The Nostalgia Trap podcast features weekly conversations about history and politics with some of the left’s most incisive thinkers, writers, and extremely online personalities, exploring how individual lives intersect with the big events and debates of our era.
Nostalgia Trap - Episode 144: The View from Brazil w/ Wendi Muse
Wendi Muse is a doctoral candidate researching antiracist and left organizing in Cold War era Brazil, and the creator of the Left POCket Project, which curates capsule histories of important, often overlooked figures from the radical left. Her work shows us places where capitalism and the state are particularly oppressive, and documents the extraordinary actions people have taken to maintain solidarity and continue building movements of resistance.
Nostalgia Trap - Episode 143: Afterbirth of a Nation w/ Justin Rogers-Cooper (BONUS EP PREVIEW)
On this week's bonus episode, Justin Rogers-Cooper helps us takes a deep dive into the aesthetic and political legacy of Kurt Cobain, who died of suicide 25 years ago this month. Cobain is an iconic pop cultural figure for a number of reasons, but this conversation focuses on his personal politics, and how his band Nirvana expressed an organic, biologically-obsessed form of anti-capitalism.
Nostalgia Trap - Episode 142: Bring the Paine w/ Seth Cotlar
Seth Cotlar is a professor of history at Willamette University and the author of Tom Paine’s America: The Rise and Fall of Transatlantic Radicalism in the Early Republic. He joins us to talk about Paine’s particular vision of a more radical democracy and how those ideas find life in today’s left.
Nostalgia Trap - Episode 141: Centrism is a Disease w/ Chad Vigorous
Chad Vigorous is the host of a sharp and funny podcast called The Discourse, and one of left Twitter’s most acerbic political commentators. In this conversation, he shares his insights on the nightmarish landscape of American culture and politics in the 21st century, explaining how fascism and white nationalism are finding their footing within the socioeconomic despair and ideological void created by neoliberalism.
Nostalgia Trap - Episode 140: Historians in the Gig Economy w/ Bill Black
Bill Black is a historian and writer whose work has appeared in Vox, the Atlantic, Washington Post, and a number of other publications. He joins us to talk about his path in history, a few of his more provocative pieces of research, (including an incredible narrative about the origins of the racist “watermelon” trope), and his exciting new project Contingent Magazine, which seeks to publish and promote work from the growing pool of young historians who don’t have tenure-track positions at universities
Nostalgia Trap - Episode 139: A People's History w/ Kevin Gannon
Kevin Gannon is a professor of history at Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa, where he also serves as the Director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. You may also know him as one of the history experts featured in Ava DuVernay’s Netflix documentary 13th, and a very active figure in the #twitterstorian universe.
Nostalgia Trap - Episode 138: Dreaming Liberation w/ Robin Kelley
Robin Kelley is a professor of history at UCLA and the author of a number of important books on a wide range of subjects, from communism in the American South (1990’s Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists During the Great Depression), to the political visions of radical black intellectuals and artists (2002’s Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination), to the history of jazz (2009’s Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original).
Nostalgia Trap - Episode 137: Fifty Shades of Bernie w/ Daniel Bessner (BONUS EP PREVIEW)
Here's a brief preview of this week's bonus episode, featuring a conversation with historian Daniel Bessner on the significance of Bernie Sanders' 2020 presidential run.
To listen to the entire episode: patreon.com/nostalgiatrap
Nostalgia Trap - Episode 136: Seizing the Means of (Porn) Production
Heather Berg is a professor in the Department of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Washington University, and a writer who maps the intersections of socialism, feminism, and radical culture. Her upcoming book Porn Work locates porn workers as “experts on labor in late capitalism,” and in this conversation we explore how sex work in general and porn work in particular offers a critical site of anti-capitalist resistance.
Nostalgia Trap - Episode 135: Money Can't Buy You Love w/ Justin Rogers-Cooper
Justin Rogers-Cooper joins us for the third installment of our Amazon HQ trilogy, in which we explore Amazon’s shocking decision to abandon its planned headquarters in Long Island City, New York. From grassroots activism and sinister politicians to Amazon’s deep connections to ICE and the surveillance state, this discussion frames the larger implications of a stunning victory for people over corporate tyranny.
Nostalgia Trap - Episode 134: Posting is Praxis w/ @CapitlsmDislikr
The online culture of memes, shitposting, and irony found on Twitter and other places is deeply entwined with the rise of millennial socialism and the larger landscape of 21st century politics. On this episode we explore the twisted path of the extremely online, as guest @CapitlsmDislikr shows us a world of grad school dead ends, crushing student loan debt, thankless adjunct teaching, satanic institutional bureaucracies and, of course, nonstop irony posting on Twitter.
Nostalgia Trap Ep 133 - The One About the 90s w/ Justin Rogers-Cooper BONUS EPISODE TEASER
Justin and David were mere children in the 1990s, the hellish decade that spawned much of the political and cultural landscape we currently inhabit. In this episode we attempt to draw a historical line from the 60s to the 90s to the Trump era. What do some of our favorite (and not so favorite) cultural figures and products look like in the rearview?
FULL EPISODE HERE: https://www.patreon.com/posts/24632188
Nostalgia Trap - Episode 132: Frank Rizzo's America w/ Timothy J. Lombardo
Timothy J. Lombardo is a historian who teaches at the University of South Alabama, and whose recent book Blue Collar Conservatism: Frank Rizzo's Philadelphia and Populist Politics covers critical territory for those seeking to understand the Trump era. Using Rizzo’s political career as a jumping off point for a wider discussion of race, class, and identity, Lombardo’s work complicates some deeply-held myths about the “white working class.”
Justin Rogers-Cooper is here to explain how the robber barons of the 19th century stack up against the current crop of capitalist megalomaniacs in Silicon Valley and beyond. In the process, we talk about Marx’s labor theory of value, the shift from control of resources to control of debt, the colonization of the human soul as the final frontier of profitability, and the specific function of monopoly within the larger liberal project.
Nostalgia Trap - Episode 130: Being Tony Soprano w/ Topical Fever
Before the Nostalgia Trap, David hosted a show called Topical Fever, which took on specific subjects from the worlds of politics, history and media. Sounds familiar, right? To mark the 20th anniversary since the premiere of The Sopranos, we’re sharing this Topical Fever episode from the vaults, featuring a conversation with professor of English Jeremey Cagle on the show’s relationship to another epic piece of American art: Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.
Nostalgia Trap - Episode 129: Let the People Speak w/ Maximillian Alvarez
Maximillian Alvarez returns to the Trap to talk about his terrific new podcast Working People, a show that features deep conversations about life, labor, politics, and everything in between, from the perspective of working class people. He joins us to describe his latest series about General Motors and the social costs of the long decline of industrial manufacturing.
Nostalgia Trap - Episode 128: Amazon vs The People w/ Justin Rogers-Cooper
Justin Rogers-Cooper stops by to talk about Amazon’s impending invasion of Long Island City, Queens, where he works as a professor of English at LaGuardia Community College. Our conversation explores the psychotic evil of Jeff Bezos, the corrupt city leaders who are laying out a $3 billion red carpet for him, the larger structures of capitalism and consumerism driving Amazon’s power, and what all of this means for the future of New York City and the planet.
Nostalgia Trap - Episode 127: Tracking the Right w/ Jason Wilson
Jason Wilson is a writer for The Guardian whose work often covers the far right of American political culture. From Milo to the Proud Boys, Alex Jones to Glenn Beck, Wilson details the internal drama, street fights, and larger context of right-wing movements in the 21st century. In this episode, we catch up with his latest reporting on “deplatforming” and explore the role social media plays in spreading extreme ideas.
Nostalgia Trap - Episode 126: A Politics of Desire w/ Conner Habib
Conner Habib is the host of Against Everyone w/ Conner Habib, a podcast about subjects that often fall outside the range of typical “left” discussions—things like radical philosophy, the occult, psychoanalysis, sexuality, porn, and much more.
Nostalgia Trap - Episode 125: A Dark Inheritance w/ Brooke Newman
Brooke Newman is a professor of history at Virginia Commonwealth University and the author of A Dark Inheritance: Blood, Race, and Sex in Colonial Jamaica, a book that traces the evolution of racial definitions and sexual practices in one of 18th century Britain’s most valuable colonies.
Nostalgia Trap - Episode 124: They Don't Care About You w/ Justin Rogers-Cooper TEASER
Justin Rogers-Cooper joins us to talk about the structural connections between California wildfires and a recent spate of mass shootings, understanding them as part of how corporations from energy to guns socialize losses while privatizing profits. We also deconstruct the Tucker Carlson media outrage in the context of capitalism’s increasing encroachment into supposed “sacred spaces” like the American home.
Nostalgia Trap - Episode 123: When the Bough Breaks w/ Daegan Miller
Daegan Miller is a writer whose recent book, This Radical Land: A Natural History of American Dissent, presents an intellectual history of how different Americans have resisted capitalism’s ravaging of the natural environment. From black antislavery radicals in the Adirondack wilderness of upstate New York to utopian anarchists in California’s sequoias, Miller’s narrative reveals a throughline of alternate visions running underneath the nation’s history.
Justin Rogers-Cooper returns to the Nostalgia Trap to break down the political and social significance of NBC’s The Office, positioning the show within the larger context of 21st century neoliberal capitalism. How does the evolving sitcom form reflect changing attitudes about labor, patriarchy, and other structures of oppression? And what does it mean for the future of work?
Nostalgia Trap - Episode 121: Socialism and the Climate Crisis w/ Kate Aronoff
Kate Aronoff is a writer whose work appears in The Intercept, Dissent, In These Times, and a number of other fine left publications. In this conversation, we talk about the media’s framing of the recent IPCC report’s dire prognosis for the planet, the pitfalls of climate nihilism, and the politics of saving the world.
Nostalgia Trap - Episode 120: Fighting the Bad Future w/ Malcolm Harris
Malcolm Harris is a freelance writer and the author of Kids These Days: Human Capital and the Making of Millennials, a book that explores how the structure of American society is rigged against young people. Despite the stereotype of apathetic, entitled youth wasting away in their parents’ basements, Harris shows us a generation locked in by the horrific social, economic, and cultural realities of the 21st century—and offers a blueprint for how young folks can join the fight for a better world.
Nostalgia Trap - Episode 119: Imperialism is Over If You Want It w/ Daniel Bessner
Daniel Bessner is a historian with a particular focus on American foreign policy. In this conversation, Bessner expands on the ideas he presented in a recent New York Times op-ed, in which he argues that the left needs a more focused and practical pathway to dismantling the American imperial project and drawing down the endless wars that have decimated globe for decades.
Nathan J. Robinson is the creator and editor-in-chief of Current Affairs, one of the left’s most consistently valuable and readable publications. Robinson talks about honing his skills at political argument in the high school debate club, explains how a British accent can be an asset in American media, and describes his vision for the future of Current Affairs and the larger left movement.
Nostalgia Trap - Episode 117: The Decline and Fall of American Cinema w/ Eileen Jones
Eileen Jones is a film critic and professor whose biting, polemical movie reviews are featured in Jacobin and a number of other publications. Her recent book Filmsuck, USA investigates the persistently horrific state of American cinema, while outlining Jones’ vision of a liberatory movie culture that honors the medium’s working class roots.
Nostalgia Trap - Episode 116: The Southernization of Everything w/ Keri Leigh Merritt
Keri Leigh Merritt is a historian of American class, race, and inequality, with a particular focus on the South during and after the Civil War. Her book Masterless Men: Poor Whites and Slavery in the Antebellum South deftly navigates discourses on race, power, and capitalism, telling us what happens to “excess labor” under a slave economy.
Nostalgia Trap - Episode 115: Raging Against the Machine w/ George Ciccariello-Maher
George Ciccariello-Maher is a political scientist and activist whose work focuses on the historical and current landscape of insurgent politics and anti-capitalism. As an outspoken left academic, Ciccariello-Maher is a favorite target of white supremacists and other right-wing extremists, whose threats and harassment led to his resignation from Drexel University in 2017.
Nostalgia Trap - Episode 114: Postmodern Punk w/ Daniel Traber
Daniel Traber is a professor of English at Texas A & M University at Galveston. His work focuses on the intersection of culture and politics, with a particular emphasis on musical subcultures like punk and ska (a favorite Nostalgia Trap subject). In this conversation, he talks about getting into punk as a white suburban teen in Galveston, Texas in the 1980s, and how expressions of subversive identity are entangled with the forces of capitalism and fascism from which they emerged.
Nostalgia Trap - Episode 113: The Center Collapses w/ Shuja Haider
Shuja Haider is a writer and editor for a number of left publications (check out his work in Popula and Viewpoint). In this conversation, we talk about historical cycles of generational politics, the weird road from 60s counterculture to "conservatism is the new punk rock," and the growth of left/right radicalism among young people in the Trump era.
Nostalgia Trap - Episode 112: The War that Never Ends w/ Matthew Stanley
Matthew Stanley is a historian and professor whose latest book, The Loyal West: Civil War and Reunion in Middle America explores how the politics of the Civil War moved through the regions of the Lower Middle West. His work shows us how ideologies evolve through space and time, and how the Civil War in particular has served as a container for American social and political attitudes well into the 21st century.
Micah Uetricht is managing editor at Jacobin Magazine. Like many of us, he’s watching with a combination of delight and disbelief as left-of-liberal ideas enjoy a rare moment in the mainstream spotlight, from the 1950s-style red-baiting of Fox News to Stephen Colbert’s recent declaration that “God is a socialist.” To Uetricht, these moments are further evidence that the time is ripe for a return to the working class politics that defined the Democratic Party in past eras.
Nostalgia Trap - Episode 110: War is a Racket w/ Nate Bethea
Nate Bethea is co-host of the podcast A Hell of a Way to Die, a funny, often bracing show about the intersection of leftist politics and American military culture. While serving as an infantry officer in the U.S. Army from 2007-2014, and deploying to Afghanistan in 2009-2010, Bethea reports that he “lived the Army values so hard that I became a socialist.”
Nostalgia Trap - Episode 108: Seizing Socialism's Moment w/ Alex Press
Alex Press is a writer and assistant editor at Jacobin Magazine whose work explores the contours and possibilities of American working class politics. In this conversation, she tells about being radicalized by the Occupy movement in 2011, her journey through anarchism and socialism in a basement full of radical literature, and her thoughts on the rising visibility of socialist politics in the U.S. mainstream.
Nostalgia Trap - Episode 107: Mapping the Face of War w/ Bhakti Shringarpure
Bhakti Shringarpure is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Warscapes, an online magazine that features interviews, fiction, non-fiction, poetry and art from regions of conflict around the world. In this conversation, she talks about her youth in India, her work with poet Ammiel Alcalay in graduate school, and why Warscapes avoids the clickbait format of mainstream digital media.
Nostalgia Trap - Episode 106: Hyperspeed of the Immediate w/ Maximillian Alvarez
Maximillian Alvarez is a writer and academic whose work often explores the intersections of changing technological environments and the production of radical political philosophy. In this conversation, he talks about being surrounded by conservatives in Southern California during the 1990s, how the discovery of Russian literature expanded his political and intellectual worldview, and why it’s vital for academics to bridge the gap between the university and the wider public.
Nostalgia Trap - Episode 105: Between Oligarchy and Democracy w/ Heather Cox Richardson
Heather Cox Richardson is a historian of American politics with a number of important books on the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the ideological evolution of the Republican Party. Richardson’s work tracks the space between rhetoric and reality, showing us how political parties pull the levers of race and class to manipulate public opinion and gain power.
Nostalgia Trap - Episode 103: No Really, You Don't Need a Weatherman w/ Michael Kazin
Michael Kazin is a historian of American labor and social movements, and co-editor of Dissent magazine. As a student at Harvard in the late 1960s, he was a leader within Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and played a part in its short-lived militant faction, the Weatherman. In this conversation, Kazin reflects on his path “from revolutionary to professor,” explaining how his early experiences in the New Left inform his analysis of the massive political shifts over the decades that followed.
Nostalgia Trap - Episode 102: Immigration and the Carceral State w/ Carl Lindskoog
Carl Lindskoog is a historian of immigration, race, and rebellion whose forthcoming book Detain and Punish: Haitian Refugees and the Rise of the World’s Largest Immigration Detention System uncovers the roots of America’s current immigration policies in the history of U.S - Haiti relations over the past several decades.
Nostalgia Trap - Episode 100: Writing Attica's History w/ Heather Ann Thompson
Heather Ann Thompson is a historian and writer whose 2016 book Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy won the Pulitzer Prize in 2017. Thompson also talks about the 13-year process behind writing a book like Blood in the Water, a project that included intense research, wrenching oral histories, and a narrative that’s been intentionally distorted and covered up for decades.
Nostalgia Trap - Episode 99: The Long Seventies w/ Bruce Schulman
Bruce Schulman's 2001 book The Seventies: The Great Shift in American Culture, Society, and Politics is a fascinating take on a critical era, and helps put the Trump era into an understandable historical context. In this conversation, Schulman discusses how popular culture came to be such a central element of his methodology, helping him chart a course through the political and social history of late 20th century America.
Nostalgia Trap - Episode 98: The Ruins of History w/ Megan Kate Nelson
Megan Kate Nelson's interdisciplinary approach to environmental history puts towering events like the Civil War into wholly new contexts. Her book Ruin Nation: Destruction and the American Civil War investigates the human, biological, and infrastructural devastation of the era, and asks critical questions about American memory. In this conversation she explains the development of her methodology and the direction of the historical discipline.
Here's a quick preview of next week's bonus episode, a conversation with Claudia Moreno Parsons about the Netflix documentary Wild Wild Country. If you want to support the show and get access to all of our bonus material, you can subscribe here.
Nostalgia Trap - Episode 96: The Longue Durée of Modernity w/ Daniel McClure
Daniel McClure is a historian and writer interested in long term historical processes (like capitalism, imperialism, and the nation-state), connecting those big ideas to American popular culture and media in the postwar era. He explains how a theoretical approach to the study of history, while often met with skepticism in the academy, provides such an effective lens for understanding the current moment.
Nostalgia Trap - Episode 94: The Greenwich Village Folk Explosion w/ Stephen Petrus
Stephen Petrus is a historian of 20th century America and author of Folk City: New York and the American Folk Music Revival. In this conversation, he tells me about discovering the world of beat poetry, folk music, and a rising "counterculture" in his younger years, and how becoming an academic historian led him to explore the complex social, political, and economic trends that created such a potent cultural moment in 1950s and 1960s New York City.
Jason Wilson's coverage of last summer's "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, which culminated in the murder of Heather Heyer, helped frame the rising presence of "alt-right" and white supremacist actors on the American political stage. In this conversation, Wilson tells me about his youth in Australia, years studying media theory in grad school, and how he became alternately fascinated and horrified with America's radical right-wing.
Allen Ruff is the host of A Public Affair on WORT-FM community radio in Madison, Wisconsin, a show that features interviews with a wide range of figures from the left side of the American political and cultural scene (including yours truly). In this conversation, he talks about his experiences in the antiwar movement of the 1960s and 1970s, his subsequent career as an academic historian, and his trajectory on the radical left.
Thomas Frank might be best known as the author of What's the Matter with Kansas?, a 2004 book that sought to explain why so many Americans in "flyover country" vote for the Republican Party. But his analysis goes much deeper than just Kansas. In this conversation, he discusses his development as a political analyst and historian, and offers his perspective on what's happened to the left and right in recent decades. His latest book, Listen Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People? traces how Democrats became the party of Wall Street, and Republicans hone their image as the party of "ordinary working people."
Nostalgia Trap - Episode 90: AM/FM - The Political Economy of Mass Shootings
In this episode, Justin Rogers-Cooper joins me to unpack the mass shooting phenomenon in the wider context of American history. Why do Americans kill each other? Who benefits from mass killings? And how is social violence connected to the structures of capitalism?
Erin Bartram's blog piece, "The Sublimated Grief of the Left Behind," explores an uncomfortable topic among graduate students and recent Ph.D.'s: giving up on the academic job market. In this conversation, Bartram discusses the origin of the piece (and how it ended up in the Chronicle of Higher Education), the ideological and material gap between full-time professors and part-time adjuncts, and how her path as an academic was shaped by the wider politics of neoliberalism in the university.
Jeremy C. Young is a professor of history at Dixie State University, and the author of Age of Charisma: Leaders, Followers, and Emotions in American Society, 1870-1940. In this conversation, Jeremy tells me about his own political evolution, and how contemporary American political figures like John McCain and Howard Dean led him to investigate how the idea of "personal magnetism" came to have such a particular power over the American public.
Eero Laine is a professor of Theatre at the University at Buffalo whose work often focuses on the world of professional wrestling. He joins me to talk about how he came to study wrestling as both a performance and social/psychological phenomenon, and explains why the particular political economy of the WWE provides such a critical lens for understanding American history and culture.
Nostalgia Trap - Episode 86: AM/FM - Punk in the 90s
David Fouser was definitely way more into punk, as both an ethos and music genre, than I recall ever being. But now that he's all grown up, like many of us, his politics and musical tastes have evolved. In this conversation, we trade memories of the 1990s Southern California punk and ska scene, and reflect on punk's wider political and social significance.
Daniel Bessner is a professor and writer whose work explores 20th century American cultural and intellectual history. In this conversation, we talk about his book Democracy in Exile: Hans Speier and the Rise of the Defense Intellectual, his current research into the archives of the RAND Corporation, and his ideas about how intellectuals and academics might fit into a wider left project.
Yekaterina Oziashvili, a professor of political science at Sarah Lawrence College, joins me to talk about her upbringing in Georgia during the final years of the Soviet Union, and how the nation's collapse in the early 1990s led to profound transformation's in her family's life. Her story, including her move to New York City at the age of 14, provides a fascinating angle on the intersection of ethnic identity, nationalism, and revolutionary politics.
Nostalgia Trap - Episode 83: AM/FM - The Deep State is Capitalism
What is the "deep state"? Does it really exist, or is it a specter in the minds of far-right conspiracy theorists from Jack D. Ripper to Alex Jones? In this episode, Justin Rogers-Cooper joins me to sort it out, exploring the "deep state" idea in the context of the opioid crisis and other contemporary signs of malignant capitalism.
Michael Brenes is a historian and Senior Archivist for American Diplomacy at Yale. When I first met him years ago, we were both working on degrees in American history at the CUNY Graduate Center, and discovered similar interests: twentieth century U.S. politics, the Cold War, the military-industrial complex, Vietnam—and, perhaps most importantly, a desire to understand how these historical phenomenon connect with our current crisis. In this conversation, Michael tells me how he landed at CUNY, his work exploring the political economy of the American military, and what his upcoming biography of Hubert Humphrey will tell us about a critical moment in the history of left/liberal politics.
Yasmin Nair is a writer and activist based in Chicago, known as much for her dynamic political and cultural writing as for her contentious social media adventures. In this conversation we spend a good amount of time talking about her amazing piece in Evergreen Review, a manifesto for an apocalyptic moment that combines analysis of neoliberalism with ideas about gentrification, queer culture, dystopian science fiction, and so much more.
Justin Rogers-Cooper and I have often talked about combining our scholarly interests into an academic mega-project, exploring the connections between 1877 and 1977, an era that witnessed spectacular clashes between labor and capital and the development of a "citizen-soldier" politics that threatened the state's hegemonic grip on the imperial narrative. In this episode, we brainstorm some ideas about the project and try to nail down why this 100-year period is so critical to understanding our present historical moment.
Douglas Williams is a fierce political writer and grassroots organizer whose work can be found at TheSouthLawn.org. In this conversation, he tells me about the influence of his father's union work on his political development, and how the letdown of the Obama years led him, like many others, to the radical left.
Nostalgia Trap - Episode 78: RE: Louis CK with Peter Sabatino
Peter Sabatino, the Nostalgia Trap's producer and sound wizard, joins me to unpack the recent revelations about Louis CK's abusive behavior. Our conversation attempts to put this stuff in context, discussing both Louis' disturbing comedic output and the wider problem of predatory men protected by their social, political, and cultural power.
Nelson Lichtenstein is a professor of history at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he also serves as the director of the Center for the Study of Work, Labor, and Democracy. He joins me to talk about his time at Berkeley during the radical uprisings of the 1960s, his development as a labor historian, and the state of American politics.
Christian Appy's work on the history of the Vietnam War has had an enormous influence on the direction of my own research and writing on the war. In this conversation, Appy joins me to talk about the Ken Burns/Lynn Novick documentary, The Vietnam War, which aired on PBS in October. We analyze the Burns aesthetic and discuss how the film avoids confronting the war's most troubling questions.
David Fouser is a professor of history who recently completed a Ph.D at the University of California, Irvine. In this conversation he tells me all about the field of environmental history, how grad school drew him (and, seemingly, everyone else) to the left, and the particular contours of academic life in Los Angeles.
Nostalgia Trap - Episode 74: Book Club, RE: Stephen King
Fifty years after publishing his first short story, Stephen King remains a powerful force in American popular culture. Claudia Moreno Parsons joins me to talk about what King's work has meant to us personally and his place in the wider spectrum of American literature.
In this episode, Justin Rogers-Cooper and I take on the immigration debate from our typically broader historical perspective. How did we get from "tear down this wall!" in 1989 to "build the wall!" in 2016, and what do our rapidly hardening state borders tell us about what's coming down the line?
Mikhail Gershovich was my boss at the Bernard L. Schwartz Communication Institute in New York, where we were both surprised to discover that we had each been raised in Ventura County during the 1980s. Now that we're both living in California again, I get to hear about his early childhood in the Soviet Union, how his family came to the U.S. in 1979, and what it was like becoming American in Southern California during the height of the 1980s Cold War.
On my way out of Baruch College after twelve years of teaching in the history department, I stopped by Professor Vincent DiGirolamo's office to talk with him about his youth in California and his path to academia in New York City.
Nostalgia Trap - Episode 70: AM/FM - One Planet to Burn
Climate change is a favorite topic for me and my friend Justin Rogers-Cooper, who joins me here to talk about the state of the planet and the doomed human species in the Trump era. Despite its apocalyptic implications, our conversation takes an improbably optimistic turn, as Justin explains how the recent Star Wars entry Rogue One might point the way to a horizontal, inclusive politics strong enough to confront an increasingly challenging future.
Nostalgia Trap - Episode 69: AM/FM - You Only Love Me When I'm Dying
My good friend Justin Rogers-Cooper came over to help me understand a bit more of what's going on in Syria, and our conversation ended up focusing more on war imagery and how it functions in the social media age. How do graphic pictures and videos of war's mangled bodies, liked and shared on Facebook and Twitter, reflect the growing intersection of capitalism, media, technology, and violence?
Michael Koncewicz is a historian and writer whose book They Said ‘No’ to Nixon: Republicans Who Stood Up to the President’s Abuses of Power will be out next year from University of California Press. In this conversation he tells me about his college years, working for the Nixon library in Yorba Linda, California, and how internal resistance to Nixon's criminality might signal a strategy for dealing with Trump.
Matt Karp is a professor of U.S. history at Princeton University, and the author of the recent book This Vast Southern Empire: Slaveholders at the Helm of American Foreign Policy. In this conversation, Matt tells me about the process of his politicization through various stages of academia, the roots of his interest in the Civil War era, and how the abolitionist project provides an important model for a popular revolutionary politics.
To celebrate the publication of my book, Dangerous Grounds: Antiwar Coffeehouses and Military Dissent in the Vietnam Era (University of North Carolina Press, 2017), my good friend Justin Rogers-Cooper sits down for a detailed discussion. GI coffeehouses were opened by antiwar activists outside more than 20 American military bases throughout the country in the 1960s and 1970s; Dangerous Grounds puts the coffeehouse phenomenon in historical context, exploring the often misunderstood connections between radical left politics and American soldiers.
Professor Carolyn Eisenberg was studying history at Columbia University during the late 1960s and 1970s, witnessing (and taking part in) some of the historic political activism that emerged from the campus during those critical years. In this conversation we talked about the intersection of academia, teaching, and radical politics, and how the dynamics of campus life have shifted since the Vietnam War era.
Like many of my favorite guests, I met Jesse Schwartz when we were both doing our doctoral work at the CUNY Graduate Center. He's now a professor of English at LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City, Queens, and joins me here to share his journey from hippie bum to distinguished intellectual. Along the way we talk about California and New York, the politics of academia, the allure of psychedelia, and the weird shades of American countercultural experience. It's a long strange trip...
Ellen Schrecker is an American historian whose work focuses on Cold War-era anti-communism. Her book Many are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America is a canonical treatment of the subject. In this interview, she discusses her upbringing, education, and the particular politics of the Ivy League during the turbulent 1960s and 1970s.
Sarah Jones is a writer and social media editor at the New Republic, where her work has focused on poverty, politics, feminism, health care, and a number of other issues. I wanted to talk to her about Appalachia, where she was born and raised, and how the particular culture and politics of this region shaped her identity as a writer and thinker.
Katie Halper is the host of the Katie Halper Show on WBAI, where she regularly brings a fresh, funny, and stridently left perspective to the horrific landscape of modern American politics. We talked about her upbringing in New York City and her path through performance, media, and politics.
Nostalgia Trap - Episode 60: AM/FM with Justin Rogers-Cooper
Justin Rogers-Cooper and I have spent a lot of time talking about false flags, conspiracy theories, and the strange American predilection for constructing our own personal realities. In this conversation we consider the wider historical and cultural implications of our collective and individual paranoid fantasies. From JFK to pizzagate, what do our conspiracy theories reveal about the national psyche and how it interacts with the structures of power?
Jesse Myerson is a writer and activist whose work has appeared in Rolling Stone, Dissent, The Baffler, and many of other publications. We talk a lot about the contemporary left, Occupy Wall Street, the Bernie Sanders campaign, what to do with the awful Democratic Party, and much more.
Nostalgia Trap - Episode 58: AM/FM with Freddie deBoer
It's always fun to sit down with writer Freddie deBoer, whose sharp, often savage takes on American politics usually provoke strong reactions from both friends and foes. In this conversation we talk about the awfulness of the Democratic Party and the dead-end of Daily Show-style liberalism, and attempt to chart a course for the left through the forest of the alt-right, fake news, and the horrors of a Republican-controlled central government.
Matt Lau was a ubiquitous presence at the CUNY Graduate Center during my years of study there, perhaps most memorably as the author of a series of ridiculous satirical pieces on the back page of the school newspaper. In this conversation we bond over being white hip hop fans in the suburbs of Southern California in the 90s, our shared ambivalence about a life in academia, and Matt's path from the hazy woods of UC Santa Cruz to the utilitarian halls of CUNY.
On the debut episode of Nostalgia Trap AM/FM, Justin Rogers-Cooper joins me to talk about the nuclear bomb, the dangers of atomic diplomacy, and how the mushroom cloud at the end of history seems somehow more in focus than ever.
Michael Busch is a senior editor at Warscapes, an online magazine that features writing, art, photography and other media from war-torn regions around the globe. Michael talks with me about his youth and world travels, his time studying international organized crime at the CUNY Graduate Center, and the values and ideas behind his work at Warscapes.
L.A. Kauffman is a longtime organizer and historian whose new book, Direct Action: Protest and the Reinvention of American Radicalism traces the history of the left in the post 1960s era. She spoke with me about some of the major successes and failures of direct action campaigns in recent decades. In the age of a reawakened U.S. left, what can we learn about the tactics and strategies developed in the past? Kauffman's work answers that question with a detailed historical narrative that can serve as a guide to what works, and what doesn't.
Daniel Pinchbeck's bestselling 2002 book Breaking Open the Head: A Psychedelic Journey into the Heart of Contemporary Shamanism had a profound effect on me when I read it in my early twenties. Along with the work of Noam Chomsky and Terence McKenna, Pinchbeck's writing definitely shaped the way I interpreted the fallout after 9/11 and the cascade of horror that was the Bush years. Here Pinchbeck shares his thoughts about a wide range of topics, from crop circles and shamanism to climate emergency and apocalypse. His book How Soon is Now: From Personal Initiation to Global Transformation comes out in early 2017.
Will Menaker is one of the hosts of Chapo Trap House, a fierce and funny podcast that took the media world by storm during Election 2016. Here Will makes a triumphant return to the Nostalgia Trap, discussing Chapo's insane rise during the Democratic primaries, the depressing state of liberal "comedy," and how the show might evolve during the impending Trump era.
Felix Biederman is one of the hosts of Chapo Trap House, a podcast that mixes relentless satire with incisive political analysis. In this conversation, recorded less than 24 hours after Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, Felix dissects his feelings about this surreal moment, tells me about his youth in Hyde Park, Chicago, and shares his perspectives on war, the Democratic Party, the appeal of MMA, and much more.
Matt Christman is one third of the wildly popular podcast Chapo Trap House, a show that takes left political satire to a brutal, hilarious, and altogether new place. He talked with me about his youth in Wisconsin, his adventures on Twitter, and the abysmal state of American political discourse.
Myq Kaplan is a very funny stand-up comedian whose material often touches on cultural issues like veganism, polyamory, and psychedelic drugs. I talked to him about his work in linguistics at Boston University, his early years as a musician, and his evolution as a comic. The "Hitler/time travel" bit discussed on this episode is featured in Myq's stand-up special, Small, Dork, and Handsome, currently streaming on Netflix.
Thaddeus Russell is a professor of history and writer whose book A Renegade History of the United States presents a striking counter-narrative to popular interpretations of the American experience. In this conversation, he tells me about a childhood spent surrounded by the Berkeley political world of the 1960s and 70s, and traces his unique path through the often rigid culture of academia.
Dahlia Elsayed is a visual artist, writer, and professor at LaGuardia Community College. She told me all about her youth in New Jersey during the Reagan years, her take on the punks vs. hippies rivalry, and the philosophy behind her striking visual style.
Johanna Fernandez is a professor of history at CUNY's Baruch College. We had a great talk about her childhood in the Bronx, her path in higher education, her development as an activist, and her friendship with imprisoned radical Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Freddie deBoer is an academic and writer with a talent for provocation. He joins me to discuss his family's roots on the left, his engagement with the politics of higher education, and the impetus behind his polemical blog, fredrikdeboer.com.
Sarah Leonard, a senior editor and writer at The Nation, talks about her new book, The Future We Want: Radical Ideas for the New Century, and shares her thoughts on what this wacky primary season portends.