Rank #1: Nostalgia Trap - Episode 105: Between Oligarchy and Democracy w/ Heather Cox Richardson
Heather Cox Richardson is a historian of American politics with a number of important books on the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the ideological evolution of the Republican Party. Richardson’s work tracks the space between rhetoric and reality, showing us how political parties pull the levers of race and class to manipulate public opinion and gain power.
Richardson’s recent focus is the way American conservatism has influenced the direction of the Republican Party over the course of the past several decades. In this conversation, she explains how “movement conservatives” since the Buckley era pushed the GOP to embrace increasingly extreme candidates and positions, setting the table for the Trump nightmare:
“Americans figured out fairly early on that [Republican economic policies] didn’t really help them. So Republican language has gotten more and more crazy. For me, the real sign was when Carly Fiorina, in the debates in 2016, said that Democrats were literally killing babies so they could sell their body parts . . .
They’ve had to ratchet this language up more and more. So when Trump came in and said and did the horrific things he did, he was really simply playing that movement conservative narrative out to its logical end. It’s exactly the path we started on in 1951 with God and Man at Yale.”
Jul 11 2018
Rank #2: Nostalgia Trap - Episode 83: AM/FM - The Deep State is Capitalism
What is the "deep state"? Does it really exist, or is it a specter in the minds of far-right conspiracy theorists from Jack D. Ripper to Alex Jones? In this episode, Justin Rogers-Cooper joins me to sort it out, exploring the "deep state" idea in the context of the opioid crisis and other contemporary signs of malignant capitalism.
Jan 15 2018
Rank #3: Nostalgia Trap - Episode 148: Unlearning Capitalism w/ Astra Taylor
Astra Taylor is a writer and filmmaker whose work explores the radical contours of contemporary politics and philosophy. Her latest film, What is Democracy?, is a deep dive into one of history’s most intense questions, framing interviews and discussions within the harrowing context of a collapsing planet. In this conversation, she explains the ideas underlying her inquisitive approach to writing and making films, how her unorthodox experiences with formal education shaped her political and analytical thinking, and why she thinks asking bigger questions is such a vital task for the left.
May 30 2019
Rank #4: Nostalgia Trap - Episode 91: Thomas Frank
Thomas Frank might be best known as the author of What's the Matter with Kansas?, a 2004 book that sought to explain why so many Americans in "flyover country" vote for the Republican Party. But his analysis goes much deeper than just Kansas. In this conversation, he discusses his development as a political analyst and historian, and offers his perspective on what's happened to the left and right in recent decades. His latest book, Listen Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People? traces how Democrats became the party of Wall Street, and Republicans hone their image as the party of "ordinary working people."
Apr 02 2018
Rank #5: Nostalgia Trap - Episode 131: Capital's Final Frontier w/ Justin Rogers-Cooper
Justin Rogers-Cooper is here to explain how the robber barons of the 19th century stack up against the current crop of capitalist megalomaniacs in Silicon Valley and beyond. In the process, we talk about Marx’s labor theory of value, the shift from control of resources to control of debt, the colonization of the human soul as the final frontier of profitability, and the specific function of monopoly within the larger liberal project.
Jan 30 2019
Rank #6: Nostalgia Trap - Episode 74: Book Club, RE: Stephen King
Fifty years after publishing his first short story, Stephen King remains a powerful force in American popular culture. Claudia Moreno Parsons joins me to talk about what King's work has meant to us personally and his place in the wider spectrum of American literature.
Oct 17 2017
Rank #7: Nostalgia Trap - Episode 141: Centrism is a Disease w/ Chad Vigorous
Chad Vigorous is the host of a sharp and funny podcast called The Discourse, and one of left Twitter’s most acerbic political commentators. In this conversation, he shares his insights on the nightmarish landscape of American culture and politics in the 21st century, explaining how fascism and white nationalism are finding their footing within the socioeconomic despair and ideological void created by neoliberalism.
Apr 11 2019
Rank #8: Nostalgia Trap - Episode 90: AM/FM - The Political Economy of Mass Shootings
In this episode, Justin Rogers-Cooper joins me to unpack the mass shooting phenomenon in the wider context of American history. Why do Americans kill each other? Who benefits from mass killings? And how is social violence connected to the structures of capitalism?
Mar 21 2018
Rank #9: Nostalgia Trap - Episode 76: Christian Appy
Christian Appy's work on the history of the Vietnam War has had an enormous influence on the direction of my own research and writing on the war. In this conversation, Appy joins me to talk about the Ken Burns/Lynn Novick documentary, The Vietnam War, which aired on PBS in October. We analyze the Burns aesthetic and discuss how the film avoids confronting the war's most troubling questions.
Nov 02 2017
Rank #10: Nostalgia Trap - Episode 166: Showing the Receipts w/ Kevin Kruse
Kevin Kruse is a historian at Princeton University and the author of a number of important books about race, class, and politics in 20th century America. He is also one of the most visible historians online, with a massive Twitter following that often serves as a mini-course in American history. In this conversation, we talk about his unexpected rise to Twitter fame, his beef with right-wing propagandist Dinesh D’Souza, the many pleasures of archival research, and his connection to the wider community of historians and other scholars who are more actively engaging the public during a chaotic political moment.
Oct 22 2019
Rank #11: Nostalgia Trap - Episode 81: Yasmin Nair
Yasmin Nair is a writer and activist based in Chicago, known as much for her dynamic political and cultural writing as for her contentious social media adventures. In this conversation we spend a good amount of time talking about her amazing piece in Evergreen Review, a manifesto for an apocalyptic moment that combines analysis of neoliberalism with ideas about gentrification, queer culture, dystopian science fiction, and so much more.
Dec 11 2017
Rank #12: Nostalgia Trap - Episode 169: Gaming the Future w/ Mike Pearl
Mike Pearl is a writer and self-described “apocalypse expert” whose new book The Day It Finally Happens explores the increasingly bizarre scenarios that threaten to totally ruin our collective future. From internet blackouts and antibiotic-resistant superviruses to collapsing governments and mass extinction events, Mike tracks the actual probability of these nightmares coming true as a way of helping us navigate an anxious present. In this conversation, we game out some of the more insane ideas from his book while asking the question of our age: How bad is it gonna get?
Nov 14 2019
Rank #13: Nostalgia Trap - Episode 138: Dreaming Liberation w/ Robin Kelley
Robin Kelley is a professor of history at UCLA and the author of a number of important books on a wide range of subjects, from communism in the American South (1990’s Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists During the Great Depression), to the political visions of radical black intellectuals and artists (2002’s Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination), to the history of jazz (2009’s Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original). He joins us to discuss his intellectual path from doctrinaire Marxism to “Marxist surrealist feminist,” and why he thinks aesthetics and culture are such vital spaces for the left to reclaim its imaginative vision.
Mar 21 2019
Rank #14: Nostalgia Trap - Episode 154: Generation Gump w/ Bill Black
Bill Black is a historian whose project Contingent Magazine (begun with previous Nostalgia Trap guest Erin Bartram) this month features a 25th anniversary retrospective roundtable on the film Forrest Gump. In this conversation, Black explains how the film’s particular take on boomer generation “greatest hits” hides the film’s deeper engagement with the politics of the 1960s and 1970s, and helps frame how some of Gump’s key characters and scenes often dangerously distort our view of American history.
Jul 09 2019
Rank #15: Nostalgia Trap - Episode 117: The Decline and Fall of American Cinema w/ Eileen Jones
Eileen Jones is a film critic and professor whose biting, polemical movie reviews are featured in Jacobin and a number of other publications. Her recent book Filmsuck, USA investigates the persistently horrific state of American cinema, while outlining Jones’ vision of a liberatory movie culture that honors the medium’s working class roots. In this conversation, she explains how her early experiences watching Hollywood genre films influenced her ideas about movies, why the Coen brothers are her preferred auteurs, and why she thinks the language of cinema can play such a vital role in challenging the organizing principles of capitalism.
Sep 26 2018
Rank #16: Nostalgia Trap - Episode 147: Anti-Capitalist in Appalachia w/ Tanya Turner
Tanya Turner is one of the hosts of the Trillbilly Worker’s Party podcast, a smart, funny take on left politics in Whitesburg, Kentucky. In this conversation, we talk about the wider political world of Appalachia, her work with the media and arts center Appalshop, and how sex education is a vital space for talking about capitalism’s insidious control over our bodies.
May 23 2019
Rank #17: Nostalgia Trap - Episode 122: Dunder Mifflin Nation w/ Justin Rogers-Cooper
Justin Rogers-Cooper returns to the Nostalgia Trap to break down the political and social significance of NBC’s The Office, positioning the show within the larger context of 21st century neoliberal capitalism. How does the evolving sitcom form reflect changing attitudes about labor, patriarchy, and other structures of oppression? And what does it mean for the future of work?
Nov 06 2018
Rank #18: Nostalgia Trap - Episode 130: Being Tony Soprano w/ Topical Fever
Before the Nostalgia Trap, David hosted a show called Topical Fever, which took on specific subjects from the worlds of politics, history and media. Sounds familiar, right? To mark the 20th anniversary since the premiere of The Sopranos, we’re sharing this Topical Fever episode from the vaults, featuring a conversation with professor of English Jeremey Cagle on the show’s relationship to another epic piece of American art: Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.
Jan 15 2019
Rank #19: Nostalgia Trap - Episode 108: Seizing Socialism's Moment w/ Alex Press
Alex Press is a writer and assistant editor at Jacobin Magazine whose work explores the contours and possibilities of American working class politics. In this conversation, she tells about being radicalized by the Occupy movement in 2011, her journey through anarchism and socialism in a basement full of radical literature, and her thoughts on the rising visibility of socialist politics in the U.S. mainstream. Surveying the current political landscape, Press sees many opportunities for the left to more effectively harness the anger and energy felt by millions of Americans. She argues that popular social movements, from Black Lives Matter to #MeToo, can and should be channeled into real working class power:
“We don’t have a very visible fighting feminist movement in the way that we’ve had in the past. You have this incredible energy around #MeToo, so many people wanted to change this thing, everyone agreed it was terrible that every woman they know seems to have experienced really awful things, whether in their work life or elsewhere, and yet there was nowhere really for people to go. And when you don’t have that infrastructure of an organized left that can really lead that energy, and develop it, and demand certain changes, it dissipates. It’s a real missed opportunity, and it’s why left organizations should be preparing themselves to actually figure out a way to fight back against incredibly anti-feminist policies in this country.”
Jul 30 2018
Rank #20: Nostalgia Trap - Episode 172: Empire of Cruelty w/ Luke O'Neil
Luke O’Neil is a writer whose work chronicles the dark edges of 21st century America, capturing the horrific tenor of our age in his incredible newsletter and in his latest book, Welcome to Hell World: Dispatches from the American Dystopia. From murderous cops and fascist dads to suicidal veterans and imprisoned children, O’Neil connects the dots of the American nightmare in a voice that’s compelling and authentic and genuinely enraging. In this conversation, we talk about his path through the ugly landscape of new digital media and explore how the political and personal crash together in his work.
Dec 12 2019