RevolutionZ

Ep 255 The Media, Culture, and Changing Terrain of Resistance with Cayden Mak

November 12, 2023 Michael Albert Season 1 Episode 255
RevolutionZ
Ep 255 The Media, Culture, and Changing Terrain of Resistance with Cayden Mak
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Episode 255 of RevolutionZ has as guest Cayden Mak, the publisher of Convergence Magazine. It addresses media aims, Convergence's concepts of a multiracial democracy and a radically democratic economy, intersectionality, obstacles to left unity,  left culture, right wing dangers, and more. 

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Speaker 1:

Hello, my name is Michael Albert and I am the host of the podcast that's titled Revolution Z. This is our 255th consecutive episode and our guest this time is Caden Mock. Caden is an organizer and technologist who is currently the publisher of Convergence Magazine. Prior to Convergence, he was the executive director at 18 Million Rising, an organization using the internet and media-based organizing to move Asian Americans in the struggle for racial justice. Caden's work is animated by a love for and curiosity about, the internet and by a deep concern for the ways in which technology is shaped by and shapes political, social and cultural power. Caden also serves on the board of the Cairo Fellowship and the International Storytelling Center in Jonesboro, Tennessee. So welcome Caden to Revolution Z.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, thanks for having me, Michael.

Speaker 1:

It's a pleasure. In case some listeners aren't familiar with Convergence Magazine, let me just report that it is an extremely important media project that I, for one, greatly admire. This isn't only because I admire all efforts to communicate information useful for improving lives and reshaping our world, but also and especially because Convergence unabashedly emphasizes attention to tactics, strategy and vision. It isn't just about the problems, crises of our world. It doesn't only report how the ship is sinking, but it also, and even primarily, emphasizes the character of a new world and the strategies we need to win it. It emphasizes how to write and reconstruct the ship we are all on. So perhaps we might start there, caden, what is Convergence's agenda, if you will, and your own hopes for it as a media project?

Speaker 2:

That's an enormous question and one that actually so.

Speaker 2:

I just started at Convergence in March, which feels like it was a long time ago, but in the grand scheme of things, was not very long ago, and one of the things that I had to do on arriving is sort of wrap my head around Convergence's relatively long history.

Speaker 2:

The magazine rebranded as Convergence a couple of years ago, but has been in existence since around 2008 and has been a volunteer effort up till I was hired.

Speaker 2:

Basically, the editorial board decided that they could get more done if there was a couple of full-time people dedicating a full-time effort to business development, to organizational strategy and to building partnerships with both other media organizations and other movement organizations.

Speaker 2:

So a lot of my work has been trying to sort of sort out like what has our role been historically and what does it need to be in the future, and I think that one of the things that made me say yes to joining the team at Convergence was talking to some of the members of the editorial board and seeing that they earnestly were trying to figure out how we on the left can not just contribute to the broad front that needs to fight back the rising tide of authoritarianism in this country but actually be the dominant tendency and really set the pace for what you might call like the anti-maga front or the anti-authoritarian front in this country. And I think that, as a publication, one of the things I'm really interested in doing is be a standard bearer for a vision of a strategic, thoughtful, practical, hands-on left that has credibility with a broader front of leftist progressives, anti-authoritarian centrists, you know, folks who also immediately to our right, who see the threat and value democracy and think that there needs to be a different approach.

Speaker 1:

It's interesting listening to that, because I guess it was a year and a half ago. I'm not even sure of the timeline.

Speaker 2:

You get old time it becomes time is impossible to understand these days, it's just yeah it's fake.

Speaker 1:

But anyway, I you know, I was with Z Magazine and ZNet for ages and then decided, okay, that's enough, and it needs to have new blood, and passed it on. And so they probably it's interesting had the same confrontation with something with a past and them contributing to it going into the future that you had. So it was sort of interesting listening to that, because it replicated in a way what I guess they're going through or what I know they're going through. Anyway, one of the things that I noticed when I was looking over convergence was that the site says convergence's content all pursues the goal of winning multiracial democracy and radically democratic economy. Okay, so what are these? First, what would constitute a multiracial democracy?

Speaker 2:

I think there are a lot of ways that people define multiracial democracy, but to me and to us, there's a couple of central tenets. One of them is a full franchise, you know, making sure that folks actually have a meaningful say in and have access to democracy, and also that that democracy means as something you know. I think that a lot of times you find folks on the left who are really feeling really disenchanted with our system of democracy in the United States because it feels like the choice, especially at the federal level, between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party feels like a non-choice. And I think that a real democracy would actually present us with meaningful choices and the ability to deliberate about the direction of our country, whether it is actually voting on policies ourselves or electing representatives to a larger body, because I think that realistically, with the complexity of our society, that's probably going to be necessary. And so making sure that people have both meaningful choices and the ability to make those choices is crucial for a multiracial democracy.

Speaker 2:

I also think that to make that democracy multiracial, we do need to reckon with the history of race in this country and the history of racial trauma in this country and the way that the past continues to haunt us.

Speaker 2:

The past is present and in order to do that, there's a lot of work that we have to do around both understanding what that past is collectively and building a meaningful narrative of it, and also trying to understand what justice might look like together. It's small work, and I think that a radically democratic economy is one where people have say over their workplaces, over the kind of work they can do, where they have dignity at work and where the economy is not run by hedge funds and private equity firms that are going in and pillaging a lot of the sort of mainstays of our economy. The way that this economy has been set up for basically the entire history of capitalism doesn't work for ordinary people, and I think that when you get down to it, a lot of folks intuitively understand that and if you start talking about solutions, people respond to that really positively. They see that the thing is not working and are ready for new ideas.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, everything's broken is the way I had to put it. What about actual institutions? In other words, what you've described I think correct me if I've got this wrong is a set of sort of aims or a set of desires for what things should look like, how they should operate. I'm wondering, if convergence concerns itself, I guess, with what kinds of institutions would make those kinds of outcomes possible.

Speaker 2:

It's interesting that you asked that, because I think that that's been something that has been part of some of our internal discussion lately, because it's very clear that one of the challenges to making people feel like they have meaningful choices is rethinking how the institutions that govern them work. One of the conversations that I've been having with folks especially around 2024, is we can't keep saying every single federal election cycle that quote this is the most important election of your life. Eventually that becomes uncompelling, and I think it has right. That shift has sailed, and so it does leave us with the question what is next? And one of the things that we're really interested in doing is bringing the voices of folks who are doing some of those experiments, both within their organizations, within their organizations within their communities, to the forefront and talking about the sort of like hands-on, practical work of building the kinds of structures that will allow people to do that.

Speaker 1:

Does convergence I mean, I'm asking these questions out of curiosity at this point I don't really, you know, don't have any idea Does convergence call itself socialist or anarchist or any other such label?

Speaker 2:

You know, we generally haven't. I think that a lot of the folks on our team I mean it's hard because I think that, like, our editorial board has a really strong diversity of perspectives. We do have folks on our editorial board who are card-carrying members of DSA, for instance. We also have folks on our editorial board who have worked in various electoral organizations. There's a really wide variety of approaches.

Speaker 2:

But I think one of the things that brings us together is an interest in, like what is the actual practice of this? What is the practice of democracy in the 21st century? What is a media outlet that supports that? What does that have to look like? So I don't know that we ourselves necessarily have like an explicit sort of ideological line, so much as we have a shared sense of the need to also build a broad front. We have a big commitment to even though some of us would identify as socialists, some of us would identify as anarchists that, like, we don't want to get bogged down and sectarianism at a moment where the broadest possible front to defeat the right is, like, critically important.

Speaker 1:

I ask partly because when you describe the aspirations, you know the sort of broad desires for what things should look, what things should embody and look like and feel like in a good society, which is what I think you did. The thing is, bill Clinton would say that too, totally A lot of I mean across the board everybody would say, yeah, we want, and then the difference has to become either at what to do now or at where we're going, or, I would argue, at both. And so that was why I was asking whether you were trying to hammer out sort of not a commitment to some narrow line or some nonsense, sectarian kind of stance or an identity wrapped up in a slogan that you know you wards off every other thought, nothing like that but whether you do want to go towards something you know that is, that's shareable, that's vision, strategy that's shareable and that makes a movement, brings together all the atomized parts of it. Does that ring anything?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, definitely, and you know, I think that again, the thing that I think about a lot and that we talk about a lot internally is, like, up until this point, and like certainly over the past five or so years little more than that, I guess, since 2016, it feels to me like a lot of us on the left have been content with being the resistance.

Speaker 1:

Being I'm sorry being the resistance right, oh yeah.

Speaker 2:

And I think there's a longer, a longer trend of, in some ways, self marginalizing on the left. You know there are different ways that that manifests, but I think that, like the, for me the guiding principle is like how do we go from being the resistance to being the dominant tendency of that broad front right? And so the place that that puts us is like we're going to have to work with people who are kind of in the center there, who are like maybe I mean we have a, we have a clear critique of neoliberalism and we have a clear critique of capitalism, but that, like, in order to build the sort of ladder we need to get to a radically democratic economy, that we're going to have to like put some stepping stones in place. And I think that, like, by choosing, by choosing to talk about the work of actual organizers and to talk about the ways in which they are doing the spade work of building that broad front we're trying to make a case for again, like a sort of like coherent but non sectarian left has like clear values and principles around, like small D democracy in like a very clear form that also is like may feel more available to folks.

Speaker 2:

You know, I think that's a. It's challenging. You know, I think there's a lot of skepticism about democracy because of the media environment that we exist in, because of the just like mess of federal democracy in particular. I mean, I feel like the first federal election that I really remember was, you know, al Gore hanging chads in Florida. You know, like my entire adult life, I feel like, has been colored by an electoral system that feels rigged and has talked about in a way that it's rigged. So I think that there's also a case that we have to make for democracy that can't be overlooked.

Speaker 1:

But is it a case necessarily for sort of, you know, democracy one person, one vote, majority rules, no bias imposed, etc. Etc. Or is there even something about that that falls way short of so in our response, we do it perfectly. Do we then have people controlling their own lives? Do we then have people having a say over the decisions that affect them proportionate to how much they're affected? You know, so some have more say, some have less. You know, do we have that? That's what we call self management, or I call it self management. So there may be a vision beyond even small, the democracy which needs to inform, fighting for democracy now. So we're moving towards something still better, does that?

Speaker 2:

make sense. Yeah, totally, I hear what you're saying. It makes a lot of sense because I think that, like at the end of the day, even in its purest form, one person, one vote doesn't necessarily get us justice.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I mean one person. One vote about which headphone you wear while we're doing this interview is insane, right? Yeah, sometimes it's insane. You go to work and you know you want to wear a red shirt. One shirt, one person, one vote. No, you want to bring a loud thing with you that everybody else is going to hear. Do you get to make that choice by yourself? No, so choices have different outputs, different impacts on audiences, and that has to be taken into account, or else you get sort of silly outcomes. Yeah, yeah.

Speaker 2:

Well, and I think that also the thing that I feel like you're pointing out a little bit too, is this question about the larger environment that our choices take place in. Right that we are currently in a very silly I think silly is a great word for it Like absolutely absurd right, Just unmoored from reality, and it only stands to get worse, and I think that a lot of that worse comes in. You know, I live in the Bay Area. I have a lot of friends who've, like been in and out of the big tech machine and like seen what that revolving door is like and just the level of impunity on which those kinds of companies operate is, like profoundly anti-democratic.

Speaker 2:

Regardless of how much Mark Zuckerberg wants to say that he wants to bring the world together, the guy doesn't have an analysis of power. He doesn't understand how power works. Well, I guess he understands how power works on a certain level, but he doesn't. That's what I wanted to. Money talks right, but he doesn't necessarily. He's not necessarily thinking about power in the same way that, I guess in the way that power warps how ordinary people experience their own lives, even right Like the power that a media company has to make reality is non-trivial right Like and especially when you have economies of scale in the way that social media does and network effects social media does.

Speaker 1:

I feel the same question coming on Now. We're talking about somebody who's an economic leader and essentially the owner of a big economic. So let's say this guy does understand. In fact, let's say this guy is Mr Wonderful, he's empathetic, etc. He still shouldn't be in the position he's in.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely not, but everyone's addicted to you.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, exactly so you don't opt for a nice dictator is better than a grotesque one, but not much. And so you have to talk again about the institutions, just like with the political democracy and so on. Let me slide off this just a little bit, although it's related. What do you think about the concern that some people have actually a considerable number of people on the left, that is, a lot of women on the left, have that across the left. Over the past I don't know years, few years there seems to be a drift away from specific reference to kinship and gender issues and feminism as being as centrally fundamental as matters of race and economy.

Speaker 1:

It starts to feel like, you know, ages ago it was just economy. That didn't mean that people didn't think racism was bad or even misogyny was bad although there was a time when people didn't think about that at all but it did mean that sort of all the rest was impacted by, almost governed by, economy. And then there became an understanding that well, wait a minute, that's not the case. Race has powerful dynamics of its own and they contour the economy as well as the reverse occurring. And then the same thing happened with kinship and gender and sexuality and so on. There was that understanding coming out of the 60s and into the 70s and 80s. A lot of people feel like something's getting lost now, like the comparable importance of gender, kinship, familial relations, etc. Is being relegated to a second tier or a third tier. I wonder what you think about that.

Speaker 2:

I mean, I find that assertion to be pretty interesting and surprising in some ways, because I think that, at least from where I sit, I see a lot of people advancing a real like meaningfully intersectional analysis of the way that race and gender work together. In particular, I think a lot about the work of folks who are like trying to organize domestic workers and care workers and trying to understand the way that our economy is shifting towards a care economy and a service economy and that the people who bear the brunt of that are often women of color. I think a lot about that, the sort of centrality of that to understanding what I think is going to be needed in terms of organizing workplaces and how critical that feels to also understanding what the economy even is. I think that there's a All of the claims that even Donald Trump made that he was going to keep factories open and bring manufacturing back to the United States were always pie in the sky. He was never going to do that. Part of that is simply that our ability to do manufacturing has been taken apart piecemeal and sent elsewhere.

Speaker 2:

The places where there's growth in jobs is in nursing, is in home care, is in childcare. I think, in particular, knowing that we have an aging population, that elder care is huge, understanding these shifts in our economy, I think are really critical. I also think that a sort of crisis of masculinity is central to the appeal of the sense-making that the right is trying to do right now. Their politics of grievance is about feminism quote unquote winning, which I'm confused. Feminism is not one. This sort of quote unquote war on woke that they have going on is a politics of grievance that is oriented towards a very traditional masculinity and preserving a traditional masculinity. That is not good for men either.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I just think some would say, and I would tend to agree, but some would say, well, look what just happened, it's not being critical, but I'm just saying the way of thinking. We're thinking about it from the point of view of work, economy, all that you say. They would say and I would say it's true, right, so it's not a question of disagreeing at all. But how come not coming at it from the direction of parenting, what goes on in the household, family, etc. For instance, in the late 60s, there was a moment, actually in the early 70s I guess I'm not sure when women said to themselves basically okay, we've understood, at least to a considerable degree, where class division comes from. It comes from how we have organized work and production and the economy and it yields differences among people.

Speaker 1:

We also know that there's another sort of schism now, or another hierarchy male and female, there's sexism, there's misogyny and so on. Where does that come from? And when they looked at that question, some people I was considerably affected by said something like this Men, father, women, mother. Father role has certain attributes, mother role has certain attributes. Kids learn those attributes and those roles from basically experiencing that thing called mothering and fathering instead of parenting. I'm just saying that's what I mean by coming at it with the same kind of priority and the same kind of curiosity and anger as coming at the economy or at race. And I can tell you, I mean, I know women who are sort of saying to themselves what the hell happened.

Speaker 2:

What happened.

Speaker 1:

It doesn't feel like it's getting the attention that it warrants anymore. That's interesting. Go ahead yeah.

Speaker 2:

I mean. Another thing that I guess came to mind while you were talking is, I mean this just happened this week that voters in Ohio very definitively said, yes, we want abortion to be legal in our state. And I'm also thinking in general, abortion wins right, and it's both a political calculus that abortion wins and, I think, a very real necessity around gender justice and bodily autonomy and our collective right to bodily autonomy that abortion wins. And then I think that, like I mean I wonder if there's a way in which this, that fight in particular, has come to kind of be a stand in in some ways for what you're talking about. That like the urgency and the desperate fear that people have, especially since the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh in the Supreme Court. That like that is a sort of like locus and that like that sort of trajectory that is a multi decade long strategy on the right to take over the federal courts and that like seeing the writing on the wall after Trump got elected about you know where judicial nominations were going to go.

Speaker 2:

I do wonder if there's a way in which some of that energy has been like focused very specifically on that narrow issue fight, because that that's what it feels like to me personally, as somebody who, like you know, has has been an observer of, you know what the Federalist Society has done to the courts and you know has has has a pretty significant horse in the race around, around abortion and access to abortion health care. So I feel like that's maybe a piece of the puzzle, but like, yeah, I mean I have a lot of curiosity about that because I don't I don't know that like from where I sit, I've necessarily heard the same thing and it also might be different in the sense that like I mean, I'm a trans guy and I spend a lot of time in like queer political spaces and so I feel like for for sound bad, but to a certain extent I feel like in in my, in my community, in some ways, questions about like family and kinship and parenting are kind of the water that we swim in.

Speaker 1:

I know what, sorry the water that we swim in.

Speaker 2:

Oh, in the sense that I think that a lot of us feel free to just do what it is that we're doing, and I, in some ways, I certainly feel that way, but that that might be about, like social positioning and and where I live in the world more than anything else.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I was talking about not the country where there's concern with everything or resistance about everything, one or the other, but the left. But what you bring up is another, another kind of take on things, I think, which is the right, sets the topic.

Speaker 2:

Mm, hmm.

Speaker 1:

And the left, so to speak, reacts, and that's what I think you were saying earlier also. So what you have is normalizing disgustingness and fighting against disgustingness on every front, and so the, you know the topic gets narrowed to to abortion rights, hello, as compared to reconceiving how we live in homes and have children, etc. Etc. You know so. In other words, you're going from a broad kind of revolutionary kind of attitude to defend the ramparts against the. You know the horrible outcome, and it happens also in the economy and in the polity, everywhere, right? So let's get minimum wage but take over the economy.

Speaker 2:

Right, right.

Speaker 1:

And, the needless to say, that has to change somehow or else we're constantly fighting a rear guard action and never getting anywhere new, never getting any, never going forward towards something really better.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely. And ultimately, in that attitude, like even your wins sort of become losses because, as, as you rightly say, it's like in this country, especially the far right has been setting the tone of the conversation for, at this point, generations politically.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and is it? Because right now it sort of reveals itself at some level, but it's always been the case. You look at polls about the country, forget the left, the organized left. You look at polls around the country and, in terms of large numbers, that's not the issue. In other words, the right not only sets the topics that can be discussed and thought about, including by the left, but they aren't the topics that the population is most concerned about.

Speaker 1:

And so you begin to look and think you know, maybe media plays a bigger role in all this. Then, then one realizes that first glance, and then again money. So media needs money. Money resides in few hands. Media reacts to the few hands and the will of the people. It's not just that Zuckerberg ignores it, or whatever his name is, you know, or Trump, or Biden, it's that the media ignores it and it feels like the topic is, you know. So take the war that's going on, or, you know, the dynamic in the mid east. You look at the media and you would think that the country is all kill them, you know, kill the Palestinians. In fact, the polls are the exact opposite.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, the majority of people, regardless of party affiliation, want to ceasefire.

Speaker 1:

Well over the majority. I mean it's quite remarkable the majority yeah, and that used to be the case around every you know welfare, everything else too, and it still is. You know, the real irony here is back in the 60s, we, the left was, you know, was characterized as and there was a certain truth to it then, you know, a loud minority, a minority getting more right, and now it's the reverse. Now the right is, I think, in fact, a loud minority in some sense.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, about a lot of these issues. It is really interesting that, like there are a lot of ways in which we, the left broadly, are winning on culture, yeah, and I think that some of that has been several decades of, like organizers and leftists getting smart about how they appeal to shared values, not just ideology, which I think is like a really important intervention. It's an important strategic intervention because I think that, like the right has done that historically appealed to quote, unquote American values and then like, well, this is how we live those out and prove, like, propose a like coherent social program around what those values are, and I think that's one of the big shifts that like I feel, like it almost feels like a generational shift in some ways, that like it's like this is actually something that I don't think it's always good to replicate what your enemies are, like your opponents are doing.

Speaker 2:

But this is something where I think it can be translated to a completely wildly different set of values. Right, that, like making that shift in the way that we communicate about what our goals are is huge and, I think, again opens the door to building a much broader front. That is like yeah, I agree that, like, people should have access to abortion, we should legalize marijuana, we should do any number of things that, like voters have definitively said, or that you should just leave trans people alone A number of these things that voters have gone to the polls over the past several years definitively said no, you guys shut up. Like this is. This is ridiculous. Like, let people do what they want with their bodies as long as they're not hurting anybody else. So that's something that I think people in this country overwhelmingly agree with right.

Speaker 2:

But when things are sensationalized and you know you don't even have to look at like right wing news to see the sensationalization of this stuff like the New York Times is, coverage of how we parent trans children in this country is absolutely offensive, right Like the way in which they have frankly radicalized people from the center and made it seem like the parents of trans children who are affirming their children are somehow like radical, horrible people. Yeah, and it's like I just it's wild to me. I'm like these people who literally never met a trans person. They've had an honest conversation with them in their fucking lives. But that you know, with friends like these, you don't need enemies. But I think that people are starting to see through that and being like, wait, like there's actually a lot of value in saying people are allowed to tell us who they are and have autonomy over their health care, their schooling, their bodies, like it's. It's something that I think does appeal to humans on a deep level.

Speaker 1:

And you're trying to do that. You, broadly, are trying to do that and at the same time look at now it's even hard to talk about a ceasefire. Yeah, in other words, to, to, to be against massacre, to be against that, like to raise a kid, to be who they want to be, is something bad in the media, but I don't think it is in the society at large.

Speaker 2:

I don't think so either and that's certainly been my also just been. My experience is like I grew up in the Midwest and I live in California now but, like you know, growing up when people were like, when I would approach, like talk to people in my community and like when I was coming out to people, people didn't have questions about that. Where were you? In the Midwest, in Michigan, you know, a very purple state. I grew up in a very Republican area, like a Republican dominated area, but that, like, the question was not about. The questions I was asked generally were not about like, why would you do that? Why would you think that? What's wrong with you? They were like how can I support you?

Speaker 2:

You know, like, I think that there is, there is and there's a way in which the like, you know, I think that there's a little like way that we may over index towards story of self. But I do think that that's indicative of something that, like when people see a person in front of them saying like this is what I need, this is who I am, they're inclined to believe them. Like people have pretty good bullshit meters and I think that, like, when a person comes to you and says this is who I am. It's hard to look them in the eye and be like, no, you're not. Yeah, I'm the person who has to like have this body and like be in it, have this brand 24, seven. Trust me, I know. But yeah, and in the meantime, I think that, like the, our existing power structures are sort of happy to prop up like. It's honestly confusing to me because it's like, if the majority of people think a certain way, I think the ceasefire thing has been just like driving me up the wall lately because I've been going or like sort of circling around and around it personally trying to understand what the, what, the like Democratic Party strategy is here, because they're really, I mean, this is like a huge own goal.

Speaker 2:

You know, and I think it is perplexing to me that the calculus around I don't know if it's money or what I think a lot of it is money. You know whether we're talking about, like the defense industry, which stands to gain a lot, or people being threatened by being primaried by like more like centrist or like center right Democratic candidates. You know, I don't know what it is, but like we're living in an environment where I don't know. I was just keep thinking about how yesterday I don't know if it was yesterday, the day before the House of Representatives representative century Rashida Tlaib For daring to say that Palestinians are human. I cried when I watched your speech because you know you could see exactly how torn up she was, and it's wild to me that we are in this place now where that is happening and also, simultaneously, the vast majority of Americans are like yeah, we need to intervene, we need to stop this.

Speaker 1:

I've been mulling similar, very similar concerns and issues. So tell me what you think of this. So you're talking to somebody and let's use you could use lots of things. You could use Maga, you could use the media. There's all sorts of things you could use where this kind of phenomenon exists.

Speaker 1:

You know that the person you're talking to, if you weren't talking about the specific situation, would agree on the broad values, right? You can't imagine anybody who you know saying blowing up a whole environment, knocking down the buildings, cutting off water, cutting off food, cutting off electricity, just allowing motion, then blowing up convoys, blowing up schools, blowing up hospital. That's what's going on. I mean that and everybody knows that's what's going on. Nobody's, it's not even that. Nobody's denying it. The Israeli government brags about it. Even the US is done, didn't do that. You know, okay, so that's all happening.

Speaker 1:

And you know that the person you're talking to, in a calm environment, totally understands that this is barbaric. And yet the person says, yeah, but Hamas attacked and we have to stand up and fight back, and so we're fighting back. So I support something like that yeah, and you're trying to figure out. But you just said maybe it's money. You know, you're trying to figure out. Okay, what causes that? Well, it's not money in that case, right? Or I think it was a hundred to two hundred Israeli doctors.

Speaker 1:

Doctors Said we should bomb the largest hospital in Gaza and we shouldn't tell them to leave, we should bomb it while it's full. And again, you know these people are not going to say anything like this in any other situation or may do, and I'm, you know, I'm one for evidence and logic and reason, and and yet that's obviously not at work. At some level, it feels to me like the fear of being off the team that you're on Is bigger than anything else and prevents your mind from even contemplating the facts. If you see them a little bit, well then you say Palestinians aren't people. Therefore, I'm treating animals like animals and you get. You get around the problem that way, but it's obviously ridiculous, you know. Yeah, so there's this team allegiance, and so the left has to figure out some way to talk to people, and it's not as if we don't sometimes do that.

Speaker 2:

Oh yeah, we do it all the time.

Speaker 1:

We do, you know.

Speaker 2:

And that's the thing to do.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, abstractly it's not any better one. It doesn't involve, you know, tens of thousands of corpses and leveled cities, but abstractly it's quite similar.

Speaker 2:

And I think that, like one of the one of the things that just lit up in my brain as you were talking, is this I think this also relates to what I was talking about about coming out as trans in like a what was otherwise a very conservative environment environment is that A lot of these things are appeals to the way that people feel, not that the way the world is or what they understand to be true, but they are about appeals to the way that people feel. And I think why do they?

Speaker 1:

feel a way that's contrary to how they would feel in another circumstance.

Speaker 2:

Well, because of I mean a lot of it's psychology of trauma, especially when it comes to Israel, a lot of the psychology of trauma, and it is about, like ideology and also attention that, like I don't know. One of the things that I think a lot about is I think it is the media, scholars and up to Fetchi who said that the, the, the internet, has produced a surplus of information and so no longer is it an icon, is the thing that's dear is no longer the information itself. The thing that's dear is it is attention that, like we still only have the same number of hours in the day and we still have to, like, go about our lives and like feed ourselves and pay ourselves and care for our families, and like service our friend relationships, do what it is that we need to do, and there's this volume of information that's coming at us that is literally impossible for us to parse right, and so that we should even spend 15 seconds Entertaining an idea or looking at a video clip of something is itself an expression of a value right that like that attention is so valuable, and I don't think people understand quite how valuable their attention has become, like in a, in a sort of like felt, lived way. I think that people might understand it and sort of like a market sense in terms of like advertising and the fact that all these big tech companies are, in fact, fundamentally just advertising companies. There's a way that we can quantify this economically, but I don't think people have a felt sense about what the value of their personal attention is and I don't think that we generally have a good understanding because we are fallible little meat machines of how our feelings influence that attention and that creates a self like perpetuating cycle, right, like once you get rolling. It's like why the infinite scroll is so problematic once you get rolling, it's really hard to stop.

Speaker 2:

And I think that there is like we're at a moment where I think we really need to start getting clear about what kinds like the way that we want people to feel when they participate in politics. And I don't mean this in a like, a manipulative way. I mean that in a like, are we a movement that is life giving, that is giving people hope, that is like helping people see themselves as protagonists in their own lives and like that's the stuff that I'm really excited about, that, like you know, I think that somebody who really talks about this a lot is Maurice Mitchell, the Working Families Party. The way in which I hear him talk about electoral even electoral politics right, as like something where, like everyday people can be protagonists, is, like really exciting to me, because it speaks to that sort of like affective value that I think is really hard to. It's hard to like describe or master or control, because, like, it is about like our weird brains, which have a lot more control over us than we have over them.

Speaker 1:

In your talking you come back to the right often and you weren't doing that just now, but you could, because you could have said or you could notice, or I would notice, maga, so to speak, has those characteristics. Yeah, if you're honest about it, what Maga is doing, what Trump is doing and he is no fool whatever he looks like, or else he's awfully lucky but in any case, trumpism has given lots of people a sense of belonging and efficacy and involvement, Absolutely Contrary to their interests, incredibly, yeah. And let me just tell you an anecdote. I've said this to a number of people on the podcast who I'm talking with.

Speaker 1:

A couple of friends went and stood on the picket lines of the UAW strike. It was a 24 seven picket line, and so they're talking to this guy who was, you know, middle-aged, a worker in the union, and they're talking about the strike and he has a very clear understanding of what's going on and he's sort of teaching the younger workers what's going on and so on, and he understands the bosses and he understands the billionaires and so on. And so then she says to him all well and good now. And she says to him well, okay, but what is it in your daily life. Forget about the strike for a minute.

Speaker 1:

What is it in your daily life that most troubles you and most upsets you? And he says welfare and immigrants. So she says wait, I don't understand. How does welfare or immigrants affect you and make you concerned in your daily life? And she quotes him as saying bingo, literally they pit us against one another, the billionaires pit us against one another. So he understands that too. He understands what's going on there too. And then he says but I'm adamant, what bothers me is welfare and immigrants.

Speaker 1:

So it's another example of he understands and then he takes a stance that is completely out of touch with his own understanding. And so I'm saying what could cause that? And I think it's what you just described, that he has a sense of involvement and efficacy. It's his team, it's his buddies and he's on that team and he doesn't wanna get tossed off that team. And so he learns how to be part of that team. It's sort of like leftist learning how to be part of the post-modernist team. I'm sorry, I just had to throw that in Right.

Speaker 1:

You say this nonsense and you're part of the team and you have a sense of belonging and efficacy and you've left your brain behind. But that's a sidebar and we have to be able to talk to that. Yeah, and it's hard to. And also listen when people talk to us about our doing that. Sure, yeah, and.

Speaker 2:

I think that having that self-awareness also, to know that, like, emotions are a part of people's decision-making in a way and I think that you know it is both a negative emotion of, like the fear of being left out, but also the positive emotion that you're talking about, the belonging and the efficacy that, like we live, like the thing, the triumph of neoliberalism is really in the way that we see ourselves right.

Speaker 2:

It's like not necessarily, even if we dismantle the economic system tomorrow, the triumph of neoliberalism will be in the way that a lot of people see themselves as these sort of like isolated actors who are making rational choices, you know, and that, like the fight that we have, that is like, I think, an existential fight, especially as media makers and people who are trying to help make sense of the world for the people who are going to be making the change, is a fight against that logic that says that, like, emotions don't come into it or that, if anything, they're secondary, but like I think a lot of contemporary psychological research shows us that emotions are primary, and that also in an environment where people are so used to feeling deeply alienated and alone, the feeling of somebody saying like I got you, even if the way in which they got you is like completely nonsense, it's very powerful.

Speaker 1:

There's another problem associated with this, I think, which is okay. You see this and you start to relate to it, and you know one obvious way to relate to it is manipulative.

Speaker 2:

It's paternalistic.

Speaker 1:

It's saying, okay, what somebody feels is most important, so what I have to do is get them to feel this way and they'll do this thing, you know, and that's revolting in itself also. So you have to somehow figure out how to get beyond, get by this dynamic. Also, the thing about let me try one more thing on you, just to see we agree an awful lot. Leftists often talk about the public as being tricked with regard to their consumption and they're making stupid choices. Right, what is she called? Bundle of deplorable? You know, they're making stupid choices because they're being led around by the nose, see, and I don't think that's true.

Speaker 1:

I think what's the case is that the world is a crappy place and the consumption choices that people make, which they're consuming for what? For what you just described Feelings of belonging, even love, sex that's the way they advertise stuff. That's not tricking people, that's true. Right In the real world, life, so to speak, it's so screwed up that you get squashed and you have no sense of efficacy and you have no sense of belonging. And so, to the extent that you can get a little of that, how do you get it? Well, either through consuming, or maybe through fascism, through joining, something that you know and the left needs to start to understand this stuff.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, well, I have a friend who is actually working on a really exciting piece of writing, but I don't know if you saw this, but earlier this year, or maybe it was late last year, the Surgeon General of the United States, Vivek Murthy, put out this whole big study about the crisis of loneliness in our society as a public health issue.

Speaker 1:

Oh, crisis of loneliness. Okay, yeah.

Speaker 2:

And the thing that my friend is working on is specifically a piece about organizing as a real antidote to the crisis of loneliness. Because one of the things that is the case in the Surgeon General's report is that it identifies civic organizations and fraternal society and all kinds of ways of people finding one another and finding common interests as critical.

Speaker 2:

But the thing that it sort of misses, I think, is this sense of collective efficacy and the fact that one of the best ways to do that is to organize, and whether that's organizing your workplace or starting a chapter of a political party or trying to change the face of your local democratic party right that, those are all places also where you can start seeing yourself reflected in a structure that's larger than yourself. And I think that sometimes I feel corny when I say this, but I think that it was. Finding organizing and finding the practice of organizing is really what has been. It hasn't made me not depressed, but it has been an antidote to that depression in terms of like. I see the hope in the people that I've organized with every single time that I've been involved in a great campaign, that like that kind of work and that finding each other and convincing more people that they have more in common with us than they have with the far right especially Like that's where I think we find those antidotes to our crisis of lowliness.

Speaker 2:

Cause I don't disagree that the crisis of lowliness, like it's there, it's real. I think the pandemic's made it worse and I do think that, structurally, the way we get around it is organizing ourselves and finding different ways to organize our political and economic.

Speaker 1:

And the added feature of what you're seeing and pointing out is the difference between organizing and mobilizing. Correct If mobilizing is just putting a tweet but not talking about anything, not engaging, really just announcing a time and a place and the same people go because I don't know. Five years ago they were organized or whatever. But that's not organizing and that won't generate. Not that it's bad to do that right.

Speaker 2:

It's a critical component of the campaign.

Speaker 1:

Sure, but it won't deal with what you're talking about dealing with. I mean, there's another side to this, which is the extent to which the left, broadly thought, retains members or sees them for a while and then they are gone, and I do think that's very much a function of not analysis, not do we understand what's going on in Ukraine? Do we understand the class structure of this out of the? You know, it's not that. Is it a place to be which is somehow worse than being in society, or just like being in society, or better?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, sometimes it's even worse for some constituencies, you know, sure sure, yeah, and it certainly has been for me in my life in the past. So it's not all sunshine, lollipops and rainbows. You gotta be a glutton for punishment Sometimes.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, you know, yeah, I just stick with it, and that's not a way to build something that's gonna last.

Speaker 2:

No well, and I also think that you know so.

Speaker 2:

You know, I think in a lot of ways, the pandemic has changed the way a lot of people think about care and the labor that is involved in care, and 2020 was a uniquely difficult year for me.

Speaker 2:

Both my parents passed away and I nearly got killed by the Oakland Police Department.

Speaker 2:

Like there was a lot that went on and, you know, in that moment I had to step away from the work.

Speaker 2:

You know, and I think, when I think back on that and I think about where I'm at now, too, in terms of like feeling grounded, feeling hopeful, feeling strong, that like A lot of it was that I have comrades who one were willing to like meet me in my grief and my trauma and my pain, and who are also like ready to welcome me back when I was ready to like stand back up again and keep fighting, and I think that that's something that cannot be underrated and that's a real mark of a movement that is invested in the individual as like a valuable unit. You know that, like bad shit's going to happen to people, people are going to have to step away, but are we going to be able to like welcome those people back with open arms and like understand that life happens and also like be there for them in those moments where it's like I can't be a political being for like some of the spiciest years you know, like I couldn't be in the streets in June of 2020.

Speaker 2:

It just was not available to me and having comrades and friends who understood that and were like. You know, sometimes you don't see me, but it's not a reflection of my commitment, of my values, of the thing that I'm trying to do in the world, but it's a reflection of the fact that I'm a human being and that they were ready to be like welcome back. Like welcome back, you're happy that you're here, you know, yeah, it's.

Speaker 1:

There's another possible reaction. Yeah, there is, a lot of people have it, so the other possible reaction is sort of well, we're trying to change the world. People are dying, crises are unfolding. Go away.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

Right. In other words, you know, let the people who have whatever the attributes are. There's two problems with it, even beyond being callous, which is enough, I mean, you know yeah, that should be enough it should be enough. And it and it infects you after a while.

Speaker 1:

So you're going to mess up other stuff too. But it's also, how are you going to convince? I mean, we're trying to say to people, come join the left, come join the struggle, come join Right. If we're saying that and we're going to make a new world and inside the struggle it doesn't look anything like a new world, it looks exactly like the old world. You know, people aren't going to believe you and people are going to look at you like you're crazy and a lot of people in society who aren't political on the left look at the left in fighting and look at the left. You know sort of circular killing of each other. Obviously it's not killing, but the hostility and the inclination to find fault with each other. That is completely unforgiving and totally cocksure that it's right, right. They see that and they think and you want me to believe that you're going to create a better world.

Speaker 2:

Hello, it's incredible.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, really. You know they're not wrong. Yeah Right, that's not a stupid reaction to what we are like some of the time, so we got to deal with it.

Speaker 2:

And I do think that like there's a way in which these things are really available to us and again, you know, I guess to sort of like come full circle a little bit here that like I do think one of the reasons that I wanted to come back professionally also to convergence is the commitment to building a broad front Right and then showing other people that, like the left can be also for them and that, like our vision and our leadership is at the very least worth a shot, because what we got now ain't working.

Speaker 1:

But when you talk about a broad front, we're getting near the end, I think.

Speaker 1:

But when you're talking about a broad front, a broad front has to include a large part of the people who are currently lining up behind the right yes, and lots of people who, like that guy at the picket line who I mentioned, you know who are going to. If they've got to go to the left side or to the right side, they're going to go to the right side, and yet they agree far more with the left side, or maybe they don't even agree and you have to overcome that. Also. It's not obvious to me that let's put it this way the, if you look at the ecology of progressive left media so a whole array of projects Are they trying as hard to figure out how to talk to that constituency and how to reach it as they are trying to figure out how to corral the person who totally agrees and is on our side. But we want them to read our thing Instead of somebody else's thing. I mean, I'm making it a start because I can, but you get the idea.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, of course money is a factor. We don't have the outreach, etc. Etc. But at some point, people with good values and views and commitments have to reach people who don't have that. And you know, if we were going to have a conference about something, maybe that's what it should be about. How to you know how to do that? How to do that as compared to the fifth decimal point of what to say to the people who already agree with you.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah.

Speaker 2:

Well, I mean, there's two things that I think about this very quickly.

Speaker 2:

One is is that the number of people who stay home on a lot of political issues is huge, and presenting them with options that actually speak to the reasons that they're staying home is a non trivial task, Especially in this environment right In this environment, with Gaza happening, with private equity pillaging so many of the sort of like mainstays and anchors of our economy, and this.

Speaker 2:

The second thing is like I just think that there are a lot of things that we can try that we haven't like there's there's, in some ways, maybe a crisis of imagination even, when coming up with ways of organizing people through different strategies, organizing people through pop culture, organizing people through fandom you know, there's like a lot of ways that I think we can like short circuit some of that that require that, require some time and investment in terms of like becoming sort of like an authentic messenger around that stuff that, like I think, are going to pay us like ridiculous dividends, and there's like a little bit of investment happening in that in terms of like organizations seeing this as part of their strategy, stuff like that.

Speaker 2:

But I do think it's like deeply underexplored and there are a lot of ways in which people find belonging outside of sort of traditional avenues and whether it's like your neighborhood barber shop or it's like your board game group right, there's like a lot of ways in which people organize their lives that are not visible on this sort of like macro level but are about how people find belonging right, and I'm really interested in that stuff. Like personally, I'm like a big, I'm a big nerd, I am a big gamer and I actually went to and dropped, ended up dropping out of graduate school, specifically interested in massively multiplayer games as potential sites for political education.

Speaker 2:

So this is like my personal my personal passion is like fan organizing and and finding ways to link pop culture and fandom to the political principles that are often expressed in the media that the people are consuming.

Speaker 1:

Did you notice because I don't know the gaming world, but did you notice the the reaction to what's his name? Oliver Richmond, north of Richmond, oh, I.

Speaker 2:

I think I feel like I completely missed the boat on this guy. I like only got this like second tier of like analysis about like.

Speaker 1:

Well, I mean, it was fascinating because the guy does this song. The right, including right up to the top of the right, you know, all through the right. They immediately think to themselves let's talk to this guy, let's relate to this guy. This guy is being heard by lots and lots and lots of people and he's talking about real things. Let's talk to him. Of course, there's a sense in which that was totally ludicrous. Yeah, because what he was saying was contrary to right. But put enough into that and maybe you can capture him. The left's reaction was yeah, it's not very good music, it's not a great song. You know, we proclaim that. It's beneath us. The fact that the population is, you know, turning out in huge numbers for him, that he goes to number one with no company and no, no production label, right, et cetera, et cetera. Who cares?

Speaker 2:

you know, there's some there there.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, that's, that's the asymmetry that is, you know, suicidal, it's just.

Speaker 2:

Well, I mean my. My big example is anything with gaming.

Speaker 2:

I guess, yeah, yeah, I mean my big example continues to be Gamergate, which in like the 20, I mean it really started in like 2009, 2010 was like this incredibly sexist campaign of intimidation and harassment of women in game gaming and game journalism, and it was it turned into there. Like the Gamergate to alt-right pipeline is like, I mean, the Venn diagram is like a circle and it was like a rehearsal of all the tactics that the alt-right used in the Trump years and in the run up to the 2016 election and a lot of people, especially a lot of like the games journalists that I know were saying they were screaming from the rooftops. We've seen this before. We've seen this. You know they were practicing this in in 2010, 2011.

Speaker 2:

And the and like those chickens are coming home to roost and like the ways in which you know let's talk about, you want to talk about sexism, the way in which a lot of folks did not take that seriously. I think it really like allowed the right to kind of glom onto that and like a lot of the same people who found prominence in that moment, in that sort of like hysteria moment, are also a lot of the same people who like then we're like prominent, proud boys and stuff like that, and you know, it's like and it's not coincidental, right and they're using video games and gaming as a way of reaching, like, young guys who had questions about feminism in a bad way, but then radicalize them. And I think that, like that was something that arose out of like an actual like domestic dispute between two people who previously were in a relationship, and then it was like leveraged in this, like really messed up political way.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, you know, they reactionized them. Yeah, exactly so they radicalized them.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I think that's right. They reactionize them. That's a great way of that's a great reframe. I appreciate that.

Speaker 1:

All right, all right. Well, we're at the length point, but is there anything else that you know? You feel we haven't gotten to that you want to say something about?

Speaker 2:

Well, I guess, just just by way of conclusion, you know, I one of the things that we're really interested in at convergence is trying to figure out how we kind of walk this line between providing media analysis that works for the people who are in the work, who are already committed, and then also allows a route in for people who are new here and who are asking the right questions but maybe are not, like themselves, seasoned organizers.

Speaker 2:

And we're trying to find that balance, because I think that balance is important and in some ways, our current slate of podcasts is like an example of that experimentation, where where a SPP weeks is show indebted is very much like here's how debt works. Let's talk about how debt works, but then also let's talk about what people are organizing to do something about it, because I think that, like often, you get the explainer but you don't get the people power side, and then you know, a lot of our written content continues continues to be a little more like inside baseball, for for people who are committed, who are part of the move, who are part of people's movements and and who want to talk strategy, so give people, the links.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so you can find us at convergetsmagcom. Actually, we just published a great opinion piece about the need for a left wing primary challenger to Biden, which specifically about his mishandling of Gaza crisis, which I think people want to check out. And then you can find Maurice's show at convergetsmagcom slash podcast slash indebted.

Speaker 1:

If you go to, our main website, the in the, there's like a link for podcasts.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, people will be able to find it, but I really do encourage folks to check it out and thank you so much for having me. This was a delightful conversation.

Speaker 1:

Welcome, I appreciate it too and I guess thank you. And that said, this is Mike Albert signing off until next time for Revolution Z.

Exploring Convergence Magazine's Agenda and Vision
Resistance, Democracy, and Intersectionality
Manufacturing, Masculinity, and Gender Politics
The Right and Left in Society
Team Allegiances and Political Beliefs
Personal Attention and Emotional Appeals
Loneliness and Organizing Importance
Build Broad Left Front
Gaming and Media's Influences