‘Till the Cows Come Home

Listen to this episode

S1: The following podcast contains a bit of explicit material, but much, much more that is not explicit, just as a percentage and. It’s Thursday, February 18th, twenty twenty one from Slate gets the gist. I’m Mike Pesca. Ted Cruz took a trip today to Cancun and every Ted Cruz critic was there for it in contrast to the Texas fleeing senator. Don’t mess with Texas. Seriously, he was like, I am not messing with this nonsense. I’m out of here. Cruz said he was just accompanying his daughters to Cancun as a good father. Does think it was a plot point. And a lot of the 80s spring break movies, he and I watched and he said he’d be coming back on the next available flight available, being defined quite loosely. You know the expression no take backs. Ted Cruz does not. Cruz said he was trying to be a good father because that is what you do in these situations. Claim fatherhood. The one time when a guy uses the excuse, spending more time with family. And we can confirm he really was spending more time with family. It still is bullshit, perhaps greater bullshit than ever before. It’s so easy to loathe Ted Cruz and to find fault with his decision and the deployment of the daddy daughter shield. But I ask myself, I have to, is this just a case of a guy we hate who does something we’d all do because who wouldn’t leave a dangerously cold place for a nice and temperate and hot place? The presence or prevalence of covid notwithstanding? I think about Andrew Yang. He left a crowded apartment for a place outside of the city during the worst days of covid, and he was criticized. I don’t know if you’ve heard about this. Yang is actually the front runner for mayor. He left the city, rented a bigger house during the pandemic. He has a child with autism. I believe that was part of his decision and he got some criticism of it. But the criticism was mostly from a sort of people who really hate Andrew Yang to begin with. And also the difference between Yang and Cruz doing something that he wasn’t supposed to do, even though we’d probably all do it, is that Cruz is a current office holder and not an aspiring office holder. But I do think the big difference with Cruz is what I said in the beginning. A guy we hate does something we’d all do. We do very much. Most of us dislike Ted Cruz. Most of us listen to the show, I would say, and maybe it’s not as true with Andrew Yang, the Yang losers’, as far as I could tell, were the ones who faulted him the most. It hasn’t become a big issue in the mayoral race and in fact, he’s still leading in the polls. Although really, can you trust the polls? Those polls don’t even pick up people in their country homes. When the pollster called, I do think Cruz has a duty more than a symbolic duty to be there for his state and not to consciously skip out on this duty. But he’s not a mayor. He’s not a governor. He’s not someone directly responsible to alleviate the suffering of Texas. You can claim he’s the opposite of someone responsible to alleviate the suffering of Texas. Maybe we’d all do what Cruz has done in this case, go to Cancun, but most decent people wouldn’t do most of the things Ted Cruz is most known for. And I really can’t defend him in this situation. He should not have done it. I do recognize, however, that Ted Cruz hate is easy and it barely warms the vulnerable and frigid cockles of the heart. Now, if Cruz in Texas, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick had skipped town, well, then that would be approaching a bonfire, a bonfire of warm resentment on the show today, I spiel about inhabitants of Texas who are especially vulnerable. It is the cows. But first, an excellent new documentary, MLK. FBI traces the history between the nation’s premier law enforcement agency and the nation’s premier civil rights activist. It was an ugly and shameful history and we should add Lawlis, spearheaded by J. Edgar Hoover and countenanced by presidents here to talk about his film as its director, Sam Pollard, up next. MLK, FBI is a new documentary about an eventuality and an ethical question

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S2: when the National Archives puts government documents up on the Web. One has to confront the tapes from the hotel rooms. FBI reports those are pieces of information that we shouldn’t have. The FBI was most alarmed about King because of his success.

S3: He realized how sick this country was. We were trying to reveal the truth about segregation.

S1: In twenty twenty seven, the public domain will receive tapes that the FBI, under its director, J. Edgar Hoover, surreptitiously made of Martin Luther King. And reportedly, the tapes will include elements of King’s extramarital affairs, the FBI’s targeting of King, how they tried to use those tapes and what the implications, ethical and otherwise, of that effort in those tapes are or what documentarian Sam Pollard investigates in this new film. Welcome to The Gist. Thanks for coming on.

Advertisement
Advertisement

S4: My pleasure. Good to be on.

S1: So I put ethics up front because I think that is mentioned within the first couple of minutes. The framing is clear to the viewer. Was that your intention?

S4: Yeah, absolutely were. I mean, here we were trying to really look at Dr. King and his ascendancy in the civil rights movement, but at the same time, how jigaboo and FBI were on a mission and obsessive mission to destroy, discredit Dr. King because they saw him as a threat to the notion of American democracy.

S1: And the effort included, as we said, taping of Dr. King. But as we learn in the documentary that King and his cohorts knew that there was a fair amount of FBI infiltration, like there was a photographer who was frequently used, who it has come out was an FBI informant. There was someone who was in meetings with King all the time. And, you know, King’s friends say, don’t talk in front of this guy. He’s an FBI informant. So my question is, is it clear to the extent that King not just abstractly knew that he was being followed or in some cases specifically? Is it clear that he had a very good idea to the extent that he was being followed, tracked and surveilled?

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S4: I mean, it just stands to reason that being such a national figure, he knew that he was being constantly watched by the FBI and local law enforcement officials. You know, as Chuck Knox, the former FBI agent who we interviewed, says in the film, any time King is in his cohorts went to another city. The FBI was on him 24/7. They were surveilling and they were monitoring and constantly wiretapping, bugging the rooms. He was plugging his associates. Dr. King had to be aware. Clarence Jones says in the film there initially even want to believe it. But deep down, Dr. King knew that he was being surveilled constantly.

S1: The people who have to deal with this are usually, well, I don’t want to be naive, but when I think about someone who is the subject of FBI surveillance, maybe the FBI wants me to think this. There’s something like a mob boss or an alleged mob boss or maybe someone involved in criminal conspiracies. And often those people have the resources to know how to navigate that. So since Martin Luther King was clearly the opposite of those things, how did he acquire there is a skill set to dance around that. How did he acquire that skill set? What were the skills that he used?

Advertisement
Advertisement

S4: Well, you know, I would say I would articulate and I’d like to continue this way by listen, Dr. King and the NBA and others probably knew there were certain things sometimes I shouldn’t say in certain situations on the telephone, but there were times when they could have other discussions. So I’m not I don’t like that term. It was a skill set that I’m going to challenge that I don’t like that it was a skill set. You know, you actually like Dr. King said, well, this is how we need to act. Every time we have something, we’re going to hotel room. If that was the case and how they were able to get so much information on Dr. King. Yeah, I get it. Probably communicating as being surveilled, but he probably didn’t take the kind of, you know, the skill set that you’re saying sort of protect himself. If he did, he wouldn’t go on as they would have gotten all the stuff on tape that they say they have, in fact. So I don’t really like that question.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S1: I hear what you’re saying. Maybe the answer is just tell the truth and shame the devil and J. Edgar Hoover and those guys, man, were their tactics devilish and they justified them. I guess this gets more into a psychological question, but was there justification partially that it was in the national interest? But it also did seem to really disturb J. Edgar Hoover that mark. Luther King was becoming a national hero, that was something he could not abide and not just it would seem, not just for reasons of I think it’s bad for the security of America.

S4: Well, I think you’re right. I think, first of all, he justified because he felt it was in the national interest. Think of it this way, that he’s the head of the National American police force. And the idea that somebody like Dr. King Liselotte as a radical was basically saying, we want to upend the notion of American democracy. And what did American democracy mean in 30 years, 20, 30, 40 and 50, which meant, you know, segregation. And then they were white people who were in charge and black people treated second class citizens. Now, many Americans, like in America, white America, didn’t have a problem with that. So how come Dr. King now is trying to change the status quo? Why can’t you leave well enough alone? So and the other thing was psychologically, for folks who would like many white people at that time, a black man all of a sudden wants to step from the center and say things need to change in America. How dare he? So is both the feeling that the king and his people are subverting the national interest and secondly, that a black man is stepping out of that place. That’s as simple as that.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S1: Every president who ever worked for many presidents and every every president had titular authority over him, but he understood power and how to cement his fiefdom. I have a question about some of the presidents who dealt with King. To what extent did Kennedy in your from your research, to what extent did Kennedy know about the surveillance and what was essentially the gathering of compromise on King? To what extent did he know about that?

S4: Well, Bobby Kennedy signed off on the initial surveillance of King because Bobby Kennedy, like his brother, you know, like a lot of Americans, fell. Communism was something that could destroy the fabric of American democracy. So when Hoover went to Bobby Kennedy and said, Dr. King, Martin Luther King Junior’s associating with a known form of communist, a gentleman named Stanley Levinson that gave him cause to haves and wiretaps, you know, because communism was the scourge of America. Now, in our research, I don’t know how far Bobby Kennedy, New King, went in terms of the surveillance and bugging of the rooms and getting all this stuff about of Dr. King’s sexual improprieties. You know, he had been I guess he was a longer attorney general to sixty four. So I don’t know how far how much he knew how far that Hoover went.

Advertisement

S1: And how about LBJ to

S4: LBJ, to LBJ knew how far Hoover was going, you know, and he obviously didn’t have an issue with it, particularly when King came out against Vietnam. I mean, if you listen to the sequence in the film, after King was a Nobel Peace Prize, he’s coming back to America. You heard that audiotape interview with LBJ talking to one of his assistants about how to handle King. Coming back. You meet up with King and in the assistances. Well, you know, his personal life is a bit of a mess, is what he’s saying. So they were they were well aware how far that went.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S1: Right now in the film, there is essentially what I’ve come to think of Hoover wasn’t getting the wasn’t curtailing King’s ambitions. He clearly communicated to King that he had some what we call now kompromat on him. And it wasn’t changing King’s actions. And part of that was the media weren’t taking the bite. So he reached out to the King family in what I consider to be a suicide prompt. That’s the word I kept using. He tried to convince King to perhaps commit suicide. A couple of questions on that. One is, to what extent do you have that? Do you have the letter? Is it clear that that was the intention? It was. Is it clear that that’s how the King family took that?

Advertisement

S4: Well, I mean, the racist pieces of Bolivia in the film, most of it was redacted. But, you know, I came away with the same feeling that they were intimating that King should maybe do away with himself. And initially they sent that letter and the audiotapes of the SDLC office and inadvertently went to Coretta Scott King, you know, and then she read the letter and then she listened to the tape. This was where I felt that the FBI had really gone beyond the pale in trying this story.

S1: Do we know if LBJ knew about the suicide prompt letter?

S4: I don’t know. I don’t know for sure. But I would bet you he did. So then what do we think?

Advertisement

S1: I’ve read a lot about this. And there are many historians who make the point that LBJ and King were partners, earnest partners in civil rights. But as you document, LBJ, the consummate politician, didn’t have too many ethical boundaries on trying to. In a position to manipulate even his partners, what do you make of how much credit LBJ should get when it comes to civil rights, given everything you’ve unearthed?

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S4: Well, I grew up during the period of the Great Society, and LBJ did a lot after the JFK assassination. Up until 66, 67, you know, and he was a tremendous supporter of the movement and helping the silcott in the Civil Rights Act passed in 64 and the Voting Rights Act passed 65. So I’m not going to take away anything from that. I think he was a very important player in the civil rights struggle for that period. Now, what happened is, you know, when Dr. King on April, April 4th, 1967, at Riverside Church came out against Vietnam, that completely severed his relationship with LBJ because LBJ was pro Vietnam, pro America’s involvement in Vietnam, and that that really destroyed Dr. King had to that that that’s what would happen, you know, by going up against Johnson administration, coming out against Vietnam. And he also had to deal with people within the movement who felt he was stepping out of his comfort zone by protesting that we should not be in the war

Advertisement

S1: to the fact that MLK was extramarital affairs. That wasn’t that didn’t get widespread dissemination, as perhaps Hoover would have liked. Is that simply a relic of the media standards of the time? It wasn’t that people in the position to make the decision could say, let’s run with it. It just simply wasn’t done.

S4: It wasn’t done. I mean, you know, it was has been done and they would have been revelations on JFK and LBJ and others just wasn’t done back then.

S1: All right. So I guess my I guess my question is then, why did Hoover think it would work? Did he look at, you know, you could smear Hollywood stars? There were these, you know, tattletale magazines. They could intimate or pretty much show that a star was a homosexual. Why did Hoover go through this thinking that he would be able to get the media to play along? He understood the media well. I’m trying to understand his strategy.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S4: I would say to you he probably would have stuck with kings, that he was a black man, you know, might have been easier for him to think that a black man, the press would grab on to printing or documenting the inappropriate behavior of a black minister who had such recognition as Martin Luther King Jr..

S1: How did you make sure that that these tapes that aren’t out there now, that these tapes didn’t become something that was maybe tantalizing to the viewer?

S4: Well, here’s is my reaction to this notion about what’s going to be on those tapes in six years. Those tapes are supposed to be released. Now, who knows? There may be the King family may try to stop it. And those the NAACP may try to stop it. I don’t know. But the thing to ask yourself here, Mike, is if the tapes are released, will they be unedited tapes which mean that there aren’t any tapes, they’ll be much more than just the supposed sexual improprieties of Dr. King. They’ll be the dialogues, the conversations he had with his people when they went into different cities about the strategy they were going to undertake. If the tapes are edited, then it probably will just be the salacious stuff and there’s no reason to hear them. So those are the questions that have to be asked. What’s the state of those tapes and the culture we live in today? Most people want to hear the salacious stuff. To me, that’s not my mindset, but that’s me.

S1: So who makes the choice? Is it just the raw state of the tapes now will dictate how they’re put into the public domain?

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S4: I don’t know. I mean, and that’s why. That’s why I’m asking. That’s what I’m saying. I mean, I don’t know how they’re going to release these tapes, you know, and they’ll probably be I would imagine there’ll be some people, some organization that maybe the King family who may try to have these tapes not released in twenty points.

S1: Those are you trying to create was it a conscious effort to create an ethical norm around how those tapes are used once they’re released in twenty, twenty seven?

S4: I was trying to tell a good story about two men on the same trajectory, one with a goal to take people as people to the promised land and the other with the goal to stop that man from doing that.

S1: So there is a part in the film. After the assassination, there was unrest and there were scenes of there was one scene of a black boy holding a globe. I think it was the color of the ocean was black and just the look in his eye and contemplating. But the resonances with what we saw after the BLM protests were there. And I had to contemplate that. And my question is, were any of the choices at all informed by what was going on in the world around you subconsciously?

S4: So, I mean, listen. This zone that takes place primarily in the 60s should be a look in the mirror it has America in some ways hasn’t changed in 20, 20. You know, so even though we don’t have a certain resonance in today’s world, we didn’t know the extent of the world until we until you see all the things that happened with George Floyds and the reality of the Black Lives Matter protest of the election cycle between Donald Trump and Joe Biden. Sure, we knew would be relevant, but we didn’t know this and so intensely relevant.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S1: Sam Pollard is the director of the documentary MLK FBI. And you could get this on YouTube, Amazon, wherever you screen your fantastic documentary. Thanks for talking to me, Sam.

S4: My pleasure. Take care of my.

S1: And now the spiel, the icy temps in Texas are taking a toll on Ted, but not just Ted, there are true innocents in all of this, and those are the cows.

S5: In Arkansas, ranchers are fitting pantyhose over the heads of calves in a desperate attempt to keep them warm. In Montana, they’ve been duct taping calf’s ears to their necks to stop them from falling off. In Oklahoma, newborns arrived on to snow pack frozen ground and perished while ranchers were reportedly sticking the hardest hit animals in the front seat of pickup trucks and even inside their homes.

S1: Sorry, Bessie, you didn’t call shotgun. You didn’t even call stun gun, which I can understand, given the sensitivities so that reporters from Bloomberg and yes, the pork houses with their ears, these wheezes, some farmers are actually putting pantyhose on these cows heads and hope it’s not fishnets, because not only does that not work, you don’t want a super sexy cow distracting the whole herd. Now, if you want to know the physics and science behind all of this, we turn to the world’s only bovine thermodynamics podcast, Hot Beef. No, I’m kidding. It’s something called Sun Up TV. I think it’s an Oklahoma show. And here they’re interviewing Paul Beck of the Oklahoma State Extension School livestock specialist.

S6: These baby calves newborns have very thin skin. You know, they’re born with brown added adipose tissue that they use for energy until they get up and suckle. And when they start shivering, they can burn through that brown adipose tissue really quickly. And whenever they lose that, that’s when those calves will starve to death very rapidly. So you need to really watch cows that are expecting and if that calf doesn’t get up and suckle or freeze, born out, exposed into the elements, you need to get him moved in to shelter, make sure he gets up in circles. And if you find a calf that’s, you know, having hypothermia or low body temperatures, you need to get him in, get him into the pickup once more.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S1: There it is shotgunned.

S6: And if it’s really serious, you know, bring him into the house and put him in the bathtub in some hot water. And, you know, I always tell producers, if you have kids or grandkids, you make sure they get in there with that calf and see it in the in that bathtub in your house because they’ll always remember it.

S1: The near-death experience of a cow that makes memories of a lifetime for a kid. But as you could hear there, it’s not the cold that leads to death. It’s the cold that leads to shivering. Cows are very thin skinned. Can you believe these snowflakes upset, endangered by all the snow flakes? I didn’t think I’d be getting a lesson in calf ear care and heating today. But this is the glories of a broken electrical system and a rabbit hole based media ecosystem. I do have to say, if I want to be perfectly honest and self reflexive here, I do think that this impulse, the the poor cows, you Rouse’s, if you play it out logically and really think about it. Were you sad for the cows when you heard that? Because I was sad for the cows when I heard that. And I want the cows to lose their ears, not because then the cows can’t wear eyeglasses or not because it subjects the cows to taunts for this unasked for status, because really he or she won’t hear the taunts. Anyway, I reflect on this. My sympathy is sympathy for pain in the course of a life that exists for us to kill and eat the cow. It makes little sense to feel this pang of sympathy along the way when the entire point of the cow being on that farm is the consuming of said cow. I don’t know, maybe it’s a dairy farm, but lots of those cows, lots of the earless or near earless or pantyhose bearing cows in Texas are going to the slaughterhouse. And you’ll know it if you bite into a burger and get a Heinz control top surprise. So this actually reminds me of something I posted yesterday on Twitter PCM. I possibly do follow me there. And it was about some animals that have been fingered and an old gumshoe lexicon fingered as possible sources of sars-cov-2 the bat came first, the human came second. But between Battan man, there might have been another critter like a raccoon dog or the ferret badger. Two verbs which describe the assembly and consequence of good investigative reporting or the civet. Oh, how we need good civic education in our schools with lessons like don’t eat civics. But someone said to me on Twitter, I am I I’m going so hard on it today. Someone said to me, you know, if your point isn’t that vegetarianism is the only way to go, I don’t know what you’re getting at. There is actually an in-between point, which is that those very animals, raccoon dog. Badger, they were again fingered between 2002 and 2003 as a possible source of the SARS outbreak. So we’ve known the risks. Right. But overall, I got to say that person is correct. It’s wrong to say this animal is delish in the form of meat, but this animal is horribly taboo, doesn’t make sense. And there’s no logic to that. And there’s often a lot of cultural insensitivity with that. The argument can’t be the Chinese are wrong or weird for eating these specific animals. The argument really has to be you got to be a vegetarian. I think it’s an ethically sound argument. It’s probably better for the world and better for our bodies. And, you know, you’ve got to supplement with protein, but better for the environment, even beyond the animals. But I have no good counter to that argument, especially when it comes to factory farming. But still, I eat the meat. Why? OK, selfish reasons, convenient reasons, justifications, rather than solid ethical practice. I could give you explanations, but I’ll admit right now they are mostly justifications. They’re not great explanations. No explanation goes higher then I really shouldn’t be doing that. So I think about that and I will ponder it. And I actually and here’s an odd thing about me. I think the gap between action and my knowledge or understanding of ethics is an interesting gap. I like to spend time in there mentally. I like to ponder it. I enjoy what some people call cognitive dissonance. I like considering the exception to the rule, the hard to square fact, and I guess I am lucky enough to have the space and let’s face it, the warmth, a bit of hominid privilege to be able to do so. So sorry, cows, but I’ll give you this one for one night only. I’ll be having the Tofu LogMeIn tonight. And that’s it for today’s show, Shane and Roth produces the gist. We put earmuffs on her to prevent her from hearing all the anti-war sentiment running amuck around here. Mara Kelly cuts the interviews that you heard today. And the interviews are, if not prime rib and sirloin, definitely, you know, maybe ground shock. Alicia Montgomery is executive producer of Slate podcasts. She remembers as a kid using cow ears as currency. And when people would say, can you break a heifer? Loeb, she’d offer them five pig snouts and a beak. The gist, I’m advocating a new workout regimen. Yoga, extremely cold yoga chiva off the pounds and stay grounded. Maybe it’s not grounded. It’s just that while you were doing downward dog, your tongue stuck to the ground, you were desperate to prove. And thanks for listening.