Adam Curtis interviewed by Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode
Simon Mayo & Mark Kermode talk to director Adam Curtis about his new series of documentary films, Can't Get You Out Of My Head: An Emotional History of the Modern World.
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THEN VEEP BIDEN WITH SHAUN DONOVAN, RIGHT, SECRETARY OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT IN THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION. FROM DONOVAN’S FACEBOOK PAGE
The race for the Democratic nomination to be NY’s mayor is heating up, and Israel is a big part of the discussion. This makes sense because there are so many Jewish Democratic voters in New York; and support for Israel is still a reliable Jewish issue, especially among the orthodox.
And so we see the candidates shamelessly pandering on Israel, denouncing the BDS campaign, for boycotts, divestments and sanctions targeting Israel. Sitting Mayor Bill de Blasio also weighed in, saying that “it’s incumbent on all Democrats, and particularly progressive Democrats, to denounce BDS” because “Israel is a fundamentally progressive concept” And saying “vast majority of Democrats” are against BDS. So, now you know where Dems are!
The Forward reported a survey that most of the leading Democratic candidates for mayor are opposed to BDS, “an issue that is of great importance to the Jewish and pro-Israel communities.” That includes frontrunner/entrepreneur Andrew Yang, business exec Ray McGuire, city comptroller Scott Stringer, former Obama cabinet official Shaun Donovan, and Brooklyn borough president Eric Adams. Yet Stringer and Maya Wiley, a former de Blasio aide/civil rights advocate, told the Forward that even though they don’t support BDS, the “right to boycott is essential to American democracy.”
All these candidates would call themselves progressive, to be sure! And seven of the eight surveyed told the Forward they would consider visiting Israel if elected, with Shaun Donovan going furthest and saying he wanted to learn how Israel has done so well in its vaccination program and adding:
“I have not visited Israel but I have visited both Dachau and Auschwitz.”
McGuire, who has raised a reported $5 million-plus since announcing his candidacy, went furthest in the Forward survey on BDS. “I absolutely condemn BDS and any other movement that seeks to exclude, delegitimize or isolate Israel.”
And in December, McGuire got the recommendation of a real estate exec/radio show host from the Brooklyn orthodox community. “He’s very strong on Israel and he seems to understand our issues also,” Leon Goldenberg told Jewish Insider.
@AndrewYang plans to fight hard for Jewish vote. Proud of his support of Israel, his commitment to go there first as Mayor, and his opposition to BDS. We can bring tech talent from Israel to NYC and vice versa.
The New York Post explains that the Jewish vote is up for grabs in this election, with no candidate having an obvious advantage (though Stringer is Jewish):
New York City has about 1.5 million Jewish residents, by far the largest population of Jews in the United States. While it’s impossible to say for sure how many are registered to vote, one study from PrimeNY estimated that up to 14 percent of city voters were Jewish, with more than 60 percent of them registered Democrats and thus eligible to vote in the city’s closed primary…
Many Jewish voters — particularly the more conservative-leaning Orthodox and Hasidic in Brooklyn — tend to vote in blocks, amplifying their political power.
Of course fundraising is also the reason these candidates are pandering so hard. The influence of pro-Israel Jewish donors are the “elephant in the room” of Democratic politics, even the New York Times has reported.
As for de Blasio, political operative Howard Wolfson sent Jewish Insider an Israel answer he got from de Blasio that was edited out of a Q-and-A with de Blasio that he published at Bloomberg. Wolfson is putting down an official marker here, about the limits to criticism of Israel inside the Democratic Party. Notice Wolfson saying his “friends” are Israel supporters– that means the party establishment– and de Blasio saying all leading Democrats are for Israel.
Wolfson: You have been very strongly pro-Israel during your political career, even friends of mine who tend to be critical of you recognize that and give you credit for it. How concerned are you, as a leading progressive, about the growth of the BDS movement on the left? How concerned should mainstream Democrats be?
Bill de Blasio: I’m concerned, but I wouldn’t overrate its growth. I think it’s incumbent on all Democrats, and particularly progressive Democrats, to denounce BDS because there’s a profound contradiction in what they are saying and doing. I respect their First Amendment rights, but that doesn’t stop me from profoundly disagreeing with what they’re doing. Israel is a fundamentally progressive concept. It is about having a homeland for a people who’ve been oppressed for millennia and who still have to wonder if they will have safety in the rest of the world. I don’t know what could be more progressive than a homeland for oppressed people… It is about our values as Democrats and progressives. I truly believe we should stand by the State of Israel, oppose BDS, and at the same time, I’m happy to say I believe in this two-state solution and I consistently disagree with Netanyahu and I look forward to the day when he’s no longer prime minister. But that’s a healthy discussion. And I honestly believe that’s where a vast majority of Democrats are, so that I would wrap it around and say, yes, it should be taken seriously as a problem, yes, people should speak up, but let’s not mistake it for a moment. If you went to every Democratic U.S. senator, representative, governor, mayor in America, you would find overwhelming support for the State of Israel and an overwhelming opposition to BDS.
Notice de Blasio hedges on his criticism of Netanyahu…
Back to the candidates, and frontrunner Andrew Yang. The Daily News reports thatYang passed up a forum last week sponsored by Muslims but did show up on a podcast with Sam Harris, who has made Islamophobic comments (“Islam at the moment is the motherlode of bad ideas”).
Last Wednesday — the same day Yang passed on attending a virtual mayoral forum sponsored by several Muslim groups — he appeared on the Making Sense podcast, which is hosted by Sam Harris, whose remarks about Islam and race have elicited outrage in the past and continue to rankle Muslims..
“He’s one of the most renowned liberal Islamophobes out there,” [Mohammad] Khan, [president of the Muslim Democratic Club of New York] said. “It’s concerning that someone who’s seeking to hold public office in New York City would publicly associate with Sam Harris without challenging him on his Islamophobic views. Yang owes an explanation to New Yorkers on whether he agrees with the views Harris holds publicly.”
Several other candidates, including Wiley, Adams, Stringer, and Donovan, did appear on the Muslim forum.
The Daily News says that on a previous podcast in May, Yang credited Harris with launching his “entire presidential run.”
And though Maya Wiley has a more progressive track record than other Dems — the NY Post calling her “the far left side of the spectrum” –she has aligned herself with liberal Zionists and against Netanyahu (not far off from her former boss de Blasio). Last year Wiley accepted an award at a fundraiser to fight hunger held by the National Council of Jewish Women last year; the NCJW is a liberal Zionist organization. NCJW highlighted Wiley’s progressive record;
Maya Wiley has spent her career fighting to dismantle structural racism and win transformational change with low income communities of color. As Counsel to the Mayor she delivered for New York City on civil and immigrants’ rights, women and minority owned business contracts, universal broadband access and more…
Elites and their courtiers who trumpet their moral superiority by damning and silencing those who do not linguistically conform to politically correct speech are the new Jacobins.
By Chris Hedges / Original to ScheerPost
The Rev. Will Campbell was forced out of his position as director of religious life at the University of Mississippi in 1956 because of his calls for integration. He escorted Black children through a hostile mob in 1957 to integrate Little Rock’s Central High School. He was the only white person that was invited to be part of the group that founded Martin Luther King Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He helped integrate Nashville’s lunch counters and organize the Freedom Rides.
But Campbell was also, despite a slew of death threats he received from white segregationists, an unofficial chaplain to the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. He denounced and publicly fought the Klan’s racism, acts of terror and violence and marched with Black civil rights protestors in his native Mississippi, but he steadfastly refused to “cancel” white racists out of his life. He refused to demonize them as less than human. He insisted that this form of racism, while evil, was not as insidious as a capitalist system that perpetuated the economic misery and instability that pushed whites into the ranks of violent, racist organizations.
“During the civil rights movement, when we were developing strategies, someone usually said, ‘Call Will Campbell. Check with Will,’” Rep. John Lewis wrote in the introduction to the new edition of Campbell’s memoir “Brother to a Dragonfly,” one of the most important books I read as a seminarian. “Will knew that the tragedy of Southern history had fallen on our opponents as well as our allies … on George Wallace and Bull Connor as well as Rosa Parks and Fred Shuttlesworth. He saw that it had created the Ku Klux Klan as well as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. That insight led Will to see racial healing and equity, pursued through courage, love, and faith as the path to spiritual liberation for all.”
Jimmy Carter wrote of Campbell that he “tore down the walls that separated white and black Southerners.” And because the Black Panther organizer Fred Hampton was doing the same thing in Chicago, the FBI — which, along with the CIA, is the de facto ally of the liberal elites in their war against Trump and his supporters — assassinated him.
When the town Campbell lived in decided the Klan should not be permitted to have a float in the Fourth of July parade Campbell did not object, as long as the gas and electric company was also barred. It was not only white racists that inflicted suffering on the innocent and the vulnerable, but institutions that place the sanctity of profit before human life.
“People can’t pay their gas and electric bills, the heat gets turned off and they freeze and sometimes die, especially if they are elderly,” he said. “This, too, is an act of terrorism.”
“Theirs you could see and deal with, and if they broke the law, you could punish them,” he said of the Klan. “But the larger culture that was, and still is, racist to the core is much more difficult to deal with and has a more sinister influence.”
Campbell would have reminded us that the demonization of the Trump supporters who stormed the capital is a terrible mistake. He would have reminded us that racial injustice will only be solved with economic justice. He would have called on us to reach out to those who do not think like us, do not speak like us, are ridiculed by polite society, but who suffer the same economic marginalization. He knew that the disparities of wealth, loss of status and hope for the future, coupled with prolonged social dislocation, generated the poisoned solidarity that give rise to groups such as the Klan or the Proud Boys.
We cannot heal wounds we refuse to acknowledge.
The Washington Post, which analyzed the public records of 125 defendants charged with taking part in the storming of the Capital on January 6, found that “nearly 60 percent of the people facing charges related to the Capitol riot showed signs of prior money troubles, including bankruptcies, notices of eviction or foreclosure, bad debts, or unpaid taxes over the past two decades.”
“The group’s bankruptcy rate — 18 percent — was nearly twice as high as that of the American public,” the Post found. “A quarter of them had been sued for money owed to a creditor. And 1 in 5 of them faced losing their home at one point, according to court filings.”
“A California man filed for bankruptcy one week before allegedly joining the attack, according to public records,” the paper reported. “A Texas man was charged with entering the Capitol one month after his company was slapped with a nearly $2,000 state tax lien. Several young people charged in the attack came from families with histories of financial duress.”
We must acknowledge the tragedy of these lives, while at the same time condemning racism, hate and the lust for violence. We must grasp that our most perfidious enemy is not someone who is politically incorrect, even racist, but the corporations and a failed political and judicial system that callously sacrifices people, as well as the planet, on the altar of profit.
Like Campbell, much of my own family comes from the rural working class, many espousing prejudices my father, a Presbyterian minister, regularly condemned from the pulpit. Through a combination of luck and scholarships to elite schools, I got out. They never did. My grandfather, intellectually gifted, was forced to drop out of high school his senior year when his sister’s husband died. He had to work the farm to feed her children. If you are poor in America, you rarely get more than one chance. And many do not get one. He lost his.
The towns in Maine where my relatives come from have been devastated by the closures of mills and factories. There is little meaningful work. There is a smoldering anger caused by legitimate feelings of betrayal and entrapment. They live, like most working class Americans, lives of quiet desperation. This anger is often expressed in negative and destructive ways. But I have no right to dismiss them as irredeemable.
To understand is not to condone. But if the ruling elites, and their courtiers masquerading as journalists, continue to gleefully erase these people from the media landscape, to attack them as less than human, or as Hillary Clinton called them “deplorables,” while at the same time refusing to address the grotesque social inequality that has left them vulnerable and afraid, it will fuel ever greater levels of extremism and ever greater levels of state repression and censorship.
The cancel culture, a witch hunt by self-appointed moral arbiters of speech, has become the boutique activism of a liberal class that lacks the courage and the organizational skills to challenge the actual centers of power — the military-industrial complex, lethal militarized police, the prison system, Wall Street, Silicon Valley, the intelligence agencies that make us the most spied upon, watched, photographed and monitored population in human history, the fossil fuel industry, and a political and economic system captured by oligarchic power.
It is much easier to turn from these overwhelming battles to take down hapless figures who make verbal gaffes, those who fail to speak in the approved language or embrace the approved attitudes of the liberal elites. These purity tests have reached absurd and self-defeating levels, including the inquisitional bloodlust by 150 staff members of The New York Times demanding that management, which had already investigated and dealt with what at most was poor judgment made by the veteran reporter Don McNeil when he repeated a racist slur in a discussion about race, force him out of the paper, which management reluctantly did.
Too often the targets of the cancel culture are radicals, such as the feminists who run the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter and who do not admit trans people because most of the girls and women in the shelter have been physically assaulted and traumatized by those with male bodies. None of the critics of these feminists spend ten or twelve hours a day in a shelter taking care of abused girls and women, many of whom were prostituted as children, but fire off screeds to attack them and cut their funding. The cancel culture, as the Canadian feminist Lee Lakeman says, is “the weaponization of ignorance.”
The cancel culture was pioneered by the red baiting of the capitalist elites and their shock troops in agencies such as the FBI to break, often through violence, radical movements and labor unions. Tens of thousands of people, in the name of anti-communism, were cancelled out of the culture. The well-financed Israel lobby is a master of the cancel culture, shutting down critics of the Israeli apartheid state and those of us who support the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement as anti-Semites. The cancel culture fueled the persecution of Julian Assange, the censorship of WikiLeaks and the Silicon Valley algorithms that steer readers away from content, including my content, critical of imperial and corporate power.
In the end, this bullying will be used by social media platforms, which are integrated into the state security and surveillance organs, not to promote, as its supporters argue, civility, but ruthlessly silence dissidents, intellectuals, artists and independent journalism. Once you control what people say you control what they think.
This cancel culture is embraced by corporate media platforms where, as Glenn Greenwald writes, “teams of journalists at three of the most influential corporate media outlets — CNN’s ‘media reporters’ (Brian Stelter and Oliver Darcy), NBC’s ‘disinformation space unit’ (Ben Collins and Brandy Zadrozny), and the tech reporters of The New York Times (Mike Isaac, Kevin Roose, Sheera Frenkel) — devote the bulk of their ‘journalism’ to searching for online spaces where they believe speech and conduct rules are being violated, flagging them, and then pleading that punitive action be taken (banning, censorship, content regulation, after-school detention).”
Corporations know these moral purity tests are, for us, self-defeating. They know that by making the cancel culture legitimate — and for this reason I opposed locking Donald Trump out of his Twitter and other social media accounts — they can employ it to silence those who attack and expose the structures of corporate power and imperial crimes. The campaigns of moral absolutism widen the divides between liberals and the white working class, divisions that are crucial to maintaining the power of the corporate elites. The cancel culture is the fodder for the riveting and entertaining culture wars. It turns anti-politics into politics. Most importantly, the cancel culture deflects attention from the far more egregious institutionalized abuses of power. It is this smug, self-righteousness crusade that makes the liberal class so odious.
Doug Marlette, the Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist who created the comic strip “Kudzu,” which featured a Campbell-inspired character called Rev. Will B. Dunn, brought Campbell to speak at Harvard when I was there. Campbell’s message was met with a mixture of bewilderment and open hostility, which was fine with me as it meant the room swiftly emptied and the rest of the night Marlette, Campbell and I sat up late drinking whiskey and eating bologna sandwiches. Marlette was as iconoclastic and acerbically funny as Campbell. His cartoons, including one that showed Jesus on Good Friday carrying an electric chair instead of a cross and another that portrayed Jerry Falwell as the serpent in the Garden of Eden, provoked howls of protest from irate readers.
Campbell’s memoir, “Brother to a Dragonfly,” is not only beautifully written — Campbell was a close friend of Walker Percy, whose novels I also consumed — but filled with a humility and wisdom that liberals, who should spend less time in the self-referential rabbit hole of social media, have lost. He describes America, which routinely employs murder, torture, threats, blackmail and intimidation to crush all those who oppose it at home and abroad, as “a nation of Klansmen.” He refused to draw a moral line between the American empire, which many liberals defend, and the disenfranchised and angry whites that flock to racist groups such as the Klan or, years later, would support Trump. The architects of empire and the ruling capitalists who exploited workers, stymied democracy, orchestrated state repression, hoarded obscene levels of wealth and waged endless war were, he knew, the real enemy.
Campbell remembers watching a documentary by CBS called “The Ku Klux Klan: An Invisible Empire,” after which he was invited to address the audience. The film showed the murder of the three civil rights workers in Mississippi, the castration of Judge Aaron in Alabama, and the deaths of the four young girls in the Birmingham Sunday school bombing. When the film showed a Klan recruit pivoting right when the drill master shouted, “Left face,” the audience erupted in “cheers, jeers, catcalls and guffaws.” Campbell writes that he “felt a sickening in my stomach.”
Those viewing the film were a group convened by the National Student Association and included New Left radicals of the sixties, representing Students for a Democratic Society, the Port Huron group, young white men and women who had led protests at campuses across the country, burned down buildings, coined the term “pigs” to refer to police. Many were from affluent families.
“They were students in or recent graduates of rich and leading colleges and universities,” he writes of the audience. “They were mean and tough but somehow, I sensed that there wasn’t a radical in the bunch. For if they were radical how could they laugh at a poor ignorant farmer who didn’t know his left hand from his right? If they had been radical they would have been weeping, asking what had produced him. And if they had been radical they would not have been sitting, soaking up a film produced for their edification and enjoyment by the Establishment of the establishment — CBS.”
Campbell, who was asked to address the group following the film, said: “My name is Will Campbell. I’m a Baptist preacher. I’m a native of Mississippi. And I’m pro-Klansman because I’m pro-human being.”
Pandemonium erupted in the hall. He was shouted down as a “fascist pig” and a “Mississippi redneck.” Most walked out.
“Just four words uttered — ‘pro-Klansman Mississippi Baptist preacher,’ coupled with one visual image, white, had turned them into everything they thought the Ku Klux Klan to be — hostile, frustrated, angry, violent and irrational,” he writes. “And I was never able to explain to them that pro-Klansman is not the same as pro-Klan. That the former has to do with a person, the other with an ideology.”
“The same social forces which produced the Klan’s violence also produced the violence in Watts, Rochester and Harlem, Cleveland, Chicago, Houston, Nashville, Atlanta and Dayton, because they are all pieces of the same garment — social isolation, deprivation, economic conditions, rejections, working mothers, poor schools, bad diets, and all the rest,” Campbell writes.
And these social forces produced the nationwide Black Lives Matter protests after the police murder of George Floyd and the storming of the Capitol by an enraged mob.
Campbell never asked any of the members of the Klan he knew to leave the organization for the same reason he never asked liberals to leave “the respectable and fashionable organizations or institutions of which they were a part and party, all of which, I was learning, were more truly racist than their Klan.”
This radical love was the core of Dr. Martin Luther King’s message. This love informed King’s steadfast nonviolence. It led him to denounce the Vietnam War and condemn the US government as “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.” And it saw him assassinated in Memphis when he was supporting a strike by sanitation workers for economic justice.
Campbell lived by his oft-quoted creed, “If you’re gonna love one, you’ve got to love ‘em all.” Like King, he believed in the redemptive and transformative power of forgiveness.
The ruling elites and the courtiers who trumpet their moral superiority by damning and silencing those who do not linguistically conform to politically correct speech are the new Jacobins. They wallow in a sanctimonious arrogance, one made possible by their privilege, which masks their subservience to corporate power and their amorality. They do not battle social and economic injustice. They silence, with the enthusiastic assistance of the digital platforms in Silicon Valley, those who are crushed and deformed by systems of oppression and those who lack their finely developed politesse and deference to linguistic fashion. They are the useful idiots of corporate power and the emerging police state. Cancel culture is not the road to reform. It is the road to tyranny.