Let’s get straight to the point: 2020 was a very bad, no good year for the world, and we’re beyond excited to leave it in the dust. 2020 exposed massive faults in many facets of American life, but it also motivated us to demand change. The Black Lives Matter demonstrations this summer became the largest civil rights rallies in history. An historic number of Americans voted to remove a would-be tyrant. Climate change activism hit the mainstream in a way unimaginable even a few years ago. If 2020 ripped the band-aid off America’s festering wounds, 2021 is the year those infections will begin to get the care they need.
2020 was a busy year for the Future Hindsight team. We produced 48 full-length episodes dealing with pressing issues like climate change, truth decay, the COVID -19 pandemic, and political power-building. Our amazing guests outlined some of the modern era’s biggest problems—and ways to think about fixing them. We heard what gives our experts hope for the future, which in turn gave us hope. Although our guests exposed some appalling injustices and policy failures of jarring proportion, they helped us understand how they can be undone and left in the past—just as we’re about to do with 2020.
Without further ado, here are some of our favorite interviews of 2020. We hope you’ll get as much out of them as we did, and that our guests’ words can inspire you to make 2021 super fabulous.
The brutal murder of George Floyd sent shockwaves around the country and saw the revitalization of the Black Lives Matter movement on a grand scale. 2020 marked the year that police brutality became an issue among all Americans, not just those most likely to be on the receiving end of injustice at the hand of police.
As part of our season on rebuilding a better America post-COVID, we sat down with former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper to understand why America’s police forces are prone to violent and oppressive tactics.
Stamper is the author of To Protect and Serve: How to Fix America’s Police, an in-depth, insider account looking at policing’s problems and how to fix them. He argued that militarized police culture is to blame for many of the issues apparent today, and without a serious overhaul, nothing will change. It’s a searing indictment of our nation’s law enforcement, but he offered several solutions, both policy and community-oriented, to right the wrongs perpetrated by police. He clarified that police forces can be fixed, and outlined some of the best ways to make that happen.
Lee McIntyre, the author of Post-Truth, kicked off our season of the same name this summer. Lee walked us through the disorienting impact of state-sponsored lies and truth-decay—both tools embraced by authoritarians worldwide, including our (soon-to-be-former) President Donald Trump.
McIntyre taught us that fake news and deliberate, state-sponsored lies have a deeper, far more disturbing purpose than merely covering up misdeeds. Instead, these efforts represent the political subordination of the truth. Leaders who espouse post-truth principles don’t care whether or not you believe the lies they tell. Instead, they want to demonstrate that they control the information stream. The assault on truth is meant to disorient us, confuse us, and make us cynical—ultimately making it impossible for us to decipher fact from fiction.
The goal of post-truth tactics is to have unbridled control of the population ingesting it.
Bernard Harcourt is a renowned scholar, professor, and author of several books, including The Counterrevolution: How Our Government Went to War Against Its Own Citizens. In it, he charts the alarming rise of counterinsurgency tactics used by the US government against its own citizens, on home soil.
Following 9/11, the US army rewrote the playbook for war to combat insurgents in their Middle East wars. Counterinsurgency dictates the need to isolate and destroy an internal enemy while pacifying the population’s large “neutral” swath. Initially used in places like Afghanistan, these tactics trickled back to be used against American citizens in the United States.
Militarized police, the demonization of certain groups, and the increasing abuse of the legal system are among the ills imported with the counterrevolution playbook. Harcourt deftly explained how we got here and provided a fascinating possible path out.
Nick Tilsen is the President of NDN Collective, an organization led by Indigenous People that builds Indigenous power and restores Indigenous self-determination. Tilsen’s organization operates under the motto “Defend. Develop. Decolonize.” and Tilsen takes these goals to heart. He was arrested and charged with multiple felonies for his role in the July 3rd protest on the road to Mount Rushmore. The UN’s Human Rights Council recently decried the arrest and charges, and Tilsen continues to advocate for indigenous nations and build power in the interim.
We discussed how Native Americans must rebuild their right to self-determination, something they lost under centuries of colonial rule. He explained the #LANDBACK movement, illustrated America’s horrific history of violence against Indigenous Peoples, and walked us through the decolonization of Indigenous Americans, offering a path to begin righting the wrongs that continue to be perpetrated against Native Americans today.
A standout episode from our season on combatting climate change, Jojo Mehta heads up the non-profit Ecological Defense Integrity. They are working to establish ecocide as a core international crime under the International Criminal Court’s Rome Statute. We loved our conversation with Jojo because criminalizing ecocide is a simple, effective, almost poetic way to stop climate change.
As Jojo explained to us, criminalizing ecocide would hold executives of polluting corporations responsible for their crimes against nature. If a CEO thinks they might go to jail for a particular business practice (strip-mining, fracking, or deforestation, for example), they probably won’t do it. More than that, once ecocide is a crime, it will become taboo in popular culture and further grow the movement to divest from damaging practices. Our climate change season taught us that only effective public policy can truly decarbonize the world, and what better place to start than by criminalizing ecocide?
How can companies like Facebook and Google have unfettered access to every part of our private lives? How can chicken distributors like Tyson and Perdue control their farmers and destroy their lives at a moment’s notice? How can Uber and Lyft pay their workers starvation wages? Professor, author, former gubernatorial candidate, and Future Hindsight guest Zephyr Teachout has the answer: monopolies.
Teachout explained how the Reagan administration gutted antitrust laws, and no president since has brought them back—even though it wouldn’t be that hard. America has a long history of trust-busting, but since the 1980s, companies have been growing and merging with impunity, and the American people are the ones paying the price. She outlines the problem and explains how the solutions are much easier than we think. If you’re looking for a new place to take your activist fire once Trump leaves office, the anti-monopoly crowd would love to have you! Her book Break ‘Em Up: Recovering Our Freedom from Big Ag, Big Tech, and Big Money is a great place to start.
Does it ever seem to you like the Supreme Court, that bastion of liberty and impartiality, sides with Republicans an awful lot of the time (present election-related controversies aside)? That’s because they do. They’ve consistently supported the Conservative agenda since Nixon. Adam Cohen, author of Supreme Inequality: The Supreme Court’s Fifty-Year Battle for a More Unjust America, broke it down in chilling fashion earlier this year.
The Supreme Court has maintained a conservative majority since Nixon’s presidency, and many of its decisions are barely hidden power grabs for the GOP. The Court routinely sides with companies over employees, wealthy over poor, white over black, and Republican over Democrat. It supported the gutting of unions, unfettered cash in elections, and the dismantling of the Voting Rights Act, to name only a few. Cohen charts the history of bias on our highest court and offers solutions to make it more just for all.
Have you ever heard of the American Legislative Exchange Council? The State Policy Network? Americans For Prosperity? If not, don’t feel bad—they like it that way. These three organizations make up the right-wing policy ‘troika’ responsible for slipping conservative bills, talking points, and studies into local lawmakers’ hands around the county. Alex Hertel Fernandez, author of State Capture: How Conservative Activists, Big Businesses, and Wealthy Donors Reshaped the American States – and the Nationgave us an eye-opening history during our interview.
Hertel-Fernandez explored how these three organizations work in tandem to ‘capture’ state legislatures, making it possible to enact conservative bills, elect conservative lawmakers, and control entire states’ policy identity on behalf of corporate donors. These three organizations exploit underfunded and understaffed state legislatures and push for wide-ranging conservative goals on tax cuts, deregulation, abortion, and more. He showed us the shadowy world of conservative operatives has a far-reaching impact on our everyday lives and discussed ways for the left to counter their corrosive influence.
Bill McKibben has been the face of the environmental movement for decades, and we were thrilled when he agreed to join our climate change season. His 1989 book The End of Nature helped bring climate change into public awareness. His zeal for environmentalism has led him to create 350.org and a massively successful divestment campaign to remove the financing for fossil fuel and other damaging extractive industries.
He sat down with Mila to discuss climate activism’s future and how technology can play an essential part in saving the planet. They also discussed how the fossil fuel industry misled the American public and avoided blame for decades and how we can hold them accountable. If you want a glimpse into the mind of the world’s foremost Earth defender, look no further.
If we had to pick just one episode to show off this year, it’s our fantastic interview with the inimitable and brilliant Shoshana Zuboff. Zuboff is the author of The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power. In it, she meticulously pieced together the rise of tech giants like Google and Facebook, definitively demonstrated the power they hold over us, and exposed the sinister goals of intrumentarian power.
She detailed our current, self-inflicted surveillance state and explores the unseen ways they exert power over us and our decision-making abilities. Her work is of colossal importance and is critical to understanding how these companies work and how to stop the disassembly of our humanity at the hands of instrumentarian tech overlords. Our interview preceded Netflix’s hit documentary The Social Dilemma, which prominently features Zuboff. Her message is urgent: we need to stop this now before it’s too late.
We aren’t the only ones who consider this to be one of our finest episodes. This week, the Asian American Podcasters Association awarded Mila and Future Hindsight with a Golden Crane award for Best Interview Podcast for this very episode. If you only listen to one episode of our show this year, please make it this one.
Thanks so much for your listenership, readership, and support this year! We’re so grateful to have you with us, and we can’t wait to bring you another full year of content—our next season starts in just three weeks! Until then, happy new year, stay safe, and stay engaged.