Making Sense Podcast #160: The Revenge of History – A Conversation with Michael Weiss and Yascha Mounk

In this episode of the podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Michael Weiss and Yascha Mounk about the state of global politics. They discuss the rise of right-wing populism in Europe, the prospect that democracy could fail in the US, Trump’s political instincts, the political liability of “wokeness,” the Left’s failure to re-think its support of Chavez, the dangers of political polarization, the attractions of extreme partisanship, cancel culture, and other topics.

Michael Weiss is an internationally respected investigative journalist who has covered the wars in Syria and Ukraine and published widely on Russian espionage and disinformation. His first book, ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror (co-written with Hassan Hassan), was a New York Times bestseller and named one of the Top Ten Books on Terrorism by the Wall Street Journal as well as one of the Best Books of 2015 by The Times of London. Weiss is a regular guest on CNN, MSNBC, the BBC and Real Time with Bill Maher. He writes a column for The Daily Beast.


Twitter: @michaeldweiss

Yascha Mounk is a writer, academic, and public speaker known for his work on the rise of populism and the crisis of liberal democracy. He is an Associate Professor at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, a senior fellow at theGerman Marshall Fund, and a senior advisor at Protect Democracy. A frequent contributor to The Atlantic, the New York Times, and Die Zeit, Mounk is the host of Slate’s The Good Fight Podcast. He has written three books: Stranger in My Own CountryThe Age of Responsibility, and The People versus Democracy, which explains the causes of the populist rise and investigates how to renew liberal democracy.


Twitter: @Yascha_Mounk


Cato Institute: Is Liberalism Good for Religions?

Featuring Joseph Loconte, Associate Professor of History, The King’s College; Daniel Philpott, Professor of Religion and Global Politics, University of Notre Dame; Mustafa Akyol, Senior Fellow, Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity, Cato Institute; moderated by Doug Bandow, Senior Fellow, Cato Institute.

Liberalism, a political philosophy that grew out of the Enlightenment and champions reason, freedom, and equality, has lately been criticized by some religious thinkers in the West. Liberalism, in their view, only “atomizes” individuals, weakens society, and ultimately corrodes all faiths.

Yet other religious intellectuals think that there are many reasons to appreciate liberalism, including the very freedom that the believers have found in liberal societies to practice and manifest their faith and to be free from the persecutions that have defined much of human history. Moreover, they think that under liberalism, religions flourish in healthier ways — through persuasion rather than coercion, and through civil society rather than state power.

This discussion is particularly relevant for Islam, since Muslim opinion leaders are often ambivalent, at best, on whether they should accept liberal standards of human rights or rather reject them as alien and detrimental. If liberalism is rejected even by Western Christians, whose religious traditions have been much more at peace with liberalism, Eastern Muslims will not even consider it.

How Do We Fix It? #209 Dignity & Respect in Back Row America: Chris Arnade

A lot of politicians like to say that there are “two Americas,” but do any of them know what life is really like for the marginalized poor?

We speak with journalist and photographer, Chris Arnade, about the forgotten towns and people of back row America. In 2011, Chris left a high-powered job as a bond trader on Wall Street, hit the road, and spent years documenting the lives of poor people, driving 150 thousand miles around the U.S.

His new book is “Dignity: Seeking Respect in Back Row America.” In his many columns in The Guardian, Chris writes about broken social systems that have betrayed poor people on the margins of society. He speaks to us about drug addicts and prostitutes he met, and their faith, resilience and ties to community.

“I think if I had one suggestion to policy people, it would be get out of your bubble,” says Chris. “I think when you blame a group of people for their behavior, without addressing the situation they find themselves in, then you are doing it wrong.”

In this episode we explore the stark division between elite, globalized “front row kids” in the media and knowledge industries, and most of the poor and working-class people in the back row.

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