Zero Squared #97: Punching Nazis?

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Brendan O’Neill and Fredrick DeBoer are the guests this week as we dedicate this week’s episode to the question of punching Nazis.

Brendan O’Neill is the editor of Spiked Online, a publication that I would describe as having an attitude that is both socialist and libertarian in the American sense of the word. They advocate both expanding the range of human freedom and capitalist economic growth, despite being smart enough to know why capitalist economic growth can only occur when the mass of humanity is fettered.

Frederik DeBoer is a writer for publications such as Jacobin, the Observer, The Washington Post, Foreign Policy and other publications. He is a professor at Brooklyn College and describes himself as having conventionally leftist views. A socialist he is something of a mixer and has engaged in many twitter battles with (neo)liberals like Jonathan Chait and Sady Doyle.

This episode is something of a mash-up. It is the result of cutting down two interviews into a single polyphonous episode. Two otherwise disparate voices have been brought together here, not because they agree, but because they both have opinions and were willing to share them.

To underline the point further, let me say again, there are two people in this episode and two different opinions. DeBoer is the man with the American accent, O’Neill is the Brit.
It’s Wednesday, February 8th, 2017, and I’m Douglas Lain the publisher of Zero Books and the host of this podcast.

Thanks goes to members of the Zero Books club. Zero Books Club members receive access to the Inside Zero Books which sometimes consists of unedited or full length interviews from the Zero Squared podcast, sometimes features conversations with Zero Books readers about the state of the left, and sometimes features public lectures from Zero Books authors or staff.

The music you’re listening to right now is Smash Things Up by ¡TchKung!, but in just a moment you’ll be listening to Brendan O’Neil and Frederik DeBoer.

Zero Squared #92: Margaret Kimberley takes on Trump

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Margaret Kimberley discusses the rise of Donald Trump on this week’s episode. A regular columnist for the Black Agenda Report, Margaret Kimberley is also a regular guest on the podcast, and she does her best to talk me through the trauma of this last election.

Thanks goes out to Zero Books Club members and we encourage you to join. Zero Books Club members gain access to a second podcast each week. The Inside Zero Books podcast sometimes features a second hour from this podcast, and sometimes features conversations about the left and left publishing with members of the Zero Books editorial team.

On Monday, December 12th, Daniel Coffeen will participate our first Zero Books workshop on Youtube. We will discuss his book “Reading the Way of Things.”

In this episode you’ll hear clips from Michael Parenti on Fascism, demographic analysis from MSNBC, Russian propagandist Vladimir Zhirinovsky talking to Reuters and endorsing Trump, and a collage of all the supposedly compromised US leftist whose relationship with Russia Today makes them guilty by association.

Zero Squared #91: Trump, an Insider’s View

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Former NEA Chairman Bill Ivey returns this week and we discuss the unexpected election of Trump. Ivey made the news recently when his March 13th, 2016 email to Clinton campaign Chairman John Podesta was published by Wikileaks and he’s returning to in order to give us an insider’s perspective on the election.

Here’s a short excerpt from that infamous email:

We’ve all been quite content to demean government, drop civics and in general conspire to produce an unaware and compliant citizenry. The unawareness remains strong but compliance is obviously fading rapidly.

Thanks goes out to Zero Books Club members and encourage you to join. Zero Books Club member gain access to a second podcast each week. The Inside Zero Books podcast sometimes features a second hour from this podcast, and sometimes features conversations about the left and left publishing with members of the Zero Books editorial team. And the next Inside Zero Books podcast will feature something of a shouting match between myself and a couple of Portland State University philosophy students as we discuss Judith Butler, Edward Said, and the whiteness of philosophy and scientific reason.

In this episode you’ll hear a clip from the @Midnight debate between Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders impersonators as well as a jazz version of hail to the chief.

Zero Squared #89: Deplorables

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NYU professor Michael Rectenwald is the guest this week. Rectenwald was recently at the center of a small controversy at NYU because, after being called out on Facebook for posting a link to an article mocking the need for alternative pronouns for all the various genders, he decided to create an alt-right persona and critique SJWs on twitter. When he announced the results of this “experiment” in an interview for the Washington Square News a slightly larger controversy erupted. His colleagues signed a collective letter criticizing his illogical rhetoric, finishing with the line “the cause of Professor Rectenwald’s guilt is certainly no, in our view, his identity as a cis, white, straight male. The cause of his guilt is the content and structure of his thinking.”
After this Rectenwald took a leave of absence from his University. With a little investigation it appears that he requested this leave of absence, but insinuated that the leave was not voluntary.

His story went somewhat viral. He was interviewed for various publications and penned an opinion piece for the Washington Post with the headline: “Here’s what happened when I challenged the PC campus culture at NYU.” He wrote, “I was strongly encouraged to take a paid leave of absence [and told] that it had nothing to do with my recent media posture. That’s not exactly how I see it.”
However, soon after this was published some of Rectenwald’s private emails were also published, namely a correspondence between NYU Dean Schwarzbach and Rectenwald. This correspondence made it clear that the leave of absence had been granted at Rectenwald’s request. The final email from Schwarzbach concludes.

“For us to be clear on your needs, we require you to state unequivocally and in a direct, unambiguous response whether you still need the leave you requested. I expect that answer—whichever you give—to be henceforth the same in all settings. If you cannot do that, at this point, I think I have no choice but to make a decision based on your public utterances, and the leave you requested—apparently under false pretenses—is withdrawn, and you are expected to meet your classes as assigned.”

I do not know if Rectenwald is now back at NYU and teaching or if his leave was extended, but I do know that all of this went on while the possibility of his promotion was being determined and that he eventually was promoted to the level of full professor.

From the outside, and with the facts that I have so far, it looks to me like Rectenwald pulled this stunt in order to create a context wherein his being passed over for promotion would have negative political consequences for the university. That isn’t a demonstrable fact, and if Rectenwald wants to return to the podcast in order to explain his side of the story more fully I’d be glad to talk to him again.

At the time this was recorded Trump had not been elected and I was very sympathetic to his cause.

I should take a moment to talk about that last fact. The fact that Donald Trump was elected is a game changer. The notion of safe spaces, for instance, has an entirely different connotation now that Stephen Bannon has been selected to be Trump’s chief of staff in the oval office. That said, the need for overcoming racial divides, for creating alliances and struggling together as a people regardless of race is the only way to amass enough political power to effectively fight back.

Rectenwald’s claim that identity politics on the left feeds and strengthens identity politics on the alt-right is worthy of consideration outside the context of Rectenwald’s shenanigans. Standing in solidarity with all the different people who Trump is scapegoating, making sure we protect and defend each other from attack, is necessary. Combating racism is an immediate priority even as we return to the task of changing the economic foundation that generates racism and divides us.