Unraveling Democracy: The Corporate Takeover

A new book highlights the power multinational corporations have — and how they strong-arm nations into submission.

Peaceful protester of the Occupy movement gather at Times Square, New York City, Oct. 15, 2011.
Peaceful protesters of the Occupy movement gather at Times Square, New York City, on Oct. 15, 2011. Photo: Natalie Koper/Getty Images

The new book “Silent Coup: How Corporations Overthrew Democracy” by investigative journalists Claire Provost and Matt Kennard reveals how the world actually works: the international structures and laws that preempt most attempts at any kind of economic democracy in most of the countries around the world. This week on Deconstructed, Provost and Kennard join Jon Schwarz to discuss this “silent coup” by powerful multinational companies.

Jon Schwarz: I’m John Schwarz, a writer at The Intercept, filling in for Ryan Grim on this week’s episode of Deconstructed.

Imagine if you and millions of Americans successfully fought to stop a multinational corporation from mining copper in your state and destroying the rivers and environment for everyone. And you won. You get a law passed forbidding the company from opening the mine.

But then the Supreme Court steps in and says, nope, this law is unconstitutional, we’re striking it down, the mine can open, and they can pollute your state. Now, that might be easy to imagine, given our own corporate-owned and -operated Supreme Court is busy making decisions like this all the time.

But the point is, that’s not just here; it’s essentially how life is in most countries on Earth, except it’s even worse. Over decades, corporations have quietly created supreme corporate courts that operate on an international level, that can and do overrule mere people.

Claire Provost and Matt Kennard have written an amazing new book about why and how this happened; because it didn’t just happen, it was all planned. The book is called “Silent Coup: How Corporations Overthrew Democracy.” And let me tell you, if you are angry at how the world seems unfair, if you haven’t read this, you are not angry enough.

Provost is co-founder and codirector of the new nonprofit, Institute for Journalism and Social Change. Kennard is cofounder and chief investigator at Declassified U.K., a news outlet investigating British foreign policy.

Claire and Matt, welcome to Deconstructed.

Matt Kennard: Thanks for having us.

Claire Provost: Thank you.

JS: The title of your book is “Silent Coup: How Corporations Overthrew Democracy,” which is pretty straightforward. But tell us about what this title means, exactly, and what are the specifics about what corporations want to get with their power?

CP: So, when we think about democracy, we think about ourselves having some kind of say and role in the decision-making about our futures. And what the book charts in very broad terms is how there was a very structured, and strategic, and infrastructural attempt to overthrow this, in a sense, from the beginning.

From the beginning in the sense that there was a moment in the 20th century when things could have really, really shifted towards people power. At the time of dramatic decolonization independence movements, as well as labor movements, movements for freedom all around the world. And there was a really strategic attempt to not only confront those movements at that moment, but also to overrule them for perpetuity, in perpetuity, forever.

And so, the book looks at ways in which international systems and strategies have been set up over the last 75-plus years, to make that promise of democracy an impossibility.

MK: There’s a lot of work that’s been done, and a lot of literature that’s been produced over the years, about how corporations have captured the political systems domestically in places like the United States, and in Britain, and other places. And it’s clear every day, when you look at the societies we live in, that corporations have penetrated more and more areas. And that’s quite a well analyzed and covered topic, I think.

But what our book focuses on is how this is the international system that was constructed to enshrine corporate power after the end of the Second World War. This is an important time because, at a rapid clip — particularly in the 50s and 60s — huge amounts of countries were becoming independent. People who had been literally fighting the imperial powers on the ground were becoming prime ministers and presidents, nationalizing resources, expropriating assets.

And the traditional owners of the world — the people that owned the world for hundreds of years, the Western imperial powers — were freaking out, and they thought, what are we going to do in the face of these kinds of liberation movements around the world that were making the ground shift beneath [our] feet?

So, they quite consciously came up — and this sounds like tinfoil hat stuff, but it’s all there in black and white, when you go to the World Bank archives and other places, which we did — they quite consciously thought, we need to construct an international system that works above the heads of national governments and enshrines foreign investors’ rights, and enshrines multinational corporations’ rights. And they worked very quickly to start constructing that.

The major moment in this system was the Bretton Woods meetings in 1944 in New Hampshire, when the World Bank — or what became the World Bank — and the IMF were created. And then, four years later, the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs was created, which later became the WTO.

Now, these three institutions were kind of the most important bodies which controlled the global economy afterwards, and controlled how countries were developed. And they were all about, from the start, enshrining corporate power, and allowing and easing the movement of corporations into new markets. And, in our book, we went specifically to look at some of the systems that were put in place.

Now, the first one we looked at was what’s called “investor-state dispute settlement,” ISDS, and, for me, this is kind of the emblematic system of this whole infrastructure, because it was created in 1966 as part of the World Bank, and 1966 is not a coincidental date. It was in the early 60s, huge amounts of countries in Africa, particularly, were becoming independent, and ICSID — the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes — was a system that would allow multinational corporations to sue states at supranational venues when they enacted policies they didn’t like.

So, if you nationalize a resource, there’s cases where if you raise a minimum wage; anything that a corporation doesn’t like, this gives them the right to sue the states. The book is in four parts, and we start with ISDS, but there were many, many other systems which were created and are enshrined in free trade agreements, and bilateral investment treaties, and all this, this web of agreements that crisscross the world.

And what it really does is — the reason we call it a silent coup — was [because] barely anyone knows about this stuff. This is an international system that was consciously set up to put to bed the democratic movements which had arisen after the Second World War, and barely anyone knows about it.

In a sort of broad sense, this book describes the construction of an international system that enshrines corporate power, and works above the heads of national governments. And, in 2023, we call it a silent coup, I believe that the coup is complete now. Effectively, it’s extremely difficult to go up against this system because it has such overwhelming power.

The only place that there’s been real resistance to it — successful resistance, particularly in recent history — has been Latin America. Funnily enough, there’s three countries which tried to extricate themselves from the ICSID in recent history, and that was: Venezuela under Chávez, Bolivia under Evo Morales, and Ecuador under Rafael Correa.

And they did, but it’s extremely hard to even extricate yourself from the system, because a lot of these agreements have what are called “sunset clauses,” which means, even if you pull out of an agreement, it will only happen ten years later. And then, obviously, they’re hoping [that] in ten years time there won’t be a liberation government that has the same predilection to get out, and they can just stay in.

When what was called antiglobalization really exercised the left, everyone talks about what Thomas Friedman called “the golden straitjacket.” You know, they said that there’s a straitjacket that the Bretton Woods institutions put on the economies of most of the world. He thought it was golden, but it’s not golden.

The point is, what it’s about is nullifying democracy.

JS: Yes, I think it’s great to bring up that Thomas Friedman quote, the golden straitjacket, because, as you say, the golden part turned out not to be real, but the straitjacket part absolutely is.

CP: The golden part is real if you’re on the winning side of this battle, it really is real. The golden side of the straitjacket is that, if you’re a powerful economic elite or corporation and you want to protect and expand your power, you can do that in so many different ways. And if you get to the point where you come across extreme defiance, extreme defiance — including from the Latin American countries that Matt mentions — then you can go to these international systems and have your will implemented by those international systems. So, for some, it is absolutely golden.

For the majority, it is the opposite of that, but it is a good system for some people, and that’s part of the problem. If it was a universally bad system for everybody, it would be easier to dismantle it. There are some extraordinarily powerful and wealthy individuals and companies that are benefiting extraordinarily from the status quo, which makes it hard to dismantle.

JS: Yes. And that, of course, is a very important point, and it fits in with the overall arc of history that you described. I think in America in particular, probably in Europe as well, the fact that Europe and the U.S. colonized, I think, literally every square inch of planet Earth, with the exception of, I believe, Japan and Ethiopia … That was a system where there were rewards for certain people in the colonized countries. And they would help the colonizing countries run the country that they were living in. And so, there were big rewards for a small proportion of the population and, as you say, it wouldn’t work if it was terrible for everybody; there is a small number of people for whom it was good.

And I wanted to ask you if you are familiar with this, from the Obama White House website, where they explain it very straightforwardly. I have rarely seen anybody talk about this, or have never seen anybody talk about this, but here’s what the Obama White House said:

“Before we had investment rules, an ISDS,” that’s the Investor State Dispute Settlement System. Before we had that, “unlawful behavior by countries that targeted foreign investors tended either to go unaddressed or escalate into conflict between countries. In fact, early in our history, the U.S. had to deploy gunboat diplomacy or military intervention to protect private American commercial interests. ISDS is a more peaceful, better way to resolve trade conflicts between countries.”

CP: It’s as if he’s reading from a script. That is the script. That is the script that was written in the 50s, and it’s the script that was shopped around the world by elite Europeans, the head of the Deutsche Bank, and other chairs and board members of major European corporations.

They shopped it around, didn’t get success at the U.N., didn’t get success at the OECD. Then they get success in Washington, D.C. at the World Bank, convincing the Americans to take up the script that, unless you set up the system, you’re going to have infinite armed conflict. That rebellious people are going to rise up, they’re going to demand things, there’s going to be wars, there’s going to be violence, so this is like a route to peace. It’s a peace without democracy.

That’s a really old sort of narrative, it comes from the foundation of the system, so it’s super-chilling to hear that in a more contemporary context from the Obama administration. That’s not a new argument; that is the foundational argument of this system, and it’s a really terrifying one.

MK: I think that he’s right, in a way, because, as Claire mentioned, that was the way that this system was sold by its godfathers, and its godfather, particularly, was a German banker called Herman Abs, who made this speech in 1957 in San Francisco to a group of industrialists from the U.S. and around the world, and he was making this exact same point.

So, this was 1957, and he referenced three things: he referenced the coup in Iran, in 1953, when the CIA and MI6 overthrew the democratically elected prime minister of Iran, Mohammad Mosaddegh, because it nationalized the Anglo-Iranian oil company, what’s now BP. Jacobo Arbenz, the democratically elected president of Guatemala who had enacted quite a mild land reform program, but stepped on the toes of the United Fruit Company, who had chatted to their friends in the CIA, and the CIA had organized to overthrow democracy in Guatemala.

In 1956, President Nasser — again, a big bête noire of the era for the Americans and the British — he nationalized the Suez Canal and was invaded by Israel, France, and Britain. And he said exactly what the Obama administration said in 1957; he said, we don’t want to have to do this stuff anymore. We don’t have to go in with coups. We don’t want to have to overthrow leaders, maybe even assassinate the ones that nationalized stuff, so we need a system that works above their heads.

So, it doesn’t matter if you get a Mossadegh in, it doesn’t matter if you get an Arbenz in, it doesn’t matter if you get a Nasser in. They can’t move, they’ve got the straitjacket on. And that’s what the ISDS system was about, and that’s kind of what the quote that you mentioned, Jon, from the Obama administration [is about], that’s kind of celebrating this fact.

And it’s also done silently. Barely anyone knows about this ISDS system, barely anyone knows about the history of it. But I think part of the reason that this system, particularly, is so little known is that there’s very, very weak justification for it. Because, as you know, most of these systems that make capitalism run in the interest of the 1 percent, they all have very sophisticated ideologies bolted on top of them, to justify them to the people within the system, but also to the general public. There’s barely any justification for the ISDS system, so they just keep it secret, you know?

It was quite interesting hearing the Obama administration gives such a full-throated defense of it. It goes to the heart of what Naomi Klein talks about in “The Shock Doctrine,” that there’s this theory that was built up — again, it’s part of the whole ideology — that freedom and capitalism, democracy and capitalism, are intertwined. When it’s the opposite, you know? That they have to work above the heads of democratic governments, to make sure that it will run smoothly and all in their interests. And that’s the system that they erected.

JS: Yes. And I think one especially interesting comment from an especially interesting guy about this, and how we transformed from a system of sort of formal colonialism into something that was invisible and worked in kind of the same ways is Pope Francis, who, in 2015 said, “We see the rise of new forms of colonialism which seriously prejudice the possibility of peace and justice. The new colonialism takes on different faces, at times it appears as the anonymous influence of mammon, corporations, loan agencies, certain free trade treaties, and the imposition of measures of austerity, which always tighten the belt of workers and the poor.”

CP: I mean, good for him saying that, I don’t disagree with that, but it frustrates me also as a person who lives in Italy. The Vatican state is within our peninsula, and we are facing an extreme case right now from a British company that is challenging — through this international investor-state dispute settlement system — is challenging a popularly supported ban on offshore oil and gas exploration and activity very close to the shore.

And that case, that is still ongoing, so far the tribunal in Washington has sided with the company, meaning that Italy will either have to continue to allow oil and gas exploration close to the shore, or it will have to pay hundreds of millions of euros. Italy has tried to appeal. The final hearing will be behind closed doors in the first quarter of 2024.

It’s an extreme example of what Matt mentioned before, of how people don’t know about this system, and how it affects our lives and decisions that are made around us. This case facing Italy, it’s not mainstream news in Italy, it’s not something everybody knows about. It’s not something that we’re publicly all aware of and talking about, the fact that a corporation can challenge a democratically introduced, following-popular-mobilizations-for-a-decade ban on oil and gas exploration near the shore.

So, it’s great that he says that, but it’s not very specific, and I think, until people get specific on these things, it doesn’t necessarily mean enough, perhaps.

In addition to Italy, there are a number of other countries facing extraordinary cases, that if you are — as Pope Francis sounds to be — concerned about the balance between multinational corporate power and people power, we need support for, also, other communities and governments that are fighting extraordinary cases, including Honduras.

Honduras is a case that is ongoing right now, and I want to mention it because it’s not in our book, because it’s a more recent case. But that case is from an American company that wanted to build a very dystopian special economic zone / private city in Honduras. And the Honduran government is in the process of changing the laws, so that you can no longer build such dystopian cities and dystopian private special economic zones.

And so, the company has taken the government. to the same institution at the World Bank — ICSID, the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes — and that case is worth a third of the country’s national budget. So, we’re talking about a threat to democratic decision-making, but also your ability to maintain public services for an entire country, so it’s so extreme.

So, you know, it’s great that Pope Francis said what he said, but we need really serious solidarity with countries that are facing these cases and, we need more specifics.

MK: I, I agree with what he’s saying, and it’s really important to attack the narrative that decolonization happened, because it didn’t. It was replaced with a different system, and it got a whole new terminology.

After the Second World War, the U.S. and U.K. — who primarily built this system — they came up with a whole new vocabulary to cover this new system, and the word they use is “development.” It was all about, we want to develop the rest of the world.

And even the word development itself now is used to describe … It sounds very innocent. But what it describes is the economic policies that are pushed on the rest of the world that basically decide how the majority of humanity runs their economy, so it’s important stuff. These institutions don’t care about the development of the poor world. It’s not a coincidence, the massive levels of inequality is the result of these institutions, not despite them.

So, it’s a massive PR operation, and this new system works in the shadows, but effectively just enshrines, as I mentioned, foreign investor power and corporations in a much more insidious way.

JS: Well, the overall system is interesting in the abstract, but your book is also full of these extremely concrete specifics about how this plays out in various countries, and I wonder what you think are the most startling stories that you tell in the book.

CP: For me, one of the ones is South Africa. South Africa, after the end of apartheid — which was, obviously, a global news story that involved a lot of global attention and pushing for the end of apartheid — after that moment, a huge range of new laws get revised and passed to try to move the country on from apartheid and, also, redress issues from the past.

Among those are a new mining charter, which changes the rules of the game for the mining industry and, in particular, requires mining companies to hand over a certain small minority percentage of their power to people who had been historically disadvantaged under apartheid.

After that act gets passed, a group of European investors sued South Africa, saying that they were not allowed to redress historical injustices under international investment law. And that case did not finish, because it settled before a conclusion in the actual case.

And, in the settlement, South Africa conceded, and gave those investors a more favorable treatment than they would have received under the new law. So, they had to hand over a much smaller percentage of their power to historically disadvantaged individuals.

So, this surprised me on a number of different levels. On the level of how the investor-state dispute settlement system can come in conflict with other things that we kind of globally agree are important, like universal human rights and not having racially-based systems of discrimination. And also, how it showed how our industry, the media, hasn’t been really fulfilling its function, and explaining to people how decisions are really made, and who really holds power.

MK: Yeah, the South Africa case was crazy, and it was an amazing experience going there, because it wasn’t like El Salvador.

Basically, the whole book started in El Salvador, because there was a case that was brought by a Canadian mining company for $300 million against the Salvadoran government for not granting them an environmental permit for a mine to dig for gold.

And when we went to El Salvador, the whole … It was amazing. The whole of the society basically knew about ICSID, which I mentioned, which is known as CIADI, by its Spanish acronym. So, you’d speak to normal people on the street and they’d understand it, they’d see it, they knew it was a massive attack on their sovereignty.

But then, in South Africa, where we went, barely anyone knew about it. And that was because the South African government didn’t want to publicize it, because they didn’t want to incentivize other companies suing them for their Black empowerment policies.

I also went to India, to look at the first Asian special economic zone in Gandhidam. But they’re also coming back to the Western world, and this is the whole trend that we look at in the book, and we called it “the boomerang effect.” A lot of these systems and models which were created to enshrine corporate power and Western domination in the developing world are now coming back to eat the states that created them.

So, we went to Germany, and to Hamburg, where Germany was being sued for billions by a Swedish energy company for decommissioning its nuclear power. And Germany, as I said, was kind of the godfather of … Well, this bank was the godfather of this whole system. And many people in Germany were saying, oh, we knew this system existed, but we never thought it would hit us.

And on the SEZ model where I live, in London, the government here announced two years ago that we’re going to have 13 free ports. Now, “free ports” is another name for a special economic zone, so it’s just a corporate utopia within Britain that they can do what they want [in].

We’ve got nothing left in Britain after Thatcherism; now they’re just selling off the land itself.

CP: So, I grew up in North America, I grew up in the U.S. and Canada, sort of half-and-half. When I think about what we looked at in our book and what it shows — and particularly when I try to talk to North American audiences about it — it also explained to us [how] we are really living in the world that NAFTA created.

Like, all of the concerns that we had had when NAFTA was proposed, about the shifting to corporate power, about environment health workers being disempowered, all of that has happened. But also, an important related point is the power of local entrepreneurs and small businesses has decreased.

The only companies that can file suits at the International Investor State Dispute Settlement System are multinational companies and investors. Like, you cannot file a case like this if you are a small entrepreneur and you have a problem with your government. If you have a problem with your government, you go through local courts. If you’re an international investor or international company, you have a second option: you can go to this international system. It completely, also, changed the game.

And the interests of local entrepreneurs and small businesses really don’t align with these multinational corporations that have this access to these international systems that serve them, not the mom-and-pop shops.

MK: Well, just to add, as well, the ISDS system, investor-state dispute settlement, where corporations can sue states, it’s a complete violation of how they tell us capitalism works, which is that, you take a risk, and the higher the risk, the bigger potential reward, but you have to evaluate whether that risk is worth it, right?

So, if you go to the Congo, and you’re a mining company, you might get your asset expropriated by the government, or you might get attacked by paramilitaries. Or there might be a new government that comes in, and a military dictatorship takes over. But you’ve taken that risk, because you’re in the Congo, you know about it.

But this de-risks the whole thing, because you have access to an international venue where you can pay for powerful corporate lawyers to back you up and take these countries to those courts. And they have to go, because the other thing is, no one’s ever done a no-show, because there’s a very powerful enforcement mechanism that exists for any country which kind of says, well, we don’t want to show up.

Claire mentioned the Honduras case; they’re being sued for $11 billion for trying to shut down a special economic zone on Roatan, one of the Honduran islands, and they don’t know what to do. They can’t afford it, it’s an absolute crisis for them. But I don’t think they’re considering not showing up, because you can’t. If you do that, your credit lines from the Bretton Woods institutions will be slashed.

There’s a thing called The New York Convention on Arbitral Disputes [a/k/a “The Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards”], which everyone’s kind of signed up to. And that means that any country has to expropriate any assets you own. So, even a presidential jet, if it landed in a certain country, they’d have to take it if you don’t pay up or you don’t attend these hearings.

It’s a system that is extremely powerful and extremely difficult to ignore, and extremely difficult to get out of.

JS: OK, so we’ve talked about El Salvador and South Africa; South Africa, of course, being an especially stark example. But one example that you also have in your book that is possibly even more startling, and is particularly timely right now, is the section called “Occupation Incorporated in Palestine.”

I was wondering if you guys could talk a little bit about that.

MK: Yeah. So, I went to Palestine, and that was in 2016, and I wanted to work on the role that the privatization of the occupation was having on Palestinians. I realized quite quickly that the privatization of the occupation was happening rapidly.

So, for example, we’d go to checkpoints, and the checkpoints wouldn’t be manned by the IDF — the Israel Defense Forces, or so-called defense forces — they’d be manned by private contractors; there was one called Modiin Ezrachi, and these people had killed people. And the subcontracting out of security in Palestine by Israel allowed them complete impunity.

I mean, the IDF has near complete impunity anyway, but there are formal mechanisms that offer redress for Palestinians who have been killed. With the private contractors, there’s no accountability, because they’re private companies. And you see that across the world, that the privatization of the military and security is a boon for states, because it allows them plausible deniability when anything goes wrong. Again, it’s a story that isn’t really covered that well, but it also is a way for the Israelis to privatize it, to make a lot of money.

And another story I did in Palestine, which was really heartbreaking, is how the Israelis use the West Bank — and Gaza as well, but I actually wasn’t allowed into Gaza — [in] the West Bank and Gaza they use as what people have now called a “laboratory.” And a very good journalist called Anthony Lowenstein has just written a book called The Palestine Laboratory, and it’s about how having this captive population in the West Bank and Gaza has allowed the private security, arms industry, surveillance industry, all these industries that the Israelis are kind of leading in is because they have this captive population where they can test all this stuff out. And in a world that’s becoming more and more securitized, Israel’s kind of like the place that everyone looks at.

And I went to Ramallah, and talked to the head of the resistance committee in Bil’in, which is a town which was being cut in half, effectively, by the annexation wall that Israel was still building then — I think it’s finished now — but which has been ruled illegal by the U.N. But he was saying, yeah, we saw all this stuff being thrown at us.

It was nonviolent demonstration; I went on one. And when I went to the demonstration in Bil’in, they shot live ammunition at us. And no, [the demonstration] was all nonviolent. But, anyway, he was saying that this sort of skunk gas, I think it is, which is just putrid smelling gas, was pioneered in Bil’in, that’s what he told me.

And then I went to another investigator, a Palestinian human rights investigator. And I went into his house, which was round the back of Ramallah Hospital, and I’ll never forget it. Like, I walked in, and there was just a table with all this spent ammunition and different weapons, because he was investigating what would happen.

He was just showing me all this newfangled weaponry, which had been built up over the years, and he said that they try out on us. And he said that, in all the years that he’s been investigating them, they’ve had complete impunity. And he said that’s got worse with the prevalence of private security and private military within the Israeli establishment, because he said, often, you’d see uniforms and not even know who they belong to.

So, yeah, Israel is the center of the export of surveillance technology, of newfangled arms, and all sorts of stuff, and it’s because they’ve got a captive population. And I mean, I don’t need to talk about the morality of using an imprisoned population of 2 million people as a kind of lab to try out your newfangled weaponry so you can sell it to market. And, actually, they do use in their brochures, they use the term “battle-proven,” and sometimes even mention the war that it was used in.

So, yeah. It was a really sickening experience.

JS: Again, this is a fascinating book, it is called “The Silent Coup: How Corporations Overthrew Democracy.” Really, anybody, if you want to understand how the world truly works, you should get this, and read it.

And before we wrap up, I was hoping that the two of you could talk just a little bit about the person “The Silent Coup” is dedicated to, Gavin MacFadyen.

MK: Yeah. Gavin was an amazing man. He died in 2016, towards the end of our fellowship at the Center for Investigative Journalism, which is where all this research started. And he had this ability to be wherever history was being made.

So he was in Nicaragua during the Sandinista revolution, he was banned from apartheid South Africa, he was banned from the Soviet Union. He made about 40 different documentaries for national TV in the U.K. when you could actually get good journalism on the TV. You can’t do that anymore.

But he was an American guy and he, interestingly, he was the political mentor to Bernie Sanders in Chicago in the 60s; so, he politicized Bernie Sanders, which I didn’t know about until after he died. And then he later became the mentor and very close to Julian Assange and WikiLeaks.

So, he was a kind of unique figure, in a sense, that he ran the CIJ in a very free way. It was totally different to the institutions that I’d been in. I was at the Financial Times before, and the journalism that I was allowed to practice was extremely corporate, essentially; there were only certain things you could say.

And Gavin, when we started there in 2014, he said to us, look, you’ve got two years to do whatever you want. You’ve got a wage. It wasn’t a lot of money, but it was enough to live on, definitely. And you’ve got a travel budget as well. I don’t think many people will ever get that opportunity, we probably won’t again.

But that was a testament to Gavin, that he just believed that you’ve got to give people freedom to look for the stories that they want, and also, the backing to be brave as well. Because I knew that, whatever we did, as long as it was truthful, fact-based, he would back us.

And the other thing about him, which everyone who knew him says is, he was just an amazingly warm person, and funny. And it was quite interesting, because a lot of people like that, [who] have seen so much human suffering and been witness to it, it hardens them in some ways, or at least makes them, I don’t know. A bit withdrawn? Whereas he was the opposite.

He would light up any gathering. He was happy to work in the shadows doing his journalism, and doing his activism, because he was an activist as well. He was really into this idea of direct action journalism. Like, he was saying we should go and chain ourselves outside the Department of State until they gave us a certain bit of information, which I’d never heard of before, and I haven’t seen done, but I quite like that idea. And he was also extremely democratic.

CP: Gavin, our mentor, also mentored and influenced many investigative journalists. I keep running into them. People who really understand what it means to be a journalist, also, because of Gavin. And that understanding means that you’re also not afraid of trouble, and that’s a core part of it.

I think, in professional journalism, you can be trained to avoid trouble, and Gavin almost did the opposite. And that’s where the dedication “good trouble” also comes from.

JS: So, you’ve heard about the man that they dedicated this book to, that he was very good at getting into trouble, he was very good at causing trouble. I would say, if you read this book, you, too, are going to cause some trouble, probably. You definitely will be in trouble if people have found out that you’ve read it. It is fantastic. I really recommend it to everyone.

Claire and Matt, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us.

MK: Thanks for having us.

CP: Thank you so much. Cause some trouble, please.

JS: That was Claire Provost and Matt Kennard, and that’s our show. Their new book is “Silent Coup: How Corporations Overthrew Democracy.”

Deconstructed is a production of The Intercept. Our producer is José Olivares. Laura Flynn is our supervising producer. The show is mixed by William Stanton. This episode was transcribed by Leonardo Faierman. Our theme music was composed by Bart Warshaw. Roger Hodge is The Intercept’s Editor-in-Chief. And I’m Jon Schwarz.

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