The Nostalgia Trap podcast features weekly conversations about history and politics with some of the left’s most incisive thinkers, writers, and extremely online personalities, exploring how individual lives intersect with the big events and debates of our era.
Writer and cultural critic Erik Davis joins us to discuss his fascinating, often startling new book, High Weirdness: Drugs, Esoterica, and Visionary Experience in the Seventies. By connecting the strange experiences of three psychedelic philosophers (Philip K. Dick, Terence McKenna, and Robert Anton Wilson), Davis offers a narrative of the 1970s that goes beyond disco and sideburns, showing us a world of occult prophecies, paranoid conspiracies, and often drug-induced spiritual fuckery.
KJ Shepherd is a Ph.D. historian whose research focuses on the history of American standardized testing and the “test preparation” industry it spawned. Along with trading stories about the horrors of teaching the SAT, we have a blunt talk about what’s happening in the history discipline: the impossibility of finding full-time jobs, the humiliation of the application process, the “alt-ac” lie, and much more.
Eli Valley is a comic artist and writer with an intense, visceral aesthetic that perfectly captures the rotten politics of our age. His acclaimed anthology Diaspora Boy: Comics on Crisis in America and Israel features a broad sample of his work over the past ten years. In this conversation we talk about his influences, both politically and artistically, and explore the historic and current role of counterculture in building left solidarity against fascism.
Liz Ryerson is a musician, writer, and teacher whose work explores the ideological and aesthetic landscape of video games and cult media. Her podcast The Blood Zone features her critical ideas about niche/independent media, from indie game design to music and cinema. In this conversation, we discuss the wider politics of the gaming and media world, including #Gamergate and other reactionary burblings, and trade ideas about leftists treading the stagnant cultural waters of late capitalism.
Justin Rogers-Cooper returns to continue our discussion of this Summer of Strangeness, this time taking on the Jeffrey Epstein case: who’s connected, why it matters, and what it reveals about the dynamics of power, authority, and punishment within the wider nightmare of global capitalism.
Daniel Pinchbeck is the author of a number of books that explore big subjects like human consciousness, psychedelic drugs, shamanic cultures, and the Mayan 2012 prophecy. Lately he’s been thinking and writing about UFOs, after a number of startling reports in mainstream media over the past year revealed the US government’s deep engagement with spacecraft of unknown origin.
Geoff Johnson has been teaching American history since we were both graduate students at CUNY in the George W. Bush years. In this conversation, we talk about our respective political and cultural experiences coming of age in the 1990s, and reflect on the different paths that brought us both to the radical left. From beat poetry, Jim Morrison, and hip hop to anti-capitalism and anarchy, we try to connect our personal, very American lives with the larger historical forces surrounding us.
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 histor
Justin Rogers-Cooper returns to the show to begin a series of episodes this summer tracking the global flashpoints of our historical moment. In this conversation, we talk about the term “concentration camp” in the context of Trump’s immigration policies, and game out the different scenarios at play regarding Iran. What’s Trump’s endgame in the Middle East? And what does this have to do with oil?
Danny Haiphong is a socialist writer whose work frequently appears on Black Agenda Report. His new book (with Roberto Sirvent), American Exceptionalism and American Innocence: A People’s History of Fake News from the Revolutionary War to the War on Terror, explores the central mythologies about American benevolence that have served as the ideological spine for capitalism’s cancerous expansion.
Daniel Bessner is a professor and writer and frequent Nostalgia Trap contributor. He joins us to talk about his controversial recent Chronicle piece taking on the American Historical Association, and to share his vision of how to rescue the humanities from the destructive forces of neoliberalism.
Thom Hartmann is a radio personality, best-selling author, and political commentator whose work in progressive media has spanned decades. He joins us to discuss his latest book, The Hidden History of Guns and the 2nd Amendment, and to explain his own political and philosophical evolution. Hartmann’s 1960s roots instilled important values and ideas about democracy, equality, and human evolution that persist in his work today.
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.
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.
Linda Tirado is a writer who catapulted to online fame after a casual, righteously enraged message board comment went mega-viral. Within weeks she had a book deal, TV appearances, agents, and a lot more attention than she had ever asked for or wanted.
Yasmin Nair is a Chicago-based writer, activist, and founder of Against Equality, an anti-capitalist collective of radical queer and trans writers, thinkers, and artists. In this conversation we talk about the material politics of Brooklyn™ socialism, the differences between social, cultural, and economic capital, and what the left can learn from radical queer culture.
Wendi Muse is a doctoral candidate researching antiracist and left organizing in Cold War era Brazil, and the creator of the Left POCket Project, which curates capsule histories of important, often overlooked figures from the radical left. Her work shows us places where capitalism and the state are particularly oppressive, and documents the extraordinary actions people have taken to maintain solidarity and continue building movements of resistance.
On this week's bonus episode, Justin Rogers-Cooper helps us takes a deep dive into the aesthetic and political legacy of Kurt Cobain, who died of suicide 25 years ago this month. Cobain is an iconic pop cultural figure for a number of reasons, but this conversation focuses on his personal politics, and how his band Nirvana expressed an organic, biologically-obsessed form of anti-capitalism.
Seth Cotlar is a professor of history at Willamette University and the author of Tom Paine’s America: The Rise and Fall of Transatlantic Radicalism in the Early Republic. He joins us to talk about Paine’s particular vision of a more radical democracy and how those ideas find life in today’s left.
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.
Bill Black is a historian and writer whose work has appeared in Vox, the Atlantic, Washington Post, and a number of other publications. He joins us to talk about his path in history, a few of his more provocative pieces of research, (including an incredible narrative about the origins of the racist “watermelon” trope), and his exciting new project Contingent Magazine, which seeks to publish and promote work from the growing pool of young historians who don’t have tenure-track positions at universities
Kevin Gannon is a professor of history at Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa, where he also serves as the Director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. You may also know him as one of the history experts featured in Ava DuVernay’s Netflix documentary 13th, and a very active figure in the #twitterstorian universe.
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).
Here's a brief preview of this week's bonus episode, featuring a conversation with historian Daniel Bessner on the significance of Bernie Sanders' 2020 presidential run.
To listen to the entire episode: patreon.com/nostalgiatrap
Heather Berg is a professor in the Department of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Washington University, and a writer who maps the intersections of socialism, feminism, and radical culture. Her upcoming book Porn Work locates porn workers as “experts on labor in late capitalism,” and in this conversation we explore how sex work in general and porn work in particular offers a critical site of anti-capitalist resistance.
Justin Rogers-Cooper joins us for the third installment of our Amazon HQ trilogy, in which we explore Amazon’s shocking decision to abandon its planned headquarters in Long Island City, New York. From grassroots activism and sinister politicians to Amazon’s deep connections to ICE and the surveillance state, this discussion frames the larger implications of a stunning victory for people over corporate tyranny.
The online culture of memes, shitposting, and irony found on Twitter and other places is deeply entwined with the rise of millennial socialism and the larger landscape of 21st century politics. On this episode we explore the twisted path of the extremely online, as guest @CapitlsmDislikr shows us a world of grad school dead ends, crushing student loan debt, thankless adjunct teaching, satanic institutional bureaucracies and, of course, nonstop irony posting on Twitter.
Justin and David were mere children in the 1990s, the hellish decade that spawned much of the political and cultural landscape we currently inhabit. In this episode we attempt to draw a historical line from the 60s to the 90s to the Trump era. What do some of our favorite (and not so favorite) cultural figures and products look like in the rearview?
FULL EPISODE HERE: https://www.patreon.com/posts/24632188
Timothy J. Lombardo is a historian who teaches at the University of South Alabama, and whose recent book Blue Collar Conservatism: Frank Rizzo's Philadelphia and Populist Politics covers critical territory for those seeking to understand the Trump era. Using Rizzo’s political career as a jumping off point for a wider discussion of race, class, and identity, Lombardo’s work complicates some deeply-held myths about the “white working class.”
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.
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.
Maximillian Alvarez returns to the Trap to talk about his terrific new podcast Working People, a show that features deep conversations about life, labor, politics, and everything in between, from the perspective of working class people. He joins us to describe his latest series about General Motors and the social costs of the long decline of industrial manufacturing.
Justin Rogers-Cooper stops by to talk about Amazon’s impending invasion of Long Island City, Queens, where he works as a professor of English at LaGuardia Community College. Our conversation explores the psychotic evil of Jeff Bezos, the corrupt city leaders who are laying out a $3 billion red carpet for him, the larger structures of capitalism and consumerism driving Amazon’s power, and what all of this means for the future of New York City and the planet.
Jason Wilson is a writer for The Guardian whose work often covers the far right of American political culture. From Milo to the Proud Boys, Alex Jones to Glenn Beck, Wilson details the internal drama, street fights, and larger context of right-wing movements in the 21st century. In this episode, we catch up with his latest reporting on “deplatforming” and explore the role social media plays in spreading extreme ideas.
Conner Habib is the host of Against Everyone w/ Conner Habib, a podcast about subjects that often fall outside the range of typical “left” discussions—things like radical philosophy, the occult, psychoanalysis, sexuality, porn, and much more.
Brooke Newman is a professor of history at Virginia Commonwealth University and the author of A Dark Inheritance: Blood, Race, and Sex in Colonial Jamaica, a book that traces the evolution of racial definitions and sexual practices in one of 18th century Britain’s most valuable colonies.
Justin Rogers-Cooper joins us to talk about the structural connections between California wildfires and a recent spate of mass shootings, understanding them as part of how corporations from energy to guns socialize losses while privatizing profits. We also deconstruct the Tucker Carlson media outrage in the context of capitalism’s increasing encroachment into supposed “sacred spaces” like the American home.
Daegan Miller is a writer whose recent book, This Radical Land: A Natural History of American Dissent, presents an intellectual history of how different Americans have resisted capitalism’s ravaging of the natural environment. From black antislavery radicals in the Adirondack wilderness of upstate New York to utopian anarchists in California’s sequoias, Miller’s narrative reveals a throughline of alternate visions running underneath the nation’s history.
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?
Kate Aronoff is a writer whose work appears in The Intercept, Dissent, In These Times, and a number of other fine left publications. In this conversation, we talk about the media’s framing of the recent IPCC report’s dire prognosis for the planet, the pitfalls of climate nihilism, and the politics of saving the world.
Malcolm Harris is a freelance writer and the author of Kids These Days: Human Capital and the Making of Millennials, a book that explores how the structure of American society is rigged against young people. Despite the stereotype of apathetic, entitled youth wasting away in their parents’ basements, Harris shows us a generation locked in by the horrific social, economic, and cultural realities of the 21st century—and offers a blueprint for how young folks can join the fight for a better world.
Daniel Bessner is a historian with a particular focus on American foreign policy. In this conversation, Bessner expands on the ideas he presented in a recent New York Times op-ed, in which he argues that the left needs a more focused and practical pathway to dismantling the American imperial project and drawing down the endless wars that have decimated globe for decades.
Nathan J. Robinson is the creator and editor-in-chief of Current Affairs, one of the left’s most consistently valuable and readable publications. Robinson talks about honing his skills at political argument in the high school debate club, explains how a British accent can be an asset in American media, and describes his vision for the future of Current Affairs and the larger left movement.
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.
Keri Leigh Merritt is a historian of American class, race, and inequality, with a particular focus on the South during and after the Civil War. Her book Masterless Men: Poor Whites and Slavery in the Antebellum South deftly navigates discourses on race, power, and capitalism, telling us what happens to “excess labor” under a slave economy.
George Ciccariello-Maher is a political scientist and activist whose work focuses on the historical and current landscape of insurgent politics and anti-capitalism. As an outspoken left academic, Ciccariello-Maher is a favorite target of white supremacists and other right-wing extremists, whose threats and harassment led to his resignation from Drexel University in 2017.
Daniel Traber is a professor of English at Texas A & M University at Galveston. His work focuses on the intersection of culture and politics, with a particular emphasis on musical subcultures like punk and ska (a favorite Nostalgia Trap subject). In this conversation, he talks about getting into punk as a white suburban teen in Galveston, Texas in the 1980s, and how expressions of subversive identity are entangled with the forces of capitalism and fascism from which they emerged.
Shuja Haider is a writer and editor for a number of left publications (check out his work in Popula and Viewpoint). In this conversation, we talk about historical cycles of generational politics, the weird road from 60s counterculture to "conservatism is the new punk rock," and the growth of left/right radicalism among young people in the Trump era.
Matthew Stanley is a historian and professor whose latest book, The Loyal West: Civil War and Reunion in Middle America explores how the politics of the Civil War moved through the regions of the Lower Middle West. His work shows us how ideologies evolve through space and time, and how the Civil War in particular has served as a container for American social and political attitudes well into the 21st century.
Micah Uetricht is managing editor at Jacobin Magazine. Like many of us, he’s watching with a combination of delight and disbelief as left-of-liberal ideas enjoy a rare moment in the mainstream spotlight, from the 1950s-style red-baiting of Fox News to Stephen Colbert’s recent declaration that “God is a socialist.” To Uetricht, these moments are further evidence that the time is ripe for a return to the working class politics that defined the Democratic Party in past eras.
Nate Bethea is co-host of the podcast A Hell of a Way to Die, a funny, often bracing show about the intersection of leftist politics and American military culture. While serving as an infantry officer in the U.S. Army from 2007-2014, and deploying to Afghanistan in 2009-2010, Bethea reports that he “lived the Army values so hard that I became a socialist.”
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.
Bhakti Shringarpure is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Warscapes, an online magazine that features interviews, fiction, non-fiction, poetry and art from regions of conflict around the world. In this conversation, she talks about her youth in India, her work with poet Ammiel Alcalay in graduate school, and why Warscapes avoids the clickbait format of mainstream digital media.
Maximillian Alvarez is a writer and academic whose work often explores the intersections of changing technological environments and the production of radical political philosophy. In this conversation, he talks about being surrounded by conservatives in Southern California during the 1990s, how the discovery of Russian literature expanded his political and intellectual worldview, and why it’s vital for academics to bridge the gap between the university and the wider public.
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.
Michael Kazin is a historian of American labor and social movements, and co-editor of Dissent magazine. As a student at Harvard in the late 1960s, he was a leader within Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and played a part in its short-lived militant faction, the Weatherman. In this conversation, Kazin reflects on his path “from revolutionary to professor,” explaining how his early experiences in the New Left inform his analysis of the massive political shifts over the decades that followed.
Carl Lindskoog is a historian of immigration, race, and rebellion whose forthcoming book Detain and Punish: Haitian Refugees and the Rise of the World’s Largest Immigration Detention System uncovers the roots of America’s current immigration policies in the history of U.S - Haiti relations over the past several decades.
Heather Ann Thompson is a historian and writer whose 2016 book Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy won the Pulitzer Prize in 2017. Thompson also talks about the 13-year process behind writing a book like Blood in the Water, a project that included intense research, wrenching oral histories, and a narrative that’s been intentionally distorted and covered up for decades.
Bruce Schulman's 2001 book The Seventies: The Great Shift in American Culture, Society, and Politics is a fascinating take on a critical era, and helps put the Trump era into an understandable historical context. In this conversation, Schulman discusses how popular culture came to be such a central element of his methodology, helping him chart a course through the political and social history of late 20th century America.
Megan Kate Nelson's interdisciplinary approach to environmental history puts towering events like the Civil War into wholly new contexts. Her book Ruin Nation: Destruction and the American Civil War investigates the human, biological, and infrastructural devastation of the era, and asks critical questions about American memory. In this conversation she explains the development of her methodology and the direction of the historical discipline.
Here's a quick preview of next week's bonus episode, a conversation with Claudia Moreno Parsons about the Netflix documentary Wild Wild Country. If you want to support the show and get access to all of our bonus material, you can subscribe here.
Daniel McClure is a historian and writer interested in long term historical processes (like capitalism, imperialism, and the nation-state), connecting those big ideas to American popular culture and media in the postwar era. He explains how a theoretical approach to the study of history, while often met with skepticism in the academy, provides such an effective lens for understanding the current moment.
Stephen Petrus is a historian of 20th century America and author of Folk City: New York and the American Folk Music Revival. In this conversation, he tells me about discovering the world of beat poetry, folk music, and a rising "counterculture" in his younger years, and how becoming an academic historian led him to explore the complex social, political, and economic trends that created such a potent cultural moment in 1950s and 1960s New York City.
Jason Wilson's coverage of last summer's "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, which culminated in the murder of Heather Heyer, helped frame the rising presence of "alt-right" and white supremacist actors on the American political stage. In this conversation, Wilson tells me about his youth in Australia, years studying media theory in grad school, and how he became alternately fascinated and horrified with America's radical right-wing.
Allen Ruff is the host of A Public Affair on WORT-FM community radio in Madison, Wisconsin, a show that features interviews with a wide range of figures from the left side of the American political and cultural scene (including yours truly). In this conversation, he talks about his experiences in the antiwar movement of the 1960s and 1970s, his subsequent career as an academic historian, and his trajectory on the radical left.
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."
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?
Erin Bartram's blog piece, "The Sublimated Grief of the Left Behind," explores an uncomfortable topic among graduate students and recent Ph.D.'s: giving up on the academic job market. In this conversation, Bartram discusses the origin of the piece (and how it ended up in the Chronicle of Higher Education), the ideological and material gap between full-time professors and part-time adjuncts, and how her path as an academic was shaped by the wider politics of neoliberalism in the university.
Jeremy C. Young is a professor of history at Dixie State University, and the author of Age of Charisma: Leaders, Followers, and Emotions in American Society, 1870-1940. In this conversation, Jeremy tells me about his own political evolution, and how contemporary American political figures like John McCain and Howard Dean led him to investigate how the idea of "personal magnetism" came to have such a particular power over the American public.
Eero Laine is a professor of Theatre at the University at Buffalo whose work often focuses on the world of professional wrestling. He joins me to talk about how he came to study wrestling as both a performance and social/psychological phenomenon, and explains why the particular political economy of the WWE provides such a critical lens for understanding American history and culture.
David Fouser was definitely way more into punk, as both an ethos and music genre, than I recall ever being. But now that he's all grown up, like many of us, his politics and musical tastes have evolved. In this conversation, we trade memories of the 1990s Southern California punk and ska scene, and reflect on punk's wider political and social significance.
Daniel Bessner is a professor and writer whose work explores 20th century American cultural and intellectual history. In this conversation, we talk about his book Democracy in Exile: Hans Speier and the Rise of the Defense Intellectual, his current research into the archives of the RAND Corporation, and his ideas about how intellectuals and academics might fit into a wider left project.
Yekaterina Oziashvili, a professor of political science at Sarah Lawrence College, joins me to talk about her upbringing in Georgia during the final years of the Soviet Union, and how the nation's collapse in the early 1990s led to profound transformation's in her family's life. Her story, including her move to New York City at the age of 14, provides a fascinating angle on the intersection of ethnic identity, nationalism, and revolutionary politics.
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.
Michael Brenes is a historian and Senior Archivist for American Diplomacy at Yale. When I first met him years ago, we were both working on degrees in American history at the CUNY Graduate Center, and discovered similar interests: twentieth century U.S. politics, the Cold War, the military-industrial complex, Vietnam—and, perhaps most importantly, a desire to understand how these historical phenomenon connect with our current crisis. In this conversation, Michael tells me how he landed at CUNY, his work exploring the political economy of the American military, and what his upcoming biography of Hubert Humphrey will tell us about a critical moment in the history of left/liberal politics.
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.
Justin Rogers-Cooper and I have often talked about combining our scholarly interests into an academic mega-project, exploring the connections between 1877 and 1977, an era that witnessed spectacular clashes between labor and capital and the development of a "citizen-soldier" politics that threatened the state's hegemonic grip on the imperial narrative. In this episode, we brainstorm some ideas about the project and try to nail down why this 100-year period is so critical to understanding our present historical moment.
Douglas Williams is a fierce political writer and grassroots organizer whose work can be found at TheSouthLawn.org. In this conversation, he tells me about the influence of his father's union work on his political development, and how the letdown of the Obama years led him, like many others, to the radical left.
Peter Sabatino, the Nostalgia Trap's producer and sound wizard, joins me to unpack the recent revelations about Louis CK's abusive behavior. Our conversation attempts to put this stuff in context, discussing both Louis' disturbing comedic output and the wider problem of predatory men protected by their social, political, and cultural power.
Nelson Lichtenstein is a professor of history at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he also serves as the director of the Center for the Study of Work, Labor, and Democracy. He joins me to talk about his time at Berkeley during the radical uprisings of the 1960s, his development as a labor historian, and the state of American politics.
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.
David Fouser is a professor of history who recently completed a Ph.D at the University of California, Irvine. In this conversation he tells me all about the field of environmental history, how grad school drew him (and, seemingly, everyone else) to the left, and the particular contours of academic life in Los Angeles.
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.
In this episode, Justin Rogers-Cooper and I take on the immigration debate from our typically broader historical perspective. How did we get from "tear down this wall!" in 1989 to "build the wall!" in 2016, and what do our rapidly hardening state borders tell us about what's coming down the line?
Mikhail Gershovich was my boss at the Bernard L. Schwartz Communication Institute in New York, where we were both surprised to discover that we had each been raised in Ventura County during the 1980s. Now that we're both living in California again, I get to hear about his early childhood in the Soviet Union, how his family came to the U.S. in 1979, and what it was like becoming American in Southern California during the height of the 1980s Cold War.
On my way out of Baruch College after twelve years of teaching in the history department, I stopped by Professor Vincent DiGirolamo's office to talk with him about his youth in California and his path to academia in New York City.
Climate change is a favorite topic for me and my friend Justin Rogers-Cooper, who joins me here to talk about the state of the planet and the doomed human species in the Trump era. Despite its apocalyptic implications, our conversation takes an improbably optimistic turn, as Justin explains how the recent Star Wars entry Rogue One might point the way to a horizontal, inclusive politics strong enough to confront an increasingly challenging future.
My good friend Justin Rogers-Cooper came over to help me understand a bit more of what's going on in Syria, and our conversation ended up focusing more on war imagery and how it functions in the social media age. How do graphic pictures and videos of war's mangled bodies, liked and shared on Facebook and Twitter, reflect the growing intersection of capitalism, media, technology, and violence?
Michael Koncewicz is a historian and writer whose book They Said ‘No’ to Nixon: Republicans Who Stood Up to the President’s Abuses of Power will be out next year from University of California Press. In this conversation he tells me about his college years, working for the Nixon library in Yorba Linda, California, and how internal resistance to Nixon's criminality might signal a strategy for dealing with Trump.
Matt Karp is a professor of U.S. history at Princeton University, and the author of the recent book This Vast Southern Empire: Slaveholders at the Helm of American Foreign Policy. In this conversation, Matt tells me about the process of his politicization through various stages of academia, the roots of his interest in the Civil War era, and how the abolitionist project provides an important model for a popular revolutionary politics.
To celebrate the publication of my book, Dangerous Grounds: Antiwar Coffeehouses and Military Dissent in the Vietnam Era (University of North Carolina Press, 2017), my good friend Justin Rogers-Cooper sits down for a detailed discussion. GI coffeehouses were opened by antiwar activists outside more than 20 American military bases throughout the country in the 1960s and 1970s; Dangerous Grounds puts the coffeehouse phenomenon in historical context, exploring the often misunderstood connections between radical left politics and American soldiers.
Professor Carolyn Eisenberg was studying history at Columbia University during the late 1960s and 1970s, witnessing (and taking part in) some of the historic political activism that emerged from the campus during those critical years. In this conversation we talked about the intersection of academia, teaching, and radical politics, and how the dynamics of campus life have shifted since the Vietnam War era.
Like many of my favorite guests, I met Jesse Schwartz when we were both doing our doctoral work at the CUNY Graduate Center. He's now a professor of English at LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City, Queens, and joins me here to share his journey from hippie bum to distinguished intellectual. Along the way we talk about California and New York, the politics of academia, the allure of psychedelia, and the weird shades of American countercultural experience. It's a long strange trip...
Ellen Schrecker is an American historian whose work focuses on Cold War-era anti-communism. Her book Many are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America is a canonical treatment of the subject. In this interview, she discusses her upbringing, education, and the particular politics of the Ivy League during the turbulent 1960s and 1970s.
Sarah Jones is a writer and social media editor at the New Republic, where her work has focused on poverty, politics, feminism, health care, and a number of other issues. I wanted to talk to her about Appalachia, where she was born and raised, and how the particular culture and politics of this region shaped her identity as a writer and thinker.
Katie Halper is the host of the Katie Halper Show on WBAI, where she regularly brings a fresh, funny, and stridently left perspective to the horrific landscape of modern American politics. We talked about her upbringing in New York City and her path through performance, media, and politics.
Justin Rogers-Cooper and I have spent a lot of time talking about false flags, conspiracy theories, and the strange American predilection for constructing our own personal realities. In this conversation we consider the wider historical and cultural implications of our collective and individual paranoid fantasies. From JFK to pizzagate, what do our conspiracy theories reveal about the national psyche and how it interacts with the structures of power?
Jesse Myerson is a writer and activist whose work has appeared in Rolling Stone, Dissent, The Baffler, and many of other publications. We talk a lot about the contemporary left, Occupy Wall Street, the Bernie Sanders campaign, what to do with the awful Democratic Party, and much more.
It's always fun to sit down with writer Freddie deBoer, whose sharp, often savage takes on American politics usually provoke strong reactions from both friends and foes. In this conversation we talk about the awfulness of the Democratic Party and the dead-end of Daily Show-style liberalism, and attempt to chart a course for the left through the forest of the alt-right, fake news, and the horrors of a Republican-controlled central government.
Matt Lau was a ubiquitous presence at the CUNY Graduate Center during my years of study there, perhaps most memorably as the author of a series of ridiculous satirical pieces on the back page of the school newspaper. In this conversation we bond over being white hip hop fans in the suburbs of Southern California in the 90s, our shared ambivalence about a life in academia, and Matt's path from the hazy woods of UC Santa Cruz to the utilitarian halls of CUNY.