a New American Century, that was the big conservative boogeyman. This is the new game in town, and the pattern continues. Any final thoughts?

DEON: Go watch, uh, John Oliver's bit on McKinsey that he just did right before this show went out, talking about people with plans.

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: Members can hear more from Deon in our bonus episodes, so do check those out or sign up as a member to get access. 

That is going to be it for today as always keep the comments coming in. I'd love to hear your thoughts or questions about this or anything else. 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 LaWendy, for their volunteer work helping put our transcripts together. Thanks to Amanda Hoffman for all of her work on our social media outlets, [01:10:00] 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 at bestoftheleft.com/support. You can join them by signing up today, it would be greatly appreciated. You'll find that link in the show notes, along with the link to join our Discord community, where you can 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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#1589 War in the Holy Land: Context Behind the Atrocities, Crimes Against Humanity, and the Possible Escalation (Transcript)

Air Date 10/17/2023

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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 shall take a look at the conflict in the holy land between Israel and Hamas to understand the deep context, history, and human psychology at play. Those who attempt to find a moral clarity through simplification of the situation, as many on both the right and left currently are, will only find themselves eventually supporting atrocities by one side or the other and demonstrate themselves to be fools in the process. We are trying to avoid that pitfall. Sources today include Gaslit Nation, Democracy Now!, CounterSpin, Ebro in the Morning, and the Marc Steiner Show, with an additional members only clip from The Majority Report.

Israel and Palestine A Difficult Discussion - Gaslit Nation - Air Date 10-10-23

ANDREA CHALUPA - CO-HOST, GASLIT NATION: So I want to just preface this, just a summary of today's discussion, and Terrell and I are going to go into all the nuance of it. 

The reality is, whatever you think of Israel, whatever you think of Israel, I want to remind people on all sides of this issue, I know we have people [00:01:00] listening who are waiting for Terrell to go into the Palestinian point of view because he's been in the West Bank, he has a lot of Palestinian friends. 

I want to just say to everyone, you cannot understand Israel without understanding generations, going back centuries, of just normalized, normalized antisemitism. If you look at the Dreyfus affair, that was a lynching of a Jewish French officer in France. If you look at financial instability in the 1800s, 1900s, who were blamed for that? The Jews, right? If you look at the… Before there was Twitter, Elon Musk's Twitter, there was the Elders of Zion, the disinformation coming out of Russia back then that the Jews had some big Illuminati that they were controlling us with and they always became the scapegoat. Jewish communities, for their own survival, debated among each other how to protect themselves, how to organize self-defense, how to overcome this. They [00:02:00] tried to keep their heads down, they tried to stay in their ghettos. They would even have conversations, they would debate whether they needed to follow a policy of keeping their head down and not shining too brightly in society, or they would risk drawing attention to themselves and becoming a target and inciting another pogrom, more antisemitism rage. There were discussions over building a Jewish homeland, a Jewish state, somewhere in South America. 

The whole idea that Israel was inevitable… the creation of Israel was actually a very controversial topic among Jewish groups themselves. It seemed completely farfetched, it seemed unrealistic. It seemed like something so out of reach and extreme. It was debated, it was argued. It wasn't ever inevitable. It was something that was finally made possible because the world allowed the Holocaust to happen, because the world turned away Jewish refugees and sent them back to slaughter. And it was really the shock of all those films [00:03:00] and eyewitness testimony and the allied soldiers investigating concentration camps that were being built and operated right out in the open, right? People knew about the Holocaust. Hitler, the Nazis killed significantly more jews during the entire Holocaust before the US even had a chance to enter the war. And so Israel was really born out of that. Israel was created as an act of self-defense and protection. So I want people to keep that in mind. 

And that same antisemitism is prevalent today. So wherever Jews are in the world, there is a heightened sense of danger that they are living with, whether it's in the US or anywhere in Europe, because we have this blatant antisemitism being pushed by Donald Trump who lifts rhetoric straight out of Hitler. He uses the same “impure blood” language of Hitler. So I just wanted to make that clear. 

And unfortunately what's happened in Israel, especially in recent years, is that it's succumbed [00:04:00] to the seduction, to the corruption of the religious extremists; the same band of idiots that we're up against here in the US like Tommy Tuberville, who's holding our Senate, our national security, hostage in the Senate, like the Matt Gaetzes in the GOP chaos, which is holding aid for Ukraine hostage, the Moms for Liberty dark money billionaire-funded groups that are trying to take over school boards across this country so they can indoctrinate children with their far-right Christian extremism. So the same forces that have taken over Israel's government—Netanyahu's government—where he has surrounded himself deliberately with the worst of the worst; just think the Michael Flynns of America. That is who makes up most of Netanyahu's cabinet.

Netanyahu—the Trump of Israel—has been so narcissistic in his hold of power and coming back to power, thanks to a divided opposition, he comes back to power even though he's been indicted [00:05:00] for corruption. And he then continues to surround himself with extremist loyalists like Steven Millers, like ben-Gvir, the Steven Miller of Israel, who is a known terrorist, who as a teenager was harassing former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, trashing his car, stealing the Cadillac emblem off the car, bragging about it and saying, “Next time we're going to get to Rabin.” That was all because Rabin had signed the Oslo Accords, which didn't even promise a two-state solution for Palestine, for Palestinians, okay? It didn't even go far enough, the Oslo Accords, and what happened? A terrorist like Ben-Gvir assassinated Rabin two weeks later. And Ben-Gvir goes on to continue his racism, to continue his terrorism, vowing to kill all the Arabs, vowing to kill all the Palestinians. And their whole mode of operation, what they want to do, is they want to terrorize and kill and push out and [00:06:00] take over the homes of as many Palestinians as they can to force them out and into Arab nations. It's a genocide what they're trying to carry out. 

And Netanyahu elevated this person to his government at the same time where he's trying to desperately dismantle democracy and checks and balance in Israel by taking away the power of Israel’s Supreme Court. And Netanyahu, in doing this, in looking out for his own survival has also allowed this culture of impunity across Israel where the Ben-Gvir types can go in and storm mosques, mock Palestinians openly, and celebrate those who commit violence against Palestinians. You see these Israeli settlers who are going into land that they should not be going into who have these broad smiles on their faces in court because they know they're going to be protected by the political structure in Israel.

And all of this, we have to point out that Netanyahu clearly, I believe, wanted this war. If you look back in 2019, he [00:07:00] was saying to his Likud party that they had to elevate Hamas, they had to fund Hamas. They wanted Hamas to come up and do something dramatic like this. Why? Because then it gives them—Netanyahu's government—the excuse to go to war with Hamas and wipe out Gaza and continue their genocide. And by being a wartime prime minister, that creates a situation where everyone's forced to rally around the flag, rally around the leader. If they can't get rid of him, they will deal with the corruption later. They'll have to table that for later, but right now they have to unite. And the person they're uniting around is a corrupt criminal. 

And so it's a fucked situation in Israel. And our sympathies, our loyalty are to the civilians on both sides of this issue who are caught in horrific literal crossfire in this. And I want to make that very clear. 

What Hamas did was evil. Unfortunately, Israelis have a corrupt kleptocrat in power [00:08:00] who weakened the government, producing the worst intelligence disaster in Israel's history leading to the slaughter of countless innocents, all so he could stay in power and all so he could give his rabid extremist supporters the war they wanted so they can carry out their genocide. What you'll see next, they'll likely use their wartime powers to dismantle democracy in Israel and stay in power.

Israeli Human Rights Leader Orly Noy on Israel’s War on Palestinians After Hamas Attack - Democracy Now! - Air Date 10-9-23

AMY GOODMAN: Israel has ordered a complete siege of Gaza, two days after as many as a thousand Hamas fighters carried out an unprecedented attack Saturday morning, when Hamas fired thousands of rockets into Israel as militants broke through Israeli security barricades. Over the past three days, at least 1,300 people have died, including over 800 inside Israel, almost 500 in Gaza. One Israeli military spokesperson described Saturday as, quote, “by far the worst day in Israeli history,” unquote.[00:09:00] 

The surprise attack came almost 50 years to the day of the 1973 Yom Kippur War. The Hamas attacked killed at least 44 Israeli soldiers, including several commanders. Over 250 people were killed at an Israeli music festival attended by mostly young people. Hamas militants also took about 100 hostages. Entire Israeli communities were forced to evacuate.

Meanwhile, Israeli airstrikes have killed over 500 Palestinians in Gaza since Saturday, but the death toll is expected to soar, as Israel threatens to launch a ground war. Israel has called up 300,000 reservists, is sending heavy armor toward the Gaza border. This comes as the United States is sending more ammunition to Israel and warships to the region. Earlier today, Israeli airstrikes killed dozens of residents in the Jabaliya refugee camp.

Israel’s Defense [00:10:00] Minister Yoav Gallant has announced a total blockade on Gaza, including a ban on food, water, electricity and fuel. Israel has imposed a siege on Gaza for the past 16 years, largely cutting off the area from the rest of the world. Gaza has been widely described as an open-air prison.

Hamas named its military operation “Al-Aqsa Storm” in response to the desecration of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Hamas also cited the blockade of Gaza and increasing settler violence in the occupied West Bank. The attack also came as Israel was moving to normalize relations with Saudi Arabia

In a moment, we’ll go to Israel and Gaza for response, but we begin with the voices of two parents — one in Israel, one in Gaza — whose lives have been devastated by this weekend’s violence. This is Yoni Asher, a 37-year-old father whose wife and two children have been taken hostage by Hamas.

YONI ASHER: [00:11:00] Yesterday, while my wife, Doron, and two daughters, little girls, Raz and Aviv, 5-year-old and 2 years old, went visit my mother-in-law in Nir Oz — it’s a kibbutz near Gaza. And during the morning, I contacted my wife, and she told me on the phone that there are terrorists inside the house. Later on, I saw a video, the same video that was in the social media, in which I surely identified my wife, my two daughters and my mother-in-law on some kind of a cart, and terrorists of Hamas all around them. … I want to ask of Hamas: Don’t hurt them. Don’t hurt little children. Don’t hurt women. [00:12:00] If you want me instead, I’m willing to come.

AMY GOODMAN: And this is a mother in Gaza, Sabreen Abu Daqqa, who survived after being trapped in rubble after an Israeli rocket hit her home. The attack killed three of her children.

SABREEN ABU DAQQA: [translated] I was at home, and suddenly we heard a sound, and everything fell over our heads. My children were next to me. One of them was next to my legs, and the others were next to me. My brother, Saber, was a bit further. Nothing happened to him. I was hiding between the sofa and the door, so there was no pressure on me, only on my leg. But I didn’t hear any sound coming from my children. I called them, but I didn’t hear a sound coming from them. Suddenly, I heard my brother Saber calling. The first moment I heard his voice, I shouted, and I said, “I’m here!” And when they recognized me, they started calming me down, and then they started removing the [00:13:00] rubble from above me.

It took them three hours to remove the rubble above me, but my children died — Khaled died, Qais died, Mariam died. Assef went missing. When they pulled me out of the rubble, I saw everything damaged. The houses are damaged. That’s the only thing I saw. And then I went to the hospital. I found that everybody was injured, and we have many injured and dead people.

Phyllis Bennis on Gaza - CounterSpin - Air Date 10-13-23

JANINE JACKSON - HOST, COUNTERSPIN: As we record on October 11th, headlines tell of horror and misery across Gaza as Israel rains airstrikes on hospitals, mosques, and refugee camps, declares a complete siege, blocking access to electricity, food, and fuel, and musters for a possible ground offensive. An Israeli Defense Force spokesman is being quoted warning that scenes coming out of Gaza in coming days will be "difficult to understand and [00:14:00] cope with".

If the past is guide, scenes from Gaza will be especially difficult to understand if those presenting them avoid context, political, historical, human, in favor of storybook simplification and bloodthirsty cheerleading. Followed by pronouncement by elites of rhetorical banalities, endorsing injustice and indignity for millions.

With occasional exceptions, U. S. corporate media's distortions of Palestine-Israel make it harder to do what so many want, to see a way forward without violence, with justice. Phyllis Bennis is director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies and author of a number of books, including Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Primer, now in its seventh updated edition.

She joins us by phone from Washington, DC. Welcome back to CounterSpin, [00:15:00] Phyllis Bennis. 

PHYLLIS BENNIS: Great to be with you, Janine.

JANINE JACKSON - HOST, COUNTERSPIN: I'm hearing it said that while the specific nature of Hamas's October 7th attacks was surprising to some, it's not entirely true or useful to call the attacks unexpected in the way that we understand that word. What do people mean by that? 

PHYLLIS BENNIS: I think the reference is to the understanding that resistance, including resistance to violence, never just happens out of thin air. It happens in response to something, it happens in the context of something. And if we're serious about preventing acts of violence in the future, understanding the acts of violence that have already occurred, we have to be prepared to do the hard work of looking at context, looking at root causes, something that, at moments of crisis, which for [00:16:00] Israelis this is clearly a moment of unexpected crisis, uh, but for people in this country as well, it's crucial that we take those hard steps to figure out what gives rise to this? Because otherwise we're simply mouthing platitudes of condemnation. Condemnation of violent attacks on civilians is completely appropriate. Some of the acts of some of the Hamas militants were in complete violation of international law and should be condemned. 

And it's also true that they didn't just happen. They happened in the context of 75 years of oppression of Palestinians, decades of an apartheid system, and crucially, in Gaza, where Hamas was born in 1987 with, we should note, significant Israeli assistance at the time, that the lives of people in Gaza, the 2.2 [00:17:00] million people who live in that enclosed, open air prison, if you will, one of the most crowded places on the face of the earth, have lived under a state of siege that was imposed by Israel in 2007.

Ironically, when we heard this horrific call from the Minister of Defense from Israel yesterday, who said, We are going to impose such an incredibly tight siege, there will be nothing that gets in. No food, no fuel, no water, no electricity. This was a call to essentially commit genocide, knowing that with the sealing off of the last remnants of the siege that has already been in place, they are predicting That the impact of their policy will be mass starvation, mass thirst, mass death from injuries that the [00:18:00] hospitals will be unable to treat because the hospitals won't have fuel for their generators, which they rely on because there's already insufficient electricity available in Gaza.

In an article I'm just writing, I quote a Gaza woman, 72 years old, who said, You know, years ago, we had electricity 24 hours a day and took that for granted. Now that seems like a dream. And this was last June, before this new siege. So, what they're talking about with this new siege is almost like a quantitative escalation of what is already in place.

I found out today, and I was, I've got to say, as familiar as I am with the human rights violations in Gaza, this one shocked me. As of May of this year, 20% of all children in Gaza are stunted by the age of two. I had no idea that was the case, and yet it is. And that's before this level of punishment.[00:19:00] 

So all of those things have to be taken into account to understand, not to justify, not to ever justify the killings of civilians, the killings of children and old people. Unacceptable. Should be condemned. And we have to understand from where that comes, why these things happen. Otherwise, we have no basis to figure out a strategy to stop the violence on all sides.

Israeli Journalist Gideon Levy Israel Should Lift Siege & Call Off Plan for Ground Invasion of Gaza - Democracy Now - Air Date 10-11-23 

JUAN GONZALEZ: According to press reports, as many as 1,500 Palestinian fighters of Hamas were killed inside of Israel, so the enormous number of militants who were able to get into Israel. Could you talk about the decision of the government to relocate large portions of Israel’s army from the Gaza border to protect far-right settlers on the West Bank?

GIDEON LEVY: Sure. That’s one of the big [00:20:00] failures on Saturday, not the only one, because the first failure is obviously the surprise, the strategic surprise. We are so proud about the most sophisticated intelligence in the world, with all kind of those elite units, with all the devices. They know everything. They understand everything. And then, an operation, which was prepared for one year by hundreds of militants, they didn’t hear about it. So that’s the first failure.

The second failure is obviously that the southern front with Gaza was totally abandoned, because we were busy with all the festivals of support of those crazy settlers, guarding them, but not only guarding them, collaborating with them with their pogroms among Palestinians. We have clear evidence that the army saw the pogroms and did nothing. And when the army is busy for years now, not only recently, only with [00:21:00] running and chasing after Palestinian children who throw a stone, and after all kind of suspected Palestinians, when the army is overoccupied in standing in illegal checkpoints and penetrating to Palestinian homes in the middle of the night to arrest somebody without any legal basis, then this is the result. You get instead of a professional, motivated, experienced army, you get a bunch of no ones who don’t know what to do in such a situation, because after the first shock, they were still — it took still hours and hours until the army showed up. And that’s unbelievable.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And this issue of Netanyahu preparing for an invasion of Gaza, could you talk about the immense [00:22:00] undertaking that this involves, having to go literally house by house or building by building in Gaza to find any of the hostages being held? The enormity of this project?

GIDEON LEVY: First of all, to go from building to building is impossible already, because there are many buildings still down. And I’m not sure how many buildings were left, for example, in the neighborhood of Rimal. To find the hostages alive, really, it’s nice for all kind of Hollywood films. I don’t see it happening, for sure not with this army with its capabilities, as we were witnessing it only on Saturday.

The invasion into Gaza has some other goals — namely, to put an end to the rule of Hamas. And this is another impossible mission, because you can [00:23:00] kill the current top people of Hamas, you cannot kill the ideology of Hamas, and they will always be replaced.

Ground operation now is supported almost by all Israelis, because Israelis understand that we have to do something after this embarrassment, after this catastrophe. But in the same time, I must tell you, I can assure you that if Israel will go now for a ground operation, it will take a few weeks or maybe a few months. It will take so much blood of both Palestinians and Israelis, mainly Palestinians obviously. And by the end of this operation, you will invite me again to Democracy Now!, and you will see that we are standing exactly in the place that we stood one week ago, because as long as Israel continues to believe that Gaza — the problem of Gaza will be [00:24:00] solved by the sword, solved by brutal force, by emotions of revenge — justified emotions — then we will get exactly to the same place. This vicious circle will not be solved by power, not be solved by tanks, and not will be — nor will it be solved by troops, only by political agreement and, above all and first of all, lifting this criminal siege, for God’s sake, after 17 years. This siege, what it was about, to guarantee the security of Israel. So, what happened out of the siege except of the suffer of — unbelievable inhuman suffer of 2 million people? What did it contribute to the security of Israel, this siege? You see the outcome.

AMY GOODMAN: We just have less than a minute, Gideon. I wanted to ask you the difference of the cry, the call of the [00:25:00] families of the hostages, of older people, of young people, of children, the family members, one after another, talking about being, for example, a peace activist, and saying, “Please use restraint,” and the contrast between that and President Biden as he addressed the nation yesterday, deciding consciously, and in the readout of his conversation with Netanyahu a few minutes before he spoke, saying they did not call for restraint. Your response? How important is the president of United States’ position here? We have less than a minute.

GIDEON LEVY: In less than a minute, I can tell you, Amy, that last night when I was watching President Biden, I really envied you Americans that you have such a leader. I never thought so before last night. But last night, Biden was a real leader, someone that you can trust, because he [00:26:00] was extremely sincere, and someone that you can rely on. If Netanyahu would have taken the same speech, he wouldn’t be Netanyahu. Netanyahu is busy with politics. And here comes this Biden and tells Israel what Israel wanted to hear. I would love him also to say some things about the Palestinian suffering, the Palestinian agony. He ignored it totally, and this is very regretful. But by the end of the day, this is what Israel needs now: some kind of leadership. And it totally lacks it. Nobody is around, really, to understand that we have to go for a new way. Nobody is there.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez On The Israel-Hamas Conflict & USA's Role - Ebro in the Morning - Air Date 10-12-23

PETER ROSENBERG - CO-HOST, EBRO IN THE MORNING: And AOC, I'm curious to ask you this, so one of the things that you've been dealing with since you got into office is people believing that the new progressive is anti-Israel, is antisemitic. And on social media -- I'm gonna be real with you, and I'm sure you've seen the same [00:27:00] thing, whether it's fake, whether it's bots, whether it's actual real thing -- you do see a lot of it, like it's almost a caricature of the progressives, that Saturday happened, and while Jewish people like myself are heartbroken, and my Israeli wife is scared for her family, it's like the so-called "progressives" online are immediately bashing Israel to a degree that was so... uncool, and just unempathetic, unkind. Do you feel the need to show people that that is not really the nature of a progressive, like at least an Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez? 

REP ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: We can -- yes, I mean, we can do both, right? To me, what is central about progressivism, to me what is central, too, about democratic socialism, anti-capitalism, you name it, solidarity, is the central valuing of human dignity and human life on a universal and unconditional basis.

I [00:28:00] think two things can be true at the same time and. This is part of one of the traumas that are triggered, is that anybody, for decades -- you know this, I know this -- anybody who even would even say the word "Palestine," so often that the charge of antisemitism would be politically weaponized in cynical ways.

That history is real and true, while also the fact that antisemitism is real, and it is dangerous, and must be checked; authentic antisemitism must be checked wherever we see it, that is also true at the same time. And we can navigate those complexities. 

There are absolutely things that are absolutely true about the occupation, about Netanyahu's policies, about the decisions of the Israeli government. 

But at the end of the day, we are human beings and tragedy requires space for grief for everybody. [00:29:00] Grief for Palestinians, grief for Israelis. And it is dehumanization that is the stepping stone to ethnic cleansing, to genocide, which we have seen from the Holocaust to Gaza. And that, I think, is the thing that is so important for us to focus on. 

PETER ROSENBERG - CO-HOST, EBRO IN THE MORNING: If you were to have a conversation with President Biden in the coming days and weeks, what would you be urging him to do? What should the role of the United States be right now? 

REP ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: I would say this: I would say that the United States, our responsibility is to the stability and the security of the region. That means being able to support -- support, yes, Israel in its defensive capacities, in its ability, in that context -- but it also means that the United States has a responsibility to ensure [00:30:00] accountability to human rights, to prevent the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, and to ensure that horrors do not happen in the names of victims who do not want their tragedy used to justify further violence and injustice. 

Israel and Palestine A Difficult Discussion Part 2 - Gaslit Nation - Air Date 10-10-23

TERRELL STARR: And even before this weekend, I've had calls of someone's cousin being killed by the Israeli Defense Forces. 12-year-old children. And the tears and the anguish that I see people expressing now in the world collectively, coming together to say that, “Never again, the Israeli September 11th,” I've had these conversations throughout the year. 

And what really hurts me is that, number one, it hurts me because I didn't see the world react with these people—and it is painful to even say it because you don't want to think, okay, [00:31:00] care about my issue versus mine and getting into these silos, and that's not what we're doing with this conversation. This collective pain that everyone is participating in, I just wish that the world would see the pain of the people that I talked to. I've had a number of conversations with people who call me and say, “Well, my family in Gaza, they're just getting ready to die.” And those are the people, like you said, the civilians. They're being lost, in particular the Palestinian civilians. 

And what further frustrates me about the conversation or hurts me is that people don't understand the passion with which I talk about Palestine because I've never conflated Hamas with Palestine. And when people say Palestinians support Hamas and they try to point to these very misconstrued polling data, I can tell you that, number one, there hasn't [00:32:00] been an election in 17 years. And the PLO and the other political groups that are in Palestine have been willing to have a conversation that leads to a peaceful two-state coexistence or some variation of that. But Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected that. And over the years he's become more xenophobic for the sake of maintaining his power. And I think that what's missing in these conversations is that we really don't understand how Western hegemony has dominated how we view ourselves and which camps that we're in. 

And at the end of the day, you have the one-percenters of political global leadership that are creating these conflicts through their screwed up policies, and they're getting the civilians—us, we're the ones that are suffering from this. 

And what I really [00:33:00] challenge all of us to do is to understand, Why are these structures the way that they are? And that sometimes means that we have to challenge the various systems that we feel benefit us or benefit our side. When people talk about Palestinians, for example, I can think back to the days when Mike Brown was killed. Some of the first people in the world who reached out were the Palestinians who were giving Black activists advice on how to deal with tear gas from police. So when I speak about Palestine, people don't understand that these are relationships that have been built over time. And we didn't get that—and I'm going to be very careful when I articulate this—I will simply say that it was these people who came up and showed Black people love and support.

And none of those people were associated with Hamas, which is nothing more than an organized gang.[00:34:00] Let's be quite frank: The Israelis were more than okay with facilitating because it just caused chaos, right? And people just assume that Hamas represents all the people and that nothing could be further from the truth. 

And when I was in Palestine, I was in Ramallah, I met the PLO leadership. I've met these groups who are not Palestine. And these are the groups of people that the Benjamin Netanyahu administration doesn’t want to work with. And we can have all of our criticisms about them because I do; a number of people who care about this region do. But I think that the frustration comes from the fact that the onus is being put on the Palestinians to be these perfect people, to speak out for every atrocity when they see that Israelis too often are not held to that same standard, and it just hurts.

I try to [00:35:00] use my platforms for us to have very difficult conversations. And I know that I'm human too and sometimes because I'm in pain, things are not articulated as smoothly as they can be. But the genesis and the spirit of what I feel is that I really hope moving forward that we take this time to understand when we say “never again,” it just can't be this simplistic anti-terror conversation that got us into September 11th; this knee-jerk reaction by George W. Bush to invade Iraq. And what happens is that you have Brown people who suffer from miscalculations, global security decisions. And the Palestinians feel that the civilians will be like cannon fodder for another bad choice to overreact as opposed to going after Hamas. My friends in Palestine feel like the [00:36:00] US administration, the European Union, is just going to give them the green light to massacre them.

I'm speaking on a human level because we can be cerebral about all of this. And there's a point -- and you've done a great job of really summarizing things in a way where we can have discussion and discourse. However, I think what really is going to help us make a shift is that we all need to challenge US foreign policy and Western hegemony that creates the value that it is okay to send billions of dollars in aid to Israel—not that they don't need to protect themselves, because they do—we're sending them this money while they're maintaining an apartheid state against the Palestinian people who are constantly stereotyped, who are constantly misunderstood. And we're not doing a good job of holding our own governments accountable. 

Between Israel and Palestine, Things are going to get a lot worse - The Marc Steiner Show - Air Date 10-12-23

MARC STEINER - HOST, THE MARC STEINER SHOW: The occupation is now 55 years old. People in Gaza live in an [00:37:00] open prison, and the attacks that took place when Hamas crossed the border, tearing down the border fence, catching Israel off guard, and slaughtering Israelis at a concert and in Israeli towns has created a paradigm shift. 1, 200 people have been killed in Israel, 300 taken captive by Hamas.

Now, Israel's attacks, their air attacks on Gaza have killed at least 1, 100 people, wounding at least 326 children, and close to 6, 000 other people wounded. We know we now have not only the occupation, but an openly far right government in Israel. And our conversation today is with Yumna Patel, who is the Palestine News Director for Mondoweiss.

Here's our conversation today with Yumna Patel. I'm really curious what you, how you would describe, it's almost an absurd question, but how you would describe the tenor of the moment. I mean, you are in the West Bank, you're in the occupied territories in West Bank in Bethlehem and most of the [00:38:00] violence is taking place in the Gaza Strip, in the parts of Israel near Gaza, right?

 So, the reverberations of fear, anxiety of the turmoil must be spilling over. I mean, talk a bit about what your sense of things are.

MONDOWEISS YUMNA PATEL: Yeah, absolutely. Things are extremely tense, you could say, on the ground here. Obviously, you know, the reality in the West Bank looks very different to how it looks in Gaza right now, but just to give a little bit of context of what's happening in the West Bank, the Israeli military announced a full closure of the West Bank, I believe it was on Sunday, a two week closure.

So right now, everyone in the West Bank is kind of locked into their locality, depending on what city or town or village they're in, because Israel has shut down all of the checkpoints, and closed off the entrances and exits to a lot of the villages. There is, you know, sort of mass panic. People didn't really know how long these closures were going to be for, so people are [00:39:00] rushing to buy food and get fuel in their cars.

At the same time, there have been increased confrontations and protests and demonstrations across the West Bank. I think the latest death toll that we have in the West Bank since Saturday is 26. So, 26 people have been killed at least, including at least four children, in the West Bank, mostly during confrontations and the Israeli suppression of protests.

So yeah, I mean, and at the same time, so there's a lot of soldier violence. I was talking to a friend yesterday. He lives in a village outside of Bethlehem that's been totally closed off. He managed to get to Bethlehem on a motorcycle that he drove through the mountains trying to navigate around these, you know, closures and checkpoints just so he could get to Bethlehem to get some things, you know, for his wife and his baby.

But he was saying that Someone had tried to leave the village through the front entrance that had been [00:40:00] closed off by Israeli forces and that person was shot by the Israeli military. And so things are definitely tense and also picking up. People obviously are outraged and frustrated by the Israeli airstrikes in Gaza and constantly being inundated with these images of entire neighborhoods and buildings just being leveled to the ground, so it's definitely not quiet in the West Bank or Jerusalem, not on the front of confronting Israeli soldiers or also Israeli settlers.

We just got a report in, I think around an hour ago, that a group of armed Israeli settlers attacked a village, the village of Qusra outside of Nablus, and three Palestinians were killed allegedly by Israeli settler gunfire. And so, there's this, not even anticipation, Palestinians also know that Israeli settler attacks and these revenge attacks are already happening, but they're definitely going to be increased.

So I mean, [00:41:00] people are wary, especially people in the villages and in rural areas that are in close proximity to settlements and on these front lines.

MARC STEINER - HOST, THE MARC STEINER SHOW: I imagine I can just feel the tension even though I'm not there, but I wanna, a couple of things you said, let me start with the settlers. So the settler attacks that are taking place, that took place, that you know about, they are, you're thinking, because the settlers are trying to settle the score about what happened at the music festival where all those people were killed and kidnapped? What do you think is behind that? Because it's nothing new. Settlers are doing this all the time. 

MONDOWEISS YUMNA PATEL: Yeah, exactly. So, I mean, I think there's definitely an element of settling the score, not necessarily related to, like, one specific event over the past couple days, but, you know, what happened has had huge impacts on how Israel, Israeli society, Israeli government, et cetera. And of course, when stuff like this happens, that only sort of fuels the flames of ideological violence in [00:42:00] Israel, and like you said, we know that settler violence against Palestinians have been ongoing, but especially they've been increasing over the past two years. And you and I have discussed this on your show before, the increase in settler attacks, particularly in the West Bank, and these pogroms, basically, that settlers go on, these rampages in Palestinian towns, trying to set entire towns on fire. And so there's definitely an element of, you know, revenge and, you know, settling the score, you could say. But also, this is just a continuation or an extension of what we've already been seeing over the past two years with this severe increase in settler violence that is being egged on by the right wing fascists that are in the Israeli government. And just yesterday, Itamar Ben-Gvir, the National Security Minister and the head of the Jewish Power Party, who we know is himself a far right ideological settler, announced that he was purchasing 10, 000 rifles to distribute to Jewish citizens [00:43:00] in the occupied West Bank and in towns in Israel in "mixed Jewish Arab cities".

And so this is also part of Ben Gvir's, you know, long held plans to establish an Israeli National Guard, which rights groups have warned is essentially like the establishment of his own private militia, where basically you're, he's essentially deputizing Israeli settlers and armed Israeli civilians and deploying them in Palestinian towns, villages, and primarily Palestinian areas inside Israel as well.

And so that, coupled with the fact that we already have violent settlers, just means that things are going to get a lot, lot worse. And I don't think the attack on Qusra today is going to be the last attack that we see of its kind in the next few days and weeks. 

Gaza Is Running Out of Life Human Rights Watch Sounds Alarm on Israel's Collective Punishment - Democracy Now! - Air Date 10-16-23

AMY GOODMAN: Omar Shakir, in a long Twitter thread you posted on Saturday, you warned Israeli authorities are signaling [00:44:00] their intent to commit mass atrocities. You cite a number of Israeli officials making statements suggesting precisely that. Can you document what you’re saying and what they’ve been saying?

OMAR SHAKIR: Absolutely. I mean, we have seen rhetoric from the Israeli government that signals that they hold the entire 2.2 million people of Gaza responsible for the heinous attacks that took place on October 7th. You have the president of Israel, Isaac Herzog, who has said very clearly that the entire nation of Gaza is responsible. He notes that the people there could have risen up to topple the Hamas government. You have statements from Israel’s energy minister, who was responsible for cutting the water, the fuel, the electricity, who has similarly talked about, you know, cutting off the last drop of water and the last battery until they’re defeated. Again, he’s referring — it’s a statement that refers both to Hamas authorities but also to evacuating the [00:45:00] entire population. You have statements, of course, from Israel’s defense minister, that’s gotten much attention, about fighting “human animals,” declaring an entire siege on Gaza. You have Israel’s U.N. ambassador that was on CNN a couple of days ago and spoke about how, you know, “Let’s remember that Hamas — you know, that the population of Gaza elected Hamas.” Of course, he neglects to mention that nearly half of Gaza’s population are children who weren’t even alive to vote at the last time there were elections.

All these statements should worry the international community, because they’re not happening in a vacuum. They’re happening as the Israeli government reduces entire neighborhoods and blocks to rubble, as hundreds of children and civilians have been killed in relentless bombardments, 6,000 bombs dropped in a 25-by-7-mile area, I mean, an open-air prison. So these statements aren’t happening in a vacuum. They’re happening amid the most intense bombardment of Gaza we’ve maybe ever seen, in a situation where more than a [00:46:00] million people, according to reports, have been displaced from their homes. So, the international community must act to stop this. There is a moment that we can try and stop this, and we must do so before it’s too late.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to play for our audience Israeli President Isaac Herzog claiming no one is innocent in the Gaza Strip, including civilians.

PRESIDENT ISAAC HERZOG: We are working, operating militarily, according to rules of international law, period, unequivocally. It’s an entire nation out there that is responsible. It’s not true, this rhetoric about civilians were not aware, not involved. It’s absolutely not true. They could have risen up. They could have fought against that evil regime which took over Gaza in a coup d’état. But we are at war. We are at war. We are at war with the other. We are defending our homes. We are protecting our homes. [00:47:00] That’s the truth. And then, when a nation protects its home, it fights. And we will fight until we break their backbone.

AMY GOODMAN: “We will fight until we break their backbone.” I want to turn to your post on Saturday, where you wrote, “History teaches us that, when there are clear calls to commit large-scale atrocities by a party capable of doing so & actions taken consistent with those words, they need to be taken seriously & stopped. That’s where we are today in Israel & Palestine. A descent into darkness.” Omar Shakir, if you can take it from there?

OMAR SHAKIR: Yeah, I mean, Present Herzog talked about breaking their back. They have broken the back of the people of Gaza in a way that’s simply unprecedented. The statement that the Israeli government is complying with international law is pure fiction. I mean, we know they’ve cut [00:48:00] vital necessities, as we’ve discussed, to the entire civilian population. They have sealed the crossings. We know that they have bombed in a way that, again, has reduced — as has been proudly boasted by the Israeli Air Force on Twitter, of reducing entire neighborhoods and blocks to rubble.

You know, we really need to take note of these statements, because the Israeli government — and again, what’s striking here is that it’s not meeting the sort of pushback that one would expect in a situation like this. I mean, it took days for Europe and the United States even to reiterate basic platitudes about the need to comply with international humanitarian law. You’re not seeing sufficient effort taken to warn of the risks to Gaza’s population. It is a situation that, as we speak, is deteriorating, and not enough is being done to stop it.

How Western Leaders & Media Are Justifying Israel’s “Genocidal Campaign” Against Palestinians - Democracy Now! - Air Date 10-13-23

AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: I want to ask you about the White House just saying that Gaza City’s evacuation is a “tall order.” The Israeli army’s call for more than a million people to evacuate North [00:49:00] Gaza, a “tall order,” the White House has said, adding the U.S. understands Israel is trying to give civilians “fair warning.” Your response, Noura Erakat?

NOURA ERAKAT: That is so cynical. That is so cynical and can only be corroborated by an irresponsible media that has failed to show decimation of Palestinian communities, the attack on shelters, the attack on refugee camps. What warnings? To what end? Palestinians have been under siege for 16 years. There are no humanitarian corridors. The one corridor with Egypt was bombed by Israel. The minister of Israeli defense literally said that there will be no — there will be no exit, that there will be a siege, that electricity will be cut off, that water will be cut off, that Palestinians are “human animals.”

There has been a priming that all of these mass atrocities will be accepted [00:50:00] by a population who will watch it with lament but think to themselves, “But what else was Israel supposed to do?” We are all being primed to accept mass atrocities. This historically is the playbook of how genocides happen. What we are seeing is a genocidal campaign.

You cannot forcibly transfer 1.1 million Palestinians in a 225-square-mile enclosed area. There is nowhere for them to go. The largest hospital, Palestinian hospital, that is literally on life support — no pun intended — to stay functioning, is in the north. Where will these Palestinians be treated?

What we are seeing is an ongoing shrinking of Palestinian land, is an ongoing campaign to take that land without the people. They want to shrink and concentrate the Palestinians now below Wadi Gaza in what is an untenable situation. As much as we think that this is about war [00:51:00] and conflict and perpetual animosities, this is about land and water.

And there is only one viable future. We either all live together, or we all die together. And despite all of our appeals for us to survive and live together, the international community, mainly the Western governments, led by the United States — the European capitals, who have already cut off aid to Israel; France, which has banned Palestinian protests; Germany, which has banned Palestinian protests — are intent on a military option where there is no outcome. Military solution will not produce an outcome of a viable future for anybody. 

AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: You know, I already played this, but I’m going to play a much shorter clip of the former Israeli prime minister, because of how significant he is, Naftali Bennett, who’s now serving in the army in Gaza, exploding at the Sky News anchor Kamali Melbourne when asked about what’s happening with Palestinian civilians.

KAMALI MELBOURNE: What about [00:52:00] those Palestinians in hospital who are on life support and babies in incubators, whose life support and incubator will have to be turned off because the Israelis have cut the power to Gaza? 

NAFTALI BENNETT: Are you seriously keep on asking me about Palestinian civilians? What’s — what’s wrong with you?

AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: “Are you seriously asking me about what’s happening to Palestinian civilians?” the former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said. You’re a human rights attorney, Noura Erakat. Your response?

NOURA ERAKAT: My response doesn’t have to be based on any expertise in human rights. This is about morality. This is about decency. The fact that Naftali Bennett can get upset about Palestinian civilians and the death of babies in incubators should be indicative to us that Palestinians do not have the same right to survive, that we are not exacting an equality and a [00:53:00] respect and a decency for all civilian life.

We have set up this situation, Amy. We have set up this situation where Palestinians are expected to die. And what we are seeing in this moment is now an expectation that they can die in mass numbers, that they can die being in hospitals where they are cut off by [sic] electricity by the Middle East’s only nuclear power, the 11th most powerful military in the world. It’s the 12th largest military exporter, and the United States and the European community is sending them arms. They do not need arms. This is not a security situation. This is not a failure of security. This is a crisis of political will. This is a — rather than normalize apartheid by inviting Israeli President Isaac Herzog to the Congress, Congress should have mobilized for an immediate imposition of sanctions in order to create a future where all people live, where [00:54:00] all of us live, not just some of us.

US Media's Pro-Israel Propaganda Interrupted By Palestinian Mustafa Barghouti's CNN Interview - The Majority Report - Air Date 10-9-23

FAREED ZAKARIA: Political leader, Ismail Hania has blamed the violence squarely on Israel's occupation of Palestinian land. For another Palestinian viewpoint, I wanted to bring in Dr. Mustafa Barghouti. He's a former information minister for the Palestinian government, which is in control of parts of the West Bank, but does not control Gaza.

 Welcome, Minister. I, again, want to just make sure that viewers understand that the Palestinian Authority has been an opponent of Hamas, so you are not in any way affiliated with Hamas. You represent the Palestinian Authority, which has control over parts of the West Bank. All that said, what is your reaction to what you have seen so far?

MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI: Well, first of all, I am not part of the Palestinian Authority. As a matter of fact, I represent a democratic Palestinian movement called Palestinian National Initiative, which is non-Fatah and non-Hamas. And we're, of course, I am not [00:55:00] affiliated with Hamas. But I think this situation that has evolved is a direct result of the continuation of the longest occupation in modern history. 

Israeli occupation of Palestinian land since 1967. This is 56 years of occupation that has transformed into a system of apartheid, a much worse apartheid than what prevailed in South Africa. Yes, maybe Hamas did not recognize Israel, but the PLO did, and the Palestinian Authority did. What did they get? Nothing. Since 2014, the Israeli governments would not even meet with Palestinians. And what you see today is a reaction to several things. First of all, settlers' terrorist attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank that has evicted already 20 communities in an act of ethnic cleansing. 248 Palestinians who were killed by the Israeli army and settlers in the West Bank, including 40 children attacks on the holy [00:56:00] sites, the Muslim and Christian holy sites by Israeli extremists.

As well as the declaration of Netanyahu that he will liquidate the Palestinian rights and the Palestinian cause by normalization with Arab countries. And he dared even to go to the United Nations and carried in the United Nations a map of Israel, which included the whole of the West Bank, all of Gaza, all of Jerusalem, as well as the Golan Heights. He declared the annexation of the occupied territories.

So, of course, Palestinians turned to resistance, because they see that this is the only way for them to get their rights. The question here is not about dehumanizing Palestinians, as is happening, and calling them terrorists. It's about asking the question, why the United States supports Ukraine in fighting what they call occupation, while here they are supporting the occupier, who [00:57:00] continues to occupy us.

EMMA VIGELAND - CO-HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Yes, um, and there's like a moment of Fareed Zakaria not really fully comprehending it, and then they move on to another question. And I think he makes a claim at one point that the targets of Hamas at this point were military targets, which is not true. Like, we played on the show earlier that they ended up killing many young people in Israel at that music festival. So, like, you know, I'm not... I don't know enough about this particular man to make a claim on, I guess, everything he's ever said or done, right? But that point there is completely 100 percent true. It is impossible to square the circle of our stated reasons behind our support for the people of Ukraine, which I think is just, versus our reasoning for supporting [00:58:00] Israel, because in those instances, the parties that are the colonizing parties, the parties that are not respecting the borders, the sovereignty of nations that are oppressing a certain people that has less power, um, those parties are Russia, and that party is Israel in that instance.

 What he says, too, about Netanyahu being deliberately provocative and going to the United Nations with that map that included the Palestinian territories as a part of Israel, that was a deliberately provocative move by Netanyahu a few weeks or months back. I'm forgetting the timeline. And as we discussed with Orly Noy, Netanyahu's boxing out of Palestinians in any talks and going to Arab partners and trying to normalize things like with Saudi Arabia, past allies of Palestinians who had at least kind of stood in solidarity with their plight, the fact that that had been happening meant that they were feeling completely cut [00:59:00] off from any hope of their suffering being alleviated, as well as Netanyahu's green lighting of the settlements and the pogroms that continue without any kind of pushback.

The Israeli Supreme Court, their entire judicial apparatus, says, No, don't worry. It doesn't matter if you have ancestral rights to this home. You don't have documentation. So Israel has a right to take it for "military exercises" or whatever excuse that they give. 

There's been no hope. There's been no hope. And so, that is the context of this attack in Israel, and Hamas's tactics are, you know, the death is horrific. It's horrible. It's condemnable. It's not hard to condemn the killing of civilians in that way. What is the greater story here is that the violence is within the context of the occupation, and that there's one party here that has all the power, that has disproportionate money, technology, [01:00:00] influence on the international stage, that has the capacity right now to end the violence and begin to talk and reconciliation and efforts to really make Palestinian voices heard as opposed to being occupied in an open air prison where the average age is under 20 years old, or median, I should say, because there is only there's very limited electricity, 90 percent of the water, people in Gaza do not have access to clean water, there's very little food, let alone the barrage of attacks in these highly concentrated areas in Gaza where people have no place to hide.

 Like, that is the context that we're talking about here, and one party has the ability to stop that, and that is Israel, and so that is where obviously the blame lies, and that is what the Haaretz editorial board says, that Netanyahu is to blame.

Calling congress about the latest war - Andrew

VOICEMAILER ANDREW: Hi, Jay! Thanks for all the work that you do. I've been listening to your show for a long time. My name is Andrew. 

I'm calling you [01:01:00] today on day seven of the latest war between Israel and Hamas. On this day, Israel has ordered one million Gazans to move south for their own safety while they remain under siege, blockaded, with nowhere to go. And so, really bad times, and I know you're feeling it, but I'm just wondering, do you call your congressman? Because I got this email today from Justice Democrats, and it's urging me to call my congressmen to call upon them to advocate for a ceasefire, an immediate ceasefire in Israel and Gaza.

And my gut reaction to that was just, no, I'm not going to bother. I really don't think there is any will on my congressman's part to call for a ceasefire. [01:02:00] I mean, the only congresspeople that are calling for it right now are already being just pummeled in the media and from many sides. 

So I'm just wondering, do you call your congressmen on stuff like this? That just seems so -- it's such a far shot, that the US Congress is going to tell Israel anything other than "do what you have to do and we have your back." 

Anyway, I just wanted to see what you think about that, and, I'm going back and forth on it. So, thank you for all that you do, and I really appreciate your show. Have a good day.

Final comments with even more notes of nuance from the conflict

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: We've just heard clips today, starting with Gaslit Nation, laying out some much needed context for the conflict in the holy land. Democracy Now! started off the reporting about the Hamas attack with personal stories from both sides. CounterSpin spoke with Phyllis Bennis about what important context the media needs to share. Democracy Now! [01:03:00] discussed the intelligence and military failure as well as the failure of the blockade of Gaza by Israel in preventing the Hamas attack. Ebro in the Morning spoke with AOC who gave her perspective on the progressive approach to valuing human dignity and opposing dehumanization everywhere on both sides of this conflict. Gaslit Nation spoke with Terrell Starr about the need to see the complexities in order to avoid taking terrible missteps the way the US did after 9/11. Marc Steiner Show looked at the recent phases of the cycles of violence in the occupied West Bank. Democracy Now! looked at the perspective that everyone living in the Gaza Strip is collectively responsible for the attack. And Democracy Now! also discussed how dehumanizing rhetoric primes people to accept atrocities. 

That's what everybody heard, but members also heard a bonus clip from The Majority Report looking at a comparison between the war in the Holy Land and the war between Russia and Ukraine. To hear that and [01:04:00] 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, a few additional notes on the conflict that we didn't have time to squeeze into the show itself. The news of the day basically is that the Gaza healthcare system is in a state of collapse due to the siege implemented by Israel, preventing electricity and fuel from entering the area. There's this headline from The Independent, says "Civilians Are Drinking Seawater As Supplies Run Out", and it mentions that the World Health Organization says there are less than 24 hours worth of supplies in many areas. So it's indicating that there are, you know, in some places there could be starvation, lack of water, and death happening imminently. 

In response to [01:05:00] Andrew, who we heard call in with the question about whether it's worth calling Congress, I would just point towards the "shut-up strategy", as I call it. I think it's a completely morally bankrupt strategy, but it's been a long running one in this conflict and the argument goes that if you have anything you want to say speaking out against Israel, or you want to add nuance to the situation, you should shut up, or you're anti-Semitic. That is basically how the argument goes. And since that is a terrible argument, I would say that being vocal in any capacity is worth the effort. I think that the 9/11 parallel that Israel has invoked actually helps demonstrate this. What they're basically arguing is that as victims of a 9/11-type event, they should be allowed and, frankly, expected to act out of a desire [01:06:00] for extreme vengeance, fueled by grief, fear, and anger. 

This is exactly what the US did after 9/11 and those wars we started are now roundly condemned as having been terrible ideas. Now, like, in a different context, not a conflict between countries or even political groups, but just bringing it down to individuals who commit violence against one another, you know, there's violence committed and then there's a trial, right? Someone is being accused and the victim of a crime is not allowed in our system to also help determine the punishment, nor should they. Being in a heightened state of grief and anger as a personal victim is no time to make a rational decision about an appropriate response to something like violence. But in war, such as after an attack like the one from Hamas, it is precisely the victims, [01:07:00] while in a heightened state of grief, anger, and fear, who then get to decide how their country, in this case Israel, responds. This is precisely why we need other voices to speak up right now, to help guide the response away from vengeance to something that has even the slightest chance of being more productive in the longterm. 

As for the US and our support of Israel, we may be trying to have it both ways. That's how it seems to me. And keep in mind that diplomatic language is always going to be at play in a case like this. And you're always having to sort of read between the lines. But we started out, you know, right from the beginning by saying that we fully support Israel and its right to defend itself. That's totally standard, to be expected. But as plans for the invasion of Gaza began to emerge, the rhetoric from the US continued to maintain support while also discouraging them from doing anything profoundly stupid [01:08:00] that might get themselves into an even worse situation that they will be stuck in for years to come. This strategy sort of summed up by this reference to quotes from Biden in an article says "US President Joe Biden said Israel 'has to' go after Hamas - has to in quotes - but it would be 'a big mistake for Gaza to be occupied by its forces'". 

So, you know, I think for our current situation, that is almost as good as we're gonna get. But speaking of it being a big mistake, I am happy to go into more detail. There's a pretty good piece from The Atlantic titled "Israel Is Walking Into a Trap". And in essence, it argues that Hamas, contrary to what rhetoric from Israeli leadership might have you believe... Hamas is made up of humans, not animals. And as humans, they have the capacity to predict reactions to this attack that they planned [01:09:00] for a very long time. Undoubtedly, they would have expected Israel to invade Gaza in an all out assault and wanted to drag them into a prolonged ground war that would be terrible, deadly and expensive for the country. This is exactly the strategy laid out by the planners of 9/11: use terrorism to draw the US into an unwinnable war that would drain its resources. This is because a small disempowered faction cannot hope to do as much damage to a larger power as that larger power can inflict on itself, given the right circumstances. It is the intended outcome of the use of terrorism to create those circumstances so that the greater power acts to their own detriment. And so the argument goes, Hey, Israel, don't fall for it. Obviously you're only going to do [01:10:00] what they hope you do. 

Now, one last note on the complicated relationship between the Palestinian people and Hamas. This is one of the stickiest bits of nuance that creates great opportunities for propaganda based on real events, things people really say feelings, people really have. But it gets used as propaganda to sort of inflate the reality. Let me explain what I mean. The accusation goes that Hamas leads Gaza. And if people didn't like them, then they should be overthrown somehow. I mean, they don't hold elections so they can't be voted out, but you know, the people should rise up and overthrow Hamas. And also that when Hamas attacks Israelis, not just in the most recent attack, but you know, in other instances, civilians can be seen celebrating. And that's absolutely true. And all of this acts as so-called evidence that all or nearly all of the [01:11:00] civilians in Gaza are either responsible for, or are at least in favor of the actions of Hamas. Up to and including the murder of civilians. 

Now to me, it's really not that hard to imagine a Palestinian person holding a complicated set of thoughts about Hamas and their actions. It doesn't seem contradictory to me for someone living in Gaza to potentially think that both Hamas, maybe for their violence or for other reasons, and Israel, for their blockade of Gaza and, you know, the general policies that create oppression for Palestinian people, are terrible. They might think both of these groups are terrible. But for this individual to sort of default to the old, Well, 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend' sort of position, or maybe they think, Well, you know, I don't like how they're conducting the fight, but at least Hamas is fighting for me. So it can be complicated. And I think that any honest person could admit to understanding [01:12:00] those very normal human emotions. You know, they're not absolutely basic human emotions. They're a little bit more complicated, a little bit more nuanced. But I think honest people can recognize, Yeah, I can see myself feeling that way. And demonstrating that point is a quote from a Palestinian man in a USA Today article. It says, "'Killing anybody is wrong', said a Palestinian man chatting with friends Saturday in downtown Ramallah. 'But imagine you live somewhere and I come and lock you in your house. I control everything that comes in and out of your house. Occasionally I come and beat you up. Eventually you're going to resist and start fighting back with whatever you have', he said. 'With the Hamas attacks, that's what's happening'". 

So, as I've said from the beginning, Adding as much context and nuance to this discussion is the only way to hope [01:13:00] to understand it. And that goes for both sides. We included important context and understanding about the Israeli and broader Jewish diaspora perspective, right?, at the top of the show, just as AOC included the important point about the very real danger of antisemitism. That's all important to understand as well, though that is the context that is most readily presented by media and governments alike when there's a rush to defend Israel. 

But as the positions and policies of Israel's far-right government become more and more indefensible, things are beginning to change. There is a growing understanding that Israel's actions are not purely in self-defense, but are actively creating innocent victims, not to mention creating a context ripe for blowback. I absolutely expected the response to the Hamas attack in the media and from individuals on social media and wherever else to be absolutely awful. And there certainly [01:14:00] has been plenty of that. But the voices that speak out for and, even, you know, because they have, to insist on the existence of innocence on both sides. Those voices are louder and have been given more space in mainstream publications and on television than we could have possibly expected even 5 or 10 years ago. The demands that critics of Israel's government simply shut up, lest they be labeled antisemitic, is beginning to fall flat. And I find that to be hopeful at least. 

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 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, [01:15:00] LaWendy, 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 at bestoftheleft.com/support. You can join them by signing up today. It would be greatly appreciated. You'll find that link in the show notes, along with a link to join our Discord community. Where you can 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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