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Lies, lies, and more over-the-top lies to demonize abortion. This week on Intercepted: Fanatical opponents of a woman’s right to choose are pushing to criminalize abortion and women’s health care providers. Historian Johanna Schoen, Rutgers professor and author, talks about when abortion was illegal and the history of coercive policies, from forced sterilization to blocking access to sex education, birth control, and abortions. Whistleblower Reality Winner has spent more than two years in prison for allegedly leaking a top-secret NSA document on Russian cyberattacks on software used in some U.S. voting systems. Her mother, Billie Winner-Davis, describes her prison conditions and makes the case for why she should be freed. As Donald Trump wraps up his state visit to the United Kingdom, we speak with philosopher and activist Srecko Horvat about the historical lessons we can learn from the guerrilla struggle against fascism waged by the Partizans in Yugoslavia during World War II, as well as the recent surge in extreme right-wing political forces in Europe.
Jim VandeHei [on Axios]: Who would’ve thought three or four years ago that Jared Kushner would be worthy of an interview now?
Jonathan Swan [on Axios]: This is a guy who was 38 years old, he’s never worked in government. He’s right now, the point man to solve peace in the Middle East.
JV: He’s more powerful or less powerful than people think?
Movie Announcer: He’s a mystery and a miracle.
Mary Beth Hurt [as Joyce Richardson in D.A.R.Y.L.]: He’s just a little boy, flesh and blood.
JS: People haven’t really heard you or seen you that much.
Movie Announcer: With a past he doesn’t remember.
JS: Was birtherism racist?
Jared Kushner [on Axios]: Look, I wasn’t really involved in that.
Movie Announcer: And powers he doesn’t understand.
JK: There’s a difference between the technocrats and there’s a difference between the people. The technocrats are focused on very technocratic things.
Movie Announcer: The government designed him.
JK: Again, I was not the person who was elected.
Movie Announcer: Now, they want him destroyed.
JK: Look, I’m not here to be trusted.
Movie Announcer: Paramount pictures presents —
Movie Announcer [distorted]: Jared Kushner.
Jeremy Scahill: This is Intercepted.
JS: I’m Jeremy Scahill, coming to you from the offices of The Intercept in New York City. And this is episode 96 of Intercepted.
Robert Jeffress [on Fox News]: The left is in a panic, especially over the attempt to undo their most sacred belief: the right to kill babies in the womb.
Rachel Campos-Duffy [on Fox News]: They’re saying abortion unfettered, unregulated all the way through the third trimester and even after birth.
Andrew Napolitano [on Fox News]: And if there’s any time to dismantle Roe, and I’ll tell you what I think would happen, the time is now. The dismantling of Roe would leave it up to each individual state. You want an abortion, you come to New Jersey or New York where infanticide is legal.
JS: Lies, lies, and more over the top lies to demonize abortion, both those who seek it and those who provide it. This is nothing new, but it is intensifying dramatically. Before Roe v. Wade legalized abortion, there was a period when abortion was largely unregulated. But around the middle of the 19th century, Alabama and other U.S. states began passing laws making abortion a crime.
Physicians wanting to establish themselves as women’s primary health care providers and eliminate their competition cast midwives as criminals. The campaign played up anxieties about white women’s changing role in society, declining birth rates and fears of being “taken over” by “foreigners.” Sound familiar? Anyone who participated in an abortion faced fines and incarceration, including advertisers, providers, even partners of women who had abortions.
Estimates of illegal abortions in the 1950s range from 200,000 to 1.2 million a year. Marginalized women — poor, Black, Latinx, immigrant — were forced to access underground abortions where practitioners rarely had medical degrees. Women of color represented nearly 80 percent of abortion deaths.
My next guest, Johanna Schoen writes, “The ability of poor women to exercise their reproductive rights remains under constant attack.” Johanna is a professor of history at Rutgers University and author of “Choice and Coercion: Birth Control, Sterilization, and Abortion in Public Health and Welfare.” That book examines coercive policies from the 1920s to 1970s. Her second book, “Abortion After Roe,” traces the history of abortion care after the 1973 landmark decision. Johanna Schoen joins me now to discuss the history of reproductive rights, from “sterilization crusaders” to “abortion foes” and their striking similarities.
Johanna, welcome to Intercepted.
Johanna Schoen: Thank you so much.
JS: So, I want to begin by asking you about the Supreme Court declining to take up this Indiana law barring abortions based on fetal disability, sex, or race. While the court did decline to take it up it upheld the state’s provision requiring burial of fetal remains after an abortion procedure. What’s your response to this decision, in general, but the court specifically upholding the burial requirement?
Johanna Schoen: So, one of the things that the anti-abortion movement did really starting in the 1980s is to try to redefine the fetus as a baby. And there are a number of different ways in which they do that. They really kind of constructed three different narratives about abortion. One was the narrative of the fetus that in a bunch of anti-abortion literature and other materials kind of narrates its death.
Bernard Nathanson [in Silent Scream]: Now we can discern the chilling silent scream on the face of this child who is now facing imminent extinction.
Johanna Schoen: Then the narrative of the woman who as a result of that becomes a murderer but we don’t really in public want to depict her as a murderer. So, they basically began to produce these narratives of women who were kind of victims and not really capable of making a decision about abortion because they couldn’t really rationally decide that they were going to murder their own, now, called baby, right?
BN: Women themselves are victims just as the unborn children are. Women have not been told of the true nature of the unborn child. They have not been shown the true facts of what an abortion really is.
Johanna Schoen: And then really the third narrative being the abortion provider who is the official murderer in this narrative.
BN: We are going to watch a child being torn apart, dismembered, disarticulated, crushed, and destroyed by the unfeeling steel instruments of the abortionist.
Johanna Schoen: And I see the attempt to regulate that clinics are supposed to bury fetuses really as another step trying to make everybody believe that the fetus is really the same as a baby. You would bury a baby that has died. And to insinuate that a fetus holds the same kind of value.
JS: In response to the court not taking up the Indiana provision barring abortions based on fetal characteristics, Clarence Thomas wrote a 20-page opinion supporting the law that was signed by then Governor Mike Pence in 2016. Now of course, Mike Pence is the vice president. Thomas wrote: “A state’s compelling interest in preventing abortion from becoming a tool of modern day eugenics.” Now you’ve written extensively on the history of the eugenics movement in the U.S. What do you make of this comparison that Justice Thomas is making?
Johanna Schoen: So, there is also a long trajectory of the anti-abortion movement basically jumping on this narrative of eugenics and arguing that terminating a pregnancy because of fetal disability is essentially a eugenic move, right? That we’re trying to weed out people who are disabled and who kind of make the same claim about abortions for African Americans or for any non-white fetuses. So, the assumption being that these are not choices that women who are looking for an abortion make themselves but basically abortion clinics compel them to have abortions for babies that aren’t white.
There’s a whole narrative about this within the eugenics movement and it also kind of equates Planned Parenthood with Margaret Sanger. There are all these charges that Margaret Sanger was really a eugenicists and that that this proves that abortion and Planned Parenthood are eugenic. And so, in his, I think he wrote about 15 pages about the history of eugenics really from the pro-life side, it is a particular narrative.
JS: Is there any legitimacy to that claim that Margaret Sanger was a eugenicists?
Johanna Schoen: Margaret Sanger sought support through eugenics language for the legalization of birth control and the reason she did that is because physicians in the early 20th century when she launched the birth control movement were not in support of offering contraceptives freely to women because everybody thought it would incite promiscuity and it just wasn’t seen as the proper thing to do. And so one of the things that Margaret Sanger tried to do is to basically get the support of the medical profession and the medical profession at that point was very taken with eugenic language and so she basically went in that direction rhetorically.
Margaret Sanger: My interests have expanded from local conditions and needs to a world horizon where peace on earth may be achieved when children are wanted before they are conceived. A new consciousness would take place, a new race would be born to bring peace on earth. This belief has withstood the crucible of my life joyous struggle. It remains my basic belief today. This, I believe at the end, as at the beginning of my long crusade, for the future of the human race.
Johanna Schoen: And she might have also believed some of eugenic beliefs that a lot of people held in the early 20th century. Really eugenics in the early 20th century, although we now see it as really misdirected, was as popular a movement as the environmental movement is today. So, not only did many people across the spectrum believe in eugenic ideas but eugenic ideas also shaped a whole bunch of legislation on the state and the federal level.
JS: First, I feel like it’s good to pause here for a moment. Just give us an overview of what eugenics is and what the eugenics movement looked like in the United States.
Johanna Schoen: So the term eugenics was coined by the Brit Sir Francis Galton and eugenics basically means being well born. And it seeks to encourage quality reproduction among people who are seen as having high racial quality and to discourage the reproduction of those who are seen as kind of bringing down the gene pool. And this kind of movement in terms of trying to encourage the reproduction of those who were just seen as better “stock” really took hold in the late 19th century and then increased in the 20th century at which point eugenic ideas not only became popular in popular culture but they also began to influence legislation, in particular immigration legislation, marriage legislation, and then, also almost half the states in the United States started to pass eugenics sterilization laws.
[Scene from Tomorrow’s Children (1934)]
Actor 1: I contributed enough of my time with these charity cases without sharing the few pennies I make. If this family is all you say it is, there’s a law in this state that should be invoked.
Actor 2: … I suppose?
Actor 1: Absolutely! Sterilize them, my boy. Sterilize them.
Johanna Schoen: States have particular laws in which they could compel the sterilization of people whose reproduction was seen as undesirable.
JS: Who were the primary targets?
Johanna Schoen: People who were considered “feeble-minded” who at that point, the definition for feeble-minded basically meant scoring on an IQ test at 70 or below. And states implemented eugenics sterilization laws on a variety of different ways. In most states, eugenic sterilization only applied for people who were institutionalized in mental hospitals or in state hospitals. And so, they are basically, the population group targeted were those people who were in those institutions but there were also several states where social workers could suggest people for sterilization. For instance in North Carolina, social workers could do so. These programs were active for a much longer time period and they also had a much broader group that they targeted. In North Carolina, for instance, in particular women who were welfare recipients because they were seen as costing the state money.
JS: You write: “While the discriminatory welfare practices of the 1930s and 40s had excluded African Americans from Aid to Dependent Children (ADC) and left them largely outside social workers’ sphere of influence, federal pressure and a series of new requirements relating to the implementation of ADC resulted in black women’s inclusion in social service programs bringing them into closer contact with social workers and thus with state supported sterilization.”
Johanna Schoen: So, particularly the pro-life movement always likes to describe the eugenics movement as being particularly concerned with the reproduction of African Americans. But really in terms of state policy, the goal was to improve the reproduction or the quality of the reproduction of the white race and so in states like North Carolina for instance which had Jim Crow laws for a long period of time, the reproduction of African Americans was really not of particular interest to the eugenic sterilization program until they came to the attention of the state because they started receiving welfare and that was only in the 1950s and 1960s. Before that they were basically discriminated against in welfare and it is at that point in which the state has a compelling interest to apply eugenic policies to African Americans.
Elaine Riddick: My grandmother was illiterate. She never got out of the first grade. So when someone come to her and coerce her into signing this, threatening her that they was going to cut off food stamps or stop her welfare if she didn’t sign on X, my grandmother didn’t know that she was signing an X to cause me to become sterilized. I did not know, find out that they had did this to me until I was 19 years of age.
Johanna Schoen: So, if we now go back to Clarence Thomas, right, the whole idea that eugenics really targets African Americans and that it has been a tool all along to control their reproduction is not true. History shows otherwise. History shows that African Americans were kind of excluded from these programs and only became part of the programs when they cost money.
JS: I want to shift gears slightly. What were the factors that set the stage for abortion reform or the making of Roe?
Johanna Schoen: States really began to crack down on illegal abortion after World War II because we kind of enter a really pro-natalist time period were the role for women is really seen as at home raising children when during the Great Depression, they had to work and in World War II, they worked because the men were you know, away fighting the war. And so now we get to the late 1940s and 1950s and there’s this whole idea that women should return to their home.
Reuben Hill: Just what did mother do today? The first thing she did this morning was to fix up the kitchen. She cleared the table and washed the dishes and put the food away and made everything spick and span. Then she went up to Tommy’s room to straighten it.
Johanna Schoen: Also, this whole idea that it is really their job to have children and to raise children. So, as a result of that, states really begin to crack down on abortion. Abortion really goes underground in ways that it didn’t before and women suffer in terms of health effects and they die at a much higher rate from criminal abortions. And physicians basically begin to find this untenable and they begin to start lobbying for abortion reform.
JS: When you say that abortion was criminalized at this point, explain what you mean.
Johanna Schoen: Abortion has been illegal since the late 19th century. In the late 19th century, an OB-GYN named Storer basically starts a large campaign to make abortion illegal everywhere in the United States. By the 1880s, abortion is pretty much illegal in every single state. Now, of course, women still need abortions and they still find them. But their ability to locate an abortion provider who will be able to do an abortion for them underground really waxes and wanes with time, right. So, until the 1920s, it’s fairly easy for women to find abortions because really, the places where they can get them before, kind of, continue providing them.
And so, then we get to the 1920s and the 1930s and the Great Depression and the need for abortion becomes even larger. And so the number of women asking for abortions, despite the fact it’s illegal, begins to climb and many physicians and social welfare professionals really look at them with great sympathy. And so what we then see is basically the kind of carving out of people who specialize in the provision of illegal abortions and those are often physicians but not only physicians.
And many of them have well-run practices that provide thousands or tens of thousands of abortions during this time period. And there is a significant crackdown on this openness that existed before. I think another thing that kind of leads to the waxing and waning is prosecutors willingness to prosecute people who provided illegal abortions, right? So, the willingness of prosecutors to go after people who provide illegal abortions increases significantly in the post-war era. Whereas before there wasn’t particularly interest to prosecute these people.
JS: The prosecutors were exclusively looking at those who performed the abortion? They weren’t going after the women who had the abortion or — ?
Johanna Schoen: Not only. So, North Carolina for instance, they go after the people who performed the abortions but they also go often after the male partners and sometimes they go after a person who paid for the abortion. But it’s really the male partners and it’s really the people who provided the abortion that end up before court. Women end up there implicitly because they get dragged to testify against the person who offered the abortion as well as their partners but they don’t get legally prosecuted for their abortions. They’re more likely to die as a result of abortion complications.
So, it is basically this legal quagmire and the incredible danger that women experience as they try to get illegal abortions that leaves medical professionals in the 1960s to say this is untenable. In addition to that, what we also see in the 1960s is a rubella epidemic and then there is a drug called thalidomide that American women bring from Europe and that leads to birth defects.
KTVU News: Mrs. Sherri Finkbine who was the center of the 1962 thalidomide controversy was also at today’s press conference.
Sherri Finkbine: Let me tell you first, I am not an expert in this field. I have neither studied the question, I am not a doctor, a lawyer. I am not sociologically involved at all. All I know is that I was somebody who needed one under certain given conditions. I know with myself, the thought of a grossly deformed baby seemed very important to me.
Johanna Schoen: And so as a result of the rubella epidemic and this thalidomide epidemic, abortion really becomes kind of a public health issue. So physicians increasingly, women increasingly ask because they don’t want to give birth to children who have disabilities, and physicians increasingly also begin to ask for the legalization of abortion. And then, there’s the feminist movement that of course, also begins to rally for the legalization of abortion.
JS: You had the women’s health movement, as you say, and then feminist clinics that were established to agitate for abortion reform and try to continue performing.
Johanna Schoen: Well the feminist clinics really emerge after Roe. But there are certainly groups of feminists who help women get underground abortions or who provide underground abortions themselves. So there is a collective, for instance, called Jane in Chicago and Jane is this group of women that provided I think over 10,000 illegal abortions during this time period in Chicago from ’67 or ’68 to legalization.
Jody Howard: We’d counsel the woman and we’d make the doctor contact. And then once the doctor took over it was out of our hands. But the big step didn’t come until after we discovered that these doctors that we’ve been sending people to weren’t doctors at all.
Ruth Surgal: And here was this ordinary person who was doing this abortion and then the next step was if he could do it, we could do it.
Johanna Schoen: And there interestingly, is starting in 1967, a large nationwide network of clergy who help women basically find underground abortions and to counsel women who need abortions where they might be able to find them. So, they also sent them to underground providers as well as abroad. So women who have the money can go to England, for instance or they can go to Mexico. And so all these forces kind of come together and basically lead to the legalization and the Roe decision in 1973.
JS: And you write, “The Roe vs. Wade decision signified the beginning rather than the end of a protracted political legislative and legal battle over access to abortion.” Explain what you mean by that.
Johanna Schoen: Activists against abortion, of course, existed prior to the legalization of abortion, right, they don’t come about because of Roe. They really come out of the anti-sex education movement which has also very active in the late 1960s and early 1970s and out of the Catholic church. So, those are the two kind of sources that after Roe kind of consolidate their powers and begin to emerge into what we today know as the pro-life movement.
So, the kind of political cohesion that the anti-abortion movement has today really of course, comes about because of the legalization of abortion. But these are people who were politically active and, you know, who have a political trajectory that reaches to the time period prior to Roe but they really begin to gain political power after the election of Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.
Ronald Reagan: With me, abortion is not a problem of religion. It’s a problem of the Constitution. I believe that until and unless someone can establish that the unborn child is not a living human being then that child is already protected by the Constitution which guarantees life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to all of us.
JS: You had the beginning stages of the rise of the radical religious right during this period and you had longtime Republican political operatives who realize, “We can seize this entire voting block of people if we start pretending like abortion is our huge issue, and these social moral things are what we’re really all about.” And Reagan was really the first victory that they had on the presidential state who appeared to be, “I’m gonna make this illegal again.”
Johanna Schoen: Yeah, with Reagan they really found a spokesperson that they felt was going to champion their core cause for overturning Roe, for the passage of a Human Life Amendment, for all the kind of state legislation that we then increasingly see that tries to chip away at access to abortion. That really starts in the 1980s with the kind of seriousness.
JS: Explain how the attempts to restrict and criminalize abortion since the passage of Roe have impacted or affected abortion care.
Johanna Schoen: Immediately in 1977, the Hyde Amendment is passed. And with the Hyde Amendment basically there no longer is Medicaid money available for poor women who are seeking access to abortions. So you know, if you need an abortion and you don’t have the money to pay for it, you’re basically out of luck.
One of the other really important ways in which these laws and the anti-abortion movement, in general, has impacted the experience of getting an abortion or providing it is really by stigmatizing the procedure. And so, what that means is that the experience within the clinic is very, very different.
One of the ways in which anti-abortion legislators have tried to make access more difficult is by passing so-called TRAP laws, for instance. TRAP law stands for targeted restrictions of abortion providers. And basically these are restrictions that apply only to abortion clinics and to no other medical facilities or medical procedures. And they’re always passed under the guise of improving women’s health and protecting women’s health but they lead to regulations that make it seem as if abortion is a much more dangerous procedures than it really is. For instance, by requiring that clinics fulfill the same requirements that as outpatient surgery facilities for instance, right? All of these restrictions have kind of led to the impression that abortion is a much more dangerous procedure than it is and have increased both the fear and kind of the stigma surrounding the surgery.
JS: In your book, you write about how the anti-abortion movement has won the fight over public discourse and reshaped how abortion care is provided. At political rallies, Donald Trump has made many false and incendiary assertions about abortion. For instance, at a rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Trump said the following —
Donald J. Trump: The baby is born. The mother meets with the doctor. They take care of the baby. They wrap the baby beautifully and then the doctor and the mother determine whether or not they will execute the baby.
JS: First explain why Trump’s remarks are misleading and wrong.
Johanna Schoen: What he is describing is basically the killing of a baby after delivery. That is not what an abortion is. And then we can go into the rhetoric.
JS: He knows what he’s doing here. He is pandering to the most extreme players within the anti-choice movement in this country.
Johanna Schoen: And he is also using abortion really kind of as a political tool, right, as something where he knows that he can get a lot of support and a lot of political votes. And I think that’s one of the things that is so tragic about this whole debate surrounding abortion that to a certain extent, it is really an attempt to rally votes and political support rather than anything else. And as a result is totally unconcerned with the implications that these laws that criminalize abortion have not only on the lives of women who have to carry a pregnancy that they don’t want but also on larger healthcare, reproductive healthcare, in general.
I mean if you criminalize abortion laws basically what you’re also doing — and we already see this — is basically leading to the deterioration of women’s reproductive healthcare because physicians will be hesitant to do all kinds of other procedures that they need to do that have to do with women’s reproduction and with things that might go wrong. But there doesn’t seem to be any concern about the larger medical effects that this has.
JS: The makeup of this Supreme Court is very different than it was two years ago or four years ago. What are your biggest concerns as we see state after state try to push through these extreme, pretty clearly unconstitutional laws? It feels like there’s this momentum toward some epic showdown again at a Supreme Court that now is a majority extremist on this position.
Johanna Schoen: I think my real worry is that because of the extremity of these laws, anti-abortion legislation that is already getting passed or that might be upheld in the future that is not as extreme will seem as something that is not as bad as it could have been, right? And so, as a result of it the truly devastating impact that the anti-abortion movement and anti-abortion legislation has already had is going to get lost. People won’t pay attention to it.
I am actually very doubtful that the Supreme Court is ever going to overturn Roe partly because that useful political tool will be gone if we do that. But I also think they don’t need to because access to abortion has already become so difficult and so many of these new restrictions are getting upheld by the Supreme Court that all the negative effects that we have as a result of abortion laws being passed is already in place. And access to respectful care and access to care in general is already so difficult for so many women that whether Roe falls or not somehow sometimes seems besides the point. We are already at that crisis point.
JS: Johann, thank you very much for being with us here on Intercepted.
Johanna Schoen: Thank you so much for having me.
JS: Johanna Schoen is a professor of history at Rutgers University and author of “Choice and Coercion: Birth Control, Sterilization, and Abortion in Public Health and Welfare.” Her second book, “Abortion After Roe,” traces the history of abortion care after the 1973 landmark Supreme Court decision.
JS: Coming up on the show, we’re going to be talking to the philosopher and activist, Srecko Horvat about the historical lessons that we can learn from the guerilla struggle against fascism waged by the partisans of Yugoslavia during World War II. We’re also going to talk about the recent surge in extreme right-wing political forces in Europe and we’re going to touch on the case of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
But first, this week marked the 2nd anniversary of the arrest of whistleblower Reality Winner. She’s currently serving a five-year sentence in federal prison in Texas. It’s among the longest sentences ever given to an alleged journalistic source in this country. Winner was the first whistleblower under the Trump administration to be charged under the Espionage Act, for allegedly printing out a top secret NSA document related to alleged Russian cyberattacks on software used in some U.S. voting systems. Media reports have said that the document in question was published by The Intercept.
The details of those alleged attacks were a central tenet of the now-public redacted Mueller report, and Democrats in congress constantly use that information to rail against Donald Trump and to raise concerns about Russian interference in the 2016 election. Yet, these very same politicians say nothing about this case. They don’t fight for Reality Winner’s` freedom or hold her up as a hero. Reality Winner remains imprisoned without their support.
It is unthinkable that Donald Trump would pardon Reality Winner. It’s unfortunately not out of the realm of possibility that if her conviction was for say, murdering Iraqi civilians or gunning down Afghans, she could be a prime candidate for this president’s pardon. Just last month, Trump pardoned Michael Behenna, a former Army lieutenant who served five years in prison for the murder of an Iraqi prisoner in 2008.
Behenna might not be the last war criminal to be pardoned in the Trump era. There are several people reportedly up for such pardons, including a Blackwater operative who was at the center of a massacre of Iraqi civilians in Baghdad’s Nisour Square in 2007. If there was ever any doubt how little Iraqi lives are valued by some elected officials, just listen to the words of Republican House member and former Marine Duncan Hunter when he asked about Edward Gallagher, a Navy SEAL accused of killing a teenage ISIS fighter and then posing with his corpse.
Duncan Hunter: Then how do you judge me? So, I was an artillery officer and we fired hundreds of rounds into Fallujah, killed probably hundreds of civilians, if not, scores, hundreds of civilians, probably killed women and children if there were any left in the city when we invaded. So, do I get judged too?
JS: So, how are these people getting pardons? Well, Behenna’s parents are connected. His father worked for both the FBI and Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. His mother is a former federal prosecutor. They used their leverage to win their son parole, and then a presidential pardon. But it also seems like Trump really does like war crimes and he wants more of them.
Reality Winner is also a veteran and one who deployed to war zones. Her mother, Billie Winner-Davis, has traveled across this country fighting for her daughter’s release. And since her arrest, Reality Winner has never been allowed to speak publicly or to the news media. Billie Winner-Davis recently stopped by our D.C. studio to offer us details on Reality’s conditions and her fight for her daughter’s freedom.
Billie Winner-Davis: Well, my name is Billie Winner-Davis and I am the mother to Reality Leigh Winner and Reality is presently in prison right now charged with espionage for leaking a document that warned us about the Russian attacks on our election.
On June 30, 2017, 11 armed FBI agents swarmed Reality’s small home in Augusta, Georgia. She was interrogated without her Miranda Rights. She was arrested that day and she has not seen freedom since. She is not allowed to have anyone associated with the media or the press on her contact list and she’s not permitted to have anything that you know, she says or writes to us be given to like a third party. And so, they’ve silenced her. She’s not being heard. She’s not being seen at all and nobody really understands why.
She understands with her plea agreement what she can and cannot discuss. And this will be for her entire life. Reality knows that she will never be able to talk about her case or the facts surrounding her case, but why can’t the world hear from Reality? Why can’t they see her? Why can’t they know how she’s doing or know who she is? And I really do believe that the government’s silencing of her and their keeping her out of the media, I believe that they’re doing it so that the public doesn’t get to know what kind of a person she is. Reality is a very good person. She is honest. She is compassionate. She is giving. And I honestly believe that our government is afraid for the people of America to get to know this amazing young woman because it will really show how persecuted she was through this and how wrong this is.
Our last visit was last weekend Saturday and Sunday. My husband and I, even though she was moved to Texas, she is still over 300 miles away from our home. We were hoping that we would be able to at least go up once a month to visit with her, but it’s been more like five or six weeks. Every five or six weeks were able to make the trip because of course, it means taking off work. It means getting people to watch our home and take care of our animals and it means the trip up, reservations and things like that. So, typically we go in and you’re in a large room. Everybody is visiting at the same time in this room. At some point during the visits after they do their count, they will open up the door so that you can go out into a little tiny kind of courtyard so that you can at least be outside.
And this last time, we were made to sit up front by the guard station and we couldn’t move. We couldn’t sit where we wanted and we couldn’t go outside. And so each time that we go, it’s a little bit of a different situation and I feel almost like they do that on purpose to keep you anxious. It’s difficult. It’s difficult on us and it’s difficult on every person who has an incarcerated loved one. The fact that the prison system is set up this way to keep you out, to keep you away. They really don’t want you there.
The government’s charge of Reality under the Espionage Act has been the most hurtful thing for me as her mother. I think back to what Reality actually did, what she released. She released a classified document that was a violation of some rules, that was a violation of her contract, that was even a violation of laws, but it wasn’t espionage.
What she released — she didn’t sell secrets. She didn’t conspire with a foreign government. She didn’t sell out America. She didn’t give anybody secrets to something that would harm us. What she did was tell the American people about a threat to our voting system, a threat to our democracy. I don’t know how anyone could say that that is an act of espionage, that that’s being a traitor to your country. That to me, has been the hardest thing in this entire journey to accept.
Had they charged her with mishandling classified information, absolutely, positively you probably would have never even heard of her or me. The American people need to know that they use this against our citizens in a way and I think it’s purposeful, nobody wants to side with a traitor. Nobody wants to advocate for a person who is selling out America, but that’s not what she did and it doesn’t fit.
And so, I think that our government does it purposefully so that that person is not supported and so that it automatically turns people against that person and I think that’s what they did with my daughter Reality Winner.
You know when I found out what it was that Reality, you know, was being accused of leaking and then what she admitted to leaking and now what she has admitted fully to leaking the document with regard to the intelligence information about the Russian attacks on our election systems, their efforts to hack into those. You know, we first learned that you know, the election committee didn’t even have this information. We learned that the states that had been compromised did not know about these attacks, about the compromise.
And when they heard about the information through the document that Reality leaked, you know, they had the same question that I had. Why didn’t we know about this? Why weren’t we told about this? And then, as the process, the whole Mueller investigation and the indictments, the indictments on the Russians, basically all of the information that Reality leaked in her document was found in those indictments was there, and then now that all of this information is out there in various forms and in these indictments, why is it still classified and why does Reality have to spend the best years of her life in prison when all of this information has been released now?
We still go places and I still contact people who have not even heard of my daughter and her case and you know jaws drop when I tell them that she is actually in prison for releasing information about a threat to our election system and people are not believing it. I want to make it so that everybody knows the name Reality Winner and that everybody knows that this is a real person. This is a real young woman, a United States veteran who is sitting in prison for public service to us, for protecting us, for defending us and people really need to go and they need to look at this stuff to see what’s happened to Reality.
JS: Billie Winner-Davis is the mother of imprisoned whistleblower Reality Winner. She’s currently serving a 5-year prison sentence. For more information on this case and for updates on what’s going on with it, check out StandWithReality.org.
JS: Donald Trump is wrapping up his state visit to the United Kingdom where he has faced massive protests.
Protesters: Shame on you! Theresa May! Shame on you! Donald Trump! Shame on you!
JS: Trump kicked off his visit by launching an attack on London mayor Sadiq Khan. In fact, Trump was literally tweeting attacks against Khan before Air Force One even landed in London. Trump was enraged that Khan had published an Op-Ed criticizing Trump, saying Trump was “one of the most egregious examples of a growing global threat.” Khan also compared Trump’s rhetoric to “fascists of the 20th century.”
Sadiq Khan: President Trump, if you’re watching this. Your values and what you stand for are the complete opposite of London’s values and the values in this country. We think diversity is not a weakness. Diversity is a strength. We respect women and we think they’re equal to men. We think it’s important to safeguard the rights of all of us, particularly the vulnerable and the marginalized.
JS: In his tweets aboard Air Force One, Trump accused Sadiq Khan of being “nasty” to the president of the United States, he called him a terrible mayor and a “stone cold loser.” As his plane descended into London, Donald Trump tweeted that “Kahn reminds me very much of our very dumb and incompetent Mayor of NYC, de Blasio, who has also done a terrible job – only half his height. In any event, I look forward to being a great friend to the United Kingdom, and am looking very much forward to my visit. Landing now!”
You can’t make this stuff up.
Trump visited a UK facing an uncertain political future and while there, he met with the far right buffoon Nigel Farage. He also spoke with the conservative Boris Johnson, a contender to replace the recently vanquished Teresa May. Donald Trump also openly advocated for Brexit to be implemented.
DJT: Yeah, I think it will happen and I believe the prime minister’s brought it to a very good point where something will take place in the not too distant future. I think she’s done a very good job. I believe it would be good for the country, yes.
JS: This state visit is happening as Europe is in the midst of a resurgence of radical right-wing extremists taking power or growing in strength or number in a variety of countries. Trump has encouraged a new sort of alliance in the world, an alliance of fascists, authoritarians, dictators.
And it’s striking to contrast this emerging global coalition of thuggery to a movement formed out of the rubble of World War II. It was known as the Non-Aligned Movement. Marshal Tito of Yugoslavia and the Indian Prime Minister Nehru along with Nasser of Egypt forged an alliance of nations that had agreed not to place themselves under the ideology or control of the two major emerging empires in the world, the United States and the Soviet Union. And then in 1961, in Belgrade, the movement was officially formed and included most nations of Asia and Africa, as well as Latin American countries and others in the global south.
Archive: Egypt’s President Nasser plays host to Yugoslavia’s Tito and India’s Nehru in a neutralist summit get together in Cairo. Nasser is anxious to show the world his prestige hasn’t been dimmed by the secession of Syria from his United Arab Republic. Both he and Tito probably hope Nehru would fill them in on his meeting with President Kennedy for Washington has been cool to them lately.
JS: Among the most central figures in the creation of this movement was Tito of Yugoslavia. During World War II, he led a guerrilla struggle against fascism under the banner of The Partizans. Their slogan was Smrt fašizmu, sloboda narodu! Death to fascism, free people!
Archive: Elsewhere in Eastern Europe, another group of Tito’s Partizans reveal behind the scenes activities that train them to kill Nazis. Men and women of many nationalities come to join this army: Albanians, Hungarians, Romanians, and Yugoslavs.
JS: The Partizans came from across the Balkans and they successfully defeated both the Italian fascists and the Nazis. This struggle ultimately led to the unification of six territories under the banner of United Yugoslavia. As president of this new country, Tito had to strike a delicate balance between a Soviet Union that was enraged that the country did not agree to be placed behind the so-called iron curtain and a United States that was increasingly imperial in its global outlook.
Archive: Today, guerillas no longer, the army he led against Nazi occupation prepares for defense against Soviet occupation. It was Tito’s insistence that Yugoslavia be governed not from Moscow but from his capital in the Danube River, Belgrade that led to the brink with Stalin bringing vast changes to Yugoslavia. Its great transportation shortage remains but the Stalin portraits are gone from public buildings.
JS: Tito was famous for standing up to Stalin as well as Winston Churchill and the United States. And the country he built was an incredible experiment in alternative ways of organizing a society. Yugoslavia embraced the centrality of workers to the health of society and implemented socially owned factories and property. It emphasized national unity and respect for the diversity of its people and geography.
[“National Anthem of Yugoslavia” plays.]
JS: That Yugoslavia was crushed in the 1990s in a brutally murderous war where extreme nationalists engaged in historical revisionism and the promotion of ethnocentric spheres of power. The Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic and the Croat Franjo Tudman both carried out murderous ethnic cleansing campaigns of mass slaughter and displacement and the Bosnian Muslims found themselves being butchered by their Christian neighbors.
There is much we can learn from the struggle of the Partizans, the story of Yugoslavia, the society they tried to build and the horrifying end to that story. These lessons resonate strongly in our current moment in history. Joining me now to talk about all of this is the philosopher and poet Srecko Horvat. He is the author of “What Does Europe Want? The Union and its Discontents” — He did that with Slavoj Zizek — “Welcome to the Desert of Post-Socialism,” and “The Radicality of Love.” With Yanis Varoufakis, he is one of the founders of the Democracy in Europe Movement. Srecko Horvat’s latest book is “Poetry from the Future: Why a Global Liberation Movement Is Our Civilisation’s Last Chance.” Srecko Horvat, welcome to Intercepted.
Srecko Horvat: Thanks for having me here.
JS: First, in a very big picture sense, you know, we in the United States, of course, have been following the rise of Donald Trump, but in Europe there have been sort of parallel movements that have been either arising to power or threatening to take power that seem to share a lot in common with Donald Trump and his world vision. Just for people who don’t follow it closely what has been happening around Europe with the kind of re-ascension of hard right or neo-fascistic movements.
SH: I would say yes, they’re similar to Trump even if you take for instance, Umberto Eco’s work, the Italian, famous Italian writer, but also, a very interesting semiotician and political thinker who has written a very short text called Ur-Fascism where he names several characteristics of fascism and one among them is fear of strangers. The other one is misogyny, and then you have other characteristics which he places as you know, the original fascism. And if you take these characteristics for instance, and apply it to Trump to Salvini to Bolsonaro to other leaders all across the world, you will see that the situation actual today is really resembling this kind of Ur-Fascism. At this moment, Trump is in the UK, visiting the UK. Angela Merkel as you probably know delivered a speech at Harvard very recently.
Angela Merkel: That’s why I want to leave this wish with you: tear down walls of ignorance and narrow-mindedness for nothing has to stay as it is.
SH: And what is the connection between this? I think what the liberals usually do, this kind of naive interpretation of the rise of the right-wing populist, is that they almost presented as if the right-wing ideology in reality fell from the sky. But Merkel at Harvard, you know, you’ve probably seen in which way also the liberal media was writing about it: “Oh, finally a European leader who will teach Trump, you know, that we have to tear down the walls and so on.” But do you know where Angela Merkel was just a few weeks ago?
She visited Croatia the country where I come from, which was part of Yugoslavia, and she visited Croatia just before the European elections. And before the European elections, she held a speech rejecting, where she was talking about rejecting nationalism and she held the speech at the political rally of the conservative Croatian party, which is very deep into historical revisionism also some problems on the border with refugees and so on. And while she was speaking about rejecting nationalism by actually de facto supporting nationalism.
And I think this is the problem what she did and what the political center did in Europe during the last years is that they actually created the monsters, you know. They were creating the fertile ground for the creation of Salvini, Orbán, Sebastian Kurz. In what way? By imposing austerity, for instance, new depths on the periphery of the European Union. Your listeners probably still remember the example of Greece and the 2015 referendum.
SH: And there is a parallel to the United States as well. Donald Trump didn’t fall from the sky. I think the liberal class in the U.S. really has to pose itself a very serious question: Where did Donald Trump actually come from?
JS: Part of why I wanted to talk to you is because you have this new book out “Poetry From the Future” which I highly recommend people pick up and read and in it, you talk about the significance of what became known as the Partizans establishing a new society and joining together these six republics into this country, Yugoslavia.
Newscaster: In their struggle against the Germans, these Yugoslav patriots have won some of the most amazing victories of the war. Typical of their fighting spirit, these unconquered people board ship to return to the hills of Yugoslavia and carry on where they left off. This group goes to relieve brave Montenegrins also members of Tito’s army who are being sent to Italy for rest. The red starred banner stands for as brave an army of people as you’d find anywhere in this war.
JS: You write, “The Partizans succeeded not only in liberating the Yugoslav territory, but in establishing a new society based on the revolutionary struggle.” Before we talk about that building post-war, explain for people that don’t know this history the significance of Josip Broz Tito, known as Marshal Tito, and the partisan forces that successfully defeated the Nazis and the Italian fascists.
SH: It’s a great question and I think the whole Yugoslav experimental experience has so many lessons for our situation today. The Yugoslav Partizans led by Tito and many others, also women, was actually the only resistance movement I would say in Europe. We had resistance movements as we know, resistance in France. We had the Greek resistance movement and so on but I would say the Yugoslav Partizans are the only ones which succeeded to use the situation of war and total occupation in order to create a social revolution. It wasn’t just a continuation of a liberal kind of system. It was an attempt to radically transform the society.
If there are three lessons of the Yugoslav experience, I would say the first one — three lessons for our dark, dystopian times today — the first lesson is anti-fascism and in which way you can actually lead a successful struggle against fascism. Here it is also important to name all the negotiations which took place between Tito and Fitzroy Maclean on the one hand — who was the true inspiration for the character of James Bond — and Winston Churchill whom I don’t find the most positive character in history. But, and that’s a big lesson I would say, Winston Churchill realized that the only way to win the second world war is to make an alliance even with those whom he despised the most, namely the Communists, but he did it because for strategic reasons.
And I think this is, you know, a failure today where you can see that the liberal establishment, the so-called political center is very afraid of alliances with the left. Instead of having alliances with the left, they’re doing everything in order to diminish the left. Yugoslavia is a good lesson, I would say, to show that if we really want to get out of this today’s very dangerous geopolitical situation, we will need some new alliances, even if they are just tactical.
The second lesson — so, the first lesson is anti-fascism and which way to defeat fascism. The second lesson is self-management. What Tito did in 1948, is that when he broke with Stalin and the Comintern, he introduced the project of self-management which in practice well, it didn’t really function but the idea was good. The idea was that the surplus value of the work done by workers wouldn’t go, you know, to the managers and to the bankers and so on but would go back and they could decide on their future. So, it’s not just democracy. It was supposed to be economic democracy.
For different reasons that didn’t succeed. We can talk about it as well but I think today it’s a very important idea as well where you know, a manager in a company as CEO has 400 or 1,000 times bigger salary than a worker in the same company and this is what started with Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Regan, this trend in the 70s and so on.
JS: Before you go to the third, I just want to also just share one fact that I’ve always found incredible about the story of Yugoslavia and that is that when Yugoslavia existed and they were experimenting with socially-owned property, the most common way that workers got a home in Yugoslavia was through their work. In the same way that Americans are dependent on employers for healthcare, which is a bad system, in Yugoslavia, the way that most people graduated from living with their parents, you know, with their young families to their own apartment is that they would earn an apartment through their labor. And that was the most common way that people were obtaining a place to live, right?
SH: Yes, thanks for this because I think it’s becoming also a relevant topic today. You know, I just came back from Berlin and in Berlin, there have, like in all European cities, there is a huge housing crisis, which is on the one hand, the consequence of monopoly capitalism. You know, big companies buying a lot of flats in a city and then the prices are rising and all the other side, it’s a consequence of so-called platform capitalism which means Airbnb-ization of everything. Which you know to put it very simple, it means that if a student from a small Croatian or Spanish village wants to come to Barcelona to Zagreb, the price, everyone, it’s very difficult to find even a flat to live in the center of the city because it’s much more profitable to rent an apartment to Airbnb and that’s a big problem.
In Yugoslavia and like that we had social housing. Not only that it might surprise you because it will sound as fake news as if I invented it just now but come to the Croatian Coast, you will know. You’ve been to the Croatian Coast. You will see even hotels where the workers would go for vacation.
JS: Last summer, I was in a small village on the Adriatic Coast and I saw this abandoned, what looked like a series of really nice bungalows. What it was under Yugoslavia were summer bungalows for postal workers from all around Yugoslavia. They had a right to go there on vacation every year and it was a series of bungalows just for postal workers to take their time off.
SH: I think most of the people who are listening to us now will think that we came from a communist past, you know, this kind of propaganda department, but it is not. What if for instance, a British postal worker could go to Croatia and the Croatian postal worker could go to London and there will be an organized system of exchanges and so on? I would say that you would immediately see the downfall of right-wing populism and so on because most of the people just don’t travel.
You mentioned tourism. A big problem for this countries of the periphery of the European Union — Spain, Portugal, Greece, Croatia included — is tourism. It’s a problem because — I’ll give you just the figures for Croatia — Croatia and Malta are the two top countries in the world when it comes to the share of GDP for tourism. For Croatia, I think it’s over 18 percent now which means that basically you have an economy which is completely dependent on tourism.
And you know, when you are completely dependent on tourism, then you are also dependent on the weather, for instance or if some geopolitical situation changes or you have a terrorist attack as in Tunisia for instance, everything can change and then there is no 18 percent of the GDP anymore and there is no industry anymore because we don’t have any industry anymore after the so-called period of transition from communism to capitalism.
It’s like a semi-colonial situation in which we are here today and not to mention also the climate costs in which way it is ruining the coast, in which way it is ruining small communities, which were dependent on fishing, for instance. Now, they’re dependent on Airbnb. I could speak for hours about it because I spent a lot of time in the area.
JS: One of the staples of the former Yugoslavia was the notion that the coastline belongs to no one. It belongs to everyone. And yes, you had government corruption including under Tito and you had private islands and all of that but in general, the coastal areas of Yugoslavia were considered common property that anyone could use. Well, now that may change and it’s for the exact reasons you’re talking about. It’s the privatization. It’s the dependence on tourism and then it’s very aggressive foreign investors working with corrupt Croatian businesspeople to backdoor privatize the coast that belongs to the people.
SH: I mean we already had this trend. You know, the first things which were privatized after the, during actually, the breakup of Yugoslavia were for instance water sources. Coca-Cola bought several water sources in Bosnia and Croatia and so on. In the 90s when the war was still going on, which was really this kind of shock doctrine what Naomi Klein talks about, in the sense that you have a situation of a shock of a war and then basically you sell off the corrupt Croatian politicians together with the corrupt Western politicians make deals to sell off the natural resources.
Precisely in Croatia, you can see all the problems of global capitalism. I think we have to radically rethink global tourism and what it means and in which way it could be more sustainable, how it can be connected to a Green New Deal, to massive investment, into public infrastructure, trains, other sorts of transport. There is so much to be done when it comes to tourism.
JS: We need to get to your third lesson that we can take from this but in these neoliberal states that converted from socialism or communism into whatever it is now that you have multinational banks. You have powerful Western countries imposing austerity measures, etcetera, on smaller countries that are new members of the non-communist club, is that you also have climate disaster in Croatia in the form of these either wildfires or fires that are started by somebody who threw a cigarette out and there is no effective response and people are kind of left to maybe the state is going to send planes or helicopters to put out our fire or maybe we need to hire private individuals to do this.
I mean, this is the reality that we are now facing also in parts of the United States in California. So, explain how climate is affecting Croatia and then it’s compounded by the kind of implosion of state services or the disappearance of it and the move toward privatized disaster response.
SH: The example from California which you gave is excellent because it proves that Margaret Thatcher’s mantra is completely right today, unfortunately.
Margaret Thatcher: Let us never forget this fundamental truth: The state has no source of money other than the money people earned themselves. If the state wishes to spend more, it can do so only by bottling your savings or by taxing you more and it’s no good thinking that someone else will pay. That someone else is you. There is no such thing as public money. There is only taxpayers’ money.
SH: You know when Margaret Thatcher said that famously, that there is no such thing as society, only individuals. And you can see it in California and other countries and so on where more and more you have a private sector which will basically just help the rich people. I mean it’s simple as that.
When it comes to Europe what you can see connected to the climate crisis is it’s not just wildfires, for instance. Croatia, for instance, and the Croatian Coast and islands has a big problem with plastics and the waste. The rich countries of the European Union including Germany, France, and so on are basically sending a lot of waste including medical equipment to Albania and then following sea currents. The waste from Albania, together with Albanian waste and from Western Europe comes to the Croatian islands.
And what is then the lesson of Yugoslavia? The lesson is that even if I clean the beach every fucking day, the next day the plastics will come. Even if there is no plastics on the beaches, we are all already eating microplastics, you know. Scientists have found microplastics from the Swiss Alps to the Antarctic.
There is no way out in that way and the only way out is and this is one of the lessons of Yugoslavia, which has to be rethought seriously, is the Non-Aligned Movement namely that was the movement of the 20th century which was founded by Nehru, Tito, and Nasser with the basic idea that the countries of the global south have to cooperate together. Of course, it was a situation of the Cold War where the main reason for the foundation of the Non-Aligned Movement was that you don’t join Soviet Russia and you don’t join the United States, but you actually try to create a genuine third option and I think we need that more and more today.
You’ve seen probably in the news recently that Malaysia was sending back the waste which the western countries were sending to Malaysia. So, the lesson of this is that even with Malaysia or the waste which is coming to Albania and then to Croatia, the lesson is that there is no Green New Deal only in one country and that the Green New Deal has to be not only social but anti-capitalist or more precisely post-capitalist.
JS: You mentioned Nehru, Nasser, and Tito but ultimately dozens and dozens of countries joined together to declare “We are not under the Soviet Union and we are not under the American empire capitalistic program.” And they tried to carve out their own third way, and then you had these liberation movements from around Asia and Africa joining together with Yugoslavia, with India, with Egypt and other countries to say we don’t want to participate in what you’re now calling this Cold War. We want to build an alternative model for how societies can interact with each other and organize. And in fact, Malcolm X talked about the Non-Aligned Movement in some of his speeches and the Bandung Conference in the mid-1950s.
Malcolm X: At Bandung, all the nations came together. There were dark nations from Africa and Asia. Some of them were Buddhists. Some of them were Muslim. Some of them were Christians. Some of them were Confucianist. Some were atheists. Despite their religious differences, they came together. Some were communists. Some were socialists. Some were capitalists. Despite their economic and political differences, they came together. All of them were black, brown, red, or yellow.
JS: And now all of these nations came together and realized that neither the Soviet Union nor the United States were going to solve the world’s problems and that the disempowered or the economic global south countries needed to join together to create a third way so that they wouldn’t be economically dependent on these two opposing empires, but also so that they could forge their own moral, social, and justice-oriented visions of how the world should be organized.
SH: Precisely in this kind of situation, you need a sort of new global liberation movement, which would learn the lessons of the Non-Aligned Movement. What was successful and what were the failures? Because the Non-Aligned Movement nominally still exists today and well, how often do you hear about it? It tells a lot.
I would say one of the problems and one thing which we have to really rethink is that the Non-Aligned Movement consisted only of nation-states. I think — that was the 20th century. I think even if you have today everywhere the retreat to the nation-state, America first, whatever the nation-state as a concept given the trend towards an even bigger climate crisis, might be a concept from the past.
What do I mean by that? If you have rising sea levels, if according to the — I think, it was even the World Bank. If according to their statistics, by 2050, you will have hundreds of millions of refugees mainly from the global South trying to come to Europe, then the very concept of the nation-state has to change. The very concept of sovereignty has to change and we will need more global cooperation, you know. Think, we cannot even imagine what might be happening because of the climate crisis.
For instance, take the Arctic, take the melting ice, which is now making true what Fredric Jameson said, you know, that it’s possible to imagine everything, even the end of the world but not the end of capitalism. So, you know, you can imagine the end of the world: Ice is melting and so on but capitalism will go on.
Last year, Donald Trump gave the permission for the drilling of the Arctic. You’ve seen also that NATO had one of its biggest — I was just there in Norway at that time. So, I remember it. It had the biggest military exercises precisely in the Arctic. So, there is a big interest for that area and you can see that the climate crisis will create new routes not only for transport of goods but also for the exploitation of fossil fuels. Or take for instance, permafrost. Not many people speak about permafrost, but with disappearing permafrost, it might be even more dangerous than with climate change. And we cannot even predict what might happen because of that.
So, if you have these trends, if you have hundreds of millions of refugees in the next two or three decades coming to the U.S. or to Europe and so on, I think we will need a kind of global cooperation which never existed because you will also need to use for instance the army, you know, not to lead wars, you know, but to help people, you know, to provide routes to save them and so on. And unfortunately, I see that we are already going in that direction. Unless we are able to create a global community which would be a result of a global liberation movement and a sort of new realigned movement, I would say, which would be realigned against capitalism, against exploitation of natural resources against the commodification of humans — their emotions, and free will, what is happening with technology — unless we succeed to create this global movement and global society, which would be the first truly global society, I’m afraid that by 2050, we will see a world which would really resemble science fiction in the worst way.
JS: So, as we know Julian Assange is facing 17 espionage counts in the United States right now. Chelsea Manning is once again, in jail for refusing to give testimony in the grand jury proceedings that led to these new indictments under the Espionage Act of Julian Assange. You and Ai Weiwei and other international figures have been protesting against the, first, the arrest of Assange, now the imprisonment of Assange and the facing of these espionage charges. Why are you taking time out of your life to protest the treatment of Julian Assange?
SH: Because he took the time out of his life to fight for us. What WikiLeaks did is that for the first time in modern history, it created a system where you can protect those courageous whistleblowers like Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, and others who would then publish this information and it would be available to all of us. Precisely in this world of fake news and memes and this situation which truth doesn’t matter anymore. I found already the arbitrary detention at the Ecuadorian Embassy a big scandal for Western democracies.
I visited Julian quite often at the Ecuadorian Embassy and the scene when you would enter the Ecuadorian Embassy at Knightsbridge in London tells you everything that is wrong with today’s world. What is happening now, I think, it’s an even bigger scandal because democracy in the west is dying if someone like Julian Assange is in prison. All these governments, Ecuador now even UK, they are meeting with John Bolton, with Pompeo, with the U.S. officials who want Julian Assange to be extradited to the United States as soon as possible.
And why is this dangerous? If that happens, I think, to even speak about democracy anymore will be impossible because there is no democracy without the freedom of speech. There is no democracy without the First Amendment in the U.S. There is no democracy without the freedom of [the] press. So, if the extradition of Julian Assange happens, I think it will be impossible to speak about democracy anymore. Many other people, including journalists, might end up in prison as well. And this is not happening in China. This is not happening in Russia. This is happening in the center of European civilization, in London. It’s happening in Europe. And I think this is the biggest scandal of the early 21st century. The very fact that someone who didn’t kill anyone is kept in a prison with mass murderers, with terrorists, basically 23 hours in his cell.
JS: Well, Srecko Horvat, I want to thank you very much for all the work that you’ve done and continue to do and thanks for being with us here on Intercepted.
SH: Thank you a lot and I also want to thank you for all the work which Intercepted is doing. It’s very important. Not only in the United States but also for Europe to have this kind of media which we miss more than ever.
JS: Srecko Horvat is a philosopher and activist from Croatia, the former Yugoslavia. He is the author of “What Does Europe Want?,” as well as “Welcome to the Desert of Post-Socialism,” and “The Radicality of Love.” Along with Yanis Varoufakis, he is one of the founders of the Democracy in Europe Movement. His latest book is “Poetry from the Future: Why a Global Liberation Movement Is Our Civilization’s Last Chance.”
JS: And that does it for this week’s show. You can follow us on Twitter. Our handle is @intercepted. If you like what we do, support our show by going to TheIntercept.com/join to become a sustaining member of this program. Intercepted is a production of First Look Media and The Intercept. Our lead producer is Jack D’Isidoro, our producer is Laura Flynn. Elise Swain is our associate producer and graphic designer. Our executive producer is Leital Molad. Betsy Reed is editor in chief of The Intercept. Rick Kwan mixed the show. Transcription for this program is done by Nuria Marquez Martinez. Our music, as always, was composed by DJ Spooky.
Until next week, I’m Jeremy Scahill.