Sam Wineburg Demonstrates Historical Thinking

Wineburg

Sam Wineburg, the world’s leading scholar on K-12 historical thinking, turns to his Twitter feed to show us how it is done.  Teachers take note:

Do you want to learn more about Wineburg’s work?  Check out his appearance on Episode 52 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast.

Politicians Have Claimed to Be Victims of Lynching for a Long Time

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Joseph McCarthy described Senate hearings to censure him as a “lynch  party.”

Earlier this week, Donald Trump compared the impeachment inquiry against him to a lynching.  Both Republicans and Democrats reminded Trump about the history of lynching in the United States.  Over at The Washington Post, Lawrence Glickman, the Stephaen and Evalyn Milman professor of American Studies at Cornell University, provides some additional context.

Here is a taste of his piece:

Notwithstanding the shocked reaction to the outrageous comparison, Trump’s comments were in keeping with a long-standing strand of conservative rhetoric that might best be dubbed “elite victimization.” This is a mode of speech typically used by wealthy, powerful white men in which they employ the language of enslavement and Jim Crow to describe their plight and claim to be victims of everything from government programs to social movements they dislike to investigations into wrongdoing.

This language marks a double appropriation. First, it is a reaction to the increasing power of claiming rights by minority populations. In the 20th century, African Americans and other oppressed groups forced the country to confront its violent, racist history and demanded full rights and citizenship. By casting themselves as victims, elites frame their individual sense of being wronged as a violation of their rights, even though those rights are well-secured. Second, it is to demand sympathy for a kind of physical and spiritual suffering akin to that experienced by racial minorities that elites claim to endure when they feel under attack.

But the language may also feel true to them. Given that wealthy white men do not face discrimination on the basis of race, the slightest feeling of vulnerability or threat might feel like oppression, however distinct it is from the lived experience of oppressed groups. In 1946, for example, J. Howard Pew, the conservative oil man, condemned what he called “continued unfair and discriminatory legislation granting special privileges for favored minorities at the expense of the general welfare.”

But this language perversely minimizes the plight of African Americans for much of American history and compares systemic wrongs with hideous consequences to legal actions or social movements that conservative white men happen to dislike.

Read the entire piece here.  Then head over to Episode 55 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast and listen to Glickman talk about his new book Free Enterprise: An American History.

“The narcissist sees the world in his own image…”

Time to pull this one out again:

For the narcissist sees the world–both the past and the present–in his own image.  Mature historical understanding teaches us to do the opposite: to go beyond our own image, to go beyond our brief life, and to go beyond the fleeting moment in human history into which we have been born.  History educates (“leads outward” in the Latin) in the deepest sense.  Of the subjects in the secular curriculum, it is the best at teaching those virtues once reserved for theology–humility in the face of our limited ability to know, and awe in the face of the expanse of history.

Sam Wineburg, Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts.

See our The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast interviews with Wineburg here and here.

What You Can Expect as We Close Out Season 5 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast

Podcast on stage

 Recording our May 2018 live episode at the Messiah College faculty development day

We have been in the studio a lot lately as we head for home on Season 5 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast.

So far this season we have talked with:

  • Nicole Hemmer (University of Virginia) on the first anniversary of the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally
  • Paul Putz (Messiah College) on “Sportianity”
  • Michael Kazin (Georgetown University) on populism in America
  • Catherine O’Donnell (Arizona State University) on Elizabeth Ann Seton, America’s first Catholic saint
  • Chris Graham (Richmond Civil War Museum) on how churches deal with the legacy of racism
  • Robert Whitaker (Louisana Tech University) on history and video games
  • Daniel Rodgers (Princeton University) on John Winthrop’s “City Upon a Hill”
  • Julie Reed (Penn State University) on Elizabeth Warren and American Indian identity
  • Nicolas Proctor (Simpson College) on “Reacting to the Past” history pedagogy
  • Jemar Tisby (University of Mississippi) on race and evangelicalism in American history
  • Julian Zelizer (Princeton University) on American political history since Watergate

And we are not done!

This weekend we drop Episode 50 with Sara Georgini of the Adams Papers at the Massachusetts Historical Society.  She will discuss her new book Household Gods: The Religious Lives of the Adams Family.

Yesterday, we interviewed Nicole Kirk of Meadville-Lombard Theological School about her new book Wanamaker’s Temple: The Business of Religion in an Iconic Department Store.  Episode 51 will drop in early May.

We have two more guest scheduled.  Sam Wineburg of Stanford University will join us in May to discuss his new book Why Learn History (When It’s Already on Your Phone).  And we wrap-up with history graduate student Bob Crawford, the bass player for the popular band The Avett Brothers!

This is a great time to become a patron of the show!  Head over to our Patreon page and consider a one-time donation or an ongoing gift.  Monthly contributions start at $1.00 a month!

I want to end this post by bringing  some of our needs to your attention.  The podcast will be experiencing some transitions over the summer.  Producer Drew Hermeling will continue with the podcast, but he will now need to juggle this work with a new teaching job beginning in August.  I am hoping he will be able to stay with us.

Abigail LaBianca, our studio producer, is graduating in May.  We are in the middle of securing her replacement, but we are trying to figure out how we are going to pay for this position as we move forward. Nearly all of our original funding for this position has now been spent.  As always, we are taking things one day at a time.

I hope you enjoy the rest of Season 5.  We are excited about these final four episodes and we really hope we can be back in the Fall!  So is Ally:

ally podcast

Most Popular Posts of the Last Week

Here are the most popular posts of the last week at The Way of Improvement Leads Home:

  1. A White Teacher is Removed from Teaching  a Michigan High School Course in African-American History
  2. Meacham: At least Trump didn’t sign the Bibles in red ink
  3. “They had a guy from Messiah College”
  4. So What DOES Al Mohler Believe About Social Justice?
  5. Court Evangelicals Seizes on Ilhan Omar’s Remarks to Score Points for Trump
  6. How Do We “Render Unto Caesar” in a Democracy?
  7. Jon Meacham: “I am a huge admirer of @JohnFea1’s, and love his ‘court evangelical’ coinage”
  8. SNUBBED!
  9. Christian Universalism
  10. “Out of the Zoo: ‘Listening Ears'”

Podcasts Help Historians Speak to the Public

Mug
Are you listening to The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast?  We are heading into the studio today to record an episode on history teaching with special attention to the “Reacting the Past” model.

Over at The Anxious Bench, Chris Gehrz reminds us that podcasts are just another way in which historians are connecting to public audiences.  He writes in the wake of Max Boot’s recent criticism of historians.

Gehrz mentions several history podcasts trying to reach-out beyond the academy.  And The Way of Improvement Leads Home is one of them.  Here is a taste of Gehrz’s post:

Hosts: John Fea, Drew Dyrli Hermeling

Total Episodes: 46

Typical Length: 50-65 minutes

Sample Recent Episode: “A City Upon a Hill

Speaking of engaging hosts… This one is already well known to many readers of this blog, where he used to be a contributor. In many ways, John is the epitome of the 21st century historian: equally at home writing serious scholarly monographs and engaging with any and all comers through digital media.

As he does with a recurring “Author’s Corner” series at his venerable blog, John often uses his podcast to share the work of fellow historians. In this episode, he featured Daniel T. Rodgers, author of a new book on one of the most famous sermons in American history. (Agnes blogged about it at Anxious Bench last November.) John, producer Drew Hermeling, and their guests delve into many aspects of religion, politics, and U.S. history, but TWOILH can range widely, as in the Season 4 episode on the history of the “Memphis sound.”

Perhaps the recurring question of TWOILH is whether the past is “usable.” In the “City Upon a Hill” episode, John added a commentary inspired by the Greenwich Tea Burning of 1774, which he notes has been used to promote everything from the assimilation of immigrants to Cold War anti-Communism to the 21st century version of the Tea Party. (Learn more from John’s 2017 post on the topic for Omohundro, plus an accompanying episode of Ben Franklin’s World.) “The past should always be useful,” John agrees. But he warns that the past may not be usable as we’d like it to be:

…sometimes the past is not easily consumable. Sometimes what happened in previous eras has no direct relevance for our lives today… Sometimes the past introduces us to people whose ideas and behavior we want to forget, rather than resurrect for some modern-day agenda… In the end, good historical thinking requires us to see the past in all its fullness, whether it fits our pet causes or not…. This is why historical thinking is central to our role as citizens in a democracy

Thanks!  And don’t forget to check out Chris’s new podcast on sports and history: “The 252.”  A rumor is circulating that Sportianity‘s own Paul Putz will soon be making an appearance on this podcast.

Support The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast!

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Enjoying a laugh with TWOILH Podcast patron Ron Schooler last week on the campus of the University of Southern California

On Sunday we dropped Episode 46 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast.  Co-host Drew Dyrli Hermeling interviewed Penn State historian Julie Reed about presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren’s claim to be a descendant of native Americans.  I hope you enjoy it.  (There is also a brief “blooper reel” after the credits!)  Drew tells me that it has one of the highest number of “launch day” downloads in the history of the podcast.  (Maybe I should just turn the hosting duties over the Drew!)  🙂

As we approach 50 episodes, the podcast is preparing for some transitions.  Our studio producer Abigail LaBianca is graduating in May and our funding for her replacement is almost gone (we are still paying Abby through a one-time gift from an angel donor).  Meanwhile, Drew is going through some changes in his work life that might limit the number of hours he can work with the podcast.  I would like to keep going, but I am not willing to sacrifice on quality.

Over the next several months we are going to have to make some hard decisions about the future of the podcast.  I am not a big fan of asking for money, but our ongoing Patreon campaign could really use a boost in the next 8-10 weeks.  We need to know if there are folks out there who like our product enough to support it.   Learn more about how you can help fund our work here.

A big thank you for those who are already supporting our work.  Patrons come and go and we appreciate all of you.  We especially appreciate those of you have stuck with us from the beginning.

And we still have several more episodes coming this Spring!  Stay tuned.  I think you will enjoy them.

Historian Yoni Appelbaum Makes a Case for the Impeachment of Donald Trump

If you are a fan of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast, you will remember our interview in Episode 3 with Yoni Appelbaum, historian and IDEAS editor at The Atlantic.  In this piece, Appelbaum makes a case for the impeachment of Donald Trump.  Here is a taste:

The oath of office is a president’s promise to subordinate his private desires to the public interest, to serve the nation as a whole rather than any faction within it. Trump displays no evidence that he understands these obligations. To the contrary, he has routinely privileged his self-interest above the responsibilities of the presidency. He has failed to disclose or divest himself from his extensive financial interests, instead using the platform of the presidency to promote them. This has encouraged a wide array of actors, domestic and foreign, to seek to influence his decisions by funneling cash to properties such as Mar-a-Lago (the “Winter White House,” as Trump has branded it) and his hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue. Courts are now considering whether some of those payments violate the Constitution.

More troubling still, Trump has demanded that public officials put their loyalty to him ahead of their duty to the public. On his first full day in office, he ordered his press secretary to lie about the size of his inaugural crowd. He never forgave his first attorney general for failing to shut down investigations into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, and ultimately forced his resignation. “I need loyalty. I expect loyalty,” Trump told his first FBI director, and then fired him when he refused to pledge it.

Trump has evinced little respect for the rule of law, attempting to have the Department of Justice launch criminal probes into his critics and political adversaries. He has repeatedly attacked both Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Special Counsel Robert Mueller. His efforts to mislead, impede, and shut down Mueller’s investigation have now led the special counsel to consider whether the president obstructed justice.

As for the liberties guaranteed by the Constitution, Trump has repeatedly trampled upon them. He pledged to ban entry to the United States on the basis of religion, and did his best to follow through. He has attacked the press as the “enemy of the people” and barred critical outlets and reporters from attending his events. He has assailed black protesters. He has called for his critics in private industry to be fired from their jobs. He has falsely alleged that America’s electoral system is subject to massive fraud, impugning election results with which he disagrees as irredeemably tainted. Elected officials of both parties have repeatedly condemned such statements, which has only spurred the president to repeat them.

These actions are, in sum, an attack on the very foundations of America’s constitutional democracy.

Read the entire piece here.

Teaching History With Podcasts (#AHA19)

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I am happy to have Matt Lakemacher writing for us this weekend from the annual meeting of the American Historical Association in Chicago.  Matt is one of the most engaged middle school teachers I know.  He teaches at Woodland Middle School in Gurnee, Illinois and is a veteran of numerous summer history seminars and institutes.  Here is his first dispatch:

Can podcasting help to stem the tide of declining enrollment in history departments?  For the panelists and audience members in an opening American Historical Association roundtable today on “History Podcasting as Graduate Students,” the answer was a resounding, if qualified, yes.  Producers and hosts from two historical podcasts, Sexing History and The Way of Improvement Leads Home, gave brief remarks on their experiences with history podcasting and then opened it up for audience members to share the ways that they’ve used podcasts in the classroom and with students.  In the end, it became clear that while podcasting (as well as blogging) might not be the silver bullet that saves history education, it can be another tool in the history teacher’s arsenal to make the subject relevant, keep students’ interest, and in jargon that all K-12 educators know their administrators want to hear: promote 21st century skills.

Two dual themes emerged from the panel: podcasting is good for history and history is good for podcasting.  Each panelist related in one way or another how working on a podcast actually improved their work as grad students and as historians.  According to Saniya Lee Ghanoui, podcasting with Sexing History taught her the importance of story-telling and has greatly improved her dissertation writing.  In a similar vein, Devin McGeehan Muchmore shared how blogging for Notches and working on Sexing History got him to think about ways of narrating the past outside of the traditional historical monograph or journal article.  And Drew Dyrli Hermeling credited his work on The Way of Improvement Leads Home with getting a job at the Digital Harrisburg Project. As a whole, the panel embraced the role that podcasting can play in public history – bringing the past to those outside of the academy (although it was conceded that podcasting is still very much a niche medium and can be somewhat of an echo chamber).  Ghanoui offered some advice to her fellow grad students: “It does take away time from your dissertation . . . but it’s a welcome distraction.”  She added, “I love how collaborative it is . . . it is worth it.”

Hermeling set the table for the audience discussion that followed and the pivot to history being good for podcasting, by sharing how he had students in his J-Term class on indigenous culture at Messiah College create a podcast as one option for a project assignment.  He, as well as the audience, made clear that audio quality and production values should not be heavily weighted on any rubric used for grading such an assignment.  But Hermeling was surprised by the quality of the research and sources that students used in their podcast.  “It’s a good way of tricking them into using a lot of citations.”  One audience member admitted that compared to other assignments, grading student podcasts was a pleasure.  Another said that Wisconsin Public Radio was looking to possibly use some of his students’ short pieces on the air.  And everyone who shared during the session had positive experiences doing a podcasting assignment in class, thought the students were engaged, and plan on doing them again.

So, can podcasting turn around sagging interest in history as a K-12 subject and as a major?  Perhaps the jury is still out.  But if it provides another way of getting students to apply historical thinking skills to a (relatively) new technology and opens another venue for bringing historical literacy to the public at large, then it’s an effort well worth pursuing.  As the roundtable’s chair and host of Sexing History Lauren Gutterman stated, “graduate students are at the forefront of history podcasting,” and for that this history teacher and fellow grad student is grateful.  Of course, as Hermeling put it in one final word of advice for potential history podcasters, “At the risk of being flippant, I’d go the Sexing History route.”

The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast is in Chicago for the AHA

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The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling is in the Windy City for the annual meeting of the American Historical Association.  He will be presenting in about three hours.

AHA Session 14

Thursday, January 3, 2019: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM

Williford B (Hilton Chicago, Third Floor)

Chair:

Lauren Gutterman, University of Texas at Austin

Panel:

Saniya Lee Ghanoui, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Andrew Dyrli Hermeling, Lehigh University

Devin McGeehan Muchmore, Harvard University

Session Abstract

There has been a proliferation of history podcasts that are helping historians to engage in new conversations about the past. Graduate students play a vital role in these podcasts, even as they grapple with speedup in graduate education, precarious job prospects, and uneven professional recognition for their public history work. Yet with an acceptance of the discipline’s movement towards digital history, graduate students are at the forefront of this trend as they create, write, and produce podcasts and public history. Coming from the producers of Sexing History and The Way of Improvement Leads Home, we explore both the practical issues encountered with history podcasting and the academic/theoretical ones, as well. Presenters will discuss the practical concerns of conducting public history work through podcasting while, at the same time, balancing dissertation writing and course work; examine the benefits of becoming involved in public history projects as graduate students; and look at how podcasting can benefit broader career preparation. Furthermore, we will discuss the use of podcasts in the classrooms and how they have aided us in new forms of teaching history. We encourage audience members to participate in the discussion and share their own experiences with history podcasts.

The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast Needs Your Support!

Podcast

As we enter the end of the year, I hope that some of you might find a space for The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast in your holiday budget!  It’s pretty easy to give a one-time gift or an extended pledge of $1 (shilling), $5 (pound), $10 (sterling), or $20 (gold) more a month.  Just head over to our Patreon site for the details.

Season 5 is well underway.  So far we have chatted with:

  • Historian Robert Whitaker on how the past is interpreted in popular video games.  (Coming next week!)
  • Public historian Chris Graham on race, public history, and religious congregations.
  • Arizona State history professor Catherine O’Donnell on Catholic saint Elizabeth Ann Seton.
  • Georgetown University historian Michael Kazin on the history of populism in America.
  • Messiah College historian Paul Putz on “Sportianity
  • University of Virginia historian Nicole Hemmer on race and history in Charlottesville, Virginia.

We already have some great guests lined-up for the rest of the season, including Sam Wineburg and Daniel Rodgers.

And, of course, previous episodes are always available at your favorite podcatcher.  Listen to interviews with:

  • Nancy Tomes on the history of health care in America
  • Annette Gordon Reed and Peter Onuf on Thomas Jefferson
  • Frances Fitzgerald on the history of American evangelicalism
  • R. Marie Griffith on sexual politics and the Christian Right
  • Amy Bass on the thrilling story of the Somali refugees who won a Maine state high school soccer title
  • Erin Bartram on graduate school in history
  • Randall Stephens on Christian rock music

And many, many more!

Thanks so much for your support.  All pledges and one-time donations go directly into the production of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast.

When the Producer of The Way of Improvement Home Podcast Was Desmond Tutu’s Chaplain

If you listened to Episode 42 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast you may recall producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling talking about his experience serving as a “chaplain” to Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

According to the website of the Episcopal Church, a chaplain is “appointed to serve monarchs, bishops, and the nobility.  Some modern bishops, especially primates, have chaplains.  Some bishops use a ‘bishop’s chaplain’ to assist with ceremonies at episcopal services.”

Here is Drew in action:

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You will need to listen to the episode for context.

Don’t Forget The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast in These Final Hours of “Giving Tuesday”

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We are not a non-profit, and I can’t offer a tax break, but if you like our work here at this blog or at The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast please consider a one-time gift or an ongoing patronage.  It’s easy to do and all the instructions can be found at our Patreon page. We are really excited about our next three episodes. They will drop before the end of the year.

And yes, mugs and free signed books (including Believe Me!) are still available!  Drew also tells me that T-shirts and other TWOILH gear is on the way!  Stay tuned!

Don’t Forget the Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast on Small Business Saturday!

Ally Podcast

College students love The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast!

OK, The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast is not a small business (perhaps this post is more fitting for #GivingTuesday), but we could still use your support.  If you like the show, head over to our Patreon page and support us!  We are really excited about our next three episodes that will drop before the end of the year.

And yes, mugs and free signed books (including Believe Me!) are still available!  Drew also tells me that T-shirts and other TWOILH gear is on the way!  Stay tuned!

The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast at Harvard’s “Sound Education” Conference

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The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast co-host and producer Drew Hermeling is in Cambridge, Massachusetts this weekend.  He is doing a presentation on the podcast at Sound Education: A Conference for Educational Podcasts and Listeners.  Harvard University is hosting the event.

Here is a description of his session:

Seeing Early America Everywhere: Connecting Eighteenth-Century History to Unexpected Places with Andrew Hermeling (The Way of Improvement Leads Home)
@ Divinity Hall, Room 106

Colonial Puritans and Colin Kaepernick. Mount Vernon and Mar-a-Lago. Eighteenth-century midwifery and Obamacare. These may seem like odd connections, but in their efforts to prove that #everythinghasahistory, early American historians and podcasters John Fea and Drew Dyrli Hermeling regularly demonstrate that today’s hot-button issues have eighteenth-century antecedents. If you look close enough, you can see early America everywhere.

There are some great podcasters at Harvard this weekend.  Here are a few that caught my attention:

Nate DiMeo of The Memory Palace.  (Listen to our interview with Nate in Episode 6 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast)

Ed O’Donnell of In the Past Lane

Blair Hodges of the Maxwell Institute Podcast

Marshal Poe of New Books Network

Liz Covart of Ben Franklin’s World (Listen to our interview with Liz in Episode 24 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast)

Dan Carlin of Hardcore History

We will try to get Drew to write a report of the conference and post it here.  Stay tuned.

Podcast Conference 1

It looks like Drew is playing to a good crowd

Introducing Abby La Bianca!

Abby LaEpisode 39, the first episode of Season 5 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast, will drop on Sunday.  This is the first episode we cut with our new studio producer Abby La Bianca.

Abby is a senior Broadcast and Media Production major from Westfield, New Jersey.  She is also a very busy woman!  When Abby is not editing podcast episodes, working another part-time job, and taking classes, she is working on the Messiah College tech crew and producing a campus television show.  Last year she spent a semester off campus in Nashville where she studied at the Contemporary Music Center.

Welcome aboard, Abby!  Drop her a note in the comments sections or at one of our social media feeds and welcome her to The Way of Improvement Leads Home team!

Rebecca Onion Interviews Sam Wineburg on Teaching History

WineburgI love this interview at Slate.  It is not only a subject–historical thinking in schools–that I interests me, but both participants in the interview are former guests on The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast.  Sam Wineburg was a guest on Episode 3.  Rebecca Onion was our guest on Episode 12.  (We hope to have Wineburg back this season–stay tuned).

Onion talks to Wineburg about his new book, Why Learn History (When It’s Already on Your Phone).  Here is a taste:

I loved the note you made about the difference between “sounding critical” and thinking critically. President Trump recently said that Google is biased against conservatives. There have been a number of instances of this, where Trump or someone Trump-ish will say something that sounds critical or wise but isn’t. It’s hard because it almost feels like there is an appropriation of the language of critical thinking on the right that makes it hard to explain what the difference might be between that and what we are talking about.

It’s not “almost an appropriation,” it is an appropriation. And in this respect, the work that has influenced me the most is the work by Kate Starbird, an absolutely brilliant internet researcher who studies crisis communication at the University of Washington’s College of Engineering.* And she has a paper that shows that the alt-right has, right there with Alex Jones, has appropriated the language of “Do you have an open mind? Are you an independent thinker? Are you willing to trust your own intelligence to make up your own mind when you review the evidence?”

And so absolutely, this is the language that has been appropriated by the alt-right in particular, these neo-Nazi sites and conspiracy sites that basically say, “The wool is being pulled over your eyes! But you have the power to [pose] thoughtful questions through your own powers of discernment if you have an open mind.” This is the stock-in-trade of propagandists—you can go back and see the same kind of thing in work by Lenin and Goebbels: “You should trust yourself. We’re not going to tell you what to believe, you evaluate the evidence—here is the evidence.”

Read the entire interview here.