Cover image of Open Source with Christopher Lydon
(906)
Arts

Open Source with Christopher Lydon

Updated about 1 month ago

Arts
Read more

Christopher Lydon in conversation on arts, ideas and politics

Read more

Christopher Lydon in conversation on arts, ideas and politics

iTunes Ratings

906 Ratings
Average Ratings
542
332
12
7
13

Great Radio Program. I love this guy Chris his depth always provocative

By SF CA Lin - Sep 07 2019
Read more
Great radio program - ideas, music, literature, drama, politics !! Thank You Chris Lydon !!!

The best radio/podcast

By goodems - Jun 23 2018
Read more
Christopher Lydon is keeping me sane.

iTunes Ratings

906 Ratings
Average Ratings
542
332
12
7
13

Great Radio Program. I love this guy Chris his depth always provocative

By SF CA Lin - Sep 07 2019
Read more
Great radio program - ideas, music, literature, drama, politics !! Thank You Chris Lydon !!!

The best radio/podcast

By goodems - Jun 23 2018
Read more
Christopher Lydon is keeping me sane.
Cover image of Open Source with Christopher Lydon

Open Source with Christopher Lydon

Latest release on Jul 09, 2020

Read more

Christopher Lydon in conversation on arts, ideas and politics

Rank #1: Billionaire Noir

Podcast cover
Read more

The most honored movie of the year looks to be Parasite, from Korea, about the soul-crushing advance of mega-wealth and the heartbreak of poor people with a dream of catching up. From the Pacific Rim, that is, it’s a movie that mirrors us! At the same time, from Hollywood, the hot HBO series is Succession: all about cruelty, greed, and family power-games under a vulgar tycoon who won’t let go of his company.  The family name might have been Murdoch, Corleone, Trump. Alongside our Impeachment drama, it’s pop-culture, screen culture, that’s telling an under-story of concentrated wealth; the lost confidence in middle-class life and a regular people’s democracy.

Bong Joon-ho.

Parasite’s a faraway mirror of what you know instantly is our American condition, too—maybe a universal affliction of yawning gaps in class and wealth and entitlement—in a financial order owned by an almost speechless, maybe clueless one percent. This is, we know, impeachment time in Washington and the news business. We’re picking up instead on the understory told in screen culture: In the case of Parasite, the story’s more interesting for mixing movie genres: this is a social comedy of two families before it turns sour and then sharply into a horror show. The story is told more in sadness than anger, and it leaves viewers with innumerable angles to replay and reflect on for days.

The post Billionaire Noir appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Nov 15 2019

50mins

Play

Rank #2: Lovecraft Country

Podcast cover
Read more

H. P. Lovecraft’s frightful horror fiction—dated between Edgar Allan Poe’s and Stephen King’s—is the weirdest of the weird. Lovecraft found ravenous, man-eating rats in the walls and foundations of our houses, and in our hearts and dreams just as creepily. For Halloween readers, he gave us ocean monsters the size of mountains; also, slippery scaly fish-people, flipping, flopping, and talking their way down the streets of Lovecraft’s favorite coastal towns near witchy Salem and the north of New England. There’s an idea in these stories—about human ignorance in an evil sea of telepathic enemies. There’s an open landscape, too, where horror fiction is growing a new crop.

Our Lovecraftians

Joyce Carol Oates (Credit: Dustin Cohen).

Paul La Farge (Credit: Carol Shadford).

Matt Ruff (Credit: Lisa Gold).

Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Credit: Martin Dee).

If you’re sensing something ancient, cosmically vast, inescapable and frightening this Halloween season, you may be catching a Lovecraftian breeze. Howard Phillips Lovecraft was a lonely, near-reclusive child of Providence, Rhode Island, who felt intimations of mind-melting infinity in New England of the twenties and thirties. The coast north of Boston inspired him with Gothic ideas, which he dished out in stories long and short for pulp magazines, thrilling readers who visited his mythical sites like Arkham, Miskatonic University, and Innsmouth—a fictional universe terrorized by creatures like Cthulhu, the ocean monster so complexly described that he cannot be pictured. Lovecraft specialized in such things: colors of no color, minerals not found on earth, languages that can’t be pronounced, and of course an unreadable and uncaring universe, “formed in fright,” as Melville put it speculatively. In Lovecraftian horror, the bleakness is doctrine.

The post Lovecraft Country appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Nov 01 2019

50mins

Play

Rank #3: Profits or People

Podcast cover
Read more

Week 4 was when dollar signs kept turning up, and up, astonishingly: price-tags on the virus’s damage, price-tags on fighting it. The bailout of bailouts came in at $2.2 trillion of disaster relief and, it’s fair to say, a pipeline of money to Wall Street, to the Boeing Company, and the airline industry. Who’d have expected Republican conservatives would bail out people, too: “four-figure checks” in mailboxes within three weeks, Mitch McConnell promised. The mantra is official now: don’t sweat the debt. Governor Cuomo in the virus’s bullseye of New York sounded desperate for hospital beds, but he also thought the spiky curve of cases was flattening.

Mark Blyth.

For an immeasurable public health disaster, Washington has come up with unheard of relief, about double what the federal government budgets for all spending in a whole year. And the case loads and death toll of the coronavirus keep rising, unevenly, unpredictably, and by far the worst in New York, city and state. Mark Blyth is our almost reflexive call: our political economist at Brown University, eagle-eyed and irreverent on those places where money and power mix and mingle and make rules for the world. He can sound like the noisiest know-it-all in a Glasgow pub, but people always say he has a gift for making sense where they hadn’t seen it.

The post Profits or People appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Mar 27 2020

50mins

Play

Rank #4: The Pandemic’s Path

Podcast cover
Read more

How did it happen? And who’s accountable? Seems now a lot of people saw it coming. Stephen King wrote his viral bestseller The Stand 30 years ago; Bill Gates put his warning in a TED talk; our Pentagon had a plan to counter the pandemic. It was the reporter Laurie Garrett, covering viruses before HIV/AIDS in the ’80s, who got inside 30 different epidemics around the world before this one, and put a title on her scrupulous non-fiction: The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance. That was 26 years ago. This week she’s just out with a first draft of our coronavirus history, with two plausible villains and also two possible sources of critical help, if it’s not too late.

The coronavirus attack comes to feel like “the nearest thing to a world war,” the people of the planet at the mercy of an invisible bat virus, counting each of us on our immune systems and very little in the way of common defense. The US is now the epicenter of the coronavirus epidemic as it spins toward plague standing—up toward the wreckage and transformation that came with HIV-AIDS, with the Spanish flu of 1918 and the Bubonic, ancestor of all plagues. We are counting this hour on the singular reporter Laurie Garrett, a paragon of “knowledge-based journalism,” seeing epidemics for herself in huts and hospitals all over the globe—30 epidemics in 40 years—and writing with precision about the coming plague that is now upon us.

The post The Pandemic’s Path appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Apr 03 2020

50mins

Play

Rank #5: The CIA’s Covert Chemist

Podcast cover
Read more

We’re at home with Stephen Kinzer, the longtime reporter of secret U.S. operations in books like Overthrow and All the Shah’s Men. In a new book, Poisoner in Chief, Kinzer looks at a scientist named Sidney Gottlieb and the notorious “mind control” CIA program he led, MK-ULTRA.

Kinzer’s portrait induces the feeling of a bad trip: We’ve been to a completely different zone we know is there, but we can’t believe. He’s introducing us to the man who brought LSD into this world. Gottlieb’s experiments may have been responsible in part for Billie Holiday’s death, and putting Whitey Bulger on a two-year LSD regimen. At the CIA, Gottlieb was involved with assassination attempts of Fidel Castro and Patrice Lumumba. There are resonances of James Bond and Doctor Strangelove. Or maybe Josef Mengele.

Stephen Kinzer

“This is the first time I’ve been shocked by something I discovered in writing a book. I’m still getting over my shock from the process of learning who this Sidney Gottlieb was,” Kinzer told us. “I now conclude he was the most powerful unknown American of the twentieth century.”

You can catch our last episode with Kinzer, “America’s Empire State of Mind,” here.

And if you can, give us a tip over on Patreon—and thanks!

Photo illustration by Conor Gillies, photo courtesy of the author.

The post The CIA’s Covert Chemist appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Oct 01 2019

37mins

Play

Rank #6: Tech-Master Disaster: Part Three

Podcast cover
Read more

Take a walk through Kendall Square, Cambridge, this hour. It’s the Emerald City of biotechnology—as magical/mysterious as the Land of Oz, but it’s real, too. The new tech of genomic medicine, re-engineering life in wet labs, has brought a new frontier of work and wealth back from suburbia. Kendall Square is an urban ecosystem: pricey new real estate, rising higher every day on the edge of MIT and the Charles River, a mecca for the DNA generation of bio-scientists. It was born of both science and science fiction. Fun fact: novelist Michael Crichton dreamed up his Jurassic Park in Kendall Square in the mid ’80s. Scientists are enacting his fantasy of a re-creation, but they may have forgotten Crichton’s warnings about it.

Richard Attenborough as John Hammond in Jurassic Park.

Kendall Square can be taken as a model of the smart-city boomtown.  The question this hour is: how did it sprout, and what keeps it sprouting? For whom? And how did the Jurassic Park novelist Michael Crichton seem to feel Kendall Square coming, 30 years ago? Wasn’t he warning his readers and moviegoers to beware? Kendall Square is, in effect, a bio-science park: hundreds of companies and labs focused on the future in genomic medicine, meaning healthcare through reading and tweaking your DNA. Just one subway stop from the world-famous Massachusetts General Hospital, Kendall Square models the “entrepreneurial” university with MIT, along with “medical science as business.”

The post Tech-Master Disaster: Part Three appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Sep 27 2019

50mins

Play

Rank #7: Springtime in the Plague Year

Podcast cover
Read more

It’s the virus’s world. We just live in it: isolated, locked down for the duration, sheltering in place, with an alternate risk of cabin fever. The theme of the week is the shutting down—of the city, the country, the world. Markets busted, borders closing. Bars finally emptied. Public schools locked up. College graduations cancelled. An incredible prospect: we won’t be taking trips for the foreseeable future; we won’t be going to meetings. And a Republican White House is getting ready to shower “helicopter cash” on the American people, the bailout of bailouts. And still there are giant holes in the numbers under the fear.

Italy is the eye of the Coronavirus storm, the epicenter of the chaos in treatment, and of the world’s heartbreak and dread. Italy’s death toll in the global pandemic passed 3,400 this week, exceeding the losses in China. At the same time, in the crazy-quilt of plague sites all over the world, even in Italy there are broad patches apparently untouched by the virus. And in the jumble of mis-matching statistics, there was plenty of reason to question and doubt the worst-case scenario: that the rest of Europe and even North America could be 10 days away from the Italy’s nightmare.

The post Springtime in the Plague Year appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Mar 20 2020

51mins

Play

Rank #8: Origin Stories

Podcast cover
Read more

Origin stories can be educated guesses, or leaps of collective imagination as to who we are, how we got to this point. The Big Bang is one kind, Adam and Eve make another. 1492 and 1776 are American starting points. The argument gets stickier around 1620, when Mayflower Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock; and 1619, when the first African slaves came ashore in Virginia. Just a year apart, they’re the opening chapters of two very different epics of a single nation: one born in the flight of pious Puritans to freedom, the other born in the theft of people and land to build an empire of cotton and capitalism.

It’s a funny thing about origin stories—who we are, how we got here. We know going in that the stories are made up, one way or another. And we come to find out that a lot of them are just plain wrong. Then what? The Sunday magazine of the New York Times took a bold run this past summer at the year 1620 as the start of the American story— the year, of course, when the Mayflower landed about one hundred dissenting English Puritans, our pilgrims, at Plymouth Rock. But no, the Times argued, our first chapter was dated 1619, a year earlier when a ship bearing some 20 African slaves landed in Point Comfort, Virginia, which was to say the drive to implant a slavocracy in the new world had a step on building a temple of freedom.

We’re talking with Nikole Hannah-Jones, Philip Deloria, and Peter Linebaugh about national origin stories. The thread here is storytelling that explains and often hides what happened.

Nikole Hannah-Jones is the writer and editor who led what the Times called a major initiative at the paper to reframe American history. And she strikes the keynote of this radio hour around slavery at the foundations of U.S. history and in our own origin stories in general.

Peter Linebaugh is a transnational historian of economics and culture. He’s been tracking the privatization of common land in England and the New World. 1792 is his magic start date of what is now the world system.

The historian Philip Deloria—the first tenured professor of Native American history at Harvard—considers the Native American encounters with those colonists in the 1600s.

The post Origin Stories appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Dec 06 2019

50mins

Play

Rank #9: 2020 Hindsight on Iraq

Podcast cover
Read more

We have a formal stand-down, meaning no war this week, between the US and Iran. On the long horizon of empires, rising and falling, it looks like an interval of restraint between hubris and nemesis—the ancient Greek names for defiant pride and its downfall, or undoing. The broken state of Iraq is what stares at us and the world, 17 hellish years after the US invasion and occupation. It’s the multi-trillion-dollar war that brought chaos and regime change that handed control of Iraq to Iran as if on a silver platter. It’s the war that discredited a generation of American party pols who voted for it. It’s the reason most Iraqis and their parliament want the last Americans out of their country. And still, the people that sold that Iraq war have another bigger one in mind if anybody will buy it.

Donald Rumsfeld, George W. Bush, and Dick Cheney in 2006.

We look ahead in the war-fogged Middle East this hour with some of the people who could have steered a much better path a generation ago. Our guests are a strong sample of an honor roll in commentary on such things.  All told there were 33 specialists in strategy, diplomacy, and Middle East history who paid for op-ed space in the New York Times as President George W. Bush was ginning up war against Saddam Hussein. September, 2002, six months before the war began, the scholars’ warning ran under a headline: WAR WITH IRAQ IS NOT IN AMERICA’S NATIONAL INTEREST. Each one of their six bullet points proved true in the real world: Saddam was in fact a bad old client of the US, and no part of the 9/11 attack. We could win a war in Iraq, these professionals stated, but we’d never get out of the mess we’d made.

The post 2020 Hindsight on Iraq appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Jan 10 2020

49mins

Play

Rank #10: Plagues, Pathogens, and Panic

Podcast cover
Read more

Stuff we’re all learning in coronavirus time: the word miasma, for example, meaning noxious bad air; that we touch our faces 23 times an hour; that sanitizers like Purell were made to kill bacteria, not viruses, and they’re not worth $70 a liter on Amazon; more important maybe: that all our Ibuprofen and most of our prescription meds are made in China; that the face masks you can’t find on the shelves anymore don’t work anyway; and of course: that we don’t have a vaccine for this coronavirus. Crazy stuff, too, like: it takes two weeks for urban populations to go cannibal after everything else runs out.

A CDC poster from 1964, with timeless wisdom.

Take a deep breath. Wash your hands for 20 seconds, and don’t touch your face. We’re talking about the coronavirus out of China before we have solid grasp of its spread, its pre-symptomatic incubation time, and its kill rate among all the people who catch the virus. Neither do we have the means of testing big populations yet, much less a vaccine to inoculate us. We are speaking of a black swan in the form of a microscopic new bug that tears at commerce and culture all over the world. No school, all schools in Pakistan, Japan and Italy, for example. And on the trade routes across the Pacific, a pileup of stalled containerships between China and the California ports of Oakland and Long Beach. The plague for our times hasn’t yet sorted itself between impulses to cancel everything or brave it out, to shore up borders, or get our heads into a borderless age of pandemics.

The post Plagues, Pathogens, and Panic appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Mar 06 2020

50mins

Play

Rank #11: The Inimitable Johnny Hodges

Podcast cover
Read more

There’s a big difference between the two greatest jazz stars on the alto horn. Charlie Parker had imitators without number; Johnny Hodges was simply inimitable. Parker, known as Bird, broke frontiers of speed, harmonic invention, and all-round excitement. Hodges, known as Rabbit, or Jeep, is best known for blues feeling, storytelling, and the sheer beauty of his sound and tone, in all the varieties and moods that could come out of an alto saxophone, at different moments lyrical, earthy, elegiac, and sensual. Hodges said he liked the idea of making “alley music,” yet he could sound like a whisper to your heart, as well.  This hour it’s Johnny Hodges’s turn, on the occasion of Con Chapman’s biography of him.

Johnny Hodges, right, plays alongside Al Sears in 1946.

Out of another age in high pop culture, we’re rediscovering songs without words this hour, from an expressionless man—until the moment he picked up his horn. From the 1920s into 1970, four decades, Johnny Hodges was the standby solo star in Duke Ellington’s jazz orchestra. Other bandleaders said Duke could afford not to feature a boy singer or a girl singer, as they were known then, because he had Hodges in his band.

Johnny Hodges’s voice came in three registers: blues, ballads and, a rarity in jazz, the art song. That sound of Johnny Hodges is the thread, the plot of this radio hour: about a forgotten grand master of American music whose biography has finally been written: Rabbit’s Blues from the Oxford University Press, by a Boston lawyer and fellow Hodges cultist, Con Chapman. It’s an overdue account of an artist who barely spoke but stirred hearts his own way, not so unlike Charlie Chaplin or the other silent movie star Buster Keaton, known as “the great stone face”—which described Hodges as well. What Johnny Hodges did was liberate and lift Adolph Sax’s mid-range horn out of the marching-band, into the far upper reaches of solo expression. And he played it with “a tone so beautiful,” Duke Ellington said, “it sometimes brought tears to the eyes.” 

In Boston, Hodges played at venues like the Black and White Club and Hotel Avery.

We’re close-listening to Hodges’s wide range of music—and taking a tour of the neighborhood where he hatched his sound. Long-time community activist and former state representative Byron Rushing is our guide. He’s walking us back into the intellectual and cultural cauldron of Hodges’ youth, a scene that included fellow saxophonist Harry Carney as well as journalist William Monroe Trotter and the painter Allan Crite. We’re joined also by Robin D.G. Kelley, the preeminent historian and biographer of Thelonious Monk.

On Sussex Street in the South End of Boston, Chris meets up with Byron Rushing, who says the small brick houses and apartments in the area here were originally “built for the working class.”

Thank you for listening. The YouTube playlist here and below contains (most of) the Hodges tracks contained in the the program. You can find an excerpt of Chapman’s new book here.

The post The Inimitable Johnny Hodges appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Jan 03 2020

50mins

Play

Rank #12: The New Red Scare

Podcast cover
Read more

The winter round of the presidential race goes to Bernie Sanders, not so much for winning the most votes from Democrats as for coining the key word, the big theme for 2020, which is: billionaires! Not just the billionaires on the ballot and billionaires backstage, it’s billionaire-ism coming to be the argument of this election in a country at odds more and more about money. We’re used to anger, right and left, but suddenly there’s alarm in the air – at MSNBC, the Democrats’ TV network, the bold march of Bernie’s anti-billionaire army reminded Hardball‘s Chris Matthews of the Fall of France to Hitler in 1940. It’s scary, and there’s a pick of scarecrows in this race: the Plutocrat; the Democratic Socialist, and the President.

MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, who’s invoked Cold War fears and World War II analogies to discuss Bernie Sanders.

This was wake-up week among the Democrats nominating a presidential candidate. Some woke up cheering that Bernie Sanders looks like the choice of the people. Some woke up screaming in horror that the rebellion against the Clinton era is real, that their party has been dying for four years, that the end is near. The sound of battle has gone raw, with survival at stake, not just egos.

The post The New Red Scare appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Feb 28 2020

49mins

Play

Rank #13: Viral Inequality

Podcast cover
Read more

The curve of the coronavirus is bending. Just in the awful American swath of the grim COVID reaper, we have entered peak season with some flattening of the rising case count and the deaths. Social distancing works. The grim lesson in the fog of numbers is that this merciless bug is not a great equalizer on the ground—quite the opposite. Unfairness is the mark of this killer. New York, city and state, are taking nearly half of all the US casualties. COVID aims at the poor, old, and already infirm. And in Chicago, Milwaukee, and the state of Louisiana, African Americans are getting double their share of death by COVID. It’s unfair in politics, too: it vindicated Bernie Sanders’ case for universal healthcare; at the same time, it smothered the Sanders campaign in panic.

Cornel West, who reflects on the Bernie Sanders campaign at this show’s conclusion.

Racism is the underlying condition in our country that leaps out of the mountain of new coronavirus numbers. There is some merciful news, too, in the first slowing of confirmed cases. Deaths now approaching 15,000 in the US could come in far below the White House estimate that as many as 250,000 people could die in the pandemic. Meantime, we’re noticing that this blind and brainless bug has an acute sensitivity to social standing in America—to our race and class lines, our work habits and age brackets, as if it read us like a book. We look also this hour at the odd and ironic juncture of the end of the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign and the onset of the COVID crisis.

Bonus

On an entirely different note, here’s Chris Lydon’s conversation with President Donald Trump, portrayed with uncanny accuracy by J-L Cauvin:

The post Viral Inequality appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Apr 10 2020

50mins

Play

Rank #14: The Soul of Care

Podcast cover
Read more

Arthur Kleinman is a name that comes up again and again when you search around our big college town of Boston / Cambridge for people asking the great human questions, about our lived experience — about our inner and outer lives, secret lives, soul lives, and also about our vulnerabilities, our pain, and endurance. Dr. Kleinman is an M.D. psychiatrist who’s played anthropologist, too, in Chinese medicine, but he saved his best work and big discovery for last. In his sixties and seventies, he says, he learned more than he’d ever known before about doctoring through 11 years of caring night and day for the wife he adored in the grip of Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr. Arthur Kleinman. Credit: Torben Eskerod.

Arthur Kleinman is a doctors’ doctor who learned the hard way about his lifetime in medicine. He’s been learning mainly about the limits of his heroic profession, about the difference between care-giving (which could mean surgery, or writing a prescription) and care itself, which means staring into an anxious patient’s view of the abyss. The Soul of Care is Arthur Kleinman’s 40th book. Most of his books have soulful titles, but this one is different: it’s a memoir of more than a decade after his wife and professional partner Joan showed first hints of Alzheimer’s disease.

Banner image credit: Torben Eskerod.

The post The Soul of Care appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Feb 21 2020

50mins

Play

Rank #15: Questions of Leadership

Podcast cover
Read more

The Andrew Cuomo Daily Show has become the high ground of coronavirus talk: all kinds of numbers, trend lines, and family feeling, too. The Donald Trump Show has typically been a carnival of rage, boasting, and misinformation: some of his own people want to shut it down. Where else for light and truth? The Congress, you’d expect. But the people’s branch of government has turned its own lights out for the duration. The members have gone home. Joe Biden has a TV studio at home, but the lustre has faded some around the last Democrat standing in the presidential race when it got rained out, virused out, after Super Tuesday.

Donald Trump, next to Alex Azar, signs the congressional funding bill for coronavirus response.

What’s made the difference from the beginning of Andrew Cuomo’s daily briefings on the Coronavirus has been his relatively calm and competent air with the vast landscape of hospitals, beds, masks, the needs of New York; and then there’s been something extra: the human touch.

The post Questions of Leadership appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Apr 23 2020

50mins

Play

Rank #16: The Age of Illusions

Podcast cover
Read more

Soldier and citizen, Andrew Bacevich is the overqualified expert who turns the standard take on our distress inside out. It’s not President Trump that divides us, Bacevich says. Rather, Trump got to be president because the country was worse than split: it’s in a 30-year slow-burn rage around a loss of our restraint, our reputation, our identity. Donald Trump is the loathsome cover on our confusion, he says, but the confusion comes out of Clinton, Bush, and Obama time, in the arrogance of military might, unleashed by a Cold War victory, as if we were licensed to rule the world.  The reckoning Bacevich wants, with Trump or without, is about what three reckless decades have cost us abroad and at home.

Andrew Bacevich with Chris Lydon.

Young Andrew Bacevich felt a vocation to be a soldier, left home in Normal, Illinois, for West Point and battle, in Vietnam, then the first Gulf War. He’s rueful now about American wars in his long lifetime, and he is answering a second vocation to write what he’s learned about misplaced faith in force, and where it has taken his country.  His eighth book on military and foreign policy, just out, is titled The Age of Illusions: How America Squandered Its Cold War Victory. When we got a chance to talk about it in the Cambridge Forum, the usual book and author interview sounded at moments like two old Catholic altar boys lapsing in their seventies into musing: what became of the USA that was the toast of the world in their boyhood after World War II? 

The post The Age of Illusions appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Jan 31 2020

50mins

Play

Rank #17: Malcolm X in Boston and Beyond

Podcast cover
Read more

The life of Malcolm X is the classic hero’s journey, in a setting we almost know: a story of anointment, dedication, fate, faith, family, incredible risk and reversals.  There was spontaneous poetry in it, enough sin to make salvation real, and redemption before an early, ugly death – all of it brilliantly told in an autobiography that wasn’t entirely Malcolm’s composition.  The question is about the dateline of the life: whether the core of the Malcolm epic isn’t a Boston story: The spur of ideas in a talky town, on both sides of the color line; the force of family, specially Malcolm’s sister Ella; the oddly enlightened prison where young Malcolm found his way.

Malcolm X, the equal-rights champion, rose to historic standing by blaming and shaming both white and black America — whites for oppressive racism and blacks for putting up with it.  Foil for the Christian preacher Martin Luther King, Malcolm was the firebrand who did not turn the other cheek, who mocked the singing of “We Shall Overcome.” At Malcolm’s funeral 52 years ago, the actor Ossie Davis remembered his friend as a “howling, shocking nuisance” before his “brave, black gallantry” took hold.

The post Malcolm X in Boston and Beyond appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Feb 14 2020

50mins

Play

Rank #18: Ben Lerner’s Literary Charge

Podcast cover
Read more

This week we have an Open Source literary treat. It’s our producer Adam Colman in conversation with Ben Lerner, the MacArthur Genius who speaks as a poet, theorist, and storyteller in everything he writes. Ben Lerner’s latest novel, The Topeka School, has been leading lots of 2019 book-of-the-year-lists. It’s the third in a trilogy that includes Leaving the Atocha Station and 10:04. Our man Adam Colman is also the author of New Uses for Failure, the only book about Ben Lerner’s fiction not written by Ben Lerner himself. The two of them sat down in Brooklyn to talk about the emotional charge of literature, about auto-fiction (which is not about cars) and about the power of language most particularly in the scenes with of high school debate in The Topeka School, where success goes to the contestants who deploy what’s called “the spread,” a kind of weaponized rapid fire of information.

Adam and Ben.

A note from Adam: At the end of 2019, we’re looking back on a decade of disasters, but over the course of that same decade, Ben Lerner sensed glimmers of a better world. It’s this imaginative attention to our actual world that made me want to write a book about his fiction, which focuses on those glimmers of possibility found through language, through art. As he says in this conversation, he took to writing novels because they “seemed like a place where I could think through the question of the value of a lot of the arts I was engaged in, like poetry or visual art or whatever. And I’d like to dramatize . . . my anxiety about the value of artwork, but also my insistence on the value of artwork. And they could do it in a charged and funny and felt and hopefully entertaining way.” In this conversation, you’ll hear a case for why literary imagination matters—emotionally, politically, intellectually, and immediately.

(Banner photo credit: Catherine Barnett.)

The post Ben Lerner’s Literary Charge appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Dec 26 2019

46mins

Play

Rank #19: Hong Kong Crackdown

Podcast cover
Read more

“May you live in interesting times” was never in fact a Chinese curse. It’s a modern American cliché that could work as a caption on both China and the US as 2019 winds down. We’ve got our impeachment crisis to open a presidential election year, a “surveillance capitalism” crisis that mocks ideals of shared prosperity and privacy. China’s got an even starker “rule of law” crisis. Under Chairman for Life Xi Jinping, autocratic nationalism has taken its mask off in Beijing, and in Hong Kong the police crackdown on a freedom movement in the streets has turned sharply toward lethal force. Over there and here, the toughest question might be: are we looking at the future?

By the end of the police siege of Hong Kong Polytechnic University, students were crawling through sewers this week, jumping from a bridge and tunneling under barriers to get free. Not to surrender, exactly, or to flee, as one student said; just to get out of a hole getting deeper and more dangerous. The fight for almost six months now has been to preserve a measure of self-rule in the sometime British crown colony that reverted to China two decades ago—under a formula of one country with two systems of governance. But armed battle has pre-empted a political argument: bows and arrows, then fire bombs showed up in the hands of the opposition, facing water cannons and storms of tear gas from the police. No Red Army tanks yet, as in Tiananmen Square 30 years ago, but a popular protest movement is on the defensive and “crackdown” is in the air.

The post Hong Kong Crackdown appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Nov 22 2019

50mins

Play

Rank #20: Impeachment Lite

Podcast cover
Read more

The impeachment season just opening begins to look like a required scandalous course for citizens on how your government actually works, and as the New York Times noted this week, it will not be pretty. Not President Trump’s strong-arming the government of Ukraine to trash his enemies and get himself reelected in 2020. And not the reckless routines of a surveillance state that bends the rules to spy on people, and apparently the Trump campaign of 2016, then smear them with gossip known to be sketchy. Speaking of un-pretty: there was the Washington Post report this week that the Pentagon knew through our 18-year, two-trillion-dollar war in Afghanistan that the US had no workable strategy, and as a top general put it, “We didn’t know what we were doing.”

Still, finally the impeachment fat is in the fire. It’s a smaller fire than it might have been, a short bill of just two particulars: that President Trump tried to shake down Ukraine for help in Trump’s own reelection campaign in 2020; also that he’d stonewalled Congress’s investigation. It is nothing like a frontal attack on the Trump presidency—on his climate denial, say, or breaking the anti-nuclear deal with Iran, or profiteering on public office, or cruelty to migrants at the border. In the week’s news of the American empire, it could seem a smaller story than the Pentagon’s confession about our losing war in Afghanistan.

The post Impeachment Lite appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Dec 13 2019

50mins

Play

Reparations and the Wealth Gap

Podcast cover
Read more

Forty acres and a mule was the promise made to black slaves, even before the Civil War was over. General Sherman of the Union Army drew up the plan, and Congress took a good look. The price-tag in 1865 would have been roughly $400-million; by today, the black stake in land ownership would have grown ten-thousand-fold by compound interest to several trillion dollars. But the promise, you know, was never kept. As Ida B. Wells put it later, emancipation “left us free, but it also left us homeless, penniless, ignorant, nameless, and friendless.” And there was worse to come in the neo-slavery of Jim Crow. The debts for slave labor have never been paid. The black and white wealth gap has never begun to close.

William T. Sherman.

Reparations means payback – in the case of slavery and its aftermath in America, it means payback for irreparable damage, which is to say: it may be practically impossible and morally required. Our history of paying down the debt for slavery is one of promises broken – like the famous offer of 40 acres and a mule to slaves liberated by war; also the short-lived Reconstruction of the South with full citizenship, equality and freedom for black citizens – all of it undone after “seven mystic years,” in W. E. B. Du Bois’s phrase. We have a history also of what looked like good intentions – New Deal benefits in the 1930s, the Federal housing loans that built suburbia after World War 2, but were designed not to include black families. Reparations is a cause that sleeps but never dies. And it is back full force in a comprehensive book from the University of North Carolina, From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-First Century. We’re honored to welcome the co-authors this hour: William A. Darity Jr, historian trained as an economist; and Kirsten Mullen, co-writer and lecturer on race, art, history, and politics.

The post Reparations and the Wealth Gap appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Jul 09 2020

50mins

Play

Return of the Prophet: Baldwin in the 21st Century

Podcast cover
Read more

This week, we revisit our 2017 show on James Baldwin.

James Baldwin was the prophetic voice of an era that isn’t over. Fifty years ago, he was a young, bug-eyed man from Harlem who wrote, in essays and novels, his own version of the civil-rights movement. Now his words have become the rallying cries for a new rising generation—in film, in music, and in the press.

Raoul Peck, the Haitian-born director of the Oscar-nominated Baldwin documentary I Am Not Your Negro, sees Baldwin as a mirror on American life:

He went really deep into what the society is, you know, and he was the only one who was able to formulate it in a way that a scholar of course would understand it but also the man in the streets would understand it in a way where he could be very critical to the white liberal but without pushing them away. But he found a way to put every one of us, whether black or white, in front of the reality. He put a mirror in front of us in a way that you can’t look away.

Teju Cole views the Baldwin of today as a master aphorist: a pithy prophet well-suited to the twitter age and “the go-to quote factory of those who are woke.” On a deeper level, Cole finds kinship in Baldwin’s transnational sense of self.  Cole guides us through his own pilgrimage to Leukerbad, Switzerland—the remote town where Baldwin composed his seminal essay “Stranger in the Village”:

The essay I ended up writing about this journey to Leukerbad became also a kind of exercise in Baldwinian form … I deeply love the essay that he wrote about being there, and in my essay, which I call “Black Body,” I wanted to think about what it meant to inhabit somebody else’s space. I was inhabiting his space and, in a sense in the essay, I was inhabiting his prose style. … it was conscious to allow that to happen, to allow the visceral effect of being there as he was there, walking the streets as he walked the streets, to let all of that come through and still have it be analytical.

Cornel West reminds us of Baldwin’s unpopularity, and his nagging truth-telling habit that alienated him, in later years, from the white liberal media professionals who first popularized his work, as well as from the radical black nationalists. But for Brother West, this outsider truth-teller “was really a kind of Democratic saint, if you define a saint as a sinner who looks at the world through the lens of the heart.”

“He was heartbroken.” Cornel says, “America broke his heart, day in and day out.”

And Ed Pavlic, author of Who Can Afford to Improvise?: James Baldwin and Black Music, the Lyric and the Listener, hears in Baldwin’s words echoes of the black musicians Baldwin dearly loved – Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Mahalia Jackson et al. Above all else though, Pavlic reminds us of Baldwin’s deep love for Ray Charles, highlighting the concert Baldwin and Charles organized together at Carnegie Hall as part of the 1973 Newport Folk Festival.

Illustrations by Susan Coyne. This program was originally broadcast February 2017.

The post Return of the Prophet: Baldwin in the 21st Century appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Jul 02 2020

52mins

Play

Warrior Cops

Podcast cover
Read more

Once upon a time in the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980s, “community policing” came forth as the solution to a law-and-order problem. In 2020 hindsight, the road to our hellish crisis today of police practice and racial injustice can seem to have been paved by the very mixed intentions of anti-crime fashion back then. The issues in the ’80s were called drugs, guns, and gangs. They are back to haunt us as mass incarceration, over-policing (like “stop and frisk”), and police immunity, even for murder. A broad chorus in country this summer is demanding change, maybe radical reform in policing. It could hang on getting through the slogans, around the illusions, in touch with real history.

Commissioner Bill Bratton, formerly of the NYPD, Los Angeles Police Department, and Boston Police Department.

The underside of police work is in the dock this George Floyd summer. Broadly the charge is bringing the tools and the mindset of warfare into American cities—excessive force, with a racial tilt, and impunity when it turns up on camera as open and obvious murder. Our conversation this hour is about “reimagining” police, and William Bratton, who’d be the American police chief if we had one, will get it started. The big theme of the era, Chief Bratton will tell you (theme of his own nearly 50-year career in Boston, New York, and Los Angeles) has been reform and improvement. With bad lapses, yes. But he says we have safer cities in a safer country than we used to. James Forman thinks not. He is a public defender and now law professor, out of a civil rights mindset and family history. He is puzzling why black America enlisted in the Clinton era war on crime, and didn’t see mass incarceration coming. And then the historian of urban rebellion: Donna Murch at Rutgers, who sees a friendly alignment of forces around Black Lives Matter this year.

The post Warrior Cops appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Jun 25 2020

50mins

Play

Deaths of Despair

Podcast cover
Read more

The warning bell sounded in 2014: a down dip in the ever-rising American lifespan, which was 50 years, on average, in 1900, and up close to 80 years into the 21st century. Then something happened and kept happening – not to the very old-agers, but in mid-life. It was a white-working-guy disease that hit women too, but not everybody – not African-Americans the same way, not college graduates at all. It was a sharp surge in desperate death by suicide, often with alcohol or opioids. “Deaths of Despair,” they are called now, each one a message in a bottle about pain, neglect, work, and well-being in America.

Benjamin West’s “Cave of Despair”

An outline appears of an “underlying condition” in our country. Our guests this hour pin-pointed evidence of an untold story five years ago, in the uptick of self-inflicted death. What they located was a surge of suicide in the 2010s. It’s been centered among dropouts from the white working class; mostly men, self-medicating by drugs and alcohol to the point of self-destruction. These are people adrift at mid-life, beyond the consolations of work, family, church, or neighborhood. And in the year 2017 alone, there were 158,000 of them who opted out (more Americans than have died as of this week in the COVID epidemic). Anne Case and Angus Deaton are senior economists at Princeton – Angus was a Nobel Prize winner in 2015. Deaths of Despair is the morbidly enthralling book they researched and wrote together. It is not economics, exactly: more like a detective novel.

The post Deaths of Despair appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Jun 18 2020

50mins

Play

Inequality and Injustice

Podcast cover
Read more

“A Change is Gonna Come,” the songwriter put it: it was Sam Cooke, at a peak of the civil rights movement in 1964. And it is surely coming again, around the police murder of George Floyd. Change is driven now by a national mass protest and by police responses in city after city that seemed to nail the argument that law enforcement much too often shows a brutal streak facing black and brown Americans. What change is coming, and when, we don’t know, yet in fact models of it are here already, in interesting places like the chief prosecutor’s office in Boston, where Rachael Rollins got elected on a promise to start un-doing mass incarceration.

Memorial for George Floyd in Minneapolis.

The job at hand is coming to terms with American reality, 400 years of history and day-to-day evidence in work and wealth gaps, in health and hierarchy, in criminal injustice and scandalous policing. The charge is racism, and in a national roar of response to the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the leading prescription seems to be anti-racism. That includes both quiet introspection and very public reordering of public-safety enforcement, for starters. Change is coming, and in a few instances like the one we’re dwelling on this hour, change has already come. Rachael Rollins got elected District Attorney two years ago for Boston and the adjoining cities of Chelsea, Winthrop, and Revere. Her campaign promise was to change the system – to de-carcerate criminal justice; to decriminalize poverty, drug disorders and mental illness; to drop prosecutions of a dozen or more petty crimes, like shoplifting and carrying drug paraphernalia.

The post Inequality and Injustice appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Jun 11 2020

50mins

Play

Reviving Reconstruction

Podcast cover
Read more

We’re transfixed, all of us, looking at a collision of deadly viruses, racial hatred and a pandemic disease. Suddenly what commands attention is the black push-back, with a lot of white support, against an injustice system – sparked by yet another police killing of a helpless black man, 30 years down the video trail from Rodney King. What grips us is partly the video spectacle of cop cars burning last weekend, and mostly peaceful marches everywhere since then. It’s also this replay loop of documented brutality in the work of policemen, enforcing second-class citizenship in this endangered model democracy. The history piece is our focus, back to the abandonment of Reconstruction after the Civil War.

The scene at a protest on Tuesday, June 2, in Boston, MA.

The trouble in the land has roots in two centuries and more of slavery, we know, and also in the way slavery ended: in a horrible civil war and then a failed attempt to reimagine and rebuild a nation of free and equal people. That re-start, less familiar in my old textbooks, was called Reconstruction. It got pushed aside after a decade for what was called Redemption. Meaning: restoration of white planter power and forced Jim Crow subjection of the former slaves. This is our unfinished history, as in James Joyce’s most famous line: history as the nightmare from which we are still trying to awake. In the turmoil around the headline viruses – COVID-19 and racism – we have a sort of thought experiment this hour: is yet another Reconstruction what we need? Can we picture it?

Hear a report from a protest in Franklin Park on June 2, 2020, by Azan Reid, with help from Conor Gillies (content warning: language):

And hear Chris’s conversation with long-time caller and friend Amber, who’s taking the bird’s-eye view of recent street protests from her home in Codman Square:

Franklin Park protest photos by Azan Reid.

Amber Bryan and Azan Reid are both longstanding friends and contributors to Open Source.

Amber had considerable fame in the 1990s as the riveting regular, the crabby young patriot and omni-directional intellect on our call-in talk show The Connection.
Azan is a community-builder in the Mattapan neighborhood of Boston.  He helped us organize a radio show and our thinking ever after about mass incarceration  about the school-to-prison pipeline and the hard road back from lock-up to real life.  

The post Reviving Reconstruction appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Jun 04 2020

50mins

Play

Moral Economics

Podcast cover
Read more

John Maynard Keynes was a philosophical giant in twentieth-century England. In his day job, he was a public economist; in America he was a political football for the very idea of “deficit spending” to charge up private investment in a recession. It made the name “Keynes” a cuss word until our politicians fell in love with deficits as a way to pay for tax cuts and wars. “We are all Keynesians now,” Richard Nixon said, in Vietnam time. It’s only much later, in long hindsight, that Keynes the philosopher returns as if in a dream: the social and moral thinker, a sprightly, prophetic, and humane writer who could see money, finance, employment, justice, peace, and security as a linked system to be studied and managed for common purposes.

46 Gordon Square in London—Bloomsbury home of Keynes.

The subject is John Maynard Keynes, thinker and writer of genius and consequence in England between the two world wars. He is back to life in a dazzling biography of the moral philosopher inside the famous economist. Zachary Carter is our guest; he has rewritten the life story—emphasis on the humanity of Keynes’s thinking and the artistic beauty of his prose. Keynes was an economist mostly without numbers, though he started out as a mathematician. He makes literary and moral connections with Edmund Burke, the Anglo-Irish conservative, and implies a sort of kinship with George Orwell, another radical but anti-revolutionary English socialist of Keynes’s period.

The post Moral Economics appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

May 28 2020

50mins

Play

Yo-Yo Ma’s Bach

Podcast cover
Read more

The force of art to rescue a world breaking down; the power of music in particular to heal people one by one, perhaps all together: this was Yo-Yo Ma’s breathtaking mission for himself in his 60s, to nail down the convictions that have sustained his humble self at the very pinnacle of major-league music. His project, nearly finished, was to do 36 concerts in 36 venues, from the top of the world in the Andes, to the street music scene in Dakar, West Africa, and to Flint, Michigan, in Rustbelt, USA. Everywhere he would play the same masterpiece: the Cello Suites of Johann Sebastian Bach, the rarest solo performance piece that can show you infinity.

Imagine an old artistic masterpiece that’s also a modern showpiece for a solo performer who fills giant venues, East and West, indoors and out, in Chile and China, in Africa and the Andes, with audiences that seem to sit breathless for most of two and a half hours. The thought this radio hour is that there’s nothing in written music quite like the six suites for unaccompanied cello that Johann Sebastian Bach wrote, between his church assignments, right about 300 years ago. God’s own dance music, it’s been said, and there’s nobody who can produce a civic and cultural event each time he plays them as our guest Yo-Yo Ma has been doing: a sort of one-man dance band alone on the stage, no helpers for harmony or rhythm.

Photos by Michael Lutch.

The post Yo-Yo Ma’s Bach appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

May 21 2020

50mins

Play

Coronavirus Conspiracism

Podcast cover
Read more

What we’re learning again in coronavirus time is that when the medical system stumbles in a pandemic – and when the media machinery, the chattering class stumbles on top it – watch out! Something like it happened two centuries ago when Yellow Fever struck New York and Philadelphia.  Nobody knew then to blame the mosquitos that carried the bug, so a society of feckless thinkers – the Illuminati, so called — took the heat.  We are in a boom time again for blaming all sorts of people for Covid 19: Bill Gates, Globalism, Dr. Fauci, China. It is high season for conspiracism, and YouTube videos have become the place to tune in.

On this week’s show, Errol Morris, the documentary filmmaker, describes a search for truth in visual media.

There’s a boisterous new kid on the media block, at an active corner in the coronavirus conversation. People get there on Google’s YouTube channel on the Internet. The stream of videos can have a compelling voice, a documentary look, lots of added effects and typically the feel of a hard sell. Lots of people hear it as propaganda. Lots of others hear a galvanizing truth.

Chris Lydon emailed links for different online videos with propagandistic qualities to the film critic A.S. Hamrah, author of The Earth Dies Streaming from n+1. The videos included political advertisements, an opinion video for the New York Times, a Youtube video about the conspiracist Judy Mikovits, and a clip of an old episode of The Dead Zone that has lately suggested hidden meanings to conspiracists. Hamrah replied with the following close reading of each.

Some Propaganda Videos
By A. S. Hamrah

There is a language of persuasion in the political videos that seem to bubble up from nowhere and go viral. Some of them are funded and their virality is calculated. Others are discoveries that catch on because they resonate with the times. Watching a lot of them makes it clear that in a divided America, these clips and pseudo-documentaries address viewers differently depending on their pre-existing points of view—their psychographics. Here are a few that Open Source asked me to watch.

1) The Dead Zone – “Plague” (2003 Episode Cutdown)

This clip is no different from watching the Hollywood feature films Outbreak (1995) or Contagion (2011), which both proved the government and society-at-large understood the danger of a pandemic and should have been better prepared. However, the crappiness and anonymity of this TV show that is justifiably forgotten adds something to its truth value. Its mediocrity is now a signifier of authenticity because its obscurity gives it a sense of discovery.

The “eureka” moment comes from something cheap and forgotten and semi-anonymous, not from something starring Dustin Hoffman and Rene Russo or Kate Winslet and Matt Damon. If you are unaware of films like Outbreak or Contagion or any other plague films dating back to The Seventh Seal, this clip seems more meaningful and significant than it is. It is plucked from obscurity to deliver the truth, never mind that the truth was already out there. By cutting it down, the particulars about China seem prescient and ominous, even though they are present in Contagion and other virus movies and TV shows.

2) “Mourning in America

This effective one-minute piece of agit-prop from George Conway’s Lincoln Project works because it is not lying. But it does raise an important issue that we encounter in presentations like this, namely: Where does this footage come from? Who shot it? Is it original to this production? Or just stock footage that can be deployed by anyone for any purpose? Original footage always has more credibility than stock footage sourced from God knows where. The voiceover does a lot of the work here, but since some of the footage seems original, the piece is effective.

However, its ultimate effect might be one of embarrassment-anger. It addresses people who are told they screwed up by voting for Trump. Embarrassment-anger could make them do it again. Trump voters may double down because they can’t bring themselves to admit how wrong they were and what the consequences of being so wrong turned out to be. When it comes to propaganda, consequence has sequence in it. Narratives, like elections, have consequences. 

Rubbing people’s faces in failure is like watching The Hunger Games movies. It works in the short term but people actively want to forget it. It presents a hopeless world to viewers who more often respond to myth, madness, and metaphor, if they are conservatives, or cutesiness, gentle humor, and factoids, if they are liberals.

3) A Video Posted As If It Were a 2020 Trump Ad on ArmstrongEconomics.com

This piece of bold propaganda succeeds by stating as fact something Trump outrageously claimed about himself: that his corruption is a form of honesty. He can’t be bought or bribed — is in fact somehow unbribable — and therefore Democrats are scared of him because this radical honesty will “overturn their feeding trough.” This is an example of advertising by assertion (“America runs on Dunkin”), baldly stating something you want to be true even though — or especially because — the opposite is true.

This video comes from a website that sells economic analysis of some kind. Its bad prose is once again a sign of authenticity. People who write well are suspect; those who are awkward are telling the truth. The massive hyperbole of Trump’s 2016 convention speech is brought down to earth in this framing. While everything he said was nuts in the extreme, it becomes a form of truth-telling that is double-edged when surrounded by poorly written and poorly conceived nonsense. On the one hand, civilization is at a crossroads and everyone but Trump is corrupt. On the other hand, everyone knows Trump is corrupt as hell.

Heads Trump wins, tails you lose. Again, stock footage sourced from anywhere is deployed clumsily and haphazardly — a sign of right wing propaganda and its love of the low budget presentation shown on the biggest screen in the biggest hall.

4) “Operation Infektion”

This New York Times internet doc presents valuable information in a way that non-Times readers no longer trust. The pivot to video did not serve readers or the general public well because of its reliance on aesthetics borrowed from the once-edgy makers of non-verité documentary feature films (Errol Morris, The Atomic Cafe, Ken Burns). These represent “best practices,” not innovation; this is documentary filmmaking as corporate strategy.

Films like this raise more questions than they answer, and they are questions of form. Why the cute animation that puts the viewer in the position of being asked to admit he or she is kinda stupid? Why an unnamed British narrator who pronounces Dan Rather as “Rawther,” pizza as “peetzer,” partisan as “party-ZANN,” and vulnerable as “vunnruhble”? British narrators used to signify authority and deep knowledge; now in the John Oliver era they denote cutesiness, fake outrage, and smugness repackaged for smart people. The phony Poindexter feel of being talked down to by a funny Brit has been successful as a TV trope. But what effect does it have on a news industry many or even most Americans no longer trust?

Framing interview subjects strangely, as in Errol Morris films, once suggested a higher truth than that found in a mere talking-head doc, the kind PBS specialized in. Now it seems condescending and affected, like it is deflecting from the actual content of the piece.

The use of “TIMEOUT”’s in this piece was downright babyish. The conclusion, about Baltic and Eastern European TV shows that debunk Russian propaganda during their countries’ primetime TV schedules when American Idol would be on in the US, served to undercut the style of this doc, which was unlike those shows as presented here, and made me wonder why the Times just doesn’t do one of those instead of presenting important information in a cutesy manner. What are they saying about their perceived viewers? Nothing good.

5) “People Are Brainwashed by The Big Pharma – Judy Mikovits Leave You Speechless

This nonsense mishmash of scientific and medical terms intermixed with Judy Mikovits’s uncomfortable laughter and a list of calendar dates from her bizarre life story gave away the game that this is a promo. Like the Election 2020 video, it is trying to sell us something, in this case the “Success Archive” and “BetterHelp” therapy sessions instead of wacky economic analysis. The viral “Plandemic” video based on Mikovits’s ant-vaccination work seemed to come out of nowhere and go everywhere all at once, before social media sites banned it. Now her trutherism can be used elsewhere, in other ways, by other people.

All the tropes and techniques of the Russian disinformation campaigns outlined in “Operation Infektion” are on display here — but in a cheap, clunky form. The use of banal stock footage sourced indiscriminately is a hallmark of the right-wing grift, always, as is the meandering voiceover. We never actually see Judy Mikovits in this video. We just hear her nervous, self-aggrandizing prattle, which makes her seem delusional; confused and aggrieved by world events and her place in them. 

The useless “The” in the title once again uses bad grammar as a signifier of authenticity. Again, this is advertising by assertion. “I want people to think,” Judy claims, before resorting to Trump-esque obfuscating and hyperbole: “vaccine courts” are “more corrupt than anything you could ever imagine. Ever imagine.”  

A piece like this works because of its truth kernel: news media is in fact funded by big pharma. As anyone who watches primetime cable news has probably noticed, most of the ads are for prescription with Brave-New-World-ish names. Any reasonable viewer would wonder about that, and this video confirms that their suspicions are meaningful. Finally, Mikovits’s appeal to religion — giving Caesar what Caesar is due, how her faith bonded her to her husband after the fake scientists she escaped tried to destroy her using the legal system — posit a world where truth and fiction have been reversed. She is a woman of science, sure, but religion mostly. Thus she is persecuted for her beliefs, which are not in the end scientific but a matter of faith. 

The post Coronavirus Conspiracism appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

May 14 2020

50mins

Play

COVID’s Cold War?

Podcast cover
Read more

The coronavirus may have arrived just in time to punctuate a 50 year turn in the grand tide of events. It could mark, that is, a fresh fixation in American minds on an external enemy. It could become the opening round even of a new Cold War, with China this time. But at what price? The hybrid giant “Chi-Merica” was the name of a partnership as well as a rivalry that grew out of Richard Nixon’s first visit to China in 1972. It was the combination that made China the workshop of the world, for better and worse. In the last decade Chi-Merica has driven a huge portion of global growth. But it’s at risk suddenly in the poisoned fallout of a pandemic.

Between the pandemic still spreading, and the presidential campaign taking shape, this is tryout time in the blame game. President Trump’s contentious diplomat, Mike Pompeo, has walked back his accusation that the killer virus came out of a Chinese lab at Wuhan. Probably because US intelligence wouldn’t back him up, the Secretary of State now says there’s evidence on the point, but no certainty. Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas is still the point man among “Blame China” Republicans. This week, he said the Chinese Communist Party is responsible for every death, every job lost, every retirement nest egg cracked by COVID-19, and he said that Xi Jinping and his comrades must be made to pay the price. Between Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden, meantime, the campaign videos for both sides argue the same point: that the Other Guy was chummier with China and said sweeter things about the Chinese leadership in happier times.

The post COVID’s Cold War? appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

May 07 2020

50mins

Play

Public Health Across the Pacific

Podcast cover
Read more

There’s a shocking big truth in those coronavirus numbers – hidden in plain sight, as the saying goes. It comes down to this: China and various neighbors in East Asia beat the lethal virus to its knees months ago. It’s Europe and the US for the most part that inadvertently or not are pushing death tolls higher. Tabulate deaths per capita, and you see the new big picture: The New York State score so far would be 900 deaths per million New Yorkers; the Malaysia score would be 3. Massachusetts has lost 460 people per million; New Zealand 4. Connecticut has lost 600 people per million population. China: 3. First question to East Asia might be: why is your death-rate running roughly one percent of ours?

Jim Yong Kim.

Maybe you noted the fact and remembered it that Taiwan shut down its airport last December 31, on solid intelligence that an odd strain of pneumonia had hit 27 Chinese people near Wuhan. I missed the news but the governments in Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand did not. Perhaps because they keep a wary eye on China, perhaps because they heard an echo of the SARS epidemic from 2003. But they acted. From the very start of 2020, countries in East Asia were closing their gates, watching for symptoms and sufferers, and they never let up. The results get more striking week by week: a death rate from COVID-19 close to zero in Vietnam, roughly 3 in a million people dying in Japan, Thailand, China itself—or about one percent of the rate of fatal cases in France, Italy, Spain and the Eastern Seaboard of the US. Even now do we know what East Asia did right, what the best of American medicine didn’t learn about de-fanging COVID-19?

The post Public Health Across the Pacific appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

May 01 2020

50mins

Play

Questions of Leadership

Podcast cover
Read more

The Andrew Cuomo Daily Show has become the high ground of coronavirus talk: all kinds of numbers, trend lines, and family feeling, too. The Donald Trump Show has typically been a carnival of rage, boasting, and misinformation: some of his own people want to shut it down. Where else for light and truth? The Congress, you’d expect. But the people’s branch of government has turned its own lights out for the duration. The members have gone home. Joe Biden has a TV studio at home, but the lustre has faded some around the last Democrat standing in the presidential race when it got rained out, virused out, after Super Tuesday.

Donald Trump, next to Alex Azar, signs the congressional funding bill for coronavirus response.

What’s made the difference from the beginning of Andrew Cuomo’s daily briefings on the Coronavirus has been his relatively calm and competent air with the vast landscape of hospitals, beds, masks, the needs of New York; and then there’s been something extra: the human touch.

The post Questions of Leadership appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Apr 23 2020

50mins

Play

The Many Faces of Ferrante

Podcast cover
Read more

This is a rerun, prompted by the HBO series My Brilliant Friend, based on the  “Neapolitan Novels” of Elena Ferrante.

Ferrante’s identity remains beguilingly unknown, but she has put so much of her life and world in this masterwork that we’re not going to dwell on that part of the mystery.

Instead we’ll count the many faces of her novels. From the outside, the books look innocuous enough: their covers are airbrushed photo collages of mothers, daughters, and girls in Mediterranean scenes.

But deep down they are roiling, and white-hot: with male violence, women’s resistance, pleasure, trespass, and loss. Think of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” rewritten into a feminist epic.

Ferrante pushes the story over a long roller-coaster arc, and it can be as gripping as soap operas, HBO, or Harry Potter and—at moments—as deep and humane as Proust.

A few of the things these books are doing:

The psychology of a friendship.

The Proustian gene shows itself from the very beginning of the novels: when Elena Greco—an aging, successful writer from Naples—hears that her best friend Raffaella Cerullo, whom she calls “Lila,” has disappeared from her home.

Greco decides to set down their entire friendship on the page: every meaningful moment, from school competition through teenage cruelties, weddings, vacations, and shared pregnancies.

All the while Elena and Lila become closer than close—almost interdependent in a sometimes tense and jealous pairing. The joy of the book comes from standings inside the two friends’ field of influence: where does one friend end and the other begin? Who would they be without one another?

20th-century feminism, a life story.

Our guest Dayna Tortorici, co-editor of n+1, reads Ferrante’s whole body of work—she wrote shorter novels before the “Neapolitan” series—as a sensitive portrayal of women’s power in practice and across history.

Not as high-falutin theory, but almost as gossip:

Ferrante’s novels animate these ideas with a generous clarity. In her work, you can see how the mother-daughter paradigm operates in all relationships between women without reducing them to cardboard… Ferrante has given intellectual and literary women an invaluable gift: books that speak to them in a language their mothers can understand.

By the end, Ferrante’s two brilliant heroines have clearly come a long way from the fates of their mothers, eaten up by abusive husbands and the fatigue of motherhood. But also not as far as we might have hoped.

A dark theory of history.

That leads to the most shocking thing the novels do: they become political and philosophical; right when you think Ferrante will spill all her gossip or tie up her threads, she stops short.

It begins in postwar Naples, a world of poverty and danger:

Our world was like full of words that killed: croup, tetanus, typhus, gas, war, lathe, rubble, work, bombardment, bomb, tuberculosis, infection. With these words and those years I bring back the many fears that accompanied me all my life.

It ends in a Naples that has been “developed,” put through the wringer of fifty years: Communist-Fascist street wars, organized crime, heroin, disaster,  and financial crash.

The narrator Elena Greco sounds like a radical philosopher when she holds forth on the lessons of her hometown in the final volume:

Naples was the great European metropolis where faith in technology, in science, in economic development, in the kindness of nature, in history that leads of necessity to improvement, in democracy, was revealed, most clearly and far in advance, to be completely without foundation.

To be born in that city— I went so far as to write once, thinking not of myself but of Lila’s pessimism— is useful for only one thing: to have always known, almost instinctively, what today, with endless fine distinctions, everyone is beginning to claim: that the dream of unlimited progress is in reality a nightmare of savagery and death.

The radical politics failed; the violence rattled on. What remained constant was the interpersonal enchantment of two women, two wills, in a hostile place.

Sabine Weiss, “A Street in Naples”

By the way, Michael Reynolds, the (English) publisher of Ferrante’s novels, spoke to us about the Ferrante phenomenon this week in prep for our show. You can listen to an excerpt of our conversation here:

Have you read Elena Ferrante? Leave a comment below, and please tune into the show.

The post The Many Faces of Ferrante appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Apr 16 2020

50mins

Play

Viral Inequality

Podcast cover
Read more

The curve of the coronavirus is bending. Just in the awful American swath of the grim COVID reaper, we have entered peak season with some flattening of the rising case count and the deaths. Social distancing works. The grim lesson in the fog of numbers is that this merciless bug is not a great equalizer on the ground—quite the opposite. Unfairness is the mark of this killer. New York, city and state, are taking nearly half of all the US casualties. COVID aims at the poor, old, and already infirm. And in Chicago, Milwaukee, and the state of Louisiana, African Americans are getting double their share of death by COVID. It’s unfair in politics, too: it vindicated Bernie Sanders’ case for universal healthcare; at the same time, it smothered the Sanders campaign in panic.

Cornel West, who reflects on the Bernie Sanders campaign at this show’s conclusion.

Racism is the underlying condition in our country that leaps out of the mountain of new coronavirus numbers. There is some merciful news, too, in the first slowing of confirmed cases. Deaths now approaching 15,000 in the US could come in far below the White House estimate that as many as 250,000 people could die in the pandemic. Meantime, we’re noticing that this blind and brainless bug has an acute sensitivity to social standing in America—to our race and class lines, our work habits and age brackets, as if it read us like a book. We look also this hour at the odd and ironic juncture of the end of the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign and the onset of the COVID crisis.

Bonus

On an entirely different note, here’s Chris Lydon’s conversation with President Donald Trump, portrayed with uncanny accuracy by J-L Cauvin:

The post Viral Inequality appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Apr 10 2020

50mins

Play

The Pandemic’s Path

Podcast cover
Read more

How did it happen? And who’s accountable? Seems now a lot of people saw it coming. Stephen King wrote his viral bestseller The Stand 30 years ago; Bill Gates put his warning in a TED talk; our Pentagon had a plan to counter the pandemic. It was the reporter Laurie Garrett, covering viruses before HIV/AIDS in the ’80s, who got inside 30 different epidemics around the world before this one, and put a title on her scrupulous non-fiction: The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance. That was 26 years ago. This week she’s just out with a first draft of our coronavirus history, with two plausible villains and also two possible sources of critical help, if it’s not too late.

The coronavirus attack comes to feel like “the nearest thing to a world war,” the people of the planet at the mercy of an invisible bat virus, counting each of us on our immune systems and very little in the way of common defense. The US is now the epicenter of the coronavirus epidemic as it spins toward plague standing—up toward the wreckage and transformation that came with HIV-AIDS, with the Spanish flu of 1918 and the Bubonic, ancestor of all plagues. We are counting this hour on the singular reporter Laurie Garrett, a paragon of “knowledge-based journalism,” seeing epidemics for herself in huts and hospitals all over the globe—30 epidemics in 40 years—and writing with precision about the coming plague that is now upon us.

The post The Pandemic’s Path appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Apr 03 2020

50mins

Play

Profits or People

Podcast cover
Read more

Week 4 was when dollar signs kept turning up, and up, astonishingly: price-tags on the virus’s damage, price-tags on fighting it. The bailout of bailouts came in at $2.2 trillion of disaster relief and, it’s fair to say, a pipeline of money to Wall Street, to the Boeing Company, and the airline industry. Who’d have expected Republican conservatives would bail out people, too: “four-figure checks” in mailboxes within three weeks, Mitch McConnell promised. The mantra is official now: don’t sweat the debt. Governor Cuomo in the virus’s bullseye of New York sounded desperate for hospital beds, but he also thought the spiky curve of cases was flattening.

Mark Blyth.

For an immeasurable public health disaster, Washington has come up with unheard of relief, about double what the federal government budgets for all spending in a whole year. And the case loads and death toll of the coronavirus keep rising, unevenly, unpredictably, and by far the worst in New York, city and state. Mark Blyth is our almost reflexive call: our political economist at Brown University, eagle-eyed and irreverent on those places where money and power mix and mingle and make rules for the world. He can sound like the noisiest know-it-all in a Glasgow pub, but people always say he has a gift for making sense where they hadn’t seen it.

The post Profits or People appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Mar 27 2020

50mins

Play

Springtime in the Plague Year

Podcast cover
Read more

It’s the virus’s world. We just live in it: isolated, locked down for the duration, sheltering in place, with an alternate risk of cabin fever. The theme of the week is the shutting down—of the city, the country, the world. Markets busted, borders closing. Bars finally emptied. Public schools locked up. College graduations cancelled. An incredible prospect: we won’t be taking trips for the foreseeable future; we won’t be going to meetings. And a Republican White House is getting ready to shower “helicopter cash” on the American people, the bailout of bailouts. And still there are giant holes in the numbers under the fear.

Italy is the eye of the Coronavirus storm, the epicenter of the chaos in treatment, and of the world’s heartbreak and dread. Italy’s death toll in the global pandemic passed 3,400 this week, exceeding the losses in China. At the same time, in the crazy-quilt of plague sites all over the world, even in Italy there are broad patches apparently untouched by the virus. And in the jumble of mis-matching statistics, there was plenty of reason to question and doubt the worst-case scenario: that the rest of Europe and even North America could be 10 days away from the Italy’s nightmare.

The post Springtime in the Plague Year appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Mar 20 2020

51mins

Play

Contagious Crisis

Podcast cover
Read more

Our journals of the plague year start this week. Coronavirus went pandemic, and the investors’ bull market turned free-falling bear. In the conversation market, the monopolist Donald Trump is upstaged after 5 years, by a microscopic bug out of China. We’ve seen Italy’s hospitals sinking under the viral load, and satellite photos of mass graves being dug in Iran. Pro-basketball shut down for the season, and college kids got told not to come back after spring break. Tom Hanks and his wife tested positive in Australia, and Americans found they couldn’t get tested at home. Offices and factories shut down, and some people got to love “telework.” Coincidentally maybe, Bernie Sanders’s campaign got crushed at the same time coronavirus made its case for socializing medicine.

Like nothing we’ve known or imagined, COVID-19, the novel virus, has arrived: the invisible bug that feeds on human lung tissue, the coronavirus, the omnidirectional killer and crisis that could feel more like a tsunami hitting than war breaking out. It is successor to epidemics like the modern ebola and SARS and the ancient bubonic plague. Its global spread has been formally designated this week a pandemic. But almost all the rest of the coronavirus is yet to unfold.

The post Contagious Crisis appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Mar 13 2020

49mins

Play

Plagues, Pathogens, and Panic

Podcast cover
Read more

Stuff we’re all learning in coronavirus time: the word miasma, for example, meaning noxious bad air; that we touch our faces 23 times an hour; that sanitizers like Purell were made to kill bacteria, not viruses, and they’re not worth $70 a liter on Amazon; more important maybe: that all our Ibuprofen and most of our prescription meds are made in China; that the face masks you can’t find on the shelves anymore don’t work anyway; and of course: that we don’t have a vaccine for this coronavirus. Crazy stuff, too, like: it takes two weeks for urban populations to go cannibal after everything else runs out.

A CDC poster from 1964, with timeless wisdom.

Take a deep breath. Wash your hands for 20 seconds, and don’t touch your face. We’re talking about the coronavirus out of China before we have solid grasp of its spread, its pre-symptomatic incubation time, and its kill rate among all the people who catch the virus. Neither do we have the means of testing big populations yet, much less a vaccine to inoculate us. We are speaking of a black swan in the form of a microscopic new bug that tears at commerce and culture all over the world. No school, all schools in Pakistan, Japan and Italy, for example. And on the trade routes across the Pacific, a pileup of stalled containerships between China and the California ports of Oakland and Long Beach. The plague for our times hasn’t yet sorted itself between impulses to cancel everything or brave it out, to shore up borders, or get our heads into a borderless age of pandemics.

The post Plagues, Pathogens, and Panic appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Mar 06 2020

50mins

Play

The New Red Scare

Podcast cover
Read more

The winter round of the presidential race goes to Bernie Sanders, not so much for winning the most votes from Democrats as for coining the key word, the big theme for 2020, which is: billionaires! Not just the billionaires on the ballot and billionaires backstage, it’s billionaire-ism coming to be the argument of this election in a country at odds more and more about money. We’re used to anger, right and left, but suddenly there’s alarm in the air – at MSNBC, the Democrats’ TV network, the bold march of Bernie’s anti-billionaire army reminded Hardball‘s Chris Matthews of the Fall of France to Hitler in 1940. It’s scary, and there’s a pick of scarecrows in this race: the Plutocrat; the Democratic Socialist, and the President.

MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, who’s invoked Cold War fears and World War II analogies to discuss Bernie Sanders.

This was wake-up week among the Democrats nominating a presidential candidate. Some woke up cheering that Bernie Sanders looks like the choice of the people. Some woke up screaming in horror that the rebellion against the Clinton era is real, that their party has been dying for four years, that the end is near. The sound of battle has gone raw, with survival at stake, not just egos.

The post The New Red Scare appeared first on Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Feb 28 2020

49mins

Play

iTunes Ratings

906 Ratings
Average Ratings
542
332
12
7
13

Great Radio Program. I love this guy Chris his depth always provocative

By SF CA Lin - Sep 07 2019
Read more
Great radio program - ideas, music, literature, drama, politics !! Thank You Chris Lydon !!!

The best radio/podcast

By goodems - Jun 23 2018
Read more
Christopher Lydon is keeping me sane.