Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Democracy Dies In The Chaos of Competing Truths: A Conversation with Robert M. Smith

Survey after survey shows that trust in the news media is at an all time low. And it’s not just the left/right divide.

A recent study by the American Press Association reveals that not all Americans universally embrace core journalistic values, and that the trust crisis might best be understood through people’s moral values even more than their politics.

When journalists say they are” just doing their jobs,” the problem is many people harbor doubts about what that job should be.

Couple this with an ever changing media landscape driven by economics, the political bifurcation of news via the long tail of the internet, the news/entertainment nexus, celebrity culture, and now cancel culture, and it makes for an environment that has very little to do with getting at the truth. Maybe democracy dies not in darkness, but in the chaos of competing truths.

This is the world that long time journalist Robert M. Smith explores in Suppressed: Confessions of a Former New York Times Washington Correspondent.

My conversation with Robert M Smith:

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

America Is No Longer A Serious Nation: My conversation with Tom Nichols:

Almost everywhere in the world, liberal democracy is, if not under siege, or at least being tested. Only in rare historical times have would-be autocrats found such fertile ground. But why? 

The world's and yes, America’s standard of living is rising overall. As Steven Pinker has pointed out, crime and violence is down. The census tells us that diversity is naturally occurring and technology has made life easier. While we are not perfect, the arc of history is bending towards justice. And yet we’re angrier, more frustrated, and more willing to buy snake oil than ever before. 

We’re quick to cast blame. Quick to believe anything that fits our preconceived narrative, and each side has its Boogeyman and Straw-man. But what if the answer to these problems is not out there? What if Cassius was right? — that the fault is not in our stars, but in ourselves. 

This is what Tom Nichols explores in his new work Our Own Worst Enemy: The Assault from within on Modern Democracy 

My WhoWhatWhy conversation with Tom Nichols:

Friday, August 20, 2021

Roger Bennett Teaches Us About Soccer AND About America

From Alexis de Tocqueville, to Alexander Solzhenitsyn to John Lennon, it has often taken those born outside of America to help us understand and define America back to those of us that have grown up here. Those of us long engulfed in both the popular culture and political noise inherent in our society, often can’t see the proverbial forest from the trees.
Today British/American broadcaster Roger Bennett has taken up that mantle. The impresario of the Men in Blazers media empire not only explains soccer to its burgeoning American audience, he also explains America in his new book Reborn in the USA: An Englishman's Love Letter to His Chosen Home.

My conversation with Roger Bennett:

Sunday, August 15, 2021

The Second American Revolution - Will it Ever Be Won?

In the 1960s and early 1970s political and social battles were fought by people who were trying to reshape America. Sixty years later, we are still at war.

My guests on this week’s WhoWhatWhy podcast, David and Margaret Talbot, label that war the Second American Revolution. The issues revolved around armed conflict abroad (Vietnam), civil rights, feminism, gay rights, Native American rights, workers rights, and the role of celebrities in the political process.

One of the Talbots’ conclusions is that the past is not just prologue — It’s not even the past.

They argue — in this conversation and in their new book, By the Light of Burning Dreams — that the ’60s were a time when every cultural and political progressive action was met with an equal reaction. A time when the FBI engaged in the kind of widespread, invasive surveillance that makes even today’s Pegasus project seem like child’s play.

The Talbots remind us that charismatic leadership, not just grassroots efforts, catalyzed the political and social activism of the ’60s. Leaders had to put their bodies on the line in the streets, not on social media.

Discussing how these efforts morphed from the optimism of the early ’60s to the weary cynicism of today, the Talbots draw a sobering lesson in By the Light of Burning Dreams: The Triumphs and Tragedies of the Second American Revolution.

My WhoWhatWhy.org conversation with David and Margaret Talbot

Thursday, August 5, 2021

The Ultimate Corporate Delusion - The Story of WeWork: A conversation with Maureen Farrell

If someone pitched the story idea of a guy who was a former baby clothes salesman who then started a company that sublet co-working office space to millennials, and that that company would then become the most well financed startup ever, and that the story of its eventual rise and fall would give birth to an Apple tv series, a Hulu documentary, an HBO movie, several books, and two podcast series, the pitch would be rejected immediately.

And yet this is the story of Adam Neumann and WeWork. But it’s also a story of Silicon Valley, of Wall Street, of international investors, of obsessions with millennials, of portfolio theory taken too far, and it all comes together to create the perfect corporate storm.

While there are some bad and greedy actors in this story, I would argue it's one with no heroes, and no real villains….because it exists, like many of our greatest corporate dramas, inside the protective bubble of a unique moment in place and time. -

Telling this story, as more than just the story of Adam Neumann and a failed business model, but telling it in the context of all of the aforementioned moving parts, is WSJ reporter Maureen Farrell in The Cult of We: WeWork, Adam Neumann, and the Great Startup Delusion

My conversation with Maureen Farrell:

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Trump's Final Days: My conversation with Carol Leonnig

If daily news reporting is the first draft of history, books that come out almost contemporaneously to events are I suppose the second draft.

But today the world is speeded up. Today, especially in the wake of Trump, we need the facts much sooner. We need to learn not just how to escape the mistakes of history but to escape their repetition and to learn quickly from the actions of recent times.

Pulitzer prize winning Washington Post reporters Phil Rucker and Carol Leonnig have become the modern masters of this genre. With their first book A Very Stable Genius, early in the Trump presidency, they telegraphed what was ahead. No one that read their book could have been surprised at what happened next.

And now with their latest, I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump's Catastrophic Final Year they have given us a narrative history of the troubled final days of the Trump presidency, and maybe the final days of democracy as we've come to know it.

My conversation with Carol Leonnig: