The Daily Discourse : Episode 4


Zach: Hello everyone. Welcome back to another episode of the Daily Discourse with Zach and Matt. I’m one of your hosts, Zach. 

Matt: And I’m Matt, your other host. 

Zach: It’s great to be back, Matt. We must have not done that bad of a job on the first episode, they let us come back. We have not been fired… Yet.

Matt: Yeah. I’m hoping that we can keep these coming. It’s been a lot of fun. 

Zach: Yeah, I agree. We have a lot to get to, so let’s just get right into it. From here on out, we will each be writing a monologue on a topic that is of particular interest to us followed by a back-and-forth conversation on it. So this week my monologue is on Andrew Yang, his new book, and his new third party called the Forward Party. Matt’s monologue is on this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winners, which dives deeper into the state of our media worldwide today. That one, especially, sparked a great conversation. At this point we’ve already recorded our monologues and discussions. So just let me tell you, you really do not want to miss them, but before we get to those monologues, we should talk about ACR homes.

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Zach: You know Matt, with that ad read, I think it feels like we should be co-hosts in like a 7-9 o’clock , or like a 4-6 o’clock like radio show, you know, as you’re driving to work. We did a good job on that one. Anyways, before we get to the monologues, we have some current events in the world of politics that we wanted to discuss. We’re going to talk about Dzhokar Tsarnaev and the Biden administration now seeking that the death penalty be re-instated in his case, he was one of the Boston Bombers, as well as the interesting discussion surrounding Katie Couric and former Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Matt, I’m interested in  hearing your thoughts on both of these topics, but let’s start with Tsarnaev and the death penalty. 

Matt: Yeah. So I think the Biden administration’s choice to promote the death penalty for Tsarnaev is a strange choice. and I think hypocritical because Biden mentioned in his campaign that he was against the death penalty at the federal level. The DOJ reinstated the moratorium on federal executions this summer. And it’s a strange, backwards choice to me to now be promoting the death penalty for a specific person, even someone who committed as heinous an act as Tsarnaev committed, the Boston marathon bombing, but yeah, I think it’s a moral failing. 

Zach: Yeah. I mean, I agree. And I guess the way that I would frame it is when you have these discussions about these types of issues, the death penalty being one of them, you really learn people’s true colors when you bring them to the extreme like this. So I’m anti-death penalty. Period. End of story. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev belongs in prison for the rest of his life, but do I think that the government should have the power to kill him? No. During the democratic primary and the general election, it seemed that Biden thought the same thing. But, maybe he thought that was politically advantageous because if you’re advocating for the death penalty for one person, that means you’re not anti-death penalty. That means you’re in favor of the death penalty. But I think, as you’ve been saying, when we’ve discussed this off-air and stuff, this is almost worse, where you’re just going to allow the government to have the authority to step in and say, well, in this situation, yes, we’ll execute the person. But in this situation, maybe we won’t. Are we just going to leave that up to the federal government to decide when they want to and when they don’t want to? 

Matt: I mean, I guess the federal government can’t quite decide it’s going to the Supreme Court. So I guess there you have it. But, it concerns me that the Biden administration is willing to promote the execution of people who’ve committed crimes that may have a certain political tinge to it. An act of terror, you can use that as a president to kind of make patriotic gains, almost. Where he’s saying, yeah, we’re going to execute this man who committed an act of terror against our country. And that worries me because it doesn’t seem like the stance against the death penalty was authentic. It seems like it was politically motivated, which, you know, maybe it is there, they’re all politicians, but it’s still a hard pill to swallow.

Zach: I mean, I guess my issue with that is when you get to something like this, the death penalty, I don’t know if any stance is going to be politically advantageous because yeah, you’re going to make some people happier if you follow through with executing Tsarnaev, but like, you’re also gonna piss off me if you execute Tsarnaev. So, I mean, that’s just the reality is I don’t know if there’s really a net win that you can have. Yeah. But like, I mean, we don’t need to go on, but I think giving the government the discretion or the government trying to have the discretion of executing people or not is maybe even worse than just having a blanket death penalty, which I also think is bad.

Matt: Yeah, I agree. 

Zach: But, we’ll leave that conversation there. Let’s move on to our other conversation that we said we wanted to have, which was related to Katie Couric and former Supreme court justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. So Katie Couric recently came out with, she came out with her memoir, which detailed many things, you know how memoirs go. But one of the things that she talked about was people kneeling during the national Anthem. Pro athletes, I mean, Colin Kaepernick was probably the most well known for it. And Katie Couric asked Ginsburg for her thoughts on it. And these are some quotes from her. Ginsburg said that such protest “showed a contempt for a government that has made it possible for their parents and grandparents to live a decent life.” She went on to say, “which they probably could not have lived in the places they came from. As they became older, they realized that this was youthful folly, and that’s why education is important.” So some kind of stunning quotes there first, Matt. So what are your thoughts on this whole situation?

Matt: Well, I don’t know, I think there’s a lack of integrity there. For Katie Couric to, you know, include parts of the conversation with RBG and to cut out ones that may not depict her in the light that we kind of came to know her for. It was shocking to hear that RBG said things like that. I don’t think that’s really what her image was, or is, for most of us, just because of what she stood for on the bench and as a public figure. But yeah, I think just kind of plain and simple, there’s a lack of integrity there with cutting out parts that may not be as favorable. 

Zach: Yeah. I’ll also say that Couric did release some of the comments originally at the time, like at the time they said that Ginsburg said that Kaepernick was “really dumb” was one of the things that was released at the time. But obviously I think we can agree that the things that were released in her memoir were probably worse. And I don’t know why you would admit, ‘fess up’ to these things, which it just seems like as a journalist, she failed to meet what she should have done at the time. I don’t know why he would admit to that.

Matt: Yeah, I wholeheartedly agree.

Zach: So I mean, not much to talk about with that. Just kind of an interesting thing. So we’ll leave that conversation there. We’re going to move on to our monologues, but first we have a message to bring to you from the Minnesota department of transportation. 

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I really enjoy doing these ad reads, Matt. Anyways, we’ll take a quick break and we’ll be back with our monologues. Stay tuned. 

Matt: Alright, and we’re back. For this week, Zach is going to give us a rundown of Andrew Yang’s new party, the Forward Party, and he’s going to share a few of his opinions on the problematic nature of our two party system.

Zach: Great. Thank you, Matt. So I think you all should know by now that I’m a little bit of a political nerd. I’m interested and curious about it all, especially on the national level, that curiosity leads me to many questions. Some that I find answers to and some that I don’t, one keeps coming up. What the heck is going on with Andrew Yang? The former presidential candidate in the 2020 Democratic primary just keeps popping up in the news and on my Twitter feed. First, he outperformed his expectations in the presidential primary, going from an unknown to someone that outlasted people like Kamala Harris. Then, he went on to canvas and even temporarily live in Georgia to get out the vote for the two crucial Senate runoff elections. Obviously the Democrats won both of those seats, securing the Democrats a narrow majority in the Senate. Since then, things have gotten even more interesting for Yang. He unsuccessfully ran for mayor of New York, seemingly changing his whole persona from the well-liked figure he was in his presidential campaign to a politician, in the worst way. He tried to pander to everyone, said what his Bloomberg consultants wanted him to say, and in the end he had a disappointing fourth-place finish in the Democratic mayoral primary. Enough with his life story, though. Yang recently started his own party called the Forward Party and released a book titled Forward: Notes on the Future of Our Democracy. That’s what I’m here to talk about. The book begins almost like a memoir of his time on the presidential campaign trail, but then shifts to his thoughts on the status of our country, policy proposals to fix the issues we have, and then ends with him laying out the platform of his new third party. As Yang keeps popping up on cable news channels and on Twitter feeds some seem to just keep hoping he goes away. I’m quite the opposite. Whether we agree with politicians on the answers they give or not, we need people in politics that ask the right questions. Yang has been doing just that. For those like me that follow Yang on Twitter and regularly listen to his podcasts, there were a lot of stories, questions, and phrases in his book that you’ve likely heard before. Some of them are crucial to understanding our state of politics today, and I wanted to talk about them more. First, the question of Donald Trump’s supporters, regular readers of the Daily will member that I wrote a column on this issue back in February of this year, titled, “Not all Trump supporters are bad.” While many, including the Democrats, 2016 nominee, Hillary Clinton are willing to write off Trump supporters as worthless, Yang has it right. If 74 million people do something, it’s pretty crucial that we try to understand it. Next, he’s told a story time and again about voters he interacted with on the campaign trail. I’ll play the clip and be back on the other end. 

Don Lemon: Democrats don’t do a good job of speaking to working class people. What do you say to that? You’re supposed to be fixing that. 

Andrew Yang: I’ve experienced countless times on the trail, Don, where I would say, Hey, I’m running for president to a truck driver, a retail worker, a waitress in a diner. And they would say what party? And I say Democrat, and they would flinch, like I’d said something really negative, or I’d just like turned a different color or something like that. And there’s something deeply wrong when working class Americans have that type of a reaction to a major party that, theoretically, is supposed to be fighting for them. So you have to ask yourself, what has the democratic party been standing for in their minds? And in their minds the Democratic party, unfortunately, has taken on this role of the coastal urban elites who are more concerned about policing, various cultural issues than improving their way of life that has been declining for years. So if you’re in that situation, this to me is a fundamental problem for the Democratic Party, because if they don’t figure this out, this polarization will get worse, not better.

Zach: That was Yang answering CNN’s Don Lemon and Yang is absolutely right. I can sit here and say that, yes, I agree with the Democrats far more than the GOP policy-wise, but I can’t sit here and say that working class voters in this country should be pleased with the party that has, time and again, been ran by neoliberal elites like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama that, quite simply, didn’t do nearly enough to help the working class to succeed or thrive. If you’re a working class voter and say, screw the Democratic party, I totally see where you’re coming from. But if you’re a Democrat or a left-of-center independent like myself, you need to be asking questions like Yang does. How did this happen? I’ll start with one stat. The last time the federal minimum wage was raised with a Democratic presidency was during the Clinton administration in 1997. It’s been damn near a quarter of a century since Democrats have done the simplest thing to help poor, working Americans — raise the federal minimum wage — and we seriously wonder why many of them feel neglected by the Democratic party? Next, Yang went on Tucker Carlson’s daytime show recently to discuss his new book and new party. Many on the left criticized Yang for daring to go on his show. CNN’s Jim Acosta questioned him on it, and Yang gave a good response. I’ll play the clip and continue on the other end. 

Jim Acosta: Andrew, I just have to ask, I mean, Tucker Carlson, I mean let’s just say he’s just a bad person and he represents so much of what is wrong in television news these days. You know this all too well, he spouts off white nationalist talking points. And so why would you even go on his show and why didn’t you go after him when he’s citing the Unabomber and talking, I mean, just crazy stuff? 

Yang: One of the things we have to do, Jim, is try and take the temperature of the country down, and the only way to do that is to reach out to people where they are. As you know, Tucker commands a massive audience. And if you wanted to try to build a unifying popular movement, that does call attention to the fact that our system’s not working, really for anyone, you know, you have to again, reach out. And that’s what I was doing on that show. I mean, the goal is to have Republicans who are discontent to channel their discontent in a positive way. And right now, in my view, it’s not going in a positive direction. I’d like to help change that. 

Zach: I’m not a fan of most cable news in general, but Yang hits it on the head here. How the heck are we going to come together as a nation politically, if we don’t even try to talk to the other side? So you might not agree with Yang, the things he’s doing or the answers he’s giving, but we need to acknowledge that he’s asking the right questions and recognizing the correct problems. And we need more people in politics, both left and right, that do the same. And Matt, I mean, whether you agree with them or not, I’ve just always found Andrew Yang to be just a fascinating figure and the things he talks about and the things that he says. I mean, no one was talking about UBI before he got on the democratic primary campaign trail. So just what are your thoughts first on that monologue before we get going? 

Matt: Yeah. I think Andrew Yang is going to be an interesting figure moving forward for a while. It’s not everyday that someone tries to start a new party and has the platform going into it that he already does. So I think he’ll be in our discussions for a while. One thing that I wonder about is that Yang isn’t necessarily saying anything new about how polarized we are as a country. I feel like that’s been on our minds before Trump was in office. And I hear people on both sides make these kind of shallow calls for bipartisanship, for unity. And I wonder why does Andrew Yang think that he needs to start a brand new party from the ground up, rather than try and change one of the two major parties from the inside, what’s driving him to go at it from this angle? 

Zach: Yeah. So, I think the issue about, should he go from the third party perspective or should he kind of do it how Bernie does it and kind of do it from within the Democratic party, because, you know, Bernie is in that weird territory where he’s an independent, but he caucuses with the Democrats and he ran for the Democratic primary. Even though he technically wasn’t independent, he’s in that weird situation. So it’s interesting whether we would go that route or go the third-party route. I mean, to be honest, I’m not a big fan of him going the third party route with the way that our system is structured right now, because if you’ve got a two-party race really what’s going to happen is, you’d think if they’re running on the same platform that Yang runs on, they’re just going to pull away from the Democrat and the Republican’s going to win all the time. I think Yang doesn’t want that. And he’s talked about it. I mean, obviously this isn’t, you aren’t the first person to ask this question. He’s been asked this question. So kind of, I think what he’s hoping for,, I don’t want to speak for him, but it almost is going to feel like a PAC at the beginning where they’re going to, they’ll endorse certain candidates and they’ll kind of push for their policies in that way. And if they build up enough of a coalition, then they’re able to give one of the two major parties a run for their money. And I know that doesn’t sound like a great answer, but I mean, I think that’s where he’s at right now. 

Matt: I think you bring up an interesting point about how this may affect the voting for Democrats because he ran as a Democrat before, generally Democrats might be seen as more aligned with his policies, universal basic income for sure. And I think that says a lot for the Tucker Carlson interview and how Jim Acosta seemed to kind of miss the whole point of that, where Andrew Yang has to reach a lot of Republicans to have a chance at this really, or a lot of people who generally vote Republican. Because otherwise he’s just going to be pulling a few Democrats or a few democratic voters, and really just steal from the Democratic candidate. 

Zach: Yeah. I mean, that’s totally fair. I guess the one way that I would push back on that is, I don’t have the polling in front of me, but, Yang, it looked like, was doing well in the primary for president, with people who that were before Trump voters, and who said like, if Yang doesn’t win the Democratic primary, I would go and I would vote for Trump for president. 

Matt: Really? 

Zach: Yes. I think part of that, I guess, I don’t know, he’s less quick to, you know, just straight up rip on Trump. I mean, obviously there’s things to rip on Trump for, but, I would say to a certain degree…

Matt: He’s diplomatic.

Zach: Right. No, that’s totally fair. And also, I mean, universal basic income. While yeah, a lot of leftists will advocate for universal basic income, I mean, even a person like Milton Friedman was big on negative income tax, which is, I mean, not the same thing as a universal basic income, but similar. So there is some crossover there, which I guess is where he gets interesting, where he’s not totally on the left. I mean, I agree that he would totally pull more from Democrats than he would from Republicans. 

Matt: Yeah. So kind of speaking of this and speaking of what platform he might align with most, I hear him asking a lot of good questions, calling out that the political landscape is polarized. Politicians aren’t reaching the real people in their day-to-day lives, the way that they should be at least. But I haven’t heard a lot of the Forward Party’s main answers to these questions. So I guess what is his platform? Can you give us a rundown? 

Zach: Yeah, so he has six main proposals. I would say I’m a fan of them, but some of them just come off as generic and maybe being words that don’t really say that much. So first is a good one. It’s ranked choice voting and open primaries. So that’s probably going to do a lot about polarization. I mean, I’ve written a column on ranked choice voting. I think that we need to have ranked choice voting. And the reason we don’t is because Democrats and Republicans don’t want more competition because that wouldn’t be good for their game now, would it? And the open primaries thing, I mean, you can get into it with what exactly he means by that one example is, it’ll be called like final five voting where you have Democrats and Republicans come in for a primary. So it’s not like the Democrats have a primary and the Republicans that are primary.

Matt: Yeah. 

Zach: And you vote for your person in the primary, no matter who it is, you vote for your person, your one person like we traditionally vote. And then, when you narrow it down at the end of that, you have five people who are the top five vote getters. And then they move on to the final round and what we would think of as our traditional election day and those final five are you rank them one to five in what rank choice voting would be. So, that is kind of his idea with that, which I think would be good at kind of alleviating the whole two party system, because obviously in that system, it’s not really like, your party matters that much because we don’t have to deal with this whole thing about like, if you’re stealing votes from someone you might align with them, that whole thing.

Matt: Yeah. Yeah. 

Zach: So there’s a, there’s that one which I tend to agree with and I would think maybe, you do too. 

Matt: Yeah. That’s kind of, that’s kind of solving a problem that he’s creating as a third party. Or not creating, but you know what I’m saying? It’s solving, it’s solving his own problem there.

Zach: Absolutely. And then, number two, now this is a great one. It’s fact-based governance. I mean, like the thing about that is he writes that and a lot of politicians will do this as they’ll write generic statements. That would be like, like ‘we want strong education.’ And it’s like, I mean, I agree with you, but like, what are you going to do about it? Like, I agree that we should have fact-based governance, but like, what are you going to do about it? 

Matt: I don’t disagree. And I wonder if there’s any party out there saying we have fiction based governance. 

Zach: Exactly. So, I mean, that’s that one. And human-centered capitalism, which it sounds like it’s the same thing and it is to a certain degree, but I’m a fan of it. So it kind of thinks about, you know, we have capitalism, but should capitalism really be all about like GDP, and growing the GDP, and getting headline unemployment down as low as possible? And, Yang has gotten into this a number of times, and I agree with him. It’s like, no, it’s not like we go into work everyday, like, you know, I want to do my part in increasing the GDP. It’s like, no, I want my family to be happy. I want my kids to grow up and not be depressed. And it looks at things like we should look at, if drug overdose rates are going down or if suicide and depression rates are going down and how unemployment is kind of a problematic stat and we should look at other things too, like, you know, underemployment. So if you’ve got a four year degree, but you’re working at Starbucks, you’d be underemployed. 

Matt: Yeah.

Zach: Or like labor force participation rate. So that kind of gets into the whole thing about how, if you don’t have a job that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re unemployed, which is something that labor force participation rate looks at. So it’s that one that, which I kind of like,  I don’t know if you have any thoughts on that? 

Matt: Yeah, I think it’s interesting. It would change a lot of how policy is made, to completely change the metric of ‘how do we judge a successful economy?’ But also I wonder how that, it seems like it would be a driver of policy rather than an actual concrete policy. It’s a different way to frame economic policy. 

Zach: Right. So I think it kind of gets into his, like I say, he asks the right questions. It’s not necessarily about the answers. Where like,  even if you go back to like the 2016 Trump/Hillary race, where, you know, I’m really dumbing it down, but Trump was talking about ‘Make America Great Again,’ which you can say what you want about his policies, it’s a good slogan. Because you have people who are, I mean, you have people who are sitting here and they’re saying, you know, Hillary is talking about how she’s going to do the same thing as Obama for the most part and how Obama created this good economy, which in some metrics he did, but in some metrics, you know, if you’re sitting here and you’re hearing one candidate say I’m going to keep doing the things that created this great economy. And you’re like, well, I lost my job. So I don’t know what you’re talking about. That’s the type of thing where we need to look at different metrics that are actually going to look at how people are doing. So then the next one is another one that I’m not a huge fan of. It’s “effective and modern government.”

Matt: Interesting. 

Zach: So, I mean, he gets into how, you know, our government isn’t really up to par with where they should be as far as like technological infrastructure and that type of thing, which, I mean, it’s totally a good point, but maybe a little bit vague and say an effective and modern government. And then the next one, universal basic income. I think we’ve already talked about this one to a certain degree. I’m a fan. And I mean, Yang is really someone who’s brought it to the forefront and who knows, but I’m not convinced that we would have had the same discussion around, you know, the child tax credit benefit increase going out to parents or, you know, the stimulus checks, if not for him or at least I don’t think to the same degree it wouldn’t be talked about. I saw one thing, I don’t know if you saw it like a top Google search recently, it was like fourth stimulus check. Like, will I get a fourth stimulus check or something like that? I’ll probably need to CQ that one or our editor will get mad, but they definitely said something like that. And then, then the last one. Here’s another great one. It’s grace and tolerance. 

Matt: Gotcha. 

Zach: So, I mean, again, it’s a good point, but like, I don’t know.

Matt: It’s the things like, it seems to me from those, what was it? It seems to me that Yang’s big thing is reframing how we do a lot of policymaking and how we judge our democracy rather than, it sounds like the only concrete policy position there is universal basic income.

Zach: Well, and I mean, yeah, and I guess you could say the rank choice voting one. 

Matt: Oh yes, yes, yes, yes, absolutely ranked choice voting. But that kind of makes sense too, is that this is why you start a third or another party. Because these are kind of fundamental changes to how politics works right now, or at least how we judge it, how we analyze it that I’m not sure it would be possible just joining the Democrats or the Republicans, because they seem pretty entrenched in their ways as it is. 

Zach: Right. And I guess the thing that I worry about is I’m like, I’m going to be completely blunt. I’m a fan of Yang and many things that he stands for, but I don’t know if his message would have gotten out the same way had he not run on the Democratic primary ticket in 2020. You know, those debates are all on TV. I don’t, other than, you know, like, the the driver’s license clip, I’ve never watched a libertarian party primary debate, you know the driver’s license cliff I’m talking about? You don’t need a driver’s license to drive. You shouldn’t need it.

Matt: Yeah. I’ve seen that. 

Zach: But like, other than that, like, I’ve never watched a third party, like I’ve never watched a green party debate. Yeah.

Matt: And that video was circulated as a joke, right? It was a real video, but no one was applauding their policy stances. It was laughing.

Zach: Yeah. And, yeah, I mean, I guess I agree with, we need to look at different things. Because I mean, I wrote a column on it, but I don’t know if you remember the, like, the Mr. Potato head thing and the Dr. Seuss thing. 

Matt: And actually when I was interviewed for a position at the Daily, Sammy, our last editor, asked what my favorite column was that I had read. And that one was my favorite. Because I thought it was what people needed to hear because that was nonsense. 

Zach: Right, and it’s like, my friends would ask me like what I thought about it, and, to be honest, my opinion was just like, who cares? Like, we’ve got, you know, unemployment, we’ve got so many problems with healthcare and polarization and it’s like, you really asking me my thoughts on Mr. Potato Head? Like, I do not care.

Matt: And with Andrew Yang, I hope that he starts to kind of talk about some more concrete policy issues because it’s one thing to say, you know, we need to come together as a country. We need ranked-choice voting as a way to do it. But it’s another thing to start addressing the issues that are so divisive. There’s reasons that people disagree on things like healthcare or stimulus checks for COVID. And it’s because people actually have different views on how we should do these things. Sometimes. Sometimes it’s because they’re too tied to some party or whatever, but Yang is going to have to do a lot more than just address the divisiveness in the country. Because he’s put himself at a disadvantage by creating this new party. So he’s going to need to come up with some really, really good ideas. And I think he’s promoting a couple there already, but I think it’ll be interesting to see too, as he kind of elaborates on things like effective and modern governance and proposed infrastructure changes and updates that can be done in government. But yeah, it’ll definitely be interesting to see how he moves forward with these things. 

Zach: Yeah. I mean, I should be fair. He does also have a page on his site basically talking about some of his proposals. So he has ranked-choice voting on there. He has universal basic income on there. He has democracy dollars on there, which is an interesting idea. If you’ve never heard about it, it’s basically, as a way to flush out, with the Citizens United that we talked about a couple of weeks ago, as a way to flush out that money. If you just give every citizen like a hundred dollars that they can only spend on campaigns. So it’s like a voucher basically. So that would be a good idea. I mean, he’s got ideas on here. 

Matt: Yeah, yeah, I’m sure. 

Zach: But I think part of it is his messaging maybe is a little bit off with, he’s talking about, he’s got his six core values and like, I mean, you can agree with them, but it’s like grace and tolerance?

Matt: It’s like, it sounds managerial like the, I don’t know, like when you’ve got a manager at work, who’s got their core competencies that they’re promoting and it’s like “sharing, happiness.”

Zach: Right. No, absolutely. 

Matt: But that said, I mean, something like a, what did he call it? His six. 

Zach: Core values.  

Matt: Six core values. I mean, there is something there too where it’s like, yeah, you’re not going to elaborate every little policy outcome. That’s going to come from your six core values. But I guess as I’ve seen Yang go on these news shows, I haven’t heard him talk very much about the kind of nitty gritty and I’m excited to see him do that as hopefully he holds onto this, this platform that he’s got right now.

Zach: Right. Yeah. No, I agree. So, very interesting conversation about Andrew Yang. I think we’ll leave it there. We will take a quick break and I’m excited for this conversation about Matt’s monologue. So we’ll have Matt’s monologue followed by a conversation. We’ll be back. 

Alright. We’re back. Matt has prepared an interesting monologue on this year’s Nobel peace prize winners, as well as the state of journalism worldwide today. I enjoyed reading it and I’m sure you all will enjoy listening to it as well with that, Matt, take it away.

Matt: Alright. So the Nobel peace prize is often thought of as this objective award given to a person or organization for their pursuit of peace, justice and prosperity, for all the people of the world. In many cases, the description fits pretty obviously: Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the three-time winner International Red Cross all come to mind, but sometimes not quite. In 1973, the Nobel Foundation awarded Henry Kissinger a joint Peace Prize for negotiating the ceasefire in the Vietnam War, a war in which he played an outsized role. In 2019, Abi Ahmed, the prime minister of Ethiopia who is now waging a civil war in the Northern Tigray region, was given the prize for ending the conflict with neighboring Eritrea.

These winners were used to send a message on behalf of the Nobel Foundation. While these people may not be perfect emblems of peace and prosperity, they were a pivotal part of at least one change: an internationally, politically relevant move towards peace. And this makes sense. There are millions of people fighting every single day, spending tireless hours devoting their lives to peace. These millions of peace promoters may not get the prize, but Henry Kissinger on the other hand does. My point here is that the Nobel peace prize can be a strategic attention grabbing tool. Often it’s not so much about rewarding a specific person as promoting a specific agenda. This year, the foundation chose to use its platform to award two journalists, Maria Ressa of the Philippines and Dmitry Muratov of Russia.

If you haven’t been keyed into Filipino politics or the Russian independent news scene, you aren’t alone. They don’t have the mass following or name recognition of some of the award’s previous winners, but they have each been fighting for decades to promote freedom of expression within their respective countries.

In 2012, Maria Ressa co-founded the news site Rappler, which started sas a Facebook page and quickly turned into a fiercely independent and widely read news source in the Philippines. As we all know, with attention comes criticism and Ressa and her site quickly became a target for anti-media campaigns.

Shortly after, current Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte was elected in 2016. He implied that his administration was behind the killing of a crime reporter in Manila. The exact quote, “just because you’re a journalist, you are not exempted from assassination. If you’re a son of a bitch, freedom of expression can not help you if you’ve done something wrong,”

The president continued the war on journalism with several legal battles aimed at dismantling the free press in his country, suing outlets, forcing news channels off the air, and even prosecuting reporters on trumped up charges. These efforts were widely accepted among those in the media as attempts at intimidation and censorship of those who couldn’t be shut up.

Ressa and Rappler continued to report on injustices perpetrated by the Duterte administration drawing the ire of him and his supporters who blasted the site online, calling it fake news and berated Ressa personally, with a flurry of derogatory remarks. Eventually the legal battles found Ressa as well. When she and the journalists at Rappler were convicted of “cyber libel” in June of 2021, facing up to seven years in prison for making an edit to a column written in 2014. The case was thrown out this August. When the professor i.e. prosecution withdrew the complaint, Dmitri Muratov the other winner of this year’s peace prize has a similar story. Editor in chief of one of the new, one of the few remaining independent news sources in Russia, Novaya Gazeta, Muratov is no stranger to the dangers of his profession. In fact, during his tenure as leader, killings have rocked his staff, one being the famous 2006 murder of journalist, Ana Politikkovskaya, who was a prolific reporter on human rights abuses in Chechnya. Five other staff members have been killed since Muratov took over the Editor in Chief position at Novaya. Nineteen journalists have been killed in Russia since 2002. Muratov has dedicated the award to the killed staff members of his team. 

In choosing such figures, these spearheads of independent, state critical journalism, the Nobel Foundation made their message clearer than ever this year. Media outlets across the world are under immense pressure. The 2010s were mired with reports of media freedoms declining globally, with rises in restriction, so-called “lawfare” (strategic and aggressive campaigns of legal actions against media outlets, like in the Philippines), and general lack of public trust taking the main stage. The Pandemic may drag these issues in darker form into the 2020s. The International Press Institute reported in May 2020 that some governments had begun to take advantage of real misinformation online to ban certain reporting on the pandemic, while others used it to rush through laws banning “misinformation” in general. The throughline here is that governments imposed restrictions on reporting under the guise of verifying COVID information, but with the real intention of censoring and controlling narratives about the pandemic and government behavior. The same study reported a veritable increase in violations of press freedom across the globe during what we now consider the first few months of the pandemic. The IPI’s report includes references to high numbers of physical attacks and arrests of members of the press in all corners of the globe. 

The last time a journalist was given the Peace Prize was 1936, and his name was Carl Von Ossietzky. He reported on Germany’s breach of the treaty of Versailles, and was jailed for libel, just like Ressa. The Nobel Foundation’s rationale for awarding him the prize was “for his burning love for freedom of thought and expression and his valuable contribution to the causes of peace.” Their reasoning for awarding Ressa was her unending fight to “safeguard freedom of expression.” Surely, the reasoning behind giving the Peace Prize to Von Ossietzky and giving it to Ressa and Muratov are slightly different, but each represents the Foundation’s emphasis on promoting the relevant issues of the day, especially when it’s democracy at stake. Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov are representatives of the fight to maintain press freedom during the pandemic. The Nobel Foundation has used their platform this year to make a statement. Press freedom is under attack across the globe, and by bringing this issue to the center stage, they make their point clear: we must do more as a global community to protect the freedom of expression, and freedom of the press.  

Matt: So, Zach, I’m interested to hear what you may have to say about the government and its relationship to journalism. Maria Ressa’s company, Rappler, was started as a Facebook page and with Frances Haugen (or the Facebook whistleblower’s) testimony before Congress recently, there’s a lot of buzz about the role that the government should play in regulating speech online. There are two sides of this one being the government could take over and start censoring people, but there’s also the sentiment that the government needs to step in and regulate these private companies that promote certain content. But overall as such a politically minded young man, what are your thoughts?

Zach: Yeah, so, I mean, first before I get going, I’ll say that this is a very complex issue, with a lot of things playing into it, but I think something good about this is we might not totally agree on this. So I think that’ll play for a good discussion, hopefully. So, I mean Facebook’s complex and is Facebook perfect? No. Facebook has a lot of issues. Not even getting into politics. I mean, I think if you think about young girls and young boys on Facebook and it played a major role in sparking,  depression and just  general unhappiness, I think there’s a lot of problems there with people being on it too much. And you know, Facebook’s a business and they’re trying to make money. But the problems with that, trying to make money, is that you’re just driving more people on there, more people on the app and they continue to become sadder and sadder as human beings. I mean, we could say the same thing about, you know, TikTok. I mean Instagram is maybe the worst of it, which is obviously owned by Facebook as well. But really any of those social media apps, Snapchat, same thing, that you can get really deep into this formula with their algorithm and what they’re going for, but really all it is is people on their app for longer and longer and longer. So that’s one issue with Facebook, but talking about the issue of misinformation, I’m not sure if the issue is letting the government step in. I understand it’s more complex than that, but the thing that I worry about, and I mean, Facebook doesn’t do a good job of deciding what is misinformation or what isn’t, but who is to say the government would do a better job?

Because I mean, the government has lied to us. I think about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, there weren’t weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. And I mean, you can go back. If you look at the United States during the Cold War, and if you want to call them fibs, we told about the way that things were working in Latin America and what we were actually doing there. I mean, you could go on and on about the ways that our government has lied to us. And I understand this is different, but really it’s not. And those would be the same people. And to a certain degree, they could be policing themselves. So you get into a little bit of a dicey area there, I would say. But the way that Facebook works right now doesn’t work either. I guess the thing that I’ll say is I worry about really letting anyone censor what we can say, because while a big government getting too powerful and this will be bad, I also think a big Facebook getting too powerful would be bad.

So I suppose where I go to is that I just wonder how much power they should have to censor really much of anything, because you can sit here and say that, yeah, they’re going to sensor, you know, this anti-vax information, which you can sit here and say, that’s good. But you can also turn right around on your head and say that they could also take that, and Bernie Sanders says something about Medicare for all, and if Facebook gets paid off by whatever, some big pharma corporation, they could just pin a big ol’ headline saying that no, what Bernie Sanders says about Medicare for all is false. And that changes the way that public opinion goes and, and the way that that whole thing goes. So I just wonder if maybe both of these players have too much power and if we just need to restrict both of their powers.

Matt: Both these players as in the government and Facebook? 

Zach: Yeah. 

Matt: I think either way you go, whether you think that Facebook should be handling the regulation, or the government should be handling regulation of content on Facebook, there are nightmare scenarios either way really. But also I think that what we’ve got right now is in need of some reworking. 

Zach: Absolutely. 

Matt: I agree with your idea or your sentiment that it’s scary to think of any sort of censorship online. People talk about discussion on Facebook and on all these other social media platforms as kind of free speech adjacent in that, no, it’s not free speech because it’s happening on these private platforms, their companies, they get to regulate what they want to, but hese sites are so incorporated into how we work as a society at this point. And there’s no denying that. So to me, I say we need some sort of government interaction with what is said on the sites, because they really are, they’re private companies, but they are a center of public discourse. And I kind of line up with what Frances Haugen was saying in her testimony, which was, we don’t necessarily need people shutting down certain speech. But we need some sort of regulation on how the algorithms work. And this’ll be interesting because Congresspeople have no idea how Facebook works. There were all those videos that came out. I think it was, it was in 2020. It was after the election, of Congress kind of grilling Mark Zuckerberg and AOC had had some good questions, but AOC is also very young.

Zach: There was one, it was something like, “Mr. Zuckerberg, can you explain how you make money, if you don’t charge for your app?” And then it’s like, “we have ads on our platform.”

Matt: I think someone, someone asked the CEO of Google. I forget his name now. 

Zach: Oh, they asked him a question and it wasn’t about his company. 

Matt: Yeah, it was about Apple. So that’s concerning, right?. And we need, these are brand new technologies as far as the lives of people in Congress go. But also, so what people talk about a lot is section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which basically says providers of interactive computer services shall not be treated as publishers or speakers of any information provided by another content provider. So these platforms are not responsible for what is said by other people on their platforms, is basically how that’s been interpreted. And my issue with it, and I think what’s going to be interesting, in this conversation moving forward is that frames these providers as passive, which they objectively are not in the conversations that happen on their sites. They can interact with content without being the poster of the content. So when, I don’t know, if someone posts some COVID-19 misinformation, right? If it’s, really, really crazy, it’s going to get a lot of engagement. And the way that they currently run is engagement based ranking. The more engagement it gets, the more play it gets, whatever. It kind of ends up being, if it bleeds, it leads. And the craziest stuff gets promoted the most. So without Facebook itself, as an entity, actually putting content out that’s misleading or whatever, or inflammatory, they can still promote that content. And that’s where it comes to me, where it’s, maybe it’s not about shutting down certain speech, but it’s about regulating how Facebook promotes different speech, because, I don’t know, I think there’s this almost sort of like natural, if people, we would just kind of flatten the ranking, right? I think there would still be chances for public discourse and free sharing of information to happen. And the really important things that need to be shared would still get shared. I just think it’s concerning that there’s no regulation of that as it stands right now. 

Zach: Yeah. I mean, I guess I see your concern with that. And I also think part of that is that, you know, if you say that Facebook and Twitter kind of raises the temperature in the room politically, I absolutely agree. I guess, I don’t know what regulation you maybe are saying would impact that. And I also agree with  section 230 to some degree Facebook, and these other social media companies are kind of defined in the wrong terms, as far as what they are. Should they be just a platform where you post stuff and it can’t be regulated or are they a publisher where they have control over the content? So are they more, just like you’re walking down the street, that would be like a platform, but if they are more like a newspaper that will be like a publisher, can they totally control what you want? That would make them a publisher. And that would open them up to far more regulation as far as what they can and can’t do. You think about the Washington Post can’t just write what Joe writes on Facebook. I think that if you’re going to categorize them as a publisher, that would be the end of Facebook as we know it, which might not be a good thing, but if you’re going to say that ‘yeah, there’s lines where that we need to change it,’ I think I absolutely agree that there’s lines where Facebook and Twitter might need some regulation. I guess I don’t know quite how that would work, but generally speaking, I guess I would agree with you on that. 

Matt: Yeah. To be honest, I don’t know how it’ll work either. I don’t think many people know how it’s going to work. The Facebook whistleblower, Frances Haugen, kind of alluded to a couple mechanisms that Facebook could use to mitigate this spread. One of the things comes down to things as trivial as, internal research at Facebook showed that, just asking someone to click a, “Are you sure you want to post this?” button before they post whatever, could help stop the spread of these things. And that doesn’t feel to me like any sort of real regulation on people’s speech. But yeah, it’s going to be interesting. I think it’s going to take research and it’s going to take  transparency on Facebook’s part. It’ll be something that we see moving forward for a long time. I just think that I worry about people being too flinching, too hard hearing about potential government regulation on these things, because I think there are ways that we could do it that stay far away from limiting any type of free speech. 

Zach: Yeah. And something else that I want to hear your thoughts on. I know I have thoughts on it. Former president Trump being banned from Twitter, what are your thoughts on that?

Matt: I think it’s sort of a scary precedent moving forward, but also I think it was an unprecedented moment when he was banned, or he was banned for unprecedented reasons, I guess you would say. I don’t know. I worry about how that moment could be interpreted moving forward, and whether or not the same thing could be done to someone like Bernie Sanders, like you said before, if he started, I can’t imagine a scenario where he starts saying things similar to what Donald Trump was saying on the run-up to him being, banned from all those platforms. But yeah, I don’t know. I guess it comes down to how I want regulation to happen in the first place. 

Zach: I guess the line, the line where I draw it and where it worries me is, you know, if I say something crazy, I’m just an average Joe. If I say something crazy on Twitter and they’ve got rules and stuff that I can’t say this, and they want to ban me, that’s cool with me. But I guess where I draw the line is Trump won an election in 2016. However many million people voted for him and he won the election. And then you can have a very powerful company, a corporation turn around and ban what the sitting President of the United States has to say, is something that worries me about the power that a corporation or a company like Twitter or Facebook would have in kind of setting who can win elections.

Because, I mean, if you think about it, Trump was never going to win a presidential election if he didn’t have Twitter. Because that’s kind of where he took off and where people really started to follow him, and that’s where he gained his following. I mean, you could say the same to a certain extent about Andrew Yang or, I mean, especially AOC, if you think about, very recently AOC took off on Twitter and just social media in general. So I worry about the power that gives those types of companies. If they can regulate, you know, people running for office or sitting politicians, if they’re able to say, no, you can’t tweet anymore. And I understand that you can say it’s more complex than that because in early January and you know, ever since, I guess the 2020 election, Trump was lying about how he lost, there’s no way around that. But I still think it sets a bad precedent that a company can just ban the sitting President of the United States.

Matt: And I think part of the issue with that, and this is, this is why I try to stay away from even discussions about whether or not these platforms should be able to regulate actual speech. I stay away from that because there’s always the cop out of ‘these are private companies. They’re allowed to do what they want.’ And then there’s the flip side of that, where it’s, ‘these are private companies. They shouldn’t be able to shut down the President of the United States, even when he’s saying something crazy.’ I think what we should learn from that is what we should learn from what is happening right now is that they should, I don’t think they should be allowed to regulate speech as it is to shut down. Well, okay. There are obviously limits to that… 

Zach: Well yeah, but I mean, yeah, I see where you’re going, but I’ll stop you for a second. I think the rules should be different for you and me versus Joe Biden, I guess is what I would say. 

Matt: Yeah. I’m not sure if I agree with that. 

Zach: Just because crazy it is, people deserve to hear what he thinks. And he’s a sitting president of the United States. And if he’s thinking crazy things and saying crazy things, this is a democracy and voters should be able to hear that and know that. 

Matt: Yeah. I think the Trump situation too is interesting because, and something needed to be done about what he was saying… I guess. But I don’t know. I get tied up with this one because I don’t think a private company should be able to shut down such a huge platform for the sitting President of the United States. But also I think they should be responsible for what is said on their platform. And that’s why I think it comes down to, what active role are they playing in what is being said? And being a corkboard for people to pin up their crazy thoughts and ideas is one thing. But promoting them is another. And I think that, so Trump already had his platform, right? He didn’t need to get promoted very much when he was on the run up to him being banned. He was the President of the United States. But I think that if Twitter, Facebook, all these platforms that banned him right in, January, wasn’t it? 

Zach: Yep. Yep.

Matt: They only to me needed to take responsibility for their active role in it and shutting down an actual account, I don’t think in his case, is as horrible as what he was saying was, I don’t think the correct move was to shut him down, but I don’t think it would be to shut down anyone. I think their job is to be responsible for the part that they play in promoting the content.

Zach: I would say that that’s fair. I think that the issue is when we think about Trump and talk about anti-vax or how he lost the election, but he keeps on lying about that. I think I see that being more the fault of players in the game, like Fox News or Newsmax or OAN than I see it being the fault of Twitter. So, I mean, kind of tying it back into your Nobel peace prize monologue, I think I see more of the problem with some of this misinformation coming back to journalism. I don’t know how to just say we need better journalism or we need better, more honest journalists. But the role that Twitter played in the game, in that game, yes, they played a role and Facebook the same, but if we had Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, if there was better local journalists, that people actually trusted, if you had those people laughing Trump off stage and saying, this is a load of crap, Trump lost the election. I think that it would have ended differently. And I guess that’s the thing that I see is, if that we had an environment where on Twitter, it didn’t need to be Twitter, this massive company, saying that the things are wrong. If we had an environment, which obviously we don’t, where we could have journalists saying, this is where they’re wrong. And it was actually an environment where we trusted them? I think that is the environment I guess I would aim for for combating that. Which sounds like utopia. I understand. 

Matt: There’s journalists right now that are in a very politicized role and I don’t, I don’t know the history of journalism enough, I guess. But I’m sure there’s always been an element of that. I just worry about “journalists” like Tucker Carlson. 

Zach: Yeah, I was, I was going to say some people are going to give them crap for, I just referred to Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson as journalists.

Matt: But yeah, it’s like this is one of the other issues is when you talk about we need good journalism. That’s true. And the kind of, I guess the not absence of it, but the presence of really bad journalism in people like, like OAN and like Fox, specifically. 

Zach: Right. Or just, there’s still a piece in the Atlantic that I want to get to reading. About how just these hedge funds are just kind of sucking up local journalism and then just either shutting them down or completely gutting them so that they don’t have the same kind of investigative power or they just cut their investigative journalism or whatnot, because I mean, local journalism is just so important to just keeping trust in society and in institutions and that whole thing.

Matt: Yeah. And I wonder what, because what I see as happening is, there’s an obvious, there’s this presence of not great journalism, journalism without integrity, at places like OAN and Fox and the presence of those things can be exploited for governments to start shutting down real news outlets. And that’s what I think about with Rappler where it was a fake news campaign, you know, that’s what Duterte had had kind of latched onto. And it’s something we hear all the time is fake news, fake news, fake news. Because we know that misinformation is out there. We know that shoddy journalism exists, but it’s really hard to, I guess, separate those things. Or it’s easy for an executive with a lot of power to exploit the presence of misinformation to shut down the information that he doesn’t like. So we need to figure out how to legally separate those things or something. And I don’t know if it comes from fact checking news outlets more and more and more and more, but then who has the power to do that? Because when we talk about regulating misinformation, we need to figure out what is misinformation in the first place, because right now, people who care about regulating misinformation people can, people are taking advantage of that essentially, to regulate actual journalism. 

Zach: Right. And I think I agree kind of with your idea that maybe the problem isn’t the crappy journalism at the top, but that we don’t have enough good journalism overall. And I mean, I guess the way that I look at it is, so I come from, you know, small town, Willmar, and if we had more people reading that local newspaper, than I think do, because they keep shrinking as do all local newspapers, it seems. If we had more people reading that and you know, their neighbor down the street, who is an investigative journalist, or is a political journalist, and, you know, they trust that guy down the street rather than watching Tucker Carlson, which is kind of the way that things are shifting on more of a macro scale. You take that across all small communities or all areas that are losing their local journalism. If you take that across everything, it’s just going to create just that misinformation that comes, I guess, is the way I look at it. 

Matt: Yeah. It’s interesting. And it’s something that may be a product of the internet and the 21st century, but it may just be something that’s always been around and is going to be exacerbated now because the wealth of information out there is staggering and it’s hard to regulate all these things. So we just need to figure it out. But yeah, it’s going to be a question for us moving forward, I think for a long time. 

Zach: Right. Alright, so great discussion on that Matt. I think sadly, we’re going to have to leave it there because otherwise we’re going to turn into like a Joe Rogan, three-hour podcast. So we’ll just leave it there, take a quick break, and we’ll be back with a short conclusion, 

Matt: I don’t know about you, Zach but I had a great time with these topics. It will be interesting to see how the Forward Party proceeds in the coming years.

Zach: Yeah, I do too. And it was very interesting  talking more about, especially, the Frances Haugen testimony on the Facebook whistleblower before Congress, as well as on the Nobel peace prize and just journalism more generally, and the idea of misinformation on Facebook, while we disagreed on some aspects of it, I thought it was a very meaningful discussion where, you know, I think I learned more about what I think and I mean, maybe you would say the same.

Matt: Yeah, absolutely. Alright. With that, we’ll wrap things up. Thank you for sitting in on this second episode of the Daily Discourse with Zach and Matt. We will be back in two weeks with another discussion.