It’s almost like they’re the same word. In US circles it used to be rare to see a headline mentioning Yemen that didn’t also include Al Qaeda. In media circles I guess this is understandable. US audiences want to read about that which threatens us, and ISIS and Al Qaeda are past masters at getting themselves on our radar. Terrorists generally play the media like a fiddle. What’s less forgivable is the focus of the US government. Instead of taking steps to stabilize Yemen, a country whose collapse was endlessly foretold, we ran around bombing stuff, and further empowering Ali Abdullah Saleh, the kleptocrat who was riding Yemen to destruction. The result, of course, is what we have now, chaos, and a vastly empowered Al Qaeda. Good job team!
This video, the second to last in the Yemen series for now, starts the job of bringing in a different focus for our discussion of Yemen.
Maybe I’m being too optimistic, but I’ve come to see Donald Trump as a cultural phenomenon more than a political one. There’s still plenty of time for somebody to whip him into shape, but it seems like the nightmares of his retrograde political ambitions are unlikely to come to pass. The man is just too incompetent. What he is, is a symbol. Ta-Nehisi Coates recently dubbed Trump “The First White President”. In this video I argue that he’s also the last. Donald Trump is one last barbaric yawp of resentment from mid-century suburban Babbits on their way to the grave. He symbolizes the accelerated destruction of a dying era rather than a new one. I’m excited to see what’s next…
I’ve evolved kind of an odd format for this Yemen series. History is always written with an eye towards what’s happening right now. In my research for this series I found the only book written after the Saudi intervention in Yemen to be the most useful. The other books were kind of haunted by the idea that Ali Abdullah Saleh’s Yemen wasn’t sustainable. Yemen Endures, the best of the bunch, was very sure it wasn’t. History is about drawing lessons, and the lessons we need apply to what’s happening now.
With these videos I think I’m doing a kind of extreme version of that. I started with the current crisis, and now I’m working my way through Yemen’s history in a telescoping format. Part 2 covered 1500-1970 or so, today’s part 3 covers 1970-2001, and (maybe) Tuesday’s should cover 2001-2011. As I go along I try to draw out the lessons for today’s issues that are useful. I find this approach pretty satisfying. How is it for the viewers?
This is the funniest video I have ever made. It’s a tremendously satisfying video as well. It’s nice to see one of my predictions pan out. One of the central messages of this channel is that we shouldn’t be as panicked about the state of the world as everybody wants us to be. Exhibit one in the case against the pro-panic media is Terrorism, by which the media generally means Terrorism associated with Islam. Since I launched my “Everybody’s Lying About Islam” series in April I’ve gotten many more pro-fear comments than anti-fear ones. People seem to believe that the media isn’t pro-fear enough when it comes to Islam and terrorism.
These cowardly commenters have two main sources. The first is Bill Warner, a charlatan who travels the world hating on Islam. If you’re interested you can read a Quora take-down I put together on his work recently. The second is a website called “The religion of peace” that I won’t deign to link here. These clowns desperately want the public to be more freaked out about Islam. It’s absolutely delightful to be using their data to help people calm down. And that’s why this is the funniest video I’ve ever made.
Yemen is having a pretty horrific time. But it’s not as straightforward as some of the Middle East’s other disasters. Yemen’s fall has been expected for quite some time. That’s the most striking thing about every account I’ve read of Yemen over the past few months. Everybody saw this coming. Which is a pretty horrible thing when you think about it. If everybody knew what was coming, why didn’t anybody do anything to stop it?
That’s one of the many questions that we start to answer with this second video in my quickly ballooning Yemen series. I hope you enjoy it. These videos are taking a ton of work, but they’re also very rewarding. My hope is that peeling back the layers of Yemen’s disaster will help us avoid similar disasters in the future. Let me know what you think!
We never hear about Yemen. Endless amounts of ink and pixels have been spent on the conflict in Syria. “Innocents are dying!” is the constant refrain. Well, innocents are dying in Yemen too, and we never hear about it. I’m not saying that information on Yemen is censored in our newspapers. It’s censored by the combatants, but that’s not tremendously different from what goes on in Syria, and is not what I’m getting at.
We do know that Yemen is a disaster, but our government and media doesn’t do anything more than issue the facts. There are no government ultimatums or red lines. There is no daily “above the fold” update. When the UN or some other NGO issues a new report full of outrages, it is dutifully published on page 27 or the online equivalent. No time is invested in Yemen either, in the halls of government or on the opinion pages. That’s an outrage.
Today’s video explains why that is and starts my small effort to raise awareness about Yemen.
This one answers a very specific question. Turkey has been acting in ways that the US and the EU disapprove of for at least four years now. Elements of the problem go much farther back, but up until the Gezi park protests in 2013, and the accompanying crackdown, the West was pretty much on board. That hasn’t been the case for quite a while now. But it’s only recently, in the past few months that real cracks between Turkey and Western countries have become visible. Why did it take so long?
I can’t recommend Rick Perlstein’s Nixonland: The Rise of A President and the Fracturing of America enough. Perlstein is a left wing fella, who has set himself the task of documenting the rise of the right in the United States. I have the suspicion that his books get less useful and balanced as he gets closer to the modern day, but the balance in this book between historical detail and rage is perfect. It’s an almost day to day account of the late 1960s and early 1970s. The book was a revelation for me, and set off a long path of reappraisal and research that led in a roundabout way to this video.
We have a certain idea of the 1960s in the US that I refer to in the video. It’s all Woodstock and civil rights and triumphing over Vietnam. What Nixonland helped me to understand was what a godawful shit-show it all was. I hope to get some of that across in this video, and in the process make you feel a bit better about where we are today in the United States.
No, The United States is not headed for a new civil war. But the idea keeps popping up. I’d argue that it is a topic of discussion because of the bias towards the present that most of our pundits have. If you don’t know much about history, everything can seem unprecedented, and it can feel like everything is falling apart in a new and awful way. But all of this really has happened before, and back then it was so much worse. With today’s video, the first of two parts, I lay this all out.
This one has been percolating for quite a while. I think the way we discuss Race, and “Racists” in the United States has some real problems. These issues were thrown into high relief by the events in Charlottesville this month. The Tiki-Torch White Supremacists are of course awful, but they are also a distraction. We LOVE to pick out examples of evil, and point to racists as something evil and different. Everybody can get on board the vilification train. The Alt-Right protesters are very deserving of our contempt, but that’s not always the case with our scapegoats. We get hung up on the evil of individuals, and we ignore our own faults and failings. This is a shame, because it’s the racism we all participate in that is the real problem.
I am very pleased with this one. It manages to throw together George Orwell, Steven Pinker, Jack Kirby and just a sprinkling of Jesus Christ. Good stuff as far as I’m concerned. More than anything else, the thoughts in this video can be credited to Steven Pinker’s Better Angels of Our Nature, a fantastic book on the civilizing process, the decline of war and about a million other things. You should start reading it today. It’s been at least five years since I read it, so it’s fair to assume the ideas have shifted on the way to this video…