Society & Culture
Ep. 60: "BEWARE! THE D.C. BLOB!" SUPERSHOW! w/ Media Roots' Robbie Martin
On this edition of jam-packed, 2 1/2 hour edition ofParallax Views, Media Roots Radio's Robbie Martin returns to the show to discuss what has been referred to in Washington, D.C. beltway media circle's as "The Blob": the foreign policy consensus that dictates the United States' actions abroad.
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Robbie and I begin by discussing the right-wing meme of "clown world". During this portion of the conversation Robbie gives his take on the right-wing's hysterics over cultural change and how they take focus away from issues like late-stage capitalism and antiwar issues. And, of course, we talk about Gavin McInnes and his bizarre stunt involving wearing a Southern plantation owner outfit out the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Robbie tells us about the D.C. "Blob" that guides foreign policy decisions in the United States! We begin by discussing how the metaphor was popularized through the former Obama administration National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes to describe the beltway figures that led the U.S. into the disastrous mistake of the Iraq War. From there we delve into how the "Blob", the D.C. foreign policy establishment, seeks to dictate a highly interventionist war/peace ideology within the beltway regardless of who is holding court in the White House.
Robbie details how the Blob's rhetoric is permeating all areas of the political discourse from the-right-to-the-left and, in his view, originates with the neoconservative movement (for more on that see Robbie's first appearance on Parallax Views in ep. 22). We then have a short back-and-forth about the idea that "neocon" is a codeword for Jews. Robbie argues that this is not true, although I counter that elements of the paleoconservative movement were using the term as an anti-Semitic shorthand for Jews within the beltway. Robbie calmly answers these criticisms and outlines the problems and faults of the paleoconservative conception of the neoconservative movement as a Jewish "Israeli-firster" conspiracy. He then goes onto argue that the neocons are not driven primarily by Israeli-first sentiments as much as a American hegemony. Israel, in this conception of the neoconservative movement, is not guiding American foreign policy but rather just another arm of U.S. hegemony. This portion of the conversation also includes a little bit of talk about the USS Liberty incident, neocons taking a degree of inspiration from Mossad operations, and hasbara.
From there we delve into the issue of propaganda, including the U.S.'s long history of propaganda efforts overseas. Then Robbie delves into his research of how VICE ties into the subject of U.S. foreign policy propaganda and I note the sensationalistic, colonialist tone that makes up many of VICE's early documentaries. Robbie also notes the involvement of Bill Maher and Iraq War proponent Fareed Zakaria in VICE media that, he argues, should have been warning signs about the slants in VICE's geopolitical coverage. We also discuss VICE's recent firings of it's writers and some of VICE co-founder Shane Smith's troubling history that has been by overshadowed by Gavin McInnes.
We then pivot into another figure within the Blob, namely MSNBC host and Rhodes scholar Rachel Maddow. This then leads us into a conversation about how the Blob's rhetoric now permeates Hollywood and the entertainment industry and liberal media's favorite buzzword "Whataboutism" (see the Citations Needed podcast for more on that topic). Robbie gives his take on the idea that any criticisms of the Blob are ultimately part of a Russian plot to undermine America's institutions. We then go on to note how the Trump juanta's stance on Venezuela actually coalesces with the Blob's promoters in D.C. and the media.
This leads us into an extended conversation about the Venezuela situation. I myself am open to criticism of Maduro, but am nonetheless concerned about the U.S.'s regime change plans, the involvement of Iran/Contra figure Elliot Abrams in this situation, and the sanctions that the U.S. is imposing upon Venezuela that will have a detrimental effect on U.S. citizens. We discuss the parallels between regime change in Venezeula and the U.S.'s interventionist actions in Iran since the 1950s as well as how the current situation relates to plans for eventually starting a heated conflict with Iran. Robbie and I then briefly discuss the history of Elliot Abrams, his sordid history in Latin America, the media's underwhelming defense of him, and Robbie's interview with The Intercept journalist Jon Schwarz on Abrams career.
From there we delve into the return of neoconservative Bill Kristol with The Bulwark, which paints itself as conservative #NeverTrump Resistance punditry, and how one of The Bulwark's writers is a former Bush administration official who, under the guise of being an online Twitter troll, creepily attacked Robbie's sister Abby Martin on social media. We use Kristol's history and reinvention as a way to discuss how the Blob has become a force that devours everything in its sight. Then we discuss the Blob's "sleeper agents" such as Ann Coulter and Tucker Carlson, who paint themselves as nationalistic anti-interventionists while laying the groundwork for regime change in Venezuela. This leads us around to Rand Paul, long-celebrated by antiwar libertarians, and his suspicious silence on Venezuela as well as his infamous run-in with Abby Martin in 2012 and its fallout.
After that we go back to the subject of Venezuela, the mainstream media's coverage of Venezuela, and what the truth of the situation in Venezuela is right now politically. Robbie argues the situation on the ground is very nuanced and, from an outside perspective, difficult to sift through. We also the U.S.'s prior history of interference in Venezuela under Hugo Chavez and the effects that sanctions will have on the civilian population. In fact, Robbie goes so far as to argue that we are on the brink of a military invasion of Venezuela based around provoking Maduro into violence.
Then we talk about Robbie's Media Roots Radio coverage of Newsguard and attempts to stifle alternative media starting with PropOrNot. Robbie argues that there is a slippery slope where Newsguard's attempts to ferret out fake news be abused to dismiss any media outlets critical of U.S. foreign policy. During the part of the conversation Robbie and I also discuss how websites like Breitbart and The Drudge Report are being conflated with left-wing websites like Media Roots and Counterpunch by Newsguard. Robbie speculates that this may be leading up to an attempt to smear left-wing websites as being under the same racist, right-wing umbrella of figures like Mike Cernovich, Richard Spencer, etc. Robbie argues that alt right voices may be being signal boosted to destroy the antiwar left, which Robbie believes is a threat to the foreign policy Blob. Robbie also gets into how YouTube videos are being demonetized for promoting conspiracy theories and the recent issue in which advertisers left the platform due to its attracting child predators. Why does certain content get boosted over other content in Youtube's algorithms? Robbie and I address all this in this portion of the conversation.
Finally, we begin wrapping up the show by discussing Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and the elements trying to push the Democratic Party left. Robbie takes a bit more issue with Bernie in light of the Venezuela situation, but we manage to have a civil conversation about criticizing politicians and public figures, including the ones we like. And, of course, as always we try to end on a positive note.
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