The Backchannel

Zaid Jilani and Leighton Woodhouse

For our regular listeners of Extremely Offline: It’s been a while! Since we effectively closed down XO, the world has gone to shit. We’re not necessarily saying the one caused the other, but just in case, we’re bringing the pod back, but under a new name. Zaid and I, along with our friend Shant Mesrobian, have launched a new show on YouTube called “The Backchannel,” and we’re going to stream it here as an audio podcast, as well. The format is a little different, and a little looser, than XO, but with the same spirit of free discourse, and with some of our past guests popping in from time to time. Hope you’ll stay a subscriber.—Leighton

All Episodes

Amy Coney Barrett appears to be on a glide path to confirmation to the land's highest court. Why haven't Democrats been able to find a cohesive narrative to stop her? Zaid and Shant discuss.

Oct 2020

19 min 48 sec

The U.S. Department of Education takes Princeton literally, but maybe not seriously. Education Secretary Betsy Devos is opening an investigation into Princeton University following the president's claim that racism persists at his university. Is Devos's civil rights investigation just trolling or is there a more serious point to be made about how careless statements can make civil rights enforcement difficult?

Sep 2020

18 min 6 sec

*Please support us on Patreon to help keep this channel going*https://www.patreon.com/TheBackchannelNational Public Radio recently featured a provocative new book called "In Defense of Looting," which is exactly what it sounds like. It wasn't long before every corner of the Internet was picking it apart, sharing absurd material from the text of the book. At the Backchannel, we decided it would make for a hilarious game show. We took five real passages from the book and created five of our own. Play along with us and see if you can tell what is real from what is satire.

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Sep 2020

32 min 33 sec

Kenosha isn't just a place where riots broke out after a controversial police shooting. With the media and the President of the United States converging on the Midwestern town, we invited journalist Steve Horn, who grew up there, to tell us about the Kenosha we don't know. We explore the town's history, economy, culture, and political climate in an in-depth interview.*Please support us on Patreon to help keep this channel going*https://www.patreon.com/TheBackchannel

Sep 2020

42 min 18 sec

WTF is happening in Portland? A lot of Americans are asking themselves that as protests and riots have now rocked the city for over 80 days following the death of George Floyd. Reason contributor Nancy Rommelman, a former Portland native who has reported on the demonstrations from the ground, joins us to lay out what's happening.Read her latest dispatch from Portland here: https://reason.com/2020/08/24/when-you-say-yes-to-hate-dispatch-from-portland/

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Aug 2020

37 min 55 sec

Is the Democratic Party serious about addressing wealth inequality? During negotiations with Republicans about upcoming coronavirus stimulus packages, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer wants to repeal the cap on the federal deduction for state and local taxes, which would primarily benefit the wealthiest Americans. Shant and Zaid discuss the wider Democratic Party's approach to inequality, or lack thereof, by talking about the party platform for 2020.

Aug 2020

14 min 35 sec

It increasingly feels like parts of the left and right agree that they should be able to dictate your personal morality, forcing you to adopt certain norms and values.One new study suggests that this is because parts of the far-right and woke left share the same "Dark Triad" personality traits -- including narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. Another finds that these same traits are associated with strategically deploying victimhood to manipulate people. Shant and Zaid discuss these studies and what it says about contemporary politics. Read the first study here:https://scottbarrykaufman.com/wp-cont...and the second one here:https://www.gwern.net/docs/psychology...Please support this channel:https://www.patreon.com/TheBackchannel

Aug 2020

13 min 55 sec

The right has spent years arguing that immigrants don't assimilate well into American culture, while the left has played up America's flaws, arguing that the country simply isn't as desirable as we're told.What if they're both wrong?On this episode, Zaid and Shant talk about a recent piece Zaid wrote for the online magazine Persuasion, in which he argues that immigrants are among the most patriotic and hard-working Americans, and that if we want to strengthen America's civic culture, we should embrace immigration.Zaid's Persuasion piece on immigration:https://www.persuasion.community/p/immigrants-are-far-more-patrioticPew's data on what countries are most optimistic about the future:https://www.pewresearch.org/global/2014/10/09/emerging-and-developing-economies-much-more-optimistic-than-rich-countries-about-the-future/Brookings survey showing poor blacks and hispanics are more optimistic than poor whites:https://www.brookings.edu/articles/why-are-black-poor-americans-more-optimistic-than-white-ones/Chris Arnade’s piece at American Compass:https://americancompass.org/immigrants-and-the-american-dream/

Aug 2020

29 min 33 sec

Why is the left starting to act more like the right? To answer that question, The Backchannel is joined by two of the country's most prominent left-of-center writers: Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi and The Intercept's Glenn Greenwald. The five of us discuss how puritanical attitudes have become so prominent on the progressive left.If you enjoy our show, please help us to keep making it! Contribute via our Patreon: http://patreon.com/thebackchannelFurther reading:• Matt Taibbi on the left becoming the right: https://taibbi.substack.com/p/the-left-is-now-the-right• Matt Taibbi on "cancel culture": https://taibbi.substack.com/p/if-its-not-cancel-culture-what-kind• Matt Taibbi on "White Fragility": https://taibbi.substack.com/p/on-white-fragility• Matt Taibbi on the media: https://taibbi.substack.com/p/the-news-media-is-destroying-itself• Glenn Greenwald on "cancel culture": https://theintercept.com/2020/07/14/cancel-culture-martina-navratilova-documentary/• Leighton Woodhouse on Antifa (2017): https://leightonwoodhouse.com/the-ugly-side-of-antifa/

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Jul 2020

1 hr 13 min

The U.S. is experiencing an unprecedented surge in gun purchases by first-time gun buyers amid the pandemic and a period of civil unrest. We talk about why it's happening and what studies show the long-term consequences could be.Studies:Pandemics, Protests and Firearms: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3593956Ecological and Cultural Factors Underlying the Global Distribution of Prejudice: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0221953

Jul 2020

13 min 43 sec

Facing a well-funded challenger from within her own party, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) dispatched a mailer pointing out that he is backed by a number of out-of-state big donors who made their fortunes on Wall Street. An article in Vice News quickly pointed out that every donor listed is Jewish, leading to complaints by some that these mailers are antisemitic. Omar's defenders argue that their religion is irrelevant. Who's right? Daniel Marans, reporter at HuffPost, joins The Backchannel to discuss.Apologies for the poor audio in this episode.• Vice article: https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/ep45wj/ilhan-omar-campaign-accuses-opponent-of-being-in-the-pocket-of-wall-street-and-only-references-jewish-donors• Daniel's latest on the race: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/unions-blast-antone-melton-meaux-ilhan-omar-challenger-jackson-lewis-law-firm_n_5f1a3cb5c5b6296fbf401fd4

Jul 2020

28 min 20 sec

Former Ohio Republican governor John Kasich will get a starring role at the Democratic Party's national convention this year. Meanwhile, a group of former Republican consultants are making big bucks with the Lincoln Project, a Super PAC blanketing the airwaves attacking Trump. The left, understandably, feels like it's lost control over the election's narrative. But is it is a self-inflicted wound? The Backchannel discusses.

Jul 2020

12 min 53 sec

Has the National Labor Relations Board gone woke? A ruling by an all-male, all-Republican three-member panel says that employees who use offensive language during a labor dispute can now be fired for that language. Zaid Jilani, Leighton Woodhouse and Shant Mesrobian discuss whether this move towards political correctness is actually cover to make it easier to fire workers during what are usually tense labor organizing campaigns.• Bloomberg story on the ruling: https://news.bloomberglaw.com/daily-labor-report/nlrbs-gm-ruling-gives-employers-more-slack-to-discipline-speech• The NLRB decision: https://aboutblaw.com/R8UCorrection to something said in this episode: In the anecdote about the Seattle Times reporter, he was actually suspended and then resigned about a month later. He was not fired outright.

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Jul 2020

19 min 9 sec

The Backchannel's Zaid Jilani and Shant Mesrobian talk about the latest speech crime moral panic on a university campus, this time at Fordham University.

Jul 2020

4 min 30 sec

Faced with large scale protests and a dire economy, cities around America are defunding their police services. Everywhere from Baltimore to Seattle to Portland are considering large cuts or have passed large cuts in the recent weeks and months since the protests started after the death of George Floyd. Many would argue these cuts would improve policing by forcing cities to rely on non-police alternatives. But in this episode, we call into question that premise.• Read Leighton's 2015 piece here: https://gawker.com/50-years-after-the-riots-watts-projects-and-lapd-learn-1723326136• New Yorker story on the Albuquerque police: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/02/02/son-deceased

Jul 2020

32 min 14 sec

People's Policy Project founder Matt Bruenig tells us what the racial wealth gap in America really is and what to do about it.

Jul 2020

18 min 46 sec

Journalist Michael Tracey joins The Backchannel to talk about his trip interviewing people whose businesses were destroyed by rioting. Tracey's interviews highlight the human impact of the riots, demonstrating how many working class people and immigrants suffered from the consequences.

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Jul 2020

10 min 5 sec

For our regular listeners of Extremely Offline: It’s been a while! Since we effectively closed down XO, the world has gone to shit. We’re not necessarily saying the one caused the other, but just in case, we’re bringing the pod back, but under a new name.Zaid and I, along with our friend Shant Mesrobian, have launched a new show on YouTube called “The Backchannel,” and we’re going to stream it here as an audio podcast, as well. The format is a little different, and a little looser, than XO, but with the same spirit of free discourse, and with some of our past guests popping in from time to time. This is our first episode, featuring Zaid, Kmele Foster from the podcast The Fifth Column, and Katie Herzog from the podcast Blocked and Reported, about one of the worst books ever written, White Fragility. Hope you’ll stay a subscriber.—Leighton• The Fifth Column: http://wethefifth.com/• Blocked and Reported: https://www.patreon.com/blockedandreported/posts

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Jul 2020

56 min 39 sec

With Andrew Yang's insurgent bid for the presidency in the headlines, many are asking what it means to be Asian-American in today's America. To start with, what do we mean when we say "Asian-American"? Does it mean being descended from the world's most diverse continent? Is there a distinct Asian-American culture or politics?I'm Zaid Jilani and my co-host is Leighton Woodhouse. We're the hosts and producers of Extremely Offline, a podcast that brings people from different political tribes together to talk across differences. We also both happen to be Asian-American. But to help us decipher exactly what that means, on this episode we're joined by two other Asian-Americans.On the right, we have Wesley Yang, a contributor to Tablet Magazine and the author of the book Souls of Yellow Folk. On the left, we have returning guest Lee Fang, a reporter for The Intercept.We hope you enjoy the following conversation, where all four of us wrestle with what it means to be Asian in America. And if you'd like to help us continue to produce these episodes, please consider contributing to our Patreon at patreon.com/extremelyoffline.Further Reading:The Souls of Yellow Folk, by Wesley Yang

Dec 2019

1 hr 13 min

“Cancel culture” is the less-than-perfect name for the tendency of extremely online people to form mobs and publicly shame others in response to perceived cultural and political transgressions, from sending racist tweets to selling food of a culture that’s not your own. Sometimes it’s celebrities who are cancelled for choosing a “problematic” role in a movie or making an offensive joke on stage. Sometimes it’s regular people who posted something dumb or misconstrued on Twitter, or who got caught on camera doing something insensitive or misunderstood in real life.From the perspective of cancel culture’s critics, such incidents are examples of a dangerous tendency toward mob justice on social media platforms and in some offline spaces as well, like college campuses. From the perspective of its defenders, it’s the product of the democratization and social leveling of the internet, which has allowed for previously excluded voices to make themselves heard in the public arena, ruffling some feathers in the process.Osita Nwanevu, a writer at The New Republic, has made the latter case, in a provocative essay called “The Cancel Culture Con.” In it, he names, among others, the journalist Jesse Singal as someone who has raised a false flag against cancel culture. Jesse, who has, many times over, been targeted for cancellation himself, wrote two essays for his newsletter in response to Osita’s piece.If you have the time, you’ll get more out of this episode if you go back and read Osita’s piece in The New Republic, and Jesse’s two responses, which you can find at jessesingal.substack.com; our discussion gets somewhat into the weeds of that dialogue. And if the phenomenon of cancel culture is entirely new to you, we especially encourage you to read them first.Background reading/viewing:• Osita’s New Republic story: https://newrepublic.com/article/155141/cancel-culture-con-dave-chappelle-shane-gillis• Jesse’s responses1.     https://jessesingal.substack.com/p/on-cancel-culture-the-new-republic2.     https://jessesingal.substack.com/p/a-followup-point-about-narcissism• YA fiction article by Kat Rosenfield: https://www.vulture.com/2017/08/the-toxic-drama-of-ya-twitter.html• San Francisco mural controversy: https://www.citylab.com/equity/2019/08/george-washington-history-mural-san-francisco-arnautoff/595363/• Leighton's 2017 documentary adaptation of Angela Nagle's Kill All Normies, which Jesse appears in: https://vimeo.com/263452186

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Oct 2019

59 min 9 sec

We’re living through an era of enormous transition, most significantly from a world governed by free market fundamentalism to something new — something we can’t yet quite discern and which could take radically different forms depending on the political decisions we make as a society. Two of the founding scholars of sociology, Karl Marx and Max Weber, tackled broad questions and themes about how economic and political history unfolds, which are helpful to interpreting events today.Marx and Weber came from very different places in their thinking — politically, philosophically, and methodologically. In this episode of XO, we explore both the insights and the limitations of these two foundational thinkers in making sense of today’s rapidly unraveling global political order.Professor Dylan Riley is a political sociologist who uses the comparative-historical method to study socialism, capitalism, fascism and democracy. Professor Neil Fligstein is an economic and political sociologist who focuses on how organizations develop, and the interactions between markets and the bureaucracies and institutions of the state.Charlie Eaton, who studied under both Riley and Fligstein at UC Berkeley, is a professor at UC Merced. He studies the financialization of higher education, and has been on XO before. He co-hosted this episode.

Sep 2019

1 hr 9 min

Health care in America remains one of the most important issues for partisans on every side, as costs continue to rise with no end in sight.Adam Gaffney, President of Physicians for a National Health Program, believes that the best way to tackle this problem is through a single-payer health care system, in which everybody receives health insurance from the U.S. federal government, free at the point of service. Chris Pope, who researches health care at the Manhattan Institute, disagrees. He prefers a more market-based approach and argues that government intervention generally makes prices worse.As a reminder, this podcast is a labor of love, but it does cost time and money to produce it. If you'd like to support us, please go to patreon.com/extremelyoffline.

Aug 2019

1 hr 33 min

July's Democratic primary debates were an opportunity for the progressive and more establishment factions of the party to hash out their differences and present voters with different visions going into the 2020 presidential elections.Bill Scher is a veteran of liberal politics who has been involved in left-of-center organizing since the early 2000s. Today, he's a regular columnist at Politico Magazine, where he often writes in defense of the Democratic Party establishment's approach to achieving legislation.Richard Eskow was a staffer on the Bernie Sanders campaign in 2016, and hosts a radio show where he discusses a number of issues including retirement security and his belief that the Democratic establishment is seriously out of touch.On this episode, they'll offer their reactions to the debate and their views on where the Democrats should go in 2020.Due to technical difficulties and limited time on the part of our guests, this episode will be short and sweet, but we hope you enjoy yourself and look forward to future episodes, where we'll do our best to retain our full-length format.

Aug 2019

16 min 16 sec

There's no one who knows the mood of voters who attend presidential campaign events more than the political reporters who are on the trail. While pundits in DC and New York opine on what voters are supposed to care about, these reporters are actually on the ground taking the temperature of the electorate in realtime.Daniel Marans, a reporter at the left-of-center Huffington Post, has attended events with nearly all of the Democratic presidential candidates, and his reporting offers unique perspectives about what voters actually care about versus what we're told they care about on cable news shows. Joe Simonson, of the right-of-center Washington Examiner, is doing the same thing, flying around the country following candidates around and talking to the voters who will decide the Democratic nominee. These reporters disagree on plenty of things politically, but they share a desire to report out the ground truth of the 2020 presidential election. On this episode, they offer their insight as to what the mainstream media is missing about the Democratic presidential primary.

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Jul 2019

1 hr 18 min

One of the most influential novelists in the United States is the late Ayn Rand. The Russian-born author's works inspired generations of right-leaning intellectuals, from former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan to former Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.Rand's popularity stems from her simple creed that selfishness is a virtue. In her philosophy, called Objectivism, the highest moral calling is to pursue your rational self-interest. This puts Objectivism in a unique corner, as most of the world's schools of moral philosophy and religion preach that selflessness and self-sacrifice are the most noble qualities. But Rands philosophy has sustained its following long after her death in 1982. In 2009, in the aftermath of a financial crisis many blamed on the selfishness of Wall Street, her novel Atlas Shrugged, which preaches the virtues of the self interested titans of industry, surged to a bestseller position on Amazon.com.What makes Rand so popular? And is there any merit to her praise of selfishness as a virtue? To discuss that question we have two guests with us on this episode. Onkar Ghate is the chief philosophy officer at the Ayn Rand Institute and a leading Objectivist. He believes this philosophy is not only relevant but ultimately a guide for living a moral life. Austin Hayden Smidt is a political philosopher who cohosts the philosophy podcast Owls At Dawn. He's skeptical of Objectivism's claims, and believes that altruism is worth fighting for. On this episode we will discuss core philosophical issues that help drive our approach to politics, life, the universe, and everything. 

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Jun 2019

1 hr 35 min

With more and more Americans going to college every year, there are increasing demands that the federal government step in and make higher education more affordable and tackle burgeoning student debt.But some on the conservative side argue that increasing federal aid will only make the problem worse by contributing to runaway inflation of tuition and other costs related to going to college. Daniel Friedman, a novelist based in New York City, takes that point of view. He has argued in his Quillette columns that making college free would risk subsidizing a system that is already failing many of its students.That's something Charlie Eaton, a higher education researcher at the University of California-Merced, is very familiar with. His work focuses on the financialization of higher education, and he agrees that there is a systemic cost problem that goes far beyond the amount of aid the government offers to students. But he believes that some sort of free college plan is wise.On this episode we'll talk about higher education: who should go, whether it's worth it, how we should finance it, and what its future should be in the United States. 

May 2019

1 hr 1 min

We live in an increasingly diverse country, and history shows that diversity often introduces challenges that are difficult to overcome, ranging from increased social tensions all the way up to violence. But it has long been argued that diversity is our strength and that with meaningful contact between heterogeneous groups we can break down barriers and learn from each other. One of the responses to increased racial and cultural diversification is to embrace multiculturalism, where we can both acknowledge and respect differences that are inevitable in a complex society. Jesse Singal, a journalist with New York Magazine, takes that point of view. Others have argued that we need to emphasize assimilation, and perhaps even be more selective in the way we do immigration in order to ensure social comity and cohesion. Andy Ngo, a journalist and editor at Quillette, takes that point of view.On this episode, we'll discuss how we should address issues like increased cultural diversification in America and greater Muslim immigration to the European Union.

May 2019

1 hr 19 min

During the 2016 Democratic primaries, political strategist Peter Daou was one of Hillary Clinton’s most vocal and prominent boosters, especially on social media. In addition to his relentless advocacy on Twitter, Peter was the co-founder of “Hillary Men,” a website that purported to serve as a “safe space” for male feminists who supported Hillary Clinton — and, by implication, to fend off her sexist rivals in the Bernie camp. To Clinton supporters, Daou was a diehard on the front lines of the digital battlefield of the 2016 race. To Sanders supporters, he was a walking caricature of the movement behind Hillary: zealous, earnest to a fault, and bent on weaponizing identity to attack Clinton’s political opponents.Nomiki Konst was on the opposite side of that battle. Nomi was, and is, a fierce Bernie Sanders supporter, regularly appearing on cable news shows to make the case for his “political revolution.” Since then, she has worked for The Young Turks and was a candidate for the office of New York City Public Advocate.Back in 2016, Nomi and Peter routinely mixed it up on Twitter. But a rare thing happened last year: Peter changed his mind. As he recently wrote in The Nation, he is now convinced that the threat of a Trump re-election is too grave to risk on the squabbles and rivalries from 2016 that continue to divide the Democratic Party. He is now counseling his fellow Clinton supporters that it is time to abandon their grievances and to prepare to unite behind whoever emerges at the front of the pack — even if it’s their hated rival, Bernie Sanders, a candidate Daou has even come to admire. Social media being what it is, of course, Daou has been greeted with invective and contempt by many of his erstwhile followers.This is the first time Nomi and Peter have ever spoken to each other directly, outside of the social media platforms that have come to define our politics. We’re excited to host this discussion, because this is exactly what we set up our podcast to do: to take these performative online beefs and turn them into real conversations.

May 2019

1 hr 2 min

Contrary to popular belief, Islam has been present in the United States since its founding days. Thomas Jefferson even owned a copy of the Quran, Islam's holy text, which Congressman Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, used during his swearing-in ceremony.The reality is, we live on an increasingly Muslim planet, as the pace of the growth of the religion means that it may very well be the most common religion on Earth by the end of the century. To many Muslims, this growth in the religion is a source of pride and joy. But like any other religion, the way it is practiced is what matters. There is fierce debate among Muslims, and those who choose to leave the faith, about the sort of religion it should be, and how it should relate to law, politics, and wider society. Shadi Hamid of the Brookings Institution argues that we should come to terms with Islam's growing role in the world and in politics. He believes that Islam is exceptionally resistant to secularization.Sarah Haider, the director of Ex-Muslims of North America, disagrees. Her organization actively promotes the secularization of Muslims as a path to a better life.We know that talking about religion in general and Islam in particular can be extremely polarizing and contentious, but we hope this episode's conversation makes you feel more comfortable diving into a topic that many people consider to be taboo.

May 2019

1 hr 40 min

This episode began with a spat on Twitter. Glenn Greenwald, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and co-founder of The Intercept, is famous for his deep, long-standing skepticism of Russiagate. After Attorney General Barr’s summary of the Mueller Report came out, announcing to the world that the special prosecutor had found no basis for bringing charges against the President for collusion in Russia’s 2016 election interference, Glenn was not shy in pointing out that for two years, the media had hyped what amounted to, in his words, a “conspiracy theory,” while maligning its skeptics, including himself.David Klion, a freelance journalist, took issue with Glenn’s pronouncements. In Mother Jones, he admonished what he referred to as “a clutch of noisy Russiagate skeptics in the media,” focusing on Greenwald and Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi in particular. Glenn and David mixed it up a little bit on Twitter, before Glenn invited David to discuss it in a more productive venue — our podcast. David graciously accepted, and here we are.What none of us could have anticipated was that 18 minutes in, the website we use to record our podcasts, Zencastr, would let us down. The better part of an hour of David’s audio was never recorded, thanks to some technical failure by Zencastr. On every other episode of this show, we’ve had our guests make backup recordings of their audio locally. But for complicated reasons that are entirely the fault of Zaid and me, this was the one episode where that didn’t happen. So, 18 minutes in, Zaid and I take the baton and continue the conversation on Russiagate. We’re very, very sorry to disappoint our listeners, but we hope you enjoy the episode nonetheless.

Apr 2019

55 min 2 sec

Mike Cernovich is notorious on the left because of his past behavior as a social media troll, beginning with Gamergate, and continuing on through Pizzagate and countless other Twitter flare-ups. He's often lumped in with the alt-right, even though his actual politics are a mixed bag of economic populism, anti-interventionism, border restrictionism, animal welfarism, and mild support for Trump, putting him somewhere slightly to the left of David Frum. In the era of Trump, however, it's not your policy preferences that define your politics, it's your positioning within the Culture Wars.Katie Herzog knows this well. Katie, who writes for The Stranger, is gay and an out-and-out leftist. Yet if you ask certain of her detractors on Twitter, they might tell you she's a fascist homophobe. Why? Because she frequently criticizes certain quarters of the left, particularly when it comes to identity-based issues such as de-platforming and cultural appropriation.Mike and Katie have almost nothing in common politically. But they do share a point of view on how on internet shaming and social media mobs are shaping our political discourse, a perspective informed by their own experiences. Mike has been both the target and the perpetrator of online pile-ons, a role he seems to relish. Katie has been more on the receiving end, and while she doesn't quite enjoy the experience, she certainly hasn't ducked for cover in her writing on the cultural battles of the left, either.

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Apr 2019

57 min 42 sec

With the Mueller Report completed, many are still left wondering what exactly occurred in the 2016 election. Did the Russian government work with the Trump campaign to hack Clinton campaign emails? Did the Trump administration engage in collusion with the Russian government to impact the election? While we don't have the full text of the report, the answer appears to be no.But many political watchers are still skeptical. Cenk Uygur, the co-founder of The Young Turks, is one of those skeptics. He thinks that the report far from exonerates President Trump and that some form of illicit collaboration between the Russian government and Trump is likely.Freelance journalist Michael Tracey, on the other hand, thinks that the entire saga has been dramatically exaggerated by a combination of Democratic Party officials looking for a scapegoat for their 2016 election loss and a liberal media susceptible to Russiophobia.Welcome to the Russiagate episode of Extremely Offline.

Apr 2019

1 hr 22 min

It's unusual for a freshman member of Congress to draw as much attention as Minnesota Democrat Ilhan Omar. In just a few short months in Congress, she has been the center of numerous media firestorms after making repeatedly making remarks her supporters believe are exposing the influence of a powerful lobbying group and what her detractors would say is anti-Semitic.On Capitol Hill, her own party's leadership has condemned her remarks on the influence of the pro-Israel lobby.Omar Baddar, deputy director of the Arab American Institute disagrees with Schumer. He thinks the Congresswoman is being targeted by a powerful political machine that is distorting her message in order to defend a  status quo that is supportive of the Israeli government.Batya Ungar-Sargon, the opinion editor at the Jewish Daily Forward, agrees with Omar that the occupation of the Palestinians must end and that we need to change U.S. policy towards Israel. But she believes the Congresswoman's rhetoric has been needlessly polarizing and often moved us further away from a just solution.

Apr 2019

1 hr 9 min

When President Trump signed into law the First STEP Act, a wide-ranging federal prison reform bill passed this past December, he marveled at the wide bipartisan vote that got it across the finish line. Indeed, everybody from the Koch Brothers to former Obama adviser Van Jones helped build the wide bipartisan coalition that passed the legislation.But while most of America now agrees on some form of criminal justice reform, there are still major divisions. On issues like how we tackle violent crime to if and how we should end the drug war, local and federal politicians continue to sharply disagree.Joining us for this episode are two guests, both of whom are the sons of police officers. But that's where their similarities end. Jonathan Blanks of the Cato institute is an ardent critic of policing and the prison system as it is constituted today, arguing that American society often turns to incarceration and punishment as a substitute for more comprehensive solutions that tackle the root causes of crime.Rafael Mangual of the Manhattan Institute argues that while some reforms may be needed, we shouldn't underestimate the prevalence of violent crime in America and the need for tough policing to keep communities safe.

Apr 2019

1 hr 13 min

With Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren both offering their own form of challenge to the Democratic establishment, which candidate would have a better shot at succeeding? Which candidate would ultimately make a better president? To answer that question, on this episode we'll ask two of their strongest supporters.Adam Green is the co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, an organization that helped elect Warren to the Senate in 2012 and that quickly endorsed her presidential bid shortly after her announcement. He argues that she brings policy expertise and a winning message that is unmatched by other candidates.Bhaskar Sunkara is the founder of Jacobin Magazine, America's leading socialist publication. He argues that what America truly needs is an outsider who preaches democratic socialism in order to remake our economic and political systems.

Mar 2019

1 hr 21 min

This week, we have two guests on opposite sides of our debates about what should be done with the economy. Lee Fang is a reporter for The Intercept and a long-time journalist who has been critical of the structure and function of American capitalism. He looks around the world and sees democratic socialist policies as those which best promote human prosperity and freedom. With rising health care costs and student debt, many Americans are coming around to his point of view.Kmele Foster, on the other hand, is the libertarian anarcho-capitalist co-host of the breakout podcast The Fifth Column, and he thinks that the free market has proven that it can lift literally hundreds of millions of people out of poverty within the last few decades. He would argue that socialism sounds good on paper, but simply doesn't deliver on its promises.

Mar 2019

1 hr 2 min

This episode features two guests from opposite sides of the debate over the state of the Democratic Party and the left. First, we have Jonathan Chait, a long time left-of-center writer who argues that the Obama years were a stunning success and form the trajectory the party should pursue in the future. Opposite Chait we have the Washington Post’s Elizabeth Bruenig, who argues that the Obama presidency’s shortcomings are part of why democratic socialism is the path forward. On Twitter and Facebook, these two camps, which overlap with the 2016 Hillary vs. Bernie divide, snipe at each other endlessly, engaged in a forever war for control of social media narratives. In this episode, Bruenig and Chait leave those Twitter tribes behind for a respectful, substantive discussion about Twitter, abortion, Obama, healthcare reform, liberal democracy, and the culture of left-wing campus activism.Co-produced by Leighton Woodhouse and Zaid JilaniModerated by Zaid JilaniMusic by Breakmaster Cylinder

Feb 2019

1 hr 26 min

It's time to admit it: when we argue online, we’re not actually trying to persuade anyone. We’re not even trying to ‘win’ a debate. We’re trying to “dunk” on our rivals, “own” our political enemies. We’re just performing for our followers, who are usually people who share our politics, our attitudes, and our biases.That kind of discourse might be entertaining, but it doesn’t get us anywhere. We don’t learn from each other or about each other. We don’t sharpen the arguments we make for our favored policies. All we do is widen the divisions of our politics. We harden our alliances with people like ourselves, while increasing our contempt for people who think differently. We feel even more certain of our own opinions, while becoming even blinder to their shortcomings. It’s an unhealthy, dysfunctional way to approach our disagreements with others. It’s profoundly harmful to our democracy.On this podcast, we aspire to be the opposite of “extremely online.” What does that mean? It means we want to bring people from warring political tribes together to have substantive, respectful conversations about both their common ground and their differences — the opposite, in other words, of a Twitter flame war.Extremely Offline is our small contribution to combating political polarization in America. On this show, we’ll bring together people from the populist left and the identity-based left, the center left and the far right, paleoconservatives and socialists, and every other permutation we can think of. We’ll have far-ranging discussions that do not elide our political differences but that are rooted in mutual respect.Our first episode is with two guests who are both critical of the way mainstream liberals talk about race in America, but from very different directions. Briahna Joy Gray is Senior Politics Editor at The Intercept, where she argues that liberal discourse often isolates racial issues from economic issues and that we can't tackle structural inequality in America without discussing both at the same time. Coleman Hughes is a columnist at Quillette, who argues that liberals and the left often overlook cultural norms when we talk about the roots of racial inequality.

Feb 2019

1 hr 1 min