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Zero Squared #93: Shouting at Marxists
December 22, 2016 08:49 PM PST
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This week’s episode of Zero Squared features a conversation with Anne Jaclard from the Marxist Humanist Initiative and activist Ravi Bali. The Marxist Humanist Initiative have published a number of statements on the dangers of Donald Trump in their journal “With Sober Senses” and in this conversation I attempt to test their ideas and seek out inconsistencies. You’ll hear that this is a more contentious conversation than is the norm. The reason for that is simple: I respect these obscure Marxists, want them to win, and so I find it necessary to critique them ruthlessly.

That said you’ll find that the conversation ends rather suddenly. I’ve edited out a bit of the more contentious part of the conversation, a bit where I find myself suddenly changing the subject. Regular listeners of the podcast will miss that bit as I think I go off the rails, but I will include it in this week’s members only Inside Zero Books podcast.

On that subject, thanks goes out to Zero Books Club members and we encourage you to join. Zero Books Club members gain access to a second podcast each week. The Inside Zero Books podcast sometimes features a second hour from this podcast, and sometimes features conversations about the left and left publishing with members of the Zero Books editorial team.

Zero Squared #92: Margaret Kimberley takes on Trump
December 09, 2016 04:39 PM PST
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Margaret Kimberley discusses the rise of Donald Trump on this week’s episode. A regular columnist for the Black Agenda Report, Margaret Kimberley is also a regular guest on the podcast, and she does her best to talk me through the trauma of this last election.

Thanks goes out to Zero Books Club members and we encourage you to join. Zero Books Club members gain access to a second podcast each week. The Inside Zero Books podcast sometimes features a second hour from this podcast, and sometimes features conversations about the left and left publishing with members of the Zero Books editorial team.

On Monday, December 12th, Daniel Coffeen will participate our first Zero Books workshop on Youtube. We will discuss his book "Reading the Way of Things."

In this episode you’ll hear clips from Michael Parenti on Fascism, demographic analysis from MSNBC, Russian propagandist Vladimir Zhirinovsky talking to Reuters and endorsing Trump, and a collage of all the supposedly compromised US leftist whose relationship with Russia Today makes them guilty by association.

Zero Squared #91: Trump, an Insider’s View
November 30, 2016 08:47 PM PST
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Former NEA Chairman Bill Ivey returns this week and we discuss the unexpected election of Trump. Ivey made the news recently when his March 13th, 2016 email to Clinton campaign Chairman John Podesta was published by Wikileaks and he’s returning to in order to give us an insider’s perspective on the election. Here’s a short excerpt from that infamous email: We've all been quite content to demean government, drop civics and in general conspire to produce an unaware and compliant citizenry. The unawareness remains strong but compliance is obviously fading rapidly. Thanks goes out to Zero Books Club members and encourage you to join. Zero Books Club member gain access to a second podcast each week. The Inside Zero Books podcast sometimes features a second hour from this podcast, and sometimes features conversations about the left and left publishing with members of the Zero Books editorial team. And the next Inside Zero Books podcast will feature something of a shouting match between myself and a couple of Portland State University philosophy students as we discuss Judith Butler, Edward Said, and the whiteness of philosophy and scientific reason. In this episode you’ll hear a clip from the @Midnight debate between Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders impersonators as well as a jazz version of hail to the chief.
Zero Squared #90: From 4Chan to the White House?
November 23, 2016 08:55 PM PST
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Angela Nagle is a writer based in Ireland. Her work has appeared in the Irish Times, the Dublin Review of Books, and the Atlantic. Her article “The New Man of 4Chan” for the Baffler was the basis for a book coming out from Zero Books next year tentatively titled “Kill All Normies: The online culture wars from 4chan to Trump.” We discuss her book and research in this episode.

Thanks goes out to our Zero Books Club members. Now is a good time to support Zero Books and left publishing in general and one way to do it is to sign up to be a Zero Books Club member and receive our weekly Inside Zero Books podcast.

Also featured in this episode is an email from a listener following last week's interview with Michael Rectenwald, some thoughts on transgender politics and intersectionality, an excerpt from Norman Mailer's film Maidstone, a quick definition of the word "cuck," and an instrumental version of the Trololo song.

Zero Squared #89: Deplorables
November 17, 2016 05:51 PM PST
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NYU professor Michael Rectenwald is the guest this week. Rectenwald was recently at the center of a small controversy at NYU because, after being called out on Facebook for posting a link to an article mocking the need for alternative pronouns for all the various genders, he decided to create an alt-right persona and critique SJWs on twitter. When he announced the results of this “experiment” in an interview for the Washington Square News a slightly larger controversy erupted. His colleagues signed a collective letter criticizing his illogical rhetoric, finishing with the line “the cause of Professor Rectenwald’s guilt is certainly no, in our view, his identity as a cis, white, straight male. The cause of his guilt is the content and structure of his thinking.”
After this Rectenwald took a leave of absence from his University. With a little investigation it appears that he requested this leave of absence, but insinuated that the leave was not voluntary.

His story went somewhat viral. He was interviewed for various publications and penned an opinion piece for the Washington Post with the headline: “Here’s what happened when I challenged the PC campus culture at NYU.” He wrote, “I was strongly encouraged to take a paid leave of absence [and told] that it had nothing to do with my recent media posture. That’s not exactly how I see it.”
However, soon after this was published some of Rectenwald’s private emails were also published, namely a correspondence between NYU Dean Schwarzbach and Rectenwald. This correspondence made it clear that the leave of absence had been granted at Rectenwald’s request. The final email from Schwarzbach concludes.

"For us to be clear on your needs, we require you to state unequivocally and in a direct, unambiguous response whether you still need the leave you requested. I expect that answer—whichever you give—to be henceforth the same in all settings. If you cannot do that, at this point, I think I have no choice but to make a decision based on your public utterances, and the leave you requested—apparently under false pretenses—is withdrawn, and you are expected to meet your classes as assigned."

I do not know if Rectenwald is now back at NYU and teaching or if his leave was extended, but I do know that all of this went on while the possibility of his promotion was being determined and that he eventually was promoted to the level of full professor.

From the outside, and with the facts that I have so far, it looks to me like Rectenwald pulled this stunt in order to create a context wherein his being passed over for promotion would have negative political consequences for the university. That isn’t a demonstrable fact, and if Rectenwald wants to return to the podcast in order to explain his side of the story more fully I’d be glad to talk to him again.

At the time this was recorded Trump had not been elected and I was very sympathetic to his cause.

I should take a moment to talk about that last fact. The fact that Donald Trump was elected is a game changer. The notion of safe spaces, for instance, has an entirely different connotation now that Stephen Bannon has been selected to be Trump’s chief of staff in the oval office. That said, the need for overcoming racial divides, for creating alliances and struggling together as a people regardless of race is the only way to amass enough political power to effectively fight back.

Rectenwald’s claim that identity politics on the left feeds and strengthens identity politics on the alt-right is worthy of consideration outside the context of Rectenwald’s shenanigans. Standing in solidarity with all the different people who Trump is scapegoating, making sure we protect and defend each other from attack, is necessary. Combating racism is an immediate priority even as we return to the task of changing the economic foundation that generates racism and divides us.

Zero Squared Special: The Election of Trump
November 09, 2016 05:15 PM PST
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This week’s Zero Books podcast is a conversation between Zero Books publisher Douglas Lain, Tom O’Brien of the Alpha to Omega podcast, and Zero Books reader C Derick Varn. The discussion is about what everyone is discussing--the surprising defeat of Hillary Clinton and the democratic party and the election of reality TV Star and tycoon Donald Trump.

Thanks goes out to our Zero Books Club members. Now is a good time to support Zero Books and left publishing in general and one way to do it is to sign up to be a Zero Books Club member and receive our weekly Inside Zero Books podcast. You can find a link to our membership page in this week’s show notes.

No excerpts or music this week. Just an hour and forty minutes conversation on the ramifications of the election of Trump.

Zero Squared # 88: Wikileaks, Bill Ivey, and Demeaned Politics
October 26, 2016 11:13 PM PDT
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Former NEA Chairman Bill Ivey is the guest this week and we discuss his March 13th, 2016 email to Clinton campaign Chairman John Podesta, an email that Wikileaks recently published along with thousands of other emails from the Clinton campaign. Here’s a short excerpt from that email: We've all been quite content to demean government, drop civics and in general conspire to produce an unaware and compliant citizenry. The unawareness remains strong but compliance is obviously fading rapidly. Thanks again to all the members of the Zero Books club. Zero Books Club members gain access to a weekly Inside Zero Books podcast which is a second hour of the Zero Books podcast every week. This second hour usually features conversations about the left and left publishing with members of the Zero Books editorial team. You’ll hear from Ashley Frawley, C Derick Varn, Alfie Bown and every once in awhile guests like my son Benjamin as we discuss political theory and the ups and downs of radical publishing within a clickbait culture. Inside Zero Books will also feature interviews with radical thinkers and authors from around the world. And the next Inside Zero Books podcast will feature clips from this conversation with Bill Ivey that ended up on the cutting room floor. This episode of Zero Squared includes a clip from the 1997 film Bulworth, a computerized reading of Neera Tanden’s email to John Podesta that’s dated Januray 20th, 2016, an excerpt from MIA’s song Wikileaks, and a clip from a Karaoke version of Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop."
Zero Squared #87: Sam Harris vs Noam Chomsky
October 14, 2016 07:03 PM PDT
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C Derick Varn is the guest this week. Varn is a reader at Zero Books, poet, and teacher currently living in Cairo, and my co-host on the now defunct Pop the Left podcast. In this episode of Zero Squared we discuss last year’s online debate between Sam Harris and Noam Chomsky as well as our tendency on the left to avoid difficult arguments. The Motte and Bailey doctrine is mentioned and utilitarian and deontological/Kantian ethics are discussed. Here’s a description of the Motte and Bailey doctrine from “Rational Wiki”: Motte and Bailey is a snarl word purporting to describe a particular form of equivocation wherein one protects a desirable but difficult to defend belief or proposal by swapping it with a more defensible, perhaps trivially true interpretation when the former comes under scrutiny. The trivial version is only temporarily proposed to ward off critics and not actually held. The "difficult" (bailey) version always remains the desired belief, but is never actually defended. This gives the belief an air of being counter-intuitive yet somehow true. In this episode you’ll hear clip from the online course “Law and Justice,” the song Telestar by the Tornados, a clip from the Waking Up podcast with Sam Harris, and a short clip from the film “Fight Club.” Right now you’re listening to Nmesh : Nu.wav Hallucinations, but in just a moment you’ll hear C Derick Varn and I discuss Sam Harris and Chomsky.
Zero Squared #86: Zen City
September 30, 2016 07:07 AM PDT
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Eliot Fintushel is the guest this week as we discuss his novel Zen City which was published by Zero Books in June. The book received a starred review in publisher’s weekly: Zen City succeeds brilliantly, deftly weaving a tragic romance that’s about all of us, and none at all. Thanks goes out to Tom B, Nick M, Emanuel K, and Paul C, for becoming Zero Books Club members. Zero Books Club members gain access to our new Inside Zero Books Podcast, are invited to participate in bi-monthly online workshops in critical theory or, get access to audio books from our Advancing Conversations book, and receive occasional promotional discounts on selected Zero Books. This episode includes an explanation of Zen from Alan Watts along with some instructions on how to ride a bicycle. The music you’re listening to right now is Stereolab’s “Fried Monkey Eggs” but in just a moment you’ll be listening to Fintushel describing life in Zen City.
Zero Squared #85: Marxism vs Libertarianism
September 23, 2016 11:22 AM PDT
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Last Wednesday bubb.la hosted a debate in Stockholm in cooperation with Marxist-Humanist Initiative and this week’s podcast is a recording of that debate between libertarian economist Per Bylund and marxist economist Andrew Kliman.

Thanks goes out to our Zero Book Club members and encourage listeners who haven’t signed up as members to do so. This Friday’s members only Inside Zero Books podcast will feature a conversation with Ashley Frawley who is the author of the Semiotics of Happiness and a member of the Zero Books editorial team.

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