S1: This ad free podcast is part of your Slate Plus membership. Enjoy.
S2: Hello and welcome to the Slate Political Gabfest for January 13th, 2022. The Talking Filibuster Edition. I am David Plotz of City Cast. I’m here in Washington, D.C., joined as ever by my beloved compatriots. Com. John Dickerson of CBS Sunday Morning in New York City Hi, John.
S2: And from parts unknown, but the The Sun is shining wherever she is. Emily Bazelon of the New York Times Magazine and Yale University Law School. Hello, Emily.
S1: Hey, David. Hey, John.
S2: Hi, how are you guys? Everyone good.
S1: I feel like I’ve been reading too many pieces about impending doom and civil war. So when you said compatriots, I was like a little bit thrown off. That’s a sign of overdosing.
S2: We’re going to have our own cell when the Civil War comes. OK? It’ll be the will be the Wolverines, Bahrain’s.
S3: I just want to address Emily feeling, which I totally share. What I’d like is an app that balances out based on the amount of reading you’ve done about a really depressing topic that says, OK, now you need, you know, 28 minutes of sunlight. Or, you know, here’s a full seven part episode of Scooby-Doo you should watch to kind of offset the hollow eyed despair that you can get in when you do too much reading about certain topics. You do the math for you.
S2: Good idea, though you have to be very personalized. Some people’s appetite is different than other people’s habits. Sure.
S3: Oh, totally. Some people are tougher than me, is what you’re saying.
S2: Not me. I’m not. I was not saying that this week, President Biden’s push for weakening the filibuster and passing voting rights legislation. Is it too late, too little and doomed? Or is there a possibility there? Then Russia is threatening Ukraine, maybe Kazakhstan. What is Vladimir Putin trying to accomplish? We’ll be joined by the Wilson Center’s Nina Jankowicz to discuss that. Then MSNBC and especially Fox, are increasingly political operations staffed by hosts who are working hand in hand with political parties and the White House. Does that matter? Plus, we will have cocktail chatter if everything goes as planned in Chuck Schumer’s scheme. And frankly, the chance of this happening are so slim that nothing and nothing ever goes as planned anymore. Next week, the Senate will take up voting rights legislation designed to make it easier to vote and to restore some of the protections formerly enshrined in the Voting Rights Act. It will Jerry rig that voting rights legislation into a totally separate bill about Nassar. This legislation will then be brought to the Senate floor and debated, and at some point the Democrats will attempt to end the debate. Republicans will use the filibuster to try to block it, and perhaps, maybe, probably not. 50 Democrats will seek to change the rules of the filibuster, so it cannot be. This particular bill cannot be filibustered, and this voting rights legislation or these rather these two voting rights bills will will pass in tandem. There are so many reasons this Rube Goldberg contraption will not spit out a voting rights bill at the end. Notably, Joe Manchin and Kirsten Cinema, who don’t seem to endorse the filibuster changes the Democrats seek. But in general, like it’s a it’s a really late, complicated sort of desperate maneuver to pass something, and Joe Biden is also making a push for it to John. Let’s start with Biden. Why is he pushing on this right now? And is it too late? What is he pushing? How is he pushing?
S3: Well, I mean, there’s the near the political reason and the objective reason and the political reason is that his party is furious with him for not doing enough on voting rights in whatever measure. And so he’s showing that he’s doing enough or he’s not he’s not showing he’s doing enough. He’s showing that he cares and that he’s angry. And he went down to Georgia and gave a speech and said, You know, I’ve been having quiet conversations and I’m tired. I’m sick and tired of being quiet. Part of his political challenge in the next year is he’s got energized Republicans, and he’s got kind of depressed Democrats. And one of the reasons they’re depressed is for because not enough has been done on voting rights. And they have reason to be depressed because while the Democratic Party is in power and not doing anything about voting rights, Republican state legislatures are moving to make it harder for Democrats to vote and also changing the rules of the way the votes are counted and certified. So that’s the short answer to Emily.
S2: I probably skipped a step. What are the bills that the Democrats are proposing to take up in the Senate? What would they do and why are they insufficient to the moment?
S1: There is the Freedom to Vote Act, which has a whole bunch of provisions in it designed to make sure people can vote like expanded access. To mail in voting and Sunday voting, the kind of familiar expand access to the franchise provisions. And then it also has come to include some protections following the vote, like protecting election officials against harassment and making it harder to throw out mail in ballots because the signatures don’t exactly exactly match. Little problems like that, which could add up to big stuff. Then there’s the John Lewis bill, which would restore protections that the Supreme Court took away in 2013. It would basically bring back the role of the Department of Justice to pre-clear changes to the voting process that states make. If states have some history of race discrimination in terms of voter registration or racial disparity, I should say in voter registration rates. OK, so there’s bills with lots of provisions in them. The bills also do not yet address some of the things that commentators and I think politicians have gotten the most worried about in light of 2020. So this whole problem of the Electoral Count Act, which Congress passed in 1887 and the idea was to establish what Congress does if there is a problem with state election certification, but has ambiguities in it, which is terrifying because then you have this problem where the law is not super clear and it’s taxed and you could have Congress mess around with it. You would have surely the courts get involved. Although the Supreme Court might say that they don’t want to get involved in a dispute between the branches if, for example, there was a face off between the vice president and Congress about whether to certify a state’s contested election results, or which state of electors to certify if a state somehow presented to. And there are other, I think, unaddressed issues with protecting the tabulating and the counting of votes. So I I’m very puzzled by what the Democrats in Congress and Biden are doing because it just seems like this won’t pass. But also, it’s not crystallizing the potential crisis in a useful enough way. And there’s a big fight going on among people who work on these issues and study them about whether these bills are sufficient and are really great. And it’s important to push for the whole thing not to dare to imagine trying to compromise with a few Republicans who might possibly be willing to just do something smaller on the Electoral Count Act. And I’m just finding the whole thing. It’s very frustrating because it feels like this move by the Democrats is largely for show. They don’t have Manchin. And so how is this change the filibuster ever going to happen?
S2: So it’s insufficient to the task. It doesn’t particularly have the support of the people who really want these things done because it is insufficient to the test. It comes very late in the game. It takes attention away from the social infrastructure bill the president had been pushing. That kind of went into coma before Christmas, and there will be an abject failure when the filibuster changes don’t happen. I mean, what is? I don’t understand any of it. John I Sow understand, literally understand none of it as a political measure or as a policy measure because it seems completely doomed to failure and also not, and also take attention away from something which maybe was more important, namely the social infrastructure.
S3: It may have one of the problems that the social infrastructure bill had, which is it’s diffuse. It’s got a lot going on. You know, if there are three parts of the voting process, there’s the access to the ballot, the counting of the votes and the certification, their measures and discussion about all three different stages. You could imagine a kind of centrist solution focusing just on the the counting and certification and not getting into the messy business of access to the ballot because what Democrats say are just fair, reasonable measures to put in place to give voters access to the ballot on the idea that it’s the more people vote, the more healthy it is for democracy. A lot of Republicans see that as basically Democrats trying to use the rules to make it easier for their folks to vote. You can jump over that debate if you really want to get it at the scary part, which is partisans being installed in partisan positions or or or nonpartisan people being questioned after the fact when they certify the vote for Joe Biden instead of Donald Trump, some of which some of this legislation would get at. And I think one of the things also that’s that’s important in the federalization of these standards in the For the People Act, and this is a point made by the Brennan Center, is that by establishing clear and enforceable national standards on early voting vote by mail counting ballots, you limit the amount of post-election chaos. David Becker was an election analyst. Talks about this a lot that a lot of what’s happened in the various states that have passed voting rights this and that or installed partisans in these positions is. They’ve also done it in a super highly sloppy way. And we saw the way in which President Trump and lots of his allies used sloppiness and confusion of law to create their own narrative. And so you want rigidity so that if there are post-election fights, it’s pretty obvious what the grounds are of those fights. And so that’s one way in which clear standards are important for their own sake. But then just a final point to your point, David, why is this matter? Sometimes it’s important to have a big fight. Even if you’re going to lose to wake up your base, a Bea make them feel like their vote is being stolen from them, which tends to motivate them to vote and show that you’re fighting for them. Because one of the problems is people are saying you’re not fighting very hard for our priorities. And then I guess finally, if you put Manchin on the record as as not changing the filibuster to allow this to happen, it makes it crystal clear where the blame is for Democrats. And then it’s not the Democrats fault or Joe Biden’s fault. It’s basically, as you know, one, two or three senators. And the crucial thing about sneaking this into an asset bill is that you have usually have to have two to two debates. One is to start the debate, and the other is whether to close debate. And what if you sneak this any voting rights legislation in through NASA? It’s already cleared the threshold for whether they can bring it to the floor to debate it, which means that people are going to have to go on the record.
S1: John One thing I was thinking about with all of this is that it might be to mansions political benefit to vote against changing the filibuster and maybe for other Democratic senators to then. In other words, this is like, I mean, it’s useless, but also potentially costless politically, because Democrats who want to support this legislation can say we tried and the Democrats who want to position themselves, want to distance themselves from that position can do that as well.
S3: I think so, and I think you could even imagine and we’re getting pretty high up into the atmosphere here. So this is a real, you know, hot take. But if Manchin wants to finally help out on build back better and others cinema and maybe even Kelly in Arizona and want if they’re going to take votes that are going to be tough on build back better, which has now become a Sow neon that any vote from those senators who’ve been fighting against it is going to, you know, could potentially cause the problems they this sets them up as a as a kind of bulwark against democratic, you know, whims. And so then ultimately, if they take a vote with the Democratic Party, it allows them to say, Look, I’m not doing, you know, I’m not bending to everything the Democrats the Democrats want. Again, that’s a that’s a hot take because because Manchin, Scott and cinema got lots of local reasons for not to vote for certain provisions of build back better.
S2: Yeah, I don’t know. I’m not. I don’t I don’t buy the idea that, oh, now we can blame it on Manchin. That makes it OK. Or it’s it’s it allows us to take a costless vote. I mean, I think you you get credit for doing things and you don’t get credit for not doing things.
S3: I think I think you’re right. I just think just in a bad situation, this is maybe the best thing that they can come up with.
S2: This is, of course, a reminder. I mean, the proposals to modify the filibuster in this case are also pretty minjae. Some of it is maybe restore the talking filibuster. So instead of a senator merely announcing they would not merely announce that they are opposing the filibuster, then you would have to hear Ted Cruz talking for hours and hours, which is, of course, what everyone wants to hear Ted Cruz holding forth for hours and hours about why he is opposing this particular bill so that restoring the talking filibuster and and other measure make me maybe a smaller number of senators required to break the filibuster. But it’s all of it is a reminder that the Senate is this perfect vehicle for sanctimonious constipation that there are just the whole thing is designed. It’s the worst possible body that you could have when in a world like this where you have all these people who think of themselves as Cicero, but they’re actually just like hacks and they’re there’s no interest in action, and it’s unbelievably high opinion of themselves and individuals have way too much power to block things for the whole nation. Democrats, one of the things that’s happening is the Republicans are citing the hypocrisy of Democrats who don’t want to change the filibuster we’re talking about. Look, these are people who said years ago that they shouldn’t change the filibuster or the filibuster is essential to democracy. And now they look at them, they want to get rid of the filibuster and look at this hypocrisy. I just think Democrats just need, from purely practical matter to get rid of the filibuster. It’s crazy, even if they’re not going to hold the majority very much. The reason is that Democrats like to pass legislation, and Republicans don’t particularly care about passing legislation these days. And the legislation Democrats want to pass is popular so they if they can create a tool which allows them to pass more legislation more easily, even if it’s they can only do it 20 percent of the time, they should do it because it’s much more an important tool for them to. Pass bills with 50 or 52 votes, and it is for Republicans, it honestly is like it’s so much more important for Democrats that they should recognize that and just get rid of the thing if they possibly can, but they won’t because, you know, mentioned cinema don’t want to and they and they haven’t managed to win enough of a majority to do it. So. So it goes.
S3: I tend to be a little bit more see a little bit more benefit in the talking filibuster and making people go on the record. I think Strom Thurmond will forever. I mean, he also ran as a segregationist for president so that he as part of his legacy. I hope that he’ll be forever remembered for his effort to block civil rights and because he staged a filibuster to not increase freedom and opportunity for Black Americans, and that if he hadn’t been forced to stand up again, he did run as a segregationist. But he is remembered for having to do that. And so I think putting getting people on the record matters. I also think that forcing people to talk, although you’re right, 95 percent of the talk will be just the worst and most awful modern political talk. But there are there can be some good arguments that come out and are useful in the in the process of trying to persuade people, which since there are so little acts of actual persuasion, letting them just fake it and just say up filibuster and then go on to their next thing, I think actually forcing them to talk isn’t all bad.
S1: I just want to go back to the substance of these bills for a second because I just want to make like full throated appeal about this. What was so important and so fraught in 2020 was having non-partisan election administration. You know, I did this piece for the New York Times magazine, in which I was talking to just the people who count and tabulate the votes in Florida and other states. And they are just like people doing their jobs. And that is super important, and you want to put the results when they have them in the hands of other people who have been elected or appointed with a totally nonpartisan straight shooting portfolio brief. That’s their job. It’s just to figure out who won and hand it over. And you don’t want partisan control over certification. You don’t want to introduce the possibility that you can just give this to the Legislature, and they can figure out a way to say, Oh, there was fraud. So we’re going to come up with our own results and we saw how close we came to that in states like Arizona and Georgia and Michigan and Wisconsin, and the fact that the system held does not mean that it’s going to hold again, especially when former President Trump has been doing his level best to make sure to sow distrust and make it seem like the normal Republican thing to do is to not believe in the system to the point of, you know, blasting Senator Republican Senator Mike rounds for just having the temerity to say that Biden actually won the election. And I just like we are going to look back on this period with intense regret if something goes wrong in twenty four and we let the opportunity pass.
S3: States United Democracy Thirty two laws in 17 states that have given politicians more sway over counting votes just to keep everybody updated on the numbers, but just to amend it just to add to what you’re saying. Emily The AP did a study of of less than 500 questionable votes in six battleground states and found basically in most of those cases, everybody who did anything wrong was caught. Not all of them were Biden voters, but let’s imagine they all were. It wouldn’t have affected the election in any possible way. Secondly, CBS just did polling and asked people, What do you wanted to see? How do you what kind of fixes do you want to see? Even Republicans didn’t want to see partisans put into these jobs that you were talking about to count and monitor elections. And so what you’re seeing is a solution is being pushed that no one wants to a problem that doesn’t exist. And that’s kind of where we are.
S2: We do a special segment, of course, for a Slate Plus members every week here on the Gabfest, this week’s Slate Plus segment is going to be about Novak, Djokovic and COVID and Celebrity and Australia and maybe some other things, but mostly about Novak Djokovic. What is happening in Ukraine, in Kazakhstan, in Russia? How dangerous is what’s happening to Western Europe and to the rest of the world? And is this likely to get resolved any time soon? We are joined by Nina Jankowicz. She is a global fellow at the Wilson Center and the author of How to Lose the Information, War, Russia, Fake News and the Future of Conflict. Hello, Nina. Welcome to the Gabfest.
S4: Thanks for having me.
S2: Can you explain to us if it is explicable what Vladimir Putin’s goal is here and how big is it in in Ukraine and Kazakhstan? Is it? Is it better to think of this as he is trying to break the West or that he or that he is trying to establish sort of a greater Russian prosperity sphere? Where where? All areas where there are sort of Russian speakers and Russian sympathizing people are directly under his control, is it is it against us or for him or both?
S4: Yeah. Well, first let me say I am a little reticent ever to try to read my crystal ball into Vladimir Putin’s thoughts. I’ve not met the man, and increasingly, especially this year, as he’s afraid of coronavirus. He has sequestered himself. Sow word on the street is that even his closest advisers don’t really know what he’s thinking. But the way I see it is this We should take Ukraine and Kazakhstan separately. Ukraine obviously has been at war with Russia and separatists that are sponsored by Russia for the past almost eight years now. This build up is the largest buildup that we’ve seen since then. And frankly, it is an extension of stuff that’s been going on since 2008 and 2008. Naito offered membership to Georgia and to Ukraine, and that’s the Republic of Georgia, not the US state, and said someday in the future, when you meet to be determined requirements, you’re going to be members. Russia did not like this. Russia invaded Georgia in 2008 and 2013 and 2014. We saw these incursions into Ukraine, which cost 13000 lives. And what we’ve seen is that Putin, when he has these outside conflicts going on, he does really well at home. That really boosts his popularity because people like to see Russia as kind of the inheritor of the Soviet Union. And so I think this is about boosting that popularity at home by creating a sphere of influence that’s much larger than what Russia as a regional power had. And Kazakhstan comes in to kind of save the day as a supporting character here. It shows that Russia has some influence in the region and kind of quell uprisings when they exist. And so for those that might not know, there are these protests going on in Kazakhstan, the president there has said that it was a coup, and he’s called on the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the CSTO, which is a Eurasian Union, to kind of quell those uprisings that happened. The troops are leaving now, and it’s a really nice little badge for Russia to say, Hey, we do still have some regional power.
S1: So going forward, I feel like as at least for me, I’m more used to worrying about Ukraine given its position, you know, west of Russia and for the reasons that you just stated. And because Ukraine seems like it is trying to be more free of Russia and be more democratic in its orientation. Is that still an appropriate place to put one’s emphasis? Is this episode in Kazakhstan more or something that is just sort of kind of come and go and we’re talking about a regime or a government that’s friendly to Putin anyway?
S4: Yeah, it’s interesting. I was just talking to a diplomat of an allied country before we got on to tape this morning, and he was saying, you know, if Ukraine wasn’t happening right now, that’s the diplomatic parlance. Kazakhstan would be a really big deal. But since it Ukraine, it has this buildup going on. Kazakhstan has taken a back seat. And what’s really interesting about Kazakhstan and know the short answer is I don’t think you need to worry about it. The situation has stabilized. There’s going to be some nasty internal politics and there are some really suspicious deaths that have happened over the past couple of days. Not to mention, you know, over at least a hundred and sixty four protesters killed and seven to eight thousand people imprisoned right now. So pretty bad human rights situation. But Kazakhstan occupies this really interesting space between east and west, right? As a broker between Russia and and China and the former president, Nazarbayev and his allies had been really building up relations with China. So I think that’s going to be interesting seeing how that plays out, but probably not worrisome to those of us in the West, except when we’re looking at things like oil prices or uranium prices, because Kazakhstan has a lot of oil and a lot of uranium, but probably not things that your listeners or, you know, the ordinary person needs to worry about on a daily basis. Ukraine, however, it is, you know, right on the doorstep of Europe. We care about Ukraine as a country, the United States does. And so to our allies because a Europe whole free and at peace, even if that doesn’t include your EU member, I mean, this destabilizes the entire region. It has already thrown energy security in Europe for a loop. So this is going to have flow on effects if Russia does decide to invade.
S3: So it sounds like you’re saying the Ukraine is in the U.S. national interest in a way people should really pay attention about. When you say it’s on the doorstep of Europe, are you suggesting that you know, Russia and Putin might continue going? That’s one quick question to throw into the main one, which is, can you situate this in an analogous historical period if possible? Because in a way, it sounds like the old days. You know, we’re back to the 40s and big power conflict, but obviously things are quite different. And Joe Biden came into office saying he was going to reassert the Western Alliance’s role in the world, but we ain’t like it was when. West had a role in the world against communism, so is there a way to think about this that helps us put it in historical perspective?
S4: Well, on the one hand, it’s unprecedented. I love everybody sharing their tweets at the beginning of 2020 to saying I’d like to live in precedented times again. And that’s true for Ukraine as well. Not just because this is the first time since World War Two that a country has tried to unilaterally redraw borders in Europe. But because of the types of warfare that are going on, I mean, you’ve you’ve heard about the cyber attacks, you’ve heard about the disinformation, which I’ve spent a lot of time studying. It makes the type of physical incursion that Russia has become pretty good at a lot more powerful. Now that being said, I think this is a little different than, let’s say, 1939 or even ahead of World War One, because the Ukrainian national identity has become so much stronger over the past several years. I lived in Ukraine from 2016 to 2017, which is a very interesting time to be there as Trump was being elected. And even since then, the Ukrainian identity against Russia and as really taking its rightful place among democratic nations in the West, that aspiration has become really part of the lifeblood of Ukrainians. So I think Russia will find a lot of difficulty if it does decide to invade again, and we should underline again. But it is the second invasion. They’ve done this once before, and it’ll be costly for Russia. It’ll be costly in terms of bodies and will be costly economically because we’ve seen a lot of sanctions being talked about. So it’s a different situation and that we have that unity both on the Ukrainian side. And I think a lot of the European allies are getting sick of Russia’s belligerent actions as well.
S2: On that last point, on the western European side, so there’s the the the energy economists are constantly telling us, Well, you know, Russia has Europe held in a vise because they control so much of Europe’s energy supply? Western Europe’s energy supply and therefore Western Europe is needs to be more lapdog ish and capitulate easily. Is that how true is that? I mean, it’s it’s Western Europe, the Germans and the French are going to be like, Yeah, you guys do what you want because we don’t want to lose. We don’t want to lose our natural gas.
S4: Yeah, that’s been the big sticking point. And going back to John’s question, like, I don’t think that there is a chance of Russia rolling on through to Poland if they don’t want to risk a head to head contact conflict with Naito. But what they will do is play with that energy supply. And so that’s the big question here. There is a Nord Stream one gas pipeline through which Europe gets a lot of energy and and routes around Ukraine. A lot of the energy used to go through Ukraine before the conflict and now through this thing called reverse flow, the Europeans are able to get heating during the winter. Nord Stream two, which goes through the Baltic Sea to Germany, was supposed to be the way around all of this. The United States has stood in stark opposition to that and all Republican and Democratic administrations. But it was seen until recently as too much of a stick in the cry of the Germans to say, You know, you can’t do this, so the infrastructure is all laid down. It’s not operational yet. And what is on the floor of the Senate? And I think you know what the Biden administration is considering, although not through sanctions, is talking to the Germans and saying like this is not acceptable right now if a military incursion were to happen again.
S2: Sorry, just to be clear, you’re saying there’s infrastructure which would take Russian energy, bring it to Western Europe. It is not in place. And the Biden, the infrastructure is in place, but the the energy flow that some of it is not happening. Yes. And the Biden administration wants to tell the Germans or ask the Germans to not use it at all.
S4: Yeah. The Biden administration’s current preference as deputy secretary Sherman has said this week in Europe is to say, let’s not let that happen. Germany. And she thinks that they will agree if Russia does make some incursions into Ukraine. The Senate wants to sanction Germany and sanction anybody who is working with the Nord Stream two pipeline so that that doesn’t happen to kind of preclude that possibility.
S1: So there are these different levers that Putin can try to pull in and obviously other regimes as well. There’s energy. And then you also mentioned disinformation campaigns along the way. What role to the disinformation campaigns play with regard to Ukraine is that about changing, affecting the mindset of the Ukrainian electorate, the Russian electorate? Something else,
S4: all of the above. And I would add a third group there, and that’s the international community. So since 2013, and even a little bit before, a lot of the tactics that we saw at play in the 2016 and 2020 US elections were auditioned in Ukraine and other former Soviet former communist republics. Now, in this particular conflict, things have shifted a little bit. They don’t need to make up as much whole cloth, saying, you know, Ukrainians are not Nazis. Ukrainians are fascists. The Ukrainian government had came into power through a coup. What they’re saying now is Naito is being belligerent. We feel threatened by Naito. That’s the pretext for this invasion and that’s existed again since 2008 or even before we’re seeing a lot of influencers picking that up. And you know, the average, you know, our T or Sputnik outlets that are controlled by Russia who are amplifying those claims as well. Some of what we’re seeing is also, you know, the US is preparing a chemical attack against Russia or that the U.S. has soldiers in Ukraine already who are ready to attack. None of which is true. But Russia needs to create this pretext for invasion, and Kazakhstan actually plays a really important role in that, that creation of that new narrative. Because the Kazakh president, Akayev has said that foreign mercenaries or terrorists were the ones who caused these protests in Kazakhstan, and that gives Russia even more fodder for these ridiculous claims. So it’s not as much of the disinformation cut and dry, you know, trolling and bot posts that we saw in 2013 and beyond. This is more of a kind of narrative game at a higher level. And yeah, that that creates uncertainty and distrust toward the Ukrainian government toward allies certainly cedes a distaste in Russian’s eyes toward Naito and toward Ukraine, which is supposed to be kind of part of the Slavic Brotherhood and also contributes to what we call Ukraine fatigue. You know, the international community is tired of dealing with this after almost eight years, and they want it to just go away. And we’re heading into another round of negotiations and we’re at an impasse.
S3: Nina, you’re not supposed to ask double barrel questions, and I’m now going to do it for a second time. So I’m sorry, but we’re it’s my last shot. So I have two questions one, to the extent there was ever a foreign policy consensus. It’s kind of gone because of partisanship. Or maybe not. So can you tell me whether Putin is making a judgment about how far he can go because he knows that there’s potentially not a unified American position? Because if for no other reason, Republicans will attack Biden because they just want to do that and and is Afghanistan at all a part of this that Biden is making a reading about U.S. interests in in foreign adventurism after Afghanistan? And then finally, is there a face saving way for Putin to get out? Or is there a solution that his face saving for him that that lowers the tension?
S4: All right, that’s three John, but I’ll do my best.
S3: I know I was thinking of the first one combined, but I think you’re right.
S4: OK. Partisanship. So this is really interesting because prior to the Trump era, I thought that there was there was a lot of agreement on Capitol Hill about the threat that Russia posed. In fact, if anything, the Republicans were more hawkish and the Democrats wanted to kind of leave Russia to to be a regional power and not worry too much about it. Obama famously said, You know, Russia is a regional power and that made Putin very mad post 2016. I think we saw a little bit of a reversal of those roles. And certainly during the Ukraine impeachment scandal, we saw Republicans, including Lindsey Graham and Rob Portman, who had been really vocal opponents of Russia, including traveling to places like Ukraine on congressional delegations many, many times to voice their support. We saw them really pulling back, and now we’re seeing them coming out of the woodwork again and I’m saying, Wait, wait. We need to support our allies in Ukraine. So it’s all very interesting. What they have been criticizing Biden on is this lack of aggressiveness against Nord Stream two because he wants to keep our German allies close. So I think we’re seeing a little bit of a meeting in the middle. We’ll see if this Senate resolution passes that the Democrats will put out. The Republicans have their own kind of Nord Stream two resolution. That’s a little bit more draconian, and I think the Biden administration doesn’t like it because it would be again too aggressive towards Germany. So that’s the partisanship angle. I think there is room for negotiation there. The second question now I’ve forgotten Afghanistan. Afghanistan, OK. On Afghanistan. You know, I think I think there is a possibility that certainly the Biden administration is watching what they say. They want to make sure that Americans know that this isn’t about military direct military support, it’s about arms, it’s about economic support, it’s about democracy support. But there’s no world in which NATO’s troops or U.S. troops are going to end up in Ukraine on the front lines. I can’t imagine that world and frankly, that would bring us into a much, much bigger conflict with Russia. So I think they’re being careful about that. And Biden has been very clear that, you know, that’s just not on the table. So hopefully we don’t get to that point. There’s going to be a lot happening in the next couple of weeks. January is traditionally very spicy time in Ukraine because there’s the New Year’s holidays that continue happening. So whenever we see a flare up between Russia and Ukraine, it tends to be this month. So keep your eyes peeled for better or for worse, huh?
S2: Wait, I don’t. Just as a note, I would have thought they were. Everyone always said about Afghanistan while winter. There’s no fighting season during the winter is winter is fighting season, even in that cold part of the.
S4: Yeah, it’s cold, it’s not it’s not mountainous, though, that part of Ukraine is kind of the steppe, so it’s quite flat. And the idea there is because everybody is at home like basically the entire country and this is true in Russia too, shuts down during January. Their Christmas is later. And then they’ve got like Old New Year’s and Old Christmas based on different calendars. So people are just away and their attention is elsewhere. And I think our attention is elsewhere to COVID. A number of other domestic and international crises that we’re trying to manage, it’s a great time to to start a war.
S3: And is it easier for Russian tanks to move when the ground is frozen?
S4: I am not a military expert, but I would imagine so. And really, they don’t need to move that much. They’ve already got a lot of infrastructure in place.
S2: So just John. Do you remember John? Do you remember? This is like your were of an era where an Emily, I suppose you were of an era too. We would always hear about the Volga gap. And yes, it is like that where exactly where the Russian tanks were going to make their way into Germany and the, you know, the relative merits of all the Russian tanks versus the relative merits of the American tanks. That was the time that was like that was that’s what I spent most of like 1982 doing with studying the Volga gap.
S1: And that’s unprecedented.
S2: Yeah, that was precedent. That was definitely precedent. Nina Jankowicz, thank you for joining us. Nina is a global fellow at the Wilson Center and the author of How to Lose the Information War. Thank you. Come back again. Thanks for having me! There were a bunch of stories this week about Fox’s influence over Trump in the Trump White House. More evidence of that entanglement came out in the form of texts that were sent by Fox hosts to White House officials, and there was an amazing detail in one of these stories about this, and the in detail is that Trump would sometimes hold Oval Office staff meetings into which he would dial in. Sean Hannity in Lou Dobbs dial in Fox News host. Amazing. So we’ve had this week of revelations about Fox in January 6th, which told us what we kind of knew, which is that Fox was willingly acting as a propaganda arm of the White House and that Fox hosts were offering essentially official advice to the Trump White House. We have something much smaller on the left happening this week, Symone Sanders, who is the spokeswoman for vice president Harris, has left the left. The administration is getting a show on MSNBC. Another example of a political aide who is directly moving into media Sow John. This is a field that you don’t work in cable news, but you work in television news and have for a long time and you know it really well. Is this politicization of cable news deepening or is this something that has just been intrinsic to cable news? And and it’s like, yawn, yawn. Nothing to see here. Well, and also noting, sorry, just to note, I acknowledge straight upfront that it’s wildly asymmetrical. Yeah, that is wildly asymmetrical. I’m not trying to say that. Symone Sanders, been hired by MSNBC, is the equivalent of Sean Hannity and Lou Dobbs been invited to White House staff meeting now.
S3: All right, go ahead. True? Yes. So many things to try and break apart here. Because because there has been columnists who’ve been close to presidents Ben Bradlee close to Kennedy over time. So this isn’t just in the world of Cable when when Ben Bradlee was at The Washington Post, but as you say, it’s quite different. And I think the difference is what’s important because we’re in this very liquid media environment now in which anything can be called the media and often is by people who are trying to sow chaos. They’ll take some, you know, Twitter, some tweet about something and say the media has gone too far when it’s just like some, you know, dude in Akron who said something. And so I think classification is important. So what you’re doing essentially is classifying Sow the the opinion journalists at FOX. First of all, there are more of them and they play an outsized role at that network. I think to the extent that Cable, MSNBC and Fox are doing the same thing, they’re both trying to appeal to partisans. They’re just doing it in different ways. Fox has a lot more red meat on the menu than MSNBC does, and that red meat is of a different sort, too. I think you have, you know, partisans on MSNBC. They’re either, you know, lawful partisan or neutral partisan, which is to say they at least adhere to the to the ideas of persuasion and the scientific method. And you have to back up what you’re saying and you don’t objectively say things that are disinformation when you know the opposite is to be the case. Now you may not do that, you know, you may shade the line, you may allied things. You may engage in political chat, but you’re not actively sowing chaos. I think that is not true of some of the hosts on Fox. So they. Play an outsized role, and they play by different rules. And so I think that’s one way to think about this differently. And then by the way, you have CNN, which is doing their streaming service, CNN Plus, which is not necessarily partisan but is really interesting in the sense that they see this. This is a business story, but a market there for lots of programming. I don’t know whether that market will exist, but they’re doing really interesting things.
S1: I just want to add, I think another thing that’s important to remember about what sets Fox apart and some other white right wing media outlets is that they don’t correct if they make mistakes. And you can see that really well. Sometimes when they are actually brought to court for defamation, it’s only when there is a libel or defamation suit that we see them go in for corrections. And that’s really important because what the mainstream media does is when it makes mistakes, it generally acknowledges them. I mean, the mainstream media is imperfect in that regard, and sometimes one sees, you know, big instances of a kind of narrative that’s gone in the wrong direction, but isn’t like technically factually incorrect. It’s allowed to continue, or it takes a long time for a media organization to acknowledge its errors. I mean, famous examples the Iraq War narrative that the New York Times helped perpetuate, which turned out to be wrong. But there is this sort of ideal, and I think almost always practice of trying to get better over time. And you don’t see that with Fox, and that is a key ingredient of propaganda where you just double down on the lie.
S3: Although I think isn’t it important to draw distinctions? Well, first of all, to underline your point in court, Judge ruled that Tucker Carlson is not news in order to save him from a defamation suit, so it’s been adjudicated as Sow. But isn’t it important to draw a line between the news part of Fox and the opinion part? I think you’re probably still right about the news part that they don’t issue corrections in the way, say, MSNBC might. Although on the other hand, I know how reluctant television is in general with issuing corrections, except on major major things. They don’t do it like newspapers do. And so I think, don’t you have to compare sort of Brett Becker with, you know, whoever the equivalent on on MSNBC is to make that work because the opinion columnists on on MSNBC aren’t issuing lots of corrections either. Are they
S1: right? No, that’s true. But I think that there have been important instances in which Fox News has also refused to correct the record until there’s been that kind of a push in court. Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. Do you remember that story about the death of Seth Rich? He was a staff member at the DNC who was the victim of an attempted street robbery. And so Fox News posted an article drawing on a report from the local Fox station in Washington that falsely falsely implicated Seth Rich in the Russian hacking of DNC emails. The ones that affected the 2016 presidential campaign. So then Hannity picked up this lie on his show the falsehoods spread all over the place to conspiracy websites. A week later, Fox News did retract the false report online, but Hannity didn’t. And so it remained out there in the ether until the rich family won a defamation suit against Fox. And I think that shows the dynamic in which the news division may eventually back down, but it’s still implicated in the spread of these falsehoods. Right. So it’s not simply the opinion hosts that are doing this.
S2: Fox’s audiences handfuls of millions, three million people are watching Tucker Carlson or something in a country of 340 million. And yet it is clearly wildly important to our political system and to the shaping of debate and to how things happen, and there’s one obvious way. I mean, we can, which I just reciting, which is that President Trump, the president, was listening and responding to it directly, but separate from that for a second. Why is it so important? Why is it so important that something which has an audience of less than one percent of the American public essentially is the agenda setter for for American politics? How does that happen?
S3: Well, they drive. They drive opinion in Republican primaries and Republican primaries end up picking the nominee, and the nominee becomes president Sow.
S1: And there’s a feedback loop online. So it’s not really just one percent of the audience because there’s this loop going on of different stories, getting more and more amplified. Sow Fox to Facebook, Facebook back to Fox, other sites feeding it.
S3: And they’ve played different role in conservative politics than liberals plan in democratic politics. Liberals are a smaller group in Democratic politics than conservatives are in Republican politics.
S2: Why Emily has there not been a news organization or that was a quote. News was in quotes there on the left that is nearly as influential or savvy or powerful as Fox has been. Or is it the New York Times? But The New York Times isn’t on the left.
S1: Yeah, I think it’s really important. I think that’s a false equivalency. I mean, I think the norms of journalism about self-correction and maintaining basic distance from news reporting from politicians who are in power has held up much more strongly in mainstream journalism and on the left. And it’s not that like there is zero, it just doesn’t have the same kind of pick up and perches. And also it doesn’t have the money of someone like Rupert Murdoch behind it. I mean, Murdoch has been an incredibly important figure in this in the United States and also countries like Australia and the U.K., as we’ve discussed in the past, and there isn’t an equivalent leftwing media mogul like that.
S2: But but that’s but no, I don’t. I dispute that. Rupert Murdoch has made. I mean, you could say, Oh, it’s Rupert Murdoch. Billions have funded Fox. No, Fox has funded Rupert Murdoch’s billions. But yes, he made an investment in it, but it’s been unbelievably profitable. So there’s an economic opportunity on the right that he took advantage of. Why wouldn’t some if you’re if you’re a savvy left wing media mogul who’s like, Oh, Rupert Murdoch made billions on the right, I can make billions on left, but no one’s done it.
S1: Wait, no, I totally agree that I didn’t mean that it was him doing this ad. Not his charity generosity. And Sinclair, which is, you know, regular broadcast, also has conservative investors who’ve made a lot of money in television. I just don’t think it’s clear that there is the same appetite on the left for this kind of hardcore partisan journalism, and also because mainstream media is oriented in a way that tends to be perfectly amenable to liberal ideas gives them airtime. The idea that you’re doing this, like oppositional rebel thing is much more available to the right. And it just also has to do with, like the shares of demographics like who is interested in what in the American public. The number of like true left wing parties in the United States is just smaller than people who are deeply conservative.
S3: The Conservative in the modern era, the conservative media ecosystem came up in opposition to the liberal mainstream, so it was always going to have a heavier opinion side than a journalism side. That’s sort of the journalism is tacked on to the opinion, whereas in the on the left, it’s there’s the journalism that existed first and then there’s the and then there’s the opinion. You also should probably in a fully explicated version of this. We’d also probably talk about the extent to which the culture is seen by the right as being completely dominated by the left, and therefore it has to be pushed back against by opinion. But I still think it’s really important to draw a distinction between the norms of journalism and the norms of opinion. So there are the norms of journalism correcting yourself and getting fired. If you say something that’s wrong, that’s one thing which Emily’s been talking about. But I do think there’s a difference in norms of opinion, and the Left appreciates and will discount somebody if they’re just a total hack. I mean, they may find them amusing, they may find them all the rest. But but there is still I mean, Rachel Maddow, even if she is in, is participating in confirmation bias. And even if she’s participating in a worldview that is cabin to by her liberal views nevertheless puts a lot of energy into a fact based set of arguments and at least adhering to the norms of argumentation and designed to. Method, and that is part of her shtick, and it’s also something that appeals to the left, there is not that same effort to line up facts that make sense. In fact, it’s kind of the opposite on with some of the biggest stars of the opinion on the right, and I think that distinction helps us classify them differently in the useful.
S2: Yeah, I mean, one of the things I think it’s interesting in and Applebaum among others, has written about this, but is sort of when you start to think about the distinction between information propaganda that on the right, there is this sense. I don’t think people who watch Fox and Sinclair think, Oh, this is fair and balanced, they know it’s their team. But the success on the right is is not so much that it’s created ideological journalism. It’s that it’s thrown up so much chaff that is cast so much doubt on fact as a whole, it’s disparaged elites, so much it’s made. It’s made. Its viewers not even believe in the possibility of objectivity in facts anymore. That’s the real poison. The poison isn’t that it’s made people more conservative. It’s the poisonous it’s made people not. Consider the possibility that there is a reasoned argument that could persuade them because everything is a lie. Everything is chaff. Everything is just trash thrown up in the air is a distraction. Totally even what we’re telling you. And that’s that’s a terrible world to live in.
S1: Well, and also when the mainstream media tries to come in and correct or challenge a story that has been promoted in right wing outlets, the audience for Fox and those outlets doesn’t believe them because the correction is coming from the mainstream media.
S3: They almost have. They not almost. Studies have shown they believe in the underlying lie more securely because then it becomes an identity fight.
S1: I don’t know if you guys listened on NPR this week to Steve Inskeep’s interview with former President Trump, but when I was reading the transcript, I was just reminded at how skillful in a kind of, you know, evil genius way Trump is at exactly this kind of discourse where you challenge him, you correct him. He just moves on to the next thing. He never admits that, OK, right? He doesn’t. It’s not a well, joint argument. He just moves to some other distraction. It’s hard to follow, but you’re never left with the impression that he has conceded and that there is this factual dispute that the other side has won. Unless you, like, just really come into the conversation. Sure that Trump is wrong from the get go. There’s nothing in his demeanor that betrays that he’s an error.
S3: Except for this, it was the third time since he became president that he ended an interview.
S1: Yes, he jumped at the end without answering the last question. That is true.
S2: Do you want have you want to do that? Nathanael chatter. Let’s just go to cocktail chatter John Dickerson. When you have finished your interview and are now sitting down very, very politely and gentlemanly as you often do for a drink, what will you be chattering about post interview at breakfast?
S3: I’ve been reading about observation or thinking about observation recently for its own sake and reading the Mezzanine by Nicholson Baker, and I’m just at the beginning of it. So it may end up in the end to be about, you know, a kung fu marching band. But at the moment, what it’s about is about a worker and office worker who is incredibly observational about every single detail in his life. And it’s both a joy to read, and it’s also a meditation on that kind of. You can create a world out of a stapler, you know, or as Somerset Mine said, there’s a philosophy in every shave. And so and then I was also reading Joan Didion’s on keeping a Notebook, which is a great essay she wrote about her habit of keeping a notebook. So I know there are other people out there who are notebook keepers and jitters down of things. So this is also a call out for anybody who has other R who has read other things on that. In that way, send me either catch up with me on Twitter or John Dickerson dot com. You can email me if there are other things that are in the same category, but I would recommend both of those to people.
S2: Emily What is your chatter?
S1: So I was gripped this week by some reporting from my colleague Jan Ransome at the New York Times about Rikers Island. These harrowing videos of inmates being forced to fight each other in these parts of the jail that gang leaders really seem to have control of, and this builds on reporting that Jan has done earlier. These stories about the way that staffing works at Rikers, there’s it’s like practically unlimited sick leave for corrections officers. Lots of ways to make sure you don’t get a posting inside one of these units, and they’re just becoming increasingly dangerous and out of control and the really crazy thing this week. Was that a judge in Manhattan ordered the release of one of the people who’d been forced to participate in this fight night because she said that the New York Department of Correction had failed to protect him? I mean, we’re just seeing such a breakdown in the safety of Rikers. And if you live in New York or elsewhere and you’re also following the new term of the District Attorney in Manhattan, Alvin Bragg, he’s released some policies in which he’s trying to reduce the use of pre-trial detention. And there has been pushback about how far he’s going. But I think you really need to consider that in the context of how scary and just out of control Rikers is if people are going to have to go there before they’ve been found guilty. You know, it just makes a lot of sense to keep those numbers down whenever possible in light of the conditions there. And also, it just underscores the importance of trying to close Rikers in the medium to long term, which New York is struggling toward, I hope.
S2: Much harder. I have to, but my first one, is it just a lovely little Twitter thread I stumbled across from Nathanael Johnson, who’s a journalist talking about how he is leaving journalism to become an apprentice electrician? And it’s great. It’s just about how he excited he has to make things work and to solve problems for people. And also that it’s just a much more reliable income than than journalism is. I just read a couple of the tweets. It feels good to be doing something that is unequivocally useful after years of writing about climate policy in the abstract. It’s unbelievably satisfying to be directly electrifying everything after so much talking. What a relief to start doing. It’s also crazy after journalism to jump to a field where I can just drop out of the blue and find a great job locally in a couple of days. I’m taking an initial pay cut, but potential pay is far higher. Why didn’t anyone tell me about the trades? You know, if you’re somebody who’s who’s stuck in a profession where maybe you’re not doing the right thing and you’re somebody who’s good with your hands or good with solving problems, maybe there’s another field for you than what you’re doing, and it’s it’s Hasan Nathanael Johnson. Check his Twitter feed out. He’s at Sabertooth, and I also just want to direct you guys to a fantastic TV show. I know I recommend a lot of TV shows and I watch a lot TV. I watched a fantastic show this week called We Are Lady Parts. Have you guys heard of this?
S1: I have heard of this, but tell us more about it.
S2: It’s a it’s a six part series on Peacock, the NBC streaming platform about a group of young women in England who are young Muslim women from various Muslim backgrounds who form a punk band. It is just an absolute joy. It’s so charming. The acting is incredible. It is so funny. It’s emotionally resonant. It’s it’s a perfect show. It’s only six episodes. It’s like if you if you’re somebody who loved Derry Girls or something, you will find this. We are lady parts. It’s it’s great. It’s it’s as much joy as I’ve gotten out of a TV show in a long, long time.
S1: Oh my god, that Derry Girls comparison all you had to say.
S2: I know, I know. I sometimes I like go randomly check Netflix to be like, Is there another season of Derry Girls yet? Is Derry Girls back out yet? Well, I feel this way about lady parts I immediately searched like, have they commissioned the second season? Is there a second season coming? It’s great, listeners. You have sent us great chatters. This week’s listener chatter comes from listener Bea Scott. Take it away.
S5: Bea My cocktail chatter is about a new book by Thomas Geoghegan, a Chicago lawyer and author who ran unsuccessfully for the House of Representatives when Rahm Emanuel left his seat to work for President Obama in 2009. He also happens to be my first cousin. His new book, The History of Democracy, has yet to be written how we have to learn to govern all over again. We used to gather witty and endearing stories from the campaign trail with a compelling call to take action to restore our democracy by, among other things, ending the filibuster, abolishing the Senate and making voting compulsory. I thought of Emily, David and John for different reasons as I read it, and I think you each would really enjoy reading it. Happy New Year!
S2: That is our show for today. The Gabfest is produced by Jocelyn Frank John and I were just talking before the show. I was guessing how long she’d been the producer of the Gabfest. Do you guys have any? I made a guess I was wrong. Do you guys have any, any guesses?
S1: Eight years, six years.
S2: You nailed it. It’s seven.
S1: We didn’t nail it.
S2: Nice job. Yeah, that was it. I thought it was four and a half hour. Researcher is Bridget Dunlap. Gene Thomas is managing producer of Slate Podcast. Alicia Montgomery, executive producer of Slate Podcast. Follow us on Twitter at Sow Gabfest and Tweet Chat or to us there or email us at. Gabfest at Slate.com for Emily Bazelon John Dickerson David Plotz. Thanks for listening. We’ll talk to you next week. Hello. Slate Plus. How are you? We’ve got a real Emily Bazelon Chatter special today through Novak Djokovic, the best tennis player in the world hostage to his own arrogance and stupidity. He is. So he arrived in Melbourne. He’s famously unbalanced. He is a famously unbalanced person. He arrived in Melbourne, Australia, to defend his Australian Open title. I think he’s going for his 10th or 11th title in Australia and one of the other. He was turned away and told he could not enter because he was not vaccinated. He wasn’t following national rules. Then he pointed out that he had in fact gotten an exemption working through Tennis Australia, pointing and told Tennis Australia, Oh, I’ve you know, I’ve just had COVID, so I should qualify because I’ve just I’ve just had COVID and Sow should let me in. And so he’s the abjectly. The Australian government back down restored his visa and then I’m actually not. There may have been another chapter since we’ve talked about this. It turned out that, yes, he had had COVID. But then during Sow, he said he’d gotten COVID on December 16th, he’d gotten a positive test result in December 16th. And it turned out that pictures emerged of him December 17th, mingling with children and doing a photoshoot unmasked. And so that yes, oh yes, you had you had survived COVID, but you’d also been a kind of active spreader of it at a time when you knew you had the disease. And then it turns out that maybe he also lied about having not having travelled internationally in the 14 days before he came to Australia. So it’s just a huge amount of drama about whether Novak Djokovic should be allowed to kind of cut the line, get into Australia, play tennis, even though he is wilfully unmasks person. So that’s kind of set the table Emily do you want to take a start? Is that I mean, one quick have a lot.
S1: I don’t think the Australian government abjectly back down. Djokovic won a ruling from a judge, and now the Australian immigration minister gets to decide whether to cancel his visa, which would make him ineligible to return to the country for three years, which is like a big penalty, considering there are three Australian opens between now and the end of that. And Djokovic is trying to become the men’s winner in the open era with the most titles. And so that’s like a big looming question that remains so, man. Every time I try to feel a little tiny bit of warmth toward Novak Djokovic Djokovic, he does something to further alienate me. I was feeling a little better about him because he has been on the side of try to support the Men’s Tennis Association, and I think the Women’s Tennis Association and trying to spread out earnings more evenly among athletes because tennis has a real issue of lumping them all at the top. And he did that at a time when Nadal and other top players were not supporting the players who are ranked, you know, 100 below in this push. And so I was like, Well, that’s good for Djokovic, but this one is just so frustrating. I mean, I’m someone who’s pretty sympathetic to the idea of giving natural immunity some weight in considering whether people should be able to do things or not, because it does help prevent the spread of COVID. It does play some role, but I feel like it is so important for athletes to be role models and spokespeople for getting vaccinated. And it it’s intensely frustrating to me when they just refuse. And I mean, Djokovic is like notoriously a spout of junk science about his body, about disease. And so the idea that he has gone to these lengths, I just really have like zero sympathy for him, basically. And, you know, even last week, even right now, he could just choose to get vaccinated as a way of trying to appeal to Australia to let him in. And this is, you know, Australia is a country that has been incredibly restrictive on a citizens three Sow to have Djokovic come in and try to flout these rules. It just seems like adding insult to injury to me.
S2: There’s also this other like little mystery which would make what’s happening even more offensive, which is that a German newspaper, for some reason, the number of Djokovic as test was visible somewhere. And so a German newspaper checked out the number of that test and it showed a negative result, not a positive result. And then they checked back a day later and had switched to a positive result. So there’s some implication that maybe he pretended to have a positive test result just to get into Australia, which is also offensive.
S1: Oh, that’s I mean, if that turned out to be true, that would be just inexcusable. I got nothing, though, I guess then. I mean, with the children, you know, the day after, maybe that makes that part less bad. I follow this story.
S2: It’s less about, I don’t know. I mean, he’s such a he’s such a piece of work that. I humans, all primates, not just humans, actually, all primates are wired to loathe people who cheat a system that we’re abiding by, that if you look at studies of of, you can do this with chimps, you can do this with humans if you see someone else cheating. It’s something when you’re not cheating, you will punish that person. You will rather punish that person than get a benefit for yourself. People get so angry. And this idea, I think that Australians are genuinely offended that here’s this person who who’s just skirting around something that they’ve had to endure in a in a most abject way. It’s the same rage, I think that you see in Britain right now that Boris Johnson, I know. Yeah, that he wasn’t following this at Boris, Boris Johnson’s government at, you know, massive restrictions, massive draconian restrictions and getting out there and haranguing it. That very same time he and his cronies are all doing, you know, social gatherings that 150 percent violate the law as they were, they were throwing and everyone else. And it makes the rest of us feel like suckers, and nobody likes to feel like a sucker.
S3: I’m so fascinated by that finding, but that finding I must have added space. You have to believe in the restrictions that you’re keeping up with, right? Because when when Donald Trump got COVID and there was the, you know, COVID looking party at the White House in the middle of a pandemic, the people who were participating in the smearing of aerosols on their friends were from a from a group that overall didn’t believe in the draconian rules Sow like they believe the right rules were worth blowing off in the first place. So you have to be abiding by them, I guess.
S2: Yeah. Well, that’s what’s so interesting is that you when you were when when someone is offending a rule that you believe in, it makes you so rageful when you’re abiding by a principle and someone else breaks it. You get Sow, Rachel, but all of us then have certain rules that we break. You’re right there and that we think, Oh, this don’t doesn’t matter. I mean, and I just was thinking about us talking about this with my girlfriend today, and I was like, What is the one? What is my violating COVID protocol? It’s it. I’m when I’m a biker. I break every fucking traffic law like I’m one of these cyclists who goes through stop signs, goes through red lights like whatever. Not to my own endangerment, but certainly in violation of the law. And it enrages drivers and it absolutely enrages drivers. I’m like, it doesn’t matter. Like, I’m not hurting anybody else getting hurt by this. I’m not indeed. And and and I realize like, it’s a massive part and why it infuriates motorists when cyclists say I could cause
S3: further inquiry into this is when you do so. Are you chaotic, neutral or a good? Which is to say, do you recognize, look, I’m not. This is bogus. There’s no cars coming. I don’t need to wait for this. Ultimately, it’s for the greater good that I’m out of your way, Mr. Car Driver. Yeah, yeah. Or is it always in the service of just David Plotz and you’re screwing up?
S2: No, no, no. And I’m like an old man with kids. I don’t want to get hurt. So I also don’t do anything which would like put me actually at risk with a car. It’s much more just like really, I have to stop at the stop sign now. It’s when it’s going be so much energy to restart. I’m just going to roll through it and I never and you know, and I always check like, if the car is there, I’m like, Hey, can I go through? And usually they’ll be like, Sure, go ahead. I don’t do anything. I’m never an asshole about it. But I certainly am also breaking rules which which in other circumstances I would be like, Oh, these rules should be enforced. And you know, people, you know, drivers must drivers must obey these rules. I just don’t have to obey these rules. So I guess
S1: what I’m saying is that drivers get mad at you because I also do that all the time. And my excuse for it is that the roads are not set up for biking and to stop your bike fully at each stop sign is like a big cost to you as the bikers do. You lose all your momentum? And so if you’re biking defensively, which is the only way I ride my bicycle, like you shouldn’t be doing things that I mean, drivers just get mad on principle, I guess. But I feel like cars. Basically, if you are playing defense as a biker, but you’re breaking the rules of like stop signs and even red lights, but you’re not doing it in a way that impacts the cars, pushes them to slow down, or, you know,
S2: but you’re this your Novak Djokovic, your Novak Djokovic Nina.
S1: Oh, totally. I’m with you completely on this. I mean, I write, I think there are look, everybody. Well, maybe not everyone. I mean, speeding laws for cars or the classic example of this. Very few people, a hundred percent obey the speeding limits, right?
S2: Right, right. But you know, do you? But you don’t expect people to obey the speeding limits, but you do the thing. I guess the thing that makes people irritated with the bike example is that bikers will demand the right to be treated like you need to give us the the same rights that cars have on these roads. You must give us those rights. We deserve them. We are, we are just as important and we deserve those rights. And then so they demanded in one turn and then people like me are like, Now I’m going to right now, I’m going to break every law that. I’ve said I want to abide by because I’m going to roll through every red light and cheat through intersections.
S1: Yeah, I guess so. But if you ever actually had a through way in a city where you could just like, keep going on your bike because they built the infrastructure, OK, but they wouldn’t have to break OK, but they have. We probably haven’t done
S2: it the other way. Yeah. Even when their bike lanes, I still run red lights, so I’m not open to that either.
S1: Yeah. OK, well, anyway, I mean, I do think I’m actually like, We’ve gone far from Novak Djokovic, but I’m totally interested in this whole problem of like how bikes are really supposed to move around cities without breaking rules, right? Maybe that’s just the way it goes, right?
S2: OK, well, anyway, do you guys think should should Emily as our as our resident professional tennis player, do you think that Novak Djokovic should should just be they should just let him in? Or do we need to know more facts before we can make a judgment?
S1: Um, let’s see. I mean, I really do want to know whether he had COVID or not, but I basically think it’s just totally up to Australia. I mean, I think this three year penalty like that seems draconian to me. But I think if Australia doesn’t want to let him in for this tournament, they want to take a stand. That is something that, you know, the people of Australia feel like is warranted. Given the COVID fatigue they have, that’s totally legitimate to not let them in this time.
S3: But I totally agree. Part of the. I don’t know why you have these tournaments and all these different places. You can’t be completely absent from the culture and rules and gestalt of the place you’re playing, even if you’re playing outside of Germany, you can still talk about a good start. So if that’s the vibe of the country you’re in. You can’t just let exceptions.
S2: The other thing about the three years Sow Emily is that. Scott Morrison, the prime minister of Australia, in his earlier career was historically this led the campaign to prevent asylum seekers any asylum seekers from getting a foot on Australian soil and had extremely draconian rules for people who tried to cheat their way around Australia’s immigration rules and that those people would be punished severely. So if you were somebody who tried to get into Australia and didn’t have proper papers to do it, you were barred from ever entering Australia again or, you know, very, very strict rules about that in order to discourage asylum seekers who are usually like, you know, desperately poor people trying to make their way from Indonesia or Papua New Guinea or something to cross desperate ocean journey just to kind of get landfall in Australia. And the idea that those people are punished Sow draconian laws. But but Novak Djokovic gets to skate and come back next year to play the Aussie Open. You know, I guess he well, I guess Scott Morrison wants to wants to not marinate in his hypocrisy too much.
S1: I mean, that is the way that you frame that is gross. On the other hand, I mean, Djokovic didn’t like try to come in with zero authorization, right? He had this exception from the tournament, folks. Like there was some. It’s not like he just sort of showed up and was like, Hi. But I mean, whatever. Yes, fair enough.
S2: OK. I just don’t even like watching men’s tennis. So I don’t I don’t care. Who cares?
S1: Do you guys like what I do? Like watching men’s tennis, so I feel disappointed that Djokovic isn’t playing, even though I have such a ambivalent feeling about him as a fan because he is just so amazing at the game and yet just seems like about 80 percent of the time a total jerk.
S3: I like watching men’s tennis on Instagram because they slow it down and they show you not just the highlights, which are great fun, but they also show you the the beauty and genius of of their their forehand and backhand. And as a tennis player, I’m amazed also. It’s quite interesting the different kinds of forehands and the way you can have such proficiency and be moving the racquet in quite different ways.
S1: Totally. All about your feet and where you hit the ball and all those other parts.
S2: It’s interesting. Tennis is, I think, a sport. After baseball, I would like to spend a lot of time watching on on TV. You’re you’re going to get the ball. I love watching golf. I would watch golf. I would happily, if you told me right now, David go watch golf for an hour, I would do, I’ve done it. Sometimes I spend my lunch break watching golf. The senior open on the golf course to
S1: help golf, and I don’t know what
S3: we have figured out. David’s category of golf and soccer. He likes all sports in which very little happens with a white ball, Well said.
S2: All right, slate plus talk to you later.