new strategies negative effects media bias

Today’s episode of Hidden Forces is made possibleby listeners like you. For more information about this week’s episodeor for easy access to related programming, visit our website at and subscribeto our free email list. If you’re listening to the show on your ApplePodcast app, remember you can give us a review. Each review helps more people find the showand join our amazing community. With that, please enjoy this week’s episode. What’s up, everybody? I am very excited to share this week’s episodewith all of you. My guest, Matt Taibbi, truly needs no introduction. He is someone whose work I’ve long admiredand whose polemical but also highly illustrative and expository commentary has had an importantinfluence on my own development as a writer. His contribution to the public debate duringthe 2008 financial crisis cannot be understated. He served as an interpreter for what was,in his own words, “a crime story that most people mistakenly thought of as an economicstory.” His attacks on those he identified as beingchiefly responsible for the crisis were relentless. In a media environment tenanted and ownedby government apologists and banking sychophants, they were noticeably ruthless and unforgiving. In an article he penned in the spring of 2010titled “The Great American Bubble Machine,” Taibbi referred to the invest bank GoldmanSachs as a “great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jammingits blood funnel into anything that smells like money”. Fortunately for Goldman, Matt has since turnedhis attention towards the media itself, embarking on an ambitious project to update Edward Hermanand Noam Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent for the 21st century, as a serialized book thathe’s been releasing through Sub-stack. The majority of this conversation deals withthe subject of that book, which is a sort of operational manual for those looking tounderstand how journalists and the media shape social reality. When Manufacturing Consent was first publishedin 1988, the media landscape was still largely dominated by print and broadcast television. We’ve gone through two major technologicaldisruptions since, first with cable and now with the internet. I wanted to use this opportunity with Mattto discuss how these changes have altered the traditional pathways through which governmentsand big business try to shape and control public opinion. Finally, for those of you who are subscribersto our overtime segments, Matt and I discuss the circus that is the media’s political coverage,including some amazing stories from his time on the 2016 campaign trail, as well as a scathingcritique of his old buddies at Goldman, who are back in the news over their role in ascheme to defraud the Malaysian government and its citizens of billions of dollars throughthe use of a state-owned investment fund known as 1MDB. If you want access to that conversation, aswell as a transcript of the full episode along with this week’s 14-page rundown, which includesan updated outline of the propaganda model and a timeline of important events in theevolution of the news business, with charts and links to material reference during mytwo-hour long recording with Matt, head over to or subscribe directly throughour Patreon page at With that, let’s get right into my conversationwith Matt Taibbi. Matt Taibbi, welcome to Hidden Forces. Thank you for having me on. I’ve wanted to have you on my program fora very long time. The podcast has only been around for two years,but I used to have a television show, and I had desperately wanted you on back then. Really? I’m sure I had reached out to you. But, as I said, this was a period where youwere a financial rock star. You were writing the most vicious, cutting-edgecritiques, particularly of Goldman. You had the famous vampire squid. Vampire squid. Yeah, that’s going to be on my gravestone,unfortunately. Unfortunately? I will get into this a little bit later becauseI want to start with your book, Hate, INC.,

Default new strategies negative effects media biasI will get into this a little bit later becauseI want to start with your book, Hate, INC., and the propaganda model and ManufacturingConsent, Herman and Chomsky, etc. But…what was that like? It was very strange. It was totally accidental. I was covering the presidential campaign in’08. I was on the road with Obama, and McCain,too, to a lesser degree. As the campaign was winding up, or windingdown, my editors assigned me a story about the causes of AIG’s collapse. They basically wanted me to do one hit onwhat happened in the crisis. The idea was basically to do a story thatstoned college kids could understand about what caused the financial crisis. We’re talking about, like, October here, beforethe election? Yeah, it was just before the election. When McCain had already gone to Washingtonin a panic. Yeah, exactly, because I already had thisreally weird experience of being at the Republican Convention in the middle of AIG’s collapse. I think it was AIG. No, it was Lehman’s collapse. Lehman’s collapse. And nobody in the press core knew anythingabout what had caused it. I was polling everybody in the room, like,”Does anybody have a clue about what any of this stuff is?” None of the political reporters knew. No. We’re talking about the cream of the politicalcrop. These are the top reporters in the country. Not one person could write a sentence thatwas coherent about what had happened. Fascinating. I was interested in that. Because I didn’t want to be ignorant in writingabout the crash while I was covering the campaign, I started calling people up before I got assignedthat stuff. Then after the election, basically, they putme on that story. I did one story about it, and what we foundout is that nobody had ever tried to translate how Wall Street works for ordinary audiences. There isn’t a book like that. I mean Liar’s Poker is a good book for people. Michael Lewis. By Michael Lewis. But on an ordinary day-to-day basis, the financialcrisis is for people in the business. We got such a response from it that I endedup on that beat for eight years after that. AIG was an interesting one because Lehmanwas popularized, AIG just died, like literally just died and they just resurrected it asa dead body. A carcass that they just used to funnel moneybasically out on the insurance contracts and make sense of the mess that primarily JoeCassano’s unit created over at AIG FP, right? Yeah. It’s like three people in London basicallydestroyed the universe. And he got all those bonuses paid out becausehe was integral to figure out what happened. Right. He didn’t have to repay anything. He’s still living in this massive townhouse. He made something like $200 million over thecourse of … He was selling credit default swaps to everybody on the street and was basicallyWall Street’s bookie at that time. Everybody was buying swaps against subprimemortgage deals. AIG basically, their senior leadership, they’reall insurance people, they’re not financial people. They didn’t really understand a lot of thederivative products that Cassano was making. When all these other companies started askingfor collateral calls like Goldman, they didn’t understand what’s going on.

1 new strategies negative effects media biasunderstand what’s going on. The senior leadership didn’t understand thatthey owed all this money, and so AIG went into collapse. The whole purpose of the AIG bailout was tobailout their customers and counterparties. That was all really interesting. That took me forever to figure it out. But what was so fascinating about it is thatjust no one has really ever done that kind of work before, and it was a bizarre experience. I feel like one of the challenges … Andthen we’ll get into it later because, like I said, I want to start off with your book. But I feel like one of the challenges wouldalso be, and this just struck me now, it’s hard to know what to write this as. Is it a comedy or is it a tragedy? It feels like it’s just in limbo between thosetwo in this Neverland. Yeah. Well, the whole question of approach was socentral to that story because I was really, really struggling in the beginning becauseI didn’t particularly know a whole lot about economics. I didn’t study it in college. That helped you. Yeah, it did actually ended up helping becauseI think there’s a point of view issue with this story that comes into play for a lotof reporters. Finally, I ended up talking to a guy who usedto work for Credit Suisse. He sat me down and he said, “Your problemis you’re trying to understand this isn’t an economic story, it’s a crime story. When you get that it’s a crime story, it’llmake more sense to you.” That actually turns out to be the case becausewhat you find out is that most of this was about they were making a lot of easy moneybasically selling really bad mortgages to institutional customers that didn’t know whatthey were buying. That’s really all it was. Once you got through that, it was really likea black comedy basically, and just a whole bunch of shysters who … And they’re entertaininglyloathsome people, too. That was another aspect to the story. Yeah. We’ll get into it because I also want to maybebring that up-to-date a little bit also. Sure. But speaking of bringing up-to-date, whatyou have done with your book, Hate, INC., which you’ll have to describe to me and toour audience exactly what genre this falls into, because you’re writing it in real timeand you’re releasing chapter-by-chapter. I’ve read what will end up being what percentageof the book? Probably 90%. Okay. I’m pretty close. The book is, as I understand it, an updateto Manufacturing Consent, which is a book written by Herman and Chomsky back in 1988. Most people think of it as Chomsky’s book. Right. It was actually Herman’s idea. Herman. That’s the thing I did not realize until youinterviewed Noam Chomsky. Noam Chomsky, of course, is the famous linguistfrom MIT, also a very prolific writer and a prolific thinker. You have this amazing quote in your … Idon’t know if I’ve got it here somewhere. Oh, here it is. I’ve got to say this. This felt so much like Noam Chomsky. You wrote that, “He has a deadpan, dry senseof humor. If you asked him to sum up all of human history,and now that I think about it, I should have done this, he would probably say somethinglike, ‘Unsurprisingly horrible.'”

new strategies negative effects media bias done this, he would probably say somethinglike, ‘Unsurprisingly horrible.'”

2 new strategies negative effects media biasdone this, he would probably say somethinglike, ‘Unsurprisingly horrible.'” That is him Yeah, he’s very concise and he does have asense of humor. He’s often mistaken for being somebody who’scompletely humorless, but actually, like a lot of people who put on that front, I’llput Bill Belichick in this category, too- That’s right. … like there’s just enough there that ifyou are paying attention, he’s actually quite funny. He’s dry, he’s monotone, but there is thissort of unrelenting honesty. Yeah, with a tinge of absurdity, too. Yeah. But that brings us back to this problem ofhow do you write about this in-between tragedy and comedy, what is it? So much of what he writes about deals withthat. Yeah, this is an update to Manufactured Consent,which you read when you were in college or shortly out of college you said. I was in college. I was probably 18 or 19, right when the bookcame out. Right before. So ’88, ’89. Right before the Berlin Wall fell and afterwhich you went to- Russia. To Russia, which is very interesting. Maybe we can talk about that as well. I read the second version, the updated edition,when I was I think in my last year in college. I also found it profound for many of the reasonsthat you laid out. I would love for you to maybe start. Why did you want to write this sort of a bookthat’s an update of Manufactured Consent? What did you feel needed to be updated? Well, first of all, I should back up. The media is so central to my life. My father’s a reporter. I grew up in a family of reporters. Everybody I knew growing up was in the press. I’d been very sensitive over the years tohow the business has evolved and changed. One of the reasons that Manufacturing Consentwas such a big deal for me was that it completely changed how I looked at something that I actuallyhadn’t been paying a lot of attention to my whole life. I mean I went to work with my father fromthe time I was four years old. You were inside of television broadcast studiosand news studios in the early ’70s. Yeah. Oh, yeah. My childhood, I say this in the book, wasa lot like the movie Anchorman. My dad was one of those guys. He had big mutton chops and he was on TV. But Manufacturing Consent is a really eye-openingbook about how we don’t have direct censorship in America. There’s no political commissar who comes inand red-pencils your copy when you submit it, but there is propaganda, and it’s almostall unconscious and it’s bureaucratic. What it does is you’re artificially narrowingthe polls of opinion by carefully monitoring who gets promoted and what kind of materialgets on air and does not. As a result, people only see a range of opinionon the big broadcast networks and in the newspapers. That was really eye-opening to me. Because I watch reporters work, I know thatthey’re, for the most part, very honest and diligent and they really care about theirjobs. The issue is which reporters get the mostspace, who’s getting assigned to cover what, how big the headline is for X story versusY story. All of those editorial decisions are the onesthat are important, and I just had never paid attention to that before.

3 new strategies negative effects media biasattention to that before. It was fascinating and that’s why I wantedto revisit it because, among other things, the business has changed so much since theywrote that book, mainly because of the internet but because of some other things as well. He had five filters to his propaganda model,I believe, if I remember correctly. I look back at them, some of those don’t seemto have materially changed. Right, right. Some of them have. But the media is still private. That was one of the filters, that the sizeand ownership and the fact that it’s private. Yeah, exactly. If anything, those forces have become, I think- More concentrated. … more concentrated and also there’s nolonger a taboo in the United States around media news as a source of profit-making, asthere used to be perhaps. Absolutely. That is a big change. That’s a huge change. That’s one of the reasons why I wanted towrite the book actually, because when he wrote Manufacturing Consent, the profit motive wasfar more concealed than in the background of big media. There was actually a taboo in the businessabout even interacting with salespeople. You hear all these stories about the New Yorker,for instance, down the street. There was a legendary tale that almost everyreporter’s heard that if you were in the sales force, you weren’t even allowed on the editorialfloor. I can confirm that. You never saw advertising people in the ’70sand ’80s. But then suddenly, with the advent of the24-hour news cycle and Fox and all these channels, suddenly it became a thing that was totallynormal to trying to make money with news. That radically changed everything about reportingbecause, in the old days, the idea was we told the truth in so far as we understoodit, and it was okay if we lost money, because the whole idea behind the original TelecommunicationsAct or the Communications Act of 1934 was that you lease the public airwaves in exchangefor providing a public service. That’s all out the window now. That’s another big change. CNN was founded, I think, in 1980, correct? Right, yeah. But the doors didn’t really fling open untilthe late ’80s, pretty much after Noam Chomsky wrote his book. Right, yeah. Exactly. A lot of that had to do also with some ofthe deregulation that happened in the telecommunications industry. Yeah, there was deregulatory act in 1996,too, that Clinton passed that massively opened the doors for companies to buy each otherup. We went from having 35 major media companiesin the country to six or something like that. But the CNN innovation was really importantbecause what they originally did was basically one broadcast that they repeated 24 timesor they repeated 12 times. It wasn’t traditionally what we would thinkof as 24-hour news cycle today. What they ended up doing is they ended uprealizing that we can make a lot more money if we emphasize the immediacy of what we’redoing, like if we change things constantly. The best way to do that, they obviously hadto radically change what kind of material they covered because you can’t have enoughpeople to script 24 hours of content every day. They started looking for stories that hadvisual elements or breaking element, so like baby down a well, the cursed disaster or somethinglike- Does babies even fall down wells anymore? I don’t know. That used to be a thing. That used to be a thing all the time, youknow, one-day massacres. Now it’s a dog because we care more aboutanimals than humans now. Right, exactly. Beached whale, are we going to get it backin the water before it dies, that kind of thing. Those were all great news stories. Then they figured out that all of that stuffcost money still. You still had to send a crew out. Even if you’re renting it from AP TV or somethinglike that, it still has production value. The production overhead was tremendous backthen. It’s much less today. It’s expensive for legacy companies, but ifwe’re just strictly talking about the production cost of doing competitive type media today,they’ve dropped tremendously. Oh, yeah, to the floor. You’re not hiring union labor to do it allthe time and all the technology, obviously, has made it considerably easier than it usedto be. You used to have to have a satellite truckeverywhere you went. Now the internet’s everywhere. It’s all different. But they figured out that if you don’t havean action story that you can put on air, the next best thing is just to have two idiotson TV arguing with each other, and arguing is a form of action. That became really the template for a lotof modern media, was this Crossfire thing. It was Crossfire that started that. When did Crossfire begin? In the mid-’80s. It was probably CNN’s answer to a PBS show,The McLaughlin Group. Which is still on PBS, isn’t it? Yeah. Pat Buchanan is on that. Yeah, exactly. I’ve seen him on it. Wow! I’ve seen him on it. He’s still around. He’s like a living fossil or something likethat. He’s still around. He’s still around. Yeah, yeah. Crossfire was the original template, and itwas such a successful show because it allowed TV basically to cover the news like sports. It was one side and another side. We’re going to declare a winner at the endand you’re going to root for your side. You can never ever have the two people cometo an accommodation. They’re always fighting. Until next time, when we start fighting again. We trained the audience to think of politicsin that way. That became, I think, a lot of the templatefor what’s going on now where it’s so tribal in the way we cover politics. That was another thing I wanted to get at. Yeah. That’s interesting. This concept of framing, that it’s binary. I think you called it Boolean politics. Right, yeah. Exactly. It’s binary, there are two sides, and it’snot a conversation, it’s an argument. That’s important because you’re coming inas the audience and you’re primed, you’re expecting something, and they simply deliverit for you time and time again. I mean Crossfire was a very particular typeof show, but CNN as a brand still carried that spirit of objectivity. It’s not like it is today, but it was verymuch indistinguishable in terms of its objectivity from the networks at the time, right? Right, or even the language that you wouldread on the front page of the New York Times or the Boston Globe. The emotional attitude of it was distant,flat. They had the news voice. The news voice. There was this lobotomized, emotional slantwhen you’re delivering the information. The idea there … And this is a commercialstrategy. It had nothing to do with ethics. The whole idea was over decades, they haddiscovered that the best way to get the widest possible audience was to not have a lot ofinflection when you’re delivering stories. You didn’t tip off the audience how you feltabout things. That was important. Because you couldn’t segment the distribution. Exactly. It was a broadcast system. You were catching everyone’s … The bestway to maximize your viewership was to appeal to as many people as possible. Exactly, exactly. You never could tip your hand. You try to stay right down the middle of theroad when you chose stories. This was formalized, of course, through thingslike the fairness standard, where you would literally quote one side and then the other,or you would do one story that maybe lean conservative and another story that wouldlean liberal. They tried constantly to fill the newscast,especially at the local level, with nonpolitical stories, so lots of cats and trees, lot ofweather. There was a moment in the history of mediawhere everybody used to joke in the local affiliates that the highest paid reporterin every city was a helicopter because that’s what everybody was spending money on. You would have seven minutes of weather ona 23-minute broadcast. Nowadays, you would never do that. Now it’s all like this full, this politicallycharged rhetorical discourse. They do that intentionally because we’re geekingup the audience with emotion, and we want them to stay that way until they tune in thenext time, which could be in 10 minutes, too. People are watching all day long. It’s a major departure from what it used tobe. We used to tell audiences to calm down andnot worry. Then with the advent of Crossfire, we startedthis journey towards winding people up for money. That’s where the business started to head. What’s interesting, when I’ve looked backand thought about this … Because I have also on my own. I’ve spent some time over the years just thinkingabout it, naturally, being in this business also. The way I see it, CNN’s innovation was … Imean they were all, of course, innovations that were made possible because of technologicalchanges and regulatory changes. Cable was what they piggy-backed off of. But as you said, CNN, also there was volume. They started off, okay, it was one show, butthey repeated it. The point is they gave you more. What I think the next innovation was, it wasthe same technology with cable, but what Fox did was they gave you something different. They changed the editorial. That was the great insight of Roger Ailes. By the way, you mentioned 1996, what was it? The Telecommunications Act of 1996. That was two years after the Republican Revolutionin Congress with Gingrich. Yeah, the contract of America and all that. It was the same year that Roger Ailes gothired by Rupert Murdoch to go to Fox and to build Fox News Channel. All this is happening right at the same time. Yeah. That’s a fascinating theory because if youlook back at Fox broadcast from that time, it’s almost like the larval form of Fox. You can see the look, but they didn’t quitehave the take yet. I talked to some people who worked at Foxstations, the reporters. The women there had to put shoulder pads intheir blouses. They had these huge chandelier earrings anda blown out hair and all that stuff. It looked trashy, but they didn’t have thepolitical slant yet. Ailes, when he first came on, he vaguely hadthis idea that he wanted to dumb down the whole thing. But they didn’t go for the outright demographicstroking until later. Before you continue, tell our audience, forthose who don’t know, tell them a little bit about who Roger Ailes is, because most peoplehave no clue what his background was. They don’t understand his background, bothin television as well as his background in politics as a political operative. Yeah. He worked for the Mike Douglas Show. Mike Douglas Show. But he had a background also as a politicalspeech writer. He helped Nixon. He met Nixon on the Mike Douglas Show. Yeah, exactly. Then later coached him through, I think, the’68 convention. Convention. Yeah, yeah, exactly. He was one of the first people who reallyunderstood that politics in the television is going to be dramatically different thanit had been before. The image was going to be more important thanthe “ground game” and all that. He was in-tune with the audience the sameway that Nixon was in-tune with what they identified as the silent majority. They realized that, the way that Joe McGinnis,the writer, described it, was Nixon was the president of every place that didn’t havea bookstore. Roger Ailes understood that audience. He understood all those towns between bigcities that had a chip on their shoulder about something. He wanted to create a product for those people. He even talked about it when he came ontoFox, that, “My audience is 55 to dead.” 55 to dead. Yeah. “We’re going to create a product for them.” It was pretty clear what they ended up doing. They didn’t really take off until the MonicaLewinsky scandal. And the 9/11 attacks. And the 9/11 attack. But the Lewinsky thing was really key forthem because the other networks were also trying to make a reality show out of thatdrama, but Fox was the first network to take sides. If you look back, it’s interesting. MSNBC made the initial major editorial decisionto blow maybe out of proportion a story that essentially … Well, at the time it was anon-story. I think if you’re looking back, probably therewas more to it that they ignored. In the context of today’s conversation aroundMe Too- Yeah, the Me Too. … and sexual assault and things like this. But Fox went farther. Fox decided that we’re going to make our buck-makingcharacters out of Clinton and out of both of the Clintons. They especially loved Hillary. They loved stories about her. They constantly ran the tape of her talkingabout how she wouldn’t bake cookies and everything like that, because they knew that that wouldtweak out audiences. That was brilliant. What’s interesting is I had read … And youmentioned the neoconservativism in your book. I had read a book, I don’t remember what itwas that got me down the path of wanting to uncover the history of the neoconservativemovement. A few ideologies, ideological movements, thinktanks, I don’t even know what you would call neoconservativism, but have had a greaterimpact on American society in a very short period of time in a key way, of course withthe Iraq War and its policy foreign policy. I always assumed that neoconservativism wasreally focused on foreign policy. But when I studied it, I realized that IrvingKristol and his acolytes or his compadres, or whatever you would call them, that theywere actually issue-driven, values-driven former Democrats. They moved over to the Republican Party becauseof McGovern. They felt the party had gone ape shit underMcGovern. They moved it into the Democratic Party. Initially, it was a values-driven thing andwas part of this values-driven movement. Then, of course, gets us into talk radio andhow that also intersected with Fox. It was part of this giant wave, right? Yeah. There were tapping into a lot of things. There were things going on in the countrythat there was a kind of Democrat who had supported John F. Kennedy and had been highlyaggressive on the foreign policy stage. Kennedy was really into throwing their powerinternationally. The Vietnam War changed a lot of that. People came back and they had some very differentideas about how America would behave. For the first time, we had public hearingsabout the behavior of the intelligence community. That had never happened before. They had the Church-Pike hearings in the ’70s. These neocons were basically disappointedDemocrats who crossed the line and hopped on board with the Reagan Revolution, whichhad really started with Goldwater in ’64. They became this very powerful force in medialater on, because the problem that they had was that they weren’t a very numerous politicalgroup. They were upper class Democrats who had aconservative vision and aggressive foreign policy vision. But they had to somehow have a union withpeople in flyover country, America. That was Fox did. It delivered that gigantic audience into thehands of this new political movement. They recruited people into their movementlike Dick Cheney and like Donald Rumsfeld, who were Republicans. Right. Well, they’re coming back now. That’s what so interesting, is all these neoconvoices who … They were on top of the world in 2003, like David Frum, Bill Kristol, Irving’sson. Bill Kristol, of course. Who’s the other one I’m thinking of? Richard Perle. Richard Perle. I mean- Douglas Feith. Feith. Paul Wolfowitz. Wolfowitz. Yeah, exactly. But a lot of those people are now reappearing. You’ll see them showing up in think tankslike the Atlantic Council. Because of Trump, the merger now is in theother direction. They’re merging now with mainstream Democrats. They’re going to be back in seats of poweragain pretty soon, which is interesting. Well, the Democrats have become very comfortablewith war. They were uncomfortable with it during theBush years, but it seems again like it only takes a matter of time for people to forgetor to change their views. I do want to talk to you about foreign policyat some point, because it’s an interesting … It brings us back to something we haven’ttalked about yet, but I want to talk about, which is worthy versus unworthy victims inforeign policy. Noam Chomsky famously discussed that in thecontext of … Well, one of the examples was Cambodia and East Timor. It’s a great example. But before we get to that, I want to go backto the propaganda model, because we were talking about concentration and private ownership. One of the other filters that Chomsky wroteabout was advertising. I thought about that one a bit and I said,”Well, it still is. Of course, we have advertising.” But there is a distinction. It used to be that the papers, the press usedto be much more vertically integrated. The content creators were also the distributors,were also the auctioneers of the ad space, classifieds and everything else. That’s been broken apart. The seated authority over the platform islike Facebook and Google. How has that changed that filter? Have you thought about that at all? I have. This is an area where I disagree a littlebit with Chomsky. We had a little discussion about this becauseit’s exactly as you say. Back in the day, especially newspapers, hadtheir own distribution systems. They had built them up over years. They had their own trucks, they had theirown paper kids, they had their own distribution points. That was where their power came from. If you wanted to put an ad out and try toget an employee and you wanted to reach everybody within a certain metropolitan area, reallythe only best bet was the local newspaper. You couldn’t put that kind of want ad on atelevision show. There wasn’t enough ad time for that kindof thing. The only people who could get that productin everybody’s hands was somebody who had that kind of distribution network. When the internet came along, suddenly you’vedivorced distribution from content-making because the distribution is the phone lineor whatever it is, a cable line now. It’s digitized. It’s digitized. The distributor, in 75% of cases now, is asocial media platform. Those people are swallowing up all the addollars. There’s this huge disconnect between how muchpower media companies had back in the day versus how much they have now. Now they are really a step removed from thedirect power over content. The social media platforms, internet platformsare really the primary powers on the scene at this point. You talked a little bit about manufacturinghate, but I think this is an interesting thing to observe, which is that when the contentcreators who are creating the content, which is then being distributed out and which containsthe advertisements for the corporations, which are the clients of the papers, when you breakthose apart, I think that is a contributor toward this feeding of the hate and the outragecycle, because the auction is separated. The large corporations, let’s say, which wantsocial order are not in the same level of position to shape that order. No, they’re not. They have far less of a say about what thecontent is going to be. There are two things going on. Number one, they don’t even advertise withthe media companies anymore, and that’s just not the way it works for the most part. If you’re a big advertiser, you’re not goingto go to, let’s say, Rolling Stone magazine. You’re much more likely to go to Facebookor Google or something. Or if you go to New York Times or something,it’s for native advertising. Exactly, yeah. It has to be very specified, because the platformshave so much more intelligence and are so much more efficient in terms of being ableto get the eyeballs that you want. They have all that intelligence. You’re bypassing completely almost the contentcreators. You don’t even bother to influence them. The only area where the content creator comesinto play is that the internet platform has to have something to sell that you can stickthe ad on top of. Indirectly, you care a little bit about whatthat content is, but what the platforms will tell you is, “We’re going to attach this towhatever turns on that target demographic that you want to sell to.” If you’re a car company, you’re looking for18 to 36-year-old males, white males in the Midwest, this is the content you want. Nine times out of 10, it turns out to be somekind of very politically charged content. That’s the easiest way to get that audience. I’m going through these … These are thefive filters that you didn’t really talk about much in your book, and I want to get themout of the way. The third one was the sourcing of mass medianews. That was another one that Chomsky had. I thought that was interesting, too, whenI thought about it, because I think Huffington Post, and the brethren of Huff Po, have mitigatedthe importance of this, I think, in the sense that it’s not possible to actually make money,again, to the point … I mean Facebook has optimized this. But you don’t need to create your own content. You can basically steal someone else’s content,put some crazy headline on it. Now it’s clickbait. You don’t need to actually do original reporting. If you don’t need to do original reporting,it also, by impact, decreases the need for sourcing, which is this thing … In Chomsky’spoint about sourcing, is that this corporations like CNN cultivate relationships with theCIA and foreign members of the military, et cetera, and that shapes their reporting. Yeah. That’s, I think, exactly the thing you’retalking about right now. It’s part of why there’s been such an enormousamount of debate on the Hill in the last couple of years about fake news, because what’s reallygoing on is the intelligence agencies are very frustrated at their lack of control- Over the narrative. Over the narrative. They’ve lost the ability to basically getpeople to … They haven’t lost it. They’re still doing quite well at it actually,but it’s just not as easy as it used to be. They don’t have that direct lever that theyused to have. In the old days, you had three networks andyou had a couple of newspaper chains. There were only a few truly influential voicesthat you had to worry about. If you wanted to tell people that, yeah, wewere the good guys in Vietnam and we went in there because we were going to save theDemocratically elected leader, who, of course, we installed, there was only a handful ofpeople that you had to really worry about. Now, with the advent of the internet and peoplewho had instantaneous audiences like Matt Drudge, it’s just out of their control ina way that is new. They’re trying to reassert control right now. They had the faith of the people, too, whichthey’ve lost in the spades. Oh, totally, yeah. Understandably. Completely. Understandably. Understandably. Deservedly. Deservedly, in particular after the Iraq War. Yeah. The Iraq War and the 2008 crisis. The bailout, the way that the Bush administration,in particular with Paulson and then also Bernanke and Geithner. Just the way that they hijacked the printingpresses and the government account to bail themselves out and enrich themselves withoutserious consequence. I think we’re living with the aftermath ofthat today. Oh, of course. That’s the thing that’s so frustrating. Having covered the 2016 election, you cansee that people out there were furious and they had some real legitimate reasons to beupset. They had legitimate reasons to be distrustfulof the media. I was in those crowds when Donald Trump wasturning the crowds against us and saying, “Look at those blood suckers,” et cetera,et cetera. That was scary. It wasn’t pleasant for the press, but we deservedit. There was a part of me that was like thisis karma. We suck. But that’s not understood very well. It’s kind of sadomasochism on the trail. Yeah. I do want to get into that because you’vebeen covering campaigns since when? Howard Dean? You’ve been embedded in campaign and- Yeah. This is going to be my fifth. Yeah. You have many interesting stories of that. I just wanted to get through this for thosewho haven’t read the book. It’s a lot of work to do this, but I thinkit’s worthwhile. We talked about the first three. There was the private, the ownership model,the business model, which is the ad model, and then the sourcing, which is in order toget the information, you need to have the relationships with people. Who are those people? They are the people in the government. These things are the things that filter throughthe information. The last two are very interesting, these arethe ones you focus on, which are flak and organizing religion. Talk to me about these filters and how thesehave changed and how they relate in the 21st century. One has massively accelerated, one has massivelydecelerated, I would say. Flak is this idea that Chomsky came up with,which is when a news organization or a reporter gets out of line when they say something that’spolitically unorthodox, like Walter Cronkite coming back from Vietnam and saying we’regoing to lose. Suddenly the network gets flooded with letters. Back then, it came usually from think tankslike Freedom House. They would organize basically primitive astroturfingcampaigns to let people know that they were displeased with the coverage. This acted as a policing mechanism againstcertain kinds of reporters. What ended up happening was news directorsand editors learned to self-censor ahead of time. You can guess what kind of content is goingto get you in trouble and is going to get those letters coming. They just started to avoid assigning thatkind of reporter that kind of story. Flak was important back then. But now it’s a thousand-fold. Amplified. It’s been amplified. It’s been amplified massively by social media,because now I mean you don’t have to wait for somebody to actually write a letter orhave a meeting about it. It comes at you in 50,000 tweets in a secondif you put out something that they don’t like. It’s also logarithmic. You don’t know how bad it’s going to get. It can get really bad, out of control. You could lose your job. Oh, yeah. Your career could be over in 10 seconds. It’s frightening. It’s very frightening to be in the businessright now, especially because reporters, for the most part, in the old days, you don’treally know what reporters thought in their private lives. You didn’t care. They did their little bit, two minutes a day,and then they went home. Now they all have social media presences andthey have- A lot of them have opinions and they feellike they want to share them or they need to share them. I obviously do it. A lot of people voluntarily did that. Now their bosses are telling them that it’smandatory basically, like you have to go on Snapchat and Instagram, Twitter. When I first went on the campaign trail in2004, a typical reporter was maybe doing one hit a day, or two. If you wrote for a newspaper, maybe you werewriting one story. If you work for a cable news network, youwere doing a story that would be produced and repeated. Now they’re probably doing 15 to 30 piecesof content a day. They’re doing vlogs, blogs, tweets. You’re more likely to make a mistake whenthat happens. Oh, yeah. Also, everybody knows who you are now. Your personality comes into play in this massiveway, and it reflects upon the organization. Everybody’s terrified because if you say onewrong thing, suddenly you can be in the middle of this maelstrom of horribleness that canform in a second. That sort of huge amount of impact in thebusiness. Then what you end up seeing is that peopleflock to teams. They get into crowds where the safest contentis saying, “Those people over there are bad,” and you maybe have another group on the otherside that is saying the same thing about you. But the most dangerous places to be- Not have a team. Not have a team. Not be aligned. Not be aligned. You’re one of the unaligned countries theytry to call to war. Exactly, exactly. You made a mess of both houses, a pox on bothhouses. It’s interesting when you say that they’reencouraged to. That reminded me of the case of Liz Spaydat the New York Times where she actually went on Tucker Carlson, which was probably a badidea even though her intentions were good. He really went after her and he went afterthe New York Times. I found her to be very likable and reasonable,very much so. She expressed, I think, a reasonable disapprovaltowards reporters who are reporters, who are not opinion writers at the New York Times,who express strong opinions on Twitter. Her view was that they probably should notbe doing that. This conversation was after the Trump election. Tucker Carlson was also pointing out thatthe headline- The headline was amazing. What was it? It was something like- How are they going to cope with this electionor something like that? It was something like Democrats, foreign leaders,and students prepare for Trump presidency. It was something like that. I obviously exposed the bias that the editorshad around the significance of what that election meant. Well, what they were really doing is signaling,”Here’s who are audience is.” Yeah, exactly. Which is not a crime necessarily, but- A problem, though, if you’re a national newspaperlike the New York Times. Of course. Of course, because you’re signaling to a wholebunch of other people that we’re not for you, which is exactly the opposite of what paperslike the Times used to do. That was her point. Her point was … And it was probably onlytwo years before that, that it would have been extremely unorthodox for the Times todo something like that and for reporters to so openly take a stance. She was basically saying, well, this is aradical change in the business. We should think about what we’re doing. I don’t know if it’s a good idea as the ombudsman. She was the public editor. She was the public editor of the New YorkTimes, yeah. But she was drummed out of the business forsaying that. For basically looking like she had jumpedship, which is horrible, horrible that that … It’s so tribal and so primitive. It’s very primitive. It’s like something you would expect froma chimpanzee troop. In one sense, I can understand that that doesn’tconcern you. You’ve never been aligned in that way. I’ve said to you that you- Well, no. I mean it’s dangerous for me. I mean- Well, this is what I wanted to ask you. I do have a question, because your writingstyle is very combatative. You take no prisoners. Does that not concern you today, the way thatyou write? Does that not worry you? Yeah. I mean my life is not simple now because Ialways made it a point to go after both sides. I would consciously try to pick stories thatwere institutional in nature, bipartisan. I figured most of the overlooked problemswould be- A strong populist. There was always a strong populist undertoneto your writing. Yeah. I mean I think the press, when we’re doingour jobs best, we probably are trying to represent people who have less power. The press counteracts the power that’s institutional. Punching up. Punching up. Punching up, right. You want to look at things from the pointof view of ordinary people. But now there’s a very, very strong pressureout there to jump on board with narratives. Whereas not that long ago, it was considereda virtue for a reporter … Like right after Obama got elected, I did a story about howBarack Obama had chosen- Wall Streeters. … Wall Streeters mostly from Citi Groupto run his economic policy. I was very critical of Barack Obama even thoughI had voted for Barack Obama. But at the time, people were like, “Well,that’s really salutary,” like that’s what a reporter should be doing. If you do something like that now, there arepeople who are real and people who are not real on social media who will swarm all overyou and make your life difficult. That’s why there’s few people doing that now. How has that impacted your willingness todo that? I definitely think about it more than I usedto. I mean I used to reflexively just go whereverstories led. Now I do think twice about what the impactis going to be before I write any story, because it can be extremely unpleasant. I think you have to save your bullets forthe best and most important arguments now. It’s just so much harder to reach. Do you resent the fact that you’ve had tocensor yourself like this? I mean a little bit, but I’ve had it easybefore then. I think other reporters in other countriesobviously have a much more difficult time than I do. I lived in Russia for a long time where peoplewere getting killed for … They actually had to take a real risk. Now I’m basically risking money, which isnot that big a deal. Another interesting point, though, there,then we’ll get to it, that, again, I imagine that the reporters who are risking their lives… Well, what are you talking about? Are you talking about under the Putin regimeor … I was going to make- Both, actually. Both. Well, I was going to make the point that Iimagine that those who are risking their lives during the period where the United Statesis very close with Russia during the transition after the fall of the wall, those would havebeen deemed unworthy victims. Exactly. By today’s standards, Khashoggi is a worthyvictim in the modern narrative. No one would say that his murder is less valuable,but they would say that other murders are. Right. Yeah, I know. If you were to ask anybody who lived throughthe ’90s and the early 2000s in Russia, they would tell you that actually probably morejournalists got killed in the ’90s than under the Putin regime. Now that doesn’t mean it wasn’t dangerousto be a reporter under Putin, it was. It was also more overtly political. With Putin, you were much more likely to bekilled by a gangster than by somebody associated with the government in the ’90s. But there were people who were associatedwith Yeltsin who were murdering journalists left and right in the ’90s, and they didn’treally appear in the news. That was one of the first things that I reallynoticed. I mean I was young back then. I didn’t really know what I was doing, butI thought it was very odd that here we were promoting democracy and freedom and we weresupposed to be on the side of the angels and everything, and there were reporters gettingblown up by exploding briefcases and we’re raising a fuss about it. It’s very strange. But, of course, you’d read Noam Chomsky’sbook by then, so you had some idea. I had some idea. Clearly, we were so heavily invested in BorisYeltsin, a Democrat, that narrative. Anything that counteracted that just didn’tshow up in the news. Well, I mean one of the most iconic imagesof that period was Boris Yeltsin standing next to Bill Clinton, smiling, laughing, jokingon the White House lawn. Oh, of course. That’s was one of the iconic images if youwere to make a collage of the 1990s. That brings us to organizing religion. That’s the fifth filter that Chomsky has. It’s a powerful filter. During the Cold War, the filter was anticommunism,right? Anticommunism, yeah. Of course, we had McCarthy, McCarthyism. Powerful examples of that in practice andreasons to be afraid if you’re a reporter or anyone really. I think under the Bush years, it became thisantiterrorism. Antiterrorism, yeah. What is it today? Well, now there’s Russia is a foe. You don’t want to be called a Putin bot orwhatever the term. A Putin apologist or something. A Putin apologist. Yeah, exactly. A denialist. That’s bad. There’s a cousin to that, which is a fellowtraveler. I think you’ll see what happened with TulsiGabbard last week. I wanted to ask you about her because she’scatching a lot of flak, and I’m just- Flak. Yeah, exactly. She’s catching a lot of … That’s what flakis. I mean she seems so reasonable. Well, there’s- I don’t know much about her and I haven’tstudied the candidates. I know Elizabeth Warren because she’s beenaround forever, and I’ve been in finance for a long time. I’m very familiar with her. Sure. This upcoming Democratic Primary, there’sso much at stake. There’s a tremendous amount of fear that BernieSanders is going to win the nomination. Part of this is wrapped up in the idea thatsome people genuinely are afraid that that’s going to result in Trump getting reelectedbecause Sanders will be the next McGovern, that’s the logic, or he’ll be the next Mondale. But a lot of it has to do with people whoare the political donors in this country are reading the writing on the wall, and theyare understanding that there’s this huge amount of discontent out there and that people wantdifferent kinds of policies. They’re frustrated with wealth and equality. There’s a lot of anger directed towards billionaires. They’re trying to tamp that down as much aspossible, that kind of leveling, redistributionist kind of politics. They’re not willing to make the concessionsnecessary. It brings us back to 2008. The wealth transfer during that period wasenormous. They papered it over through asset price appreciation,but the cracks are still there and they’re getting amplified. I think the volatility that was dampened infinancial markets after 2008 and the fed intervention and the intervention of the government areshowing up in our politics, that volatility showing up at the electoral box. Absolutely. People aren’t stupid. They saw that, okay, I lost my house and 40%of my net worth, or whatever it was after the crash, and nobody bailed me out, but theseidiots who did this- In broad daylight. In broad daylight. I did a show recently where this came to me,and it came to me in the middle of the conversation. I remember that they had put Neel Kashkariin charge of TARP. In TARP, yeah. A Goldman person. Goldman Sachs. Yeah, he was eight years old or somethinglike that. Yeah. He looks so young. Then he, like all these people, went and startedchopping wood for 10 years. He went on a farm- He grew a beard. They all grew beards. But now he’s back. He’s the fed. It’s outrageous. It’s totally insane. Yeah. They’re all totally at it. They don’t know how bad it looks either, andthat’s another thing that’s amazing to me, because if you actually talk to a lot of thesepeople, they’ll say, “Well, who else do you want to put in charge of this? Somebody who doesn’t understand this stuff?” Okay, we get that you understand it, but youalso massively screwed up the whole situation, and people are mad about it. They’ve lost the value in their homes, they’rebeing foreclosed on. That whole thing was completely full of fraud,the foreclosure fraud, all that, and there was no consequence. People are furious about that stuff. It continues to reverberate through Trumpism,through other movements. I think the Sanders movement is the oppositereflection of that. They’re determined to prevent any outbreakof that on the Democratic side. I think Warren, Gabbard, and Sanders are goingto get a lot of heat from the traditional commercial media. Because Warren and Sanders are anti-Wall Street,seen as anti-Wall Street, and Gabbard is antiwar heavily. Antiwar, exactly. She’s catching a lot of flak for somehow beinga Syrian apologist, as if our policies of intervening in the Middle East have actuallymade the world better. No, they’ve been a disaster. Disaster. How much better would things have been ifwe hadn’t invaded Iraq? It’s remarkable that the people that we’readvocating for these policies, they’re still out there advocating today. And they have no clue how this plays out there. It’s people … They’re sending their kidsto the Middle East, and a lot of reporters … We’ve been to the Middle East, we’ve beenon these deployments, these are good kids. They’re trying to be patriotic, they’re tryingto do what they’re told. Then all of a sudden they’re put in theseterrible positions. They’ve got to shoot somebody. They don’t even know what it’s about. They’re piloting drones that are crossingborders and they’re being told to pull the trigger on somebody because some algorithmtells them that they have to. This stuff is damaging. That’s why you go to those neighborhoods wherea lot of veterans are returning home, and those are the places that are the reddestof the red states right now. Also, Matt, I mean do you ever watch thesecommercials that the military puts together? Oh, my God. It’s like video games. It’s like video games. Yeah. That’s amazing. They go to video game conventions. They thought about this a long time. Yeah, they target them. They target these young, in particular, testosterone-fueledmales right when they’re hopped up, “I can do anything.” Yeah, exactly. They say, “Oh, this is going to be exciting. You’re going to get to play with these cooltoys. It’s going to be just like a video game. It’s going to be an adventure. You’re going to hide behind the wall and thebad guy’s going to be … It’s going to be like Fortnite.” Everybody thinks that’s what it is. Then they go over there and it’s completelyconfusing. You have no idea why you’re there. Everybody hates you, and they have reasonsthey hate you. You don’t get those until you’ve been therefor a while. I think it’s a very disillusioning experiencefor a lot of the people. They come back … And, again, the peoplewho are in power, they just discount word-of-mouth, how that works. Our military deployments overseas are justnot popular. When people come home, they don’t sing thepraises of those adventures. No. A lot of them are damaged emotionally, ifnot physically. I suppose physically not as much as they usedto be. Remember, we’re taking a lot of casualtiesand a lot of people were getting injured during that period before and after the surge. Right, yeah. Exactly. Remember? Yeah. This reminded me of George Carlin, GeorgeCarlin’s great bit about, well, first of all, we love war. Americans love war. Why? Because we’re good at it. But also he made the point about how … Ithink he was speaking about Republicans, but this, I think, applies to both parties, butit applies particularly to Republicans because the right to life advocacy is part of theplank. He said, “Republicans, they don’t want youto die.” I forget how he said it. He’s like, “They care about you as long asyou’re in the womb. When they get out there, they don’t give ashit about you. When you turn 18, they want you to go to warand die.” Right, yeah. Exactly. That’s right. That’s right. Yeah. That got me thinking … This is the thoughtprocess. It got me thinking about comedy, it got methinking about, again, this tension between comedy and tragedy, then it got me thinkingabout something that you wrote in your book, which I wrote down here as actually the topquote at the very top of this rundown because I thought it was interesting. This is probably a good segue and then we’llfollow through to the rest of this rundown. You wrote: “As news reporting becomes morepoliticized, more negativistic, less trustworthy, and generally more of a headache to digest,people increasingly are going to turn to narrative as a source of information.” Before you wrote that, you made a point aboutJohn Stewart and this revolution and comedy that happened around the Bush years, wherecomedy became a vehicle for truth at a time where the news media was failing that job,that obligation. What you’re saying now is that we’re movingto this place where narrative becomes a source of information. I’m curious, what did you mean by that? I mean I think I was talking about that, thatpeople are going to get their information from movies, from Netflix series, from videos. Why do you think that is? What’s an example maybe of something whereyou think people are getting their information? Is the quality of information as good becausethey’re getting it from narrative? How does it compare to, let’s say, what JohnStewart did? Because I look back when John Stewart wasdoing his bits, I used to think that’s brilliant, he’s communicating, or when Colbert is goingto the White House and roasting Bush, he’s communicating something important to the restof us, but I also wonder if something isn’t lost by using humor, or wasn’t lost by usinghumor, that needed to be delivered seriously. I ask that also in the context of your pointabout narrative. Well, of course, something’s lost when you- Fictionalize. And when you do comedy because there’s a limitto how much you can inform people that way, because the driving message of all comedyis don’t take life too seriously. Everything is absurd. Ultimately, we’re all going to die, and thatsucks and let’s laugh about it. That’s at the root of comedy. But if you’re asking somebody to take somethingseriously, you can’t make a joke about it. There’s a limit to how much you [crosstalk00:56:19]. Right, exactly. That’s true. What Steward did, I think, was incrediblyimportant and cool. What was so great about it is that he wentafter both sides, and he’s pretty ruthless about it. I actually think he was funnier in a way aboutthe Democrats than he was about the Republicans. He nailed this pretension on that side. That was really interesting. But it instantly becomes not funny when itbecomes partisan. Saturday Night Live to me is totally unfunnynow. I agree. Colbert, too. I cannot watch Stephen Colbert’s late nightshow because it’s completely one-sided. Jimmy Kimmel’s funny because he whacks bothsides. Yeah, exactly. Colbert, which is disappointing, because hisshow- Used to be great. … used to be really funny, in that respect. But you have to have some place for peopleto go where they can depend on getting the straight dope about things. Where do you go now? I don’t know. I’m a news consumer myself, and I’ve veryfrustrated right now. Podcasts. Yeah, podcasts. Exactly. In all honesty, there are certain people … Imean they’re not perfect, but I used to have a conflicted relationship with Sam Harris,but I found him to be a valuable source of information because he brings an intellectualhonesty. He’s not perfect, but there is an intellectualhonesty to his view and an openness and a willingness to be vulnerable to someone else’scounterargument. He’s not in a position to just attack theother person. Yeah. Well, I mean I think there’s always valuein somebody who tells you exactly who they are and what their opinions are, because itrings truer than somebody who pretends to have no opinion, like a traditional anchorman. They’re actually hiding biases that way. But also they have tremendous power. Tucker Carlson’s a great example. I mean Tucker Carlson brings people on hisprogram. His not alone. I’m just picking him as a good example. He brings them on and it’s framed. I mean he’s got so much power in that framing. He just starts berating them. It’s not a conversation, it’s a scolding. Yeah, no, it’s a performance art. That’s what Rachel Maddow will do and allthese other anchors as well, right? Absolutely, yeah. Tucker Carlson doesn’t bring people on towin. Or to learn. He doesn’t want to learn. He doesn’t want learn. He doesn’t want to learn either. Yeah, exactly. He brings people on to deliver a message thathe wants to deliver, and he’s going to look good doing it. The only way that people should go on thatshow is if they understand what they’re getting into and they know what the end result isgoing to be. Bill O’Reilly was the first person to reallydo that exceptionally well, right? I think Carlson is better at it than Billis. I mean- Tucker Carlson is more condescending thananyone else I’ve seen. He’s condescending, he’s quick. He’s quick-witted, yeah. Bill O’Reilly is a C-plus mind. I mean I think he’s another Boston person. I grew up around people who worked with him,and he had a shtick. He didn’t deviate from it very much. He was kind of a phony. But Bill O’Reilly was trying to sell was,”Oh, I’m a man of the people. I’m one of these guys who hangs out in Patchogue,Long Island. I could play pickup,” or whatever it is. He’s not. He became a rich dude who pretended not tobe one, and it didn’t go over well. Tucker Carlson doesn’t hide who he is. I think that goes over better on TV. He’s also a better writer, and that comesacross. Some of his monologues are good, but always,for me, they spin off a little bit. I want to close off one thing before we moveon about organizing religions, because I thought about this, and it wasn’t clear to me whatwas, let’s say, the organizing religion of today. But there is one that comes to my mind andsomething that we’ve covered on the program … One time with Jonathan Haidt on his book,The Coddling of the American Mind, another time, we had Robby Soave on after the eventsthat happened at the Lincoln Memorial with the Covington Catholic School kids and theNative American veteran … this white oppression, this anti-white oppression as an organizingreligion. I don’t know that there is one dominant religionlike there was antiterrorism or anticommunism, but this is a very powerful one that has emerged. I want to take a quote for you because I thinkit’s really interesting. I was actually tweeting about this before,Kamala Harris tweeted it out, because I was basically thinking how does this integratewith American foreign policy. She wrote, “Russia was able to influence ourelections because they figured out that racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, and transphobiaare America’s Achilles’ heel.” By the way, transphobia was not even a thing10 years ago. I don’t know how many people even knew itwas something that they would even be afraid of, or America’s Achilles’ heel. “These issues aren’t only civil rights, they’realso a matter of national security. We have to deal with that.” I have a question. Given everything you know and everything you’veread, given what we’ve been talking about, given this thing about organizing religion,about flak, how does that fit in? This is a very dangerous topic. I think one of the things about this new movementwith … It’s intersectionality. That’s the word everybody’s using. We’ve covered that on the show. People know what that is. Our listeners know what that is. Yeah. It’s a campus intellectual movement that probablywould not have broken out of academia in the way that it has, except that I think whenit becomes interesting is when somebody who’s already in power decides to appropriate anideology. I think what we’ve seen in recent years isthat since Trump came to power, you’ve seen the mainstream of the Democratic Party andsome of the Never Trumpers on the Republican side have draped themselves in some of thosethemes. It doesn’t mean that they’re not legitimate,but it’s begun to become an organizing political theme. It’s not in the same way as maybe anticommunismwas once upon a time. That encompassed all aspects of society, communismor anticommunism, or war against communism, because there was a nation, state, and everythingelse. It couldn’t possibly be that way, but it’sgot this civil war quality to it. Right. There was a huge amount of resentment, certainlyfrom Trump voters in 2016, that I found from people who … There was an amazing momentin the campaign where Trump was actually plummeting in the polls. It was in August of 2016. Bannon sent him out on this tour around thecountry to start talking about how he was going to be the savior of the African Americancommunity. I remember that. It was so bizarre. That’s interesting. It was so weird. Bannon sent him out to do that, huh? Yeah. Bannon sent him out to do that. Bannon became the campaign manager. He does this. He sends Trump on this tour. I was on that tour. It was so weird. This is after he replaced Manafort? Right after he replaced Manafort? Exactly. Exactly. He starts giving these speeches, how, “Oh,I care so much about the African American.” What that was really about was he was tryingto recapture a segment of the vote that needed psychological permission to vote for him. Initially, a lot of Republicans felt thatTrump was too racist to vote for, but they also hated being labeled as racist for beingRepublicans. There were a lot of people who were torn. I feel like that made him look more racistwhen he did that. It did to us, but I think to a lot of Republicanvoters, they were trying to justify to themselves, they were trying to say, “Hey, I want to expressmy anger over being painted a racist. Here’s somebody who really does care.” I mean it was transparently ridiculous, itseemed, at the time, but my point is that this theme is so charged in American societyright now for people on all sides. There’s a huge amount of resentment out thereamong people who feel like they’re being painted as transphobic, homophobic, racist, whitesupremacist, all those things. Is it an organizing religion? It’s certainly something that people don’twant to be on the wrong side of now. Well, most certainly not. It also fits very nicely into this worthyversus unworthy victim system. We talked about intersectionality. Intersectionality is a hierarchy of victimhood,which is born out of these non-linear relationships between groups that intersect. Within this narrative, there are clearly worthyvictims, there are unworthy victims, and it’s showing up everywhere. Now we’re dealing with it, of course, in Virginia. It’s the latest state where the governor wasin a picture where he says it wasn’t him now, but I don’t know if it was him or wasn’t him. Regardless, it’s on his Facebook page of eitherhim in black face or wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood. His deputy governor or lieutenant governoris embroiled in a sexual assault scandal. The attorney general’s in it also. It’s consuming the society in all sorts ofdifferent ways. Anyway, I think it’s an interesting one becauseit shows up, and Kamala Harris had that tweet, and I thought it was also interesting. It’s something that we’ve covered. Just to get to that for a moment, I mean Ithink most Americans have similar feelings about racism, sexism, all of those things. What’s dangerous is when it becomes such acommon political tactic. I mean I think right now, there’s a tendencyto say, “Well, if you’re against this politician, you’re a racist, you’re a white supremacist.” I mean that happened with the Bernie Sanderscampaign, and that was very damaging to that campaign, I think. I remember that. That whole Bernie Bro movement, everything. There’s two different things going on. There’s the real narrative of racial oppression,which is a very powerful central part of the American story, and is unresolved, clearly. Then there’s the other thing where I thinkthat there are people who are using some of those words for political purposes. Of course. I think we’re dealing with two different things. I mean I wrote a whole book about the policekilling Eric Garner. It’s been a huge part of my career was writingabout police brutality and things like that. Well, the massive injustice and incarceration. Incarceration rates. The drug war. The differing outcomes in the criminal justicesystem. All those things are just huge unresolvedissues. But I think that’s separate from … There’sa rhetorical aspect to this that’s going to pop up in the 2020 presidential race thatis different from the historical narrative, which is going to be interesting. That’s so scary. The same problem happened in climate change. We talked about it. We had the head of Climate Science at NASA,Gavin Schmidt, on the program. This was another point of the conversation,which is when something is real and there’s a substantive part that you need a conversationfor, when it becomes politicized, it destroys everything. But to this point about … You mentionedBernie Sanders. What about during the 2008 Clinton-Obama campaign,where Bill Clinton got labeled a racist for … I think it was him or it was … I thinkit was him, for saying something about comparing Obama to Jesse Jackson or something like that. But the point is I mean, look, these guysare politicians. They know how to operate, but- That was some stuff that was before the SouthCarolina primary. It was intentional? Well, there were some stuff going on therethat was traditionally subtle politics. There was a thing that Hillary said abouthow Martin Luther King was great, but he needed a president to get things done. Oh, that’s interesting. I didn’t hear that one. She said that? It’s not racial … Is it racial politics? Well, that is kind of racist because what’sthe comparison between MLK and Obama? Zero. Well, then there’s skin color. There’s no relationship between the two. It’s a certain kind of messaging that wasgoing on during that campaign. I think everybody was aware of it. There was the leaking of a picture of Obamain a dashiki. And the Jeremiah Wright stuff. That was heavily racist. The Jeremiah Wright stuff. Race played a huge part in that campaign. It was very bitter, it was very ugly, boththe Democratic primary and the general elections. And the general elections. Yes. I don’t know about Bill Clinton specifically,but that was very politically charged. I just remember when James Carville was outthere. He was like, “That man doesn’t have a racistbone … ” I can’t do it. Can you do his accent? I can’t. I’ve met him but, yea. I can’t. “He doesn’t have a racist bone in his body.” “Bone,” something like that. But, of course, remember, during the Bushyears, anything that was anti-Israel was immediately anti-Semitic. That is used constantly. This is nothing new. You know what I mean? It’s used all the time. Yeah, I know. This is happening right now with the Omarthing, the APEC issue. You know what’s interesting, though, I waslistening to a New York Times reporter, her last name is Barry, I think. I can’t remember. But she was making the point, and I didn’tknow this was happening, but somehow within this construct of worthy versus unworthy victims,American Jews and Israelis have lost some of that power that they had in the narrativeearlier. She was making this point. She was on The Joe Rogan show, which you wereon recently. I wanted to ask you what that was like. But I think that’s interesting. Again, it fits into this point, which is there’sa substantive reality of all things in the world. The case of Israel and Palestine, where couldyou find more nuance? You’d be hard-pressed to find a world wherethere’s more nuance where you need less grandstanding, because you’ve got a real problem, and it’snot going to be solved with grandstanding. You know what I mean? I’ve actually gotten in trouble for sayingthat I don’t like to talk about Israel and Palestine because I’d never covered it. I think that’s the prime example of a storythat you could only do if you’re deeply in the middle of it and committed to the longgame of looking at all sides of it, because it’s so filled with subtleties and difficulties. The problem with modern media is that in theTwitter age, we’ve reduced a lot of things that are extremely complex to a few characters. That always reduces things to the dumbestform in politics. It’s been a very negative thing. It’s especially dangerous when you start gettingrace and nationality and patriotism and all those other things involved. Then it gets more dangerous. Well, that also brings something else thatyou wrote about in Hate, INC., which is not only that everyone’s got an opinion, but youbetter have one. You need to have one. There’s that quote I have from you here: “Thetwo most taboo lines in all media in America are “I don’t know” and “I don’t care”. Right, yeah. Exactly. It’s one of the biggest deceptions on television. A million years ago, I got invited to go onCNN for some panel show. I think it had to do with finance I was beingasked on. This was before you went through your careerchange? No, it was just after that. Just after that. It was probably ’09 or something like that. Okay. I get asked on. Then at the end of the segment, they askedme a question about Syria or something, or some Middle Eastern thing that had just happened. I said, “Oh, well, I don’t cover that. I don’t know.” I literally just said on the cameras thatI can’t answer that question, I don’t know anything about it. I was never invited on again because thatdoesn’t happen on television. You can’t admit that your knowledge base isnot a million miles deep. Whereas the reality is when I wrote aboutthis … Look at Wolf Blitzer’s Jeopardy performance. These guys don’t know anything, for the mostpart. They just read what’s in front of them. It’s a huge deception that we know everything,that we’re all-knowing. Actually, we learned this stuff 10 minutesago. The other thing about not caring is we cannever ever imply that the news isn’t the most important thing in your life. Whereas the reality is we should tell peoplepretty regularly, “Hey, spend more time with your kids.” You know what I mean? Smile. Well, as you said, it’s bad for you. It’s like smoking. Yeah, exactly. We’re going to go to the overtime soon, Matt,where I want to talk to you about the Goldman scandal, get back to this point about thefinancial crisis, and some more about politics. But I want to close off, because I wantedthe full episode to really be a focus on media, and I think we’ve done a good job of goingthrough the propaganda model and updating it along the lines of your book. There’s one other thing that I want to talkabout, because my experience in media, I was blogging right before and during the financialcrisis, when you were writing as well, and I had a radio show on 91.5. Then I had the opportunity to create a televisionshow, which I was able to produce on the RT Network. This was a fascinating experience for me becauseI was in this subversive group. I could never have done a financial program,which is what my show was, Capital Account, if I didn’t do it on the RT Network, whichhad no corporate sponsors. It was a great show and there wasn’t any shilling. It was not … Of course, I didn’t talk aboutRussia. I caught flak for ever mentioning China ina negative way. That was something I had to learn, obviouslyI knew about Russia. But other than that, we didn’t talk aboutpolitics. So, I think it was a valuable show. And so, that gave me an appreciation for networkslike RT, like Press TV, like Al Jazeera, and some of these non-aligned networks, like thenon-aligned nations. This is something I wanted to talk to youabout because we were talking about the evolution of media. We mentioned CNN, we mentioned Fox. They’re both children of the technology ofcable and culturally impacted by what’s going on in the Republican Party, talk radio, etcetera. Then the internet disrupted first the press,newspapers and classifieds, Craig’s List,, et cetera. Then YouTube was really a watershed for thebroadcast cable industry, where all of a sudden you had … I mean the craziest cases, ofcourse, are like Alex Jones. But you had this revolution in media to nowwhere you’ve got guys like Joe Rogan. You were on Joe’s show. I have no idea. Maybe you can tell us how many millions ofviewers and listeners. Oh, it’s unbelievable. He’s like CBS. Yeah, exactly. He’s a one-man CBS basically. The reaction to being on his show comparedto being on any of the big three networks is there’s no comparison. That’s remarkable. Yeah. That’s so remarkable, that is just mind-blowing,because it’s literally just this and like shitty cameras, shitty lighting, right? Yeah, I guess. Yeah. I mean he’s not going to tell you it’s not. That’s part of the appeal. Just like a guy who used to host Fear Factor,he’s a comedian, is like a fighter, host, UFC program, an everyday Joe, and his nameis Joe, and they got more viewers than any of the networks. Absolutely. What’s so interesting about that is the networksstill have no clue how little they matter to ordinary people. They still think that what they say not onlyhas importance, but resonates. They don’t get that people hate them, notjust a little bit but to an extraordinary degree. Personalities like Joe, you’re absolutelyright, it’s the low tech set up, it’s the intimacy of you know who I am, you can seeall my flaws, there’s not makeup covering everything. You know what I mean? I make mistakes. When I get my interviews, sometimes I don’tknow what I’m talking about. I’m a dummy. Yeah. I’ll admit it. This is for informational purposes, bringpeople on. The conversations are sometimes good, theysometimes go off in tangents. All that resonates with people a lot morethan the intensely produced segments that you get on network television. I constantly struggle with this because Iwork in this business and I’m dealing with people who just don’t see, especially withthe political campaign, like the presidential campaign, they just don’t see how they turnpeople off. Well, you’re right in Hate, INC. Everyone seems to hate the media. Nobody in the media seems to understand why. Then you proceed to explain. Well, we won’t get into that here. I bring this up also because I think a lotabout this. I mean I started this show because … I hada brain tumor and I had developed dementia- Oh, my God. … which is why I had ended my work in televisionand I took so many years off as a result of that. During that time, I put on a conference inNew York and I also created a theater company, started putting on off-Broadway productions. But I always wanted to get back into this. I started going to meetups around New YorkCity, because I used to work in tech before I got into any of these stuff, in video gamesand on the application development side of television. I was looking at some of these emerging technologiesthat I was interested in, like AR, VR, and then ed tech, too, when I started thinkingabout what is the future of news, because I did miss this stuff. I started this show because, first of all,I see these media companies as being multimedia now. Vox is a good example. Vox doesn’t differentiate between the printand the podcast and the videos. Increasingly, they’re all part of the samething. Yeah, you have to do that now if you’re oneof those companies. Well, I have my own ideas about where mediais going or could go, but the last question I wanted to ask you for the episode is whatdo you see is the future of media? Where is this medium going? What is the future? I think there’s going to be an enormous showdowncoming. There’s going to be a moment in time wherewe’re going to have to decide whether there’s going to be some kind of Orwellian faucetthat people in power are going to get to exercise over all media, or whether we’re going tohave a system of Joe Rogans being the influential messengers of society, because we’ve alreadyseen that people in government are incredibly frustrated at the situation right now. Every time that the internet has looked likeit’s this big democratizing force, there’s been a wave of reaction. I think it began really with wiping out AlexJones, but- How do you feel about the decision? I think we could both agree that he’s nuts. I think we had an existing system to dealwith people like Alex Jones. It didn’t work very well in his case. The whole idea is if you do what he did andI think the things that he said about the families were libelous. But we had a system to deal with that speechthat extraordinarily effective, but it was intentionally slow. We erred on the side of not censoring. For a long time, we had this court-based systemthat weeded out people who did bad things on the air. This new system where there’s a couple ofchoke points with internet platforms and then we can just zap people is extremely dangerous. It’s scary. People have no idea how bad that can be. The thing that was really scary about theAlex Jones thing was the coordination. It was all of a sudden five or six of themat once deciding. Now if that becomes formalized and there’ssome kind of a procedure … Because you already have a hidden regulation system with media. If you do a Google search for whatever, itdoesn’t matter, the great example is Trotskyism, what will come up will be a New York Timesarticle about Trotsky or something like that, whereas the leading Trotskyist site in theworld, the World Socialist website, will be like 200. They’re already making decisions about contentthat you see. But if they can directly remove obnoxiouscontent and there’s only a few platforms, the potential for a 1984 situation is veryscary. That’s what I worry about. I think we’re going to have a moment wherewe’re going to have to decide is that going to happen or not? It’s too much power. In fact, I was telling you that I’m in themidst of reading Shoshana Zuboff’s book, she’s going to be my next guest after you, SurveillanceCapitalism. It deals exactly with this stuff. I mean I think it’s tremendous, it’s scary,and it’s something that needs to be dealt with. Matt, thank you so much for spending so muchtime in the episode. Stick around. Oh, thank you, Demetri. Yeah. We should mention if you want to read thebook, it’s at Absolutely. In fact, I’m sorry. I’m glad you mentioned that. No, it’s okay. Also, give out your Twitter handle, Matt. It’s @mtaibbi. What is Substack again, for people that don’tknow? Substack is this cool little platform thatallows independent writers to … It’s like an email newsletter service. I’m serializing the book. It’s going to come out in physical form laterthis year, but doing it as I go. You can get most of the chapters already. All you have to do is subscribe. Right now most of the book is already online. I co-wrote another with a drug dealer lastyear. That’s online there as well. That’s a really cool story. You’re also Matt Taibbi. You’re a rock star. We didn’t have a chance, I wanted to talkto you a little bit about when you and Jeremy Scahill and Glenn Greenwald got together andcreated The Intercept, or I’d want to know exactly who came first, when. Yeah, they were first. Right. But it made sense. I mean it made sense to all of us. The three of you made sense. It’s because I think you’re all subversive. You’re not part of the herd. You differentiate. In that sense, you’re a bit of a rock star,so it’s always good to follow rock star journalists who write interesting things. Well, thank you. I don’t know. They’re more rock starry than me, for sure. That’s what I think I would say. But thank you so much for having me on, Demetri. It’s been fun. Thank you, Matt. And that was my episode with Matt Taibbi. I want to thank Matt for being on my program. Today’s episode of Hidden Forces was recordedat Creative Media Design Studios in New York City. For more information about this week’s episodeor if you want easy access to related programming, visit our website at and subscribeto our free email list. If you want access to overtime segments, episodetranscripts, and show rundowns full of links and detailed information related to each andevery episode, check out our premium subscription available through the Hidden Forces website,or through our Patreon page. Today’s episode was produced by me and editedby Stylianos Nicolaou. For more episodes, you can check out our websiteat Join the conversation at Facebook, Twitter,and Instagram, @HiddenForcesPod, or send me an email at As always, thanks for listening. We’ll see you next week.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.