Gloom, Doom and Junk Cars

This Week: Darkness on the Edge of Town — with Chris Hedges. Listen today at 2pm on WBUR or anytime on our website.

MM and RP: Chris Hedges is an old friend of ours, and he’s much nicer than the guy he plays on book tour or in his Monday column for Truthdig; that guy really is our prophet of doom in Trump time. His beat for many years now has been American Decline, and he comes at it not with an ideological edge, but with deep reading of theology, philosophy and Greek and Roman history. Trump is just a symptom of our spiritual sickness, Hedges says (I want to resist the urge to use the title of one of Chris’ books — War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning to suggest another for unhinged liberals — “Trump is the Force that Gives Us Meaning”); the disease is “sublime madness,” and he locates it in our turbo consumer, self-absorbed culture and a late imperial drift into self-destruction.

It’s strong tea for sure, but be not afraid! And in fact, judging from twitter anyway, you’re not. The show seems to have struck just the right tone for yet another gloomy week on the American scene. And wait — there is some hope, just a bit, in hope itself and human kindness, and there’s freedom in resistance. Don’t donate that junk car in the driveway to your local public radio station just yet; Chris Hedges has a better idea.

Michael Moore is also doing his part. Chris saw Fahrenheit 11/9 and loved it.

CL: Who but Michael Moore leaves you down, disgusted, raging, laughing helplessly, still puzzling why our troops are still in Afghanistan but we can’t repair Michael’s good people in Flint, Michigan.

Off to New York

MM: Chris and I caught “Niceties” at the Huntington Theatre last week before it leaves town for New York. The playwright is Brookline’s own Eleanor Burgess, and we’ll be talking with her tomorrow about her play and the state of our (ugh) world.

Our Reading List:

  • Chris Hedges brought up Hannah Arendt’s postwar warnings about the erosion of the boundary between truth and lies in Nazi Germany. Arendt famously hated The New Yorker’s fact-checking process, but it’s worth rereading her always-timely 1967 New Yorker essay, “Truth and Politics.”
  • Wesley Morris on the rules surrounding taste in 2018:

The real-world and social-media combat we’ve been in for the past two years over what kind of country this is — who gets to live in it and bemoan (or endorse!) how it’s being run — have now shown up in our beefs over culture, not so much over the actual works themselves but over the laws governing that culture and the discussion around it, which artists can make what art, who can speak. We’re talking less about whether a work is good art but simply whether it’s good — good for us, good for the culture, good for the world.

We have language that helps do the sorting. A person who insults, harasses or much, much worse is “problematic,” and certain “problematic” people, and their work, gets “canceled.”

  • Molly Crabapple on the forgotten history of The Bund, the socialist Jewish party that competed with Zionists in the Pale of Settlement.
  • Matt Giles on Lee Krasner, the abstract expressionist painter who lived with Jackson Pollock and became the marketing genius behind his success: “without Krasner, Jackson Pollock doesn’t become Jackson Pollock.”
  • Taffy Akner on Bradley Cooper… with a heavy dose of meta-commentary on the form of the movie star profile itself.
  • Maggie Doherty on Rachel Cusk and female freedom.
  • Dave Anderson (RIP) on Mr. October, Reggie Jackson (GO SOX!)
  • Sam Moyn on the Supreme Court’s fundamentally undemocratic role:

In the face of an enemy Supreme Court, the only option is for progressives to begin work on a long-term plan to recast the role of fundamental law in our society for the sake of majority rule — disempowering the courts and angling, when they can, to redo our undemocratic constitution itself. This will require taking a few pages from the conservative playbook of the last generation. It is conservatives who stole the originally progressive talking point that we are experiencing “government by judiciary.” It is conservatives who convinced wide swathes of the American people that it is the left, not the right, that too routinely uses constitutional law to enact its policy preferences, no matter what the text says. The truth is the reverse, and progressives need to take back the charge they lost. To do so, they need to abandon their routine temptation to collude with the higher judiciary opportunistically. Progressives must embrace democracy and its risks if they want to avoid the stigma of judicial activism that still haunts them from the past.

With Kavanaugh, however, we have gone from broken dignity to absent thought. If Gorsuch is the Cuckoo Justice, laying his eggs in another person’s rightful nest, Kavanaugh is a trained Pigeon. He might visit the Supreme Court, but he will return to the little coop in the GOP, as he returned to his home, his father’s calendars, his mother’s job — after invading other people’s safety. He will return looping back, and never know, consciously, why his wings have taken him on this route.

  • In more female-friendly Supreme Court news, our friend Jill Lepore on RBG.
  • An art world prank, and an art world discovery.

That’s all for this week—please listen, comment, donate and get in touch at

The OS Pranksters



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Radio Open Source

Radio Open Source


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