The roots of the post-truth, alternative facts present can be discovered in America’s “promiscuous devotion to the untrue” and its instinct to believe in make believe, evident across four centuries of magical thinkers and true believers, hucksters and suckers, who have embedded an appetite for believe-whatever-you-want fantasy into the national DNA, argues Kurt Andersen, author of a new book, “Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire, a 500-Year History.” Kwame Anthony Appiah, NYU professor, philosopher, and author of fiction and nonfiction books questions him about the bold claim that America’s love of the fantastic has made this country exceptional in a way that has yet to be understood?
Why finance has become an excessively powerful in the U.S. and has handicapped the growth and effectiveness of the rest of the economy. What can be done about it? Journalist and author Rana Foroohar of the Financial Times talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about her book, “Makers and Takers.”
Is too much freedom paradoxically debilitating? Neuroscience shows and history suggests, we are less content when we have more choice. Do we need constraints to thrive, and might our chains be key to our freedom? Or is this a dangerous conceit of the privileged and free? Psychiatrist Theodore Dalrymple, Blair’s former Senior Policy Advisor Julian Le Grand, and author of “I Find That Offensive!” Claire Fox interrogate choice.
Are Australians really that angry and divided? What do they tell you, when you talk to Australians in their living rooms? Social researcher, Rebecca Huntley has done that. Apparently ugliness of political and social media discourse is not a true reflection of Australia. On average, Australians still believe they live in the ‘lucky’ country, even if their desirables have far exceeded the lot they are getting. Rebecca Huntley speaks to Paul Barclay.
The perils of politics in Britain. In his latest book, “The Road to Somewhere: The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics”, David Goodhart looks at the new division: between the mobile ‘achieved’ identity of the people from Anywhere, and the more marginalised, roots-based identity of the people from Somewhere. For the last few decades Anywhere interests have dominated in everything from mass higher education to mass immigration and the EU. Tables are turning.
The playwright Richard Bean reaches back to another time of internal conflict, the beginning of the English Civil War, and finds humour in the desperate attempts of one man to retain power. Teach them a lesson.
Machiavelli is associated with unscrupulous scheming, but his latest biographer Erica Benner argues that, believe it or not, he was a man devoted to political and human freedom.
Totalitarian Europe in comparison to contemporary America is the subject of Timothy Snyder’s talk and his new book, “On Tyranny”. He sees America’s political institutions in great danger of slipping into autocracy and possibly fascism. From the examples of the twentieth century, Snyder has distilled twenty essential points that should guide the current struggle. They are as simple as “do not obey in advance” and “beware the one-party state,” and as inspiring as “contribute to good causes” and “learn from peers in other countries.” Questions from the audience follow.
In the late 1940s and early 1950s, as anti-communist sentiment gained ground in the United States, paranoia and persecution swept through Hollywood. The House Un-American Activities (HUAC) began interrogating filmmakers and actors, accusing them of being communists or communist sympathizers. The president, Congress, the courts and the press all played a part.
Many who appeared before the HUAC were put on a blacklist that made it impossible for them to work in show business. Among the blacklisted was screenwriter Carl Foreman, whose 1952 classic western ‘High Noon’ is seen as a parable about the toxic political climate of the time.
Glenn Frankel revisits the film — and Foreman’s experiences testifying on Capitol Hill — in his new book, also called ‘High Noon’. “The blacklist movement stems out of a backlash by people who felt they want to get their country back,” Frankel says. “In those days it was [from] communists, and Jews and liberals. Today you might say it’s Islamic terrorists and undocumented immigrants.”
Investigation of how Donald Trump defied expectations to win the presidency. Through interviews with campaign insiders, the film based podcast examines how Trump rallied supporters and defeated adversaries.
“The only thing that is predictable is the unpredictability of Washington, D.C. from this point forward,” says Republican pollster Frank Luntz.
In 1796, George Washington gave his farewell address as he left the American presidency. His speech warned against the dangers of partisanship,
“The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.”
In this episode New York Times political correspondent Maggie Haberman joins Daily Beast editor-in-chief John Avlon to discuss how Washington’s views have held up or proven inadequate within the political context of the present. Avlon has recently published new book, Washington’s Farewell: the Founding Father’s Warning to Future Generations.
There’s a sense of exhaustion that settles over the proceedings, particularly in the second installment, as every single thing that happens in the Obama presidency is neatly reframed by right-wing pundits as some outrageous scam liberals are trying to pull on the American public. It’s never clear what those who opposed anything and everything Obama wanted to do were hoping would happen, especially in his second term, when they could no longer stop his reelection. It’s clear they were trying to hamper his every move, but every potential explanation for their intransigence — racial, political, social, even cultural — falls short.