YouTube Censorship and Now What’s Happening in Kansas – Thomas Frank

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YouTube Censorship and Now What's Happening in Kansas - Thomas Frank

Thomas Frank and Paul Jay discuss censorship by monopolies and changes in the political landscape of Kansas, on theAnalysis.news

Transcript

Paul Jay

Hi, I’m Paul Jay, welcome to theAnalysis.news, please don’t forget the donate button at the top of the webpage.

Thomas Frank wrote in a recent essay published in Le Monde Diplomatique ,  “This essay is not a brief for free speech absolutism, or an effort to rationalize conspiracy theory or an attack on higher learning. It’s about the future of the Democratic Party, the future of the left, and here is the suggestion I mean to make: the form of liberalism I have described here is inherently despicable. A democratic society is naturally going to gag when it’s told again and again in countless ways, both the subtle and gross, that our great national problem is our failure to heed the authority of traditional elites.”

Thomas ends the essay with this, “The mob attack on the Capitol frightened us all. But for Democrats to choose censorship (via the monopolists of Silicon Valley) as the solution to the problem is a shocking breach of faith. There are many words one might describe a party that, over the last 30 years, has shown itself contemptuous of working-class grievances while protective of the authority of the respected…but ‘liberal’ isn’t one of them.”

That was Thomas’s piece in the Le Monde Diplomatique. This is interesting timing to discuss these issues, YouTube just took down an editorial I was about to publish that called for Trump to be charged with sedition and treason, and also called for an investigation of Mitch McConnell’s role in the events of January 26th.

In the piece, I ran footage of Trump’s speech meant to incite the crowd on January 6th. I ran this footage to show what Trump’s role was that day. That seemed to be enough for YouTube’s algorithm to delete the story.

Of course I appealed. But what the hell business is it of YouTube to use an algorithm to censor me? That is, assuming it is a mistaken algorithm. I got a message saying they were taking down the videos that stated the elections were won by widespread fraud, which of course, my piece didn’t say at all. Perhaps YouTube didn’t like my focus on the coup that Trump and Flynn tried to organize, more likely, automatic censorship.

But one day perhaps, there’ll be other keywords to trigger a takedown. I have still no answer to my appeal to YouTube. Perhaps they have an algorithm that hears the appeals.

Now, joining us is Thomas Frank. He is a political analyst, historian, and journalist. He co-founded and edited The Baffler magazine, and has written several books, most notably ‘What’s the Matter with Kansas?’ in 2004, ‘Listen, Liberal’ in 2016. His most recent book is ‘The People, No: A Brief History of Anti-Populism’, and you’ll be able to find an interview I did with Thomas about his book, if you look around theAnalysis.

Thanks for joining us, Thomas.

Thomas Frank

Paul, it’s my pleasure as always. I like that quote that you gave, his famous last words. It’s literally the last words of the story, and in some ways, it’s my epitaph as a political writer. I’m sorry, I’m in a very morbid mood these days for reason-

Paul Jay

How can one not be, but elaborate?

Thomas Frank

It’s just I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about and going over the transformation of liberalism in the US, since the rise of Trump, and going back and looking at the Obama days and stuff like that, and how we’ve lost sight of so many of the things that we used to care about.

Now, I don’t want to be too negative about all this, because so far Joe Biden, who you and I talked about him, I had real doubts about Joe Biden, but I really like what he did. I really like what he’s proposed, the gigantic spending package. I’m very much in favor of that.

And I think it’s interesting that he learned from the lessons of 2009, from Obama’s failures, which the larger American liberal movement still won’t even acknowledge were failures. So there’s a lot to be happy about with Biden. But looking at the movement as a whole, no, it’s scary what’s happening to us.

Paul Jay

Well, talk a little bit about your focus on the monopolists of Silicon Valley, and this censorship, it’s really remarkable. I mean, it’s not like people that think that there’s widespread fraud and they created the election result, can’t find this somewhere else. And the fact that if they can censor that, they can censor anything.

Thomas Frank

Yeah, I’m not one of those people. I don’t happen to think that there was widespread fraud, and none of the evidence that anybody’s presented is in any way persuasive to me. But I just want to point out to you here for a second, Paul Jay, that people cry election fraud every four years. They always do this.

I mean, Democrats did it after 2016. Remember, that’s the point of Russia gate, was that the Russians somehow interfered in the election and made it, you know, it’s illegitimate, et cetera.

They did it in 2004. I remember that one. There were all these stories about it, casting doubt on the Ohio… Both sides do this all the time. I have never been the person that buys into election fraud theories. But I just want to point out that criminalizing talk about it, which is basically what we’re talking about here, not criminalizing, but censoring, talk about it, is a step into the unknown. That strikes me as dangerous stuff.

Paul Jay

I also think YouTube is doing something else. Within about the last month or so, our YouTube numbers started to really grow. I just started thisAnalysis thing less than a year ago. We didn’t get serious about even putting stuff on YouTube until maybe six months ago. For a long time, we were actually feeding from Vimeo and I wasn’t even bothering with YouTube, because it’s so hard to start getting traction there.

But we did, and then we started getting some serious traction. Our videos were doing in the tens of thousands, and then all of a sudden, they’re not doing tens of thousands. I’m quite sure I can’t prove it, but I think the algorithm that can find, because I used some footage of Trump, and delete something, they can also use algorithms to control how much something gets promoted, how many views it winds up getting, and they can do that based on the same, you know, looking for content, that for one reason or another they don’t want to do well.

Thomas Frank

Not only that, but have you, I mean, I can’t wait to see how this particular conversation goes over, because I’m sure we’re crossing all sorts of red lines now. But what if I start talking about historical election fraud? So as you know, I’m from Kansas City. Kansas City, through the 1930s, had the most corrupt political machine in America.

It was famous for this, this guy’s name was Boss Tom Pendergast.

Paul Jay

Wow. More than Chicago?

Thomas Frank

At the time, yes. Chicago later became, you know, Daley and all that became notorious. But Kansas City was famous for this. Harry Truman was one of Pendergast’s proteges. But Pendergast would famously, in the late 30s, boast it to a national magazine, about the methods that he used to run up these incredible scores, like 99 percent majority for the Democratic candidate. How do you do that, Tom Pendergast?

And he told them, and he described all the different methods. He was real up-front about it. That’s how Kansas City used to be.

Paul Jay

If we talk about that, and maybe we talk about how the stealing of the election in Chicago for Kennedy.

Thomas Frank

Yeah.

Paul Jay

So if we talk about election fraud in Chicago, which is widely acknowledged now, that the senior mayor, Mayor Daley, helped Kennedy steal the election in Illinois, is this going to get now taken down by.

Thomas Frank

So the stuff in Kansas City is a matter of journalistic record. Like I said, Pendergast admitted to it. He was proud of it. They talked about it all the time. There’s all of these accounts of it. He went to prison later on for this stuff, so it’s not like it was a secret or anything.

And the methods they used are actually, I mean, we don’t want to go down this rabbit hole, because it’s actually fascinating, because he contrived… You know, Missouri is a big state, and he only controlled one city in Missouri, but he was able to use that, and get his people elected governor, get his people elected senator, win statewide races.

He was very clever the way they did this, so well, we don’t want to talk about this, seriously. We could go on and on and on-

Paul Jay

Another time. Well, let’s talk a little bit more about Kansas because in your article, you write about Johnson County.

Thomas Frank

Yeah.

Paul Jay

And how Biden actually won Johnson County this time, and I saw in the last election, while the Republicans won Johnson County, it was a much more narrow margin. Yeah, much closer, and you described Johnson County as forever being a wealthy Republican county. So what’s-

Thomas Frank

Well forever, this is a place that’s only had a large population since World War Two. Kansas City proper is in Missouri for the most part. Johnson County is in Kansas. It’s a white-flight suburb that exploded in population after World War Two. It very famously had, I think, the largest contiguous suburb in the world at one time. It’s where I grew up, actually.

And they built these gigantic, you know, spreading out over the prairie, all of these suburbs. And today it’s a huge part of the Kansas City metro area, but it’s always been Republican. I looked this up, the last time it went for a Democrat was in 1916 for Woodrow Wilson, and it was a rural county at the time, a farmer county.

But it’s always been Republican ever since, and I grew up there in the ’60s and ’70s and ’80s, and it was one of the most Republican, I mean, if not the most Republican place in America. Intensely, deeply Republican. Voted for whoever ran against Franklin Roosevelt, voted for Barry Goldwater over Lyndon Johnson, voted for Richard Nixon over John F. Kennedy, on and on and on like this.

And Republicans dominated the place. The governor of Kansas lived there. Several governors of Kansas lived there. Anyhow, they were the ruling class Republicans. This was also, it’s not just a Republican place, it’s by far the richest county in the state of Kansas. It’s the richest part of the Kansas City metro area.

The little neighborhood that I lived in was extremely wealthy. My family were not wealthy. But this is the kids that I grew up amongst, and they were the ruling class of Kansas City, and they were the ruling class of the state of Kansas. That’s who they were, and they were Republicans by definition. That’s what ruling classes were.

So for me, the connection between money, power, and the Republican Party, was always obvious. This was second nature. This is something you didn’t even need to nail down. Well, these were what are now called moderate Republicans.

These are Bob Dole style Republicans, Dwight D. Eisenhower style Republicans, and that kind of Republicans, sort of ruling class, highly educated, affluent, white-collar Republican, these people have been switching to the Democratic Party as fast as their legs will carry them. And you saw this in 2006, it’s been trending this way for a long time.

But Johnson County, Kansas, this is the last straw, at least for me. I mean, this is the place I grew up, right? This is not some distant thing that you read about in a news magazine. This is for real. This is the people that I know, and they went for Biden. So for the first time since 1916, over 100 years, it went Democratic.

Paul Jay

What happened? Did they vote for Obama?

Thomas Frank

No, they haven’t voted for, I mean, there’s people there who voted for Obama, but they haven’t voted for a Democrat since 1916. So, no, Obama did not win Johnson County.

The New York Times has granular-level, like neighborhood-level election data. They just put it up on their website. So, of course, I had to spend hours looking at it block by block through Johnson County, and just the transition in the last four years is extraordinary. I mean, they’ve been converted as a whole to Biden-ism, if you want to call it that, you know, away from Trump.

Paul Jay

Well, to a large extent in American politics right across the country, what party you support is part of your identity. It’s almost like what football team you’re for. Switching from Republican to Democrat is a shift in identity. What caused that?

Thomas Frank

Look, Paul, this is, in my opinion, the big subject of the day. And unfortunately, we aren’t really able to talk about it, haven’t really talked about it all that much in America, because our attention has been filled by other things. These guys ransacking the Capitol on January 6th, Trump’s ridiculous claims of election fraud, all of this nonsense that’s been going on. We haven’t really sat down and gone through this.

But when you do go through it… People are emailing me, do you hear this in the background? It’s absolutely maddening. They know I’m on with you, and so they won’t leave me alone.

But there’s a larger shift that’s going on in American life that we really haven’t got our heads around, and that is that the ruling elite of America are changing sides. The ruling elite themselves haven’t changed. Those people in Johnson County that I grew up among, they’re still the ruling class of the city.

They own the place. They’re still the ruling class of the state of Kansas. But now they identify as Democrats, not as Republicans anymore, and you go across the board and this is… Look, Paul, when I was growing up, and you know this is true, Republicans routinely outraised and outspent Democrats in the elections. That was the nature of our two-party system, going back to Franklin Roosevelt, going back further.

I mean, Roosevelt was outspent in those elections in the ’30s, what, 10 to one? I mean, these insane amounts, and it’s always been that way. Well, not anymore. Biden outraised, well, Hillary too. Both Hillary and Biden outraised and outspent the Republican nominee, Donald Trump.

There is in both cases, in 2016 and in 2020, there was an extraordinary coming together of the elites of America behind the Democratic candidate, and you can talk about which elite groups those are, but it’s pretty obvious. It’s the, you know, wherever an elite group can trace its power or attribute its power to credentialled expertise, you know, white-collar elites, they’re with the Democrats.

Trump still had some elite groups with him, like big oil, coal, casinos, real estate to some degree, your classic elements of the business community. But by and large, I mean the white-collar elite has moved over to the Democratic Party. And I would also say in this, I call it in my story for Le Monde Diplomatique, I call it a “Coalition of the Aghast” because that’s always what we are with Trump.

It’s like, oh, my God, I can’t believe what he’s done now. But it’s Hollywood, it’s Silicon Valley, it’s Wall Street, it’s the newspapers. Of course it’s journalism. It’s big pharma, it’s the medical industry. What’s really crazy about it, though, is that this coalition of elites who now identify with the Democratic Party, this includes the CIA.

Paul Jay

Yeah.

Thomas Frank

That’s the little detail of the Trump years that just blows my mind. Anyhow, this is an aspect of the Trump years that we haven’t really come to terms with in America. I think one of the most shocking things about it, is that since the election, you’ve seen business, by and large, abandon the sinking ship that is the Republican Party.

I mean, you saw all these Wall Street banks say that they’re not going to… And Biden outraised Trump pretty seriously on Wall Street, but Trump was no slouch on Wall Street. He still had a lot of Wall Street billionaires on his side. That’s where the battle is fought these days, but not anymore.

I mean, since the January 6th, can I call it bullshit? Am I allowed to say that? All the craziness-

Paul Jay

You can only say it once, you’re not allowed to repeat it.

Thomas Frank

Okay. Since the attack on the Capitol, all of these business interests have just abandoned the Republican Party, and it is amazing to see this happening. It is a realignment of elites in this country. I don’t know if it’s going to stick, now that Trump is out of the picture, maybe everything will go back to normal for the Republican Party. But I doubt it Paul, because we’ve been moving in this direction for such a long time.

Paul Jay

Yeah, I think there’s maybe two things going on here, more than two, but two, I would point to. A very significant shift in thinking on behalf of the financial sector, and thus the corporate elites on the issue of deficits. They’ve really understood that this pandemic moment, and the possibility of a 1930s style depression or worse, is what has been predicted, that there’s simply no longer fear of inflation within any one site. So you can just create money and throw it at the problem and-

Thomas Frank

Wait, Larry Summers thinks it’s a danger.

Paul Jay

Well, he’s like a real outlier, and I don’t know why.

Thomas Frank

Isn’t that crazy? The world is changing so fast that the Democrats aren’t listening to Larry Summers anymore. It’s extraordinary.

Paul Jay

And I listen to Bloomberg Radio and I was listening to people from hedge funds and stuff saying they think 1.9 trillion is too small. There’s some people there that said, you really need something closer to $4 trillion, but there may be another $2 trillion coming because Biden says this infrastructure green plan is going to be another two.

Thomas Frank

Yeah.

Paul Jay

So it looks like it could be about four.

Thomas Frank

This pleases me. Everything you’re saying right now makes me very happy. I’d love to see stuff like this.

Paul Jay

I think where the problem is going to come is somewhere down the road, when the economy starts to come back, then the voices of the austerity hawks are going to come more to the fore, and the reason isn’t because they’re really going to still be so worried about inflation, because I think who knows when and where or if that ever comes back.

But I think what the Republicans, and including the business sector, are concerned about, but at the moment, less concerned, is workers get used to getting checks in the mail from the government, especially if those checks are more than $7.25 an hour they’ve been making. You know, it’s the issue of disciplining the working-class.

Thomas Frank

There you go. So it hasn’t really sunk in yet, but that’s, of course, always in the back of these people’s minds. You know, look, you’ve got a unionization effort at a big Amazon warehouse down in Alabama. That is extraordinary. And there is so much anger out there, among working-class and small business people. You could easily see this go to the next stage, and then, well, who knows. Who the hell knows, Paul? Then we’re talking about a completely different scenario.

Paul Jay

Well, they’ve let the genie out of the bottle. These guys wrote, these guys meaning the banks, I’ve been quoting this in one of my pieces, but Larry Fink from BlackRock, who’s a Democrat, was even talked about a possible secretary of the Treasury.

He said that as much as they don’t love a lot of things about Trump, his quote was, Trump ticked off everything we had on our bucket list.

Thomas Frank

Yes.

Paul Jay

All the deregulation, all the tax cuts.

Thomas Frank

He got all the judges confirmed.

Paul Jay

So they rode the gravy train of this megalomaniac. They nurtured his megalomania. But then eventually he outlived his usefulness, because he just got too damn crazy when he wouldn’t transfer power.

Thomas Frank

You might say the same thing about the Republican Party generally. You look at all the crap that the Republicans have done, do you remember my book, ‘What’s the Matter with Kansas?’ ?

I mean, all of the crap that they have done and said to win elections, and then what they  deliver is what these Wall Street guys want. And over the decades, they’ve done the most incredible favors for these people. And then they go out and win elections on entirely different grounds.

I’m going to change the subject on you very slightly. I was reading a biography of George Bush senior recently. Do you remember this guy? I was in college when he was running in ’88. No, it was a year after I graduated from college. And I just disliked this guy so much, because of the campaign of 1988. Do you remember this?

It was all about culture war stuff. There was no discussion of what Reagan had done. I mean, Dukakis was this terrible namby-pamby Democratic candidate, wouldn’t call himself a liberal. Do you remember this? They called it the L word. He wouldn’t utter the word liberal.

And Bush beat him by talking about flag burning, the Pledge of Allegiance, and above all, this idea that he was letting this racist meme about letting black people out of prison, to commit crimes. Do you remember this, the Willie Horton TV commercials?

Oh, my God. It was like the worst election ever. And George Bush traveled around America in a bus, eating pork rinds and hanging around with country and Western singers, and touring flag factories. So that’s how that election unfolded. It was just the absolute worst. But then, yeah, Wall Street gets what they want. They get what they want.

Paul Jay

So in Johnson County, you’ve got this more educated group of Republicans now switching to Democrats. In your article, you even talk about you can find Black Lives Matter signs on people’s lawns.

Thomas Frank

All over the place, yeah, in the wealthiest part. So this little enclave where I grew up, that’s where you see the stuff that I described. And I went back and looked… I mean, these are some of the wealthiest people in America.

Paul Jay

And Biden overwhelmingly won Kansas City.

Thomas Frank

Yeah. This is a suburb. He won every single precinct in this neighborhood that I’m talking about. I went back and looked at the data. He won every single precinct. This shift is extraordinary. I mean, I know it’s gradual and it’s been a long time coming. I know that. But still we’re here, you know, it’s finally arrived.

Paul Jay

Talk about some of the counties in Kansas.

Thomas Frank

Well, the poor counties are still with Trump.

Paul Jay

But hang on. If I’m looking at the history of a few of these counties where Trump won by 80, 90 percent, they’ve been, except for like one of, I think this one county I was looking at is called Chautauqua or something like that?

Thomas Frank

Chautauqua, I don’t know, it’s been a while since I-

Paul Jay

Well they voted Democrat, once in 1932, never voted for FDR again. The median income is $28,000.

Thomas Frank

Yeah.

Paul Jay

And I mean it’s a really poor rural area.

Thomas Frank

These are people who-

Paul Jay

Yeah, what is their belief system?

Thomas Frank

Have really gone down the drain. So a lot of these places, and this by the way, takes us back to my current project about populism.

Kansas is the place that gave us, gave the world, populism. The word populism and the political movement, and it was a left-wing political, a left-wing farmer movement that largely came from Kansas. Kansas is where it became prominent. And at the time, this was in the 1890s, Kansas was caricatured as a radical place.

You know, this place where everybody was crazy left-wingers and there, you know that Great Plains radical tradition survived up until fairly recently, you still would see pieces, like bits of it in places like North Dakota and Minnesota, up until very recently. But yeah, in Kansas, it disappeared after about the 1930s.

But it’s fascinating that these people keep moving right as their lives, as their local economies are destroyed. Farmers, as you know, Paul, are uniquely in the grip of monopoly, you know, Big Ag, in a way that’s difficult for people who don’t live in a place like Kansas. Difficult for us to understand.

And the funny thing is these farmers know that, it’s not like they don’t understand that, but the Democratic Party has real trouble reaching out to them, and winning their votes. I mean, it’s a complicated story, but these are people who, when you talk to them, are capable of saying things and believing things that are really quite radical, quite left-wing.

But when the national election comes along, yeah.

Paul Jay

Like, for example?

Thomas Frank

Talk about monopolies with them, yeah. Hell yeah. They want those things broken up. They want their power, the power of the big corporate concerns taken away. And of course they love the federal farm programs.

You know, that keeps them from the… This is, in some places, the only thing standing between them and destruction. An example of what I’m saying, I’m not from Kansas, but from Iowa, which is very similar. Although Iowa is still capable of going Democratic from time to time, but in 2008, Barack Obama, running for President in the primaries, do you remember?

And nobody thought he was going to win at first. It was supposed to be Hillary’s year, 2008. And Obama comes out of nowhere. He’s a politician, he’s a senator from Illinois, comes out of nowhere, and wins the Iowa caucuses. You know, big upset. And the rest is history, as they say. Well, how did he do that?

One of the ways he did it, is Obama had been in the Illinois state legislature for many years, and he understood farm issues, and he understood that one thing that really makes farmers mad, is Big Ag, agricultural monopolies, and every farmer faces these.

I mean, they control your life. If that’s what you do, if you’re a farmer. They control every aspect of your economic life, of your life as a farmer, and Obama went around in Iowa and promised to break up these monopolies, and the farmers loved that.

And that’s how he beat Hillary. Now, then he becomes President, Paul, and here’s the lesson. Ask yourself, what did he do about it? Well, nothing. Nothing.

And eight years later, these counties that Obama won in that gave him the Iowa caucuses, these all go for Trump, and that’s the disaster, and it is a recurring theme in that part of the Midwest.

Paul Jay

I was reading again quickly about some of the history of these counties on the border of Missouri and Kansas, and during the Civil War, there was one Black regiment fighting a Confederate guerrilla army, and it was a big battle that took place, and then a few years later, there was a slaughter of I think some former Confederate soldiers went into a Black area and slaughtered a bunch of Blacks.

Thomas Frank

Is this during the Civil War or before this? So Kansas famously had the Civil War before the rest of America.

It was called Bleeding Kansas. I’m going to show you something. So that’s the picture that hangs on a wall in the Kansas state capital, and it shows John Brown, he’s got a Bible in one hand and a rifle in the other. His hands are red with blood. And Kansas is where he operated.

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That’s where he killed all these Missouri slaveholders, because there was a border war between the two, over whether Kansas is going to be a free state or a slave state.

And basically that’s the founding of the state, is guys like John Brown and other abolitionists that moved out there deliberately to fight slavery. This is, like I say, five years before the Civil War, to block the advance of slavery to the west by force of arms.

And that’s where the state began. And so, yeah, they fought pretty viciously with the slave owners from Missouri, and in the Civil War, there was this one, I don’t know if this is the incident you’re describing, there was one of the worst Confederate, well, he was a terrorist. His name was Quantrill, came over from Missouri and burned Lawrence, Kansas, and shot and killed everybody they could get their hands on.

Paul Jay

I think that is the one.

Thomas Frank

It’s the worst civilian massacre in the Civil War, and it was because Lawrence, Kansas was the big abolitionist center at the time. And then the Kansans came over and they got Missouri back. I mean, this is all, you know, it’s just incredibly bloody and awful what they did to each other. But, yeah, it went on and on and on.

Paul Jay

Well, in terms of some of these areas that have been voting Republican forever and are very pro-Trump, 80, 90 percent, how much is this the cultural passing on of this race war?

Thomas Frank

Well, the thing is, that these were places that were on the good team back in those days.

Paul Jay

Did they stay Republican forever?

Thomas Frank

Well, the Republicans were the good guys in that war.

Paul Jay

Back then, yeah. Right back when Lincoln-

Thomas Frank

That’s actually one of the interesting things about Kansas, is that it’s remained loyal. So you have other states where the flip has been a partisan flip, like West Virginia, which since the early ’90s has gone to the Republican Party.

West Virginia used to be profoundly Democratic Pro-Union, you know, the United Mine Workers, all that thing, all those strikes, and stuff in the ’20s and ’30s. But Kansas has been Republican all along. But it’s a different kind of Republican now, than back then. They’ve gone way, way, way to the right.

Well, all of these places have, Paul. This is the frustrating, fascinating story of our time, and I’ll tell you the truth, I’m sick of talking about it. I mean, I wrote about this 20 years ago now. And the reaction at the time was that it was not right to attack conservatism in the way that I did, that this was not permissible to say the things, everybody says this stuff now. You can call Trump any name you want, and liberals will celebrate you for doing that.

Well, when I did this back in 2004, it was regarded as extremely controversial. And then there was a big backlash against the book by people who said that this wasn’t happening. So my idea was that the white working-class was moving to the Republican Party, or moving to conservatism, is the way to put it, from the moderate Republicanism to the… You see what I’m saying. Big movement to the right.

Paul Jay

But I think it’s important to say the white rural working-class, because I’m not so sure it was in big cities.

Thomas Frank

No, a lot of this was in cities, or in the suburbs anyway. So in a place like Wichita, I spent a lot of time in Wichita when I was writing this. And I would also say in some of the suburbs in Johnson County, that your viewers don’t need to know. But Olathe and Shawnee, the more blue-collar suburbs, were the ones that were supporting this shift to the right. And it happened in Kansas, happened everywhere.

Paul Jay

But a lot of them did vote for Biden. I mean, Kansas City must be majority working-class and-

Thomas Frank

Oh, of course, what you’re talking about. Yeah. KCMO yeah. Hell yeah. Yes, yeah.

Paul Jay

I think there’s an urban and rural split.

Thomas Frank

Up until now this has been a phenomenon mainly of white working-class people. I mean, that’s who we’re talking about here.

Paul Jay

But even within the white working-class, isn’t there a significant difference between the urban white working-class and the rural white working-class?

Thomas Frank

Yes, but I don’t know if that’s the difference. I would say the organized and the non. I mean, union members have, by and large, remained loyal to the Democratic Party in a way that non-union members… Look, you’re right, but I just think it’s a bigger story than that.

I mean, rural is farmers. Farmers are not even a majority in Kansas. They’re not a majority anywhere. You’re talking about small-town people, things like that? Yes. That is a big part of the story, yeah.

Paul Jay

Yeah. Because I think one of the critiques I would make, and I think you’re making too, of the liberal class, the Democratic Party, corporate Dems leadership, is they’ve just ignored rural life.

I have an interview I’m coming out in a couple of days, with Henry Giroux, and we were talking about this. The deterioration of the educational system in rural America, the lack of just basic knowledge because the schools are just so terrible. And, you know, Obama had this thing where all he did was push testing, but they did nothing about actually giving people a better education.

Thomas Frank

Obama is the classic example of this, because he actually did, like I said, that famous story from Iowa in 2008. In some ways, he owed his presidency to rural voters in Iowa who rescued him, and then he did nothing. But if that doesn’t show you that there is potential to win these people, and if you go further north in the Great Plains, you still find rural areas that were Democratic until very recently.

Look at the map of Minnesota some time. Now look, all these areas have flipped to Trump, or just about all of them. But I mean, even places that were, like you go back and look at the counties that the Socialists won in the year 1912. They won a county in Kansas, by the way, this is Eugene Debs, he was popular in Kansas. He lived there for a while. He was a populist.

But all of these places have gone way to the right, you know this, and a really depressing one and a disastrous one, and the Democrats have, by and large, been extremely complacent about this. They have taken very few steps. I mean, no steps to do anything about this, because they think they’ve got a plan that can’t fail, which is the demographic change.

The groups that are growing in American life tend to vote Democratic, and so they don’t think that it really matters. They think they don’t need to do anything about it.

Unfortunately, what I’m describing is just pure complacency by the Democratic Party, because they think that demographics are going to deliver everything to them and they don’t have to do anything differently.

Paul Jay

And they can win without 74 million voters?

Thomas Frank

Yeah. By the way, isn’t that a fascinating thing that Trump did so well with… I mean, Trump did much better than anybody thought he was going to do. Everybody was predicting a Trump wipeout. Well, because he’s this massively discredited President who did a terrible job.

I mean, his response to COVID is nothing short of catastrophic, you know? Dreadful President. But he wasn’t repudiated in a way that other Presidents have been. That was, sorry, got to hold still. That was shocking to me. That was startling to me.

Paul Jay

Some of the Democrats I’ve talked to, corporate Democrat types, they just write off this 20, 25 percent of the Trump vote. That’s right-wing evangelical. Oh, they’re evangelicals, but this used to be Christian socialists. Just because someone’s Christian doesn’t make them right-wing?

Thomas Frank

Well, we’re dancing around this point here, which is that liberalism, once upon a time, all of these different groups were part of the liberal coalition, and liberalism has lost these people over the years.

You know, I’ve been reading a lot of stuff about the 1930s and about Franklin Roosevelt. And Franklin Roosevelt was immensely popular among the people that we’re describing. Franklin Roosevelt is the first one that gave us a legitimate farm bill. He basically took these old populist proposals and made it into the modern-day farm program. Well, Roosevelt did that. That was a Democrat that did that, and these people loved Franklin Roosevelt.

You look at a state like Missouri, was so Democratic. Now, in this case, there being Democratic goes back to the Civil War. This was a state that wasn’t part of the Confederacy, but slavery was legal in Missouri, but along the way, they became the good Democrats, and when I was a kid, Missouri voted for liberals and Democrats all the time.

Harry Truman was from Missouri. We talked about Pendergast at the start of this show. Maybe I should shut my mouth right now, before I dig myself into a hole. But just look at the maps of Missouri now. They don’t win anything outside of the big cities in the college town. They’re just wiped out as a party, in a state once that they absolutely dominated and there are many examples of this all over the map.

But these are all people who used to vote Democratic, or their parents voted Democratic, or people in their situation voted Democratic, and the Democratic Party has lost these voters. And this is being brushed under the rug again, because the Democrats just won. Biden won. We don’t have to worry about it.

Thomas Frank

But I’m here to tell you, this problem is not going away. Trump might disappear, but the problem itself, the larger problem will not disappear.

Paul Jay

Well, the appointment of the Secretary of Agriculture did not encourage people that were looking for some change, what’s his name, Vilsack?

Thomas Frank

Vilsack, he’s seems to be a friend of Big Ag, the very companies that I’ve been talking about.

Paul Jay

Because at this time, when there’s actually a lot of support for a big infrastructure plan, and some real money going into the economy, I mean, now would be the time to really throw money into these areas.

Thomas Frank

Hell yes, absolutely. Yes, but that requires a certain innovative thinking that I haven’t seen from the Democratic Party in a long time, although, hey, look, I don’t want to be too negative. I mean, maybe Biden is, look at this, I’m focusing, maybe Biden is the man to fix everything. I don’t want it to be today, but seriously.

I mean, he’s not Bernie Sanders or anything. He’s not even Elizabeth Warren. But he is… Yeah, I don’t know. I don’t want to be too optimistic about him either. So I’m just going to shut up about that right now.

Paul Jay

Yeah. I mean, I don’t, I’m not-

Thomas Frank

I want to give him a chance, you know?

Paul Jay

Yeah. I mean I would go step by step and judge based on actual policy, but I think because this unique moment that I said earlier, where the finance and corporate sector is pro deficit spending and don’t care-

Thomas Frank

It’s quite incredible.

Paul Jay

Because of that moment, some decent policy might come out, and we’ll see.

Thomas Frank

All sorts of things are possible. Yes.

Paul Jay

I mean, on the foreign policy side, there’s a couple of, the Yemen thing’s good, I think, but a lot of the people he’s appointed are real old guard and interventionist, and the rhetoric about China and Russia is all ramping up.

Thomas Frank

Yeah, well, you in Canada, you can worry about that. We don’t care about that here in America. Foreign policy stuff. I mean, yeah, I do. But your average American doesn’t give a damn about that. That’s strictly Canadians. I’m sorry. I’m just. I’m teasing you. I’m teasing you.

Paul Jay

Well, I’ll put on my Canadian hat. There’s a great line in Lorax where the guy offers Lorax a bribe of some sweet cookies or cakes, and he eats it. He says, I’ll eat them, but I’m highly offended. That’s kind of the liberal elites, isn’t it?

Thomas Frank

Yeah. So anyhow, we’re in this crazy time in America and we started off the show talking about your incident of being censored by YouTube, which is-

Paul Jay

Let me just say that I’m going to release the editorial again. I hadn’t actually made it public. It was still non-listed, because I just wanted to look at it. I’m doing some rewriting of it, and I’m going to release it again. I’m still going to have Trump quotes in it. And if it does get deleted again, I’m going to feed it from something else and then I’m going to do a video on YouTube anyway, talking about YouTube censorship, and then I want to see if my video about YouTube censorship gets taken down.

Thomas Frank

Yeah, of course. Hell yeah. We can’t talk about censorship, censor that. Anyhow, we’re finally discovering the price of allowing all these Silicon Valley monopolies to take over our conversation. This whole period of COVID, where it’s like all of our conversations now have to have this stupid intermediary sitting out there in California selling us.

So I remember a book that I read long ago by a great author called Earl Shorris, and he was describing the rise of the advertising industry, and he said the genius of TV was that it put advertising between us and life, in, it started with the 1950s and the 1960s there.

And that’s the genius of Silicon Valley, is that it’s like they’ve captured personal communication, that’s what social media is, and they own it. And here in COVID time, that’s what we have. And now you’ve got these liberals, Democrats, constantly calling on Silicon Valley to censor people’s communication with each other, to crack down on them in this way.

In fact, The New York Times does this all the time, which is ironic because they’re a newspaper and they’re supposed to defend the First Amendment and everything. But that’s where we are in America today. These companies have this incredible power. And instead of taking that power away from them, which is the obvious thing to do, we sit around and fantasize about how we can coerce them or persuade them into using the power to damage our political enemies, which is, Paul, it is so dangerous.

It is so foolish to think that, I mean, liberals thinking that they have the upper hand in some censorship battle. It’s like, my friends, you have not read history, if you think that you’re going to win the censorship battle, it just doesn’t work that way.

Paul Jay

When you say take the power away from them, what does that mean?

Thomas Frank

From Silicon Valley? I mean, break them up. I mean, these are monopolies. We have laws against this stuff. We haven’t enforced those laws since the 1980s, but the laws are on the books. This is one of my huge critiques of the Obama administration, is that they didn’t do… The Silicon Valley social media monopolies were coming together while Obama was President and he didn’t do anything about it. In fact, Google, et cetera, et cetera, Twitter, Facebook, he did the opposite.

He identified with them. He brought all these Google executives into the White House. He did all these events with Mark Zuckerberg, remember, because Zuck was cool. Do you remember all this?

And yeah, he did the opposite of what he should have done. In fact, Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, they had this doctrine. We’ll get back to foreign affairs here. They had this doctrine, they called it Internet freedom. And we were going to force Internet freedom on everyone in every country in the world. This was going to be a big element of our foreign policy.

All of these crazy things since the Cold War ended, Paul, these ways that we have of rationalizing American power around the world, I mean, you could write a whole book about that, but of course, you wouldn’t be allowed to talk about it on social media. That would be immediately censored.

But Internet freedom was one of the big ones, the idea being that countries had to allow Silicon Valley companies to do business within their borders. That’s what Internet freedom meant. Everybody in the world has to have access to Facebook. That was US foreign policy. That was our government doing that.

And now these people are censoring you. Censoring literally you, Paul Jay.

Paul Jay

And they don’t want to deal with the underlying issue of why millions of people believe such crazy shit. It’s an issue that’s included in the education system, in the culture. They don’t believe it because there’s social media, social media helps it spread.

Thomas Frank

I would also say they don’t believe it because they’re stupid. And I would go one step further that they aren’t also, not all of them are racists. I mean, we have all these ways of brushing these people off.

Paul Jay

Even if racism plays a role, you have to ask, why?

Thomas Frank

Where does that come from? Yeah, exactly.

Paul Jay

Why, yeah. Why does the racism seem to be growing in these times?

Thomas Frank

That’s exactly right. But we don’t want to ask those questions. We want to demonize. I think that was the matter with Kansas was about, was like, let’s dig into this, let’s drill down a little bit. Let’s go out and talk to these people, and let’s see why they’re doing things that look superficially so self-destructive and so damaging, and in fact are self-destructive and are damaging.

Why would someone do this? And then you talk to them and you start to get an idea about why. That aspect of the conversation is, well, it’s not present, let’s put it that way.

I’ve been reading, like I said, when we started out this conversation, I’ve been reading a lot of stuff about liberalism in the Trump era. And that question, the “what’s the matter with Kansas?” question is basically off-limits. These people are to be villainized, vilified, and condemned, and a lot of them certainly deserve that, and racism certainly is not tolerable. I agree with that.

Thomas Frank

But we don’t ask that question anymore. We just want to shut them up.

Paul Jay

I think part of the problem is that the liberal answer to these people is, quote unquote, defense of the role of government. The problem is, there’s so much truth that government is so much an extension of big money of corporations. The one percent, that you can’t defend government without saying, yeah, you’re right.

To a large extent, government is the problem, but not the way Reagan said. Government is the problem because it’s so much an extension of corporate interest.

Thomas Frank

Which has become very difficult for people to understand or to say in America, that that government actually acts on behalf of Wall Street interests all the time. I mean, for God’s sakes, Paul. Remember when I first met you, the Wall Street bailout, that’s when we first started having our conversations, was in the aftermath of the biggest favor government has ever done for any interest. And it was for those guys.

Paul Jay

All right, just quickly to end, what do you think of this impeachment of Trump business?

Thomas Frank

Well, we know it’s going to fail. The Republicans have said that. But look, I’m of two minds about this. I want to move on? Of course. I want to see Biden get some really amazing stuff done. On the other hand, there has to be accountability for this asshole. There has to be accountability for what he did.

And, you know, in all the different ways that he did it, you can’t just let something like January 6th blow by. Now I know we’ve already got… Those people all broke the law and we’re going to be prosecuting them. By the way, there’s all sorts of ways in which this is… I both want accountability. I want them to go after Trump and I want to have it all out.

But in some ways I think it’s too little. In other words, I think it’s not enough. I want to know, to go back to the “what’s the matter with Kansas” question. I want to see sociological survey of these people. Who the hell were they? What in the world were they thinking?

Because they seem to have come from all over the place, all different walks of life. They’re united by their bizarre faith that Trump somehow won the election. But other than that, they seem to be from all over. Anyhow, I want to know more about them. I want to see sociological surveys. I want to see congressional investigations, and not just demonizing them, not just saying this was bad. We know it’s bad. We know how bad it is.

It’s really bad. But I want to know who these people were. And I want to know why the Capitol Police dropped the ball. Like, what the hell’s going on there?

Paul Jay

Well, that’s what my editorial is about. Because I think the January 6th is the third act of a failed coup. The real stuff happens in the lead up to January 6th, and there was at least the American Manufacturers Association, right through to 10 former Secretaries of Defense, they all thought a real coup was taking place. And the Financial Times editorial board actually called it a coup on January 4th, said there’s a coup taking place. So that’s what my editorials about, so people can look for it.

Thomas Frank

The funny thing is that it was so incompetent, as these things go.

Paul Jay

He’s delusional.

Thomas Frank

It’s like Trump’s lawsuits. It’s like they’re a joke. They were so stupid.

Paul Jay

It tells you something about the political structures of America, something so incompetent, and a guy so delusional, can get to the point that the hierarchy of American elites, including the military, were really concerned about what was happening.

Thomas Frank

Yeah. Anyhow, all of this needs to be out there, and there need to be hearings, and we need to understand it. And I mean, like understand it for real, not just like calling people names and pointing out that Trump is a dumb shit and that Trump’s a racist. Those statements are true. But we need to go further than that, and we need to go further than that as a country as well.

Thomas Frank

But anyhow, I don’t think it’s going to happen. So I both want accountability. I want more accountability. But I also think it should be broader than just Trump’s impeachment. And by the way, it’s already clear that the Republicans aren’t going to let it happen.

Paul Jay

Yeah, I think he should be charged with sedition and treason, but I don’t think it’s going to happen, because if the truth of how close the United States got to a coup ever comes out, it completely smashes the whole international reputation of the United States as the stable guardian of global capitalism.

Thomas Frank

I know.

Paul Jay

So I don’t think it’s going to come out.

Thomas Frank

It’s already in ruins. The mantle has to be passed to Canada. Oh. Oh, Canada.

Paul Jay

All right. Thanks for joining us.

Thomas Frank

I’ve been reading a history of Canada also. During COVID, I’ve got this huge stack of books that I’m working through. What’s his name? Francis Parkman, and it’s a history of the French in the new world, so of the origins of Canada, in Quebec and everything. Wow, fascinating. It’s really, really interesting stuff. I don’t know if anybody reads this guy anymore, but.

Paul Jay

Well people, when they dig in and when they’ll find out the self-righteous bullshit of Canada’s humanitarianism and internationalism, it’s all BS. Canada got to ride the US global gravy train. You know, we’re like the 10th largest arms manufacturer in the world.

Thomas Frank

I did not know that.

Paul Jay

Yeah, it goes on from there. Anyway, thanks for joining us, Thomas.

Thomas Frank

It was a blast. We’ll talk again soon.

Paul Jay

Yeah. Thank you for joining us on theAnalysis.news, and please don’t forget the donate button at the top of the website.

3 comments

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  • It is very disappointing hearing Paul propounding what is basically a completely fantastical conspiracy theory about an imaginary coup that “almost took place”. Is that a joke? Firstly, what ACTUALLY HAPPENED on Jan 6 – as opposed to what might have, what could have, what people must have been planning, etc. – was NOTHING. Period. The Congress went back to normal business the very next day. Even the supposedly “killed policeman” story turned out to be pure propaganda: the real story of Officer Sicknick was not only not investigated but was, and is, being swept under the rug! but he was definitely not killed by the so-called rioters. I´m still waiting for Paul to put forward a possible scenario in which Trump simply takes power in America, i.e, one that would pass the reasonableness criterion. Maybe he can have Tom Clancy help him!

    • Did you watch the whole report? I reported on what ten former secretaries of defense said was happening, the former Supreme Commander of NATO and what the Financial Times editorial board called a coup in progress. Of course, the events of Jan. 6th on their own don’t make a coup, but as I said, that was the final act of a failed coup. That Trump’s attempt was a failure, perhaps delusional, doesn’t make it less real. Obviously, those that wrote the articles I mention above thought it was serious enough.

  • Paul and Tom Frank both seem to—rightly, but, I would argue, short-sightedly—emphasize that the Biden stimulus proposal is hardly an inflationary or budgetary problem, and endorse financial elites’ ratification of this position, with no small amount of surprise. I would propose that financial elites are not so much unconcerned with inflation or the budget as horrified by any suggestion that the life support system they have been utterly dependent on since 2008, otherwise known as quantitative easing, might be revoked or even reduced in the slightest for as far as the eye can see; they don’t even care about long term inflation or budgets as long as QE remains firmly in place, except as purely political tools to be advantageously employed in specific cases, against a $15 dollar minimum wage, say, and are prepared to drop these auxiliary fights if the true umbilical cord is really threatened. Maybe we on the left should use this weapon against them more aggressively? Hmmmm…

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