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Honestly with Bari Weiss

News & Politics Podcasts

The most interesting conversations in American life now happen in private. This show is bringing them out of the closet. Stories no one else is telling and conversations with the most fascinating people in the country, every week from former New York Times and Wall Street Journal journalist Bari Weiss.

Location:

United States

Description:

The most interesting conversations in American life now happen in private. This show is bringing them out of the closet. Stories no one else is telling and conversations with the most fascinating people in the country, every week from former New York Times and Wall Street Journal journalist Bari Weiss.

Language:

English


Episodes
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Steven Pinker: Why Smart People Believe Stupid Things

6/18/2024
Steven Pinker is a world-renowned cognitive psychologist, and is widely regarded as one of the most important public intellectuals of our time. His work delves into the complexities of cognition, language, and social behavior, and his research offers a window into the fundamental workings of the human mind. Pinker, who is the author of nine books including Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress and Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters, approaches his work with a kind of data-driven optimism about the world that has set him apart from the chorus of doomer voices we hear so much from in our public discourse. Today, we talk to Pinker about why smart people believe stupid things, the psychology of conspiracy theories, free speech and academic freedom, why democracy and enlightenment values are contrary to human nature, the moral panic around AI, and much more. The Free Press earns a commission from any purchases made through Bookshop.org links. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:00:41:45

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“I Was Wrong About Anti Semitism”: Sheryl Sandberg on Waking Up

6/13/2024
Last Saturday, stunning news broke out of Israel: four hostages had been rescued by the Israel Defense Forces in a daring daylight operation in central Gaza. Noa Argamani, 26; Almog Meir Jan, 22; Andrey Kozlov, 27; and Shlomi Ziv, 41, were liberated after 245 days in captivity. The first name, Noa Argamani, was one that many people recognized immediately. Everyone remembered the footage of Noa being kidnapped on the back of a motorcycle on October 7 from the Nova Music Festival, a look of terror on her face, reaching for help. Eight months later, it was hard not to see the footage of Noa’s reunion with her father, crying in his arms, as anything short of a miracle. But it wasn’t a miracle. It was the result of a complex and historic military operation that many are comparing to the raid on Entebbe in 1976. Not that you would have known that from the headlines. One BBC article was headlined: “Noa Argamani released.” A CNN chyron said the same. A UN official posted: “Relieved that four hostages have been released.” It was as if Hamas just handed them back to Israel and that was that. Other headlines focused on the Palestinians killed during the rescue, without mention of who started the gunfire, how many Hamas militants were killed vs. true innocents, who was holding the hostages, and of course, blindly quoting numbers given by the Hamas-run “Ministry of Health.” Reading many of the headlines over the last few days—or the Twitter posts claiming that the hostage raid was some kind of decoy for the IDF to kill Palestinians—felt like nothing new from the last eight months: more distortions of reality, more spinning of words, more half-truths or outright lies. The day after the news broke, thousands of protesters encircled the White House waving Palestinian flags and calling for the death of Zionists. “Hezbollah, kill another Zionist now.” “Stand with Hamas,” read one poster. Another sign read “LGBTQ—Let’s Go Bomb Tel Aviv Quickly.” How did this come to be? How is it that progressives are openly siding with Iranian-backed terrorist groups and against the country trying to stop them? And why are so many people shocked by this moral inversion? Those are some of the questions Sheryl Sandberg has spent the past eight months asking. As Sheryl watched the horrors of October 7 unfold, she was sure that everyone would rally against these unspeakable atrocities—particularly after the reports of sexual violence and rape committed by Hamas started coming in. When she saw that people did not, in fact, rise against it, and worse—when people began denying that it even happened—she was stunned. Sheryl was particularly stunned that many of her would-be allies—prominent feminists and progressives in this country and around the world—stayed silent. This led her to make a documentary about the sexual violence of October 7 called Screams Before Silence. Sheryl described the film as the most important work of her life, which is saying something considering her substantial résumé. When people think of Sheryl Sandberg, they think of a girlboss, corporate feminism, and coastal politics—wearing a power suit and campaigning for Hillary Clinton. She is, in other words, a normal Democrat. A normal liberal. But as major parts of the left side against Israel, and downplay or ignore or actually foment antisemitism, a lot of people who consider themselves normal liberals are asking themselves: What happened to liberalism? The position that Sheryl finds herself in is relatable to many Americans, people who feel betwixt and between in a post–October 7 world where the very people they thought were their friends are proving themselves to be just the opposite. Today, Sheryl talks about this very fraught moment we are living in. She talks about her film, the silence from so many women’s organizations and feminists, the denialism, how antisemitism is thriving in America, her changing Jewish identity, whether she feels politically homeless, and much, much more. Learn...

Duration:00:58:11

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The Former Russian Official Calling for a Coup Against Putin

6/11/2024
When Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, it was the largest military attack on a European country since World War II. Reliable casualty figures are hard to come by, but U.S. intelligence officials estimated last year that as many as 500,000 Russians and Ukrainians had been killed in the conflict, with an estimated 15–30 million refugees. Congress has allotted $175 billion in aid for Ukraine since the war began. But Ilya Ponomarev says that cash and defensive weapons alone won’t liberate Ukraine or impede future Russian aggression. He insists that Vladimir Putin must be deposed by force. And he is actively working to do just that. Ilya Ponomarev was a member of Russia’s Federal Assembly (Russia’s national legislature) from 2007 to 2016. He was the only member to vote against Putin’s 2014 annexation of Crimea. Exiled to Ukraine since 2016, he is the political head of the Freedom of Russian Legion, a paramilitary group made up of Russian dissidents and defectors fighting for Ukraine. He argues that nonviolent resistance is not enough and that radical steps are needed to overthrow Putin. In today’s conversation, Ponomarev talks about his life as a dissident and what it is like being a target for assassination, his previous relationship with Putin, and why democracy has failed to take root in Russia. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:00:42:40

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BONUS: Is the Trump Verdict a Witch Trial? Or Justice?

6/8/2024
On May 30, former president Donald Trump was found guilty of 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in connection with hush money payments to adult actress Stormy Daniels. His sentencing has been scheduled for July 11, four days before the Republican National Convention. He faces a possible sentence of four years for each count. If you were on Twitter or Instagram or your social media platform of choice that historic Thursday afternoon, then you will have noticed two diametrically opposed reactions. On one side, people celebrated like it was the very best day of their entire lives, as justice, at last, was served. On the other side of the space-time Twitter-uum, it was a very, very somber day for the country. So. . . which is it? Did Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg at long last rightly and justly prosecute Trump for felony crimes? Or was this an obviously political witch trial and an abuse of the U.S. justice system? In other words: Have we crossed the Rubicon in American politics? After all, District Attorney Bragg campaigned on a promise to bring charges against Trump. And either way, the reality is that the presidential front-runner is now a convicted felon. What does that mean? For voters? (Spoiler: it made them want to give him. . . more money.) For future elections? And for this country? To debate these questions on Honestly today are Sarah Isgur and Mark Zauderer. Sarah is a columnist for The Dispatch and an ABC News contributor. She clerked for the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and served as the Justice Department spokeswoman during the Trump administration. Mark is a veteran New York litigator who sits on a committee that screens applicants for the same court that will hear Trump’s appeal. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:00:52:23

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Argentina's President Javier Milei Loves Being the Skunk at the Garden Party

6/6/2024
At the start of the twentieth century, Argentina was one of the wealthiest countries in the world. The capital, Buenos Aires, was known as “the Paris of South America.” A lot can happen in a hundred years. Argentina today is in grave crisis. It has defaulted on its sovereign debt three times since 2001, and a few months ago it faced an annualized inflation rate of over 200 percent—one of the highest in the world. What happened? Today's guest, Argentina’s new president, says it’s pretty simple: socialism. When Javier Milei took office in December 2023, he became the world’s first libertarian head of state—and maybe its most eccentric. During his campaign he made his intentions clear: “The [political] caste is trembling!” “Let it all blow up, let the economy blow up, and take this entire garbage political caste down with it.” Which is exactly what he’s doing now. He’s eliminating government ministries and services, cutting regulations, privatizing state-run companies, and purposely creating a recession to curb the out of control inflation. This is also why people voted for him: change. They saw someone who could shake things up in a way that could turn out to be lifesaving—even if it meant short-term economic pain. But will it work? Not all Argentines think so. And not everyone is willing or able to wait for things to improve. In April, with food prices rising and poverty up 10 percent, tens of thousands of Argentines took to the streets to protest Milei’s aggressive austerity measures. Milei is a strange and idiosyncratic creature. There are the obvious things: he says he doesn’t comb his hair (and he doesnt appear to). He has four cloned mastiffs that he refers to as his “four-legged children,” and which he’s named for his favorite free-market economists. He was raised Catholic but studies the Torah. He used to play in a Rolling Stones cover band. And he has been known since grade school in the ’80s as El Loco, on account of his animated outbursts, which would later bring him stardom as a TV, radio, and social media celebrity. But what really makes him unusual is that he is the ultimate skunk at the garden party. In a world of liberals and conservatives, he is neither. He has ultra-liberal economic views but right-wing, populist rhetoric. He is anti-abortion but pro-legalization of sex work. He wants to deregulate the gun market and legalize organ trade. He calls himself an anarcho-capitalist, which basically means that he believes the state, as he told me, is “a violent organization that lives from a coercive source which is taxes.” Essentially. . . he’s a head of state who really doesn’t believe in states. A few months ago Milei showed up at Davos, the Alpine mountain resort that hosts the annual World Economic Forum. This is a place where, historically, people who all think the same way go to drink champagne and tell each other how smart they are. Milei arrives, flying commercial, and blows all that up: “Today, I’m here to tell you that the Western world is in danger. And it is in danger because those who are supposed to have defended the values of the West are co-opted by a vision of the world that inevitably leads to socialism and thereby to poverty.” All of this is why we were eager to talk to Milei—and put some of these questions to him: How long will it take for things to look up in Argentina? Why does he believe the Western world is in danger? What’s the difference between social justice and socialism? Can the free market really solve all of our civic problems? What is the state actually important for? And how does he feel about being the skunk at the garden party? (Spoiler: he loves it.) And despite having called journalists “extortionists,” “liars,” “imbeciles,” “freeloaders,” “donkeys,” and “ignorant”—for some reason, he agreed to sit down with us. Note: The interview was conducted in Spanish with the help of a translator. Watch the video version of this interview at thefp.com Learn more about your ad choices....

Duration:00:54:40

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Ayaan Hirsi Ali: The Subversion of the West

6/4/2024
Ayaan Hirsi Ali is the author of several books—including the 2006 autobiography Infidel—as well as a fellow at the Hoover Institution She runs a foundation focused on human rights and, yes, she has a Substack. But Ayaan comes from a very different world from most of the people who inhabit our think tanks and ivory towers. Unlike those of us in the West who grew up with everything, Ayaan grew up in Somalia with. . . nothing. No liberty, no rule of law, no system of representative government, no pluralism, and no toleration for difference. Ayaan knows what it is like to live without those ideals, which is why she also has a particular instinct for when they are under attack. And that is exactly what she sees happening—all over the West. Today, you’ll hear Ayaan read the epochal essay she published this morning in The Free Press. She explains how subversion—the act of undermining a country from within—works gradually and sometimes invisibly, but can ultimately explode and destroy a society. And she argues that what’s at stake in our inability to see the threat plainly is nothing less than the preservation of our way of life. The Free Press earns a commission from any purchases made through Bookshop.org links in this article. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:00:34:08

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How ‘Vice’ Went from a $6 Billion Media Empire to Bankruptcy

5/30/2024
Fifteen years ago, Vice was the envy of the media industry. While other outlets were shrinking, the edgy multimedia organization with a knack for virality was growing. At its peak, Vice had a reported value of $6 billion. At one point, Disney offered to buy the company for $3.4 billion. The CEO said no. Something even bigger was on the horizon. Except. . . it never came. No one else approached with another offer and the company started to collapse. Last year, Vice filed for bankruptcy. The media narrative of what happened at Vice was that they simply made a series of business mistakes and the economic model of the business crumbled. But Michael Moynihan says that’s not the whole story. Michael—who Honestly listeners know as a frequent guest host here—is a longtime journalist who spent a decade at Vice. He was a correspondent for Vice’s flagship series on HBO. Today, he published a revealing insider story in The Free Press about how Vice really lost its way. Spoiler: apologizing for the gonzo journalism that fueled the business to begin with, and caving to an identity politics–obsessed staff of twentysomethings, isn’t exactly a recipe for success. Vice didn’t just bleed cash. It also bled its backbone and its ethos. And the thing that replaced it? Well, no one wanted to consume it. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:00:58:36

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Jerry Seinfeld on the Rules of Comedy—and Life

5/28/2024
The first episode of Seinfeld aired in 1989. Thirty-five years later, the show remains at the apex of American culture. People speak in Seinfeld-isms, they flirt on dating apps over Seinfeld, they rewatch old episodes of Seinfeld when they’re feeling down. And, in the case of the Weiss family, Lou still watches it every night from 11 pm to 12 am on the local Pittsburgh station before he goes to sleep. People around the world even learn English watching Seinfeld! It is not hyperbole to say that Seinfeld is one of the most influential shows of all time. Seinfeld was supposedly a show about nothing, but that’s what made it so universal. Everyone can relate to trying to find your car in a parking garage. Everyone knows the feeling when their book is overdue at the library and they don’t want to pay the overdue fee. Everyone can relate to the frustration of waiting for a table at a restaurant. If you didn’t—or don’t—laugh during Seinfeld, something was wrong with you. All of which is why it was a bit strange and unexpected when a few months ago Jerry Seinfeld suddenly became “controversial.” In early October, Jerry—along with 700 other Hollywood stars—signed a letter condemning Hamas and calling for the return of the hostages. For that crime—the crime of saying terrorism is bad and innocent people should be released—crowds started protesting the events he was attending, the speeches he was giving, and heckling him in public. A few weeks ago, when Jerry gave the commencement address at Duke University, some students walked out in protest. Then, his standup set was disrupted by protesters, to which Seinfeld quipped: “I love a little Jew-hate to spice up the show.” The crowd applauded. Jerry Seinfeld made the most successful show about a Jew to ever exist. This was no small feat. In fact, one NBC executive, after watching the Seinfeld pilot for the first time in 1989, didn’t think it should even go to air. He said it was “too New York and too Jewish.” And yet…it worked. And as Seinfeld spent years making Jewishness an iconic part of American pop culture, Jerry says he experienced not a drop of anti-Semitism. But now, during a time that is supposed to be the most inclusive, the most sensitive, the most accepting, and the most tolerant time in human history, Jerry Seinfeld is targeted for being a Jew. Jerry often says that the audience is everything. That’s the whole point of comedy. There is no joke if nobody laughs. But today on Honestly, we ask Jerry if he still trusts the audience in an age where the audience can start to feel like a mob? You’ve probably heard or seen Jerry somewhere recently—from The New Yorker to GQ to… every podcast in the world. That’s because he has a new movie out called Unfrosted, which you should definitely go watch on Netflix. It’s hilarious, heartwarming, and you will love it. But today’s conversation with Jerry is unlike the ones you’ve heard. He’s unfiltered. He’s emotional. And he’s speaking his mind. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:00:55:22

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Is Israel's War Just? Eli Lake and Michael Moynihan v Briahna Joy Gray and Jake Klein

5/26/2024
A few weeks ago, there was an awesome event in Brooklyn in partnership with UnHerd called Dissident Dialogues. It was exactly what it sounds like: debates and discussions on the most pressing questions facing our society today. Questions like: Have we reached peak woke? Can universities be saved? Can liberalism be saved? Is government censorship justified? Is this the end of mainstream media? and What is the future of feminism? So basically, just the light stuff. But probably the most contentious debate of the weekend was: Is Israel’s war on Hamas a just war? This is not an easy debate. Emotions run hot, the stakes are high, people’s morality is called into question, and there are a lot of competing narratives. Which is all the more reason to debate the topic in public, something we always advocate for at The Free Press. Arguing no, that Israel’s war on Hamas is not a just war, are Briahna Joy Gray and Jake Klein. Briahna was the national press secretary for Bernie Sanders’ 2020 campaign, and is host of the Bad Faith podcast. Arguing alongside Briahna is Jake Klein. Jake is a content creator for the Foundation for Economic Education, and he is a co-founder and editor at The Black Sheep. Arguing yes, that Israel’s war on Hamas is a just war, are two of our very own Free Pressers, Eli Lake and Michael Moynihan. Eli is a columnist at The Free Press and a longtime journalist covering foreign affairs and national security. And Michael Moynihan, who you’ve heard guest-host Honestly, is a veteran journalist, having spent years at Vice, The Daily Beast, and Reason magazine. He is also a host of The Fifth Column podcast. The debate is moderated by the one and only Russian British satirist, co-host of the Triggernometry podcast, and Free Press contributor, Konstantin Kisin. Facebook: Dissident Dialogues Instagram: @dissident_dialogues X: @diss_dialogues YouTube: @dissidentdialogues-qm3gm?si=f-hldBmIK9CnGqRn Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:01:04:58

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Nellie Bowles Knows Why So Many Progressives Lost Their Minds—She Almost Did, Too

5/14/2024
Nellie Bowles wasn’t always the TGIF queen you know and love at The Free Press. In fact, Nellie was, for a very long time, deeply embedded in the progressive left. Before Bari and Nellie met—and fell in love, blah blah blah—in 2019, Nellie was nothing short of a media darling. She had the right ideas, she wrote the right stories, and NYT readers ate it up. But Nellie is a reporter. And being a reporter—a great one—forced her to confront the gap between what an increasingly zealous left claimed were its aims. . . and the actual realities of their policies. People don’t usually change their minds. At least not on big-stakes political issues, and not when their jobs are at risk, or their social acceptance is on the line. And people certainly don’t change their minds publicly. Nellie did. And she chronicles that change in her new book, Morning After the Revolution: Dispatches from the Wrong Side of History. The book is a collection of stories from her reporting during the years she started to question the narrative. These were stories people told her not to write. People said, Don’t go to Seattle’s autonomous zone; there’s nothing to see there. They said, Don’t report on the consequences of hormone therapy for kids; it’s not important. But as Nellie writes, “I became a reporter because I didn't trust authority figures. . . . As a reporter, I spent over a decade working to follow that curiosity. It was hard to suddenly turn that off. It was hard to constantly censor what I was seeing, to close one eye and try very hard not to notice anything inconvenient, especially when there was so much to see.” That curiosity is what got Nellie kicked out of the club. But it gave her a place in a new club, the one that we at The Free Press think that the majority of Americans are actually in. On today’s episode: What does it mean to walk away from a movement that was once central to your identity? How does it feel to be accused of being “red-pilled” by the people you once called friends? How did the left become so radical and dogmatic? Why do people join mobs? And how did Nellie come back from the brink? Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:01:22:27

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Ozempic: Silver Bullet or Devil’s Bargain?

5/7/2024
There’s a new $6 billion-dollar industry. Its global market size is expected to increase to $100 billion within the decade. No, it’s not a fancy new app or a revolutionary gadget: it’s weight-loss drugs. Just a few years ago no one had even heard the word Ozempic. Almost overnight, the drug previously used to treat type 2 diabetes became a household name. Healthcare providers wrote more than 9 million prescriptions for Ozempic and similar drugs in the last three months of 2022 alone. By the end of the decade, 30 million people are predicted to be on it. For comparison, that means that Ozempic is on track to do as well as birth control pills and Prozac—a blockbuster medication. A little over a year ago we had a fiery debate on Honestly about these revolutionary weight-loss drugs and our cultural understanding of obesity. On one side of the debate, people saw Ozempic as the golden answer we’ve been searching for. After all, obesity is the second biggest cause of cancer. It causes diabetes, and it’s linked to dementia, heart disease, knee and hip problems, arthritis, and high blood pressure, which causes strokes. In short: when you crunch the numbers, drugs like Ozempic seem to be lifesaving. On the other hand was another argument: Why are we putting millions of people on a powerful new drug when we don’t know the risks? Plus, isn’t this a solution that ignores why we gained so much weight in the first place? In other words: Ozempic is not a cure for obesity; it’s a Band-Aid. A year later, all of those questions are still up for debate. Our guest today, journalist Johann Hari, has spent the last year trying to find answers, traveling the world investigating weight-loss drugs, and. . . taking them himself. In his latest book, Magic Pill: The Extraordinary Benefits and Disturbing Risks of the New Weight-Loss Drugs, Johann investigates what we know and what we don’t know about how these drugs work, their risks and benefits, how our food system sets us up to fail, and how movements like “fat pride” and “healthy at any size” have completely altered the conversation. So on today’s episode: How do these new drugs impact our brains, our guts, and our mood? What are the hidden risks? Are they really a permanent solution to the obesity crisis? Or are they merely a quick fix that do little to address the root causes of obesity? With over 70 percent of Americans today classified as overweight or obese and the average American adult weighing nearly 25 pounds more today than they did in 1960, how did we get here in the first place? And why aren’t we addressing that problem, too? Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:01:25:50

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‘Small Talk’ with David Sedaris

5/2/2024
The news lately has not exactly been a walk in the park. Iran launched hundreds of rockets at Israel, creating the prospect of World War III; we have Trump’s ongoing criminal trial; a TikTok ban; a war in Ukraine; and much of the Ivy League is now co-opted by Hamas. Should we go on? Today’s episode isn’t about any of that. Because sometimes we just need a breath of fresh air. Cue the one and only David Sedaris—America’s favorite humorist, or at the very least, our favorite humorist. You might know David from one of his bestselling books like Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, Me Talk Pretty One Day, and Calypso. His words are frequently in The New Yorker, and he’s also just come out with a children’s book called Pretty Ugly, which he says has “no message.” David was on Honestly a few years ago—if you haven’t heard that interview, please check it out; it’s a highlight of this show—and he’s here again today to read an essay he wrote for The Free Press, where he imparts his thoughts on the underappreciated joys of small talk. We hope you enjoy. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:00:12:22

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Should the U.S. Shut Its Borders? A Live Debate.

4/30/2024
The United States is home to more immigrants than any other country in the world. It is a truism that everyone who lives here at some point came from somewhere else. At the same time, debates about who and how many people to let in have roiled the nation since our very founding. And in the past few years, things have heated up to a new level. That’s no surprise, considering that unlawful attempts to cross the southern border hit a record high of about 2.5 million last year. In the past four years, nearly 5 million attempts to cross the border illegally occurred in Texas alone. We’ve all seen the videos of mothers with babies shimmying under barbed wire, of migrant caravans marching toward Texas, of young men charging Border Patrol agents. It’s why immigration is the top issue for voters in the 2024 election. Indeed, the influx has made even progressive cities, which previously declared themselves immigration sanctuaries, sound the alarm. Last May, former Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot said “we’ve reached a breaking point,” while declaring a state of emergency in her city. In September, New York mayor Eric Adams said the influx of migrants “will destroy New York City.” All of this is the subject of our first live debate of 2024, which took place in Dallas, and that we wanted to share with you on Honestly today. The proposition: Should the United States shut its borders? Arguing in the affirmative are Ann Coulter and Sohrab Ahmari. On the opposing side, arguing that no, the United States should not shut its borders, are Nick Gillespie and Cenk Uygur. They also cover questions like: Is mass immigration is a net gain or a net loss for America? How do we balance our humanitarian impulse with our practical and economic needs? Do migrants suppress wages of the already strained working class? Do they stretch community resources impossibly thin? Does a porous border impact our national security? And what does a sensible border policy really look like? We hope you listen, share, and discuss. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:01:26:35

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Is Banning TikTok a Mistake? A Debate.

4/26/2024
President Biden just signed into law a bill forcing the sale of TikTok by its Chinese parent ByteDance—or else face an outright ban. The measure was included in a bill providing a $95.3 billion foreign aid package for Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan. Proponents of the bill cite privacy and national security concerns. TikTok, like all social media giants, collects piles of user data—and if requested by the Chinese Communist Party, ByteDance is obligated by law to share that user information. Critics also worry about political influence operations on the platform—a dictatorial foreign adversary turning our kids into little Manchurian candidates. Opponents of the bill argue that forcing a TikTok sale under the threat of a ban is a blow to users’ free speech rights and represents an overreach of government authority. They insist that the government should not dictate which apps Americans can use, especially on opaque grounds of national security. Today, a debate: Is American national security at risk from an Orwellian app ultimately controlled by a totalitarian regime? Or is this just McCarthyism in digital form, a government-created moral panic fueled by dubious threats of misinformation? Arguing that the TikTok bill is a logical extension of our current laws—and a necessary countermeasure to authoritarian meddling—is Geoffrey Cain. Cain is the author of The Perfect Police State and senior fellow at the National Security Institute of George Mason University. On the other side, arguing that the bill is a dangerous overreach justified by flimsy evidence of an alleged threat, is Walter Kirn. Kirn is a novelist, Free Press contributor, editor-at-large of County Highway, and co-host of the podcast America This Week. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:00:58:37

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Rising Antisemitism and Choosing Freedom

4/22/2024
This weekend at Columbia and Yale, student demonstrators told Jewish students to “go back to Poland.” A Jewish woman at Yale was assaulted with a Palestinian flag. And an Orthodox rabbi at Columbia told students to go home for their safety. Demonstrators on these campuses shouted: “Say it loud and say it clear, we don’t want no Zionists here.” In one chant at Columbia, the protesters were heard saying “Go Hamas, we love you. We support your rockets, too.” and “We say justice, you say how? Burn Tel Aviv to the ground.” These campus activists are not simply “pro-Palestine” protesters. They are people who are openly celebrating Hamas and physically intimidating identifiably Jewish students who came near. We published the accounts of two of those students—Sahar Tartak and Jonathan Lederer—today. Students—all of us—have a right to protest. We have a right to protest for dumb causes and horrible causes. At The Free Press, we will always defend that right. (See here and here, for example.) It is not, however, a First Amendment right to physically attack another person. It is not a First Amendment right to detain another person as part of your protest. The institutions that are supposed to be dedicated to the pursuit of truth have not only abandoned their mission—they have stood by and done nothing meaningful to condemn students who support terrorism, or to stop the horrific scenes of the past 48 hours. In fact, at Columbia they have done quite the opposite: on Monday morning the president announced that she is moving classes online. If that’s not cowering to the mob, I don’t know what is. Meanwhile, the NYPD has offered to help secure the safety of Jews on campus, but so far the president of Columbia has refused to let them on campus. Since the very founding of America, this country has been a unique place for the Jewish people. That is because of America’s exceptional ideals and our willingness to defend them. But in the past six months these core American beliefs, once deemed immutable, have been challenged in ways that were previously unimaginable, as a rising wave of antisemitism and illiberalism have swept the country—a wave that was put on full display over the last few days, at the country’s most elite and prestigious universities. Jews around the world are about to celebrate the holiday of Passover—otherwise known as the festival of freedom. But what does it mean this year to commemorate our freedom, when our freedom feels like it is contracting before our eyes? How can we defend the original principles that underpin our society? How can we find the courage to do so? A few months ago, I gave a speech at the 92Y called “The State of World Jewry,” where I addressed these very questions. I argued that the state of world Jewry depends on the state of the free world. Right now, its condition is in jeopardy. Our holiday from history is over. For those celebrating Passover, Chag Sameach. And as we say at the Passover seder, “Next year, may we all be free.” Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:00:49:51

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Nicole Avant on Tragedy, Forgiveness, and Thinking Free

4/18/2024
It was November 30, 2021, when Nicole Avant got a call in the middle of the night from her husband. The unthinkable had happened. Her otherwise healthy mom, Jacqueline Avant, was in critical condition at the hospital. She had been shot. Nicole would soon find out that her mother had been having an ordinary evening at her home in Beverly Hills when a man broke into her home in an attempted robbery. He shot Jacqueline, and then fled the scene. She died later that night in the hospital. Jacqueline was 81. It was an unspeakable tragedy that would leave most people paralyzed, enraged and probably seeking revenge. But Nicole’s response surprised a lot of people. She decided that she’s not a victim, and she would forgive her mother’s murderer. She shares this radical sentiment in her new book: “Think You'll be Happy: Moving Through Grief with Grit, Grace, and Gratitude.” For those unfamiliar with Nicole, she is someone who wears many hats. She served as U.S. ambassador to the Bahamas under President Obama—and she was the first black woman to hold this seat. She's been a force in political fundraising. She raised more than half a million for President Obama in one night in 2012, and she was part of a fundraising team that raised $21 million for him in 2008. She's also a movie producer, which isn’t exactly surprising considering she was born into black Hollywood royalty—her father was Clarence Avant, the legendary music mogul who managed artists like Bill Withers, Sarah Vaughan, and Freddie Hubbard. Today, she finds herself again a part of Hollywood royalty, just of more recent vintage. Her husband is Netflix Co-Ceo Ted Sarandos. But unlike the British royals, Nicole Avant doesn’t put her views through a PR machine. She says what she thinks, and she doesn’t have time for bullshit. All of which is why we were so eager to have her on Honestly today. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:01:14:14

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Iran Attacked Israel. What Comes Next?

4/16/2024
In the late hours of Saturday night 170 drones, 120 ballistic missiles, and 30 cruise missiles barreled toward Israel. It was a direct and unprecedented strike on Israel from Iran. Extraordinarily, Israel—with the help of the Americans, the British, the French, and even the Jordanians and the Saudis—were able to intercept 99 percent of the missiles. Iran said the attack was a response to Israel’s hit on a consular building in Syria earlier this month that killed high-ranking Iranian Revolutionary Guard commanders. Many analysts and journalists have also framed the attack the way Iran had: as a “retaliatory strike.” But it’s a strange way to describe the historic onslaught considering Iran’s war of aggression since October 7. After all, it was Iran that trained and armed Hamas to come and butcher 1,200 Israelis. It was Iran that trained and armed Hezbollah, whose attacks on northern Israeli communities have kept tens of thousands from their homes. Free Press columnist Matti Friedman nailed it when he wrote that this weekend’s attack was Iran coming out of the shadows for the first time: “like a flash going off in a dark room, the attack has finally given the world something valuable: a glimpse of the real war in the Middle East.” Walter Russell Mead wrote on Twitter Saturday night: “By any reasonable standard, a state of war now exists between the State of Israel and the Islamic Republic of Iran. The questions now are how fast and how far does it escalate, who will be drawn in, and who will win.” Today, Michael Moynihan speaks with Michael Oren, the former Israeli ambassador to the United States about these questions—and what comes next in this unprecedented moment in history. While the U.S. was instrumental in helping Israel defend itself over the weekend, Biden has been clear with Israel: he does not want Israel to respond. He is reported to have said to Netanyahu, “You got a win. Take the win.” But if Israel doesn’t respond, will that only embolden Iran further? Isn’t that the sort of appeasement that got us here in the first place? And if Israel is compelled to respond for the sake of its country, can it do so without American support? As Michael Oren wrote for The Free Press: “The story of America can end only one of two ways: either it stands up boldly against Iran and joins Israel in deterring it, or Iran emerges from this conflict once again unpunished, undiminished, and ready to inflict yet more devastating damage.” Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:00:49:38

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NPR Editor Speaks Out: How National Public Radio Lost Americans' Trust

4/9/2024
Uri Berliner is a senior business editor at NPR. In his 25 years with NPR, his work has been recognized with a Peabody Award, a Gerald Loeb Award, an Edward R. Murrow Award, and a Society of Professional Journalists New America Award, among others. Today, we published in The Free Press his firsthand account of the transformation he has witnessed at National Public Radio. Or, as Uri puts it, how it went from an organization that had an “open-minded, curious culture” with a “liberal bent” to one that is “knee-jerk, activist, scolding,” and “rigidly progressive.” Uri describes a newsroom that aimed less to cover Donald Trump but instead veered towards efforts to topple him; a newsroom that reported the Russia collusion story without enough skepticism or fairness, and then later largely ignored the fact that the Mueller report found no credible evidence of collusion; a newsroom that purposefully ignored the Hunter Biden laptop story—in fact, one of his fellow NPR journalists approved of ignoring the laptop story because “covering it could help Trump.” A newsroom that put political ideology before journalism in its coverage of Covid-19. And, he describes a newsroom where race and identity became paramount in every aspect of the workplace and diversity became its north star. In other words, NPR is not considering all things anymore. On today’s episode: How did NPR lose its way? Why did it change? And why does this lone journalist feel obligated to speak out? Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:00:49:53

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How the Working Class Became America’s Second Class

4/2/2024
On Election Night 2016, many of us thought we knew who would be the next president of the United States. We were blindsided when Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump. Legacy media quickly scrambled to explain what had happened. They ultimately arrived at an explanation: Trump’s voters were racist, xenophobic conspiracy theorists, and possibly even proto-fascists. That wasn’t quite right. My guest today, Newsweek opinion editor Batya Ungar-Sargon, has been on a journey for the past eight years to understand how Trump won the White House in 2016 and how the left fundamentally misunderstood the American working class. She eventually came to the conclusion that the most salient feature of American life is not our political divide. It’s “the class divide that separates the college-educated from the working class.” Democrats have historically been the party of the working class. But for the better part of the past decade, Democrats have seen their support among working-class voters tumble. Policy wonks and demographic experts kept saying just wait: the future of the Democratic party is a multiethnic, multiracial, working-class coalition. But that didn’t pan out. Instead, in 2016, Trump carried 54 percent of voters with family incomes of $30,000 to $50,000; 44 percent of voters with family incomes under $50,000; and nearly 40 percent of union workers voted for Trump—the highest for a Republican presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan in 1984. Meanwhile, in 2022, Democrats had a 15-point deficit among working-class voters but a 14-point advantage among college-educated voters. In order to understand how and why this happened, Batya decided to spend the last year traveling the country talking to working-class Americans. Who are they? Do they still have a fair shot at the American dream? What do they think about their chances to secure the hallmarks of a middle-class life? She collected these stories in her new book: Second Class: How the Elites Betrayed America’s Working Men and Women. What she found is that for many of them, the American dream felt dead. Today, Batya discusses who really represents the working class; why she thinks America has broken its contract with the working class; how we reinstate our commitment to them; and what will happen in 2024 if we don’t. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:01:07:25

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The Story of Someone Who Changed His Mind

3/28/2024
If the First Industrial Revolution used water and steam to fundamentally change the nature of work, the current industrial revolution—the disruption of automation, information, the internet, and now AI—is transforming everything about the way we work, connect, and interact with the natural world. These changes have largely been regarded as a net good. After all, poverty across the world has fallen precipitously in the last 100 years. Life expectancy has nearly doubled. Literacy is four times higher. Hunger, malnutrition, war—all down. All good things. But today’s guest, writer Paul Kingsnorth, thinks that the way in which this progress has been achieved is detrimental not only to the environment but to our own mental and physical well-being—and that underneath the extreme wealth built by human society is a massive sense of human and spiritual loss. Paul is someone who has gone through a profound transformation over the past decade, and in a very public way. He was once considered one of the West’s most radical and prominent environmentalists—even chaining himself to a bridge in protest of road construction and leading The Ecologist, a left-wing environmental magazine. But he became disillusioned with an environmental movement that he says became obsessed with cutting carbon emissions by any means, and getting captured by commercial interests in the process. Paul and his family eventually left urban England to live off the land in rural Ireland, where they currently grow their own food and the children are homeschooled. One more thing of note this Easter week: Paul converted from a practicing Buddhist and Wiccan to an Orthodox Christian—which is about as traditional as it gets. As you’ll hear in this conversation, Paul explains why he intentionally “regressed.” In short: in our modern, hyper-connected, tech-obsessed world—what he calls “the age of the machine”—Paul and his family are trying to live wildly. We talk about what that looks like for him, and for any of us trying to be free; we talk about how the left has strayed from its original principles; why the West has abandoned God; and how to fight every day to live. . . simply. And for more of Paul’s work, check out some of our favorite essays: “The Cross and the Machine,” “The View from the Cave,” and “The Vaccine Moment, Part One” and “The Vaccine Moment, Part Two.” Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:01:23:25