On May 27, 2020 GasLit Nation Co-host and NY Times Best Selling author Sara Kendzior Joined Rick to discuss a wide array of topics from Trump’s attack on social media to the death of another unarmed black man by police. In this lightly edited transcript Rick discusses Trump’s recent Executive Order claiming to regulate social media platforms. What quite amazing is conservatives dominate social media, talk radio, and cable news yet repeatedly play the victim, the underdog, or the oppressed. Tell us what you think. Follow us on Twitter @RickSmithShow

Rick Smith : Donald Trump tomorrow is going to be signing another one of those wonderful executive orders that he is so well known for. The last one was right up there with some of the worst–we’re going to give blanket immunity to employers who don’t protect their workers as they force open the meat packing plants.

So how much worse can it possibly be? In my view, that’s one of the worst things you could possibly do. Well, now the people who love freedom of speech, the people who hate regulation, evidently  they’re claiming that they’re going to sign an executive order that is going to heavily regulate the social media companies like Twitter, all because Donald is angry because someone actually said his BS was, in fact, BS.

I’ve asked our good friend, Sarah Kendzior, or to come talk with us. Sarah is the cohost of Gaslit Nation, one of the top podcasts out there, and also she’s got a new book out, Hiding in Plain Sight, a New York Times bestseller. She’s the author of another New York Times bestseller, The View from Flyover Country.

Rick Smith : Thoughts on the executive order coming tomorrow to heavily regulate social media? 

Sarah Kendzior: People should be alarmed by this. I think of all the things that Trump wants to attack, freedom of speech and free media is going to be more difficult to accomplish.

For the last few weeks I’ve been giving interviews about my book and people have asked me, “What do you expect if he wins?” Right. “Wins” if he’s installed for another term. And I thought an attack on free speech, free media done by manipulation of social media companies, by censoring tweets or scaring people to self censorship, was what was coming down. Now I’m wondering if it may be coming sooner than we thought. 

I think some of this is just an act to intimidate Twitter, to complain about their, attempts that fact checking, to cause a scandal while he commits crimes because that’s just a tactic.

Broadly speaking, I think people should be worried about this. They should be worried about the influence that this administration and people connected to it are going to try to wield over social media and over the media in general. 

Rick Smith : And the point of the fact that 100,000 people are dead because of his screw up. This is a good change of subject. 

Sarah Kendzior: Absolutely. He always does this. He covers up crimes of scandal. He covers up malice with feigned incompetence. And I think here, of course, he doesn’t want people looking at the massive death toll. It doesn’t bother him. I think he is trying to normalize mass death.

That’s the way that he’s always felt. You can find decades of interviews about him being blase or even gleeful about the prospect of mass death, but I think this is one of those times where Americans are grieving and they feel uneasy about the lack of outward grief–the fact that the flag isn’t lowered, the fact that many of our officials are acting as if this isn’t really happening or as this toll couldn’t have been prevented.

Obviously people were going to get this virus, they’re going to get sick, but the sheer volume of it and the way it’s spread and the lack of treatment that some people received, a lot of that was preventable if people had acted earlier and if supplies had been delivered in time.

That’s on Trump. I don’t think he cares on a personal level, but I think he doesn’t want that kind of stigma just following him around ceaselessly because it’s something that he couldn’t completely control. 

Rick Smith : As anybody who’s been paying attention to this administration knows, this guy has undone everything that he possibly can that’s had Obama’s name on it, any regulation he wants to slash and burn it.

Now find out from the NPR story yesterday that, in fact, during the Obama term, because of the H1N1 they did try and move forward on some regulation to help hospitals come up with plans, help health nursing homes come up with plans to deal with these kinds of airborne contaminants through OSHA.

One of the first things that this administration did was to destroy all of that. So had Trump literally just done nothing, nothing at all, we would have been better off. 

Sarah Kendzior: I don’t think it’s just about Obama. I don’t think everything is just a back and forth personality clash or a rebuke of Obama’s legacy.

I think they had different values. Whereas the Obama administration wanted to conduct the baseline protection of American human life, provide medical services during a pandemic to have things on hand, like masks and ventilators, whereas Trump and the GOP, they’re a death cult. They are an apocalyptic death cult.

They rhapsodize about the rapture. They rhapsodize about people being murdered and they rhapsodized at times about depopulation, about destruction. You know, there are cases of Trump saying that he wants complete disaster. He wants economic collapse. He wants riots in the streets because they see this as like a cleansing force that can make America great again and use the same kind of rhetoric coming out of people like Steve Bannon, out of Bill Barr, see it in a white supremacist version from Stephen Miller. They like this idea that they’re sort of God-like figures who construct history.

And so when a pandemic comes along, I think they see it as a means for social control, as a means to wipe out parts of the population they find inconvenient, like elderly people or disabled people, and I’m sure they’re delighted that it is disproportionately affecting black and native Americans.

And so they wouldn’t bother to stop it. It goes on with their broader gutting of agencies that have the social safety net that prevent the vulnerable from disaster. I’m not that surprised by it, but I feel like people should be looking closer at what exactly did they do to the CDC and to these other organizations over the last few years. 

I was alarmed in 2018 at the time that a CDC worker went missing and then died under somewhat mysterious circumstances. There were also a lot of stories about budget cuts, cuts to research, all sorts of stuff, and it just makes me wonder what exactly did they know? 

I’m not saying they created the virus and then released it or anything like that, but that they certainly seem to have an interest in these organizations. And the interest wasn’t linked to serving the common good or protecting the public from disease, which is what you’re supposed to be doing, 

Rick Smith : As I’m hearing you go through this, I immediately think no, they didn’t create it, but they didn’t do anything really to stop it. So this is kind of one of those convenient crises that comes along that they then can take advantage of to further deregulate, to say, “Hey, you workers, you have to go to work and companies get blanket immunity.” 

The folks at Americans for Tax Fairness have pointed out that our 630 billionaires have seen their wealth, just in two months, jump by $434 billion. You’re talking a massive redistribution of wealth. 

Sarah Kendzior: Yeah, it’s disgusting. And of course you know they were going to take that opportunity to enrich themselves. You see Jeff Bezos on the way to possibly being the first trillionaire. They’re unaffected. One thing that this pandemic has shown is as unemployment is through the roof, as we’re at record unemployment, stocks are soaring. 

That disconnect between the stock market and what this oligarch plutocratic class experiences and what everyone else experiences is just vast. It’s worrying because it shows how little leverage the public has in trying to get anything, just basic rights, resources, medical care, because most of our politicians are beholden to this plutocratic class to some degree, whether through donors or just through pressure through corporations.

You’re going to have a population that’s increasingly helpless, continuing or accelerating a trend that’s been true for well over 40 years, a kind of ultra elite that just coasts above it all. That’s what’s in the White House. That’s what the Trump crime family is. That’s what Jared and Ivanka exemplify. Certainly what Wilbur Ross and Steve Mnuchin and others who were brought in from Wall Street exemplify, and they have no interest in remedying this. 

I don’t see a very strong leadership from the Democrats in trying to use what leverage they have to get a plan of action for American citizens who are now struggling to survive.

It’s in part because these [Democrats] are multimillionaires and recipients of donor money as well. 

It’s just very frustrating because this is the darkest time that I can really remember in American history, between the public health crisis, the economic crisis, the rising fascism crisis. It’s a lot, and they’re not acting as if it’s urgent. The climate change crisis–you can throw that one in, too. 

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