Another season of Future Hindsight is on the books! Since the beginning of May, we’ve interviewed a slate of stellar guests about the current moment of Post-Truth in which we find ourselves. We’ve delved into staying hopeful in dire and uncertain times, pushing back against rising misinformation, and protecting democracy with knowledge and honesty. We count this season as one of our strongest to date and are so excited to see our growing audience responding to our content. When Mila started the podcast in 2018, her goal was to inspire civic engagement in America, and thanks to the wonderful guests we featured in Season 10, that goal continues to fruition.
Internet content is omnipresent, and we don’t fault you if you missed some of our episodes in the relentless march of Twitter and RSS feeds. If you want to make sure you’ve caught up, here’s a round-up of our Post-Truth season for your listening pleasure:
Episode 1: Rising Authoritarianism Under COVID-19 with Thomas O. Melia of PEN America
We lay out our seasons months in advance, and even the most careful planning could not account for a sudden pandemic. Thankfully, Melia was a late addition, allowing us to pick his brain about how democracy suffers during a pandemic. We discussed the worrying responses of various countries like Hungary and dealt with issues like covering up the truth and increasing digital surveillance. Melia is the Washington Director of PEN America, a non-profit organization protecting free speech in the US and around the world. Special thanks to former FH guest Suzanne Nossel for helping set this one up!
Episode 2: Post-Truth with author Lee McIntyre
Initially our first interview of the season, we discussed McIntyre’s book, Post-Truth. During Mila’s conversation with him, it became clear that we are living through extraordinary and frightening circumstances exacerbated by the rise of Trumpian Republicanism, but that the president and his meat-fisted henchmen are symptoms of a much deeper problem in America and around the world. McIntyre showed us how would-be authoritarians use fake news and propaganda as tools of subjugation and degradation—not merely as PR stunts. As with many of our episodes, this conversation is much more hopeful than it sounds. We promise!
Episode 3: Making a Truth Sandwich with George Lakoff
In the world of linguistics and cognitive science, George Lakoff stands head-and-shoulders above his peers. In his revolutionary academic career, Lakoff pioneered the idea of framing the truth, a skill we need now more than ever before. In our interview, he explains why debunking fake news prima facie helps liars. He gives us a fantastic lesson in creating his signature Truth Sandwich—a framing technique that works! We wrote a step-by-step guide to creating your own, so make sure to check it out over on our blog.
Fake news is definitely a domestic problem we’ve yet to quash successfully, but what are the national security risks posed by false information? To answer this, we turned to a Stanford duo on the front-lines in the fight for the truth. They gave us an unparalleled intelligence briefing on the ways Russia muddies the waters of truth, why they do it, and how we everyday podcast listeners can guard against this insidious form of digital warfare. If you’ve ever been bamboozled by something that seemed real and turned out to be a hoax, do yourself a favor and tune in!
Have you noticed the proliferation of online conspiracy theories in the last few years? Or how the conspiracy theories bandied about the internet are crazier than ever before? We did, so we turned to Nancy Rosenblum for answers. She’s the co-author of A Lot of People are Saying: The New Conspiracism and the Assault on Democracy. Unfortunately, conspiracy theories have morphed into a new “conspiracism” that is decoupled from any rational logic or fact-gathering process. It is accelerating as politicians around the world recognize the political power it wields. Again, though, we’ve managed to keep our conversation (relatively) hopeful!
Episode 6: Politifact Fact-Checking with Jon Greenberg
We all know fake news and political lies are a rot working its way through our political system, but how do we counter them? To find out, we turned to Politifact Senior Correspondent Jon Greenberg. We wanted to understand the process of fact-checking, who gets fact-checked, and how processes like the ones Greenberg uses daily are so critical to democracy. We learned so much from his insights that we decided to fact-check something ourselves, so we looked at the narrative of the ‘outside agitators’ in the recent BLM protests and uncovered why it’s a racist lie.
Ethical communication starts with communicating the truth. As Loge says in the interview: “the truth is not boring!’ Taking ethical standards and applying them to political discourse with respect and civility is the next step. The media has the responsibility to provide substantive coverage of political campaigns, which encourage citizens to be participants in a democracy instead of spectators. Citizens and the media encourage a high bar of communication when they recognize ethical leadership.
Conservative media is the dominant information purveyor for a vast swath of the American populace, but it wasn’t always like this. How did Fox News become the #1 TV news station in the country, and how do right-wing personalities routinely get away hawking half-truths, unfounded conspiracy theories, and racist dogmas? Nicole Hemmer is the author of Messengers of the Right: Conservative Media and the Transformation of American Politics, a stunning look at the rise of right-wing media post-WWI, and how these agents of conservatism command unwavering authority over their audiences. Mila’s interview is a fascinating look at the changing political landscape. If we’re going to change our broken system, the first step is understanding how it got so bad in the first place. We also took a look at one of the right’s favorite talking points: liberal media bias. Please read our blog post about it for more!
Scholar Alexandra Minna Stern is the author of Proud Boys and the White Ethnostate: How the Alt-Right Warped the American Imagination, a searing look behind the curtain at white supremacy in America. We uncover who they are, how they work, and what we can all do push back against their agenda of hatred and racism. Surprisingly, one effective way is to support trans rights. Another recommendation centered around removing key players from their online soap-boxes—a term widely called ‘deplatforming.’ We wondered how effective that strategy was, so we did some research and drew our own conclusions, which you can find over on our blog.
It’s one thing to be educated on a topic and passionate about what you believe, but getting others to come around to your point of view takes an entirely different approach. If we’re going to prevail in November, we need every vote we can get, and that means taking the time to reach out to those who don’t think the way you do. To make sure your political pleas don’t fall on deaf ears, we enlisted activist David Fleischer to coach you through the process. He and the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Leadership Lab created ‘deep canvassing,’ a revolutionary technique that uses love to form a meaningful human connection. This allows you to discuss difficult topics, like politics. Using the episode we recorded with him, as well as the guide we put together on our blog, you have all the information you need to get out there and start changing hearts and minds. After all, isn’t that what Future Hindsight is all about?
To cap off our season, we took a look at one of the most understated problems facing the world today: the use and misuse of our personal data by tech giants. Our guest Shoshana Zuboff is a professor and author of The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power. This digital Odyssey outlines the roots of the digital surveillance state, the monetization of our lives, decisions, and futures and the terrifying ways in which powerful companies like Google can control our actions and experiences on a very real level. Our conversation made it clear we are living in an economic nightmare scenario whereby our data is harvested, ingested, and repurposed back to us to sway our daily decisions. We were so horrified we immediately researched every way to protect our data online from invasion, and shared it with you, our listeners, in an attempt to make everyone safer. Read our blog on privacy for more! Changing the world is a long, laborious process with no guarantee of success. That said, it’s our duty as informed humans to try, fail, and try again. There is still so much work to do on so many fronts, but we sincerely hope our podcast helps keep you updated with actionable ways to make our country and our world a better place, and the inspiration to do something about it. We’re so grateful to have such an engaged listener base, and we’ll be back before you can say “Go Vote!” Until then, stay engaged!