Intercepted Podcast: The Super Bowl of Racism

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden discusses the Equifax data breach and activist Shaun King lays out his campaign to bring violent neo-Nazis to justice.

Photos: Getty Images (4) Photo Illustration: Elise Swain for The Intercept

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Donald Trump loves him some beauty pageants. But he probably wasn’t so hot on this year’s Miss Texas who called him out during the Miss America competition for his horrid response to the neo-Nazi violence against protesters. This week on Intercepted, we talk Trump, Confederate monuments, and racism with activist and commentator Shaun King. He also lays out his argument for boycotting the NFL in response to the blacklisting of Colin Kaepernick after his very public protests on and off the field. We also get analysis from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden on the massive data breach at the credit reporting agency Equifax, as well as his current assessment of the evidence of Russian interference in the U.S. election. And we talk about Chicago housing projects and hear music from alt-rap artist Open Mike Eagle.

[Jill Colucci “The Funny Things You Do”]

You’re the red, white and blue

The funny things you do

America, America this is you

Donald J. Trump: In the middle of a hurricane, even though it was a Friday evening, I assumed the ratings would be far higher than they would be normally and I put it out that I had pardoned Sheriff Joe.

[Laugh track]

Stephen Miller: President Trump is the most gifted politician of our time and he’s the best orator to hold that office in a generation.

Hillary Clinton: Get out of my space. Back up you creep!

Chris Wallace: And the president’s values?

Rex Tillerson: The president speaks for himself, Chris.

Paul Ryan: The House has been more productive than any Congress in the modern era. [laughter]

Steve Bannon: The Billy Bush Saturday, to me, is a litmus test. Look what he did on DACA the other day. And he said even last night in a Tweet, in a Tweet, he would rethink it.

Werner Herzog: It’s an unfinished country. It’s still pre-historical. It’s a land that God, if he exists, has created in anger. We only sound and look like badly pronounced half-finished sentences out of stupid suburban novel. A cheap novel.

[Musical interlude]

Jeremy Scahill: This is intercepted.

[Musical interlude]

JS: I’m Jeremy Scahill, coming to you from the offices of The Intercept in New York City. And this is episode 27 of Intercepted.

DJT: Look at Ivanka. No, come on up honey. She’s so good, she wanted to make the trip. She said, “Dad, can I go?” Well, she actually said, “Daddy, can I go with you?” I like that, right. “Daddy, can I go with you?” I said, “Yes, you can.” “Where are you going?” “North Dakota.” I said, “Oh, I like North Dakota.” Hi, honey!

JS: Welcome to season three of the program, and since we last gathered on this show so much shit has happened that I’m actually struggling where to begin. Hurricanes, climate disasters, climate change deniers, Trump tweeting about the hurricanes like they’re a sign of his greatness because of how massive they are.

DJT: They were just happy. We saw a lot of happiness. It’s been really nice, it’s been a wonderful thing. As Trump — as tough as it was, it’s been a wonderful thing, I think even for the country to watch, and the world to the watch. It’s been beautiful.

JS: Neo-Nazis killing people in broad daylight. Neo-Nazis shooting at people in broad daylight. Confederate statues coming down. Overt racists rising up to defend them. In some cases, comparing them to 9/11 memorials.

Ryan Zinke: And also talking about the change that 9/11 brought to all Americans.

Brian Kilmeade: Do you worry 100 years from now someone’s going to try to take that memorial down like they’re trying to remake our memorials today?

JS: The cruel war against undocumented immigrants and documented immigrants, and the very real threat to deport more than 700,000 people who were promised that they could stay in this country. The escalation of the failed war in Afghanistan. The continued U.S. sponsored slaughter in Yemen.

We live in a time where we have a dangerous, unhinged narcissist in the White House, and we face the most grave risk of the use of nuclear weapons in recent world history. On any given day, it’s difficult to decide who actually is more nuts: Kim Jong Un or Donald Trump.

And yet major publications, including the New York Times, chose to run stories recently emphasizing that Donald Trump is an independent, that he’s willing to defy the Republican Party to chart his own course. That’s utter bullshit. Donald Trump represents the most dramatic, extraverted version of a sizable portion of the Republican Party. He says things they believe and that they want legislated or that they want decreed by fiat, but that they don’t want to be caught saying openly. Or, at least not as plainly as Trump says them.

Trump has radical, ideological zealots running major U.S. agencies. People like Mike Pompeo at the CIA, Betsy DeVos at the department of education, Mike Pence as his vice president. Trump has handed the state department over to Rex Tillerson and Exxon Mobil. And for all the talk of James Mattis being one of the adults in the room, his record in the U.S. military and his role in massacres overseas, that should have disqualified him from any higher office. But that would have required backbone or actual opposition to Mattis’s past actions from the Democrats, and there simply was none to be found.

So, no — Trump is not an independent. He’s a vehicle, a sort of Trojan horse for some of the most extreme right-wing radicals and radical ideas to ascend to the highest levels of power in this country. And Trump has emboldened racists and white supremacists he has welcomed them to his staff in the White House, he’s pushed them out on national television to speak for him, he named one as his attorney general, Jeff Sessions. The violence we’re seeing from these neo-Nazis does not exist in a vacuum. They’re so-called defense of Confederate monuments — which, by the way, were built specifically to terrorize or harass black people well after the Civil War was over — that doesn’t exist in a vacuum, these actions are being encouraged and empowered because of how Trump speaks.

And what is amazing, and I don’t know how many of you watched the Miss America pageant last week, I don’t normally watch the Miss America pageant — I actually didn’t watch it, but I did watch clips. And as all of us know Donald Trump normally loves these pageants — he gets to harass young women and fantasize about them. And Trump loves to talk about how much he loves Texas and vice versa. Well those two things came together at this year’s Miss America Pageant. Check out what happened when Miss Texas was interviewed as part of the contest.

Jess Cagle: Last month, a demonstration of Neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and the K.K.K. in Charlottesville, Virginia turned violent and a counter protester was killed. The president said there was shared blame with “very fine people on both sides.” Were there? Tell me yes, or no, and explain.

Miss Texas, Margana Wood: I think that the white supremacist issue, it was very obvious that it was a terrorist attack. And I think that President Donald Trump should have made a statement earlier addressing the fact and making sure all Americans feel safe in this country. That is number one issue right now.

And it’s amazing that Miss Texas was able to make a point that Trump and his supporters pretend that they don’t get, they have no understanding of where this is coming from. But maybe that’s a good indication of where we are right now in this country. I’ll also add that another Miss America contestant, Miss Missouri, addressed another major issue in the news in a much smarter and more nuanced way than most of the pundits you’ll see on MSNBC and that was on the issue of Trump and Russia.

Jordin Sparks: There are multiple investigations into whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia on the election. Well, did they? You’re the jury: guilty or innocent, and please explain your verdict.

Miss Missouri, Jennifer Davis: Right now, I’d have to say innocent because not enough information has been revealed. We are still investigating this and I think we should investigate it to its fullest extent. And if we do find the evidence that they have had collusion with Russia, then they should, the justice system should do their due diligence and they should be punished accordingly.

JS: That was Miss Missouri, Jennifer Davis. Well, this week I had a chance to check in with N.S.A. whistleblower, Edward Snowden. He was not in the Miss America Pageant, he continues to live in exile in Moscow, Russia. I did a public interview with him at the Free Library of Philadelphia and I asked him about this massive data breach at the credit monitoring firm Equifax where upwards of $150 million people’s personal data was exposed. And I also asked him for his current take on the investigation into allegations of Russian interference in the U.S. election.

JS: From all of the publicly available information that you’ve seen, and I know you monitor these issues extremely closely, are you convinced that there was a campaign directed from the highest levels of power in Moscow to seek to influence the outcome of the U.S. election? And you’re speaking to us of course from Moscow right now.

ES: Right, right, right. If the feed gets cut short, you guys know why. (laughter) You know this is one of those things where it’s frustrating because there’s so much smoke, and nobody’s willing to point to fire. And I come from the NSA, right? My last position, I was working counter-cyber, finding exactly the kind of hackers that are being sort of alleged in this current moment, but for China rather than for Russia. And I got to tell you, it wasn’t real hard to find these guys.

So we had this report that came from the DNI and basically three agencies: I think it was the FBI, the CIA, and the NSA. And they said in their finding that they had you know confidence that that was the assessment, but there were some really weird things this is led to this sort of ongoing drama that everybody’s focused on and it’s consuming nation with kind of a passion where we can focus on anything else. Because we’re elevating Russia to a position where they can sort of control our political outcomes. And I think that’s actually giving Russia too much credit. I don’t think Russia is that strong, right?

But when we look at this report, and we think about, obviously, Russia would have interest, any country would have interest in changing electoral outcomes in other countries, I mean we do it, why wouldn’t the Russians. But the main thing here is the FBI and the CIA both said we have high confidence in this assessment, basically the Russians did, and the NSA, who is best positioned to actually make this judgment, so they had medium confidence in this assessment. But why discrepancy there?

And the only reason that I can think about, and again I don’t know this. This the problem when we speak about these things we need evidence. You can track sort of these, let’s call them hacking attempts, from where they’re launched, even if the hackers are trying to hide their footsteps, when you have the powers of the NSA —

JS: You’re going out there, Ed. The feed actually has become choppy now that you’re getting into the details. [Audience laughs] As you were, Ed.

ES: To simplify things, and to sort of tie up the point here, when they were looking at the hacking into the DNC’s servers. This is a high value target. Whether we’re talking about the United States, whether we’re talking China, whether we’re talking Russia, everybody is targeting these institutions, if they have the resources, if they have the people, that’s their job.

And former director of the NSA and CIA. Michael Hayden says this — he’s actually described this as honorable espionage, which I think is a bit much, but that’s his perspective, right? This is what intelligence agencies do. And the problem with this is so the DNC didn’t actually provide their service to the FBI. They contracted this third party company that’s basically paid to provide an explanation that goes, look this matches these attack indicators, right? Fair enough. We’ve seen these before. They’re attributed to the Russians, we think Russian —

But that’s all that they provide. The reality here is if the NSA didn’t have the same level of confidence, it’s very likely it’s because there are more people on the system, right? There could be multiple actors there. We can have the French, we can have the Chinese, we can have the Israelis, we can have the Germans all on the same system. And this happens all of the time, it happens so frequently that in NSA we have an actual term of art for this. Instead of hacking somebody, we’ll just watch what the hackers who already hacked them are taking, and then we just save a copy of that. It is called fourth-party collection.

And because there was so much traffic on this, they couldn’t really de-conflict it. But this raises the big question of, “Ok, well if the Russians didn’t do it, who did it, right?” And I think this is where it gets dicey— and where I start to think alright is probably Russians —

JS: Hold on a bit, Ed. You said the word ‘Russia’ again, and it started to go choppy. [Audience laughs] Either that or someone — someone’s downloading porn here.

ES: Right. Right. Right. So we’ll tie this off then, because it’s going on for a while. There is this allegation, right, that Vladimir Putin and Hillary Clinton basically hate each other, like they’re mortal enemies, right? And he wouldn’t want to see this. So when you start seeing a qui bono, you know maybe it’s possible. But here’s the central problem with everything we’ve discussed right now: it’s entirely speculation. Absolutely none of it is reliable. And previously when the United States government has seen hacking efforts that they considered threats to national security, they released evidence.

This is what’s missing. The NSA is spying on everyone, everywhere, all of the time. That’s how mass surveillance works. So why is it that we aren’t getting evidence about what is arguably the most important public policy question, when it comes to sort of foreign intelligence efforts in recent history?

JS: Ed, we only have a few moments left and I think I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask you about this Equifax breach, but it’s also emblematic of the powder keg that is all of this private data about us that is held by so many private corporations. And what’s particularly, you know, insane about the Equifax situation is that these are the people that can like prevent you from ever buying a house because you didn’t pay your credit card bill once, and it’s like they can’t even fucking keep our Social Security numbers safe. You know it’s like, who are they to tell anyone that they shouldn’t be eligible for a car loan ever again?

But it, but it reveals something I think, you know, that I think should be of deep concern to all of us. So many people have willingly given enormous quantities of private personal information to a variety of corporations and government entities, if you look at what’s happening with our healthcare system in the digitization of our medical records. But also unwittingly huge corporations have developed enormous dossiers on all of us that are lying there waiting to be exploited someday, or a breach happens and it ends up out in the open.

But in this whole landscape and the data breaches, what is your assessment of that and what can people do, what should people do to try to confront what is this unprecedented amassing of information about all of us and our private lives?

ES: Well first. there’s two parts to this question. there’s the specific case and there’s the general case. When we talk about Equifax, right, the last count that I saw was the records of 143 million Americans were lost. There’s no way that this doesn’t happen without negligence, because the volume of data that has been moved from a system that should not be pushing that much data, right, is very trivially detectable.

Imagine you have a hose, leading out of your house, right? And somebody can have a hose turned on and water flows out of the house, but it takes a long time right to create thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars of water charges. Now imagine, somebody snuck in your house when you were, you were sleeping and they increased the water pressure on that system so that you have a stream of water shooting out of that hose that’s so powerful, it actually rips your house off the foundations, pushes it down the block. And you just go out of your house in the morning and drive to work, don’t notice it, you don’t tell anybody about it, you just go and you drive back at the end of the day and go, “My house isn’t there!” [Audience laughs.]

That’s what happened, right? It is ridiculous that this could occur at a company that is so powerful, so influential, so rich. It’s naked negligence. But then there’s the larger general case here. We are living through the greatest crisis in computer security that we have ever seen. This is the atomic moment for computer science as we had for nuclear physics in the last century, the last generation where people who had developed a science, a technology for the empowerment of humanity found only a few short years later, people began mastering this technology to use it to subjugate people, rather than to lift them up, to press them down. Right? And you have to care about this.

Yes, we should be angry with the hackers, right? But we should think about how the ecosystem got to this point. We should think about the fact that there are liability laws for every other sector of the American economy. If you build and sell a car, that car has to meet some minimum safety standards. If you develop and sell a new medicine, it has to meet certain minimum safety standards. If you sell a burrito on the street, it’s got to meet minimum safety standards. But if you create a credit monitoring system that impacts the lives of basically everyone with a credit card in the United States, there are no minimum safety standards that they’re having to deal with.

And this goes double for the people who actually write software in the first place. Now I don’t know where to set the law. I don’t know how to change these things. I’m not going to pretend to be the guy with the magic wand in the policy prescription here. But I think we can all recognize that if industry will not regulate itself here, someone else is going to have to do it for them. [Audience claps.]

JS: That was NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. I talked to him on Monday in an interview that I did at the Free Library of Philadelphia.

[Musical interlude]

JS: Coming up on the show we’re going to talk to activist and columnist Shaun King about the boycott that he’s leading against the NFL, as well as his crusade to catch the neo-Nazis, who gang beat an African-American man in the parking garage of the Charlottesville police station. We will also hear from the art-rap artist Open Mike Eagle. This is Intercepted. Stay with us.

JS: Hey everyone. This is the time of the show where there would normally be an ad for some mattress or mail order food or a razor that your face just has to feel. Well, not anymore. On the show, Intercepted is going ad-free. Instead, we’re going to ask our listeners to help support this show and keep it available to everyone. We’re going to be launching a community fundraising effort soon and we hope that you’ll consider chipping in if you’re able to. We’re also going to announce some cool thank you gifts for our supporters. Oh, and we just launched a new Facebook group for listeners who still use Facebook. It’s simply called Intercepted Listeners. Ok, now I’m gonna shut up. Back to the show.

[Musical interlude]

JS: Ok. We are back here on Intercepted, and the NFL season is now underway. There’s a lot of discussion about the political stance that a handful of athletes have begun taking, namely protesting during the national anthem. Some players have raised a black gloved fist. Others have sat or knelt during the national anthem, and several of the players who have chosen to protest have said that they’re doing it in response to racism and police brutality.

One of the players engaging in protest is the Seattle Seahawks star defensive back Michael Bennett. He explained his motivation last month on CNN.

Michael Bennett: I won’t stand until everything’s equal. I won’t stand until everybody has justice. I won’t stand until everybody has freedom. The things that America has built on, I think protesting the national anthem begins a conversation about the truth of America. I’m not protecting the flag. I’m actually trying to honor what we’re supposed to be honoring: the freedom of America, the equality of America, the justice for all, and the liberty. Those are things that I’m trying to remind people that we all fought for.

JS: Just days after that interview, Michael Bennet was attending a boxing match in Las Vegas. And after the match there was an incident in a casino where Las Vegas police responded to what they say they thought was a shooting incident. And in their response, they went after Michael Bennett. They pointed a gun at him. They ordered him to the ground. And they handcuffed him as he protested that he had done nothing wrong. And parts of this were caught on video tape.

After the incident, Bennett released a statement saying that an officer told him that if he moved, the officer would, “blow my fucking head off.” Bennett said that the excessive use of force was unbearable and he wrote in a statement that he released, “I felt helpless as I lay there on the ground, handcuffed, facing the real-life threat of being killed. All I could think of was: I’m going to die for no other reason than I am black and my skin color is somehow a threat.”

After Bennett went public with this story, the Las Vegas police attempted to get the NFL to punish Bennett, saying that he had unfairly accused them of racism. The league said it wasn’t going to do that. Bennett’s teammate, NFL star Richard Sherman, spoke to reporters about the incident.

Richard Sherman: Mike is literally, you know, sitting, taking a stand, protesting, and doing everything he can to combat the exact thing that he experienced. And people are so worried about him sitting down during the national anthem that they that completely missed that message a lot of times. They want to be more angry at the action than the message, and that’s an important part in part of the world we live in nowadays. I wish that people would take it for what it is and make a difference and go out there and try to combat against racism, fascism, unnecessary violence.

JS: The current media discussion of athletes daring to engage in protest seems to completely ignore several crucial points. First, NFL games are already dripping with politics and militarism, and they encourage a worship of the military and weapons of war as the one true form of patriotism. Second, they ignore the historical roots of athletes protesting. The black fist raised at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, Muhammad Ali’s resistance to the war in Vietnam, and on, and on. And third, these commentaries act as though the First Amendment has some secret clause that says athletes cannot engage in nonviolent protest. Like, like they’re supposed to surrender their humanity or their principles when they put on their helmet and uniform.

This debate isn’t new but it’s flared up over the past year because of an action that was taken last year by then San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. He refused to stand for the national anthem and then had the audacity to speak out about racism and other systemic injustices when asked why he did it.

Here’s Colin Kaepernick explaining his motives last year.

Colin Kaepernick: Yes, I’ll continue to sit. I’m going to continue to stand with the people that have been oppressed. To me this is something that has to change and when there’s significant change and I feel like that flag represents who is supposed to represent and this country is representing people the way they’re supposed to, I’ll stand.

Kaepernick’s action sparked reaction from pundits, celebrities, President Obama, and of course Donald Trump.

DJT: But there was an article today that was reported that NFL owners don’t want to pick him up, because they don’t want to get a nasty tweet from Donald Trump. Do you believe that? I said if I remember that one, I’m going to report it to the people of Kentucky, because they like it when people actually stand for the American flag, right?

JS: Trump was also joined by his ally and apparently rising GOP political star Kid Rock, in attacking Kaepernick at a concert.

Kid Rock: Man, fuck Colin Kaepernick!

JS: Now, Colin Kaepernick was a highly ranked quarterback in the NFL, yet he no longer has a team. In fact, he wasn’t even invited to training camp. His critics say it’s because he had a bad season last year, which is debatable: the 49ers were terrible, but Kaepernick’s stats were pretty solid. But others say it’s because he is a liability because of his politics. Here’s an example of how all of this was discussed recently on Fox News, on its show The Five.

Jesse Waters: The guy’s a loser on the field, he’s a loser off the field, bottom line.

Juan Williams: How are you going to call him a loser off the field?

Kimberly Guilfoyle: I know, it’s John Madden over here.

Jesse Waters: Everybody hates him.

Greg Gutfeld: I feel like this is another arena where identity politics invades and divides, because it creates a prism that only allows for one perspective. It’s got to be racist, if they do this, you’ve got to you have to hate this person because of their skin color, that’s what identity politics does.

JS: Supporters of Kaepernick, including the NAACP, have alleged that the reason the Colin Kaepernick is not currently on an NFL team’s roster is because of racism.

This past weekend, activist and columnist Shaun King issued a public call for a boycott of the NFL, and he spent NFL Sunday hanging out with Colin Kaepernick. Shaun King joins me now.

JS: Shaun, welcome to Intercepted.

Shaun King: I’m glad to be here, man.

JS: Explain why you’re calling for a boycott of the NFL.

SK: Well I decided several months ago that I wasn’t going to watch any of the games, in huge part because I’ve become friends with Colin. and it was just painful personally for me to see what I thought was a grave injustice happening to him. It was really like a friend seeing a friend lose, not just his job, but his dream. This is something he’s fought for his whole life, he’s in the prime of his career, he’s 29 years old. And he took this peaceful stand against injustice, which I encouraged him to take, not thinking that he would be blacklisted from the league. Like I thought it might change his reputation. I thought he might get a cold shoulder.

But my thought was he’s too big to fail in a sense. Surely they won’t do this to Colin. Quarterback is the most in-demand position. He’s solid. He’s smart. He has great character. And even though I knew there was a possibility that he might struggle to find a job, I didn’t think it would come to this. And when I saw over and over again teams kind of strangely contorting themselves to justify not giving him a job even though they desperately needed a quarterback, I made a personal decision in June, like, “Ok, I can’t watch this. This is, I don’t support how they’ve done it. I don’t support how they’re treating him.”

And I had other issues with the league, be it CTE, or how they were would constantly give other guys a pass for genuinely horrendous behaviors. And so I made the decision but I wasn’t really ready to ask other people to follow me. And there was a part of me that thought from June until September that, that he would get a job. And I think it’s the foolish optimist in me that thought people would be able to look past his protest and the few things that he said to the media, and look at their need as a team. Be it the Jets, or twenty different teams in a league that at least need a strong backup quarterback.

Here we are in September and he didn’t have a position and it looked like he’s not going to get one. And I literally made the decision at the last minute, just maybe three or four days ago, that I wanted to encourage people to take this stand with me. And while there are many reasons, for me it’s very personal. And it’s that we live in a time where a man very quietly, peacefully, and intelligently just stated his problems with police brutality and injustice in America, and had his career taken from him because of it.

JS: Now for people that didn’t follow this closely, explain how this started with Colin Kaepernick. What action he took, why he took it, and then what he’s done since then.

SK: Colin said he’s always been bothered by police brutality, but he never understood it as the systemic problem that it was. And he’s a young guy, he was 21 when he came into the league, and he literally started auditing a few classes at Berkeley, and from those classes began understanding what systemic racism was. Began understanding the systems behind mass incarceration or white supremacy or police brutality. And he was doing this with very few people, including myself, not knowing. I had no idea he was auditing classes. He was kind of undergoing a personal metamorphosis, and he was doing it while he was recovering from the surgeries that he had had.

And during last summer he saw the deaths of Philando Castile in Minnesota and Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and they just affected him personally. And really without talking to anybody, he decided at a pre-season game that he wasn’t going to stand up for the national anthem. And so Colin and I had been talking for couple of months at that point, and I think it really was a spur of the moment, gut decision where he heard the anthem and just decided like, “I’m not going to stand up for that. I don’t feel like it. I don’t believe it.” And when they noticed, a local reporter asked him about it at the end of the game, and that he hadn’t prepared any bullets and he just said:

CK: I mean, ultimately it’s to bring awareness and make people, you know, realize what’s really going on in this country. There are a lot of things that are going on that are unjust, people aren’t being held accountable for. And that’s something that needs to change, that’s something that you know this country stands for freedom, liberty, justice for all. And it’s not happening for all right now.

SK: And, you know that he was doing this to be in solidarity with victims of police brutality. And I was working with those families: Philando Castile’s family, Alton Sterling’s family. And they were deeply moved by it. And I think when he learned that these families who rarely get anything that resembles justice, when he learned that they were touched by his demonstration, I think he decided to stick with it.

And it became a national conversation where after games there be dozens of reporters there just to ask him what he was thinking. And people were taken aback because what they found was a bright, brilliant young man who had ample reason to do what he was doing and could explain it very articulately. And I think people thought maybe there was no depth there, like a stereotype of an athlete.

And I, I had the thought man that he was so careful and methodical about how he handled this that — not that the country would change, but I had never thought he would be, in essence, banned from the league. And that’s what we have here, a guy who, in the prime of his physical career, was not even brought in for a serious look.

JS: And I want to talk about that, because the flip side of this argument, I don’t mean to say that there’s only two ways of looking at this, but you have NFL commentators and others who are saying, “Look at the stats that he put up last year, he had a terrible season.”

SK: He didn’t, you know?

JS: I’m saying, but this is what is said. That he clearly had peaked, and sort of was on his way down. What’s interesting is that you have, I’m from Wisconsin, so I’m biased, the best quarterback in the country, Aaron Rodgers, who is not known for being a political guy, actually very recently came out and said, “No, I think that Colin Kaepernick should be on a team, and that this is political. This is not about his skills.”

SK: Yeah, when I saw Aaron say this, like he’s not a guy that takes hard stands on political issues. And so when he said something I was very curious as to what he was going to say. And he said emphatically, without hesitation, like, “no this is not a football decision, that had he not taken the stand that he that he took, he would be on the team right now. He would be the quarterback of the 49ers, and so he works out six days a week and has been. He’s in incredible shape. He’s, he could start for a team right away. Yet, here we are. He has not even been given a backup position.

And so there have been a lot of lies about him, like people said that he wouldn’t take a backup position. That’s a lie. He would. People said he also would not even accept a smaller contract. That’s a lie. He also hasn’t even been offered any contracts. And —

JS: And you, and you have guys who have criminal convictions.

SK: Yeah.

JS: Who have done time in prison, I mean Michael Vick and the whole, you know, dog torturing thing, and he you know he comes back into the league and there is there was also a lot of racism in the way that Michael Vick was covered. But, but these guys, and some of them are white players who have all sorts of trouble with the law.

SK: Sure.

JS: And we’re not talking about a guy who broke the law here, we’re talking about a guy who nonviolently took a political position.

SK: Well, that’s what’s disturbing man, is he is the stereotype of what black men are told they have to be to be successful. Like he, he is quiet. He literally stays in at night, he doesn’t party or go to the clubs, he’s never been in legal trouble a day in his life. He’s a college graduate, a bright guy, he’s in a committed relationship with an upstanding woman. I mean I hate to even list these things, but he is everything young black men are told they will need to be to rise up any type of corporate ladder. And—

JS: Well, except —

SK: Except black.

JS: Yeah

SK: But here’s the thing: other black men in the league, as you noted, have done horrific things. And I think it gets to the fact that the decision is actually extremely political. At least seven team owners in the NFL have given a million dollars or more to Donald Trump’s campaign. People can universally agree that NFL ownership is the most conservative ownership group of any sports league in the world.

DJT: In the audience we have somebody that’s under no pressure whatsoever because he’s got a great quarterback named Tom Brady, and a great coach, and a great coach named Belichick. Bob Kraft. So good luck, Bob.

SK: And I think what they’re trying to do is to make an example of Colin. And I think it’s working. Last year on any given day, you would see dozens, as many as 50 people demonstrate. And now yesterday I think there were five. Now that the season has started, that number may even go down to four, three. And I think guys are spooked. Guys have told me, particularly guys on rookie contracts, guys that don’t have Colin’s name or reputation have told me, “I can’t do this man. If they do to me what they did to him, I haven’t made the money he’s made and I have no backup plan.”

So it effectively did what I believe those owners wanted to do. It spooked the majority of guys, so basically the only guys who are doing it at this point are guys who are firm in their position. But all the other guys who are doing it, they’ve been spooked and they’re backing down. I think that that was what they wanted, was to freak enough guys out that they’ll back down. The only people that are left are kind of revolutionary guys, guys who, you know, are radicals at heart.

JS: You know, it’s also interesting, this kind of mealy mouth line, “Well, these guys shouldn’t be political.” The entire framing of the NFL for many years has been overtly political in celebration of the U.S. war machine. You have the jets that are flying overhead, Ted Cruz was at a game this weekend celebrating with this American bald eagle that went over a huge American flag tarp —

SK: And it was like a bald eagle on steroids, it was the largest bald — when I first saw it I was like, “Is that real!” And he was but he was bragging because the flag took up the entire field from corner to corner. I think they literally found the world’s largest bald eagle, and the world’s largest flag. And there’s money being exchanged here between the military and the NFL. They actually are paying for a lot of these demonstrations that people didn’t even understand that marketing dollars are at play.

JS: Also, and it’s not like, “Oh look, we’re all coming together to celebrate our country.” It is overtly about celebrating the part of our country that wages wars.

SK: Yeah.

JS: That increasingly a majority of people are against. So the politics is already drilled. into the whole apparatus. It would be one thing if we had some massive celebration of the First Amendment or the Fourth Amendment, you know, as part of the patriotism but it’s just one part of America that’s being honored and that is the militaristic component of this country.

SK: Yeah. Yeah, I agree, and in spite of that people aren’t looking at the nuanced nature of really what’s at play here. Even the fact that they brought back Hank Williams, Jr., who for the first time in almost six years will be doing his Monday Night Football anthem.

[Hank Williams Jr. “All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight”]

Well it’s Monday Night and we’re ready to strike

Our special forces are in full flight

We’re coming by air and on the ground

Monday night football’s taken over the town

We gotta get ready, we gotta get right

It’s going to be a battle in the NFL tonight.

SK: They literally waited until President Obama left office, because he said horrendous, racist things about President Obama, they waited until Obama left office.

Gretchen Carlson: You mean when he went to John Boehner played golf with President Obama.

Hank Williams, Jr: Oh yeah, yeah and Biden and Kasich, yeah. Aha.

GC: What did you not like about it? It seems to be a really pivotal moment for you.

HW, Jr: Come on, come on. It’d be like Hitler playing golf with Netanyahu. OK?


HW, Jr.: And the country this shape is in, the shape this country’s in, I mean.

BK: So I don’t understand that analogy actually.

HW, Jr.: Well I’m glad you don’t, brother, because a lot of people do. You know, they’re the enemy. They’re the enemy.

BK: Who is the enemy?

HW, Jr: Obama!

SK: And then brought him right back to open up for Monday Night Football. And so for anybody to say, “Hey, Colin shouldn’t be bringing politics to the field.” It’s already there. And I think the we have crossed a point where if nine months ago people were saying he shouldn’t be political, or other people are saying this is just a football decision. I think with comments from guys like Aaron Rodgers, but a few dozen athletes across the league, many of them who have been lifelong competitors of Colin, have all come out to say, “Listen, cut the crap. This is just about him not liking his politics and not liking the stand that he took.”

And that’s why I thought a boycott was necessary. Like that’s not OK. It’s not OK for a place like this to boot a man in the prime of his life because he took a peaceful stand against something that millions of us believe we should all be taking a stand against and that’s police brutality. It’s not a stand against police but a stand against police brutality, it’s a stand against injustice.

JS: I want to talk to you about Charlottesville and about this — what has become a very widespread campaign to try to take down these memorials of Confederate figures which many of them, as you well know, do not date back to the time of the Confederacy. They were built at key moments in much more recent American history as a way of directly confronting demands for equal rights or progress that was made on local levels in some of these municipalities. But I specifically want to ask you about this campaign that you spearheaded that seems to be gaining traction. And that is to identify and have charges brought against some of the men who were involved with this beating a young black man named Deandre Harris in a parking garage.

SK: The parking garage of the Charlottesville Police Department, which is crazy. Like they were literally adjacent to the Charlottesville Police Department. Deandre Harris, a great kid, 19 years old, he serves as a special assistant in a special education classroom at a local elementary school. I hate to say it like this, but no criminal record, you know, great reputation and like thousands of counter protesters who wanted to just go there to show white supremacists who have showed up in huge numbers in their home — he lives in Charlottesville, he’s from there. And all these protesters who came there to demonstrate as white supremacist, as neo-Nazis but came from out of town, they came from all over the country, literally flew in from I’ve counted as many as 25 different states. This was a huge gathering.

JS: Well, and the car that killed, the car that was driven by the man who killed Heather Heyer was from, it was an Ohio licensed plate a car.

SK: Absolutely and so these guys came in from out of town and so Deandre and Heather and others who lived there locally just said, “Hey, we have to show up.” And they had no plan, no strategy, they had never seen, like most of us, they’d never seen something like this with their own eyes, but they just wanted to be there to let people know, “Hey, this is not OK.” So there was a march of white supremacists who were going through the streets of downtown Charlottesville and Deandre and a group of others were also walking on the sidewalk alongside them, constantly yelling back and forth at them. And one of the white supremacists had a flag or flag pole with like a speared tip on the end of it.

And not Deandre, but another guy and a white supremacist started wrestling over that flag. And the white supremacist, who we have not been able to identify, gets the flag and gets ready to ram the tip of it into Deandre’s friend. And as they do that, Deandre takes a swing at a guy and misses.

And all of a sudden, in an instant, a group of guys who are marching many of who didn’t even see what I just described to you. Like, all of this is on film in four different angles, you see it literally from every side, they just converge right on Deandre. And one guy knocks him to the ground, and then at least five guys maybe six, just began to pummel him and literally jumping in the air, coming down with their feet, their fist, with pipes, flagpoles, and just mauled him for what Deandre said felt like minutes but in a probably being more like twenty seconds.

But it was twenty seconds of nonstop beating. And, he finally was able to scramble out and then he stumbles literally right to the doorsteps of the police department. And you see, in the videos, the police are right there. They saw the incident unfold, and if you see any videos from that day, police had taken such a hands-off approach, that they were letting almost anything go, to the point that we saw just a few weeks ago another member of the KKK. literally pulled out a gun and shot at someone and the police were right there and just let him shoot. And he just kept on walking. Just an insane — an insanely mismanaged moment.

JS: How many of the individuals who beat Deandre Harris have been charged?

SK: So this is what’s crazy. So the day it happened, people from Charlottesville started messaging me right away and saying, “Listen, there’s a guy who was very badly beaten.” And several guys even said, “Hey, I’ve got photos, I’ve got videos.” And I posted the first image that I found on my timeline on Twitter and Facebook, and said —and it was, to me, what will become an iconic image because you see him on the ground, you see two men whose feet are completely off the ground as they jump up to come down on top of him, you see two weapons in midair coming down on him. And I just tweeted, “Let’s find out who these guys are.”

My thought was because of the size of my network and as tense of a moment as our country was in, that it would probably be a few days and we would find everybody there. Because within three days I had clear pictures of almost everyone involved.

JS: Some of them had some obfuscation of their face, but most of them were just openly —

SK: Yeah there’s one guy who has on really heavy goggles and a hat and ironically he is that, we’re now closer to finding him, but the first man that we found was a young man named Dan Borden, also from Ohio, a lot of these guys did come in from Ohio, and Dan Borden, it was actually a member of his family who contacted me and said, “I know who that is.” And several of his high school classmates, he literally just finished high school year ago, and so once we clearly identified it was Dan Borden I tweeted, “Hey, we have identified Dan Borden.”

And he three days after we’d identified Dan Borden, several people began saying to me personally that they knew who another guy was and his name was Michael Alex Ramos. And they sent me videos of him saying that he was a part of it. And we also had a video of Dan saying he did it. And so I felt very comfortable identifying Dan Borden and Michael Alex Ramos because we had videos of them admitting it. We had a treasure trove of photos from their own profiles of them there and several days later someone from the Charlottesville Police Department contacted me and asked me if I would give them all the information I had, and I did.

A few days after that, two different agents from the FBI reached out to me and asked me if I would give them everything I had and I did. And still, was probably a week later and they had not arrested Dan Borden or Alex Ramos, and finally they issued arrest warrants, first for Dan, then for Alex and arrested them and charged them. And what was disturbing about it was that it’s clear that the only people they have identified are the people that we identified. And, even in my conversations with the FBI agents, it was clear like they explicitly told me that everything they knew about the incident that they got from my timeline.

JS: And let’s, for people that aren’t, Shaun King has more than three quarters of a million people following him on Twitter. And I mean, to me, it’s evidence of what Twitter is best at. You know, obviously it’s a cesspool of awfulness in some ways, but what you did there was you basically did this networked autonomous network of people that were investigating it.

SK: So yeah, so that can go wrong in a thousand different ways.

JS: And it does. Like, Reddit. Reddit is like, constantly identifying the wrong people.

SK: And so I knew that and I also had a friend of mine and who was identified as the shooter of police officers in Texas, he was there in Dallas and he was a peaceful protest, but he had an AR-15 with him. And he was literally put on television stations all over the world including CNN for almost two hours as being the shooter who killed multiple police officers there in Texas. His life has never recovered from being misidentified as that. He has been— he had nothing to do with the shooting. He never knew the shooter.

JS: Well, same was true with Boston Marathon bombing, you know, you had the New York Post with a very racist, not that it’s like uncommon for them to have a racist front page, but a racist front page completely flagrantly misidentifying as suspect.

SK: So, seeing all of that, I was extremely careful to not put out who I thought it might be or who it could be. So I literally, I kid you not, I Skyped with multiple white supremacists, who were there, who looked very much like the other guys, because I couldn’t — I couldn’t confirm if it was them or not. And so I literally found guys, found their information, asked if they would FaceTime or Skype with me. And once, once they said yes, I assumed it’s probably not him. But sure enough, these were white supremacists who were there, who I Skyped with and interviewed to determine if it was them and it wasn’t.

JS: You should do like a video series, “Shaun King Skypes with white supremacists.”

SK: [laughs] The calls were terrible.

JS: I can’t even imagine.

SK: It was comical in this sense, that they were terrible guys who were there who were also very terrified of the idea of being misidentified. They didn’t have anything to do with it. And so I’m not too compassionate for white supremacists who are misidentified, I just knew I wasn’t going to be responsible for it. And so I thought that once I shared the photos that it would take a few days, particularly once local, state, and federal authorities got involved, here we are a month later and the only two people they arrested were the people we crowd sourced on Twitter. So, crazy.

JS: Do you believe, based on what we know about Donald Trump, his past, his public record and his nine months of the presidency, do you believe that he is a white supremacist?

SK: I do. Yeah, I really do. I don’t think he would, of course, he would never say that. When we say white supremacists, we immediately get an image in our mind of someone in the KKK or we get a like a bearded redneck from Mississippi, but I think over the long haul of his life, dating back to lawsuits from the federal government in the 70s, he has consistently been racist. And to me the foundation for American racism is this philosophy of white supremacy that some people are better than others. There are some fascinating clips of him talking about “some people are born better than others.”

Oprah: Is it possible for everybody to be what you become?

DJT: No, it’s not, but it’s possible for a lot of people to become successful and even very successful. I mean you have to be given, and this is where luck comes in, you have to be born lucky in the sense that you have to have the right the right genes to go out, and if it’s in my business, if it’s making deals —

DJT: The world is not fair. You know, they come with this statement all men are created equal — well it sounds beautiful and it was written by some very wonderful people and brilliant people, but it’s not true because all people and all men aren’t created — Now today, they say all men and women, of course they wouldn’t change that statement that was made many years ago. But the fact is: You have to be born and blessed with something up here.

SK: Whether we use the term white supremacist, white nationalist, or racist or bigot, they all have distinctions that are important. But I do, I believe that he believes some people are better than others. I think it’s the foundation of his immigration policies, it’s the foundation of why he wants to build an enormous wall. So it’s not me and you in a room guessing. Neo-nazis, Klan members, and others see him and believe he is one of them. He has not done nearly enough to dissuade them from their support. And many men including David Duke were in Charlottesville saying —

David Duke: We are determined to take our country back. We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believed in. That’s why we voted for Donald Trump.

SK: Trump basically gave them coded language that he supported them in so many ways.

DJT: If you look at both sides, I think there’s blame on both sides and I have no doubt about it and you don’t have any doubt about it either. What about the alt-left, they came charging at the, as you say, the alt-right. Do they have any semblance of guilt?

You had some very bad people in that group. But you also had people that we very fine people, on both sides, you had people in that group, excuse me, excuse me, I saw the same pictures that as you did. You had people —

SK: I think Ta-Nehisi Coates, he has a new piece calling Donald Trump the first white president. I disagree with Coates on a lot of things, but I actually thought that piece was brilliant. And he talked about how of course there were 43 white presidents before Barack Obama. But none of them ran on being white. There whiteness was just inferred, it was just a part of who they were, they had power because of it, but they weren’t running on whiteness. But that Donald Trump in many ways was the first person to win the presidency off of whiteness. And I think Ta-Nehisi is right. I just hadn’t considered it in that way, and Donald Trump knew that, and doubled down on it, saying he would, if people at his rallies injured protesters, he said he would pay for their legal defense. And so they did. And he didn’t pay for their legal defense because he’s a liar, but he encouraged the violence. He even said he wanted to hit people. You know? And so he has appealed to the worst instincts of our country and I think we’re just now understanding the harm that he’s caused and I think it will be decades trying to work ourselves out of the damage he’s done.

JS: Shaun King, thank you very much for joining us on Intercepted.

SK: Yeah, thank you man.

JS: Shaun King is an activist and an independent columnist.

[Musical Interlude]

JS: Well, we’re going to end today’s show with the Chicago-born art rapper Open Mike Eagle. He has a new album dropping this week called Brick Body Kids Still Daydream. It’s a concept album of sorts about his memories of the Robert Taylor Homes, a group of buildings built by the Chicago Housing Authority, and considered to be the largest housing complex in the country. They stretched two miles across the South Side of Chicago and the buildings were an ominous symbol of segregation, even in the northern parts of the United States, as well as the brutal failings and contradictions of the public housing system that was a linchpin of the liberal agenda in the aftermath of World War II.

The last of the Robert Taylor Homes were demolished in 2007, but the spaces that they once inhabited remain vacant and undeveloped. Our producer Jack D’Isidoro spoke to Open Mike Eagle, who now lives in Los Angeles, about his inspiration for his new album and what is left when a community of color is displaced amidst a rising tide of gentrification.

[Open Mike Eagle “Dark Comedy Late Show”]

Open Mike Eagle: My name is Open Mike Eagle. I make rap songs. And I live in Los Angeles, California.

The album is about existential dread that is specifically rooted in the experience of having spent time in the Robert Taylor Homes in Chicago which now no longer exist.

News Anchor: A Chicago skyline, five miles south of the one most people know, this is Robert Taylor Homes, the largest housing project in the world, the poorest urban community in the United States.

OME: My aunt and a bunch of my first cousins and my great grandmother lived there. I was on an airplane and I thought about those buildings and thought about how when you drive along the Dan Ryan Expressway now, you used to see those buildings lined the side of it. And you don’t see that anymore because, they’re not there, and I thought about, “Dang, what’s there now?” Cuz I drive through those neighborhoods right now and I don’t see anything new. And so I was on the airplane and I looked up what became of it. And I learned that nothing became of it and I started looking at videos that they have of the buildings being demolished and it came with these trigger warnings, you know, for people who lived there.

It was thinking about the projects and the demolition of them with an adult brain that understood business and public policy and the forces that went into those buildings being erected and the forces that went into them being demolished and just being horrified to find it that land had not been redeveloped at all. That was the feeling that made me want to write more and explore more about it.

News Anchor: Today, virtually all of its 3,543 families are black. All are poor, with a median family income of $5,182. That’s fifty percent below the poverty line and only 1/6 the national median income for a family of four. Most families here are totally dependent on public aid. Most are headed by unmarried women. More than half the population is children.

OME: And those are fascinating to me, and I also found a bunch of television documentaries that have been made about the Robert Taylors while they existed, profiling families there and those are fascinating, and I really just jumped into all of it like kinda right there on that airplane.

Eva Nash: I didn’t want to move into CHA but I didn’t have no other choice. It’s really not safe here, and I used to always say, all the time, when I used to see on TV before I moved in the projects, that I would never move in the projects. But the other buildings were we stayed at, they got condemned or the water was cut off, we didn’t have no way to flush the toilet. And the lady from the Urban Progress Center came out and asked us if we’d like to move. And we told her yeah, so that’s how we got to move into the CHA.

OME: When you knock a building down and you put a freeway there or you put a football stadium there, it gives people at least something else to look at, and some sense of purpose for them having lost that emotional touchstone of having a place where you lived or grew up. That’s just not a thing that really happens a lot in America. If you look at a community you look at a place thats been there for that many years and you know these buildings stood for 50 years, and to just have that erased, I don’t think you can possibly account for what you lose.

[Open Mike Eagle, “95 Radios”]

OME: To me, it speaks to this his overall conversation about trauma, especially the trauma experienced by black people in America historically, and how, you know, you lose things and nobody really wants to have a conversation about them.

I think the crime is to expect people that have experienced trauma to just pick up and move on without any sort of taking a moment to stop and address it and heal, and I feel like that’s the overall frustration in the narrative of black American history, is just people going through the worst things and just always being expected to just buck up and move on. That’s not how humans operate. And it’s just constantly added to and not addressed.

[Open Mike Eagle “Dark Comedy Late Show”]

OME: When I say my body is a building I am attempting to humanize a demolition in one sense, but I’m also attempting to like draw a line between the apathy I sometimes perceive to the destruction of black people’s bodies by like police brutality or even violence in the community, like that sort of apathy life. Like the same apathy where people are just like, “Ok, we’ll just, we’ll just vote the projects away.”

You know even the people inside of them, just not having a connection to the pain of that, not having a connection to understanding that that’s something that needs to be processed. And I feel like that’s a parallel you can draw to when you know a black man is killed by police and has a lot of people in society whose first thought would be, “Well, what did that person do wrong?” rather than identifying with the pain of like a mother having lost a child. You know, like whatever obstacle that is to empathy I feel like it’s kind of the same process by which people don’t think about the human lives of people in those sorts of community.

This song is called “Brick Body Complex” and it’s from the album Brick Body Kids Still Daydream.

Don’t call me nigger or rapper

My motherfucking name is Michael Eagle

I’m sovereign I’m from a line of ghetto superheroes

I holler

I got something to bring to your attention

I promise you

I will never fit in your descriptions

I’m giant

Don’t let nobody tell you nothing different

They lying

A giant and my body is a building

No services underground

No sound when I’m

Calling home

City broken my brothers down

Now I’m standing here all alone

Sun weathered my monochrome

My hollow bones

David Bowie told me I’m not alone

I’m overgrown with these model homes

Still here if it’s hot or cold

Still here if my body move

Still standing on Cottage Grove

Still do what I gotta do

Stone tablet on stone tablet

I’m old granite

I’m not a tomb

Y’all can move this whole planet

I’ll hold fast and I’ll follow through

I promise you

They took us to shelters, basements, hallways

Early morning Sundays, midnight all day

Do what the adults say, don’t engage in horseplay

People speak in tongues

My other name is 3925

Make sure that my story’s told

16 or so stories high

Constructed 55 years ago

Winter weather yeah here we go

Chi-Town in building code

Stood here for 10 million snows

Windchill is all in my bones

Indivisibile in divisible kids and criminals young and old

No radiator my dungeon cold

Thunder humming you something slow

20 down and just one to go

City say they gonna knock me down

Still wearing my iron hood

Told y’all you wont stop me now

They took us to shelters, basements, hallways

Early morning Sundays, midnight all day

Do what the adults say, don’t engage in horseplay

People speak in tongues

Momma’s in the basement, smoking something

We grew up in hazes, projects, dungeons

Graduation luncheons, try to make us something

See what we’d become

JS: That does it for this week’s show. Intercepted is a production of First Look Media and The Intercept. We’re distributed by Panoply. Our producer is Jack D’Isidoro and our executive producer is Leital Molad. Rick Kwan mixed the show. Elise Swain is our production assistant and graphic designer. Until next week, I’m Jeremy Scahill.

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