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Interview: Ana Kasparian on Independent Media and More

The host and executive producer of The Young Turks/No Filter discusses Dave Rubin, Joe Rogan, objectivity, and progressive journalism.

On a recent episode of the Current Affairs podcast, editors Eli Massey and Nathan J. Robinson spoke with Ana Kasparian of The Young Turks. What follows is a lightly edited transcript of the conversation. Transcript by Ted Thomas.

NATHAN J. ROBINSON:

Good evening Current Affairs listeners, this is Nathan Robinson, editor of Current Affairs magazine, I am here today with my colleague Eli Massey. 

Eli Massey:

Hello.

NJR:

And we have a special guest. She is Ana Kasparian, the host and executive producer of The Young Turks and No Filter with Ana Kasparian. She has worked for The Young Turks since 2007 I think, so a long time, not quite since it’s inception, but pretty close. She is also a teacher of journalism at California State University. So nice to have you with us Ana. 

Ana Kasparian:

Thank you so much. It’s really a pleasure to be here. I really enjoy the work you guys do, love Current Affairs, so really an honor to be here.

EM:

Well, the love is mutual for sure. 

NJR:

Absolutely mutual. One of the reasons we wanted to talk to you is that you and we are sort of engaged in the same overall project which is building independent lefty media and The Young Turks has been kind of one of the first really. I mean it’s incredible to look back and realize that you have been doing it for so, so long, and you were kind of there at the beginning of YouTube even?

AK:

Right. So TYT decided to go ahead and experiment with YouTube back in 2005 when I believe the platform started or maybe it started in 2004, but you know at that time the bulk of the company focused on radio and Cenk Uygur was smart enough to look at online platforms and realize well these forms might blow up, so we experimented with YouTube, we experimented with Vimeo. We were putting up content everywhere we could and things really started to take off on YouTube, and so for a huge part of the business and the company’s history YouTube was the main source of revenue, and now we have luckily diversified. I wish we diversified more because digital media is really getting hit hard right now on Facebook, YouTube—all these big platforms—a lot of content is getting demonetized.

NJR:

Huh. I just wanted to dwell on the first few years of it. When you joined The Young Turks I take it it was a pretty scrappy little enterprise and you had been working as I understand it in more mainstream radio and sort of chose to deviate from the traditional path, I mean Cenk could have kept with cable news and you presumably could have left for one of the big news organizations at some point. So what was it like joining this odd little experiment and why did you stick with it?          

AK:

It was an easy decision believe it or not because I was incredibly lucky to get a job at CBS following college. I actually started with an internship at CBS while I was still in college and then when the internship was over I just kind of refused to leave and I asked for a job. I would do anything, I would mop the floors, and they didn’t have anything available for me so I literally walked over to the next news room which was also a CBS affiliated radio network in Los Angeles and they agreed to hire me as an assistant producer. But I realized quickly that the opportunities to do what I really wanted to do in media were very limited in traditional media outlets.

NJR:

Right.

AK:

So the news writers come in, they take copy from the wires. They rewrite it for broadcast and then the anchor comes in maybe 15 minutes before the news cast and literally just reads what someone else has written for him or her, and it just didn’t seem like a fulfilling job. And that’s the best position you can possibly hope for in that type of news room.

EM:

What work were they having you actually do then? 

AK:

So I did a bunch of stuff I didn’t really enjoy, but I understood that I was new and I had to pay my dues, and so for instance if you have field reporters you have to take their remote hits or record their content and then edit it and get it ready for the broadcast. There was a lot of I think busy work involved that was going into the rundown and making sure things were titled correctly, just the logistical stuff really. I had no say in the content whatsoever, it was just boring for me, and I thought “well, let’s say I pay my dues, does anything get better?” Am I going to feel less bored, and the answer was no.

NJR:

You know I felt kind of the same way about magazines because I was a freelancer before this and I remember writing for the New Republic and their new Silicon Valley boss there and he vowed he would publish nothing over 500 words or so and they would cut out all the interesting stuff from your writing and you had a little more freedom than you had in radio, but you were publishing these hot takes and you realized you weren’t really moving, all you were doing was allowing people who agreed with you to post a thing on Facebook and get mad. But I felt like there was so much more with magazines, so maybe you could talk about in video what is the thing that the The Young Turks has allowed you to do that you felt like was being so constrained within mainstream radio?

AK:

I have complete editorial freedom, 100 percent. There is no topic, there is no analysis, there is nothing that I can possibly think of that is barred from our coverage, and so having that kind of freedom and autonomy was important to me, and it’s interesting because I always envisioned myself doing real journalism; like going out into the field, gathering news, breaking stories, investigating stories, and so there was a little bit of an internal struggle because we don’t really do original reporting. We now have an investigative team, I am not part of that team, so we do have some original content, but my issue was that I wanted to provide something that actually mattered to society. So I love that you brought up the 500-word limit in magazines because much of the content that we consume online both in print, also in video content, is so condensed, it’s too concise, it doesn’t get into the nitty-gritty and the important details of the story. So what I realized was what new media outlets like The Young Turks and Current Affairs does is they provide much needed contextual information and details that help people understand the story, and there is a market for that. There is this over-saturation of quick takes and really it doesn’t provide much. I would argue that there is an element of journalism or a component of journalism that really gathers all the news that is already been reported and kind of consolidates it into lets say an article or a video just to help people understand what the story really is and the details that they’re not getting from reading one story on it.

EM:

When you first started at TYT did you feel like you had that editorial independence? Well I guess to rephrase the question, what were you doing when you first got to TYT where you felt like this is completely different from what I was doing before? 

AK:

Right, so first let me preface this by saying that when I started at TYT there were literally five people working there, and it was really in this like rinky-dink studio, and they were desperate for employees. I remember interns would come in, they would see the operation and then they wouldn’t come back, and so the reason why I think I had so much freedom from the very beginning was because they just wanted to be different and they wanted people to stay, but there were some limitations, so here’s what happened. I show up on my first day and in broadcast it is unheard of to go on air on your first day, no one does that. But Cenk Uygur wanted the audience to know who I was, to know that there was this new employee, she’s gonna be here for maybe two weeks, she’s filling in for JR Jackson. “Ana, tell the audience about yourself.” I remember panicking because I had never really been on air in a professional setting before, and again it was unheard of. So later, I pulled Cenk aside and said “I can’t believe you did that, I haven’t paid my dues” and he’s like “ahh, I don’t know what that means —there is no paying your dues, you seem like an interesting person, I want the audience to get to know you.” So a lot of different things lead up to where I am today. I was really lucky. There was one female host there at the time named Jill Pike, and she was ready for something different in her career, she wanted to go to Washington D.C., and so she leaves her job, and there’s this spot available for a female host. Now at the time Cenk knew that I wouldn’t be prepared to do political commentary. Even though I was passionate about it, I’m glad he didn’t put me on air for political analysis from the get go, that would have been a disaster. But he wanted to try me out with entertainment news, so it started out with one entertainment story a day, we would put that story up on YouTube and it would blow up. It would get a ton of views, and all of a sudden he realizes there’s a market for this. She’s good at entertainment news, so why don’t we turn this into a segment. That one story a day turned into a 15-minute segment and then that 15 minute segment turned into my own hour of the show, but it was strictly entertainment, and I hated it. 

NJR:

So this wasn’t because you had a passion for entertainment news?

AK:

No, no, no. In a way I did end up paying my dues because I had to cover a beat or focus on types of stories that I had no expertise in, that I did not care about. I have a very embarrassing admission; I didn’t even know who Robert De Niro was, like it really wasn’t my world. 

NJR:

What was the typical story during this phase?

AK:

They were bad, they were very bad. There was a lot of Lindsay Lohan; there was a lot of Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian stuff. They did really well, and look, I feel embarrassed about covering those stories, but there was a huge upside. Young people would go to YouTube and see that kind of content and then they would watch the Kim Kardashian video and then right next to that was a recommendation for TYT’s political content. Young viewers would then click on the recommended video and then little by little we started growing this insanely young audience that was much more engaged in political content, so I see the upside of covering those types of stories. It not only just actually helped our business model, but it did help to engage more young people in the discussion, but at some point I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to sneakily include some political content into the second hour of the show, and there was a little push and pull with Cenk Uygur, but eventually I got my way.

NJR:

Cenk didn’t want the politics in the second half?

AK:

He didn’t and the reason he didn’t was because he did genuinely love that content.   

NJR:

Why didn’t he do it?!

AK:

He did do it. He wanted me to lead, and to be fair it wouldn’t have made sense for me to lead the political content at that time, and I’m happy with the way things turned out because it really did force me to slowly educate myself on the issues to the point where I was confident enough to do what I do today.

EM:

So I wanted to ask you about that. How exactly do you think about the work that you do? Are you holding powerful people accountable? Are you advancing a progressive political message? Are you doing both? Are these things in conflict with one another? How do you think through the ethical considerations of the work you are doing?

AK:

There are three questions there. So I am going to start with the question about journalism, whether or not I consider this journalism. At first I would have said unequivocally no, there’s no way this is journalism, we do commentary, we do analysis. However I wish people could sit next to me throughout the day and see what I do in preparing these stories, because it’s not simply reading a New York Times article and then regurgitating what I read. There’s a lot of research that goes into every story we talk about because one article or two articles are not going to give you the full picture and you want to contextualize things with statistics, with evidence, to back up the argument and analysis you are going to do. I think it is a form of journalism and it’s not like we stop at “we’re going to just read a few stories.” We also call people, we talk to experts, we want to make sure that everything we talk about is backed up by the evidence, and that we have something new and different to provide outside of the analysis. So I think it’s a form of journalism. I think journalism is a rapidly changing landscape and I have so much admiration for reporters who actually go out there in the field, especially war reporters who put themselves on the line to get the stories out there. I don’t put myself on the same playing field as them. I think what they do is much more courageous, but at the same time I do think what we provide is a form of journalism. Yeah, so to get back to your question about what we think we’re doing, whether we’re helping to push progressive politics, I had a hard time with accepting the activism portion of what we do because it was really drilled in my head when I was at journalism school that journalism and activism do not, they’re not supposed to mesh. You’re not supposed to combine the two, it’s supposed to be about getting the information out there and to be completely honest with you my number one passion is the journalism aspect of what we do, but we’re in the Trump era, and I am not really interested in having discussions about what the ethical approach is. I think ethical approach means that you are honest and you tell the truth and you don’t mess with people, but right now I think we need activism to fight what we are seeing in the country. 

EM:

I wanted to follow up on that a bit. I don’t know if you saw a tweet that went viral recently by the writer Kim Kelly who a couple of weeks ago said that she was told by NPR that she should no longer contribute music articles to the outlet. She had been a contributor since 2011 and the reason that was cited was her activist stance. So that was kind of interesting, and then following that you had Aida Chavez who is a reporter at the Intercept who tweeted the same day that she was upbraided by her journalism program for tweeting that her father is an immigrant and they said—she’s an immigration reporter—that you’re being vulnerable, you’re exposing your bias, and that’s not OK if you’re a serious, sober, clear-eyed journalist.  So do you believe journalists should be objective? Is this term objectivity a meaningful term? Is it a coherent term? How at The Young Turks do you think about the rules around media ethics, are there things you feel like you are going to hold off on saying, like endorsing a political candidate for instance?

AK:

Yeah definitely, definitely. Look, I have my personal ethics and I do my best to follow them and for instance I feel like it’s too early to endorse a candidate, however I mean I know the records of every single one of these candidates, I know what their political careers look like, I know what they stand for and I know that there is one candidate who has had a very consistent record when it comes to progressivism. Now when it comes to objectivity I think that there is so many different angles that we can tackle this from. First off, there isn’t a single person in the media who doesn’t have a bias, and you know some of the clowns on these cable news networks who want to keep pretending like they are objective 100 percent have their biases and their biases show. They don’t say that they are supportive of one political candidate or one political issue, but the way they carry out their coverage makes it abundantly clear that they have their biases. Now the question is, are you honest with your audience about where your political leanings lie, and I think it is much more important to be honest and let the audience know, let the readers know “hey you know what I identify as a progressive” or “I identify as a moderate.” That way people know that there is this bias that exists and is this person covering X, Y, and Z stories appropriately, is the bias getting in the way? I just think transparency and honesty with the audience goes a long way. Another thing I am noticing in the mainstream media specifically is that they are confusing objectivity with neutrality. Objectivity means you put your own personal biases aside and you are able to report the facts of the story accurately. Instead what I see in the mainstream press is “we don’t want to upset anyone!” “We want to appear as objective as possible so we want to treat both sides as though they are equal.” We’re not going to tell our audience or our readers who’s telling the truth, who’s lying, what the reality of the story is, and I think that has been a giant disservice to the American people. We’re still having a debate about whether or not Donald Trump is racist. He’s racist! Let’s move on, let’s talk about things we haven’t debated yet. Let’s talk about the issues that matter to the vast majority of Americans, people know he’s racist including his own supporters who publicly say he’s not.

EM:

I mean, I know that you are sympathetic to Bernie Sanders, and you sort of obliquely referenced him when you were speaking earlier, but do you feel like journalists have an obligation if they have the opportunity for instance to interview Bernie Sanders even if they agree with him to hold him accountable and to press him on certain aspects of his record. I mean let me phrase it like this, what do you disagree with Bernie Sanders on for instance?

AK:

So, in the past I haven’t really liked his stance on gun control. I understand that he is from Vermont and we have been critical on that. He’s since moved a little further to the left when it comes to that issue. So for instance he thought that we should not hold gun manufacturers accountable for mass shootings. I disagree with him. These gun manufacturers fund the NRA, which then pushed for deregulation of guns, and so they are responsible. They are directly linked to the loose regulations we have in this country right now so that’s one example. I think that there was that wonderful piece in Current Affairs regarding how he needs to approach Kamala Harris in upcoming debates; I thought that was excellent because Bernie Sanders has difficulty in communicating some of his points without coming across as offensive to some.

EM:

That’s very charitable, that framing. 

AK:

So yeah I think that was such a great piece, it was wonderful. So I do think there are weaknesses, I think there are flaws. What I find fascinating is that from what I have seen so far every Democratic candidate has been open to those types of constructive criticisms with the exception of Tulsi Gabbard. Tulsi Gabbard will not accept any of those criticisms. In fact her supporters will lose their minds if you simply bring up her voting record. 

NJR:

Joe Biden has a tendency to double down on things sometimes as well. 

AK:

That’s true, that’s true. But with Joe Biden he’ll double down and he’ll keep digging himself in that hole whereas Tulsi Gabbard and her supporters will try to make excuses for the way she voted, which I find fascinating.

NJR:

Every time Tulsi is mentioned in Current Affairs we get a lot of letters. You’ve just gotten us a bunch more letters from Tulsi supporters. 

AK:

Look, all I’m going to say is just look at her voting record. If you are OK with her voting record that’s fine, but it is not a progressive voting record.

EM:

I agree with you. I think there is lot that is really pretty appalling about her, and there are some ostensible leftists and progressive who are defending some unconscionable things. I mean, during the debate she said she was opposed to providing undocumented people with healthcare, she voted in favor of a resolution in the House condemning BDS— 

AK:

Yes. I’m sorry to interrupt you.  Ro Khanna, wonderful Congressman from California, who I agree with on the vast majority of issues, also voted in favor of that. We called him out. When we covered that story we called him out, we called Ayanna Pressley out. But there was a giant difference between the response we received from Ro Khanna versus—to be fair not Tulsi Gabbard herself but Tulsi Gabbard supporters, right? So Khanna actually tweeted me and said, “you know you guys are honest and you guys are fair in your critique” and I really appreciated that. I didn’t appreciate his vote, but I did appreciate the fact that he listens and he wants to do better. I wish we had more politicians that way. 

EM:

You mentioned Ayanna Pressley. She’s adopted an incoherent stance let’s say on BDS in that she’s voted in favor of this resolution that’s condemning BDS and now she is co-sponsoring Ilhan Omar’s so-called pro-BDS resolution and I don’t know how you square those two positions with the other, but there was a great article in the Intercept from a year ago written by Lee Fang and Zaid Jilani that was reporting rather critically on Ayanna Pressley and I’d forgotten about it, but her record—she really ran to the right of Joe Capuano who was the incumbent. On foreign policy she was running to his right, and on a number of other issues she was running to his right. On the one hand I’m exceedingly excited and optimistic about the so-called squad and the positive interventions they’ve made in Congress, on the other I think that there is a bit of cheerleading I guess around them that makes me a bit uncomfortable. In the same way I can look at Barack Obama, his election as an historic election, and on the other hand there was all sorts of apologism for some pretty repugnant things and now the Democratic Party is starting to grapple with his legacy a little bit. But I’m worried something similar is happening with the squad.

AK:

Absolutely. I think that it’s our strong suit on the left to really hold our politicians accountable. The right-wing is way more tribal with supporting their politicians; the right-wing will support their politicians no matter what. But I do think it is important for us to call Democrats out when they have you know bad policy choices. I think one of the biggest flaws we see from both Democratic candidates and incumbents is their foreign policy, and I think it is because of corruption and if it’s not corruption, it’s this pressure to appear strong on foreign policy or national security. I think it was a giant flaw in Obama’s administration—not only did he continue Bush-era foreign policy, he expanded it, when it came to civil liberties he continued to violate them, so that was obviously not even close to what a progressive would do. He really showed himself to be—I think it is even charitable sometimes when it comes to his foreign policy to call him a moderate Democrat. 

EM:

Right, right, just looking at the 2020 contenders, there is a really stark distinction between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren on the foreign policy front. Even there, you know, I like Bernie Sanders—he leaves a lot to be desired. He said recently that he was “100 percent pro-Israel.” you go through his record there are a number—he’s obviously voted for the military budget on a number of occasions, but there has been all kinds of wars that he has voted to fund, and I think progressive media needs to hold him accountable on that kind of stuff. Just because he is better than the other options doesn’t mean that we should let this stuff slide. I feel like there’s a lot of settling with him that I think is not OK. 

AK:

So I’m not sure how far back you’ve gone when it comes to the military budget of all the Democratic candidates. He has voted against the budget the most, Elizabeth Warren has always voted in favor of it including increasing it beyond what was necessary. Also, I get it, his record certainly isn’t perfect when it comes to this issue, but he was on the right side when it came to invading Iraq and that was not a popular thing to do at the time. 

EM:

Yeah, I agree. If you voted for the Iraq war then that should be disqualifying. On the other hand, Bernie Sanders supported the Kosovo intervention, he voted against the Iraq war but subsequently voted for funding troops and all sorts of weaponry and so on. So I think that, again, just because he’s the least terrible option—I don’t know, we should continue to push him and shouldn’t settle. 

AK:

Well, I totally agree with you we shouldn’t settle, but out of the candidates we have now, yeah. So the way that I see it is we have to keep pressuring candidates—one of the things that keeps frustrating me when it comes to these discussions about electing the right candidate is that people think, not everyone, but a lot of people think as soon as we elect the right person all our problems go away. First of all, the president even if it is Bernie Sanders, even if it is the most progressive candidate we have available right now, he’s gonna have flaws and we have to keep pressuring him to do the right thing. So that is point number one, point number two is, and this discussion needs to be had more often I think–what is the plan to implement these policies? It is one thing to have these great policy proposals that I am 100 percent supportive of, but the president is one person, and whether he likes it or not he does have to work with Congress. What is the strategy to rally Democrats in Congress to do the right thing?  How do you get Republican lawmakers to bend to your will? Republican lawmakers are great at getting Democrats to bend to their will right? So we need to switch it up a little bit and we need to be a little stronger and strategic in how we get things done. 

NJR:

Yeah, and it’s not just getting law makers to do things, but I feel like to just get back to what you do and The Young Turks and what we do at Current Affairs—I think a lot about the role of media in building public support for things and in trying to—I just wrote about this guy who’s running against Nancy Pelosi in California, Shahid Buttar. His campaign isn’t getting any attention in the mainstream press, no one is taking it seriously. I feel like it’s our job as a left-leaning publication to take it seriously and tell people that there is another option out there. So, in thinking we cannot just rely on politicians we also have to build this kind of left-wing media infrastructure that is going to bring in readers and inform people. So how do you think about what you are doing in terms of its effects on policy and what your job is vis a vis public support for things?

AK:

I think you are absolutely right. There is a void when it comes comes to supporting the right candidates in the media and to just give you a specific example, a more recent example of how we have helped amplify various candidates—AOC, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, received no media attention with the exception of The Young Turks. We interviewed her 36 times prior to her election.  

NJR:

The Intercept also did. That’s the only other publication I think.

AK:

So there were others, of course there were other left-wing publications. 

NJR:

We didn’t. We missed her. 

AK:

That’s not to criticize you guys for it. To be honest with you, most people thought she had no chance. I mean she was up against you know Goliath, and you know we saw something in her that was important to let people know about, and so I am not going to take responsibility for her win. I mean she did so much to get herself to where she is, the canvassing she did, the community outreach that she did. But at the same time there is a role for media to get the word out about candidates who genuinely do care about issues that matter like economic justice, doing away with the destructive foreign policy that we have been carrying out for decades now. So I think it is important for us to do that. 

NJR:

Yeah, I vowed we weren’t going to make the same mistake again: When we see promising candidates this time we are going to be writing about them.

EM:

You mentioned Shahid and the uphill battle with Ocasio-Cortez. He seems like he has an uphill battle there. But Nathan you were telling me yesterday about — I mean I am no Pelosi fan by any means, by any stretch of the imagination. But you were telling me things about her record about torture and all sorts of things—I mean she is actively fighting the progressive wing of the Democratic Party and to oust her would be such an achievement and such an epochal shift in Democratic Party politics. 

NJR:

Yeah, Shahid put it really simply. He said, “look, we have a really clear agenda on the progressive left: Medicare For All, Green New Deal, and she’s actively standing against it, and has been doing so consistently, and I thought that made it very simple and made me feel like we really needed to get behind him.

EM:

So I have to ask about Dave Rubin, I hope that’s ok. 

AK:

OK. 

EM:

He started at The Young Turks and you two were close friends and you used to have dinner regularly with him, can you tell us a little about your history with him? What happened to him? 

NJR:

What happened to him?! Why are we stuck with him, Ana?! 

AK:

Yeah, Well I’m embarrassed at how naive I was, and look, to be fair to me, he was a close friend of mine. He really was. We not only spent a lot of time together at work, we also spent a lot of time together on the weekends. We had dinner at his house quite often, and you know thinking back on it I realized that none of our conversations had anything to do with politics. I talk about politics with my friends who don’t even have jobs in the political realm. But with Dave Rubin there were a lot more personal conversations. I liked him on a personal level. He was charming, and anytime we discussed work it was always about how he felt he was not getting paid enough. There was a lot of emphasis on pay and I understood his frustrations because working in independent media you know you are not going to get paid much and I really haven’t been paid much through the history of my career. But what I do know is it’s worth it. Having that editorial freedom especially if you care about these issues it’s worth it. It wasn’t worth it for him. He wanted to make a six-figure salary for a 30-minute show once a week. 

EM:

Don’t go into media then, dude.

NJR:

Well, I’m sure he is making…. Certainly possible if you call the Koch Brothers. 

AK:

So when he left the company we were very good friends still. We had no issue at all, he had no issues with Cenk, they even did a video together, a send off video where they were very nice to one another. No problem, and then all of a sudden I see him attacking The Young Turks and one of the first times he did it was on Joe Rogan’s podcast and it was one of the most hurtful things a friend has ever done because it was so public and it was just complete lies. He was claiming we edit our interviews. He was specifically talking about the Sam Harris interview…

EM:

Deceptively? 

AK:

So deceptively. You know Cenk had this debate with Sam Harris. It was three hours long; the full three-hour interview was up online. There was nothing to edit out, there was nothing to change, and he claimed we were dishonest, that we edit things out, which I thought was fascinating because Dave Rubin demanded we edit out comments on Israeli force against Palestinians; at the time, in 2014, there was another flare up in violence and the force used by the Israeli government was disproportionate and you can see that in the number of civilian deaths on the Palestinian side.

EM:

550 children were killed in the summer of 2014.

AK:

Yes, it was just such a horrible story and I think the consensus in America was that Israel used disproportionate force and Dave Rubin got into a debate—everyone on the panel agreed and then Dave Rubin got into a debate with Stevo who is in the executive team at TYT, and Stevo specifically asked him “do you agree with the Israeli government targeting and bombing schools and hospitals, if there are members of Hamas in those hospitals, are you OK with those children dying as a result?” And he ostensibly said yes. He knew that would not play well, so he demanded that we edit that part out of the video, and you know we did that for him, and now I totally regret it. I mean, I didn’t get to make that decision, he asked me to support him on it, but he didn’t really need my support. Cenk really didn’t want him to be hounded and harassed, and all that sort of stuff, so he was willing to edit that part out. So it’s just classic conservative projection, right, and I say conservative because that essentially is what Dave Rubin is now, that he was made to be a conservative. 

EM:

So Dave Rubin, you started by saying that he’s not — you wouldn’t really talk politics with him. That’s the sense I always got was he was not an especially political guy, but it seems like he came by these kind of right-wing views on Israel pretty authentically so that’s interesting. 

AK:

Yeah, he definitely has sincere opinions on that issue, there’s no question.

EM:

But you think that he didn’t genuinely undergo any sort of conversion and now he thinks small government and libertarianism are the way to go—you think that he’s sold out and he’s realized full well how profitable the right-wing grift can actually be?

AK:

I do think that, and one of the one pieces of evidence you can look too is the fact that he is never able to defend his positions.

EM:

Well, there is another explanation…

AK:

If you go through an evolution like that, or if you devolve if you ask me, you know why, you can argue why you have come to that conclusion. I’ve changed my opinion on a number of political issues; prostitution being one of them. I used to be against legalizing prostitution, but then I looked at the data and then I realized well this is victimizing sex workers, we need to legalize this, we need to regulate it, we need to keep these people safe. So I can make that argument because it’s a sincere opinion that I have come to whereas with Dave Rubin, we’ve seen the videos. 

NJR:

Did you watch Marianne Williamson kick his ass

AK:

That was amazing. That interview honesty made me take her a little more seriously.

NJR:

He thought she’d be a lightweight. He thought she wouldn’t be able to handle his interrogation. 

AK:

And that was the amazing thing right, because he was certainly asking her some tough questions, but I think she handled herself well, and I am in favor of asking candidates and politicians in general the hard questions. But he wasn’t willing to do that when he had white supremacists on his show. 

NJR:

He had like Molyneux and Mike Cernovich, just all these really nasty people that he was legitimizing as public intellectuals. 

EM:

Repugnant, just beyond the pale, completely. Well here’s a question Ana, do you think he’s going to at some point get bored with what he is doing? Even his fans in the comments, I sometimes read through the comments section and they’re just all complaining “Dave you only talk about the same goddamn topics, you only talk about political correctness run amok, you talk about college campuses, small government, can you like change up the shtick a little bit?”  

AK:

I don’t think he’s personally going to get bored of it unless it stops making him money, that’s really—It’s a very easy topic to discuss. You know he’s not the only one who is repetitive when it comes to this Anti-SJW B.S. I mean Rogan does it a lot and it’s frustrating because sprinkled in the annoying podcasts that are incredibly repetitive you have some great conservations with people like Cornel West, and so I’m hot and cold with Rogan. After that Cornel West video I was like “I like it.” It’s not that way at all with Dave Rubin.

EM:

I was going to say you’ve been on Joe Rogan’s show twice, and I think what Cornel West shows is that Joe Rogan is winnable. He has such a huge platform. Wouldn’t it be great if Joe Rogan was this real progressive warrior? You know the platform that he has we shouldn’t spurn it, we shouldn’t cast it away.

AK:

I totally agree. I know him personally, he’s not a bad person. I think what is important to remember is he is not a political person. We live and breathe this stuff every day; we’re in the know. That is not his number one passion, and so I think Rogan is actually representative of the average American when it comes to political views, and you’re absolutely right, he is winnable, his political identity is very malleable, and I think sometimes he does have a point about people who go a little too far in policing language or go a little too far in getting offended, and policing language as a result of them being offended. I think that there is some legitimacy there. My issue is that he harps on it far too often and thinks that that is the prime political issue that we need to discuss over and over again. 

EM:

Well and he didn’t disagree with Cornel West on a thing. I mean there was some polite, gentle kind of pushback on points here or there, but in general I mean, he was on board with everything Dr. West was serving up.

AK:

Exactly, that’s what I mean when I say he is pretty malleable. He’s sitting across from someone who can make intelligent arguments, he can change his mind. At the same time though, there was this issue and I think they’re becoming more and more debunked as time goes on, but you know he has had several pseudo-intellectuals sitting across from him and they sound incredibly intelligent, and they’re pushing pseudo-science, they’re pushing the wrong ideas that are hurtful and harmful to the general population. I think he is still convinced by the likes of Jordan Peterson and to some extent when it comes to Muslim-related issues, Sam Harris. 

NJR:

Alex Jones, right now is his top viewed video ever, four hours with Alex Jones.

EM:

Watching that melted my brain. It was really ugh…

AK:

I have a theory on that though.

NJR:

Oh yeah?

AK:

Maybe I am giving him too much benefit of the doubt, but Alex Jones is unhinged. He’s incredibly dangerous because he decides he wants to target you. His audience will harass you and threaten your life incessantly. My mind goes back to the Pozner family. They lost their child in the Newtown massacre, the shooting, and you know because of what Alex Jones has done in claiming that it’s a false flag and this is nothing but a hoax, that family has had to move seven times. People have been arrested for threatening their lives, but at the same time at one point Rogan and Alex Jones were going at it. There was a conflict there and Alex Jones revealed the identities of some of Joe Rogan’s family members and Rogan goes to extreme lengths to keep that stuff concealed just to protect them and I think what happened was Rogan realized it might just be better to patch things up so he doesn’t pose a risk to himself or his family. That’s my theory. 

EM:

That’s a kind of blackmail, sort of implicit blackmail. That’s pretty dirty. 

AK:

And again this is my opinion, it might be totally wrong. 

EM:

You’re just speculating.

AK:

I mean come on, how do you take a guy like that seriously?

EM:

Well Joe Rogan does have a pretty long history of being rather credulous towards some real out there conspiracy theories. I mean for a while he talked about it openly on his show before about believing the moon landing was fake.

AK:

I know, yeah. 

EM:

I think he thinks Alex Jones is just a sort of a trip, a funny amusing guy who can bring a lot of views to the show, which he did. He’s just this sort of amusement, or entertaining guy so he’ll have him on the show, he’ll have the other guy on I forget the other guys’ name who was like a fighter of some kind, and it’ll make for good TV good viewing. And you know it did. 

AK:

Yeah. I will give him credit for being better at pushing back. Here’s the thing: Since he’s not really immersed in the political discussion and not doing a lot of reading in political policy, sometimes he’s not equipped to push back or ask the follow up question that would be appropriate, and that is frustrating, but it is important for people to know what his limitations are. He’s not a journalist. He doesn’t claim to be one, so I do think it is important to keep that in mind when these discussions take place. 

EM:

Yeah I mean when Joe Rogan had Dave Rubin on he really pushed back on Dave, in particular when he made the insane assertion that there is nothing that government is good at, that there is nothing that government can do well, and Joe Rogan very clearly bested him on that and for a guy who is so into high level ideas and having big thoughts it doesn’t reflect well on him that Joe Rogan who is just a shit-talker, essentially, when you get down to it….

AK:

Well look, to be fair to Dave, during that podcast maybe his brain was in recovery mode and he couldn’t really defend himself at that moment.

NJR:

It’s been in recovery mode for a long time.

AK:

A long time.

EM:

It’s rebooting, it’s downloading the latest software, it’s just buffering.

AK:

He’ll let us know when the dial of ideas has been turned back to hot.

NJR:

Well Ana, we want to let you go. We know you’ve got a show to produce, I just want to finish up by saying how are we going to, we the independent media, how are we going to win over the credulous Joe Rogan’s of the world so they don’t lapse into conspiracy territory and so they come and join the fight for the left?

AK:

It’s the Economy, stupid. I’m not calling you stupid; you know I’m just quoting a very famous quote. I really think that—I’m not going to say that social issues don’t matter, of course they matter, especially now with what we are seeing with the rise of white supremacy and white nationalism, but if you want to win over some of those independent voters or those people who might be apolitical, you need to think about the issues that unite us all and that issue is the economic injustice in the country. Right now you have the right-wing claiming that we have a wonderful economy. The stock market has been tanking because of Trump’s trade war, but let’s keep it real, he kept saying the economy was doing well because of the stock market. We know that only 10 percent, the top 10 percent are invested in the stock market. The vast majority of Americans are still dealing with stagnant wages, increasing inflation, low quality jobs, and when I say jobs I mean part-time and temporary as opposed to full-time jobs with benefits. These are issues that unite us all, and I think that focusing on that, really driving that point home and talking about progressive policies that would solve some of those problems is the winning strategy: That’s my take, and I know it’s difficult because there is so much else going on and it’s so tempting to cover the bigotry we see coming from Donald Trump, but I would argue that rather than debating whether Donald Trump is racist, we already know. Let’s talk about what he has done to ravage this country for his own personal enrichment. 

NJR:

Couldn’t agree more; let’s leave it there. So Ana thank you, thank you so, so much for taking an hour out of your day to speak with us.

AK:

It was my pleasure, thank you for having me. 

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