Dan Carlin's Hardcore History: Addendum - Hardcore History on Fire

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It’s Hardcore History Addendum.

So, in this Hardcore History Addendum,

we’re going to have a friend of mine on the program,

and it’s gonna be kind of a cross-cast

between his show and mine.

And I hope you’ll pardon me, I have a cold right now,

so things are a little…

-…less than perfect. Um, his name is Daniele Bolelli,

by the way, and you may know him

because he’s a famous history podcaster.

He does History on Fire, uh, he has another podcast

called The Drunken Taoist, and we’ve been friends

for a long time, and, uh, he’s wonderful,

that wonderful lyrical voice of his

and the way he looks at the past.

And we had been talking about doing a program together

for a while, and the stars just kind of aligned.

This was recorded a couple of weeks ago, actually,

um, which is good, because like I said, I have a cold now.

Um, but Daniele came on, he had a couple of things

he wanted to talk about, and so that’s sort of the, um,

the gist for how the show kind of went

in the direction it did.

I’ll have a few thoughts afterwards,

because, you know, as it always seems to happen, right?

I thought of a good point or two or something

I should have brought up during the discussion and didn’t.

So, we’ll call that a footnote to the show you’re about

to hear, the cross-cast between yours truly

and, uh, my friend, the great Daniele Bolelli.

Okay, Dan, let’s get playing.

One topic that I found fascinating as of late,

I’m seeing a lot on social media, some efforts to…

kind of redefine terms. This is mostly happening in U.S.

I don’t know if this is a discussion

that’s really happening in other parts of the world,

but in U.S., I’m seeing a lot of discussion

regarding the political spectrum,

what’s left-wing, what’s right-wing,

where phenomena like fascism and Nazism

fit into the spectrum.

And, you know, personally, I find the whole left-wing,

right-wing discussion almost intellectually lazy,

because to me, it’s like, I’m not even interested

in if it’s an idea that comes from the left-wing

or a right-wing. To me, an idea is either a good idea

or a bad idea. Who cares where it comes from?

So, even thinking in those terms,

to me, encourages factionalism.

However, having said that, if we insist on using these terms

like left-wing, right-wing,

then we should probably use them correctly.

And what I’m seeing these days is a major attempt

to change the way the terms have been used historically.

Kind of reminds me of the Princess Bride,

you know, when they say, you keep using this word,

I don’t think it means what you think it means.

That’s sort of the feeling I’m getting in this discussion.

So, I would love to get your take on,

and, you know, we can jump into a whole discussion

on this thing regarding the political spectrum,

where it’s changing, the meaning of it,

what it used to mean historically, and all of that.

Well, I think a little background probably makes sense

before we get started, because I think we should acknowledge

one thing right off the top, and that’s that the idea

of the political spectrum is a human-created thing.

And so, and not just a human-created thing,

but something that sort of developed organically

in revolutionary era France that was then sort of morphed

into something that was used ever since.

And ever since, people have been trying to figure out

how you make it better, because it’s such an imperfect way

to describe political positions.

So, as you and I both know, but let’s review,

in pre-revolutionary and early revolutionary France,

you have an assembly where all the people meet.

And from the speaker’s platform on the assembly,

the people who were the honored aristocratic movers

and shakers, bluebloods in that society,

sat on the right side of the assembly.

And the bourgeois, we would today call them middle class

or upper middle class, the businessmen,

all the merchants, they sat on the left.

And then that became, you know, the beginnings

of where people would say, you know, a man on the left

or a man of the right.

And so, that’s where that initially comes from.

And then that became sort of the shorthand

that was transposed onto later political systems

forever afterwards, whether or not it was

a really good description of other societies,

other countries, political systems in places

far removed from revolutionary France.

So, that’s how it starts.

And then from there on, what we have here

is a human created system that is designed

to try to provide a shorthand, if you will,

for people’s political persuasions.

And ever since, people have realized how inadequate

it is to describe, you know, something as complex

as people’s political beliefs.

And that’s why ever since there have been attempts

to three-dimensionalize it, or create another axis

to measure other things that the left-right

political spectrum doesn’t measure.

And so, in that case, what we have here now

is a spectrum which doesn’t resemble the one

that you and I grew up with.

I’m 53, you’re younger than I am,

but both of us grew up in an era where

the original traditional, let’s call it traditional

for lack of a better word, political spectrum

was in force.

And in that spectrum, just so that we have

a benchmark from where we can have this conversation from,

speaking as an American, you grew up

in a different environment.

But in the United States, we were taught,

when I was a kid, that the United States

and other Western democracies fell somewhere

in the middle of the spectrum.

And that both ends of the spectrum,

either the far left or the far right,

represented extremist philosophies.

Different kinds of extremist philosophies,

but extremist philosophies.

And so, that’s where it started.

So, the far left, when we were growing up,

was always communism.

The far right was always fascism.

And so, that’s why you and I are confused

when we hear people today speak about, for example,

the Nazis being on the left side of the spectrum,

because on the traditional one,

it was always the right side of the spectrum.

Now, I should point out that I had a political science

professor in the 1980s in college,

and this was the first time I ever heard anybody say this,

who said that, really, maybe we should think

of that linear political spectrum as more of a circle.

And that the two halves, the two extremes

actually have many things in common.

So, maybe they touch on the other end.

But so, when we have this discussion,

let’s remember that this is the spectrum

you and I were operating from,

and that most people from our era and before understood.

So, now, let’s go from there.

So, why don’t you start by explaining

what you’re seeing out there that is so discomforting?

Well, start, like, to throw a wrench

into that political spectrum,

which, by the way, it’s exactly correct, right?

That’s exactly how we grew up.

That’s how it was always defined.

But take something like anarchism.

Anarchism traditionally was considered

an extreme left position.

And here you have, you know, communism and fascism,

or communism and Nazism being one considered extreme right

and one extreme left, but they are both shared the fact

that they are totalitarian systems.

Anarchism, on the other hand, by going radically

against the very idea of the state,

seems to be at the opposite end of totalitarianism.

And yet it was never defined in any way, shape, or form

as a right-wing concept.

It was considered ultra-extreme left.

So, what I find weird in this is plugging certain movements

that, you know, they have defined themselves

as conservative right-wing.

Their opponents define them as conservative right-wing.

Everyone involved was very clear about who they were

and what was up, and now kind of trying

to completely change the meaning of what

used to be something that was pretty much understood

by everybody.

I mean, to me, it’s like it’s funny because growing up

in Italy, I’ve been very familiar with lots

of people who are fascists.

I’ve been in conversation with people who are neo-Nazis.

So to me, this is not even like a theoretical debate.

These are actual flesh and blood people who I’ve spoken to.

And if you tell these people that they are left-wing,

you don’t want to see the consequences

because they hate anything to do with the term left-wing

already make them go berserk, and they hate that.

So the fact that today in the US,

I’m seeing this redefining of the spectrum that basically

places all of the totalitarian movements from communists,

which everybody argue they are left-wings.

There is no disagreement there.

But from fascists and Nazis, who are traditionally

considered right-wing, suddenly plugging them

all as left-wing phenomenon, I find

that really bizarre.

Like to me, it seemed like a post-modernist attempt

to redefine, to rewrite the dictionary.

Well, now let me interrupt you because that’s

exactly what it is.

But the, and here’s the thing, the people

who did this redefining were very open about it.

This wasn’t a secret.

The problem is, is that many of the people who quote them

or who ascribe to the same theory

don’t realize that it’s a redefinition.

So for example, I said in our little introduction

that there have been many attempts since we were kids

to try to figure out a better way to define

people’s political positions other than this very

limiting linear way.

Well, there’s one of the examples out there

that was done as a person who decided

to make the question of freedom the defining force.

So right, so the political spectrum kind of plugs in X

and Y what you want, and they can end up

showing what you want depending on the parameters you choose.

So if you decide that freedom is going

to be the basis for what moves the needle on your spectrum,

well, then yes, one direction might

go in the direction of more free and another direction

and less free, in which case all the totalitarian systems,

regardless of their economic viewpoints or whatever,

belong on one end.

And as you said, anarchism probably

belongs on the other far extreme.

I don’t have any problem with people redefining

the political spectrum as long as they understand

that that’s what they’ve done.

Well, and also not using the wrong terminology

because if we’re using freedom, I completely agree.

You can put anarchism on one extreme.

You can put totalitarian ideologies

at the other extreme.

But there’s nothing left or right about this.

This is just a new way of looking at things.

So we shouldn’t probably use the terms left wing, right wing,

which traditionally had a completely different meaning,

and plug them into a spectrum that just

is something else entirely.

Well, and let’s understand, too, a little bit

about what the differences of this always were.


So for example, when you go back to the original French version,

I mean, those people that were sitting

on the right side of the assembly,

those are monarchists, right?

So the extremes in the original system we’re talking about here

are people that support the church, the aristocracy,

the monarchy, and the status quo.

The people on the left side, until you got the Jacobins

and all that, were actually the equality, liberty,

laissez-faire capitalism, maybe.

Take that with a grain of salt. But by the standards

of the time.

And those things change with the times.

I mean, certainly, if we were going

to talk about what left wing and right wing were in the 1930s,

it’s going to be very different than what

they were in the 1790s.

But I mean, from that basis, there

are fundamental differences between the views of the two.

I mean, let me give you an example.

So when you look at the Nazis, one

of the things that catches people up in the United States

is the name, the National Socialist German Workers

Party, right?

So for everyone out there who doesn’t know it,

if we asked what kind of a government,

the North Korean government of today was,

it’s a hereditary dictatorship, isn’t it?

It’s what it is, right?

This is the guy in charge there is the third generation,

father, son, grandfather of a dictatorial regime

that brooks no opposition and has no legislative body

with any power at all.

Yet the official name of that country

is the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea.

That is marketing, right?

That is marketing.

That is exactly what the German Workers Party is.

I mean, to Hitler and his people,

the Nazi party of that early era,

workers was the same as voters.

And this was a political marketing attempt

to try to swing voters.

And by the way, the centrist party

of Germany in that time period had workers in their name.

So this is not an unusual thing.

And so that, but that, but Americans get,

get so hyped up when they see the word socialist or workers

that they automatically assume, okay,

what we have here are Bolsheviks,

which is nothing of the sort.

As a matter of fact, I can’t think of anyone more opposed

to Bolsheviks than Nazis.

Yeah, I mean, Hitler blamed them, you know,

built his whole platform in absolute opposition

to communism.

He was, he blamed socialists for contributing to Germany

losing World War I.

He, you know, if you look at when he took power,

he got rid of the more left-leaning element

who were sympathizing with the Nazi movement,

squashed them all with the night of the long knives.

Some of the first people he sent to labor camps

were socialists.

So, I mean, it seemed like there’s enough evidence there

that the little marketing ploy in the name

should be pretty obvious to everybody.

Well, and for those of you, there are German scholars

out there who realize, I mean, it’s known as Strasserism.

Otto Strasser was, was part of the very early Nazi parties.

Let’s just call it the philosophical wing,

for lack of a better word.

And he would have been more what Americans think of

when they accused the Nazis of being a socialist movement,

but he was purged early on.

I mean, so that side of it, I mean, Hitler took over,

we would call it today a corporate shell.

He went in, saw a group of people

who already were meeting.

I think there were like 20 of them, he said in Mein Kampf,

and he went in there and stole their movement

and got rid of the things he didn’t like,

but the name stuck.

You know, I have Mein Kampf sitting here in front of me.

And, you know, I read it for our little conversation here

for like the 15th time.

I always feel like people that call the Nazis left wing

have never read this book because Hitler actually slams

the left by name, the left, over and over and over again.

He says they chose red for the Nazi flag colors

just to piss off the Bolsheviks and communists, right?

I mean, we’re stealing their stuff

and we’re rubbing it in their faces.

Yeah, it’s like literally if you open Mein Kampf

and read five pages, it would all be clear, right?

It wouldn’t even be an issue.

So I, again, I find like some of these,

part of the reason why it bugs me a little

is because I feel that it is a disingenuous attempt,

like that some of the people who have been pushing this notion

are doing so not because they actually believe it,

but because it’s a slander to call somebody a Nazi

or a fascist in the modern political climate.

So the idea becomes let’s paint those guys

as the Nazis and fascists because then, you know,

we score a point over them more

because they actually believe it.

Because if you actually believe it,

now you got a serious problem with reading comprehension

because it really doesn’t take much to see the difference.

You know, it’s like…

Well, you see, you jumped in front of where I was.

I was going to set that whole qui bono thing up here,

like, because the more interesting question

isn’t were the Nazis left wing or right wing?

It’s why does anybody care?


Right. I mean, what’s the practical re…

I mean, you know, we have arguments over this today

and you go, why?

I mean, this is a 75-year-old issue.

The only reason it matters is how it applies

to the modern political situation.

So there’s a reason that tarring one side or the other

with this label is important.

Now, to get back to our political spectrum

when we were a kid in the United States,

again, I can’t speak for Italy,

because when I went to Italy as a kid,

they had a red flag with a hammer and sickle

on some of the buildings in Rome.

Oh, yeah. I thought that there was like 30%

of the country was communist or something.

Exactly. A little different than what I grew up with.

But in this country, the reason that we were taught

that the two extremes of the political system were bad

was because, you know, this was to teach us…

For example, let me back up.

In 1964, Barry Goldwater, a senator from Arizona,

ran for president against Lyndon Johnson.


Barry Goldwater’s often labeled as the father

of the modern conservative movement.

So where you get away from the country club Republicans

and you get down to the Ronald Reagan kind of Republicans,

a very different sort of breed.


Those guys, um, you know, uh, um…

Goldwater had famously said that extremism

in the defense of liberty is no vice.


He’s the kind of guy that would have approved

of a political spectrum where liberty was what moved

the needle one way or the other.

Um, in a case like Goldwater, um,

the idea that we can look at different movements

in the United States as extreme, it was a warning, right?

Don’t go too far to the left, because if you do,

you take the left-leaning ideas that form something

like liberalism, and you take them to the extreme,

and you get to a dangerous territory like communism.

And if you take the right-wing views, which, you know,

would be a conservative political viewpoint

in America, and you take them to extremes,

you end up with fascism.

Well, in the modern era, I mean, I remember

Jonah Goldberg wrote a book called Liberal Fascism,

and he’s… He, along with others,

try to trace a development that links liberalism to Nazism

as a way to warn you about the dangers of liberalism, right?

These people are on the road to Nazism,

because Nazism’s the worst thing we can think of.

It’s also a way, you know, to say that, you know,

if you move farther and farther to the right,

there’s no bad thing on the edge of that, right?

In the old days, you would say,

hey, don’t go too far to the right,

or it’s bad for everybody.

Well, if you redefine the political spectrum

so that the right has no connection

to nasty political outcomes, well, then, hey,

just moving farther to the right’s always good, right?

So there is… You know, I used to say to right-wingers,

if we go farther to the right, what happens that’s bad?

Does it ever reach a point that’s negative?

And I think that’s the qui bono part,

that there are people trying to redefine the idea

that going to the extremes,

to the right side of the political spectrum,

have any bad outcome at all.

That, to me, is the problem.

So when Goldwater said extremism

in the defense of liberty is no vice,

this is the attitude that if you go to the extreme right,

there’s nothing bad about that

because we’re going to get more free.


No, you’re absolutely correct.

And I think that’s exactly the issue

with framing it as a left-right thing,

as opposed to totalitarianism versus freedom.

I understand totalitarianism versus individual rights.

That makes perfect sense to me.

But don’t plug it into a political model

that doesn’t reflect that at all,

because traditionally there have been

extremely totalitarian left-wing movement

and extremely totalitarian right-wing movement.

What makes them left-wing and right-wing

is not how powerful the state is,

because, again, both sides did it.

It’s other issues.

Like, for example, in the case of the Nazis,

a few of the things that clearly would mark them more

on the right-wing side of things

and why people who are more conservative supported them,

you had the desire to crash labor unions

was a key thing that helped them be popular

with some of the industrialists in Germany.

The desire to go against minimum wage.

Also big in terms of culture wars.

You know, there was a whole wave of gay rights,

feminism, more open sexuality that was sweeping in Germany,

and that Nazism was strongly preaching against.

So taking a more conservative attitude

in terms of even issues that would be recognized today

as part of the culture wars.

So, you know, to me, those are the things

that’s what makes somebody in that case.

And also, sorry, one thing that I forgot,

and that’s probably the most important one of all,

is that the base of the whole Nazi movement

was built on nationalism and race,

whereas traditionally the other extreme,

you know, the communists were all about

the more international, global perspective.

And class.

Exactly. You know, the one was about class.

The other one was not.

The other one, the focus was on race and nation.

One was hierarchical.

One was at least theoretically, of course, not in reality,

but at least theoretically in favor of equality.

One was heavily in bed

with the traditional religious institutions.

The other one was atheist or pushing

a more liberation theology

if they ever flirted with religious ideas.

So, I mean, when you look at it in those terms,

they couldn’t be more different,

despite the fact that they were both totalitarians

who wanted a strong state.

Well, look at the company they keep.

That’s always what I, I mean, domestically,

as you pointed out, I mean,

the Nazis were taking donations from big business.

I mean, the whole idea behind socialism

is that the people own the means of production.

Well, I mean, my goodness, the Germans of the 1940s

had companies like Krupp and Messerschmitt

and Porsche and Henschel.

And, I mean, you know, IG Farben.

I mean, and those guys didn’t go away.

That’s not at all like what you would see

in a communist country.

And look at the allies that the Germans had.

I mean, you mentioned the Italians,

but let’s look at the Japanese.

I mean, you could never spin the Japanese

as a left-wing regime under any system.

I mean, that’s a divine emperor system, right?

And, you know, I mean, for these people that say

that dictatorships and that kind of lack of freedom

is left-wing, well, what was the czar of Russia

before the communists took over?

I mean, that is the ultimate right-wing regime

by any stretch of the imagination.

That’s right-wing by the French Assembly definition

of right-wing, right?

Those are authoritarian monarchists.

The Japanese are not going to ally with a left-wing regime.

Look at Francisco Franco.

Look at all of the people that fall into the fascist orbit,

even, you know, Juan Perón in places like Argentina later.

None of these people fit the socialist model,

even if the name National Socialist

seems to imply that that’s what they are.

Absolutely, and I think that’s what I find upsetting.

Also, I think for me, there’s a little bit

of a personal element, because, you know,

when I think about just not long ago,

when I think about family history,

you know, my grandmother was literally placing bomb

to blow up fascists.

My, you know, there’s a whole,

without even going into the whole family biography,

there’s enough there where these were things

that people felt very strongly about,

where it wasn’t like some academic philosophical debates

about terminology, and it was very real

in terms of who your enemies are and who they aren’t.

And so this effort to muddle the waters,

I find it really insulting, ultimately,

because it’s kind of like changing history

to suit one’s own need in the present.

It’s not unusual either.

I remember when I was on the radio in the 1990s

here in Oregon, there was a group called

the Oregon Citizens Alliance, and they were an anti-gay group.

I don’t even know if they’re still around,

but one of their members wrote a book

called The Pink Swastika, and the whole point

was the same thing you’re seeing in the modern-day world

where people are trying to link Nazism

to the current American left as a way to tar and feather them.

In this case, this anti-gay group was trying to link

Nazism to gay rights as a way to tar and feather them.

I mean, the Nazis have become the wonderful,

and I use them in my own show this way,

because they are the benchmark for evil.

But, I mean, like, for example, I have a quote here

from a story that I printed out for this discussion today,

and it’s from some historians who are talking

about the same thing we’re talking about.

And they were explaining, let me read the post,

because they’re talking about all these different

right-wing writers that have tried to redefine Nazism

as a movement of the left, as a way to tar and feather

modern people on the left.

And they wrote as a concluding line this.

They wrote,

Herewith we come to the effect, if not the point,

of the revisionist exposition.

It is not only to transfer the stigma

of the Second World War’s genocidal violence

from the right to the left,

so that criticisms of radicalized populism

can be dismissed as leftist fascism.

It’s also to suggest that the war was a crusade

against state collectivism of all types,

including the welfare state,

for which many Westerners, in fact, fought.

They reasoned by means of a simplistic,

ahistorical syllogism.

Since socialism is statism slash collectivism,

like public health and public transport,

and Nazism was statist and collectivist,

and promoted public health and public transport,

social democratic public health and public transport

measures must be fascist.

In other words, if you have A and we have A,

you’re all A, right?

And that, to me, is what becomes

a sneaky little debating trick, is the best way to put it.

Because anybody who’s read Mein Kampf

and thinks that Hitler would put up

with being called leftist

hasn’t really read the book very carefully.


And I think it really boils down to,

I believe that there are people who honestly read

these things today and believe it,

probably because they haven’t really read enough before.

But I think a lot of the people who are putting this stuff out

are doing so in a very disingenuous manner,

not because they believe it,

but purely as a political weapon to use

in their political fights today.

And again, you know, if we want to throw out

completely left-wing or right-wing, I’m all for it.

Because I agree, I’m interested in policies

that increase the degree of individual freedom.

I’m interested in policy that help

the quality of human life.

I don’t care where they come from, you know?

So if you want to throw that out completely,

I have no problems with it.

But not redefining existing terms

according to what benefits somebody

in terms of their own political fights,

because that’s just dishonest.

That’s something else entirely.

Well, and you know, it’s worth bringing up

what I think is a key ingredient

in the whole thing that isn’t talked about enough.

And that’s the fact that, you know,

much of the comparison between the Nazis

and the communists involves Joseph Stalin.

He’s a bit of a white, you know, in other words,

instead of Bolshevism,

we’re getting a little deep into the woods here,

but you have Stalinism.

There’s a decent number of historians

that think that Joseph Stalin wasn’t really a communist,

that he hid behind the communist sort of doctrine,

but was, and I’m quoting here,

an old-style oriental despot,

in which case that makes him, yes,

more like a Hitler or a Mussolini,

but you can’t call him a communist then, right?

He’s just an old-style dictator, right?

With a facade of communism,

because communism, for all its faults,

was not supposed to be a dictatorship.

There was going to be a dictatorship

of the proletariat stage,

but decisions weren’t supposed to be

in the hands of one guy who, like Hitler,

called every shot.

Now, the fact that it actually works out that way

in Soviet Union, in Red China,

in the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia,

that’s an actual interesting point of its own,

but that’s not what it’s supposed to be like,

and so those who say that communism and Nazism

are very similar, it might be less

because Hitler’s like a communist

and more because Stalin’s like a Nazi.


No, in fact, and I think that’s where

the whole conversation gets interesting,

where the examples are,

and I think that the one you brought up

is a very interesting one in its own,

and maybe another time we can explore it,

you know, the why an ideology that, in theory,

is preaching this radical equality

turns out to be monstrously hierarchical,

despite saying, no, no, we are all equal,

when obviously, you know, anybody can see through it.

It was crap, it was just something to hide behind.

That becomes, in fact, one of the contradictions

in that movement that’s interesting to explore.

I love Churchill’s line about the equalization of misery.

Yeah, right, exactly.

And then it’s even that, like,

that clearly would not be a good scenario,

but even that’s not real because it’s not really equal.

You know, the guy, the last guy in the Soviet Union

and Stalin are gonna have very different lifestyles.

You know, they are not in the same boat at all.

So, yeah, fascinating, and I guess one thing I wanna,

I don’t know, do you wanna add anything to this

or do you mind if I switch slightly in the conversation?

I don’t, but it’s worth pointing out one thing,

and you brought it up earlier,

and that’s this question of equality.

Whether or not it’s possible, and whether or not

that’s actually what the Bolsheviks or the Red Chinese

or the Khmer Rouge were actually out to do,

that is a key plank in the communist

slash socialist worldview,

whereas the Nazis did not believe in equality.

They specifically believed in the opposite,

the uber-mensch concept, basically,

that there are master people and there are subject people.

What’s more, communism and socialism have this,

you know, you remember the phrase, right?

Workers of the world unite.

Everybody who wasn’t of the ruling class around the world

was part of the potential convert pool.

The Nazis are race-oriented.

To them, being part of the convert pool

had nothing to do with your ideology.

It had to do with your blood.

And so, I mean, this, the idea,

this is a problem Americans have with terminology,

and that’s why I use the People’s Republic,

the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea to start with.

You got to get past the national, you know,

socialist workers party name in the Nazi party.

I mean, the national socialist thing,

too many people buy that at face value.

If you took that out of the equation

and you just looked at the beliefs,

this is how you know so many people are just parroting

what they hear from, let’s call them influencers,

rather than doing their own research,

because it really doesn’t stand up to historical scrutiny.

And it’s hard to find a lot of historians

who’ll back you up on the idea of the Nazis

as a left-wing group.

And as we said, if they’re a left-wing group,

what the heck are they hanging out

with all these right-wing countries?

Yeah, exactly. It’s just, yeah,

that’s why it really makes no sense on every level.

And I’m glad to chat with you about it

to sort of help clarify,

because I’m sure there are a lot of very nice, sweet listeners

who have bought into it

because they have just heard it enough times.

So that’s why I think laying down some actual facts,

you know, laying down some actual evidence in that regard

is very important, because otherwise this is a…

Oh, go ahead, sir.

Well, I was just going to say,

here’s what’s interesting to me, though,

to wrap this conversation up.

We started with the qui bono idea that,

you know, the who benefits, right?

I’d be interested in who’s angry

that we’re pushing this point of view, right?

And why are they angry?

So, I mean, to me,

arguing about where the Nazis stood on the political spectrum

is 75-year-old news.

Having somebody get angry at you today

because of where you say the Nazis are

on the political spectrum is much more interesting to me.

That gets deep into the psyche

of not just American politics right now,

but let’s call it politics in the entire Western world.

Well, and that reminds me, this is actually funny,

because you got into it as well.

I remember a few months ago,

I tweeted this image that I found scaringly chilling,

where there was this image of these guards at Auschwitz

having a picnic and all laughing all happily.

And so you see these people,

and they all seem like sweet, nice, young German people.

And then you remember that they are the guards at Auschwitz.

So, you know, the ultimate image

to display the banality of evil.

Now, you would figure that that would be

a relatively uncontroversial thing,

in the sense that we understand that, yeah,

ordinary people do horrible stuff.

We understand that, yes, the Nazis did horrible things.

Clear enough, right?

We’re talking about 1945.

And suddenly there was a whole storm of angry people

about, why aren’t you showing the communist guards

if you show these?

Why aren’t you?

And it was just like, whoa, whoa, whoa.

Where does this even come from?

And, you know, and it was clearly an effort of,

you know, we need to score a point for our team kind of thing,

even though if you ask them, nobody would say,

no, I’m defending the Nazis.

But that’s kind of where he was.

He was still framed in a left wing, right wing fashion.

And he’s weird because, I mean, I get the feeling

that your hiatus from common sense

has a bit to do with the modern political situation

where if you say that the sun is out,

immediately you’re going to have people

from all sorts of sides yelling at you

that, how dare you say that the sun is out?

The sun is not out.

What are you talking about?

And that there’s such a degree of factionalism

in modern politics that you cannot say even

the most obvious thing, the stuff that’s like saying two

and two equal four.

You can barely say that without it

being perceived as either promoting one camp or another,

which automatically means that 50% of the people

are going to hate your guts.

Well, let me even take it one step farther

in the contradiction.

If the people that said that to you really

believe the Nazis are a left wing movement,

and they’re coming at this from a right wing point of view,

why on earth would they care, right?

Theoretically, you’re just making their point for them,

right? The Nazis are evil.

That’s right.

Those left wing Nazis are evil.

But those are people who think the Nazis are on the left

but get mad when you’re not giving equal time

to the crimes of the Bolsheviks.

That doesn’t make sense right there.

So if you say, why did Dan give up his current event

show temporarily, maybe, it’s because how do you even

deal with such basic contradictions

that the people who are making them don’t see?

I don’t know how to have a conversation with people

who don’t recognize such a basic contradiction.

And I think that’s the problem, that it’s

hard to even have a public discourse.

And I mean, social media doesn’t help because, of course,

you’re not sitting in front of somebody

where you can pick up body language and other things

that are more likely to make you less aggressive.

But still, the point being, we hear this.

It’s very hard to have any kind of conversation

when immediately people start yelling at each other

and are just looking for a reason

to score a point for their team.

And it doesn’t even apply to politics, almost.

It seems to apply like any topic seems good enough

to start a fight about.

And I’m not sure if this is a result of alienation of people

not seeing each other face to face.

I’m not sure what it is a result of.

And I would be curious to hear your opinion.

But I definitely see it.

And I can see why doing a show like Common Sense

may not seem like the happiest prospect in the world for you

when anything you’re going to say,

you’re going to get yelled at.

Well, you know, it is interesting to me

that in these particular times that we live in,

to be someone who tries to see both sides

is seen by both sides as somehow validating or enabling

evil on the other side, right?

If you aren’t 100% condemning the other side,

you’re part of the problem.

Well, that’s not the world I inhabit, right?

We started that program as a way to find things

that we had in common so that we could solve common problems

that both the right and the left would agree upon,

things like a need for government corruption reform,

stuff like that.

I will say, though, let me push back a little on this idea

about division or the anger or the lack of ability

to have a civil conversation.

Because at least in the United States,

I think we have a long history of that.

I don’t think there was some golden age where

we could have these wonderful, calm discussions

about politics.

People always would get, I mean, there’s

a reason that they say there’s a few things you shouldn’t

discuss at dinner, religion, sex, politics.

So I mean, I think people have always

gotten worked up over that.

But if you go back and you look at the kind of arguments,

and once again, the average folks

in the middle of the country weren’t writing

long intelligentsia sort of college-type treaties on this,

but it does seem to my naked eye that the conversations were

held, one, on a higher plane so that you’re really

discussing issues as opposed to the hyperbole and name

calling we do now.

I also think, and this is another topic too,

I think we miss having a common sense, a common framework

of reference.

Let’s call it truth while understanding that there never

was any truth.

But to be able to cite sources in an argument

used to be really valuable, whether or not

we really believe the sources.

Nowadays, I mean, the media is in such disarray.

The people who you used to rely on to provide at least

some window, even if it was a flawed window into reality,

are so disorganized, disoriented.

And let’s let, I mean, totally, their reputations

are in tatters, that that leaves nothing to a conversation

but name calling and whatnot.

I mean, what facts would you argue with?

You have your facts and I have my facts,

and they never come, they never cross over, you know?

Yeah, what was that Rudy Giuliani’s line,

truth is not truth?

No, what is that he said?

Something along those lines.

That was like the most postmodernist statement

I’ve ever heard, where he was just,

and it’s acknowledging the fact that, yes, there basically

is no agreement on objective truth,

that the death of investigative journalism,

because that’s what, you know, as many amazing things

as internet has brought, has also

brought the death of investigative journalism,

because, you know, nobody has the money

to spend to make it happen in an environment where people are

reading stuff online and they’re not buying newspapers anymore

and all of that.

There is no commonly agreed set of facts.

It’s all, that’s why people can, I mean,

people have always made up propaganda,

but there was a little bit of fact checking going on.

Now, I think anything you quote, automatically,

people are going to say, that’s not a good source, screw it.

I’m not going to listen to it.

That just, nope, nope, nope.

I have my fingers in my ears.

That’s just a bad source.

Or at least you could quote somebody who you read, right?

You may say, I don’t agree with what you’re saying,

because, you know, I was just reading this book by so and so,

and he said, I mean, the discussions

don’t happen at that level.

It’s, you know, it’s funny, because when I was in talk radio,

they used to say that you can’t ever

delve any lower beneath the surface than the very surface

issues, because you have to assume your audience is

turning over all the time.

People are getting in and out of their cars and whatnot.

So you always have to keep the conversation

at the introductory level, because new people

are joining it all the time.

I almost feel like that’s become the way

the national conversation and the international conversation

has gone now, where nothing gets below the surface level.

Because once you get below the surface level,

either people are incapable of having

a conversation at that level, or, I mean,

you know, if I come up with facts against somebody

and they say, well, you’re just a fill-in-the-blank,

I mean, already the conversation is over.

So there isn’t a conversation.


And in a functioning, you know, there used to be a line

that in a democracy or a republic,

an informed citizenry is what’s required.

Could you call our citizenry informed?

And if you said no, is it their fault?

I don’t know.


No, I agree.

I think that’s why it’s a really messy situation, which

is why I see the tremendous appeal, not just in US,

but around the world, of really kind of like the strong man

authoritarian type who’s going to tell you,

I will take care of it all.

Because people are confused.

People are scared that there’s so much contradictory

information, so much quick change happening

at an incredibly fast pace, that people

feel like the ground underneath them

is not as solid as it used to be.

And so the appeal of the strong man who’s going to fix it all

seem to be very popular, pretty much,

or I wouldn’t say all over the world,

but in many, many, many different parts.

I’ll tell you what, reading Mein Kampf again,

for the first time probably in two years, three years,

I read it for a show a while back.

But I’m reading it, and it’s funny,

because obviously the situations between post-First World War

Germany and where we are now is totally different.

We’re not in a defeat period.

We haven’t had just the Great Depression,

all these other things.

But when you’re reading what Hitler is saying,

you’re going, wow, a lot of this would apply to now in terms

of he’s slamming the parliamentarians,

and he’s talking about how they come out

to talk to the voters right around election time,

promise them everything.

I mean, it’s the same sort of anger

that would play very well in the current society.

And I have to say, listen, I don’t have a Nazi-istic bone,

or really a Bolshevistic bone in my body, but I get it.

I get the frustration when you see government slowly

but surely not functioning at all,

and certainly not functioning for the common people.

But what’s funny is how often, I don’t

know if you want to call it cyclical or whatever,

but how the very things that Hitler is saying in Mein Kampf,

specifically to appeal, let’s remember

that that book was not to be this great historical document

so we could read it now.

It was meant for a political treatise

for himself in that era, how well that would play today.

I mean, I think people would be scared

if I said go read Mein Kampf to find out where Hitler

is on the political spectrum, because I

think they would think, don’t tell people to do that,

because they might like it.


I think it has been done time and time again,

the whole quoting from Mein Kampf,

not saying that it’s Hitler in front of cheering crowds who

go, this is great.

And then you tell them, by the way, that was Hitler,

and people flip out.

It’s like there’s a reason for it.

It’s people, as much as it’s not a very popular thing to say,

people like that stuff.

Oh, let me give you the converse one that upset me so much.

I remember I was on the radio in the 1990s.

I was always talking about freedom and liberty.

And this America that was disappearing.

And right around the time I was doing this,

I remember I was coming home from work,

and I’m listening to the radio, and there was a story.

And it was some Democrats who had re- I’m going from memory

here, but they had sort of rewritten

the Bill of Rights in modern day English,

so that it didn’t look like the original.

And then submitted it, I forgot where this was.

I want to say it was the House of Representatives.

And a bunch of Republicans came forward

and said that it was awful, that it would destroy.

In other words, just going, really,

we can’t have this kind of stuff.

And then, of course, they sprung the trap on him

and said, oh, it’s the Bill of Rights,

and you would have voted against it.

I think there’s a little of that, too,

where you turn around and go, there’s a lot of it.

And this is another reason that I

think my current event show has a problem right now,

is that it’s hard for me to relate

to a current generation of Americans

that very well might look at the Bill of Rights

and say, way, way, way, I don’t agree with 1, 4, 7.

I mean, I feel like a dinosaur politically.

And so having discussions with people along the lines

that we used to consider to be normal 20, 30 years ago,

elicits responses that surprise me,

and not just from young liberal Americans,

but from young conservative Americans, too.

It is one thing, though, that I’m getting a lot when I bring

this up with people, is that I always

get the feedback of, don’t listen to those people.

Just go ahead, and this applies probably to you

more than to me.

But many people miss your point of view.

Many people miss the presence of a voice that’s not ultra,

that doesn’t push this ultra-factionalism all

the time, a voice that’s actually

trying to make sense out of the current scenario,

not through particular ideological lenses.

And it’s a pain, because inevitably, if you do that,

you will get the hatred from multiple sides.

But at the same time, there probably

is a need for it, precisely because the times are

so ugly in that sense.

On the other hand, it’s very easy.

This is a secret Daniele Bolelli attempt

to try to find the chink in my armor

to get me to go do that again.

I know what you’re up to, Daniele.

Well, I mean, no, and you know it well, and we agree.

But also, let’s look at what I’m doing.

It’s very easy for me to tell you to do it, right?

It’s like, Dan, this is a really important thing

that somebody should do it, wink, wink.

Why don’t you do it?

It’s like, well, yes, that’s great.

Except that that means you have to deal

with all the annoying aspects that would that entail.

So as much as I’m pushing you in that direction,

I also acknowledge that I’m not the best of friends in this,

because I’m telling you to do something that I’m not doing.

So, you know, not.

Well, speaking of that, let me shift this a little bit.

Oh, no, no, I don’t like it already.

Yeah, I’m going to shift this, because we’ve

spoken of this specific American milieu here,

which is where I live, right?

And I don’t mean live like geographically.

I mean, I am a product of this, right?

And it’s a very American point of view

and a very American attitude.

And I realize my blind spots and my blinders.

And when I talk about, you know, the National Socialism

and people talking about all of these

are such American phenomenon, but the United States

is, of course, but one part of the planet.

Let me ask you, you go home to the old country a lot.

How does how does how do these trends that we’re talking about

here in the States, how much is this internationalized?

And tell me, what do you think?

We’ll talk about European youth in general,

but let’s talk about maybe Mediterranean youth

or Italian youth specifically, if you have any connection

to them at all.

How much of this is is apparent?

How much do the situations match?

And in what ways do you see differences?

I mean, other than the discussion about Nazism,

fascism, left wing, right wing, that kind of thing.

And I mean that in the sense that we have established

it’s based on no historical evidence whatsoever.

That stuff, probably because people have lived through it,

is not really up for discussion in Italy.

But everything else applies.

You know, everything else is the same degree

of extreme, brutal, angry factionalism.

The same lack of solution from one side

that then push people into voting the other side,

only to find out that the other side is equally clueless.

So then you swim back to…

I think these are, I don’t want to say universal trends,

because what do I know about every country in the world?

But if we stick the discussion to at least Italy,

yeah, I do see the same dynamics at play.

OK, can we call this a, you know, for every action

there’s an equal and opposite reaction.

Could we suggest that this is a natural attitude,

you know, populism being the response to a government

that is deaf or that is working for someone else?

I mean, another one of the reports came out again,

you know, backing up what everybody already knows,

which is the people that influence policy,

at least in the United States, are people with tons of money.

And the people that have almost no say over policy

are the great mass of people.

How much, you know, I would say that in my mind,

populism, whether you want to say populism of the left

or the right or wherever, is a natural reaction, perhaps,

to a government that is deaf or unresponsive

or seemingly working for someone else.

And I think you could say in the global sense,

I mean, look at the reaction to the EU in Europe

and some of the critiques against it sound an awful lot

like critiques against Washington, D.C.

by Americans here.

Yeah, and I think that’s the problem that, you know,

our, the human mind is very binary.

You know, we are used to good and evil,

black and white, if this or that.

Not realizing that often the solution

is a mix of different impulses,

is not a one extreme or another,

which doesn’t mean it’s in the center either,

because the center is also a stack position.

The solution is dynamic, it’s constantly changing.

And you have to find the right balance

in the right situation.

Now, that’s not the way our minds work.

Most people feel if a faction A is doing something

that clearly is not working,

if the government is not working following this philosophy,

then faction B will be the solution.

If the powers that be in Washington are screwed up,

then some populists to show up will be the solution

or vice versa.

And what I see is just a ping pong game

between stupid ideas where, you know,

it’s like the opposite of A is supposed to be B,

but B, yeah, they talk a different game,

but in terms of result is they are equally poor.

And rather than realizing, okay,

if A doesn’t deliver results,

if B doesn’t deliver results,

maybe we could try something else.

I just see the ping pong game going back and forth forever.

And I’m just like, really, this is the game we’re stuck on?

This is like, do we really not think

that there may be more out there

than just these two supposedly different alternatives,

except that they deliver similarly bad results?

That’s the part that I find frustrating,

that I find is not even about modern U.S.

or modern Italy,

or even the left-right political spectrum.

I find that like a virus of the human mind,

that we think in these binary opposites

that very rarely actually match reality.

Let me propose another idea.

There’s a wonderful punk rock singer, John Lydon.

He used to be called Johnny Rotten.

He wrote a wonderful book, and the title is wonderful,

called Anger is an Energy.

And I would propose that,

and I’m speaking for the United States here specifically,

I would suggest that most Americans in normal times

don’t care that much about politics.

But when it’s apparent that life is getting difficult

and that the situation appears to be extremely unfair,

that the anger rises,

and all of a sudden,

people who are not normally interested in politics

are interested because it affects them.

So, for example, I’ve said forever

that if the United States can’t figure out a way

to do better for poor people and lower middle-class people,

that those people will make the rest of us

feel their pain eventually, right?

They will only put up with it for a certain period of time.

And there’s a tipping point.

If there get to be too many of those people,

no matter how much you want to justify,

and I’m just parroting a line here, right?

The United States is this great capitalist system

where, you know, if you’ve got what it takes,

you will make it, and if you don’t, you won’t.

That sounds great on paper,

but if enough people fall into the

we-don’t-make-it category,

they’re going to decide that that system’s unsustainable,

and they’re going to change it whether or not on paper

this is the right philosophical system.

That, to me, is where you get populism,

where people are just saying,

the system as constructed is not working.

There are people who are doing very well,

and then they convert doing very well

into influencing the government with their cash,

which, you know, even doubles down on the situation.

It makes it worse.

Eventually, you get populist anger on all sides.

If those people could ever unite,

you’d have a real interesting…

I mean, that is a little bit where you wonder

if this isn’t the shiny object being used

by our typical politicians

to keep us from uniting against them, right?

Fight against each other

and don’t notice what’s going on behind the curtain.

But I think what you may see now globally is,

if you get enough people that can’t feed their kids

or can’t afford any health care and they’re sick,

and there’s enough of them,

they’re not going to put up with it.

I mean, history shows

they’re not going to put up with it forever.

So I don’t know why we should be surprised when they don’t.

And as everybody knows,

you have two choices when they flip out.

Either you get into some radical changes

or you crack down on them,

which leads to a more repressive state,

which nobody in this country wants.

Absolutely. And I think that’s…

I think you really hit the nail on the head on that one,

because as much as I’m not a big believer

in conspiracy theories,

and I tend to think that those usually are based

on very lazy thinking,

but you can’t help to think

that when there are real major issues at play

that are ever discussed,

where the spotlight is hardly ever shown there,

where the real business is happening closed doors,

and in the meantime,

they have you fighting about transgender bathrooms

or something that I don’t mean to trivialize,

but really in terms of the great scheme of things,

not quite as big of an issue as, let’s say,

where we are going today in terms of the sustainability

of our relationship with the planet,

of sources of energy, of, you know,

10,000 other things that are at the key

of whether the human race has a future or not.

I can’t help but think that there may be an element

of destruction at play there.

That is like, yeah, get them to fight along ideological lines

about completely irrelevant topics to the real business,

not irrelevant to any single individual life.

Of course, it’s relevant to some individual life,

but I’m talking irrelevant in terms of

what the real business is about,

what the big decisions got to be made of,

and that way we still get to do business as usual

behind closed doors while the idiots are fighting each other

over something else.

Oh, we are very manipulatable,

and this isn’t a conspiracy theory.

This is how politics work.

So, I mean, you can’t call that conspiracies

when the political systems understood

how to do this forever.

I mean, a perfect example is,

I used to interview politicians all the time on the radio,

and some of them became good friends of mine,

and they were very upfront about how things work.

I mean, for example, they would talk about

the problem of fundraising

when you would get between elections.

So, when you would get to this dead zone

that was quite a distance between,

maybe call it an equal distance between two elections,

and it was hard to raise funds,

they would go and agree, the Republicans and the Democrats,

to bring up a bill affecting one of those issues

that just gets money pouring into the coffers on both sides.

Abortion or guns or whatever.

This was a bipartisan effort to fan and whip up the base

so that they started, you know,

so you had something to go back

and ask for contributions for.

That’s not a conspiracy.

That’s politics.


So, I mean, if people get upset with that,

I understand the populist anger,

because, you know, as problems

that we all see around us get worse,

you become more and more frustrated

with the lack of attention to them.

Now, this kind of leads into another subject

you wanted to talk about.

You wanted to talk about, if not these political leaders, who?

And I’ll let you set that up.

Yeah, I was playing with the Dan Carlin time machine concept.

And so if you had to pick one past U.S. president,

which, of course, is crazy, because one past U.S. president

wouldn’t have the knowledge of the modern world that we have.

But in a more, you know, let’s say you give them a few years

to catch up to what’s going on today,

personality-wise, if there was one past U.S. president

that you wouldn’t mind seeing in the White House today,

is there anybody?

If there’s anybody, who would that be?

Well, you sort of screwed up my answer, too,

because you issued the disclaimer

that I was going to throw out initially, which is,

I don’t think you could bring back any 19th century presidents

and bring them up to speed with the America of today

so that they could operate.

That’s because I know you too well,

and I closed the way out of the question.

I was like, I know where he’s going to go,

so let me close that door right away.

It limits the choices, that’s all.

I know.

You know, it’s funny, because this is a question

that gets to one’s own political beliefs,

because, obviously, I’m going to pick the president

that solves the things that I believe are problems,

which may not be what other people believe are problems.

I thought about this a little bit.

To me, I think I got to bring back somebody

who’s going to figure out how to give the United States

a soft landing from where we are now.

And there are going to be people that don’t believe

we need a soft landing or any kind of landing.

But what I mean by that is, if you look,

and this is, again, my personal opinion,

if you look at where the United States is now,

let’s call it what it is.

It’s an empire.

And it’s not just an empire.

I always blow people’s minds when I point this out.

It’s the most powerful empire in global history, OK?

And it’s not even close.

So when you say that, you know, Americans

are so conditioned to believe that they’re not an empire,

that that simply strikes them incorrectly.

It feels like you’re making a political statement

by even saying that, right?

Because we’re not like Nazi Germany.

We’re not like the Mongols.

No, we’re a commercial empire.

Think Athens, right, or something like that.

Think Carthage.

That’s what we’re like.

And we exert a very light touch with client states

and friendly states and alliance systems.

We have a navy that controls the seas,

protects the trade routes, all these kind of things.

But that, to me, is unsustainable, right?

Whatever it is, 600, 800 bases, whatever

it is around the world.

I mean, if that’s not an empire, I don’t know what is.

So I always say to people, well, how do you think that’s

going to turn out long term, right?

In other words, project 100 years from now.

Where’s the American empire?

Project 200 years from now.

If it’s not there 200 years from now, what happened to it,


My attitude is that this is unsustainable.

But I think the people in the United States government

and the halls of power and many Americans

assume that the conditions we have now,

US global dominance, or the word we’d like to use

is global leadership, that this is ever present and unending.

That this is the status quo for the rest of history

moving forward, which is ridiculous.

And as we all understand from, what was it,

foreign policy 101, the balance of power principles,

it naturally, when you have one overriding power,

it naturally creates an interest for other global powers

to coalesce, to counterbalance it,

which leads to either terrible wars eventually,

or eventually some country bankrupting itself,

trying to keep the status quo.

So when you ask me which president I would bring back,

I would bring back somebody who both recognized that

and would be in a position to do something about it.

And it would take a very special kind of person.

So I always go to Eisenhower.

Disclaimer, General slash President Eisenhower

did a lot of things that I think were awful

and that got the country into worse situations.

For example, he was a fervent user of, like, the CIA

to undermine countries and all these kind of things.

But I would suggest that that is part of the era he lived in

and certain challenges from that 1950s war against communism

that I would give him a little bit of a pass on.

What I would say about Eisenhower, though,

and why I would choose him over those 19th century guys

is he’s a guy who straddled the divide.

He was born in one America, and he was president

of another America, and he remembered

what the old America was like, right?

What I always get angry at, when Americans will talk to me

about my political beliefs on the empire thing,

they will always say to me, well, you’re an isolationist.

And I will say, I’m not an isolationist.

I wanted the American foreign policy

that existed from the beginning of the country

to about the Second World War.

If that’s isolationist, I’m sure the Mexicans

and the Native Americans and the Canadians

and a bunch of other people would go,

oh, it doesn’t seem very isolationist to me.

But my point is that Eisenhower was born in a Norman Rockwell

upbringing and understood that that’s the America

that if we could get back to that, we should.

And when you look at his comments,

he understood totally that it was

an unsustainable and temporary situation

that we were in in the post-Second World War world,

and he was looking for ways out, right?

When can we get out of Europe and let the Europeans resume,

you know, their normal operations

and they control their area and they defend their area?

He was looking for landing zones, right?

How do we get out of these commitments

in a way that’s safe, right?

He didn’t want to leave anybody in the lurch.

He realized that, you know, you had to be careful.

But that’s why he gave that military industrial complex

speech at the end of his presidency,

because he realized that this is not sustainable,

nor is it healthy long term.

But it is profitable for some people.

So you have to be careful because eventually

that profitability for some people becomes addictive.

And it’s funny that so many of the people

that decry U.S. social programs don’t realize

that the number one transfer of wealth that I can think of,

especially if you’re talking about the discretionary part

of the U.S. budget, is from the American taxpayer

to a bunch of companies that make military hardware.

I mean, that is military Keynesianism right there.

So when you ask what president I would get,

you need a president that can, one, see the unsustainability.

I think Eisenhower pointed that out

when it was a lot less bad than it is now, by the way.

I also think he understood what America really was

because he grew up in it.

So in his mind’s eye, he would like to, as much as you can,

you know, given the realities of the 20th century,

get back to that.

And he remembers what the road back looked like.

Finally, I think the fact that the guy was a general

makes a huge difference because in our country,

it is so easy to tar and feather a civilian

when they start talking about changing, you know,

the global military balance of power and all this,

whereas Eisenhower knew all those generals,

Air Force guys, and admirals by name, personally.

He played bridge with them, right?

He did not fear them.

He could go right up to them and say, you know,

Bob, this is ridiculous.

The country can’t afford it or whatever.

And no American person is going to think

he’s soft on defense.

So when you talk about what Dan Carlin thinks

the country should have to get back on an even keel,

this is my own personal, you know, bias,

you’re going to take in my mind a guy like Eisenhower

is going to be required to do it.

Now, did he do a lot of things I don’t like?

He absolutely did.

But I don’t have any presidents who are perfect.

Were there 19th century guys I would like?

Sure, but they’re not going to be able to.

I mean, if you put them in the White House,

even if you tried to bring them up to speed,

the country that they’re going to be dealing with

doesn’t even resemble the one that they came from.

So to me, it’s got to be somebody who at least existed

in a time where the country had some semblance

of what it’s like now in order to adequately,

you know, contend with the problem.

So I’m picking Eisenhower.

Do you have a person you would pick?

Well, I mean, as you said, there are no perfect guys.

And in some cases, we are really just looking

at very different degrees of imperfection

because some of their downsides are very heavy.

But one guy I like, I can’t tell both in personality,

probably because he’s a little mentally deranged,

which seems to be one of the characteristics

I resonate well with.

But I did this three-part series on Theodore Roosevelt.

And as much, okay, let’s start with the negatives.

Roosevelt never swore a war he didn’t like.

He was ridiculously impulsive,

very hawkish in terms of foreign policy,

all stuff that I’m not particularly fond of.

So what is that I like about the,

and just to clarify again, Theodore Roosevelt,

very different from Franklin Delano Roosevelt,

so just as a reminder.

But Theodore Roosevelt, one of the things that I dig

is two concepts.

One, his environmental policies, I thought they were awesome.

You know, he’s the one guy that I’ve ever seen

who pushed the best environmental policies

in terms of a president.

And I think that to me is something

that should be a bipartisan issue,

should be something that everybody goes behind

because it doesn’t matter where you fit ideologically

if you have poison in your water or in the air you breathe.

So somebody who made that a priority is important to me.

And also, I really like his willingness

to challenge the corruption in both parties.

You know, he’s, to this day,

he’s the best third-party effort ever in modern times.

He was very open about going hard against the people

in his party as well as people in other parties.

You know, there’s a quote of his that I really love that,

and granted, you know, quotes are easy to,

stuff is easy to say.

Every politician can deliver a good speech

and then not follow up.

But in terms of the way he did follow up

on some of these issues, something I like.

But there’s this quote where he goes,

political parties exist to secure responsible government

and to execute the will of the people.

From these great tasks,

both of the old parties have turned aside.

Instead of instruments to promote the general welfare,

they have become the tools of corrupt interests

which use them impartially to serve their selfish purposes.

Behind ostensible government,

sits enthroned an invisible government

who in no allegiance

and acknowledging no responsibility to the people.

To destroy this invisible government,

to dissolve the unholy alliance

between corrupt business and corrupt politics

is the first task of the statemanship of the day.

I don’t disagree with a comma in there.

You know, it’s like everything is dead on.

And I found that his actions

in terms of cracking down on corruption

were particularly needed.

So when you put those two together, you know,

his environmental policies and his attitude

in terms of factionalism slash corruption,

those are characteristics that I think

are extremely important to this day.

You know, I always was fascinated with the,

you know, if you talk about like life lessons,

it would have been interesting had Roosevelt gone through,

in my opinion, I mean, one of the things

I find interesting about the guy is he’s a very,

for those who don’t remember or know,

Roosevelt was, and I always called him an adrenaline junkie.


I always think about Teddy Roosevelt in terms of how,

what kind of a president he would have been

more at the end of his life than when he actually was.

Because when he was president,

in some ways he reminded me of my grandfather,

who I always thought was like Batman.

And Teddy Roosevelt always wanted to be like Batman.

And when I was a kid, I loved Teddy Roosevelt

because he was like a big kid who played with toy soldiers

and thought all that was, I mean, yeah.

I mean, to me, that’s, I liked that as a president,

but as I got older, I thought, okay,

this is a dangerous guy who thinks war

is wonderful and heroic and grand.

But here’s the thing, you know, he goes through it.

And by the way, his experience, as we all know,

when he was fighting in the Spanish-American war,

in his mind was glorious and grand,

and he had a great time and it was wonderful.

You know, war was a game then.

But then you get to the First World War,

which he actively wanted to get into,

and he loses kids, right?

His kids die in the war.

And it changed him, you know?

I mean, and that is, the Roosevelt that happens

after that happens might have been, in my mind,

a more well-rounded figure than the guy

who was actually in the White House.

So in that sense, I think in a weird way,

and it sounds like disrespectful to say so,

but I mean, I feel like the guy grew up

in a way that would have made him, like you said,

I mean, a president who fights corruption,

and he was known as the trust buster.

I mean, he would have gone in and taken on

some of the big corporations today,

which, you know, what I always argue,

by the way, this is an aside,

but what I always argue to these Americans

who want a tiny, tiny, tiny little government

is then who’s gonna protect us against

the giant, giant, giant corporations, right?

There’s a balance there.

And Teddy Roosevelt understood

that the government needs to be like a fire,

which is what an early American writer once said,

President once said the government is like fire,

that, you know, if you don’t have it,

you’re freezed to death, but if it gets out of control,

it burns everything around it.

But what that means is it needs to be tended

at just the right level.

Just the right level is one that could protect the people

from something like a giant international corporation

that runs roughshod over our rights and freedoms,

but not so large that it runs roughshod

over our rights and freedoms.

So, yeah, I get it.

It’s interesting that both you and I

picked Republican presidents, isn’t it?

Well, I mean, even the definition of,

that’s why, you know, Democrat, Republican to me is like,

especially when you go far back in time, you know,

that’s why eventually Roosevelt didn’t fit in with anybody.

You know, he didn’t fit in with the Republican Party.

He didn’t fit in with the Democratic Party.

He was his own thing because he upset them all.

You know, he did things that the powers that be

didn’t like in any direction.

And in some way, ideologically,

he would be considered very right wing

and in some ways, ideologically,

he would be considered very left wing.

That’s another thing that I dig about him,

the fact that he didn’t seem to be a slave to an ideology,

always going with the playbook of his party,

but very much making up his mind as he went,

not feeling the need to constantly fit in

with what’s considered acceptable by his voters,

which I think was kind of what made him fun.

You didn’t know what he was going

to argue before he jumped in.

Well, and maybe we can put a wonderful bowtie

on the whole conversation here,

because you had mentioned that the, you know,

to talk about Democrats and Republicans

before the modern era is to talk about parties

that were so different that the comparisons

don’t even work anymore.

A perfect example of that is when I was looking

for Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt speeches

for the latest Hardcore History Show,

I was listening to some of the campaign speeches

of that era.

So we’re talking about the 1940 presidential campaign.

So Roosevelt’s opponent was a guy named

Wendell Willkie, who was a businessman,

the Republican, and he’s giving speeches.

And if you went and looked, and you can find them online

to his speech or his conversation to the camera,

I don’t think it was an official speech.

It was more like a, what would you call it?

A filmed campaign commercial maybe

by the standards of that era.

You can see how much the United States

has moved to the right, totally.

Because if I played Willkie’s speech today

and I didn’t identify what it was,

there is not a person who would hear it,

who would think that it was anything but a leftist speech.

But remember that this is the guy to the right

of the guy who’s gonna crush him in the election, right?

So to me that, you know, we talked about Goldwater

being the real person who changed

the American conservative movement

from where it was to where it is,

which was a hard move to the right.

And then what Reagan did, who supposedly, you know,

Goldwater laid the foundation for Reagan,

who 15 or 14 years later, you know, comes to fruition.

Reagan moved the Democratic Party to the right.

Both parties are to the right of where they were in 1940,

which if you said to somebody who wants to make America great,

were we great in 1940, they would probably say,

well, greater than we are today.

Go look at the campaign speeches from both the Democratic

and Republican presidential hopefuls in 1940

and see if you could agree with either one of those

if you’re on the conservative side of things now.

Yeah, that’s one of the funniest things

about looking at it historically and not just being

stuck in the present, that, yeah, you do see these changes

and you can’t help but smile at it.

Because, yes, that would be a shock to a lot of people.

Well, and listen, as you know, I’m not saying

that this is right or wrong.

I’m simply, this is not fake news.

I mean, people can go check this out for themselves.

You may say, thank goodness the United States and the world

has moved to the right politically.

Or you may say it’s a tragedy.

But it’s fascinating that we have and that things,

I mean, the Republican presidential hopeful in 1940

is talking about expanding social programs that today

people on the right side of the ledger

want to get rid of totally.

So it’s, again, you know, when we talk about going back

to another America, I don’t think people understand

what the other America was.

And this is why I have such a hard time doing

my current events show now, because that was always

what I was suggesting, that we need to get back

to some of the foundational ideas that when I was a kid,

nobody would have argued with.

You might have argued over if I said

we need to get more liberty because we’ve

been reducing our personal freedom and all that.

A lot of people would say, yeah, yeah, yeah.

But then when you get down to the specifics,

might argue with, oh, I don’t mean that, or I don’t mean this.

But today, when I say things like that,

I get pushback from young people on both sides

of the political spectrum.

In other words, I, as an old fashioned American,

am so out of touch with today’s political world

because they’re not like that.

So I have a hard time.

I mean, in the old days, you used

to be able to base an argument on certain fundamental truths

that everyone agreed with.

And now no one agrees with those truths.

So even something like liberty, that’s

a bad word in some circles now.

And when you use it in the circles that use it

and like it, they don’t mean it the way I mean it.


I think that’s one of the things that I’ve always noticed,

like when I argue with some people who are pushing,

it’s all about freedom, freedom, freedom.

Like, I get it. I like freedom.

Freedom is a cool thing.

So I’m assuming you are in favor of ending the war on drugs,

legalizing prostitution, and legalizing euthanasia.

And they’re like, no, no, no, no, that’s not what I meant.

I’m like, OK, then probably we should have a dictionary talk

first about what you mean when you say things like freedom.

Because to me, that’s individual rights.

You know, you have the right to put

whatever you want in your body as long as you’re not

affecting somebody else.

If people want to sell sex, as long as nobody’s being forced,

they have the right to do so.

And they have the right to die as they wish.

And I’m not even saying that’s a good or a bad thing.

I’m just saying, if you are going to scream freedom,

probably that would be a consistent way to go about it.

But often, as you say, what people mean by certain words

is not really the same meaning that everybody see.

And that’s why I think certain words are poison.

Like, we should, the less we use them,

the better, because they are so hopelessly vague that everybody

project their own meanings on it.

You know, when’s the last time you

heard a candidate anywhere saying

that they are against freedom?

That, yeah, we hate freedom and we need to squash freedom.

Or when is it that we are, you know,

terms even like left wing, right wing, as we started with,

are so vague.

Terms like socialism, communism, they

are all things that are like, you

can have a discussion going on for hours with somebody,

never realizing that you are not talking

about the same thing in the first place

because you assign different meanings to those concepts.

And I think this is amplified on social media, where you don’t

have the time to go, hey, wait, stop a second.

What did you mean by that?

And so this discussion go on forever,

where really there’s not even an agreement about what

it is they are talking about, except that you’re

using the same word.

Well, it’s like what we had said when

I said that there was that translation of the Bill

of Rights into common language and people were against it.

There was a famous quote.

I forgot who said it, but it was years ago.

So it shows you how little, in some ways, things have changed.

Where I think it was a political figure,

it may not have been, who said the Bill of Rights would not

even get out of committee if you tried to pass it today.

People today adhere to a bunch of marketing slogans.

Like when you say the national anthem,

or the Pledge of Allegiance, or any of these things,

and all these wonderful words come out, and we cherish them,

and we almost treat them with a sort of a religious devotion.

But never delve into what they mean, nor talk about,

you know, when you say something on liberty,

what is the practical meaning of that, right?

And this is where you get into the devil’s

in the details question.

But if I was in charge of the school curriculum,

these are the kind of things we would be asking, right?

What do we mean?

Are we talking about just political rights, which

is in one time period what they were talking about?

Because in 1787, you had a lot of states

that felt just fine cracking down on people’s morals,

and didn’t think about that as an infringement

on their liberty at all.

But you go to the 1960s, and there

was a whole new generation of Americans

that were saying, wait a minute, we believe in liberty, too.

But liberty means my right to do what

I want, as long as it doesn’t hurt someone else.

What was it Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said?

The right to swing my fist ends where

the other man’s nose begins.

Well, what I’ve said is we live in an era

where everybody’s noses are growing

euphemistically longer, right?

And so, I mean, if you change what constitutes harm,

that’s the equivalent of being Pinocchio.

And it becomes a time period where now nobody

can swing their fist without contacting

someone’s ever elongated nose, which

means that our liberty is all being constrained,

because now we hurt people with comments on Twitter, right?

As opposed to the real infringement on liberty

is telling somebody, no, you can’t

walk on this side of town.

That’s an infringement on liberty

that everybody 50 years ago would have understood.

Didn’t mean that they were going to let

black folks cross over the tracks

and go to their side of town, but they

would have understood it.

In this day and age, we’re so easily hurt.

And if that becomes the Oliver Wendell Holmes point at which

we can restrict people’s behavior and liberty,

we aren’t going to be able to do anything.

Yeah, and that’s a funny thing that everybody,

and this is across the political spectrum,

everybody seem to love play the victim.

The people who scream about how everybody else is playing

the victim more often are doing it in a can

you believe what they are doing to us kind of way.

There’s this culture of victimhood that’s people,

it’s almost like you’re scoring a point

if you are the beaten underdog.

And people seem to really thrive on it.

Like it seemed to be a popular concept today.

Let me ask a question because I don’t know the answer,

but I wonder about it a lot.

I’d be curious on your view.


I can’t decide if Americans today,

and when I say Americans today, I’m

talking about the grand whole.

But I think when we’re talking about technology

being the way we figure this out,

we’re probably skewing young on that, right?

Are Americans today just more jerks than they used to be?

Or are we more able to express ourselves?

And so we see that Americans, and I’m saying Americans,

but this is a global phenomenon.

Is this a culture where we’re just trolls

to each other all the time?

Or is this because of our ability to express ourselves

has become democratized with social media and everything

that we’re just seeing how Americans and other people

around the world would have been 50 years ago

had they had the tools?

I mean, had Nazi Germany been on Twitter with Chamberlain’s

Britain and France at the time, period, and Imperial Japan?

I mean, can we imagine the 1940s world with our social media


Would we have been any nicer to each other?

Or is this, in other words, I guess

I’m asking, is this a human phenomenon?

Or are we seeing a change in people’s attitudes

that is a result of the interplay

between social media and our political situation?

I think my feel on it is that it’s 80% human nature,

and 20% some social conditions that have changed,

partially because of technology, but also

just loneliness and alienation.

You know, it’s very different if you’re having discussions,

if there is a community that you’re part of,

if you have discussions face to face,

if you are used to mediating in that regard,

or if you are in your lonely four walls and one roof

and you don’t need to have that kind of,

you don’t grow that muscle that allow

you to mediate with other people on a regular basis

because you don’t have to.

And so your communication is going

to be inevitably much more abrupt and harsh.

I think both facts, I would tend to say human nature is

human nature, it doesn’t change radically.

But I do think that online communication

and heavy loneliness that most people feel

by not really being part of something larger

than often what’s going on within their own four walls,

that contributes to not developing that ability

to have more nuance or mellow conversations

with other human beings.

Let me tie in something that may or may not be relevant,

but it’s interesting because as you say that,

I’m thinking about something I was discussing

with somebody just the other day.

And it has to do with several articles I’ve been reading

about young people not dating as much as they used to,

not having, I mean, in other words,

not going out to clubs to meet each other the way

we used to when I was a kid.

In other words, if you think of young people

as having a constant sort of a temperament

throughout most of history, right?

We’re going to go out, we’re going to meet some girls,

we’re going to go out, you know, I mean,

all these things that we used to consider

to be just normal human things when we were kids.

Fast forward to now where we’ve introduced a variable,

the technology, right?

Something that had never been a part of the debate before.

And now we’re seeing a generation of people,

and again, broad generalizations here,

but I mean, I’ve got two kids who are teenagers myself.

They don’t date as much as we did.

They don’t have face-to-face conversations.

They don’t know how to walk up to somebody

that makes them nervous and ask them out.

I mean, maybe this is something that’s

a variable that changes an equation that used to be

pretty consistent throughout most of human history

because we were dealing with human beings,

and they can be pretty consistent, you know,

across a variable spectrum.

But you add this social media thing,

and I say social media, but it’s the whole thing, right?

Social media encompassing everything,

including texting, I mean, everything.

And you have an entire maybe generation,

and it’s going to be interesting when they’re

the parents raising the next generation,

of people who interact with each other

in very different ways.

And so maybe, you know, in the same way

that I would have thought it would be much easier

to ask a girl out on a date just by texting her

than having to walk up in front of her

and deal with the embarrassment of being

shot down in person if that happens,

maybe it’s easier to call somebody a jerk.

Or maybe it’s easier to say, you know,

to pick a fight or call people names

when you don’t have to do it face-to-face.

Maybe that’s a function of the technology.

Absolutely, and I think that is…

I mean, we’re changing the rules of human communication

within a couple of decades,

and we have no blueprint for how to do it.

You know, it’s kind of like somebody who

got at the wheel of a car and has never known

anybody who drove a car, never drove a car.

They don’t have a user manual,

and it’s just like, go ahead,

let’s see what happens kind of thing.

We are playing a dangerous game.

It’s a health, in some ways, a beautiful game

because so many amazing things have happened

in the last 20 years because of technological innovation.

So by no means the, back in my days,

before this evil technology screwed us all up,

that’s not what I’m saying at all.

But there are clearly some issues

that we haven’t really figured out how to deal with

that are, as much as they are contributing

to creating more opportunities and some amazing stuff,

they’re also contributing to some serious problems

that we have no solution to.

I think that leads into the last thing

we were thinking about discussing today,

the trends and forces and the ability of an individual

to make a difference in an era where it seems like

there’s so much, how would you describe it, Daniele?

I mean, we always used to just call it trends and forces

versus individual initiative.

But I mean, in this social media thing,

I mean, I was just, I was reading a review of a book

by Shoshana Zuboff, it’s called Surveillance Capitalism.

And it’s just another one in a long line of books

that’s explaining how we’re being diced and categorized

and files are essentially being kept on all of us

based on browsing histories and all these kinds of things.

And how dangerous this is if you think about,

you know, what’s going to happen down the road

with all of this and yet how passive

so many of the younger generation are about this

and passive not so much because maybe they don’t see

that it might be bad, but passive because they feel powerless.

What are you going to do, right?

Are you not going to participate in the modern world

just because everybody is putting together

predictive technologies that will begin to be able to know

where you’re going to be next week ahead of time?

Maybe let’s introduce this topic

because it was the last thing we wanted to discuss today.

But the question of how much individual initiative

can play a role versus the trends and forces

that we’re all operating in.

And I think that is the problem sometimes

with slow moving catastrophes.

You know, you see where it’s going.

You can tell way ahead that the direction is not

a healthy one.

And yet there is nothing you can do to steer it,

or at least you don’t feel like.

Think like things like, you know,

you’re serious that you did on the fall of the Roman Republic,

for example.

It’s very clear that the trends you analyze

don’t happen overnight.

They don’t happen in one year or in 10 or in 50.

You can see them from like 200 years before

this process is beginning.

And many people are seeing it along the way.

They scream and shout saying we need to do something about it.

And clearly nobody’s able to course correct for real

and avoid where the whole scenario is going.

Sometime, you know, there is something to be said about.

You don’t want to say, oh, throw up your arms and say,

we’re all powerless, forget it, just have fun while we can

because it’s all going in a bad direction anyway.

But at the same time, sometimes you

wonder how much as an individual you have an impact

on major historical forces.

I think, you know, in history, we have examples of both.

We have examples of individuals who

have managed to make a humongous difference.

But we have even more examples of times

where you see where things are going without the ability

to do something about it.

I mean, I mentioned earlier something

like environmental issues.

The fact that we live on a society that’s

essentially polluting the very food we eat

or the air we breathe.

And we all know it.

We all understand that that’s a problem.

Nobody likes it.

And yet we’re not able to make a switch.

Or, you know, if we are able, we’re

taking very small steps when something is moving faster

and more action is needed.

That tells you a lot about this.

And, you know, you can look at basically

every major civilization that has collapsed.

Usually the warning signs were there

long before they did collapse.

It didn’t happen in one day.

And yet, despite the fact that there were probably

very smart people living in those places,

didn’t help being able to fix it.

So I’m not sure whether I have a pessimistic or optimistic view

of things in this, because I can think of examples

where occasional individuals have made a big difference.

But I also get your, I kind of see it

as the same discussion as you do in common sense,

where you feel like, is it really worth it?

Am I making a difference?

Is this, can this really impact things or not?

I look at, you know, for me, I think some of this problem,

I have a hard time with it because, you know,

I’ve just spent some of this conversation

talking about how much I believe in liberty and freedom

and people and all these kinds of things.

And yet there are certain kinds of problems

that don’t lend itself, it seems to me.

And again, I could be wrong about this.

I think we’re watching it unfold

and I’m trying to learn as we see it also.

But I mean, there are certain kinds of issues

that it seems like, instead of democracy,

because some of them are republics,

some of them are parliamentarians.

I mean, people get hung up over words,

but we’ll call it a voter-driven system, maybe.

There are some problems that seem to be difficult

for a voter-driven system to deal with.

And usually they are long-term problems.

There’s only one aspect of the totalitarian systems

that I’ve ever been jealous of.

And that is their ability to plan long-term.

So the communists used to have in the Soviet Union

five-year plans and 10-year plans.

I’m jealous of those, because to me,

something like that would be unsustainable

because we’d elect a different president

if we didn’t like the plan and we’d change course.

But so many of these problems require trade-offs

between the now and the later.

And people, I mean, for example,

if you said to me, listen, Dan,

we’re going to have to make changes

because of the environmental situation

that will hurt you and your family now,

but will benefit countless generations into the future.

That is a hard pill for people to swallow

who are trying to keep their heads above water now, right?

Think about, I always think about Superman.

If you go back and you read the Superman origin story,

it seems terribly prophetic for now, right?

Krypton’s going to explode.

Superman’s dad goes and tells the people on the council,

listen, we have to plan for this.

It’s going to happen.

And they laugh at him, and of course,

we know what happens, right?

There’s something to that now, where, I mean,

look at what happened in France, where the government there

tries to implement climate change protocols

and disagree with them or agree with the specific plans

they chose, doesn’t matter.

But the people then rebel, because they’re

the ones who are going to have to pay the tax for that now.

You know, people who aren’t making enough money

to make ends meet now, and so they rebel against that.

You kind of go, God, I don’t want

to live in a system where the only way we’re going to make

the world survive is to overthrow

the will of the voters, because the will of the voters

can’t possibly sacrifice now for generations yet unborn.

And yet, that seems to me to be a chink in our armor

in a democracy or a parliamentary system

or a republic.

Any thoughts on that?

I think that plays into the trends and forces thing,

because I think if the trends are bad long term

and they require us to all sacrifice, maybe

sacrifice for our lives now for children yet unborn,

I think that’s really difficult for us to imagine doing.

And then you throw in the corruption,

where there are people who are going, heck, I’m making money


I’m not going to not cut these trees down now.

I won’t live to benefit from the money these trees will make,

you know, 100 years from now, 200 years from now.

And I certainly won’t benefit from using them

as a carbon sink.

I think the system works against us solving

those kind of long term problems.

And if the long term problems are existential,

then what does that mean?

There was a great line of congressmen debating

with Theodore Roosevelt back in the day

about environmental policies.

And the guy said, I kid you not, posterity?

What has posterity ever done for me?

Well, listen, and it’s more than that,

because everybody likes to focus on the climate change question,

because it’s right in our face.

And we get into the question of is there or isn’t there

and blah, blah, blah.

To me, once again, that’s the shiny object.

Because there are, even if you want

to say that we must do something about that, OK,

have that debate elsewhere.

But who’s against clean water, right?

I mean, there’s a number of these pollution issues

where you’re going, really?

Can’t we agree on let’s not pollute the fresh water?

But we fight that.

Yeah, that seems pretty basic, exactly.

It’s like it should be an absolutely non-partisan


Is clean water a Republican-Democratic?

It’s crazy, but it’s the same short term, long term deal.

Yeah, it is.

And I think that’s precisely the problem,

that as long as short term special interests are ruling

the conversation, it’s very hard to have

any kind of long term discussion about what benefits humanity

as a whole, for sure.

Well, and how does it fare into the imperial debate?

I mean, there was a wonderful 60 Minutes story a while back

that was talking about tanks, you know,

armored vehicles, right?

And Congress was voting on, should we or shouldn’t

we build more tanks?

And the military came to Congress and said,

we don’t need any more tanks.

We have them all sitting on lots.

They’re all covered up.

We have more than we need.

And yet, they voted for more tanks

because the people in the districts

of the representatives make a living

building stuff for tanks.

So in other words, it’s the tail wagging the dog

there, and we have a system where

we’re going to continue this imperial sort of thing

for what Eisenhower talked about, right?

The military industrial complex, not just

because it benefits the big fat cats in the corporations that

make this stuff, but because it benefits the workers

themselves who are trying to feed their family

and put food on the table.

Absolutely, and I think that’s where

sometimes that clash of interest is

what leads to decisions that seem to make no sense.

But let me, just for the sake of not bumming everybody out,

let me try to throw a lighthearted one on you

that we can maybe wrap things up on.

The Dunkerque time machine, forget bringing back

US presidents, forget.

I know there are places where you

would like to be a fly on a wall in terms

of historical curiosity.

You know, being at the Battle of Cannes

would be fascinating in many ways.

It would probably not be fun, right?

It would not be like a happy occasion.

It would be a, what would be a happy one?

What would be, you know, if you do have your Dunkerque time

machine, a place where you wouldn’t mind hanging out

for a while for fun, not for, wow,

I wonder what it would be like to see that live, but for, no,

I think I could have a good time there

for at least a couple of hours.

Oh, you know, I think of silly things.

That gets kind of personal where I’m sitting here going,

you know, I want to see a boxing match between, you know,

Jack Dempsey, between Jack Dempsey.

I want to see things that were happening before I was born

that I’m interested in.

So instead of a real giant historical event,

like, you know, the signing of the Declaration of Independence,

I get down to silly little personal things

like, I want to see this, or I want to see, you know,

there’s a movie, and you know it, Field of Dreams, right?

Where the guy goes back and gets to play baseball with his dad

in a sort of a ghostly sort of sense.

And I get personal with that.

Like, I’d like to go meet my grandfather

when he was 30 years old and pal around with him.

I mean, so that’s not really, like, global history.

That’s personal history.

Of course, but that’s what makes it fun sometimes.

But those are the kind of things that fill up, like,

the top 10 list of things I’d like to go back to.

I’d have to get down to number 20, number 30, number 40

on the list before I met these giant political events,

unless you’re talking about the dark stuff.

And then I get, you know, I mean,

when you talked about wanting to see the Battle of Kenny

or any of those kinds of things, those are because I

don’t know the answers.

So, and a lot of people don’t know this,

but nobody has any idea what ancient warfare was like.

And you can’t reconstruct it, and there’s

been a lot of attempts to do so.

So of course, you know, my mind says

I want to be suspended in a hot air balloon 150

feet above that battle so I can see exactly what the physics

of, you know, ancient combat looked like, right?

Of course, of course.

So those are, and those really aren’t about history.

They’re about answering longstanding questions

that I’ve had.

So I, but what about you?

Let me, let me return to, and turn the question around me.

Where would you like to be?

And again, where I would like to be probably for two hours,

because before modern medicine, the lack of modern medicine

kicks in and all of that is a whole different scenario.

But I am absolutely fascinated with pre-state societies.

So even going way back in the day,

like what is life like in a hunting and gathering tribe?

Like the way we have lived for most of human history

10,000 years ago as the last ice age is giving away

and a new world is coming into being.

What would that feel like?

Now again, I give myself two hours,

because by then, you know, I feel like between predator

sitting me and the tribe next door

clubbing me on the head or things like that

may get unpleasant really fast.

But that would be one that fascinates me quite a bit.

I was reading some interesting books

on some of the studies that were done

in the early and mid 20th century

by some of these people that were

trying to recreate as best they could exactly

what you were talking about.

So they were going to the last few societies

on the planet that still basically

functioned as they used to.

So New Guinea was one of the places that they used to go to.

And there are photographs of these tribes in New Guinea

that are fighting each other that the archaeologists

or it’s an anthropologist, the anthropologists

took photos of and then tried to extrapolate

what you learned from watching those tribes

to every other pre-industrial state throughout history.

I mean, to me, that’s the closest

you can come to a time machine to try to see what

it was that you wanted to see.

And you know, it’s a little sad.

It’s a little like the extinction

of an animal species.

But it would be a lot harder to do that today

if you wanted to.

You might have to go invade some of those few islands

off the coast of India or whatever, where there is still.

Yeah, maybe not.

Although that could be dangerous, too.

Yeah, as we have seen, exactly.

See, I have to turn it dark somehow at the end.

I know, man.

I was trying to go for the lighthearted one, but.

No, this is proprietary, Daniele.

We leave it on the dark side.

I see.

OK, that’s the way it goes.

Cool, man.

Well, thank you so much for the conversation.

Thank you.

You too, buddy.

My thanks to Daniele for coming on the program.

Or did I go on his?

Well, probably a little of both.

I enjoyed talking with him, as always.

I talk with him more than you hear me talk with him.

So this was just one of those times where we, you know,

let you all listen in.

I did have an addendum, as I said,

to Hardcore History Addendum.

After that discussion, I thought of something

I should have brought up when we were talking about the Nazis

and the company they keep.

And how they’re going to do it.

And how this should somehow be factored

into where you want to place them

on any political spectrum.

We neglected, we, the royal we, me, all by myself,

neglected to bring up the groups in Germany

after the First World War that were

associated with the Nazis.

In other words, we had talked about countries

that wouldn’t have associated themselves with leftists.

But what about elements in German society?

I mean, how do I forget to bring up

the paramilitary groups like the Stahlhelm and the Freikorps,


These groups that were formed mostly of disgruntled

and maybe rootless and lost veterans after the war

who signed up to police, you know, Germany’s streets

and root out and beat up or kill communists.

These are people who fought for the emperor.

They are people whom…

There’s no leftism attached to them at all.

I mean, these are people who fought for the emperor.

There’s no leftism attached to them at all.

I mean, these are people that wanted a monarch

and were fiercely anti-communist and anti-Marxist

and think that those people stabbed them in the back.

Remember that phrase?

And that that’s how they lost the First World War.

The person that will begin to associate himself

with the Nazis early on, they will break

over competing weird conspiratorial beliefs.

But early on is General Ludendorff,

Erich Ludendorff, you remember him, right?

He was in the German army for a bunch of the war

and was basically one half of a military dictatorship

that commanded Germany over the last couple of years

of the First World War.

This is an ardent anti-leftist.

This is a monarchist.

I mean, why would Ludendorff be taking pictures

with Hitler and associating themselves with the Nazis?

And by the way, during Hitler’s great march,

you know, to try to take over the government,

the one he ended up in jail for,

where they got shot at by police

and Hermann Goring took a bullet in the groin.

One guy supposedly didn’t fall to the ground

when the rifles went off, and that was Ludendorff

marching in the front with everybody.

He supposedly walks right up to the police

holding the rifles, who just shot down

a bunch of people, including his own butler.

And Ludendorff just moves the rifle to one side

and walks past him.

This guy is not going to associate himself with,

you know, Marxist-Leninist revolutionaries.

You know, the old line from The French King

holds true here, but this guy is the virtual representation

of the old state and the old regime.

This is everything that the leftists were fighting against.

Why on earth would he associate himself with the Nazis?

And why would groups like the Freikorps

and the Stahlhelm do that, if they thought the Nazis

were anything like the leftists that they loathed

and that they blamed for the stab in the back theory?

I mean, it just, as I said, there’s a lot of ways

to create a political spectrum, as something to graft

the political beliefs of people.

And there’s no question that the one I grew up with,

the traditional one, is extremely limited.

But as we said, if you’re going to change this,

then we ought to acknowledge that.

And there are people that you’ll see that will make

other people out to be idiots, because they don’t realize

Nazis are on the left.

No, that makes the person who says that maybe look like

they don’t know that the rules have been changed.

As I said, there’s nothing wrong with that,

but you kind of have to say that you changed what, you know,

you put in the equation for X or Y, when you, you know,

slam somebody for getting a different answer than you got,

especially if they were using the old math.

Stay safe, everyone.