The Media Industry Is Complicit, and Good Journalists Pay the Price
This week on Gaslit Nation we discuss the media: the systemic failures of an economically and morally bankrupt industry dominated by rich white men, and the bravery and creativity of journalists who struggle not only within this system, but with a much more severe threat –an international alliance of kleptocrats who murder journalists with impunity. We continue our conversation about the assassination of slain journalist Jamil Khashoggi and reflect on other unpunished recent killings like the attempted Skripal poisoning in the UK. Why does the West do nothing when autocrats murder writers and dissidents so brazenly? Why isn’t the West hitting autocrats where it hurts them most – in their bank accounts?
Gaslit Nation 9 - The Media Industry is Complicit, and Good Journalists Pay the Price
CLIP OF NATALIE PORTMAN’S SPEECH AT Variety’s Women of Power 2018:So what can you do? First, money. You can give or you can raise money for the Legal Defense Fund. Second, gather. Meet with other women and see what changes you want to make. Through times up or on your own gathering has been the central principle of what we do and has created every action we have taken. Third, listen if any group you're in has people who only look like you, change that group. It’s an awakening experience to hear from women who have different experiences of marginalization. Fourth, demand. The women in this room are the most powerful women in our industry. All you in this room have the power to negotiate for equal pay, or grant equal pay, or popularize equal pay in our culture. Be embarrassed if everyone in your workplace looks like you. Pay attention to physical ability, age, race, sexual orientation, gender identity and make sure you've got all kinds of experiences represented. Fifth, gossip well. Stop the rhetoric that a woman is crazy or difficult. If a man says to you that a woman is crazy or difficult, ask him what bad thing did you do to her. That's a code. That's a code word. He is trying to discredit her reputation. Make efforts to hire people who've had their reputation smeared and retaliation. Sixth, don't be shy. Don't shy away from consequences for those who abuse their power. Those who abuse power are not going to have a change of behavior out of the goodness of their hearts. They are motivated by self-interest and they will only change their behavior if they have to worry they will lose what they care about. Seventh, and this is a united challenge to everyone in this room, tell a new story. What if we took a year off from violence against women? What if for one year everyone in this room, just one year, does everything in their power to make sure that all the entertainment produced from this room doesn't depict a rape or murder of a woman? And the projects you write, produce, direct, act, package, market, do not harm women this year. Let's see how that goes.
Sarah Kendzior:I'm Sarah Kendzior. I'm a journalist, a scholar of authoritarian states with a focus on the former Soviet Union and I'm also the author of the book The View from Flyover Country.
Andrea Chalupa:I'm Andrea Chalupa, a writer, filmmaker and activist and the opening
clip was Natalie Portman speaking at Variety’s Power of Women eventproviding practical steps on how to resist the greatest threat facing the world, toxic masculinity.
Sarah Kendzior:This is Gaslit Nation and we are a podcast that covers corruption in the Trump administration and the rise of autocracies around the world and so today we're going to be discussing a variety of topics, since we finally don't have a debt laden, pathological lying, attempted rapist, perjury addict to discuss, now that the Kavanaugh confirmation is over. So we're going to move on to our usual topic of the international alliance of kleptocrats eroding freedom and justice around the world.
In this episode, we are focusing especially on the new attacks on freedom of speech and on journalists which we discussed a bit last week as well, so if you missed that episode we recommend you catch up and we're going to end the show by discussing media literacy and the dire state of the news industry today and conditions that you should be aware of
Andrea Chalupa: And we also have a very special interview that will inspire you about actions for not only the midterms but the years ahead to rebuilding our country after many decades of far-right destruction. So stick around for that.
Sarah Kendzior:You know all of the news lately on journalists getting killed abroad or defamed in publications reminded me of when you talked to me, I think it was like early 2017 and you're thinking about going to Ukraine and you were worried because you and I had received all of these death threats since we started covering Trump and Russia.
For those who don't know about those you can listen to our first 3 episodes which were a review of 2016, and you were worried what was gonna happen and I think what you wanted from me was just reassurance and a hug and some kind words and you know me being me, I was of course like well, Andrea, they're not gonna kill you now because they don't want martyrs. If they killed you, it would signal that you're actually telling the truth about Trump and Russia and are therefore worth killing and then people take what you said seriously, which would be really bad for them. And so what they'd rather do is make you look crazy and so like well maybe I'm like the crappiest friend.
Andrea Chalupa:You’re too crazy to kill Andrea, you're safe.
Sarah Kendzior:Yeah and you were kind of like real quiet for a minute and then you're like oh yeah thanks.
Andrea Chalupa:Then I went to Ukraine and it was all fine. I know you're building up to a really important point but I do want to jump in and say that I had to go to Ukraine in June 2017 and about a month prior so the harassment started picking up again at my sister's house in Washington DC. My sister again, of course, as you may recall from the first three episodes, she is a longtime member of the DNC, who worked in various positions there and she warned everybody in her organization and in the media very early on in 2016 about Trump and Russia, drawing attention to Paul Manafort specifically and all the research she pulled together that was in the public domain at the time and as a result she had death threats, attempted break-in on her home, her car was trashed twice, her phone was hacked, her computer was hacked, a mysterious song was downloaded somehow onto her phone and it the lyrics were all were threatening.
So the harassment had picked up again right when I had to go back to Ukraine so that's why I was really nervous and what ended up happening is at the same time the far-right pundits on cable news were saying hey collusion is not a big deal and we started wondering why are they talking about collusion and saying it's not a big deal and then suddenly the New York Times drops a series of bombshells revealing that Don Jr. met with the Russians in Trump Tower and essentially did a quid pro quo like dirt on Hillary Clinton, hacked emails in exchange for dropping sanctions related to the Magnitsky Act. So just to deflect attention from himself Don Jr. broke his silence on Twitter by trying to blame my sister and Ukraine for hacking the election so now looking back the harassment that resurfaced again in Spring 2017, it was very clear that they had that strategy in place to try to flip the script in the media and take the attention away from Don Jr. and put it on my sister. And to sort of get my sister in a weaker position, they started harassing her again to mess with her head. And I will tell you, in terms of getting the media attention away, it did work. People were suddenly talking about Ukraine and my sister as though there was something there. Turns out there wasn't and so yeah that's the background on that story, because I just think it's important to know of how the harassment strategies work, not just against journalists but also against people who are risking their lives and careers to speak out about what's really going on.
Sarah Kendzior:Yeah, absolutely and that you know you were facing a very legitimate threat and you had very legitimate concerns and you know my point in bringing this up again is that at the time you know I felt like we hadn't yet crossed this threshold. We have this kind of dynamic of hit pieces or actual hits and at that time I think that they felt confident enough that they were going to be able to cover up corruption, that nobody was going to take Trump and Russia seriously, that it was going to be dismissed widely as a conspiracy theory and by the time people caught up to everything that had transpired, which you know you and I and several others were actually talking about in real time throughout 2016, it would be too late. They will have consolidated autocracy within the government and any kind of revelation would be ineffective and so at that point it was just advantageous and a better strategy to just label critics, particularly female critics, as hysterical because you know to kill someone is to kind of give credence to their claims and in a sick way, and now unfortunately I think we have crossed that threshold and we'll discuss that a little bit later, where they are killing journalists with impunity, journalists you know covering corruption worldwide and they don't care who knows it. They want people to know it and so this is a terrifying time to be a journalist. It’s a terrifying time to be a human in general, so I don't want to detract from the broader threat against people who have it way worse than us.
Andrea Chalupa:Yeah so we it's been a weird time, especially this year just seeing strange things come out in the media that you're sort of wondering, don't you have more important things to cover? Especially given the decline of media, the massive loss of newsroom jobs, the decline of local newspapers which are so essential to covering exposing local corruption and keeping their local community safe. Like I don't understand why people that are left in these newsrooms jobs abuse their power by focusing on such little petty stories that really have no public service value.
So we saw a wave of those recently and in this year alone and so Sarah and I are actually going to do a whole proper breakdown of media literacy just so our audience looks at the statistics and the hard numbers of what America's newsrooms look like today and spoiler alert they're very, very male, predominantly male, predominantly white. So white men and white women decide who gets credibility and who gets labeled and it's a very white privilege lens that we're getting our news from and so we're gonna break that down and sort of go into those numbers and look at some room for improvement and some case studies on why that improvement is so urgent and necessary and it's just a matter of human rights now in America. So stay around for media literacy 101 later in the show.
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Sarah Kendzior:I'm glad that you brought up the problems of our news rooms because on top of that, on top of that structural deterioration, we have you know as I said before, growing dangers. They're openly assassinating journalists who investigate
corruption across the world. Within the last year that's included Daphne Galiziaof
you know leading to a lot of policy controversies, Jamal Khashoggi of Saudi Arabia who was killed in Turkey but was a writer for The Washington Post and as I said these killings are increasingly happening with impunity. They're meant to send a message that you know when you hurt one journalist anybody is you know a potential target and this is you know this isn't new.
Journalists have been killed by brutal regimes for as long as there have been documentation of crimes but I think what is new is how technology and how digital media has transformed this landscape where you have authoritarian kleptocracies increasingly aligning with each other across the world. We've seen the weakening of democracies worldwide and they're involved in mutually beneficial and criminal financial relationships.
Things like money laundering that these journalists are investigating and then you also have a digital media landscape that crosses borders, so that when a journalist from one country is investigating a crime, a crime that often implicates leaders from you know multiple countries that is read by a broader populace. The world is able to read you know an indictment of you know its business and political and other leaders you know kind of in in unison and so that's something that's you know new and I guess you know I don't know exactly how to deal with that because I feel like this is yet again an uphill battle against time because what we need is strengthening democracy, strengthening Human Rights, strengthening protections for journalists and there have always been NGOs and activists groups usually based in the West, that have risen to the fore to try to protect journalists who are in harm's way in authoritarian states.
Now if you look at say how Poland changed, Hungary, Czech Republic, the United States, England under Brexit, all of these democracies are weakening and with that the kind of you know who do you go to for protection? That question is unanswered and I want to quote a tweet from Garry Kasparov, you know the writer and activist and chess player from Russia, who had warned a long time ago that this would happen if Putin was not reined in. On Sunday Kasparov tweeted,
“When I said ten years ago that Putin was a Russian problem but would become everyone's problem if not stopped, I meant the model not just the man.”
You know as for Kasparov’s comments, a little background, in 2006 Russia assassinated dissidents and journalists with impunity often on foreign soil. You saw the assassination of journalist Anna Politkovskayain Moscow and also of Alexander Litvinenkoin the UK, 2006 is also the year that former Russian spies Sergei Skripal, who was the target of assassination this spring, was convicted in Russia. And Skripal ended up settling in the UK, only to be targeted there this year and so that means that the world had ample time to watch these tactics in action, including the attack on Litvinenko in the UK. And so I guess you know I'm looking at this now. I'm wondering why did the UK not act then? Why is it still not acting you know especially now that a British citizen has been poisoned as a result of the attempted attack on Skripal? A woman died as a result of exposure to novichok and in Russia you know they've bragged about this. They did these kind of propaganda videos trying to portray the assassins as these you know tourists just wanting to look at church spires. I mean they made a mockery of a woman's death. You know it's made me wonder do we still have NATO? When does this count as an article 5violation? Why is the response so incredibly weak? When we've had this level of interference that it's you know homicide on foreign soil.
Andrea Chalupa: And nobody wants, to be clear, nobody wants to trigger article 5 of NATO, no one wants that. And the benefit of NATO is that you are stronger together and it's a lot of the countries that are on the eastern edge of Europe that border Russia that have this terrible experience of Soviet imperialism, they wanted NATO, they sought NATO membership for their own protection. It's an alliance that strengthens bonds between countries and education on how to confront the threats of the 21st century between countries. It’s an alliance that, if it if it took its charter literally, you know could have triggered the article 5 which means an attack on any of us is an attack on all of us and the one time that that was used actually was under George W. Bush in response to 9/11. It could have been used in other cases.
The Russians lured an Estonian security official towards them and kidnapped him and took him to Russia and was holding him hostage. That happened a few years ago and so there's been this resurgence of Kremlin imperialism that brings back a lot of bad memories for for the Baltic States, for Poland, and other Eastern European NATO members and they've been way ahead of Western countries in confronting fake news and bots and in trying to counter propaganda and in many cases warning Washington, warning the Obama administration and not being taken seriously. There's actually a really interesting article by a former Obama official about specifically how the Eastern European NATO countries tried to warn them and they just they just were too slow and so I think what you see again and again is that the bad guys are fast and the good guys are too slow.
If you look at for instance Putin when he first started invading Ukraine, he had bigger
dreams. He was selling the Russian people on Novorossiya, basically restoring borders of the Russian Empire that expanded under Catherine the Great, and he was going to go in there and bite off a big chunk of Ukraine. Well he was stopped and that was you know that had a lot to do with Ukrainians willing to go to the front lines. They were fighting for a larger ideal which is of course, their freedom, their independence and also sanctions. So when the sanctions started coming from EU and the US, that did slow down Russia's invasion. So sanctions do work, sanctions do matter. Unfortunately, I think we've seen a bigger reluctance by this administration to enforce these sanctions and to enforce other things that would deter Kremlin aggression, like releasing of substantial corruption reported, naming names and calling out Putin and and all the money he's hiding, and all of it.
And those things do matter and unfortunately the West is just very, very slow to enact them but when they do when they do get united and enact them it does stop Putin, it does slow him down and we've seen that with his invasion in Ukraine.
Sarah Kendzior:Yeah and that's that's what's so frustrating. I mean we've talked on here before about the Mueller probe and the slowness in that and how that is a serious obstacle to actually accomplishing the goal, which is to protect people, which is to stop criminal behavior, which is to clamp down on kleptocratic activity and I feel like we see the same thing here and you know, yes we don't want article 5 to be enacted, we don't want war just to make that clear.
There's a lot of journalists seem to have this all-or-nothing perspective of either we're going to indulge and engage Putin or we're going to have like full-fledged warfare and you know the obvious solution lies in between and it's you know targeting their wallets. It's targeting their finances. It’s as you say, you know enacting sanctions, particularly on these oligarchs which you know, hold so much sway within the Kremlin, on whom Putin is dependent, you know it's it's a mutual dependency, it's linked to organized crime and I don't know it's just extremely frustrating to me like I remember you know back in the spring when the Skripal poisoning happened so many people are like okay, you know this is the last straw, like Russia has hacked infrastructure, it's hacked elections, it's you know done doping at the Olympics, it's you know caused a plane crash. I mean on and on, I mean it's invaded Crimea and is making moves into Ukraine, like you can go on and on about the human rights violations and the violations of international law that the Kremlin committed and then this was so you know, even by their standards, so blatant and and cruel and committed with such audacity that I think people really thought, yeah this is when the UK is gonna act you know combine this with Brexit and still still basically nothing, and it just I think it just speaks to this erosion of institutions and power in the West and I don't know how to get that power back without confronting our own weaknesses head-on, which they seem very reluctant to do.
Andrea Chalupa:Yeah I completely agree and Garry Kasparov, one of the things he likes to point out is banks not tanks. Again and again we're not advocating war I just when you have this the new face of corruption, the new face of the Mafia is what Robert Mueller warned us about in 2011, it's the iron triangles, it's this massive web of corruption between accounting firms and lawyers and Western banks that allow money laundering by these criminal regimes and so it's confronting that and it's being swift with sanctions, going hard on sanctions, and also and we see this with Saudi Arabia ,confronting the social currency of people that have blood on their hands.
So a lot of these Russian oligarchs for instance, they like to park their money in the West, in London, so there's a reason why London is now called London-grad because they buy up a lot of that rich real estate there and they finance a lot of new cultural events and institutions and things and it's also fancy and posh and all like the glitterati of UK society benefits from it and socializes with them and it gives these oligarchs, that are complicit with Putin's aggressive regime, it gives them an air of social acceptability or whatever you want to call it, like legitimacy.
That's been going on for far too long with Saudi Arabia's royal family and elite and now you're seeing finally a backlash because of the murder and dismemberment of a journalist by a Saudi Arabian government, where finally you have these big companies from JPMorgan to big media companies pulling out of any type of conferences or anything they have coming up with with Saudi Arabian. It’s about time they do that because what these regimes crave is acceptance. W hat they crave is you know being celebrated, hosting the Olympics, hosting the World Cup, being the center of attention throwing a great party with you know with their country's branding on it. As you've always said Sarah with your research, authoritarianism is a brand for the dictator so what you need to do is damage the dictators brand.
Sarah Kendzior :Right absolutely and I think also when you damage that brand you know this is not just a matter of actual illegal crimes you know but white-collar crimes and white-collar criminal impunity and we're going to talk about that a little later in the show with the tax-dodging of Kushner and Trump. But that veneer of legitimacy certainly makes it much easier for them to you know carry out those sorts of actions, along with the kind of flattering puff-piece profiles. We’ve seen certainly saw a lot of those from the New York Times on Mohammed bin SalmanI mean they now seem to I guess to their credit regret some of those profiles, presenting him as a reformer instead of a murderous millennial tyrant and speaking of that, I want to talk more about Khashoggi.
We talked about him last week we're now approaching I guess the eight year anniversary of the Arab Spring which was this time of hope for the Middle East. It was a time I think where people thought you know we were on this wave of democracy. I mean it was a time of pessimism because it was after the recession, it was after the Iraq war. But I think you know democracies in Eastern Europe for example were much more stable than they were now and I think that many in the West and also you know within the Middle East thought this this is the moment, you know this is the moment where dictators that have been in power for decades are finally going to be overthrown and people have a voice and be able to you know determine you know their own laws own representation own future, have the opportunities that they were long denied. And so I kind of want to look at where we are now because the murderer of Khashoggi is hitting people in the Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabians, but you know just Arab writers in general very hard in part you know grief for him as an individual, a writer but also the broader meaning you know of this brutal heinous and very brazenly committed crime.
So one of my favorite people who I like to read on Twitter about this topic is Iyad el-Baghdadi. I want to preface this by saying neither me nor Andrea are experts on the Middle East. We're very good on the former Soviet Union but I think you should seek out people who who speak Arabic, who know the region well and he is somebody who you know I look to for that reason. And he had a Twitter thread recently, which you know I'm going to read hopefully he doesn't mind because I just thought was a really powerful indictment and something people needed to hear. So he says,“What do I feel as an Arab activists and dissident? I feel immense rage not at Saudi Arabia but at the so-called free world. We have been fucking warning you for seven years and you have nothing but fucking ignoring us while shaking hands with our persecutors. Here's the result. What do you want me to do go back to my Twitter archive and retweet everything I tweeted over the past seven years or republish everything I've written in the past five? When we spoke you basically patted us on the back like we're freaking idiots who don't understand how the world works and continue your amoral policies all the same and now you're faced with the result. Fuck you and your mock outrage and yes if a journalist once you get in touch with me I'll gladly write this piece but only if you'll actually print the word cocksuckers in an article. They murdered us, they destroyed our lives, they made us into a generation of traumatized refugees. They disappeared us, they tortured us, they jailed us and you sat there and feigned concern while you still shook hands with them. Fuck you. You know how we got here? You know how we got to the point where a freaking 33 year old nut-job is blackmailing the world? It's your fucking hypocrisy. If you weren't so fucking hypocritical about your values, they wouldn't be at risk now. Hey Iyad why don't you work for a think tank? You're really good, why don't you advise on policy? Because think tank and policy circles are full of fucking careerist cocksuckers that's why. Stability at all costs? We were the cost and now this is the cost. I'm already getting responses from people feeling butt hurt about the criticism. How many of you lost friends? How many of you got tortured? How many of you lost everything for the very rights that you were handed on a silver fucking platter at birth. No I'm not only talking to the political class. I'm talking to everyone who failed to take their own elected leaders to account. I speak about democracy everyday and I've never had the right to vote for an hour of my life. What were you all doing with your votes? Stop your butt hurt and accept personal responsibility accept personal responsibility. Without that change can never happen.”
So yeah that was a you know, a powerful statement. He usually doesn't you know swear that much. I feel like it's completely justified in this case and I hope that you know people continue to look at what he's saying and what people close to Khashoggi are saying because it is not only Saudi Arabia that is responsible for this crime, it is the hypocrisy of Western institutions. It's this idea that if you just kind of wait it out certain people's lives are worth sacrificing, you know that an individual living you know in a country being abused by their government it's fine with them being a pawn as long as we eventually meet some greater goal. And I've been to so many of these kind of NGOs that he discussed, where people talk a good game but when it comes down to what people need which is often money, resources and real confrontation of these brutal regimes and again I don't mean militarily but I mean in rhetoric and I definitely mean financial consequences.
Andrea Chalupa:A good old fashion boycott pull your money out, pull your money out.
Sarah Kendzior:Yeah or just don't you feel you know ashamed indulging these individuals? Like don't you feel I don't know an obligation?
Andrea Chalupa:Don't give him a stage, don't give him legitimacy, don't have the Crown Prince speak at New Yorker or Economist Ideas Festival. Don't have Bannon speak. Don't give people that advocate genocide, that actively work against democracy and killing innocent people, don't give them a stage. Just simply don't and pull your money out. Whatever power you have to divest, do so and enact sanctions swiftly, and that's what you do and then work towards a green energy policy because it's the green energy it's really gonna put an end to these regimes.
Sarah Kendzior:Yeah, absolutely and you know and it's frustrating now because the situation with human rights in Saudi Arabia has obviously been bad for a very long time and nonetheless the U.S. continued to have these very close relationships with the ruling family.
You know due to oil interests and other economic interests and that was damaging enough particularly in the Bush years but I'm more concerned now for the obvious reason of the particular makeup of this White House, which is basically a criminal syndicate posing as a government, and one of the most dangerous and illegitimate members of this administration is Jared Kushner. I'm so exhausted from warning people about the danger of Kushner, who has no qualifications, who is only in the White House because he's Trump's son-in-law and who is you know a dangerous person in terms of his utter lack of interest in benefiting anybody but himself and his family and his blatant abuse of law and protocol in order to achieve what he wants and I'm not a hundred percent sure what the end goal is but I know that the results as we've gone along among which I would somewhat included the murder of Khashoggi, you know are really troubling.
Initially Kushner was supposed to be in charge of quote-unquote, fixing the Middle East, which seems like this sick sort of in-joke for tightening autocratic measures and partnering with brutal leaders all over the region but not just Saudi Arabia but I would include Israel under Netanyahu as well. And one of the things that's frustrating is that it should be easy to get rid of someone like Kushner, you know he doesn't have a policy background, there's no reason he should be there and he's committed crimes while in office, he lied on his security clearance forms more than any appointee in history, like no one had seen anything like this where he left off hundreds of names of foreign contacts that he has. He’s attempted to set up and has set up illicit back channels to foreign dictatorships. He’s been credibly accused of selling state secrets and I think that even if he does leave the White House, we're still going to be left with the ramifications of that. I think our national security is permanently jeopardized because of Kushner and I mean I don't know like my litmus test for whether the Mueller probe is succeeding, you know whether it is a legitimate challenge to Trump's consolidation of autocratic power is whether Kushner gets indicted and so far we just see nothing. We see Ivanka kind of getting set up to be you know the heir, we see a dynastic kleptocracy in the making.
Andrea Chalupa:We have the Jovanka watch on the show, where we keep repeating again and again that the endgame in all this is for Donald Trump to see his daughter as the first woman president. She is her father wrapped up in a pretty good packet as we always say and it's bizarre that Nikki Hailey, when she resigned right before a major election, the midterm election, resigned from representing us in the UN and used her speech to praise Jared and Ivanka, like that sent a chill through our country. That's like what is happening and it's just it's just positioning Jared and Ivanka to be not only just whatever their bizarre roles are that aren't clearly defined and because their roles are not clearly defined they're essentially the head of everything. But right Jared had some like government innovation thing that he was doing for a while and Ivanka is a special assistant that president and travels with her father and represents our country abroad, working with some of our biggest allies, sitting next to Angela Merkel. They’re getting her ready, they're gonna flaunt this all as what makes her qualified to be president. Maybe they might be nice and generous and first try to run her as a senator or something but I don't see that happening. I mean her father went straight to running for the president of the United States. Ivanka is gonna go straight to running for president of the United States and she'll have that same criminal apparatus, that whole coalition of corruption behind her to make sure she gets elected again because that's what's gonna keep that coalition from being prosecuted and brought to justice. That's why they have to stay in power. It’s very clear.
Sarah Kendzior:Yeah I mean we're getting a political structure that mirrors these autocracies in the Middle East and Central Asia where you have a dynasty.
Andrea Chalupa:Yeah I mean while people call us crazy for pointing it out and yet it just keeps getting worse and worse and so.
Sarah Kendzior:Yeah I don't know how you can't see it at this point and I guess there have been others in the media and certainly other scholars of authoritarian States, I'm pointing out this danger for a long time. Other outlets have been rather slow and have been mostly operating as court stenographers for this little you know dynasty in the making, especially the New York Times but recently they released what they classified as a bombshell article about how Donald Trump is not a self-made man, shocked, just shocked by this claim, and in fact leached off of his dad.
Andrea Chalupa:Donald Trump is not a self made racist either. He was like born to a racist family.
Sarah Kendzior:It took a village.
Andrea Chalupa:Racists little children.
Sarah Kendzior:So they released this giant article that they're hyping up a lot. I don't have a criticism really of the article, actually I do, I feel like it kind of played down the mafia connections, the connections with organized crime that the Trump family had, but it did do a thorough investigation into some finances. It would have been nice had that come out in 2016. However, I felt like the article mostly built on the work of New
York journalists who covered this in real time, particularly Wayne Barrett, who's my number one recommended source on Trump. Unfortunately, he died the night before the inauguration.
And also you know this wasn't new. This was discussed by Hillary Clinton in the first presidential debate, the fact that Trump is not self-made and that he built off of his father's schemes and plots and ripped a lot of people off. This was all you know very much in the public domain. You know I'm not sure you can get a more public viewing than the two presidential candidates discussing this on a national stage in primetime.
Hillary Clinton: So you've got to ask yourself why won't he release his tax returns and I think there may be a couple of reasons. First, maybe he's not as rich as he says he is. Second, maybe he's not as charitable as he claims to be. Third, we don't know all of his business dealings but we have been told through investigative reporting that he owes about 650 million dollars to Wall Street and foreign banks or maybe he doesn't want the American people, all of you watching tonight, to know that he's paid nothing in federal taxes because the only years that anybody has ever seen were a couple of years when he had to turn them over to state authorities when he was trying to get a casino license and they showed he didn't pay any federal income tax. So if he’s paid zero.
Donald Trump:That makes me smart.
Sarah Kendzior:So I wasn't like super excited about that article. I think it's a good direction for the New York Times to go in 2018 with him in office with very little that can be done about this. But one thing I want to add and I want to hear your reaction to another thing that they've left out and that really hasn't been discussed very much at all is this article that came out in late 2016, based on documents from the Czech security services, from you know back when Czechoslovakia was a Warsaw Pact country working with Soviet intelligence. These documents were released from the time that Czech intelligence was spying on Donald and Ivana Trump, you know who hailed from Czechoslovakia and they had a lot of little interesting notations in there. They said that Trump had struck a deal to not pay taxes in the US for 30 years. It didn't specify who he struck this deal with, I would like to know and he had presidential ambitions and that's something that you know we all knew.
You know Trump started talking about his presidential ambitions in 1987 right after he went to the Soviet Union and continued to either run or almost run for president for the next 30 years, did so five times. I want to know like what the hell this is, like this to me is a big story. It was written about in The Guardian, it was written about in bill, this not some sort of like fringe discovery, all these documents are out there. Like why the hell didn't he pay taxes? Like any thoughts on how this is even possible? And why everyone is ignoring it?
Andrea Chalupa:You can't have a President of the United States who is a tax dodger. He's supposed to uphold the government, he's supposed to protect the government, supposed to keep the government running and and be a leader not only for many millions of taxpaying citizens but also for our military and this is somebody that just doesn't know the meaning of the word service.
Sarah Kendzior:Yeah and it's just I mean it's another one. I know I'm such a broken record on this and you can't change the past but I feel like in order to change the present you need to at least understand the past and so I don't understand how Trump carried out all of these financial crimes, which as I mentioned were documented in the public domain by people like Wayne Barrett, were apparently being explored by security services you know worldwide. I would assume they were also explored by the FBI or intel bodies in the US. I don't know why they wouldn't be being that Trump was like hanging with you know an international cabal of mobsters, like kind of a tip-off.
And they weren’t, so we just get to this point where we have another erosion of norms, you know where he launched his campaign and didn't release his tax returns and you know for a while there is this kind of steady drumbeat of like well when is he gonna release them, like obviously he has to release them we can't have a president who's not gonna show his taxes, and he didn't and then he didn't divest and now he's you know basically put a like going out of business sale on the White House lawn and is selling off America in parts and the longer this goes on and the more reluctant people are to publish about it to the point that this expose that the Times did, comes out in 2018 instead of 2016, when it would have mattered more not necessarily in terms of the election outcome but maybe in terms of law enforcement actually looking into these issues.
You know I've heard that the New York state governmental bodies is going to be looking into all this. I don't know, it's frustrating and then you get the same thing of course with Kushner. The Times did a follow up and with Kushner you see a parallel of Trump, you know just as Donald Trump mooched off Fred Trump and helped him with his criminal aspirations, Kushner is also from a career criminal family, his father Charles Kushner you know went to jail actually did face consequences so that in that sense he's kind of a novelty and Kushner avoided paying taxes for a long time and you know as the Times points out this is more of an example of him abusing legal loopholes of the kind of normalization of white-collar crime, so there's not something really to prosecute him on but as I said there's a number of other things you can prosecute Kushner on so you know please go ahead and do that.
I’m frustrated by this, I'm really frustrated by this all being right out in the open and wondering who the hell is actually going to bring the consequences down because they need to be prosecutorial and they need to focus on finances and I just, you know the money trail is there, we're all able to follow it. I would assume Mueller and you know others with actual power can follow it so like why the hell is nothing being done?
On both sides of the country both political extremes took their rage to the streets. Street fights in New York on Friday and in Portland Oregon last night pit far right activists connected to a group called Proud Boysagainst the far-left, loosely affiliated Antifashort for anti-fascist, showing once again how America's political conversation is forgetting to use its inside voices. The Proud Boys say they're inspired by President Trump.
I think the Proud Boys and I think Donald Trump, for the most part, drives people that have been disenfranchised by most of the public because they don't fit in.
The Anti-Defamation Leaguesays violent political speech has given a sort of license to street level violence.
In part that's because the ability for people to try to leverage the public discussion on the ground is what brings people out.
Angry words that may translate into violent acts.
Andrea Chalupa:The legacy of racism in his family, his father was a Klan member arrested with some sort of riot the Klan created in New York City and then you have his children like Ivanka Trump defending the human rights crisis created by her white house on the border with children being locked in cages, children falling sick, disappearing. Essentially the U.S. government is kidnapping children from their parents and the just like the lack of oversight the horrendous stories of lack of oversight there, it's like you have to wonder whether some children are being trafficked, like what's happening and it's just disgusting what they've done and they are justifying it and it's a racist, inhumane policy. So it's not surprising of course that Ivanka Trump and her family were brought to power by groups like the Proud Boys who just had this horrendous display of toxic masculinity in New York City, where they beat up some people out the other night and it's just, take this seriously. Like when Nia Wilsonwas murdered in Oakland by a white man right when the proud boys were about to have a meeting there and people were like screaming there’s no connection, yes there is a connection.
When this young, beautiful woman is sitting behind Brett Kavanaugh we find out that young, beautiful women were told to groom themselves if they wanted a job with Brett Kavanaugh and she's sitting behind him in the confirmation hearing and she flashes the white power symbolnot once but twice and people are saying oh no stop being hysterical that's just a coincidence. No, we keep telling you like the Nazis have been empowered by having actual Nazis in the White House and they do this to show solidarity among each other, they go and beat up complete strangers to flaunt their power and exhibit solidarity with each other. So this story going viral, it might be a nightmare to the rest of us decent people watching this, but for them they're proud of it.
They're cheering it on and it's viral and it's dangerous so you had Milo, that famous British far-right troll, saying that you know there should be vigilante squads gutting journalists. Then a few days later a gunman opens fire in the capital Gazette newsroom in Maryland. There's a connection here, like the far-right white terrorists have permission, just like the dictators, just like Putin, just like in the Middle East, all the bad guys now have permission to come out and do what they want to do now because of this utter lack of leadership, this vacuum of power in the White House right now, where you have criminals, as Sarah has just pointed out, you know tax dodgers, you know the new face of the 21st century mafia in the White House and so what else do you expect to happen and they have a racist agenda, a violent agenda and this is all happening on our watch and in our name.
Sarah Kendzior:Yeah I think you know the ability to act with impunity, I think is what's changed so dramatically over this year and I think you know it's not so much that the shock wore off, it's that people are changing their expectation of accountability. You know and by that I mean you should still continue to expect accountability, you know we have laws, people should be forced to follow them when they are violating the law in a way that you know involves physical violence against another person, that involves you know persecuting another human being, beating them up on the street.
But the the bodies that are supposed to enact these laws, hold them up, like the NYPD this weekend when the Proud Boys were out beating protesters on the street are not doing their job, the various apparatus government that are supposed to keep people in check are not doing their job, and it is frustrating you know I think there was this tendency to dismiss groups as trolls, to say that they're on the fringes, but the fringes have been brought to the center and they are part of the Republican Party. You know it's part of an ongoing propaganda apparatus.
Andrea Chalupa:They're leading the Republican Party. They're gonna make Ivanka the face of the Republican Party you'll see like her father may not run again or he'll run again or he'll never leave power because remember he did say he could see a president being president for life and he loved what the president of China did and getting rid of term limits so who knows you know it's all open but I would say that the fringe is the Republican Party now.
Sarah Kendzior:Yeah and it holds, you know all mechanisms of power I mean that's why last week's episode was so incredibly depressing because it was the loss of the judiciary and you know we've as a nation obviously lost our moral footing. I mean and I don't mean everyone. I mean our leaders have but you know when there are not norms you have laws and now we're just finding you know blatant violations of law by the government in plain sight with no consequences and that’s, it's frightening like I don't know what's going to happen in the midterms but I am very worried about you know the mainstreaming of these extremist policies especially when it comes to migrant kids on the border, the fact that Trump and Stephen Miller are outright saying that they intended the policy to be cruel, to be torturous as a deterrent and that people are kind of absorbing this and thinking you know yeah this is normal, this is okay, I guess this is just how it is.
I think people forget a lot of the atrocities of our past, you know they forget there were a country where white people used to lynch innocent black people, hang them from trees and gather around and smile for a picture that they sent out as a postcard. I mean in many ways the kind of abhorrent things that we see on social media, in which you know the Proud Boys beating up people is sort of touted as this great victory, is done in plain sight, you know crimes are carried out with impunity. It's not new, you know it's just an extension of a really horrendous past that we've tried incrementally to move away from and there has been progress but I think it shows just how precipitous our times are and how easily you know we can move back and less we're vigilant and so as citizens you know that is the power that we have is to stand up for each other, is to document these crimes and atrocities, is to call people out and to never accept it, to always you know focus on who's getting hurt above anyone else and to not cower before people in positions of power and authority. You know, we have a constitution, we have a representative government, you know is it failing us? Yes, but that doesn't mean that we stop demanding more from them.
Andrea Chalupa:Yeah and if you have power, any type of power right now, don't abuse it or you're just as bad as they are. And so that leads us to our discussion on media literacy.
What is not being addressed up here by the people supporting new media is the fact that at the state and local level it's America's regional newspapers that are collapsing and are imploding faster and that you know and in some ways the industry itself has been oblivious to it because it's sort of like the shark was eating eating everybody from the bottom and the New York Times and the Washington Post felt it last, when they have a buyout of 100 or 200 people and they have a newsroom with 1300 people. It doesn't feel the same as 200 people walking out of a newsroom of 400 in a regional area. That means that all of a sudden there's nobody covering the cop-shop, nobody covering the zoning board. The day I run into a Huffington Post reporter at a Baltimore zoning board hearing is the day that I will be confident that we've actually reached some sort of equilibrium. You know there's no glory in that kind of journalism but that is the bedrock of what keeps, you know the next 10 or 15 years in this country are going to be a halcyon era for state and local political corruption.
Andrea Chalupa:There's a couple conversations that Sarah and I have been having lately, things that are really concerning us and so we wanted just to remind people, walk them through the current landscape of the mainstream media and what it looks like through the numbers, so I'm gonna read from Pew Research.
Newsroom employment across the United States continues to decline, driven primarily by job losses at newspapers. And even though digital-native news outlets have experienced some recent growth in employment, too few newsroom positions were added to make up for recent losses in the broader industry, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics survey data.
From 2008 to 2017, newsroom employment in the U.S. dropped by 23%. In 2008, about 114,000 newsroom employees – reporters, editors, photographers and videographers – worked in five industries that produce news: newspaper,radio,broadcast television,cableand “other information services” (the best matchfor digital-nativenews publishers). By 2017, that number declined to about 88,000, a loss of about 27,000 jobs.
This decline in overall newsroom employment was driven primarily by one sector: newspapers.
Andrea Chalupa: So basically if you have a newsroom job you're doing extremely well right now and that's a massive decline in jobs 23% since 2008 and guess what? Guess who has the vast majority of the remaining newsroom jobs, white men. This is a quote from an NPR article on the crisis of a lack of diversity in the media and why that matters.
In many of today's newsrooms, women and journalists of color remain a sliver of those producing and reporting stories. According to studies from the American Society of News Editors, the Women's Media Center and the advocacy group VIDA, gender and ethnic diversity in newsrooms have hardly improved in the last decade despite increasing demand for more inclusive journalism in the current round-the-clock news cycle.
Nationally, Hispanic, black and Asian women make up less than 5 percent of newsroom personnel at traditional print and online news publications, according to 2016 data from the American Society of News Editors. The organization stopped requiring that news outlets reveal their identities in an attempt to increase participation in the yearly census. Numbers from 433 news organizations that participated in 2015 and 2016 show a 5.6 percent increase in the minority workforce, now at 17 percent at print and online news sites. But the numbers lag far behind demographic shifts in a country where nearly 40 percent of Americans are part of a minority group. Around the country, local newsrooms remain largely white by most measures.
In March, the Women's Media Center released its annual report on gender representation in the media. The latest numbers show a tiny change — 37.7 percent of the news was credited to female journalists. Major national outlets continue to be dominated by men, and women actually lost representation in broadcast news television.
In a 2015 survey by the group VIDA: Women of the Literary Arts, magazines with a focus on news and culture, such as The New Yorker, The New Republic and Harper's, don't fare any better. VIDA's numbers show that women of color (and minorities in general) are virtually absent from the political commentary and investigative journalism these magazines provide. Though nearly 20 percent of the country's population is Hispanic, very few of these publications had a single VIDA respondent self-report as Hispanic.
The implications of this generalized absence are manifold, and begin at the storytelling level.
Andrea Chalupa: So to sum up, white men, predominantly white men and white women, decide the news. They decide the stories that are worth telling. The NPR article goes on is your an anecdote of a black female reporter, who was early on the Colin Kaepernickstory, in looking at the human side of it, looking at his story as you know not someone who was at war with the NFL or breaking rules just to be a rebel, but looking really at the human rights crisis, looking at at this huge story through the human rights crisis lens and what a difference that made and how early she was to that and I can tell you we have more research that we pulled here for this little segment on why diversity matters because it's their communities that are the first to be impacted.
It's their lives that are literally on the line and a really amazing anecdote to show why diversity benefits us all.
Back in November 2016, when you had mainstream media going you know like pumping out these dapper Nazi pieces and essentially becoming you know stenographers with the Trump White House, out of this horrible scene of like a Batman movie where all the villains are running amuck, comes as Caped Crusader and it's Teen Vogue and everyone's like oh my gosh Teen Vogue is doing some of the best reporting right now and really calling out the Trump regime for what it is. Teen Vogue and at the time at least you know Teen Vogue, the captain of the ship at Teen Vogue, the editor-in-chief was a black woman and so there was a reason why Teen Vogue did not have time to waste and it's because they understood where this was all headed. Minority groups are very sensitive and take seriously the tremors of a police state and thank God for Teen Vogue for having a black woman at the helm, Elaine Welterothto really show leadership in the media at a time we desperately needed it.
Sarah Kendzior:Yeah I agree and you know you see this in terms of you know who is on the ball and identifying threats to civil rights, to civil liberties, also just generally the
quality of journalism on the Trump administration, you know Malcolm Nancecoming out very early with the first Trump Russia book, Joy Reid's show being you know to my knowledge the first cable news show that explored the topic in depth.
Andrea Chalupa:She was one yeah absolutely, I thanked Joy Reid. I have a tweet from from July 2016 all in caps thanking Joy Reid for covering Russia, being one of the very first.
Sarah Kendzior:Yeah and you know what is incredibly frustrating is that of course within media you know you see a move in the opposite direction. You don't see opportunities you know for non-white journalists. You've seen opportunities across the board disappearing as the economy of news media shrinks but more and more they go to the most privileged people. They go to people who come from you know certain networks have certain connections can work unpaid, can work underpaid, that locks out most people but I think it's been particularly damaging toward you know non-white people who historically have just just struggled with discrimination despite showing expertise, despite you know often out writing their competitors.
I think there's a lot of fear on the part of white media of what would happen if what there actually is a meritocracy because I think a lot of very mediocre white men would lose their jobs you know to black or Hispanic or other writers who have proven ability and who are you know more skillful and adept at studying this regime and you know another very frustrating thing for me is that you know I think one of the biggest issues we are facing is this migrant crisis at the border and we do not have enough journalists you know who speak Spanish fluently ,who come from that background where perhaps the children and families there would be more likely to trust them.
You know after having this experience with the U.S. government I think that it's natural for for people to be wary of you know white Americans coming their way and this isn't about filling quotas, this isn't about that. It's about quality journalism it's about representation in media, about empathy and about you know access in different ways and one of those forms of access and I certainly noticed this with Ferguson is that you will get better interviews often if you're from that community.
That's why when people wanted me to go and you know because I was covering Ferguson early and you know I live here I was happy to talk about the dynamics of St. Louis. I was happy to talk about for example what it's like to be a journalist covering Ferguson. I refused any situation where they asked me as a white woman to quote speak for the black community. I was like you know come on like there are people here who've been dying to tell their stories, to see some justice for their community, like there are black journalists in St. Louis who don't have jobs who can do this.
I do know what the resistance is. It's racism. It’s you know a refusal to acknowledge the talent and the ability of non-white journalists. It’s white journalists being comfortable with other white journalists.
I certainly noticed that when I worked as a journalist in New York City. You know we could go on from there but I guess yeah this is having a really damaging effect on our news media. It’s more important than ever for journalism to be diversified in every respect, to get every story told. This is going to become even more challenging as Trump continues to consolidate, so it's our obligation to I think promote quality journalism where we find it and you know expand opportunities, so if that means you know giving up some of our own opportunities then fine.
Andrea Chalupa: Stacy Abrams, you know who's the first black woman to run for viable candidate to run for governor in Georgia, and she's up against Brian Kemp who’s secretary state of Georgia, who's been running the country of Georgia like a third-world country in terms of how it votes, like a former Soviet state that's like how deeply rotten Georgia's election systems are. She said it's not about the blue wave in November 2018, it's about creating the kind of community, the blue wave is about creating the kind of country we want and if you really look at the research if you want some unifying message for the Democratic Party for the opposition that's gonna unite us all and and build a stronger progressive nation, that really reflects the the overwhelming decency that we do have in America, it is simply this, it's that diversity, greater diversity is great for business across the board, just look at the research. I'm gonna read now from a 2018 article in TechCrunch.
Diversity is good for business — not just from the ethical standpoint, but from the perspective of a company’s bottom line, according to McKinsey & Company. As a follow-up to its “Why Diversity Matters” study in 2015, McKinsey analyzed more than 1,000 companies across 12 countries, looking at their respective profits and value creation.
Companies in the top quartile for ethnic diversity at the executive level are 33 percent more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the bottom quartile, according to McKinsey’s report, “Delivering through Diversity.” And essentially the same goes for gender diversity, with companies in the top quartile for gender diversity being 21 percent more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the bottom quartile.
In the top quartile, financial services are overrepresented for gender diversity, while telecom, media and technology companies are disproportionately represented in the lowest quartile.
So that's not surprising that media fails there.
Diversity of different types also matters. McKinsey found a statistically significant correlation between a more diverse leadership team and financial outperformance. Meanwhile, the least diverse companies — the ones in the bottom percentiles for both gender and ethnicity — are 29 percent less likely to outperform in profitability.
For those who want to make the outdated argument that it’s a pipeline problem, McKinsey notes how women received 35 percent and 33 percent of bachelor and masters degrees, respectively, yet make up just 17 percent of executives. Meanwhile, people of color received 30 percent of the bachelor degrees in science, technology, engineering and math since 2000, yet just 12 percent of executives in McKinsey’s sample are people of color.
McKinsey points to Salesforce as an example of a company that delivers on diversity and inclusion, noting its decision to create a C-suite role of chief equality officer and its work to close the gender pay gap.
“Crafting a truly effective inclusion and diversity strategy is no small effort, and requires strong and sustained and inclusive leadership,” the report states. “But we, and many of the companies we studied in depth, believe the potential benefits of stronger business performance are well worth it.”
Andrea Chalupa: Now what stood out to me one of many things that stood out to me in this TechCrunch article from early 2018 is Salesforce. I actually, one of my first
interviews as a journalist, I interviewed Marc Benioffthe founder and now Co-CEO he was CEO for a very long time but he recently switched to Co-CEO so Marc Benioff one of my first interviews as a journalist, it was a stupid little interview we did, where I was still a young journalist.
I was cutting my teeth in a newsroom and I was asking him, the assignment was to find out what was on his desk, what was his office was like what he surrounded himself with and I'll never forget it. Marc Benioff had a Yoda doll on his desk and this is somebody who you know Marc Benioff has been known to quote Star Wars and the man is a billionaire and he's achieved over time a company that is a leader and showing that diversity is a strength that diversity is great for business and McKinsey, you know talk about like late capitalism McKinsey's he first and foremost driven by the almighty dollar they're not doing this because it's like Disney's a small world, they're saying no this the numbers add up but this looks really good. You guys should really do this for your bottom line and Marc Benioff being a leader of that and really showing why it matters and why it looks good and I'm not surprised that this is a man who has Yoda on his desk, front and center, and is driven by something a higher ideal and that higher ideal paying him off in a very big way and being very good for business. I was really touched by that because you know a girl never forgets one of her first interviews so that was really nice to see.
So all of that goes to say now let's look at the dark side of what happens when you don't have a lot of diversity in the media you get stories like Joe Bernstein and BuzzFeed doing a series of articles talking about what Joy Reid may or may not have blogged ten years ago, I simply don't care. Like does Joe Bernstein not believe in evolution, like you know all of us have blogged stupid stuff and tweeted stupid stuff, every single one of us in our lives. It's just human nature, we're dumb.
Like look at global warming is coming for us, like humans are inherently, you know we all blog stupid stuff and you know speaking of Joe Bernstein provides his own example when he tweeted recently. He tweeted one depressing thing about the US and 2018 is there isn't a writer novelist, journalist, essayist who's capable of synthesizing the moment.
Well he got massively ratioed for that with hundreds of people calling him out and some people you know calling out Sarah Kendzior as a prime example of somebody who from the start has warned us about Trump winning and from the start has synthesized this moment in so many ways.
Sarah like I could just objectively point out the fact that your essay All of us Having to be the Light Nowfor Ourselvesthat went viral in 2016 when people were comatose with shocked over Trump surprise election. Then you had a bunch of tech leaders signing a letter saying they'll never fall in line with any authoritarian agenda and they were quoting your work as well so that had a big impact and I can objectively say it's a fact that you self-published a book of essays being a journalist a writer in an industry that is massively shrinking with jobs, a massive decline of jobs in last ten years alone, and so you self-published a book of essays to support yourself and your family and it was all about showing the hidden casualties of income inequality in America and when the first woman candidate for the highest office in our country, who many leaders had pointed out was probably the most qualified, when she had her election stolen from her through this coalition of corruption and she came out and graciously began giving speeches again to try to inspire the nation forward and one of her first speeches she quoted your book and then New York publishing finally came knocking and put it out and it became a New York Times bestseller so I would say objectively, not as your friend, but objectively, your record speaks for itself and the fact that you're invisible to Joe Bernstein and you know it's not surprising that he's somebody, if you're invisible to him, it's not surprising that he just lacks such a self awareness of his own privilege. The fact that he even has a newsroom job and he's wasting that power, that privilege on what joy Reid may or may not have blogged ten years ago, I simply do not care and none of us should care. Especially when you have children locked up in cages.
Sarah Kendzior:Yeah I don't get it either in mean I'm not real broken up about what your Joe Bernstein thinks of me or doesn't think of me like I don't you know hunger for the praise of people that I don't think about or respect. I guess you know one thing I would want to add is that it is a pretty unbelievable comment because there are so many other people who are doing good and vital work during this time I mean just in this episode alone you know we talked about Garry Kasparov, we talked about Iyad el-Baghdadi, you know there have also been other female journalists who've been you know mocked or scorned as hysterical and alarmist as they cover this. You know Rebecca Solnitis someone who's very good, who experienced that. Masha Gessento some degree experienced that as well and Carole Cadwalladrwas recently the target of a you know a BuzzFeed hit piece in which they just you know nitpicked her career. She's the British journalist who brought Cambridge analytical and its role in Brexit to the fore, you know spurring an international investigation.
You know there have been a lot of people working in very you know difficult and sometimes dangerous conditions to try to bring these stories to the public and I wouldn't really say they're ignored. You know it's always weird when people say that about me. It's like, you know I have a best-seller, I've been on late-night TV, I'm on TV regularly, like I have a pretty big audience. I wouldn't describe myself as ignored.
What you mean is that you know powerful groups of white men in politics and media don't like me or won't recognize my work and that's not who I write for. I write for the public. I write to try to inform people and I write what I believe and it's not about that career ladder or social climbing for me and I'm pretty blunt about my opinions of the media and yeah I mean maybe that's been a problem for me but whatever like that's not the point especially now, especially in times like that I guess that's the thing that really blows my mind is prioritizing the stories were telling, because I feel like as a general rule you should, you know as the old saying goes afflict the powerful and comfort the afflicted and that's just not what a lot of folks are doing. It's not even a value that they seem to share.
Instead it's you know this insular attacking of other journalists like the obsessive WikiLeaks style attacks on Joy Reid or just kind of ignorance of whole communities of the U.S. that are being you know badly hurt by this administration in favor of focus for example on you know white Trump voters or you know New York Times is now soliciting articles asking for non-white Trump supporters to share you know whether they feel persecuted, you know and meanwhile you have children in cages, you have white supremacists roaming the streets and beating people up and that's not viewed as as important as the feelings of this extremely small group of people that I think The Times is seeking to hold up as exemplars of a larger movement that just frankly does not exist and you can look at the voting numbers or just you know commentary in general to see that that doesn't exist but they want it to and and that's a problem that we we all have to face and I feel like the only solution is to just you know be persistent and be honest.
Andrea Chalupa:And call it out. And so when Carole Cadwalladr, so she’s a freelancer that's a very insecure position to be in and a financially insecure and and she's been using all her resources available and she was branded a conspiracy theorist and then she went on to win the Orwell Prize for her reporting really showing the forensics on Russian interference in the Brexit vote and really pulling all the pieces together showing how Brexit and Trump are the same crime.
Now the UK government is betraying the British people by not confronting this and taking this seriously and using all of her research as a really strong argument of why Brexit needs to be stopped and the fact that she's really taken upon herself to be this voice of reason and letting all the research speak for itself and here she has this really petty nonsense attack against her in BuzzFeed out of the UK and so what's really wonderful that answers this pettiness and abuse of power, primarily by white men in the media, you have women in the media, you know calling it out which is what's gonna make it finally go away and become outdated so you have Lois Becketta senior reporter at The Guardian in the US she wrote, “I usually love BuzzFeed but this morning's hit piece on Carole Cadwalladr is petty, personal, and way out of line. Anyone who has worked on a big multi-newsroom investigation knows that the process is always messy and always strained.
There's always drama but the impact of these collaborations for readers, for accountability is huge.” So Louis goes on to call them out and take the task and then
another example of this which recently happened, Andrew Kaczynskiand Chris Massie now at CNN wrote some bizarre piece saying how Krysten Sinema, who is running for Senate in Arizona, how she associated with a prominent 9/11 truther and told a radio host that she didn't care if he joined the Taliban. Alright, wow I'm shocked I'm gonna give you some rage clickbait there on that article of yours but then Natasha Bertrandof The Atlantic stops me because she facts checks it and pulls from the article itself and says, “CNN’s KFile found no evidence that Farias promoted those theories when Sinema was a co-host or that Sinema endorsed such theories at any time.”
Basically, she's saying that Natasha Bertrand god bless her one of our favorites, basically what Natasha’s pointing out is that this bullshit article was grasping first straws so what they like to do is really label women as nutty or slutty you know as we saw with Anita Hill with what she went through and white men in the media not recognizing that journalist, journalism newsroom jobs, it's like an endangered species now.
Like you have to really understand that you have to work harder now to ground yourself in trying to compensate for all the loss of those newsroom jobs especially on the local beats and get it into the weeds on local issues and protect local communities that are losing their newspapers like be driven by public service, not this bizarre weird abuse of power that you're falling into that's just pure pettiness and we're not saying you know you can't hold women accountable or go after women or whatever not saying that we're saying have some priorities.
We're living at a time when we're being hit with multiple crises at once from income inequality to global warming to an immigration crisis which is now a human rights crisis so please it's like we need your help and we need you to ask yourself every time you approach a story is this newsworthy? Sure it's newsworthy because Joy Reid’s in it or this you know senate candidate out of Arizona that makes it newsworthy.
Okay then ask yourself is it for the public good? Is empathy at the center of this story? Is this going to save people's lives in some way? That's how you need to start approaching your work you last remaining newsroom employees that are so lucky to have your jobs and your benefits and your security. What security you seem to have left and so please take full advantage of that power and don't abuse it because we desperately need you to do your jobs and be strong traditional muckraker journalists. Enough with this petty nonsense, it's really heartbreaking. So yeah this will conclude our media literacy 101, so just remember the white men and white women get to decide who gets credibility and who gets labeled and white women if you try to join the boys club and play along with them so your work matters, there’s a report Laura McGannat Vox writes, Anyone that follows Beltway Twitter knows it’s a deeply insular and self-involved world dominated by men who almost exclusively speak to each other. But now there’s research to prove it.
“When male journalists reply to other beltway journalists, they reply to another male journalist 91.5% of the time,” according to a study to be published in the the International Journal of Press/Politics, titled “Twitter Makes It Worse: Political Journalists, Gendered Echo Chambers, and the Amplification of Gender Bias.” Of the 25 reporters who received the most replies from male political reporters, zero were women.
Andrea Chalupa: So white women you can try to play along and join the boys club but ultimately you will be ignored. You will be marginalized and so what really needs to happen is what Natasha Bertrand was doing what Lois Beckett was doing is you have to call out this abuse of power when it happens and I do believe that this sort of behavior will get phased out and I do believe you know we are heading towards a fair and freer world.
We just have to fight for it and just like Sydette Harry, black amazon, said in our last interview which inspired me so much, when you love a community, when you love something, you fight for it. You're not afraid and all your courage to speak out to use your voice comes from that love. Again a black woman showing how it's done, showing leadership for the rest of us because lives are literally at stake now and another thing I want to just remind men, the white men out there who might get a little tingle of adrenaline rush because you feel threatened, you think we’re coming for your jobs.
It’s simply not that and you know we have to say this because it's our job to make learning fun and that is we love men, men are wonderful, men are great and just to give you an example of what we're talking about when we when we demand greater equality it's simply this, think back on you know some of the movies that have come out recently like Melissa McCarthy, any type of movie that you've seen recently and remember a time when Christopher Hitchens in Vanity Fair in 2007 wrote a column titled Why Women Aren't Funny. Okay, why women aren't funny. Now today it's like I could sit here and just list off all the women comedians out there but what's the point it'd be like listing off all the men comedians out there. There are so many of them and we as a country, we had a massive moment of healing where right after Donald Trump became inaugurated President of the United States, Melissa McCarthy came out and brought a nation together when she was Sean Spicer. That was a pivotal moment in America's healing, that brought us together. So when she did that I thought of Christopher Hitchens Vanity Fair article from 2007 and why women aren't funny. So when we talk about greater equality it's you benefiting from the Melissa McCarthy's in the world.
It's like we're not taking your jobs, we're bringing you value and also ask yourself you know like well is it going to be a matriarchy or the women taking over? Simply not, it's just we need to balance the playing field for everyone's benefit because diversity is for business. Diversity protects us. Whenever you think a woman can't be President of the United States for example or all these little like misogynistic pettiness in the media will never go away, go watch a women's gymnastics video from 1936 where they're essentially just doing jumping jacks and compare it to women's gymnastics video in 2016 where the women Americans gymnastics teams are practically a team of ninjas. So progress takes time but we need to accelerate that time by fighting for and calling out this abusive behavior.
Sarah Kendzior:Yeah absolutely.
Andrea Chalupa:We have got a contest winner! We have got a contest winner! Okay so we at Gaslit Nation enacted the 1000 doors challenge where we're calling on all of our listeners to have a great stroll getting out the vote. It's one of those effective ways to reach voters so the goal is for us to reach 1,000 doors between now and Election Day on November 6. The winner will receive a signed copy of Sara's book and an invitation to come on our show and talk with us about your dreams for your country and every week we're going to be giving away a signed copy of Sara's book The View from Flyover Country to people that go to crushthemidterms.org and within seconds create their plan on how they plan to crush the midterms and create the Blue Wave on November 6. It's very easy to do and you'll learn about all these cool opportunities to take advantage of your talents to help create the Blue Wave. So on today's show we're gonna just randomly announce a winner just blindfolded here. So the winner is, tell me when to stop Sarah.
Andrea Chalupa:Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God, oh my God. Okay and the winner of the crush the midterms Gaslit Nation challenge is @pattenprey. Congratulations pattenprey, we will be sending you a signed copy of Sarah's book. If you didn't win it this week you're still in the running for next week. We’re gonna announce a winner every week. And now next up we have a really inspiring interview with a woman who never ceases to amaze me. She's a novelist, a successful novelist and a mother and a tenacious civic servant and she's helping us all through a very important initiative on how we can turn state governments blue and undo many years of Karl Rove's agenda for this far-right takeover so that interview begins now.
Andrea Chalupa:Today we have an interview that we are very excited for. We are speaking with some wonderful women who are going to direct our attention and our resources to a very critical yet overlooked battleground and that is a fight for states. So could you to introduce yourselves in terms of what you do in this larger picture of trying to turn states blue across the Union.
Melissa Walker:Sure so my name is Melissa Walkerand I am actually an author of teen novels and middle grade novels and since the 2016 election I have really turned my attention to state legislatures and I formed a group that has raised money to try to flip state chambers from red to blue and in doing that I discovered a model for giving circles, political giving circles, that I have been able to bring to Alyssa's organization Future Nowto help other people form similar groups and help states kind of take back their progressive power.
Alyssa Cass:My name is Alyssa Cass, I'm the political director at the Future Now fund where I have the privilege of working with Melissa and groups like her so that groups activated motivated and unsurprisingly majority women can corral their collective power to have a huge impact on flipping state legislative chambers across the country and going on offense and advancing a progressive agenda in key states, in five key states this year.
Andrea Chalupa:So the reason why I really want to talk to you, I remember vividly November 2017, meeting up with Melissa the novelist for drinks in New York City and this was I think, no sorry it was October, it was October and it was days before the round of special elections in November 2017 and Melissa you were one of the few people that I came across that actually had any sort of optimism and you were telling me, explaining me all this great science a lot of these great groups were doing to flip districts blue and it was just like this breath of fresh air and I was just so energized by it. I remember calling Sarah Kendzior after that and saying oh my gosh you would not believe what's happening, I think this is a sign of something much bigger and lo and behold the campaign's you're telling me about in Virginia and Washington State saw a huge blue wave coming and so a lot of that optimism that you shared with me on the verge of those historic elections was very much deserved and so that's why I'm like rushing to you now for hopefully some good signs and good news and also some important realism that we need in order to get grounded and really win the important battles ahead.
Melissa Walker:Yeah so I remember that night too. I'm glad I was right to be into optimistic. I had spent much of 2017 really learning about the power of state governments and how much they could do for people and that in itself gave me optimism because as someone who doesn't have you know millions of dollars to donate to political races, I felt like I could not make an impact at the federal level and what I really learned about the state level was that not only does less money make a huge impact but also the impact of electing different leaders at the state level is arguably bigger than changing the federal level.
My group and I did all this research and led by Daniel Squadronwho was kind of our North Star on this idea and we looked into how much state's influence all the things that we truly care about, you know education policy, the environment, gun safety, health care, choice, voting rights, civil rights, those are all things that are decided in state capitals, state by state, and so you know when we really learned about the Republican takeover Project RED map, how 26 states have a conservative trifecta meaning they have the governor's mansion, they have majorities in both houses of the legislators and they can really pass anything they want and the Democrats have that in seven states when we started eight states now.
It really honed my focus and I wanted everyone I know to turn their attention to this level of government as well and so our money that we raised for the Washington State election and for the Virginia House of Delegates elections went very far and you know added to all the grassroots movements that were coming up some of the favorite state organizations that we worked with and that we talked to all along you know flippable Sister District. There's a lot of great work being done at the state level and we were really, really proud to be part of that.
Virginia was our first chance to partner with Future Now Fund because they had just started up and actually I think they launched in October 2017 so probably right when I saw you and we were really excited to go in with them into Virginia and support ten candidates with really like not a lot of money it was under $20,000 to each candidate. It was like between five and twenty thousand dollars to each candidate and we were in the top three biggest givers to nine of those ten candidates so it's that kind of money that goes so far in these state races and nine of those ten won their seats by the way and Virginia expanded Medicaid so 400,000 new Virginians have Medicaid because of how close we came to flipping the House of Delegates, we got within one seat.
Andrea Chalupa:Wow and Alyssa could you talk a little bit about Future Now, how you guys got started and what your big goals are and what that timeline looks like? Do you have a ten year timeline? Twenty year timeline? Like what are you big dreams for our country?
Alyssa Cass: Yeah we have very big dreams for our country we have actually a big part of our organization is an agenda we have for the country called Americas Goals. Americas Goals is kind of, you know, our view is an author like Melissa wouldn’t start a young adult novel without an outline. Someone who's doing building a house, wouldn't build a house without a blueprint and so if we really want to get our country back on track, we have to have an agenda to do that and so America's goals are you know it's good jobs, it's health care, it's investing in kids, it's getting special interests out of our politics, it's promoting equal opportunity for everyone, it's sustainable infrastructure and you know clean water and so we're pretty zealous about that agenda and so when we look at states that we're going to invest in and the candidates we're going to support to do that, we look at states where we think that we can meaningfully move the needle to you know against those goals and we only support candidates that also support these ambitious, but we think really reachable goals, you know so with that kind of framing in mind is how we go about doing our work.
We did a rigorous analysis of all 99 chambers. Interestingly, Nebraska has a unicameral legislature so that's why you're at 99 not a hundred, but we looked at those those 99 chambers and we thought where is there a path to building a new majority in those states and where is the biggest policy opportunity. It's not really enough to just flip states or to just flip you know individual seats it's exciting it's exciting when you flip a seat but it's not enough. It’s about how do we build from a base of progressive power for years to come and how do we elect people that we know are committed to the same goals we are so with kind of that you know ambition in mind is how we got to the work we're doing this year, because of the incredible work that you did in Virginia through the support of generous groups like Melissa's you're able to expand our work into five states this year Arizona, Michigan, Maine, New Hampshire and North Carolina and we're really excited about what we're seeing in those and you know we pick states that are deliberately hard to flip, like we made it our lives like pretty deliberately difficult.
We could have picked states where we saw you know kind of an easy street to a flip but we deliberately picked states where the path is narrow but where we know that if we change the majority in Arizona, things like meaningfully get better. I mean Arizona for instance is a state you've seen some of the most extreme anti-choice measures or the most extreme anti-immigration measures and those policies have been shipped out of Arizona and gone national, so if you can stomp that out, stomp out patient zero and where these bad policies are coming from and also have the opportunity that advance really awesome policies in a state like Arizona, that's that's changing the lives of millions of people. And we got to do that five times over.
Andrea Chalupa:So this is really interesting because the work you're doing is very much at the heart of it, the states rights versus the federal government and it's such an important reminder of you know as your sight FutureNow.org says the Flint water crisis that's a state level issue, schools without resources to teach that's a state level issue, healthcare that costs too much and cures too little, voting laws and congressional maps that discriminate, all state-level issues so even if the federal government is in the hands of somebody like the Trump family, on the state level you can still fight your heart out and organize to turn your state blue and enact a lot of these policies to create a more progressive Union.
Alyssa Cass:Exactly and I think actually something that's really crystallized the impact of States is the confirmation of Kavanaugh. I mean no matter, I mean it's really fucking depressing that you know even if if we flip Congress and if Trump's a one-term president, the Supreme Court is still going to have an extreme five justice conservative majority and the way to push back against that is the the harm and destruction that that five-member conservative court can advance, is to do it in the States. You know, if you're someone who's concerned that you know a best-case scenario the Supreme Court is going to allow Roe to die a death by a million cuts and in a worst case is going to overturn it. We have to fight in the states. If you're concerned that the Trump Court is gonna uphold you know corporate interests over the interests of regular people time and time again and protect those corporate interests, come hell or high water, you gotta fight that in the States and you know it's really I think for Melissa and I made our mission and our work feel that much more important.
Melissa Walker:Yeah, we've actually really teared up over that in the past couple weeks together and I you know one thing I mean I think Roe is a really good example, you know a lot of states those 26 Republican trifecta states that I mentioned earlier, will really start to absolutely get rid of a woman's right to choose and and blue trifecta states and even states where maybe the governor of one legislature is blue, those states will start putting in laws that protect women.
You know one of New York's first goals, if we can get a true blue state Senate, is to get our choice bill up to speed.
It's not where it needs to be and so those protective laws can do so much for the citizens of the states where there's progressive people in power and just to give a kind of positive spin on what we were talking about in terms of last year in Washington state, where we helped to flip the entire state to a blue trifecta and since that state since that that one seat has flipped we've seen the legislature just in their one session since then you know pass a bump stock ban and ban LGBTQ conversion therapy and pass a bunch of environmental laws that have been bottlenecked by that one seat. Paid family leave and automatic voter registration, so in these states that have bluer government’s, they make it easier for people to vote and that's going to be something that's really important in terms of the Supreme Court to you know they're really in a position now to limit people's voting access and in a mindset to do such but states can push back on that and that's arguably one of the most important things that states can do for democracy.
Andrea Chalupa:How did it get so bad? How did the Democrats lose so many states over the last decade?
Melissa Walker:You know there's a few answers to that but I think one of the biggest answers is that we got really excited about Obama winning the presidency and controlling things at the federal level and everybody kind of had stars in their eyes. You know Obama was really elected by a Democratic coalition that did include all 50 states, the 50 states strategy and after who's elected people I think kind of rested on their laurels a little bit and we really haven't funded state races in a meaningful way and Republicans have.
The Koch brothers and their ilk have come in and really taken things over at the state level and you know we lost almost 1,000 state seats since 2008 and the truth is that losing those seats made people's lives worse, you know the states that enact right-to-work laws and you know Oklahoma many of the schools have four days of school because public education isn't funded and you know there are all these things that made people's lives bad but a lot of times people don't look to their state legislatures for those answers.
They look at the President and maybe they look at their senators and their Congress people who are going to Washington DC. But where they should be looking is at their state capitol and their local governments because that's where the problems lie in many cases and it's really where the solutions lie.
Alyssa Cass:Republicans have always done a good job of understanding that states are powerful in their own right, that all of these laws that affect you know health care, education, climate policy, that they're just there in large part decided in the states and as a party at you know Democrats, Melissa and I included believe in the power of the federal government, but that doesn't mean that we don't also believe that states are really powerful in their own right and you know it's something that frankly we still struggle with and even in you know today, as you see Democratic groups increasingly find states that often the narrative is about redistricting, that states are powerful because they control drawing congressional districts, and that's true. It’s true that that's a huge power states have but they're also powerful in determining you know does your kid get a decent education at their public school? Are there enough teachers there? Like those basic things are not determined by, often by the federal government, but by your state so I really believe that if Democrats, came to understand the true power of their state and the role that state plays in their lives, that you'll see a lot more momentum and interest from Democrats in the states and the other thing that’s so exciting is that for people who want to have a really big impact, like states are where it's at, like it is really exciting to support a credible, congressional or US senatorial candidate and you should do that. But also you should support state legislators because flipping an entire state legislative chamber cost one-tenth as much as winning one competitive congressional race. That's huge.
Andrea Chalupa:Why has this been overlooked? Melissa has explained to me that it's just not as sexy as some of the other causes out there that people could support. Could you talk about the perception problem?
Melissa Walker:You know and so this is Melissa again. I think that one thing that happens is that we, at least I, had a basic lack of knowledge about state legislatures. I mean I think that 99% of the people I talked to cannot identify who their state senator or state house member are. They can usually name their senators and their Congress people, the people who go to DC for them, very rarely can someone name for me the person that goes to their state capitol and it's a body that operates in shadow in some sense because people aren't aware. They know their governor. They know their federal reps but below that it gets really easy for people and so that's part of it. I think part of it might be like the loss of like good local news coverage and all of us focusing on big national news all the time I think that's part of it too.
Alyssa Cass:Yeah and I can say candidly that when Melissa speaks about how people don’t know who their state legislator is or you know the power that they have, I can put myself in that same came. You know I'm someone that you know has lived and breathed national politics or refresh in Twitter since I was a kid but I you know didn't really know what my state legislature did and how one of the reasons how I got to future now fun was Daniels vodka and our executive director was my state senator for nearly a decade and I started seeing these like really cold things happening in my neighborhood, affordable housing projects that really gave people dignity, like incredible parks being put up and I saw like in this park that there was a plaque that had Daniel’s name on and I said who the hell is this Daniel? What is he doing giving us parks? And I looked into it and he was my state legislator. He was my state senator and I thought huh like I guess that they do more than just like drive to Albany. They have a real impact and you know when you peek behind the curtain it's pretty clear to see how impactful they are.
Andrea Chalupa :Melissa, could you talk about, you shared this with me before and it was terrifying, what are you up against in terms of Karl Rove, the brain of the far right take over of our country. What are you up against in terms of the conservative strategy, the Conservatives nightmares for our country?
Melissa Walker:They do a lot, they do a lot of funding at the state and local level and they have for decades. I believe the Koch brothers have announced that they're putting six hundred million dollars into state races this year that's just what's been publicly announced. They will definitely be better funded than the Democrats but the good news is, I'm always looking for the silver lining, the good news is that we don't have to fund Democratic candidates to the same level, we just need to fund our candidates enough so that they can get their message out, because when we fund candidates enough so that they can knock on all the doors so that they can have a mailer, so that they can have a digital ad, so that they can be out in their district meeting people, we can win those races because state legislature districts you can really reach your voters and talk to them and when you do turns out the Democratic message is better, people like it better. Oh I’m going to give you health care. We're gonna help you improve your life and that message resonates with voters when they're able to hear their candidate speak and we need to fund our candidates to get them out there meeting people.
Alyssa Cass:And what we see in you know there are you know in the five states that we're working in this cycle there are obviously different parts of the country with, you know different types of voters and different types of issues but we hear the same things again and again. Like the top three issues in almost each of these states is generally the same. It's health care, it's education and one that almost surprised me is is clean water. Like clean water is not just a Flint, Michigan issue. It’s a main issue where they have incredibly high rate of lead poisoning in their water supply. Clean water is an issue in North Carolina and so these are issues where Democrats win and where people can run campaigns and do run campaigns on these issues.
The candidates that I speak to and the candidates we've endorsed, these are people who are knocking on thousands of doors in their district and they tell us they are not talking about Trump. Like voters you know even if they're hearing about Trump on MSNBC or Fox News they're not thinking about it when they're talking to candidates they're asking about their local schools, their local water supply and will I be able to afford health care.
Andrea Chalupa: Could you speak a little bit about the conservative plan to call a constitutional convention to change our constitution in a way that would be more advantageous to the Republicans because that's a real thing that they are really gunning for that and I don't think people realize how close they are to calling a constitutional convention.
Melissa Walker:I'm actually going to look up the exact numbers but I know that there's a certain number of legislative bodies that they need majorities in in order to call a constitutional convention and it's definitely been a goal of the Koch machine and one of the main goals that they have with that is that they'd like to repeal the popular election of senators which is terrifying so it would mean that governor's around the country would appoint senators and they have a lot of governor’s, that's been a big part of their plan in the state takeover get the states, you know in states where legislators draw the redistricting line, they get to control Congress, get the governor's and get enough chambers to call a constitutional convention and eliminate the election of senators. It's a truly terrifying future that they've been gunning towards and it's called Project Red Mapand you know the more I've read about it, there's an amazing book called, excuse my French, Rat-Fuckedby Dave Daley about it and about the whole plan and they've really laid it out and you know Karl Rove had an editorial in the Wall Street Journal that the subhead was whoever controls the states controls Congress and it was just like wow they just put it out there and they were saying it all along and we still really didn't take our eyes off the federal level and we didn't find the states to where they needed to be.
Alyssa Cass:And funding states means it's also a question of how they funded it. I mean the Republicans have built incredible in-state infrastructure like it's not as exciting to talk about it but they have the capabilities, resources, and muscle-memory in state to run elections where they can you know seize control of legislative majorities and Democrats need to build the same that you know it's really important to fund inspiring candidates and equally important to fund the activities that allow states to have the best field program, cycle after cycle, the best digital infrastructure, cycle after cycle. We need to do those things and we’re behind.
Andrea Chalupa:It's about building the 50 state strategy that got Obama elected in the first place in 2008 and just keeping it permanent, and having it set up so that it's not only protecting our elections and our Democratic candidates, cycle after cycle, but also pushing through the policies we need to really raise the bar on quality of life here in America and undo a generations of damaged by a lot of these Republican policies in some of these states. So there's a 2017 Daily Beast article, the Conservative plan to rewrite the Constitution and yes, it's a thing, and they remind us that it only takes 34 states to call for a constitutional convention and Republicans are very close. They have as of late 2017, 32 state legislatures controlled by Republicans and 34 Republican governorships.
Melissa Walker:Yeah yeah it's very scary
Alyssa Cass:I think one thing we've learned is that we should take Republicans at their word. When they say they're going to do stuff, they're going to try to do stuff. We shouldn't act like these things are hypothetical or like an extreme joke. When people show you who you are you should believe them.
Andrea Chalupa:Okay so how do we get involved? How can people listening to this get involved and help your organization Future Now and what are some practical steps that they can take?
Melissa Walker:Sure, well we do have an amazing giving circle's program which is groups of people banding together to raise money for these five states that we talked about and again small amounts of money make a huge difference so we have groups that have just formed in the past week that have kind of hit the ground running and they have goals of raising, some groups are trying to raise $1,000 among their friends and family, some groups are trying to raise $25,000 ahead of November and everybody's really activated and energized. So that's definitely one things start a giving circle at FutureNow.org.
Alyssa Cass:And the other way is that there are all these amazing giving circles that are already up and running and you can support them, like each of them explains you know why they're doing what they're doing, why they're they've adopted the state they've adopted, what the stakes are and you can give directly to them.
Andrea Chalupa :Which states are you in again? You're in five states now.
Alyssa Cass:Arizona, Michigan and Michigan is really exciting because for the first time there is in the Michigan House a majority of the Democratic candidates for the first time ever are women. So that's an important Michigan plug. North Carolina, Maine and New Hampshire.
Andrea Chalupa:And if somebody wanted to start this in their state, could you help them do that? Is it just as simple as starting a giving circle that's connected with Future Now and plugged in with you or do you have a good plan on how you plan to enter other states?
Melissa Walker:Well ahead of 2018 there's not quite time for us to go launch into another state but the giving circle program will definitely expand. There's some states that have races in 2019, thinking about Virginia and Louisiana specifically and then of course in 2020 all the states would be on the table again and Future Now fund will expand to support many more states. So if people are interested in starting a giving circle for their own state and it's not one of our chosen state, it's absolutely something to get in touch about that can be pursued for the next cycle.
Andrea Chalupa:Great, so thank you so much for this important discussion. Another reminder that you have to get involved now and maintain the long view. If you'd like to know more check out FutureNow.org. Gaslit Nation is produced by Sarah Kendzior and Andrea Chalupa and our editor is Karlyn Daigle. Thank you, Karlyn. If you want to help us leave a review on iTunes, every review helps us build our audience. Our outro music is by Nick Farr, thank you so much Nick. We want to give a special thank you to our donors at the producer level on Patreon Anne Marshall, Arina Laguardia and Peter.
Case, we can't do the show without you and check out our Patreon if you like what we do. Thanks for listening.