We discuss the Barr memo fallout, the insipid media coverage, the unchecked assassins of Russia and Saudi Arabia, Ukraine's election, FBI purges, and more.
Sarah: 00:00:10 I'm Sarah Kendzior, I'm a journalist and a scholar of authoritarian states with a focus on the former Soviet Union and the author of the book, The View From Flyover Country.
Andrea: 00:00:19 I'm Andrea Chalupa, a writer, filmmaker and the screenwriter and producer of the upcoming journalistic thriller, Mr. Jones.
Sarah: 00:00:26 And this is Gaslit Nation, the podcast covering corruption in the Trump administration and the rise of autocracies around the world. This episode is to some degree a continuation of our last episode called the Barr report and we called it that for a reason. There was no Mueller report released to the public and there is still no Mueller report released to the public. This hasn't stopped everyone from drawing conclusions about the content of the actual unseen Mueller report, which is rumored to be around 400 pages. So right now we are mostly in this holding pattern of inertia and chaos that is typified by the Trump administration.
Sarah: 00:01:05 But there have been some new developments after a week in which outlets ran inflammatory headlines based on a four page pseudo summary by Attorney General Barr, aka the Iran Contra guy, that quoted a mere 64 words of the actual Mueller report. Included among them confirmation that Trump was not exonerated. Barr is now walking back the initial document saying that he can't summarize Mueller's conclusions and that we will get the report in mid April. Members of Congress are pushing for it to be released sooner. There is no guarantee that this will happen, that the report will be Mueller's actual report, that it will not be heavily redacted or that the investigation is even over. There's also no indication that the Mueller report will be particularly illuminating given that so much of the worst information is already in the public domain. And that what we really need are indictments and not a report and Mueller has failed us in that regard.
Sarah: 00:02:03 But in reference to things in the public domain, uh, just refresh your memory. Um, some of the things that we do not need the report to see, were Trump asking Russia to get Hillary Clinton's emails and saying that the, the media would reward them for it at a July, 2016 press conference. Roger Stone collaborating with Wikileaks, which was operating as a front for Russian intelligence. Those emails are in the public domain. We have the emails between Michael Cohen and Felix Sater, which were released to the public and verified as authentic saying they were working with Putin to put Trump in power. Those emails were from November, 2015. We have the changes in the RNC platform by oligarch lackey, Paul Manafort, to make it favorable to Russia. That is in the public domain. We have of course, the meeting in Trump tower, uh, in 2016 which was revealed to the public by Donald Trump Jr in 2017 where he tweeted out the details of that meeting.
Sarah: 00:03:03 There's since been numerous documents, um, transmissions, interceptions, and you know, information and indictments in the public domain. We have Trump firing Comey for looking into Russia and partying with Lavrov and Kislyak in the Oval Office the next day. He then went on Lester Holt and uh, and confessed to obstruction of justice admitting that he did this to shut the Russia thing down. That's in the public domain. We have information reported by multiple outlets about Jared Kushner's proposed back channel with Russia. We have multiple Trump administration lying on their security clearance forms about illicit meetings with Russians. Among those liars are Jared, Ivanka, and Jeff Sessions who of course had to recuse himself because of his role in the Russia plot. That's in the public domain. We have Michael Flynn working secretly as an agent for Russia for years and displaying such an obviously close relationship with the Russian government that he was sitting near Putin at the RT gala held in 2015. That is all in the public domain.
Sarah: 00:04:07 You can look at pictures, you can look at documents, you can see this for yourself and you know, this is just the tip of the iceberg. You can also look at 30 to 40 years of Trump business deals with the Russian mafia Trump meetings with Russian officials as well as the deals of nearly everyone in their inner circle and very blatant events like Russian mafia members slash FBI informants Felix Sater taking Don Jr. and Ivanka to Russia to the Kremlin and having Ivanka Trump sit in Putin's chair in 2006. Uh, and then of course they lied repeatedly for years and said they had no connection with Russia. So again, you do not need the Mueller report to see all this, uh, what we need are answers as to why nothing was done when all of this was taking place in public when all of this was readily, um, you know, able to be identified by the public as a massive threat. And we need answers about why the media lied about it then and is continuing to lie about it even now, even after everything that we have borne witness to. So Andrea, what are your thoughts on that?
Andrea: 00:05:23 My thoughts are, every time I want to retire and stop doing the show and just go off into the sunset and maybe try gardening, I am reminded by why we have it and that's because we have a corporate controlled media, which is gaslighting everybody and it's just so blatant to see and we want to reassure everyone listening. No, you're not losing your mind. The facts are still all the facts and the investigative journalists that did the tireless work of documenting everything. They did their jobs, they're the heroes in all of this. And what you're really seeing is assault on investigative journalism launched by the White House in a cover up that was done with the help of the Iran Contra cleanup guy who has a track record of doing this. He made Iran Contra go away and you have the harassment machine of Trump's Twitter account, which has been relentlessly harassing agents in the FBI, law enforcement and the FBI who are specialized in fighting organized crime.
Andrea: 00:06:24 That alone is obstruction of justice that we saw carried out in plain sight. And I just want to just to help ungaslight everybody, cause I know all of us were probably questioning our own sanity because of this whole right wing coup of a propaganda win by the White House with this really bizarre letter by the Iran Contra Cleanup Guy, which so many people in the media took at face value, which is such a really weird cell phone. And a lot of them were really euphoric about it. Saying ha, we knew Russia gate was a big hoax this whole time. Why are you admitting that you're taking the Trump family's bait on this? It's not going to age well. We promise you it never does. So it's been really surreal to watch all of this go down, especially given the framework that we have. Sarah and I personally and all the many conversations we've had, not just about the history, authoritarianism and that how that playbook never changes.
Andrea: 00:07:18 It's always the same or how kleptocracy works, but also knowing the framework that, that we always share with you on this show. So you understand how all of this works. How active measures works is my sister's story. And what a victim she's been of the Kremlin's active measures in the 2016 election and that's been well documented by the journalist David Corn in his book, Russian Roulette by Malcolm Nance in his book. So it's personally, it's personally hurtful to me and my family given what my sister and her kids have suffered through and the things I've been dealing with this past week of my niece terrified that Trump's gonna destroy her family cause they're coming after my sister again, they're firing up the Kremlin bot talking points to come after her and understand also the negligence of corporate media inaccurately, deeply covering it instead, as we've always done the show, mainstream media behaves like a high school cafeteria. It's shallow, it's snickering and it's failing us right now. And really what this week felt like was a very deep betrayal.
Sarah: 00:08:20 Yeah. And I just want to kind of clarify for people who are new to the show, um, you know, who your sister is and why she has been and continues to be uh targeted by the Trump administration and its criminal associates and it's Russian associates. If you listen to the first three episodes in particular of Gaslit Nation, this is spelled out, Andrea's sister Alexandra was a researcher studying Ukraine who was familiar with Paul Manafort, uh, because of his machinations, uh, you know, in Ukraine and his long history of criminal behavior, which again, this was also in the public domain. You know, Manafort ran a consulting group, nicknamed the torturers lobby and was, you know, cozying up and working for oligarchs in plain sight. This should have set off alarms.
Sarah: 00:09:07 It should not have fallen on Andrea's sister to the be the person who rung them, you know, and who went to the FBI and who talked to members of the Democratic Party as a patriot, as somebody who is trying to alert this country to a major national security threat, which is absolutely what everyone should have been doing. You know, this, this is brought up again and again with the Trump family. Like when Russia reached out to Don Jr. and was like, you know, hey, we can help you out with this stuff. And he was like, cool. Even those who are sort of more sympathetic to the Trump side or like, you know, yes. Why didn't you go to the FBI? You know, that's the question. Andrea's sister, you know, did everything that a good Americans should do and is being punished for it because this is a time when the government will punish you for being a good American.
Andrea: 00:09:55 Thank you. Yeah. And so understand first and foremost, we want to set expectations on what this show is, especially if you're just discovering it. This is first and foremost the phone calls that Sarah and I will be having anyway, uh, of two friends with, with over a decade plus years studying authoritarianism, sending kleptocracy and former Soviet states and the history behind those states. We would come together anyway with these phone calls to support each other other, to help make sense of all this. We're first and foremost two friends and we've opened up our conversations because of the abusive betrayals in the media. This is what launched the show. It finally got, made us get our act together was back in spring 2018 when children were being locked in cages and separated from their families, uh, white men in the mainstream media were writing stories on what Joy Reid of MSNBC may or may not have blogged 10 years ago and it was sort of like when you have Steven Miller in the White House, that's a really poor use of your resources.
Andrea: 00:10:53 And so we share these conversations with you because we see how bad it is out there and just how shallow it is out there. And so this episode in particular, we're going to go, we're going to do some media literacy in term just to just to restate the facts of what we're up against when it comes to the corporate owned media, which is laying off even some excellent journalists. Yes. I think it's really, really important to understand what the media landscape is and put some statistics on it so you can keep that in mind about why this is happening, why they are betraying and hurting us with their shallow reporting when lives are literally on the line, including my sister's. So if you want to know why this show regularly includes conversations about my sister's story or why it regularly includes conversations about events unfolding in Ukraine.
Andrea: 00:11:46 Understand that we use those two as frameworks for us to stay grounded in events that are still developing, still unfolding and how they're impacting us. We are not a show that chases after the cat laser pointer coming out of the White House. We don't do that. We're not generalists. We go narrow and deep and that benefits us to stay grounded, to know that that we are not losing our minds, that we do have this, these frameworks to rely on, on how all of this works and every single episode we impact little by little these frameworks so that you too can see how useful they are to stay grounded when you are literally being assaulted by a barrage of news stories that are just clickbait driven. That are profits driven that are this attention economy. It’s social media that's just pushing all of these different narratives and the stories that everyone's excited about switching that afternoon to a new story and everybody forgets and suddenly a week feels like a year.
Andrea: 00:12:48 And so we stay grounded here and we slow down the news and by sticking with our tried and true frameworks that have allowed us to see where all of this is coming, see the news a mile away before it happens. We don't say that to brag, oh, we're witches or with a cauldron with secret spells and we predict things were psychic. No, we have tried and true frameworks like Ukraine, like my sister's story that we deeply report on that we deeply cover here on the show that help us stay grounded so we don't lose our way and we don't feel like we're losing our minds. And it allows us to very clearly see how everything is unfolding and not be afraid and conform when so many people in media are simply doing that. And it's shocking. I, we know, we understand. We see it too.
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Sarah: 00:14:33 It's been a frustrating week. You know, in many ways it feels like being transported back to 2016 or 2017. Um, you know, and one thing that has stood out for me and Andrea is, you know, our story has remained consistent. Our telling of these events has remained consistent and it's also been, you know, like we're able to call what's coming in advance because as I said, these events and, um, confessions took place in the public domain and they're not mutable qualities that change based on a truncated memo or on a series of headlines. You know, that is what the Trump team has always excelled at, at this blitzkrieg of propaganda. Um, you know, whether through repetition or, uh, you know, through points of view that completely contradict each other, you know, through blatant brazen lies, which are always a hallmark of autocracy, you know, lying any easily disprovable manner is a method that autocrats used to show that there's no point in speaking truth to power when power is the only truth. And so you're seeing all these tactics used, you know, they’re tactics that of course, you know, Russia and other authoritarian states use, they did not necessarily invent or import them.
Sarah: 00:15:54 I think that there's, you know, a native born American tendency as well, but it has been frustrating to see the headlines about the Mueller report. People appear to have again suffered. I actually, you know, what’s interesting, people have not suffered from collective amnesia. That's what I was about to say. But when you look at polling of how the public is interpreting the Barr memo and the Mueller report, they have not fallen for this series of headlines and these, you know, gleeful proclamations from reporters who are trying to exonerate Trump who are calling Russia conspiracies hoaxes who are denying evidence in their face. The public is smarter than that. The public is not falling for that. You know, Trump's approval rating has gone down. The Barr memo did not positively impact him at all and overwhelmingly the public is demanding to see the full unredacted Mueller report.
Sarah: 00:16:55 It's fascinating to me that journalists are not demanding to see this because the primary tenant of journalism is to look at primary sources. It's to fact check. It's to make sure that what you're quoting, you know, is accurate, is thorough, is well researched, and instead, you know, they want to take the word of a professional liar of a man, William Barr, who is hired by the GOP to lie, who has been doing it steadily for decades, who had in advance of the Mueller probe, you know, said that the probe was invalid, that it should be shut down, that they should instead pursue Hillary Clinton. Again, all of that happened publicly and I'm glad that the public seems to remember that. I'm glad they seem to remember the Michael Cohen hearing from merely a few weeks ago in which Cohen discussed the tactics used by the Trump team, the blackmail, the bribery, the threats, you know, and these are all tactics that are used on the media.
Sarah: 00:17:54 And I'm not saying that everyone in the media is writing this asinine bullshit purely because they've been forced to or they've been threatened. A lot of them are, you know, in it on their own. These are either people who are not particularly bright or thorough, are good at their job. Um, you know, or they see an incentive, a monetary or careerist to go along with this, you know, or I think some of them are being threatened, you know, well, we'll get to this later, but of course we heard more about how Jeff Bezos, um the publisher of the Washington Post, one of the richest and most powerful people in the world is being actively threatened by Saudi Arabia. And the Trump administration is not just not helping him. Uh, they seem to be actively abetting it, you know, those are the conditions of our lives. Those are the conditions that structure the media.
Sarah: 00:18:43 And so we're dealing with a combination of incompetence, uh, intimidation, threats, exhaustion, negligence, you know, all of this leads to a very bad media environment. But what it doesn't change is the truth. It does not change the horrors that we have witnessed with our own eyes. And so, you know, I know it's difficult, but we need to stay focused on that and not, I don't know allow yourself to sort of weather through cynicism or exhausted or what just disappear into this morass of, you know, I give up, they've won, uh, you know, I'm going to just embrace this faux exoneration. I mean, I would love if it, if this all hadn't happened, believe me, we would both be really happy if all the events of the last, you know, at least four years. But honestly more like uh 10 or 20 had not happened.
Sarah: 00:19:36 Unfortunately they did. And it's our job as journalists and just as citizens to push for accountability because real people are being hurt, real people are being persecuted and they don't have protection. And that is really what journalism should be about. You know, there's the old adage, that journalism is intended to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. And so if the show tries to do anything, it's that.
Andrea: 00:20:05 And if you ever feel overwhelmed by any of this, we have some wonderful resources that we're developing at our website, gaslitnationpod.com including an action guide where we consolidate all of the resources and insights that we've shared on this show about building a more progressive union. And we'll also include a reading guide, all the many factors, social and international that contributed to where we are now. So that reading guide, we'll look at all the social ills that created a Frankenstein monster of Trump, as well as how American foreign policy contributed, as well as what asymmetrical warfare looks in the 21st century, which is what this whole story is about. And all the different factors of what Robert Mueller called the iron triangles, the new, uh, international crime syndicate, which is the Russian mafia, which includes fancy accounting firms, fancy law firms, political operatives that are normalized in the West, like Paul Manafort, but make their blood money, make their blood money fortunes off of the lives of innocent people in developing democracies. And so we're going to have that reading guide. So you can see that the facts are still the facts and this will be an important supplement to how corporate media is betraying us and hurting us. And hastening the changing of the norms which allow autocracies to be put in place. And so yes, it's a, it's a very dangerous time for our country.
Andrea: 00:21:31 But if we check out, if Sarah and I were just to stop the show because it's just so overwhelming. It just hastens all of this. And so we, if we're sticking around, that means we need you to stick around and we're not just a podcast. We've become a community now. People that support each other and any action that we do that when, you know, especially in the midterms were saying, hey, we're going to go knock on doors. We were going to do the 1,000 door challenge. We did that with you. So we're as a community helping each other through this. And what we're, what our show really does is it pulls up all the rotten weeds in our country and plants new seeds to flourish and grow. And we may not see some of that important growth in our lifetime. But what I've definitely seen in studying movements is that even if they're not successful for that generation, the future generation still learned from them and build off of them.
Andrea: 00:22:23 So, so no work is lost. So understand that all of us, each and every one of us has to work our hearts out now to take back our country from the far right and their complicit foreign bad actors coming out of the Kremlin and all these other, uh, Turkey and Netanyahu's government and so forth. We need to work really hard and diligently to work our hearts out up until our last breath, because the rights we have now, the rights that we take for granted in this country, we got those rights over generations of sacrifice over generations of other people doing this, this diligent work. So it's our turn now. We have to build progress that other generations are going to build upon and build upon and build upon. So we did not get Trump overnight. We're always pointing out all the social ills in America that gave rise to him.
Andrea: 00:23:17 We're always pointing out all the corruption, domestic corruption that the Kremlin's attack on our democracy took advantage of in order to help install Trump as president. We're always pointing that out. That's what the show is about, is fixing our country, strengthening our democracy, taking it back from the Koch brothers funded far right, and we know that there's a lot of inspiration and we love Alex Ocasio Cortez. We were were very inspired by her. She's absolutely fearless. She's the real deal. We need to make her the norm we needed. She can't just be this, this savior figure. We cannot wait for her to fix everything for us because as we always say on the show, the alternative name for Gaslit Nation is stay human. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez is a human being. She's got demands on her time sheet. She has relationships and family and and medical checkups and all the things that each and every one of us has.
Andrea: 00:24:06 And so she's not a superhuman that's going to make all of this go away. She needs us. So if you're inspired by her, you need to emulate her in your own community. She needs a progressive infrastructure in every single state. The same 50 state strategy that Howard Dean engineered to get Obama elected in 2008 we need a 50 state strategy to back up people like Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, even those who aren't famous like her who are doing the the grind, doing the very hard work of organizing and identifying weaknesses and coming up with tests and solutions for those weaknesses and finding the funding for it. There's a lot of great groups right now that have sprung up in reaction to Trumpism that are doing that grind and we want to amplify their work, those voices and make sure that everybody stays engaged and stays involved because we can create an entire generation of Alexandria Ocasio Cortez.
Andrea: 00:24:59 We can make her the future of the Democratic Party. We can make her the future of our country. Part of the problem of how we got here, is savior syndrome. We saw that when we elected the first black president, 2008 over the course of Obama's two terms, we across the country lost a thousand seats across the state. Republicans under Karl Rove's strategy turned a bunch of states red, got red trifectas meaning that every single chamber of power inside that state was in Republican hands. And so because we thought Obama was going to come along and save us, we all returned to our daily lives and just lived our lives and went to brunch and didn't really show up for things or pay much attention or stay engaged. And now we're shocked that Trump is president. None of us should be shocked. We contributed to this. We all did. And I know that's harsh to say, but that's just a fact and we cannot afford to look away right now.
Andrea: 00:25:52 And if Sarah and I can stare disaster in the face episode after episode and and on all the projects that we're working on outside of the podcast, then you can too. We're human too. We've got our own personal concerns. For our own safety and other things. And you know, Sarah and I are both heartbroken over the torment that Trump and his family and the Kremlin have put my sister and her family through. We're heartbroken by that. We live with that heartbreak. So that's something that we have to process on a daily basis that's part of this. So if we can continue doing this work and stay engaged, you can too. We promise you. Cause it's, we have no choice. Like our lives are on the line and all of the hard work we do between now and when we die, it's gonna pay off. Maybe we might not see all of the payoff in our lifetime, but future generations will be building and building and building and we cannot stop. We have to outlast them. That's how you win.
Sarah: 00:26:41 So yeah, I'm glad you brought up savior syndrome. It's become abundantly clear over the last few years that no one is here to save us. I referred to this before as normalcy bias. You know, it's been an obstacle in getting the public and getting just anyone to understand the severity of the crisis because there's this expectation that if this is really as bad as it seems, if this really is an unparalleled and extremely dangerous national security crisis threatening private citizens as well as the sovereignty of our nation, uh, that clearly people are going to rise up and protect us. That's the job of people. That's the job of the FBI. That's the job of the intelligence agencies. So are they doing it? Well, one thing that happened this week is we got a rather blatant, no, there is a long report in the New York Times about how Russians are running around the world assassinating people or attempting to assassinate them.
Sarah: 00:27:41 In the case of Sergei Skripal, um, in the UK, you know, who they attempted to poison last year with novichok, instead killing a British citizen on British soil. Um, Dawn Sturgis and no one is doing anything about it. And so I'm just going to, um, you know, read a little excerpt from this very revealing Times article. And so it says for the intelligence services and and here it's referencing the Russian intelligence services. As bad as this sounds murdering people is just part of the workflow, said Alexey Arestovich, a retired officer and Ukraine's military intelligence service. They go to work. It's their job. You have a workflow, you write articles. They have a workflow, they murder people, it doesn't really worry them, he said. They celebrate it, mark it without much sentiment. The Skripal poisoning had woken the west up to this. In Britain, authorities are now reviewing the cases of several Russians whose deaths on British soil were not initially deemed suspicious. In the United States, a bipartisan group of senators recently introduced legislation that would require the State Department to determine whether Russia should be deemed a state sponsor of terrorism. There's no evidence to suggest that Russia can be deterred from making these kinds of attacks, said Daniel Hoffman, a former CIA station chief who helped negotiate the release of Mr Skripal from a Russian prison in 2010. It really does fall on the people at risk to try to conceal their location and be on the lookout for any signs that the Russians might be targeting them. Wow. Well, thank you. Former CIA guy. Like that's immensely reassuring that in our world of surveillance technology, Facebook, uh, and having any kind of public footprint, which is to say the world that all of us in habit, that uh, we should expect our intelligence agencies to do absolutely nothing about it.
Sarah: 00:29:39 We should expect them to behave as the UK intelligence agencies have when Dawn Sturgis was murdered and her parents went to them desperately. We discussed this on an episode, I think it was called a Transnational Emergency. Went to them asking, you know, what are you going to do? What are you going to do to protect us? What are you going to do to protect British citizens to protect Britain? Uh, and the answer was nothing. And one of the reasons that Andrea and I have lacked faith in the efficacy of the Mueller probe is not just because of its many failures since it launched, which included a plea deals that went absolutely nowhere, letting dangerous men like Michael Flynn, a sociopathic trader walk free around the US but because these are the same people you know, who have been tasked for the last decade and a half with tracking and negating the murderous efforts of the Russian mafia and the Kremlin and have utterly failed.
Sarah: 00:30:36 You know, Mueller was the head of the FBI from 2001 to 2013 when, you know, as he put it in his own words, this iron triangle's nexus of organized crime, corporate crime, and uh, the infiltration of governments by corrupt, powerful, wealthy actors took off. He may have properly identified the problem, but he did nothing to combat that. And it's been very frustrating to deal with basically the fetishization of the intelligence community by people in the media, by pundits, by other former officers who keep assuring the American public, baselessly, that they've secretly got it. That there is this deep state, you know, we even saw the anonymous New York Times op Ed from months ago claiming that there is a steady state, which of course Trump used as propaganda fodder to say that, you know, there's a deep state and it's out to get them. What there appears to be is either total negligence, you know, this is in many ways similar to what we were saying about the media, where you may just see such incredible incompetence, but it has the same effect as almost of complicity.
Sarah: 00:31:45 They might as well be complicit and elevating these corrupt actors to power and allowing them to carry out acts of terrorism, uh, which certainly the, you know, attempted Skripal poisoning should count as that. I think, you know, other acts may fall into that as well. It's amazing to me that the State Department is debating whether Russia should be deemed a state sponsor of terrorism. It obviously is, but of course the State Department has been gutted. Uh, you know, it was briefly led by a recipient of the Order of Friendship medal from Putin, which may have like, uh, put the kibosh on that debate. Um, it's now had many of its best experts on that region fired um, you know, or they've quit in disgust. This is an absolute mess, but it's, I can't even describe what it was like to read this paragraph. You know, Andrea and I had a very strong reaction when Nancy Pelosi came out against impeachment by declaring that it wasn't worth it. Because the subtext of that was that American citizens are not worth it. That we have this incredibly dangerous individual in power surrounded by a transnational crime syndicate, harming everyday Americans, destroying the safety and security of our country. And it's not worth impeaching him. And here we have a former CIA official coming out and basically saying, yeah, you know, you guys aren't, worth saving. We're not going to bother to do anything about it
Andrea: 00:33:10 This episode's going to be very hard for me because quite frankly, I need a week off because I'm just so angry about all of this. Let's focus on Ukraine's election now. So Ukraine just had an election that grabbed the world's attention. And again, Ukraine is one of those frameworks we use because what we're living is essentially the sequel to here in America. We're living the sequel to Ukraine's revolution essentially. It's like another chapter in this Star Wars series, um, that we're all stuck in. So the Pulitzer Prize winning historian Anne Applebaum who writes the Washington Post, she nailed it when she said Americans are going through a Ukrainianization of politics. What that means is, you know, a lot of the ills that we have here in the US like oligarch owned media, uh, golden handcuffs of on our politicians, really bad campaign finance laws that allow corruption to flourish.
Andrea: 00:34:05 All those components are what allowed the Kremlin to come in and help Yanukovych come to power, essentially their puppet. There is Ukrainization going on here in US politics. And that's why we keep going back to Ukraine so you can understand it. We're not going to suddenly become Ugandan experts. We're not going to suddenly become experts in another part of the world. We don't do that. That would be irresponsible. We always point you to other experts to listen to when big conflicts do flare up like in Venezuela and elsewhere. So with Ukraine right now, this is what's what's developing there. They just had a presidential election. Really interesting. Right? So this is a lesson for all of us. I'm gonna try my best to frame Ukraine's election as an a, a lesson for us here in the U.S. cause there's a lot of warning science coming out of Ukraine's presidential election.
Andrea: 00:34:46 The first one is the current president Petro Poroshenko. He had the really tough job of, he came to power after Yanukovych fled to Russia. There were new elections called, he was overwhelmingly voted in. There was a lot of hope that his government, that this new pro western government in Ukraine was going to fix things and, and clean up corruption. At the same time, Putin escalates his invasion because he needs to make sure that Ukraine's a failed state to show the Russian people that popular uprisings don't work. So please don't overthrow me. Um, so Poroshenko as many western observers and experts and Ukrainian investigative journalists have noted, he missed a lot of opportunities to give the Ukrainian people what they wanted in the fight for corruption. He missed a lot of opportunities to honor the dozens of Ukrainians who gave their lives in the revolution to overthrow an abysmally corrupt Yanukovych.
Andrea: 00:35:46 So Poroshenko is a lesson to Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Party that if you don't serve your base, if you don't serve the people that sacrificed and worked hard to put you into power, they will turn on you in the polls, whether it's the sensible thing to do or not. Because what ended up happening is he came in in a distant second place and the front runner is a politically untested TV star who is active on social media. Sound familiar? So that was the frontrunner by far. So Ukrainians basically went to the polls and and did a big protest vote and we know how dangerous protest votes are. We've seen that, we've seen that in our own country with Trump being a protest vote for so many people and in Brexit being a protest vote for so many people. So of Nancy Pelosi is not careful and doesn't listen to her base and listen to the progressive blue wave that brought all this new fresh talent into power.
Andrea: 00:36:43 You're going to see people staying home or not fighting as hard when we need them to fight. You can't abuse your base. It doesn't matter what's at stake. Your base will push back because people are desperate. Desperate to know that those in a position of power are there to protect them from what's happening in the world. And this is what we're seeing is the rise of the protest vote. Okay, so that's one lesson from Ukraine. The other is that we have this comedian front runner who I think is very dangerous for the simple fact that he's an empty vessel that anybody could fill. And in fact there's a really interesting thread by a security specialist who is focused on Ukraine issues and I'm going to read that thread that just provides us some interesting insight. I mean it’s just food for thought and that security expert is Christo Grozev, he's a long time a watcher of all events unfolding out of Ukraine and Russia and this is what he had to say about Zelenskiy, this comedian front runner by far.
Andrea: 00:37:47 So here's what Christo Grozev had to say on Twitter in this great thread that is just interesting food for thought. Back in 2014 a trove of documents from Russia's LDPR headquarters was hacked. One of the documents was a political technology proposal to plant a comedy candidate in Ukraine's elections, a non oligarch, man of the people who would be allowed to say what politicians don't. That is exactly what Zelenskiy does. In fact, he's a TV star on a popular series which you could watch on Netflix about an accidental president who becomes president after a rant against corruption goes, goes viral. That show. The whole premise of it is captured in what I just read. The proposal focused on this candidate who they thought of calling Burrotino, Russian for Pinocchio, using comedic phrases that would become memes among young Ukrainians, tired of the political status quo. Viral actions and flash mobs where the proposed forms of engagement, the key idea in the proposal was not to win elections but to splinter the mainstream vote, lead to disengagement of young people with traditional politicians and strengthen Ukraine's international image as a joke of a country.
Andrea: 00:38:59 I'm in no way implying that Zelenskiy is a Russian political technology project. I don't think he is. I am just noting that his route to the presidency seems to fall nearly perfectly into at least one plan drawn in Moscow in 2014. The only silver lining is that thanks to the intervening bastardization of global politics, the goal to discredit Ukraine as a joke of a country may no longer be feasible given the strong competition quote by voting for the joke candidate the electoral will revenge on the current political elite will also secretly hope that while stated in jest at least part of the candidates promise may be carried out in reality. And voters will think that even if his promises turn out to be a lie, at least it'll be fun watching him on TV. Once again, I'm not saying Zelenskiy was invented in Moscow. I am saying that in 2014 Moscow thoughts such a candidate would serve its goals, which might explain why they liked the outcome of Ukraine's elections as of now.
Andrea: 00:39:52 No need to look for deeper conspiracies. Sure, certainly not. But that's interesting food for thought. And this comedian is also closely tied with a Ukrainian oligarch by the name of Igor Kolomoisky, who got busted by the current president for massive corruption including bank fraud. And so he's sort of seen as a revenge candidate against the current president. And so that's the update on Ukraine's presidential election, which you may have heard about. And everyone's sort of watching this, who is this comedic front runner. And let's hope that the current president learns his lesson not to take your base for granted or they will not show up for you. That's just what happens. And on a personal note, what I want to share with people, my extra added anxiety in watching the presidential election in Ukraine, that about a month ago, Ukraine's prosecutor general went to New York City and guess who we met with?
Andrea: 00:40:49 The president's lawyer. He met with Rudy Giuliani and after that meeting he did an interview with The Hill where he said that he was going to open an investigation into Ukraine's meddling in the 2016 election. Well, the far right media picked up on this and they started saying that Ukraine is going to investigate my sister. And you may remember if you followed this show that as part of Paul Manafort strategy to try to flip the script on the Russia investigation and detract from it. He had a whole media strategy where he was going to blame my sister for colluding with Ukraine in 2016 for Hillary Clinton and even Russian state media when the Steele dossier came out in Buzzfeed Putin's Sean Hannity at Rusia One did an entire segment on how my sister was created this whole Russiagate fantasy and she created a scandal. It's all because of her and I was her accomplice.
Andrea: 00:41:48 And this entire Russian news segment that aired on one of the main channels of Putin's propaganda it even included a photograph of my young nieces, my nieces that they grabbed from my sister's Facebook page. Okay. So, um, what's now happening, what I'm waiting for is to see who will be Ukraine's next president and will the next president, like the current president and his prosecutor general, will they be essentially bribed cause how bad the corruption was allowed to go on there. Even after the revolution out there, all those people gave their lives for a better future. Whoever is the president of Ukraine, will they take a bribe for support or whatever from Trump's white house, from Giuliani to invent evidence that my sister did in fact collude in the 2016 election. And that could open up a very expensive and big legal case against her and she'd have to live under the threat of possibly being thrown into prison on some trumped up charges.
Andrea: 00:42:52 So that's what we're dealing with here in the US is when you, when you don't have a country that stands for human rights, countries that are struggling like Ukraine can slip back into corruption where their leaders are easily bribed. So we have a Trump White House that amplifies and legitimizes autocrats and mass murdering dictators like Kim Jong Un, like Putin, like Netanyahu, like Erdogan and so forth. And when you do that, what you're doing is furthering corruption and making those who are fighting against it. Investigative journalists and independent researchers like my sister, far more vulnerable. You're making them and their family's extremely vulnerable and that is what we're up against. So with that gleeful euphoria by all these creepy people in the media, like Matt Taibbi and Michael Treacy and the corporate media falling in lock step, you also had this autocratic drum beat of the White House and Fox News, uh, saying we are now going to investigate the investigators.
Andrea: 00:43:51 They did this whole banana republic stunt where Republicans in the House tried to demand that Adam Schiff, the head of the Intel Committee in the House resign. There's no reason for him to resign. That is a banana republic tactic. You have Adam Schiff who has security clearance, security clearance. He can see the Mueller Report in full, he can see even the ways they collect intel. That is his right because he has security clearance. The fact that the Iran Contra guy, the Attorney General William Barr won't give it Adam Schiff the full Mueller report, even though he has a full right to see it is a massive, massive violation of a norm. Norms are changing. Okay?
Andrea: 00:44:32 We're not sitting around waiting for authoritarianism to get to America. It's already here. We're at the start of it and it's only going to get worse if we don't build communities, engage in it in every single state in the union. And again, we're going to provide a guide on our site on how to do that because no, we don't have the luxury to despair. We don't have the time to despair. So many lives are on the line and we all have to be part of the solution now.
Sarah: 00:44:56 One of the points you made that people really need to grasp is that this is a transnational crime syndicate. And we as Americans have a traitor in the White House. You know, we have a president who is a Russian asset, but he's also a basically a, you know, a free for all. He's somebody who can be bought and sold, you know, and the same is true of Kushner, the same is true of others in the administration. They do not have baseline loyalty. Their only loyalty is to themselves, their bank accounts, their power and this transnational criminal network, which they need to hold up, which means that, you know, who wins the presidency of a country like Ukraine can impact the life of your sister, you know, and an extremely personal way. And that's a very unnerving thing. You know, it is deeply unnerving that we cannot go to the FBI with this problem because they are not doing anything to solve it, you know, in part because they've been purged, in part because they're incompetent. And in part because you know, they are up against a transnational crime syndicate, that has been successful. Uh, we don't have a country that is standing up for us anymore. We have a president, you know, who insults veterans, you know, who abandons people who have fought and died for our country.
Sarah: 00:46:13 And is certainly not going to help when an individual is targeted by a hostile foreign power. We see this with ordinary people like your sister, you know, a mother and a researcher, you know, who became the canary in the coal mine of this horror show. And then we're seeing it again, not just with Russia, but with even the most powerful Americans out there. And you know, I want to touch a bit on another big story from this week, which is more revelations about the targeting of Jeff Bezos, the owner of the Washington Post by Saudi Arabia. The government of Saudi Arabia killed the Washington Post journalist, Jamar Khashoggi, who was both a critic of the Saudi regime, but even more a critic of Trump, uh, you know, they butchered him. They hacked him up in a Turkish embassy and took his body parts out, in a plastic bag. And you know, they have been brazen about this and Trump has been brazen in his continued embrace of the Saudi regime, Kushner in particular has not held back in his close friendship with MBS, uh, you know, who was allegedly the perpetrator of this crime.
Sarah: 00:47:27 Uh, the two are friends, they are linked. Kushner, uh, may very well have given MBS the information necessary to kill Khashoggi. So you have an administration, you know, that is targeting opponents of this transnational crime syndicate in the most brutal manner possible. And we have officials coming out and saying, yeah, we're not going to do anything about that. And we have a president cheering them on, you know, so if you're wondering why Andrea sounds stressed, that is why. And then you look at Jeff Bezos, you know, he's one of the most powerful people in the world. You know, he's one of the richest Americans in the world. And he revealed that his personal information was taken by the Saudis. Um, you know, that use essentially hacked by them, that he's been threatened by them, and that the Trump administration is essentially cheering this on. And so I'm gonna read a little bit from an op Ed that came out this weekend, um, by Gavin de Becker, who on his own website describes himself as the nation's leading expert on the protection of public figures.
Sarah: 00:48:31 Um, you know, he's a professional kind of PR guy who works with the most powerful political and media figures in the world. And he says, in this editorial, “For 40 years, I've advised at risk, public figures and government agencies and high stakes security matters. My career has included working with the CIA, FBI at the Reagan White House counseling, foreign leaders and advising on controversial murder cases. I've seen a lot and yet I've recently seen things that have surprised even me, such as the national enquirers parent company, AMI being in league with a foreign nation that's actively trying to harm American citizens and companies, including the owner of the Washington Post. You know him as Jeff Bezos. I know him as my client of 22 years” and then he goes on from there to say, “We studied the well documented and close relationship between MBS and AMI Chairman David Pecker.
Sarah: 00:49:29 That alliance includes David Pecker bringing MBS intermediary Casey Grind to a private White House meeting with President Trump and Jared Kushner. Pecker has also traveled to Saudi Arabia to meet with the Crown Prince. Though we don't know what was discussed in those private meetings, AMI's actions afterwards are telling to coincide with MBS’ March, 2018 US tour AMI created a 100 page ad free glossy magazine called the New Kingdom. Since MBS wasn't yet a notorious figure in the west. This was before the murder of Jamar Khashoggi. AMI's magazine introduced him to Americans as quote, the most influential Arab leader transforming the world at 32 and quote, improving the lives of his people in hope for peace.” And then he goes on to say finally, “As for the Saudi side of the equation, not only does the kingdom have a close alliance with AMI, which owns the Enquirer, US weekly, the Star, the Globe, Radar Online, and many other publications, but the Saudis have pursued investments and partnerships involving Rolling Stone, Variety Deadline, the Robb Report and National Geographic among others.
Sarah: 00:50:34 Unlike these publications, it's clear that MBS considers the Washington Post to be a major enemy.” So in this excerpt, you know, which is written by a, a PR professional with decades of experience in the highest echelons of power who chooses his words very carefully. You are seeing him identify a conspiracy between a murderous authoritarian regime to take out an American businessman and media mogul who had hired, you know, a reporter that made criticisms of this country and was abetted by the administration itself. You know, that Trump and Kushner, I think it's notable that he put that name out there, helped the Saudi Arabian government helped MBS carry out the murder of a Saudi writer and the attack on Bezos. And so this is, you know, the most powerful businessman arguably in America, if this is what he's dealing with in terms of surveillance of him, in terms of his personal security, in terms of attacks on him, in terms of whether or not the government is willing to step up and protect him.
Sarah: 00:51:48 What are we as ordinary Americans dealing with? What tools do we have at our disposal to fend this off if Jeff Bezos is struggling? And so within that excerpt I read, I think you see all the different colliding issues that we've discussed in this episode coming together. You see the compromise of the media, you see the threats of authoritarian states. And I have to agree with Andrea here that we're no longer wondering are we going to turn in an authoritarian direction. We're no longer at that sort of midway point. We are in the opening stages when people can be targeted in this way. And when those who investigate, you know, whether it is Jamal Khashoggi or whether it's Andrea's sister are then smeared as enemies of the state, as people who deserve persecution, as people who should be murdered. Remember that Trump's many hate rallies are filled with invective.
Sarah: 00:52:51 You know, basically trying to spur, um, you know, the murderer or physical violence towards those he deems his opponents and heed those he deems his opponents are those who, you know, point out corruption, those who criticize him at any level. Those whose literal job, uh, in the case of Adam Schiff, you know, is to enforce accountability for this administration. Those are all the people he deems as his enemies and he openly deems as his friend, murderous regimes and private mercenaries who will carry out killings, including of American citizens. I mean, that's just a terrifying prospect. This is often a terrifying show and it's not because we want it to be, uh, you know, we want the opposite. We very badly do not want our country to have to worry about these problems. It is insane that it has fallen on the shoulders of Andrea and I to worry about our national security at this level because our agencies have been so remiss in combating it.
Sarah: 00:53:53 Our media is frequently either in denial about the severity of the crisis or they themselves, as in the case of the Washington Post, are being overtly threatened. This doesn't mean, you know, you just sorta like curl up into a ball and cry. Although that's certainly an understandable impulse and I'm not going to criticize you if you do, but you know, we need to continue fighting it. We need to continue documenting it. We need to be vigilant about it and we need to be realistic because what we're seeing now is an amped up Trump administration, and this is partly put into play by the Mueller report, you know, or the lack thereof, the bar memo covering the Mueller report. It wouldn't have mattered what was in that memo or what Mueller says Trump and his team of GOP cohorts have been out for vengeance, you know, from the time he got into office, they've been talking about flipping the narrative of trying to paint the investigators of the Russia probe, whether journalists are officials as the real criminals, as the real people who should be prosecuted all the way back to the fall of 2017 and that's a very predictable move.
Sarah: 00:55:05 You know, that is something that autocracies always do. The problem is they've further consolidated since then, that was a year and a half ago and we do not see any momentum on the part of intelligence agencies and, and mostly a little momentum on the part of Congress to keep them in check. And what this will lead to. You know, I will warn you now, if you don't act with greater assertiveness, uh, Congress and intelligence agencies, they will do to you what they've been doing to the FBI for the last year, which is a purge. You know, they carried out a slow motion Saturday night massacre of the FBI's leading experts on the Russian mafia, on Trump's history of corruption. They will get rid of you so that you are not only unable to protect the American people, which is your job. You will be unable to protect yourself. And so we need to get real here. Um, you know, this should not be a battle that we fight in isolation as a country. We should be backing each other up. We should be helping those who are being persecuted by a brutal government, committing legal actions, hold their ground and stay safe. Those are very baseline requests. That's not something I thought I would ever have to ask for it to be protected from a crime syndicate upheld by a traitorous asset. Um, you know, that was not really wow how I wanted my, my life or my friend's life to go. But that unfortunately is where we are.
Andrea: 00:56:36 In a great example. To illustrate that, go to Twitter and search for the name Lisa Page and see what comes up. Go to Google and search for the name Lisa Page and see what comes up. Just look at that cesspool of far right, bot driven, propaganda. Dehumanizing Lisa Page. Who drove that? Well, what's the first thing that comes to mind when you think Lisa Page? Lisa Page and her lover. Peter Struck how many times we heard that from Donald Trump, from his Twitter account, from his gross little round orange donut of a mouth. We heard so much about Lisa Page and her lover, Peter Struck that we forget who the fuck Lisa Page is. Well, Lisa Page is a badass law enforcement officer that was pushed out of the Mueller investigation, essentially by the President of the United States in his blatant harassment and bullying of her and constant humiliation of her.
Andrea: 00:57:34 She is an expert in fighting organized crime. And so if you look up her name on Twitter, on Google, replace her name with your name, replaced her name with your child's name or anybody whom you love, like just put another name in there, somebody you care about, would you want that happening to you or someone you care about? Would you want your daughter to be treated how Lisa Page was or your wife or your sister or your mother or anybody in your life to be nationally, internationally humiliated and labeled that way constantly by the President of the United States and his Twitter account. That is obstruction of justice in plain sight. When you use the power of the most powerful office in the world, the White House to target a law enforcement officer that aggressively, what kind of message are you sending to everybody else who is in a position to investigate you and hold you accountable?
Andrea: 00:58:34 There's a reason why he smeared Lisa Page relentlessly and crushed her in the ground because Lisa page has the goods on guys like him and on the cabal of mafia, Russian mafia linked money. And other corruption enthusiasts that Donald Trump has made his money off of for so long and who helped bring him into power. Lisa Page sees what she sees because she's an expert in organized crime and therefore Donald Trump had to destroy her as much as he could and all of the public humiliation and harassment, the bullying against Lisa Page, Bruce Ohr, Peter Strzok, Andrew Mccabe, that was all deliberate. That was obstruction of justice being carried out in full sight and we became numb to that. So when the media had its little orgy party when treating the Iran Contra guy's letter like it was the Mueller report and they said, okay guys, nothing to see here. Let's make fun of all the hardworking investigative journalists.
Andrea: 00:59:33 Okay. That was a weird reaction to taking the White House's bait on that. They forgot Lisa Page and all of their breathless euphoric coverage. They forgot Lisa Page and Lisa Page's central to all this because we have to just zero in and focus on her to get grounded in the fact that norms are being shattered before our very eyes and we were getting numb to it. And the corporate media is playing along. Let me just tell you from our perspective what that felt like when even credible voices in the media were like, oh, well I guess the Mueller report didn't find anything based on Barr’s letter. That had a big impact. I know we saw the polling numbers coming in and saying that the American people demand to see the Mueller report, which is good. The public is smarter than the corporate owned media, but it had an impact. I have smart friends that I would talk to that were like, oh, I guess the Mueller report was a big disappointment huh.
Andrea: 01:00:27 And I was like, oh, nobody's seen the Mueller report. Have you heard of Iran Contra? And so let me just walk you through for Sarah and I, what that felt like. That week when the corporate media made a fool of itself becoming Don Jr’s human centipede on a leash in repeating his talking points and taking the bait, it was the most surreal thing. It was like an Enron office party. Chris Farley was there. The last stripper to see Chris Farley alive was there. Officer Fargo was there. Michael Tracey was there, Undecided voter Ken Bone was there. Kavanaugh yearbook was there and they were all snorting lines of Mar a Lago special. The entire place erupted and explosion of humanoid minions from a Pixar experiment gone wrong. Okay. There were actual minions from Despicable Me in human form and it was just like the creepiest thing, like everybody's slobbering up the dust clouds of Mar a Lago special spewing out of the White House. Sober up you Enron office party of a corrupt media, sober up.
Andrea: 01:01:30 We see you and understand. I've documented in my research and in my book and in my film and in my documentary, I've documented what a media cover up looked like in the early 1930s at the rise of fascism in Europe. I know what these hit pieces and these shallow fake thought pieces look like. I've documented a full case study of a media coverup. I see your, your historical equivalent when I read your bullshit, non-analysis analysis. That's what exactly what my film Mr. Jones is about. It's about a media cover up. We know who you are. We see you. So we're going to do an overview for some media literacy insights. So first rule of media literacy facts remain the facts. So we're going to restate some facts here on the coalition of corruption that helped to get Trump and his family into the White House. Nothing has changed just because there's been a coverup and those facts include both Eric Trump and Don junior have said several years ago that the Trump family relies on Russia money.
Andrea: 01:02:32 Ivanka Trump is close friends with Dasha Zhukova who until recently was married to Roman Abramovich, the Russian oligarch who owns the Chelsea football club and is like a son to Putin. So this has been a long lifestyle for them of being embedded with Russian oligarchs in Russian money and Russian interests. It's been widely reported that Russian money gets laundered into Trump properties. It's been widely reported that the Trump family and several Trump campaign aides and advisors had meetings with Russians, including Kremlin officials and lied about those meetings. It's been widely reported that the Trump family pursued a lucrative business deal to build Trump tower Moscow, then an Ivanka Trump branded spa and a penthouse for mass murderer, Putin and lied about it during the campaign saying they had no business dealings in Russia. It's been widely reported that the Trump inauguration, which is under investigation, had several billionaires connected to Russia there as special guests. And other special guests included the Russian spy, Maria Butina, currently in prison, after being indicted by the Mueller investigation. Jared Kushner wanted a back channel to communicate with the Kremlin. So that's just some of the widely reported facts and facts remain the facts. Again, some of the books that best document the very deep ties and lies of the Trump family, the Trump campaign and Russian oligarchs and Kremlin officials include David Corn’s Russian Roulette, Craig Unger’s House of Trump, House of Putin, Tim Snyder's The Road to Unfreedom, Russia, Europe, America, the Dallas Morning News of course, had big investigation on how Putin's oligarchy filed money into millions of GOP races. The Republican party, like the NRA, which serve as a conduit between Kremlin agents like Maria Butina is complicit in the crime as well. Uh, there's a reason why they don't want us to see the Mueller report and why they're calling on Democrat. Adam Schiff to step down.
Andrea: 01:04:19 The Republicans are complicit in this as well. Remember there was that Cambridge Analytica whistleblower who said that when he was an employee there, Cambridge Analytica, the militarized propaganda firm that Jared Kushner brought in to help not only the Trump campaign, but the Republican Party Republican candidates in 2016 overall they relied on Russian agents, Russian intelligence and stolen Facebook data. Those are, we know that from whistleblowers that have risked their careers and relentless hit pieces in the media. That's all been documented. Cambridge Analytica itself is under investigation by the US and UK. And then you just have the simple fact of birds of feather flock together. A great book recommendation to understand, uh, the materialism of Russia's oligarch class and how Trumpian it is and how a Moscow tower would be so on brand for Putin's Russia. Read this excellent book by Peter Palmerontzov, Nothing is True and Everything is Possible. The Surreal Heart of the New Russia.
Andrea: 01:05:19 You will see the materialism that is uh, choking Russia just like it's choking us in the US. They have their oligarchs and we have ours and nothing is true and everything is possible. This Real Heart of the New Russia basically paints this Russian oligarch ruling class and you feel like you're reading about the Trump family. They were culturally in sync. That's why this was so natural, this fit. Um, now we're going to get into, I'm looking at the media landscape. This is very important. We went over this in a previous episode called The Media is Complicit and Good Journalists Pay the Price. We right now, we'll just sum it up. All this data as follows, there's been a very steep decline, in newsroom jobs over the last couple decades and the newsroom jobs remaining are filled predominantly by white people, predominantly by white men of privilege.
Andrea: 01:06:17 And that is who we're getting our news from. Whoever decides what is news and how that news is told are predominantly privileged white men, the data speaks for itself. So we're going to go through some of that. From 2008 to 2017 newsroom employment in the US dropped by 23% those remaining are primarily white males according to NPR. Nationally Hispanic, black and Asian women make up less than 5% of newsroom personnel at traditional print and on my 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 early census. So they stopped having to report to really show just how white and male and privileged they are. Numbers from 433 news organizations that participated in 2015 and 2016 show a 5.6% increase in the minority workforce. Now at 17% at print online sites, but the numbers lagged far behind demographic shifts in a country where nearly 40% of Americans are part of a minority group.
Andrea: 01:07:24 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 VITA, 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. VITA's numbers show that women of color and minorities in general are virtually absent from the political commentary and investigative journalism these magazines provide. And so for the white women that are in these newsrooms, they're also getting ignored by their white male colleagues. So here's Laura McGann at Vox citing a recent study, “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 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. Do you watch the show, The Wire? If you know The Wire, then you know how authentic that show is. It was written and created by a former journalist, David Simon, who for 13 years was a police reporter for the Baltimore Sun. He finally had to leave his newspaper when it was bought out and everything started shifting and the industry would rapidly go into decline. He saw the writing on the wall all those years ago. Here's David Simon testifying before Congress in 2009 accurately predicting that the decline of newsroom jobs would mean a rise in corruption.
David Simon: 01:09:01 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 at last when they have a buyout of 100 or 200 people and they have a newsroom, of 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, there's no glory in that kind of journalism, but that is the bedrock of what keeps you know, got the next 10 or 15 years in this country are going to be a halcyon error for state and local political corruption.
Andrea: 01:09:43 So all of this matters because not only do we have corporate profit driven media that's trying to tell us that everything is okay or our institutions will save us. Everything is normal. A lot of these so called experts that are taking William Barr's letter at face value and spreading the lie that the Mueller report has exonerated Trump, even though we haven't seen it, those newsrooms are watching that we depend on is not only shrinking, but those that remain are privileged and white and they're not living on the front lines of actual authoritarianism and America. They don't have to worry about their families being destroyed.
Sarah: 01:10:20 Well, we've just seen such irresponsibility. You know, as I mentioned before, just such a basic abandonment of tenets of journalism, like looking for primary sources, vetting them, looking for accuracy, but also just this sycophancy. You know, it's amazing to me that we're seeing journalists who base their own reputations as being advocates of transparency at all costs and as people who oppose power, who are willing to stand up for power, salivating at the feet of the Iran Contra guy of William Barr, whose entire career has been about obstruction and obfuscation and upholding, you know, the most corrupt and venal perpetrators of power. That is what we're seeing. All these journalists, these white male journalists who see themselves as anti establishment who build their outlets on this kind of outsider reputation are essentially acting as appendages of the Trump administration. And not just because they're willing to take the word of William Barr, but you know, the, the summation of their actions over the last few years, their denial that there is a Trump Russia story, that there is criminality in the Trump camp, that there is a transnational crime syndicate at stake.
Sarah: 01:11:43 Why were our journalists unwilling to oppose corruption, unwilling to oppose kleptocracy. I mean these are not precepts that anyone is for. You know, I live in Missouri, I live in a state that voted for Trump. But the one thing that you know, citizens of this state agree on is our desire to be rid of dark money, to be rid of corruption, to be rid of lies. So you know, people are hungry for integrity and honesty and representation and truth. And we are not seeing that in the journalistic establishment. They are not working for the people. That's why the people don't respect them. That's why people were not actually fooled by these misleading headlines. I don't know exactly what their agenda is other than to uphold corruption and power. That's certainly, um, what to some extent, the outcome of, of their activities has been, but they're essentially mostly writing for each other.
Sarah: 01:12:39 You know, just like in the statistics you cited where white male journalists talk only to other white male journalists on Twitter. I feel like they're writing for each other. You know, there's an insularity, there's an elitism and maybe it is to keep themselves outside of, uh, being a target, being persecuted by the administration. Maybe this is a way of self protection, but my God, like what a bunch of chicken shit wusses like how weak are you? Like, why are you in this profession? Why are you even pretending to do this job? Depart and give your work up to people who are willing to fight, who are willing to search for the truth? Because as, as you listed before, there are journalists out there willing to take these risks because it means something, you know? Cause the truth means something because integrity means something.
Sarah: 01:13:29 And because we are also a check on power, just as our other checks and balances have failed, the legislature has failed, the Republicans have failed. The intelligence community has largely failed journalism. Uh, you know, as an occupation that in many cases has failed. But I know at least as a journalist, what my choices are and this is what I choose to do. You know, I am choosing to try to expose corruption within this administration. I'm choosing to stand up against autocracy. And it's interesting to me that other journalists are not making that same choice. And I think that they should explain, you know, what is in it for them, what is driving it? Because what's driving it is not transparency or respect for the truth.
Andrea: 01:13:59 So let's take a closer look at some of the white men in media gleefully trying to discredit Russiagate while at the same time twisting and omitting facts. Here's Prachi Gupta in Jezebel on Matt Taibbi. During a talk at Harvard's bookstore, NPR's Robin Young confronted Taibbi, with a disturbing passage from a book that he co wrote with Mark Ames in 2010. The paragraphs written by Ames describe their business manager, Kara, objecting to him and Taibbi sexually harassing their female employees at the office for the tabloid they co edited on Russia in the 1990s, The Exile. And here's that passage, “We'd never given her any respect or credit. We were glory hogs and obnoxious jerks. Worst of all was our sexism, our sexism and sexual harassment of the Russian female staff as well as the sexism in our newspaper was too much for her. Watching us harass the young female staff had to be the most painful part because we'd never in a million years have thought of harassing her.
Andrea: 01:15:15 You know, I'm not PC, but there is a limit. You go too far. You're always trying to force Masha and Sveta under the table to give you blow jobs. It's not funny. They don't think it's funny. Kara complained, but it is funny. Matt said, we'd been playing rough on our girls. We'd ask our Russia staff to flash their asses or breasts for us. We tell them that if they wanted to keep their jobs, they'd have to perform unprotected anal sex with us. Nearly every day, we asked our female staff that they approved of anal sex. That was a fixation of ours. Can I fuck you in the ass? Huh? I mean without a rubber. Is that okay? It was all part of the fun, fun that Kara was no part of.” So this article goes on. I know.
Sarah: 01:15:57 And that's not even the worst part of what they've done. I mean, there are excerpts from that collection from The Exile where, you know, Mark Ames talks about raping an underage girl, you know, and this is all work that later they attempted to pass off as satire to which the one obvious question is like, what the hell is funny in that? Like where is the joke? Where's the little witticism? Uh, it was not presented as satire at all at the time. And you know, during Me Too, all of this kind of came up, people were amazed that, you know, leftist publications uh continue to, you know, run these authors works without investigating this or asking them to be accountable. I think that Taibbi did attempt to uh, you know, apologize, but I'd never seen any kind of real clarification of what the mindset behind this is. It's certainly something to keep in mind as we're reading their current discussion of, you know, what is and isn't acceptable journalism.
Andrea: 01:17:02 I think their motive remains the same. They're glory hogs, they don't care. They're what Sarah and I call hipster nihilists the media that get far too much attention than they deserve. Mark Ames in this book shares the story of how he threatened to kill his pregnant ex girlfriend if she didn't have an abortion, Mark Ames and Matt Taibbi, they are mascots of this phenomenon of rich white men from the West that flocked to Moscow in the 90s to live like rock stars, fuck young girls and take drugs and glorify their escapades. Meanwhile, the Russian people were living in unimaginable poverty and instability and I know someone like that personally. I know this guy in his fifties he's American and he asked me as a favor to read his memoir that he was working on and the entire memoir that I could barely get through the first chapter or two.
Andrea: 01:18:04 It was basically read like the guys search history on Youporn. It was just sex with one young Russian girl after another and he legitimately wanted to get this published and even hired a ghost writer to help him polish up his writing. So to get it presentable to pitch to publishers and it sort of like do you not have any self awareness on how shallow and humanizing your escapades in the 1990s were in Moscow? When you see these Russiagate skeptics having a euphoric party right now in the media, what you're seeing are people that just utterly lack any self awareness or an or or just don't understand that the facts, there's still the facts regardless of of what attention you're trying to glean for yourself and other thing to point out about right now and the press's reaction to it, there's a tendency to hold up that one Russian on Twitter that tweets in English and say, Hey, this is the voice of Russia.
Andrea: 01:19:02 We found it. Now keep in mind that Russia has a population of around 150 million people. Russia has a Muslim population of around 20 million people. 22% of Russians live in poverty. 36% of Russians are at risk of living in poverty, and then you have the LGBT communities in Russia that continue to be extremely vulnerable. There were the purges, of course in Chechnya, the gay concentration camps in Chechnya that continues to this day with, with kidnappings, torture of gay men and women. It's heartbreaking human rights crisis for the LGBT community, across Russia. So not a single Russian person can be the voice of Russia today just because you have the privilege and traveling to Western countries and building up a network of Western media contacts that doesn't make you the voice of Russia. And in fact, unfortunately there's a lot of really great Russian thinkers, Russian journalists, Russian authors who get overlooked because they're not on Twitter, snarking off in English with a lot of leading a western media voices.
Andrea: 01:20:05 No, they're busy writing in Russian for a Russian audience dealing with their own country's concerns. But when they do come over and share their insights, they're absolutely inspiring and they're doing dangerous work. They're doing incredibly brave work. And one such voice that I want to highlight is the Russian journalist Tikhon Dzyadko of RTVI and, and, and he's been, he's working a lot of different places inside Russia as an independent journalist. And he was asked by PEN international for his insights. So I'm taking this off of um, the PEN international website from January, 2017, “As we prepare for a Trump presidency that may resemble that of his admired counterpart Vladimir Putin, PEN America turned for advice to seven Russian authors and journalists who have been forced to fight for their independence. We asked what are your rules for writers to survive in an autocracy?” And Jitgo had this to say, “Under an autocracy there is one rule of survival. Remain honest, autocracy is not frightening and that it prohibits and intimidates. Autocracy is frightening is that it uncovers in man the darkest, the most cynical and low. Autocracy teaches man to lie even to himself. And so in order not to accept autocracy and play by its rules, you need to be yourself and remain honest primarily with yourself and continue to do your job as long as it is possible. In other words, do what you must. Come what may.
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