Collusion Delusion

Illustration by Susan Coyne

This Week: Russiagate is Dead. Long Live Russiagate — with Matt Taibbi,Masha Gessen, Jill Abramson, Aaron Mate’ and Nicholoson Baker. Listen today at 2pm or anytime on our website.

The fat lady has started singing, kids. It seems your prayers may have not been answered; your long national nightmare looks to be far from over, and worse, it could keep you up at night for 6 more years. And the monster haunting your dreams looks to be bigger and stronger than ever. I searched through Harry Potter and Greek mythology to find a good analogy. There’s Proteus, the shape-shifting genius, Antaeus, the giant who took infinite strength in battle from the base, er the earth. The Lernaean Hydra regrows two heads for each one that’s chopped off. And of course, Voldemort is kept alive with horcruxes, objects created from unspeakable evil.

Who’s to blame? In the words of Christopher Lydon:

In the annals of public conversation, we seem to have reached toxic meltdown in the close of the mighty Mueller investigation. We’re past the “liar, liar, pants on fire” stage of a race to the bottom. Donald Trump is leading, and winning the race, as usual, but not alone. The collusion that jumps out of the Russia-gate scandal is in the news business. It’s the tight harness that binds Sean Hannity to Donald Trump, and equally: Rachel Maddow and the baying hounds at MSNBC to the Democratic leadership that guessed wrong, yet again, about how to be rid of this President. It isn’t journalism that’s driving this, not people politics either: it’s more like a low-class culture war, a ratings war, no rule book, no restraint. A race you wouldn’t want any of these players to win.

Some commenters on our site have called us out for a rush to judgement. We think we hedged pretty well. Everyone on the show acknowledged that we don’t yet know the fuller picture of what’s in Mueller’s report, but come on, folks, let’s account and keep score some for the nuttiness of the last two and a half years and the media’s role in it. Matt Taibbi and Aaron Mate’ deserve credit for their reporting; they’ve been marginalized by the msm, and it turns out they were the careful ones.

New York Post March 2019

For those keeping score at home, here’s Matt Taibbi’s cheat sheet of the worst offenses and their authors (on the show he ticked through his list of New York Times Russiagate stories that were retracted or walked back) And here’s the book chapter that he released last weekend, ahead of the Barr Report, criticizing the media narrative, claiming it was a years-long press error on the scale of the WMD affair heading into the Iraq war.

TIME Magazine August, 1996

And speaking of foreign interference in elections, Steve Kinzer reminded us of our own sordid past in this area.

FOR ONE OF THE world’s major powers to interfere systematically in the presidential politics of another country is an act of brazen aggression. Yet it happened. Sitting in a distant capital, political leaders set out to assure that their favored candidate won an election against rivals who scared them. They succeeded. Voters were maneuvered into electing a president who served the interest of the intervening power. This was a well-coordinated, government-sponsored project to subvert the will of voters in another country — a supremely successful piece of political vandalism on a global scale.

The year was 1996. Russia was electing a president to succeed Boris Yeltsin, whose disastrous presidency, marked by the post-Soviet social collapse and a savage war in Chechnya, had brought his approval rating down to the single digits. President Bill Clinton decided that American interests would be best served by finding a way to re-elect Yeltsin despite his deep unpopularity. Yeltsin was ill, chronically alcoholic, and seen in Washington as easy to control. Clinton bonded with him. He was our “Manchurian Candidate.”

Illustration by Susan Coyne

We loved speaking with Masha Gessen this week. What a force! Susan Coyne reminded us of a talk she went to at Harvard two years ago where Masha was talking about conspiracy thinking. Those two, always ahead of the curve!

RIP, Agnès Varda

Farewell to a giant of French cinema.

Next Week: Esperanza Spalding

Jazz master, singer, composer beyond category, Harvard professor, life force. This show will be the balm that begins to heal the TDS that ails us all.

Coming Soon: Amazing Grace

Our Friend Ed Pavlic is coming to town to talk about his new novel, and he’s going to stop by for an interview about the new Aretha Franklin documentary opening next weekend.

Listen: The Lonely Palette

Photo by Chris Lydon
Photo by Chris Lydon

Our co-conspirator Tamar Avishai has finished her Kandinsky episode which will be part of our upcoming Bauhaus show. Her art history podcast Lonely Palette is fantastic. Check out “the podcast that returns art history to the masses, one painting at a time.”

What we’re reading:

Adam Tooze on the end (?) of the American century. NYT feature on Israel and BDS and US politics. Sharp criticism of Bhaskar Sunkara (Jacobin founder) and his new “manifesto.” Andrea Long-Chu takes aim at Bret Easton Ellis. Charlotte Shane on sex and power. Madeleine Schwartz on “millennial novelist” Sally Rooney. The best of many Hudson Yards critiques.

That’s all this week, folks! Like, subscribe, tweet, and consider donating to Open Source.

❤ the os team



An American conversation with global attitude, on the arts, humanities, and global affairs, hosted by Christopher Lydon.

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Radio Open Source

An American conversation with global attitude, on the arts, humanities, and global affairs, hosted by Christopher Lydon.