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Know Your Enemy

Author: Matthew Sitman

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A leftist's guide to the conservative movement, one podcast episode at a time, with co-hosts Matthew Sitman and Sam Adler-Bell.
64 Episodes
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It's impossible to comprehend the state of conservative politics — or American politics in general — without looking closely at the wars we've been waging for the past two decades. The story we've been telling about American conservatism has been incomplete without a deep-dive on the so-called Global War on Terror. Luckily, Spencer Ackerman has written the perfect book to occasion such a dialogue. In Reign of Terror: How the 9/11 Era Destabilized America and Produced Trump, Ackerman provides a richly detailed (and acutely frustrating) account of the perversions of justice, liberalism, humanity, and the constitution wrought by the forever wars. Our discussion with Ackerman goes from the Oklahoma City Bombing to the cancellation of Susan Sontag to the battles among neocons and paleocons to define the post-9/11 era. We also touch on the CIA's torture program, nation-building in Afghanistan, and the hypocrisies of the Trump-era Resistance. In typical KYE fashion, it's a complex and wide-ranging conversation you won't find elsewhere. Further Reading:Susan Sontag et al. "Tuesday, and After: New Yorker writers respond to 9/11." The New Yorker, Sept 16, 2001.Bernard Lewis, "The Revolt of Islam," The New Yorker, Nov 11, 2001.Jake Tapper, "Pat Buchanan: America First," Salon, Dec 4, 2001.Spencer Ackerman, "The CIA’s Outsourced Torture Is Lost To History," Forever Wars, Aug 6, 2021.Sam Adler-Bell, "How the War on Terror Fuels Trump," Jacobin, Aug 13, 2016....and don't forget to subscribe on Patreon to hear all of our bonus episodes!
This is a slightly different kind of Know Your Enemy episode—a conversation about hope and despair as the effects of climate change bear down upon us. At the center of that conversation is a brilliant new book, Daniel Sherrell's Warmth: Coming of Age at the End of the World, that focuses not on the facts of climate change or how to stop it, but what it feels like to imagine and live into the future in the knowledge of its existence. Matt and Sam are joined by Sherrell and Dorothy Fortenberry, a playwright and television writer currently working on Extrapolations, an upcoming limited series for Apple TV+ that focuses on climate change. Sources and Further Reading:Daniel Sherrell, Warmth: Coming of Age at the End of Our World (Penguin, 2021)Pope Francis, Laudato si' ("On Care for Our Common Home"), May 2015Dorothy Fortenberry, "Can't Fight This Feeling Anymore: What Donald Trump Understands about Politics Today," Commonweal, November 5, 2020Sam Adler-Bell, "Beautiful Losers: The Left Should Resist the Comforts of Defeat," Commonweal, March 11, 2020...and don't forget to subscribe to Know Your Enemy on Patreon for access to all of our bonus episodes!
Subscribe to Know Your Enemy on Patreon to listen to this bonus episode, and all of our bonus content: https://www.patreon.com/knowyourenemy
Finally, a deep-dive on William F. Buckley, Jr.! Matt and Sam are joined by Buckley's biographer, Sam Tanenhaus, to talk about WFB's 1965 campaign for mayor of New York City. Topics include: how Buckley's campaign made him the most famous conservative in America; the importance of his candidacy to the conservative movement's rise; the hardline positions he took on policing and his inflammatory views on race; and more. Along the way, Tanenhaus offers countless details that only Buckley's biographer would know, from WFB dropping LSD with James Burnham to the debate that changed Buckley forever.Sources and Further Reading:Sam Tanenhaus, Whittaker Chambers: A Biography (Random House, 1997)Sam Tanenhaus, "The Buckley Effect," New York Times Magazine, October 2, 2005Carl T. Bogus, Buckley: William F. Buckley Jr. and the Rise of American Conservatism (Bloomsbury, 2011)Matthew Sitman, "There Will Be No Buckley Revival," Commonweal, July 28, 2015...and don't forget to subscribe to Know Your Enemy on Patreon for access to all of our bonus episodes!
For those who want to learn more about the 5-4 podcast, you can visit their website here!
TEASER: Woke Capital

TEASER: Woke Capital

2021-07-3104:07

Subscribe to Know Your Enemy on Patreon to listen to this bonus episode, and all of our bonus content: https://www.patreon.com/knowyourenemy
In this episode, Matt and Sam are joined by political theorist and conservative intellectual Samuel Goldman—a very sensible and polite "enemy"—to discuss his brilliant new book, After Nationalism. Topics include: Goldman's punk-rocker past; the influence of Leo Strauss on his thinking; historical attempts to provide Americans with a coherent, enduring symbol of national identity; why these symbols have failed; what all this means for debates about teaching U.S. history; and what alternatives to nationalism its critics can offer.  Sources:Samuel Goldman, After Nationalism: Being American in an Age of Division (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2021)James Ceaser, Nature and History in American Political Development (Harvard University Press, 2008)
The Afterlife of January 6th

The Afterlife of January 6th

2021-07-1901:36:032

It's been over seven months since pro-Trump protestors breached the Capitol on January 6, 2021. The meaning of the event remains contested. Was it a genuine coup attempt by an extra-parliamentary faction of the Trump movement? Or was it a  disorganized and pathetic act of desperation by Fox News-poisoned rubes? Were the protestors inside the Capitol more like tourists or like terrorists? Was the siege an expression of dangerous anti-democratic forces? Or should we be more worried  about the security state's  overreaction to January 6th than about the event itself?  Looking back with the benefit of hindsight, we try to contextualize the events of January 6th in terms of a longer trajectory of right-wing mobilization in 2020. Conservatives have variously downplayed, ignored, and defended the insurrectionists. Trump and others have begun to treat Ashli Babbitt — killed by a police officer during the riot — as a martyr for the cause. Meanwhile, Tucker Carlson  insists the siege was an inside job, planned and executed by the FBI — an implausible theory gaining popularity among conservatives hoping to absolve themselves of culpability.  Still other factions of the right (e.g. our old friends at the Claremont Institute) dream about a version of 1/6 that would actually have succeeded. Further Reading: Video: Day of Rage: An In-Depth Look at How a Mob Stormed the Capitol, New York Times, June 30, 2021. Paige Williams, "Kyle Rittenhouse, American Vigilante" The New Yorker. June 28, 2021.Ben Burgis & Daniel Bessner, "Trump Is a Threat to Democracy. But That Doesn’t Mean He’s Winning." Jacobin. Jan 15, 2021. Micah Loewinger, The Road to Insurrection, WNYC, July 2, 2021. Michael Anton & Curtis Yarvin, "The Stakes: The American Monarchy?," The American Mind. May 31, 2021.Joshua Hochschild "Once Upon a Presidency," The American Mind. Feb 19, 2021.Andrew Egger, "The New January 6 Scapegoats," The Dispatch, Jun 18, 2021.John Ganz "Feb 6 1934/Jan 6 2021," Unpopular Front. Jul 15, 2021....and don't forget to subscribe to Know Your Enemy on Patreon for all of our bonus episodes! 
In this unlocked bonus episode, Matt is joined by historian Eric Rauchway for a deep-dive into his new book, Why the New Deal Matters. It's Rauchway's latest effort to recover Franklin Delano Roosevelt as an anti-fascist political leader who sought to expand the meaning and practice of American democracy—that in a robust democracy, people don't just need enough to live on, but something to live for. Topics include: Herbert Hoover's and FDR's different responses to the Bonus Army's march on Washington; why Hoover is the true founding father of modern conservatism; how FDR understood the New Deal as more than just a pragmatic series of experiments; the importance to the New Deal of public art and projects like building libraries and theaters; why, despite its compromises with white supremacists in the Democratic Party, the New Deal continues to inspire; and more! Further Reading:Eric Rauchway, Why the New Deal Matters (Yale University Press, 2021)Eric Rauchway, Winter War: Hoover, Roosevelt, and the First Clash Over the New Deal (Basic  Books, 2018)Jamelle Bouie, "F.D.R. Didn't Just Save the Economy," New York Times, April 16, 2021...and don't forget to subscribe to Know Your Enemy on Patreon for access to all of our bonus episodes!
Subscribe to Know Your Enemy on Patreon to listen to this bonus episode, and all of our bonus content: https://www.patreon.com/knowyourenemyMatt and Sam are back in the same room — Matt's  study — enjoying brown liquor, each other's company, and a surprisingly coherent discussion of the right's latest fixations: our "rainbow regime" and "critical race theory." Listen to find out how Matt's mother feels about his porn-stache, if Sam feels bad about boosting the career of Robin DiAngelo, whether the term "white fragility" has any utility, and why queer community is a metaphysical conundrum for Christian post-liberals. It's fun!
In this episode Matt and Sam discuss Ravelstein, Saul Bellow's roman à clef about the Straussian political philosopher Allan Bloom, who achieved late-in-life wealth and fame after publishing his controversial bestseller, The Closing of the American Mind. Along the way they consider the University of Chicago's Committee on Social Thought, eros and the intellectual life, love and friendship, Bellow and Bloom's shared Jewishness, and much, much more.Sources and Further Reading:Saul Bellow, Ravelstein (Penguin, 2000)Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind (Simon & Schuster, 1987)                              Giants and Dwarfs (Simon & Schuster, 1990)                              Love and Friendship (Simon & Schuster, 1993)Michel de Montaigne, "Of Friendship," from The Complete Works (trans. Donald Frame)D.T. Max, "With Friends Like Saul Bellow," New York Times Magazine, April 16, 2000Christopher Hitchens, "The Egg-Head's Egger-On," London Review of Books, April 27, 2000Patrick Deneen, "Who Closed the American Mind? Allan Bloom, Edmund Burke, & Multiculturalism," The Imaginative Conservative, May 29, 2013PLUS: Subscribe to Know Your Enemy on Patreon for access to all of our bonus episodes!
Subscribe to Know Your Enemy on Patreon to listen to this bonus episode, and all of our bonus content: https://www.patreon.com/knowyourenemyEvery June it happens: conservatives get all hot and bothered by Pride celebrations, and this year has been no different. Why do banal corporate expressions of support for LGBTQ+ rights drive them so mad? How does religion factor into their opposition to basic protections for LGBTQ+ people? What part do these culture war flareups play in their broader political strategy? In this bonus episode, Matt and Sam offer a survey of hyperbolic rightwing reactions to the start of Pride month and break it all down. 
Subscribe to Know Your Enemy on Patreon to listen to this bonus episode, and all of our bonus content: https://www.patreon.com/knowyourenemyWhat is the status of "equality" in the American political tradition? What place does it have in the inheritance that conservatives are trying to preserve? Matt and Sam pick up where they left off in their recent conversation with historian Joshua Tait, this time focusing on Harry Jaffa's devastating review of Willmoore Kendall and George Carey's The Basic Symbols of the American Political Tradition. In it, Jaffa defends Abraham Lincoln against Kendall and Carey's charge that he "derailed" our political tradition by putting the Declaration of Independence, natural rights, and the principle of equality at its center—a move, in their account, that opened the way to Ceasarism, the rights revolution, and more. Sources and Further Reading:Willmoore Kendall & George W. Carey, Basic Symbols of the American Political Tradition (Louisiana State University Press, 1970; reprint, The Catholic University of American Press, 1995)Willmoore Kendall, The Conservative Affirmation (Regnery Publishing, 1963)Harry V. Jaffa, "Equality as a Conservative Principle," Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review, June 1, 1975Joshua Tait, "Why Willmoore Kendall and James Burnham are the Prophets of Modern Conservatism," National Interest, April 30, 2021Matthew Sitman, "Farewell to a Constitutional Conservative," The American Conservative, June 27, 2013
For a slight change of pace, we invited our dear friend Brandy Jensen—author of the world's best advice column, Jezebel's Ask a Fuck-Up, and features editor at the new Gawker.com—to answer listener questions about reentering the world post-vaccine, dating, conservative relatives, whether the "Trad Caths" are right, and mourning the lives we did not live.  As you'll see, we ended up addressing many classic Know Your Enemy themes—mercy, redemption, humility, etc.—and we had a great time doing it.  Thank you to everyone who wrote in with such intimate and profound questions. You're all very beautifully fucked-up. Further Reading:Adam Philips, Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life, Macmillan, 2013Pope Francis, Fratelli Tutti, October 3, 2020Brandy Jensen, "Ask a Fuck-Up on a Fucked-Up Year," Jezebel, December 31, 2020
In this follow-up episode to "Democracy and Its Discontents" (listen here), historian Joshua Tait joins Matt and Sam for a conversation about the intellectual origins of the American Right's hostility to democracy—from John C. Calhoun's invention of the filibuster in the nineteenth century to the writings of conservatives like Russell Kirk, James Burnham, Willmoore Kendall, and others, in the 1950s and '60s. Sources and Further Reading:Adam Jentleson, Kill Switch: The Rise of the Modern Senate and the Crippling of American Democracy (Liveright Books, January 2021)James Burnham, Congress and the American Tradition (Regnery, 1959)Willmoore Kendall, The Conservative Affirmation (Regnery Publishing, 1963)Willmoore Kendall & George W. Carey, Basic Symbols of the American Political Tradition (Louisiana State University Press, 1970; reprint, The Catholic University of American Press, 1995)Saul Bellow, "Mosby's Memoirs," The New Yorker, Jul 12, 1968John A. Murley & John E. Alvis, eds., Willmoore Kendall: Maverick of American Conservatives (Rowman & Littlefield, 2002)Harry V. Jaffa, "Equality as a Conservative Principle," Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review, June 1, 1975Joshua Tait, "Why Willmoore Kendall and James Burnham are the Prophets of Modern Conservatism," National Interest, April 30, 2021Joshua Tait, "The Long History of Fighting Over the Term 'Conservative,'" The Bulwark, April 2, 2021Matthew Sitman, "Farewell to a Constitutional Conservative," The American Conservative, June 27, 2013...and don't forget to subscribe to Know Your Enemy on Patreon for all of our bonus episodes!
Note: This bonus episode was  first published on April 13. We're unlocking it now because  we're working on a companion episode that explores in greater detail the intellectual origins of, and justifications for, hostility toward democracy among the founders of the modern American conservative movement. ***In state legislatures across the country, Republicans are unleashing a fierce assault on voting rights. Hundreds of proposals aimed at restricting ballot access are being considered, and in a few states—most notably Georgia—have already become law. These obvious efforts at suppressing turnout have been justified by the deranged lie that Donald Trump had a landslide victory stole from him in November, along with the usual evidence-free worries about election integrity peddled by conservatives. Of course, the debates all this has generated have been remarkably unintelligent—just more fodder for the culture wars. Matt and Sam breakdown where voting-rights bill have been passed, what provisions they include, and how it all fits into both the GOP's current strategy of minority rule and the right's longstanding suspicion of mass democracy.Sources Cited and Further Reading:Brennan Center for Justice, "Voting Laws Roundup," April 1, 2021Nick Corasaniti and Reid J. Epstein, "What Georgia's Voting Law Really Does," New York Times, April 2, 2021Ari Berman, "Republicans Say the Georgia Law Wasn’t Designed to Suppress Voting. Don’t Believe Them," Mother Jones, April 8, 2021Ari Berman, "361 Voter Suppression Bills Have Already Been Introduced This Year," Mother Jones, April 1, 2021Daniel Dale, "Fact Check: Biden and Kemp Misleadingly Describe Parts of Georgia Elections Law," CNN, April 2, 2021Daniel Dale, "Fact Check: Republicans Falsely Equate Georgia and Colorado Election Laws," CNN, April 7, 2021Michael Wines, "In Statehouses, Stolen-Election Myth Fuels a G.O.P. Drive to Rewrite Rules," New York Times, February 27, 2021Glenn Ellmers, "'Conservatism' Is No Longer Enough," The American Mind, March 24, 2021William F. Buckley, Jr., "Why the South Must Prevail," National Review, August 24, 1957Kevin Williamson, "Why Not Fewer Voters?" National Review, April 6, 2021To listen to more bonus episodes like this one, subscribe to Know Your Enemy on Patreon!
Subscribe at https://www.patreon.com/knowyourenemy to hear this and all our bonus content.In this episode, Matt is joined by historian Eric Rauchway for a deep-dive into his new book, Why the New Deal Matters. It's Rauchway's latest effort to recover Franklin Delano Roosevelt as an anti-fascist political leader who sought to expand the meaning and practice of American democracy—that in a robust democracy, people don't just need enough to live on, but something to live for. Topics include: Herbert Hoover's and FDR's different responses to the Bonus Army's march on Washington; why Hoover is the true founding father of modern conservatism; how FDR understood the New Deal as more than just a pragmatic series of experiments; the importance to the New Deal of public art and projects like building libraries and theaters; why, despite its compromises with white supremacists in the Democratic Party, the New Deal continues to inspire; and more! 
Overheated (w/ Kate Aronoff)

Overheated (w/ Kate Aronoff)

2021-04-2301:03:261

At last, Know Your Enemy takes on climate change! Kate Aronoff, staff writer at The New Republic and Dissent editorial board member, joins Matt and Sam to discuss her new book, Overheated: How Capitalism Broke the Planet—And How We Fight Back. The conversations traces the history of collaboration between fossil fuel executives and conservative think tanks; then we discuss what comes after climate denial and try our best to imagine a post-carbon world. What will it take to avoid a future of eco-apartheid, fortress nations, and "lifeboat ethics?"  Listen to find out.Further Reading:Kate Aronoff, "The European Far-Right's Environmental Turn," Dissent, May 31, 2019.Kate Aronoff, "With A Green New Deal, Here's What the World Could Look Like For The Next Generation," The Intercept, Dec 5, 2018.Sam Adler-Bell, "Appalachia vs. the Carceral State," The New Republic, Nov 25, 2019.Sam Adler-Bell,  "Why White Supremacists are Hooked on Green Living," The New Republic, Sept. 24, 2019....and don't forget to subscribe to Know Your Enemy on Patreon!
To listen to this episode, and all of our bonus content, subscribe here: https://www.patreon.com/knowyourenemyIn state legislatures across the country, Republicans are unleashing a fierce assault on voting rights. Hundreds of proposals aimed at restricting ballot access are being considered, and in a few states—most notably Georgia—have already become law. These obvious efforts at suppressing turnout have been justified by the deranged lie that Donald Trump had a landslide victory stole from him in November, along with the usual evidence-free worries about election integrity peddled by conservatives. Of course, the debates all this has generated have been remarkably unintelligent—just more fodder for the culture wars. Matt and Sam breakdown where voting-rights bill have been passed, what provisions they include, and how it all fits into both the GOP's current strategy of minority rule and the right's longstanding suspicion of mass democracy.
This episode is something different: the latest installment of the KYE Film Club, an ongoing series in which Matt and Sam's great friend (and the podcast's producer) Jesse Brenneman guides them through the strange world of terrible conservative movies. The selection this time was "Christmas Cars," a confusing attempt at Confederate nostalgia written and directed by former Dukes of Hazzard star John Schneider.Watch: Christmas Cars on VimeoPeruse: John Schneider Studios...and don't forget to subscribe to Know Your Enemy on Patreon to listen to all of our bonus episodes! 
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Comments (31)

NoahArkwright

Haha - I literally opened the ThriftBooks app as soon as you mentioned the Hirschman book, so you were right about listeners rushing to buy it! :D

Sep 8th
Reply

Will Shogren

It's cool that Ross said his thing about Upper West Side Cosmopolitans, intentionally clarified that he wasn't referring to Jews, you guys agreed with him and then proceeded to whine about it on a different episode. Another indication that all the preening, posturing and soft anti-Chapoism is a feature rather than a bug.

Aug 24th
Reply

Will Shogren

Fuck off with this vacuous bullshit, Traister.

Aug 24th
Reply (3)

Will Shogren

Fuck Elizabeth Warren directly to hell.

Aug 23rd
Reply

Will Shogren

"a right wing Israeli think tank." redundant. Israel as an entity is fundamentally fascist.

Aug 23rd
Reply

Eu

1/6 was a mostly peaceful protest

Aug 5th
Reply

Will Shogren

The post-dirtbag Left, featuring another boring Jewish guy.

Jul 29th
Reply

Will Shogren

Bourbon huh? Remember when you morally blackmailed us into supporting Biden you disgusting shitbirds?

May 31st
Reply (3)

damned skeptic

Seems like most Republikkkans think that we were on the wrong side during the Second World War.

May 21st
Reply

Will Shogren

The liberal media was and continues to be an irredeemable trashcan fire that needs to be curb stomped relentlessly by anyone on the left.

May 5th
Reply (1)

Will Shogren

it's cool how the 1619 project was founded by a neoliberal sociopath piece of shit.

Feb 24th
Reply (8)

Will Shogren

turns out, Biden didn't actually have a first priority because he's a bewildered old racist and the kids are still in cages.

Feb 24th
Reply

Derry Todd

A wonderful podcast, one of favorites. I did the Patreon for a bit but getting maybe 1 episode a month is pretty trash.

Jan 3rd
Reply

Will Shogren

MIDGE

Aug 17th
Reply

Will Shogren

i love Rod Dreher so much. a national treasure.

Aug 17th
Reply

nmociahfgow

I have very high hopes for this podcast, and I'm looking forward to new episodes. *sorry I'm not listening on iTunes

Aug 6th
Reply
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