A Politics of No Politics

Transcribed from This is Hell! Radio‘s 12 July 2014 Episode and printed with permission. Edited for space and readability. Listen to the full interview:

“I don’t think I need to get out of the kitchen. I think we need to turn down the heat in the kitchen so more people can come into the kitchen. Because the kitchen is supposed to be the place where we make nice nutritious meals.”

Chuck Mertz: On the line with us right now is Jón Gnarr. He is the author of Gnarr: How I Became Mayor of a Large City in Iceland and Changed the World. Good morning, Jón.

Jón Gnarr: Good morning!

CM: Jón campaigned on the promise to get the dinosaurs from Jurassic Park into downtown parks, free towels at public swimming pools, a drug-free parliament by 2020—and he swore he’d break all his campaign promises upon winning the election. Jon promptly proposed a coalition government, although he ruled out partners who had not seen all five seasons of The Wire.

Jón, how is it that a comedian, running a campaign that’s simply a satire, was suddenly taken seriously?

JG: Well, it’s a combination of luck and good planning—and a miracle. The most amazing thing about the Best Party now, when you look back at it, is that it worked out. We did a good job and we all stayed friends. That’s probably the most amazing thing.

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Know Your Enemy: Debunking Neoliberal Mythology

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AntiNote: The following is an extended excerpt of a radio interview, edited for readability.

In printing it, we are once again responding to explicit requests to do so. We find it noteworthy that This is Hell! interviews about which there is the most vocal enthusiasm are typically the ones that examine the nature of neoliberalism, its often unperceived effects on our daily lives and ways of seeing, and our tendency to misunderstand its origins and aims even as we rail against it. As Henry A. Giroux pointed out in just such an interview this past spring, this points to a very real thirst for more thorough analyses and a deeper understanding of the smilingly savage world order in which we find ourselves—a thirst which commercial media, generally speaking, refuses to quench on the grounds that it does not exist. Classic neoliberal denialism…

This interview, which host Chuck Mertz conducted with author and historian of economic philosophy Philip Mirowski on 31 May 2014, stirred up a good deal of discussion within our writers collective as well, touching as it does on so many topics of great concern to us. To name just a few: current deficiencies and disputes on the “Left;” the structure of philosophical revolutions (of which the rise of neoliberalism is one); the difficulties with using timeworn political descriptors in new contexts where they no longer apply; and the annihilation of the concept of a core moral self, which neoliberalism and fascism have in common…

Resisting the temptation to lengthily interpret Mirowski’s rejoinders (there will be plenty of time for that), we simply leave you with a link to further reading on the Mont Pelerin Society and the contentious origins of the “neoliberal thought collective” Mirowski describes:

Neoliberalism: the Revolution in Reverse by Chris Lehmann for The Baffler

Now, without further ado.

Chuck Mertz: On the line with us right now is author Philip Mirowski. Good morning, Philip.

Philip Mirowski: Good morning.

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Building Cultural Sustainability in the Digital Age

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AntiNote: The following is an extended excerpt of a radio interview, edited for readability.

On 19 April 2014 Chuck Mertz of This is Hell! Radio (Chicago) interviewed author, filmmaker, cultural critic and musician Astra Taylor about imagining new models for digital media that reflect truly revolutionary cultural values.

Although she does not attempt to provide specific solutions, we appreciate her impulse to work collectively on developing them and we are struck by the simple elegance of her observation that the tech ‘revolution’ has not been all that revolutionary—yet.

Frequent visitors to Antidote as well as our growing network of invaluable collaborators will already be familiar with our obsession with this issue and our own efforts at cultivating a more cooperative rather than competitive spirit in the production and dissemination of culture and information. As we emphasize repeatedly, we won’t overcome the prevailing commercial media model by imitating its most pernicious attributes (in way, we have been painfully reminded of this once again by the fall from grace of Chris Hedges. Competition, ego, position leverage, fetishizing status…need we go on?).

Astra Taylor takes us a few steps further in this thinking by identifying a few more of these attributes and inviting us to imagine, more concretely, what we would like to see in their place.

“‘Innovation,’ ‘disruption’ and ‘openness’ are all terms that can be twisted to serve business imperatives.”

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Democracy Promotion at Face Value

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Transcribed from This is Hell! Radio’s 10 May 2014 episode and printed with permission. Listen to the full interview:

“Improving livelihoods and education among people never helps authoritarian regimes, which is why they don’t do it themselves. They know that their biggest threat is an empowered, educated populace that can read and feed itself.”

Chuck Mertz: On the line with us right now, live from Beirut, is journalist Thanassis Cambanis. Good morning, Thanassis; good afternoon in Beirut!

Thanassis Cambanis: Great to be with you.

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Intersecting Neoliberal Goals at the World Cup

AntiNote: the following is an extended excerpt of a radio interview, edited for readability.

On 19 April 2014, Chuck Mertz of This is Hell! Radio (Chicago) interviewed Brian Mier, an expatriate in Brazil who writes and podcasts about Brazilian society and politics from a critical, radical perspective.

Especially refreshing in Mier’s analysis—which preceded last month’s major flare-ups in the anti-World Cup protests in cities across Brazil—is his discussion of U.S. interests being subtly expressed (and served) in Western commercial media’s coverage of the current tumults. In this way, the separate aims of two massively influential neoliberal actors—FIFA and USAID—intersect, and Mier’s observations can be related directly to conversations we have been having on Antidote about other places, especially Ukraine.

Image: Gustavo Froner/Reuters via SCISSION blog

Image: Gustavo Froner/Reuters via SCISSION blog

“One of the reasons why media outlets like the New York Times are smearing Brazil right now is they’re trying to create a sense of instability that will favor the opposition, who they hope will privatize the state petroleum company in the future.”

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Challenging the Prostitute Imaginary

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Transcribed from This is Hell! Radio‘s 17 May 2014 episode and printed with permission.

This is only an extended excerpt, edited for readability, and does not include the entire range of issues covered in author Melissa Gira Grant‘s interview with host Chuck Mertz; listen to the whole thing here.

“Most people are doing work they don’t feel really great about, and if they had other options would prefer to do something else—but we wouldn’t describe their boss as a pimp. We wouldn’t describe capitalism as their pimp.”

Chuck Mertz: Writer and journalist Melissa Gira Grant is the author of Playing the Whore: the Work of Sex Work. Good morning, Melissa.

Melissa Gira Grant: Hey there, thanks for having me.

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Under Occupation in America

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Transcribed from This is Hell! Radio’s 24 May 2014 episode and printed with permission. Listen to the full interview:

 “When you’re a target of the police, you want to be an unpredictable person. You don’t want to show up routinely anywhere. You don’t want to go to the hospital when you’ve been injured or when your baby is born. You don’t want to go to your mother’s house on Christmas. Who knows who will be there to take you into custody?”

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