The Revolt of the Public with Martin Gurri
Martin Gurri: I am Martin Gurri and I choose truth, as I understand it, over tribe.
Kieth Simon: Are you tired of tribalism?
Speaker 3: I think a lot of what the left supports is satanic.
Speaker 4: The only time religious freedom is invoked is in the name of bigotry and discrimination.
Kieth Simon: Are you exhausted by the culture war?
Speaker 5: If they don't like it here, they can leave.
Speaker 6: You can put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables.
Kieth Simon: Are you suspicious of those who say Jesus endorses their political party?
Speaker 7: Is it possible to be a good Christian, and also be a member of the Republican Party? The answer is, absolutely not.
Speaker 8: From certainly a biblical standpoint, Christians could not vote Democratic.
Patrick Miller: We trust the lamb, not the donkey or the elephant.
Kieth Simon: This is the podcast that's too liberal for conservatives and too conservative for liberals.
Patrick Miller: I'm Patrick Miller.
Kieth Simon: And I'm Keith Simon. And we choose truth over tribe.
Patrick Miller: Do you?
Kieth Simon: Martin Gurri refuses to make predictions. He says the world is just too complicated. The variables are too, well, unpredictable. Would be profits end up looking like fools. So it's highly ironic that in 2014, he published a book in which he accurately predicted the cultural chaos we have been experiencing the past several years. From his perch within the CIA, Gurri saw how the information revolution made possible by the internet was sweeping the globe and turning the public against those in power. Before the internet, information was held by a few people, who were able to speak with great authority to a trusting public. But that's no longer the case. Instead of the elites being able to use their control of information to protect the reputation in power, the internet has exposed and embarrassed them. No one trusts institutions anymore. Most, if not all of them, have lost their credibility. The Revolt of the Public is one of the most interesting books I've read in 2022. Let's talk to the author. Martin Gurri, welcome to Truth Over Tribe.
Martin Gurri: My pleasure.
Kieth Simon: So I've been looking forward to this conversation for a really long time ever since I read your book Revolt of the Public. And there's something about your writing that was almost inaudible. Your book was written in 2014, and I know that you are against predicting things. So you weren't saying you're predicting the future, but at the same time, when I read the book, I thought," Man, this sounds like it was a book written in 2018, not 2014." So I think part of what allowed you to see what was coming in our world is just partly rooted in your personal story. So could we just start there? Where you're from? You're immigrated from Cuba, you worked with the CIA. Help us understand your story a little bit.
Martin Gurri: I was born in Cuba. I came over here as a kid.
Kieth Simon: How old were you?
Martin Gurri: I was 11. So I already had experienced, by the age of 11, a right- wing dictatorship and a left- wing dictatorship. And that's imprinted in you, by the way, once you learn to sort of smell out what tyranny feels like. You never forget.
Kieth Simon: So the right- wing dictatorship is under Batista, right? And so he was elected, if I understand my Cuban history right, and correct me if I get it wrong, but he was elected in'40 and ruled for four years. And then he was the CIA's back dictator from'52 to'59 in Cuba until he was overthrown. Is that right?
Martin Gurri: Yeah. He had nothing to do with CIA. He basically ran out of money and then decided to come back and make some more. That's my very earliest memory of being told by my parents," Don't look out the window, that's going to be a shootout." Right? And that was the day that Batista took over the government. Of course, I looked out the balcony. You're kid, you can't resist, Right?
Kieth Simon: Right.
Martin Gurri: And what struck me was the opposite of what I expected. I expected. This is the kind of movie thing where we was shooting at everybody. And in fact, the street below my apartment building, which was usually teaming with human beings was deserted because everybody was home not looking at the windows. So that's my very earliest memory. He was essentially a gangster. He had risen from the military, a non- com, he was a Sergeant and basically eliminated the officer class and become a Generalissimo. And like you say, he won in 1940 under rules that pretty much guaranteed he was going to win. Then left and actually Cuban democracy became not uncorrupt. It was pretty corrupt in terms of money. But it was, I think, honest in terms of its electoral integrity. And in 1952, he came back and just pushed all that aside. The military were basically in his pocket.
Kieth Simon: So that was the right- wing dictatorship that you experienced. And then in 59, he's overthrown and Fidel Castro rises to power. And what happened in Cuba? How was the left- wing dictatorship different than the right- wing?
Martin Gurri: It was very different. The right- wing dictatorship was a political dictatorship. There were things you weren't allowed to say. And as a kid, of course you're told, if you say these things, nothing's going to happen to you, but they'll take your parents and put them in jail. So imagine growing up with that kind of fear in your heart, the left- wing dictator was a total dictatorship. In other words, you could not escape it. You would pick up your phone and slogans would start pouring at you. You would look out the door and there would be a militia, outpost being built. You would wander around there'd people with guns, looking at you, always the same slogans, always the same. You could not escape it. The newspapers got shut down while I was there. All the industries were nationalized. The government became everything. Everything in a way that Batista who was just a gangster who wanted money never was interested in doing.
Kieth Simon: So you then come to the United States when you were 11 and you spend the rest of your life here. At some point you get into the CIA and you rise to a position where you're kind of working. I think if I understand it right, looking and examining media all around the world. So how did you get in the CIA and what exactly was your job?
Martin Gurri: I mean, my going to CIA is a bizarre story. Then that will be labored. Let's just say that there was actually an ad in the newspaper placed by CIA that went through about a dozen hands. That ended in my wife's hands, not mine. Who said, you should apply for this? And I said, CIA, what are you talking about? Look at me. Do I look like CIA? And she said, well try it. I said, well, I haven't done it. And she said, I will write your resume for you and my wife, if you ever want to move ahead in life, call my wife, she'll write your resume and you will get there. So I got the job basically when I started out, it was a very simple job in the sense that you have no idea how little open information there was in my early days as an analyst.
Kieth Simon: What year is this approximately?
Martin Gurri: I was a Reagan baby. So it was, I want to say 81, maybe 82. I forget. CIA had been reamed out pretty badly under Jimmy Carter for some reason. And one of Reagan's really priority missions was to restore the organization. So it was a tidal wave of us that were Reagan babies. And at that time, like I said, the information world was fairly simple, straightforward. There just wasn't very much information. You'd be amazed, very developed countries like France had one TV network, right. And boring stuff And boring mean boring, deadly, boring. I mean, we had three and then public TV. So we were way ahead of the world. We had four networks. Okay. So you talk about the book being prescient. And I always get accused of having predicted things that was like standing on a very high platform, looking out at the media world, seeing things that most people could not see, really because of just the altitude. It wasn't just me. It was many of us who were standing on that platform, watching the world. And it came that moment fairly sudden where everything went haywire, everything just went haywire. We were used to having these very straightforward newspapers that were authoritative and we knew where to go. And president would ask for, how are my policies playing? Well, you go to this newspaper in this country, you go to that newspaper in that country. Suddenly it's like, there was what I called the information tsunami. There was this digital earthquake. And I'm guessing the epicenters somewhere around Palo Alto, right? That stirred up this information tsunami with volumes that were unprecedented in human experience. And if you read the book, you know that's not just words, that's the volume of information that people have attempted to measure started doubling around the year 2001 and has continued more or less to do so. And as I was standing there and that very privileged platform that was at first as an analyst, you're going like, okay, what am I to do with all information? I was used to having very nice, cozy understanding of what was authoritative and what was not authoritative, and just to go to the authoritative stuff. There's now millions of sources in countries that had one or two. And the answer, my intelligence answer may be there, right? To me, it was a professional dilemma, but then it became very clear that what would really matter was the effects of this information. Tsunami. The fact that behind the tsunami, as different countries, digitized at different rates, we could see ever increasing levels of social and political turbulence.
Kieth Simon: So this is kind of what you started to see happening around the world is this proliferation of information, which we're going to get into here in just a second in more detail. But then you start to see the Arab spring happen and other movements around the world that start to rise up. And it's kind of maybe this age of populism, people have different names for it, but what are some of the common threads you saw around the world that alerted you to we're in a different place than we've ever been?
Martin Gurri: Essentially two things, two major developments, totally related, okay. And cost and effect interacting very deeply. One is the rise of what I call the public now what you have to understand. People tend to think of the public as the people. It's not the people, it's not the masses. It's very rarely even the crowd on the street, even though in the day of the cell phone, the public and the crowd have this very intimate relationship. It's complicated, like Facebook would say. The public essentially is many. It's not one, it's an online digital culture, fractures opinion. It's like a fallen mirror. We used to all live in this mass information world. We were mass consumers of information. We all were looking at each other in this gigantic mirror in which we were all reflected, that mirror has toppled shattered and the public lives on the broken pieces. Right. So what has been manifested and we could go into the reasons which are problematic to explain, but the public is angry.
Kieth Simon: What are they angry about?
Martin Gurri: Let's put that aside for the moment.
Kieth Simon: Okay.
Martin Gurri: Because the key thing is it is angry and that's demonstrable why it's problematic. Okay. And being angry at the institutions of government and the institutions of society, it wants to strike at them being divided. It can't unify. It can't mobilize except in the act of repudiation. So if you are in a country like Egypt or you're repudiating Hosni Mubarak right. So that's not a bad thing to be repudiating, but you're in Chile in 2019, you're repudiating, democracy and capitalism and everything that has made that country prosperous and free for the last 25 years. Right. Seems to make no difference between dictatorships and democracies, very healthy democracies like Chile's. It's the repudiation of modern government as such. And because the public is so fractured, it can't put forward an alternative vision. When a vision is put forward, immediately things begin to disintegrate the crowd interior square, that could overthrow Mubarak. But if you looked at that crowd and you analyzed who was there, you had socialists, you had normal Egyptians who were mildly religious. You had the Muslim brotherhood youth. You had all kinds of activist groups. If you had asked them, okay, now you've overthrown Mubarak. So now what do we do? They would've disintegrated into a babble of hostile voices. So what happened in Egypt? Well, first the Muslim brotherhood took over and then Egyptian army took very old fashioned hierarchical institutions swept aside the public and all that battle of voices. So that's the one phenomenon. The rise to the public made possible entirely by digital platforms. The other one is what I call the crisis of authority, which is that our institutions are 20th century institutions essentially were constructed in that old era that I happened to participate in that I was telling you about where information was very thin on the ground. And these institutions sort of had a semi monopoly of the flow of information. And it turns out that without that semi monopoly, they go into crisis. They lapse into crisis. They lose their legitimacy in the eyes of the public in the old days, government would say, thanks. I mean, one of my favorite examples is John F. Kennedy basically sends a bunch of Cubans, the anti Castro, Cubans into the bay of pigs, a strange decision disastrous. So it's very early in his administration that was CIA organized for sure. And it was his decision and he made it that it was a bad decision. And he stood up and said, well, I am the responsible party. Those are his words. And the next day the poll said that his popularity had increased by like 10% and trust the government was like an 80%. Okay. Those are the old days they controlled the narrative. The story was pretty much in the hands of the elites who control the institutions. Today the elites are essentially in a state of panic and the story is their failure. Elite failure pretty much sets the information agenda. So we know every misjudgment that is made by politicians or by actors or every failed prediction, every self interested move that ends with money in your hands, every sexual escapade. Every disgraceful thing that happens is known, exposed and talked about endlessly. So you have this hemorrhage of trust in the institutions and hostility towards the elites who manage them and all that is, I mean, you can just look at the polls, it's empirically demonstrable.
Kieth Simon: So we had an error in the past in which a few people or a few institutions controlled the information and they were able to present the information they wanted to the public. But then when the digital age comes, all that is fractured. And so now there isn't one cohesive message. Now everybody with a cell phone or a laptop has the opportunity to put out their own message. And so instead of having a cohesive piece of information, now it's all fractured and the elites can't control that. So now they are under a crisis of authority at the same time, the people who have rebelled against it, whether you see that in Tahrir Square or in Occupy Wall Street or in Black Lives Matter, or in Chile, like you said, wherever, they all have kind of this common thing in that they're against something, but they can't really figure out what they're for. They each have something they're for, it's just that they don't work together. What binds them together is what they're against. And so that's kind of what we see today is that institutions are being torn down, that people lack trust in their government. They lack trust in the media. They lack trust in their public health officials, whatever it is. And so I want to unpack all that a little bit more as we talk, let's go back. So the title of the book is Revolt of The Public. And you said the public, isn't the masses, it's, I guess you're saying bands of people or groups of people who have an agenda. I'm not exactly sure who the public is, but who is it that they're against? I took my definition of the public from Walter Lippmann, who was one of the smartest man to write American society. And it's essentially any group of people who, as Lippmann puts it is interested in a particular affair. And so yeah, they banned around a single issue or something strikes them if you are the yellow vest in France, for example, you'll find that the trigger for these eruptions of the public are not the causes because the triggers seem very trivial. Emmanuel Macron President of France raises the price of diesel fuel by a few pennies. And suddenly he's got people swarming into Paris, vandalizing monument, and burning banks. Okay. If you had looked into that group, the yellow vest, they had been gathering on Facebook for months in what they called, anger groups, groupes de colere. I love that. And just basically yelling and screaming about Macron and how terrible he was. And somehow those few pennies on diesel fuel was the trigger that sent them into the streets. Very similar, everything in Chile. So they basically gather around some issue, some question, but the impulses total is not just, I want this change. And you find that the public will not take yes for an answer. One of the very first things macro did when this revolt erupted was to reduce the tax on diesel back to the old levels. No, not good enough anymore. That really is not what they're about. They're about battering away at the institutions battering away at the elites. And obviously if you are not putting forward an alternative, this can easily become what I call nihilism, which is the belief that destruction is a form of progress. So the public, these bands of people who form around an issue, they're angry at their institutions because those institutions have failed them, have lied to them, have let them down in some way. And I think that in the book, you do a good job of explaining that the institutions have lost credibility in the age of information. You already alluded to it. But in 2001, we had a doubling of the information of all 2000 years prior to 2001. And then in 2002, it all doubled again. Now I think our first instinct is to say, Hey, having more information is a good thing. It prevents insiderism, it creates transparency. So I think that when we think of the public, having more information. C- SPAN goes in 1979 to start filming what happens in the United States house of representatives. And we cheer that on and we think that's a good thing, but there are, I guess, some costs to the public having information, right? There are some costs of too much information. What are the costs?
Martin Gurri: I do think that there are many, many good things about this, by the way, I don't want ever to be put in the position of saying that this is a disaster. I mean, for example, Barack Obama just gave a speech on disinformation about a week ago, and he sounded like he wanted to go back to watching I dream of Jeannie on television. And I mean, literally he talked about that watching Walter Cronkite give us the news. No, I don't think that. The cost is as follows. The cost is structural. We have institutions that were structured around a very limited flow of information. We have institutions that are essentially 20th century institutions and you and I look at us, I mean, I don't know where you are. You asked me where I was, but otherwise you would not know we're talking across distances through this medium of the internet at the speed of light, the public moves at the speed of light in the 21st century. The government is stuck in the 20th century and is this ponderous, parametal, hierarchical, slow moving and the public demands that well, if Amazon can put a product on my doorstep in two days or a day, why can't the government deliver services in a way that is parallel to that, right?
Kieth Simon: Everybody asked that question. I mean, the modern corporation has become so efficient, so effective. They work so smart. They take advantage of technology. And I think it was a few years ago when we tried to roll out the new healthcare website, it was an utter disaster. If that had happened in the private sector, everybody would've been fired the next day. And, and it just would've never, ever happened in the first place. So people have expectations of their government that the government, I guess, can't live up to.
Martin Gurri: Well, I mean, listen, I was in the government and it just is astounding how alien to the people inside the government, who, by the way, most of them tend to be exceedingly brilliant. Certainly if anything, overeducated, right? These are people who are not dumb. They're people were quite the opposite, extremely smart. And yet it's a tremendous cultural shift and it's like a foreign language. It doesn't matter how smart you or I are. If you start speaking to me in Mandarin Chinese, I'm not going to understand a word you're saying, right. Well, digital is a foreign language to government for some reason. And my take honestly, is that there is a self interested move in that it is very comfy at the top in a 20th century type hierarchy. It is very comfy up there. You give commands, everybody follows, your turf gets big as you go up in a flatter society, you're going to be far closer to the public, you're going to have a lot more interactions with people who you're going to find disagreeable. Your authority's going to be watered down. No question about it. You're not going to be sir anymore. You're just going to be another person in a flat landscape and the elites for reasons that I consider to be very self interested. And I think peculiar to the actual human quality of the people that we have now are not interested. This is what I consider to be a very mediocre to poor elite class. They don't have what it takes and they don't have the will to make the leap into the digital age. I mean, there is absolutely no reason. There absolutely no reason why government shouldn't be flatter and faster in the digital age, but the elites not interested in going there.
Kieth Simon: Well, you mentioned in the book how you could even tell by the names that we give our institutions like the National Broadcasting Corporation, NBC. The New York Times, Bank of America, compared to what we name things today, Yahoo, Google, Twitter, Flicker is just a more casual approach. It's not these grand institutions making these big announcements. Like they were maybe in the'50s,'60s in a different era than we live in. So our institutions squandered their credibility and you make the argument that they squandered the credibility because as we got more information, we kind of found that the emperor had no clothes on that they weren't as in control or as smart as maybe we hoped that they were. One of the things that you talk about is kind of the way information is now in the hands of the average individual. And that has put the corporations, the Titans, the CEOs, the Presidents, whatever their title is kind of on notice that they're not in charge anymore. And we've seen that play out recently in a couple different ways that at Disney in Florida, the employees revolted against the corporation and demanded that Disney speak out on this Florida bill. The same thing happened at Netflix where Dave Chappelle had his comedy routine, Netflix broadcast it. And there were some Netflix employees who revolted. Now it turns out that both of these groups, both at Netflix and at Disney, that revolted were pretty small compared to the overall number of employees. And yet they were able to yank the chain of the C- suite. So how does that happen? How does it happen that these individuals gain so much power over the CEOs?
Martin Gurri: First of all, I don't think those are revolts of the public. Those are tantrums of the elites.
Kieth Simon: The tantrums of the elite.
Martin Gurri: Yes, these are all elite individuals. They just happen to be lower down on the corporate ladder than the top elites, but they're all in elite institutions. This happen also in New York Times basically feels like every six weeks they have a revolt from below and some new mandate comes down. So it happens because there has been a reaction against the revolt of the public. These individuals, these tantrums of the elites are actually representative of a counter revolution against the revolt of the public. They want to shut down this debate. They want to put tight boundaries about what can be said. They don't like this world in which everything goes. And in which this information tsunami is battering the elites. And if you ask why the CEOs invariably cave it's because they're in a panic, they are in a panic. They do believe that these young people represent the public represent virtue let's put it that way. And the idea that, okay, I'm a CEO with a responsibility for my investors, my stakeholders, all that suddenly just goes out the window to no, no, no. I'm going to have to start saying strange things about sexuality, which if you are a entertainer for children and young adults, like this is supposed to be, it's the last area you want to be treading on, right? You just want to keep your mouth shut about that. So, no, I think there has been for a couple of years, particularly because of the pandemic, it seemed to work. There has been a counter reactionary movement by the elites, trying to shut down this ability of the public to kind of swarm around and to create barriers. For example, in social media, blah, blah, blah can be said, and can't be said, I never thought it would be successful. And it seems to be breaking down already.
Kieth Simon: Okay. So that's interesting. I like the way you spun that. I think I had not had the right category. So you see the employees at Disney and at Netflix, they are part of the elite because they're in these elite institutions, they have credibility, they have power. They have probably a good education behind them. And they are turning against the public who has proposed in the Florida case that the public's representatives had this law that the state legislature and governor had signed. And in Netflix case, there was this really popular comedy show that everybody was watching. And the elites in the institution down further on the totem pole than say the CEO, they didn't like that. They don't want what the public wants. So they're going to try to shut the public down. And the way they're going to do that is threaten their bosses. And they have the power, I guess only because the bosses don't say, okay, well then you're fired, right? I mean, it's not like they have some sort of institutional authority. Their authority comes from this fear that their disgruntled employees are going to gin up a lynch mob to come after them. So I guess that's why I thought it was the public revolt because they were trying to garner support online in order to go after these corporate CEOs. But you've kind of got this different take on it. I think that's interesting.
Martin Gurri: Yeah. And I mean, nothing is pure, right. There are hybrids and you might call them as sort of a hybrid development, but the true revolt of the public, and this is so across cultures and national borders is never organized, never organized. It never has a single organization with a hierarchy in it. It has no leaders. Anybody who stands up says, I'm a leader of this immediately gets taken down. It has no positive programs. And that right there is different from that. And number four, it lacks coherent ideologies. It's big on slogans, big on slogans. The internet is wonderful. It's like this slogan machine, right? This meme and slogan machine, it just keeps producing, keeps producing it. But there's a gigantic difference between defund the police, for example, and a coherent ideology of race.
Kieth Simon: We'll get back to the show in just a second, but let's say you're somebody who wants to watch instead of listen. YouTube is your thing more than podcast. The great thing. If you go to our YouTube channel, you get video clips of the best segments of our podcast. So you don't get all of Patrick's boring questions.
Patrick Miller: Come on, man.
Kieth Simon: Just the good stuff that he asked the guest. So go to YouTube and search Truth Over Tribe. So you write in the book, lasting authority resides in institutions. And recently there was a Supreme court draft opinion leaked to the public. And as of the time we're having this conversation, we don't know how Roe versus Wade will actually be settled. All we know is that this draft opinion has circulated. It looks like it will be overturned, but nobody knows for sure. And it's interesting the reaction to that, a guy who writes for Vox named Ian Millhiser, he writes on the court for Vox. He said the leaker attitude, whoever that was, and I don't know who it is, but the leaker attitude just kind of let's F it let's just burn the place down. Where does that hatred for the institutions come from? That would cause someone inside the court to turn against their better interest, probably to say, I'm going to expose my institution. I'm going to burn it down. Where does that anger come from? Because we see it everywhere. Right? We see this defund, the police, like you mentioned earlier, we see it in a lot of places. So where does that desire to burn down the institution come from?
Martin Gurri: That's a very profound question. And I can give you kind of like a 30, 000 foot altitude answer.
Kieth Simon: Great.
Martin Gurri: I think it varies a lot, obviously from specific to specific, but if you look across there have been dozens of these eruptions of the public and they seem to have just like, they have very similar characteristics that I just listed. You know, no leadership, no organization. There's also generic focus for their anger. I think number one is they hate the distance that 20th century hierarchies imposed on a 21st century democracy. Right? So how many levels are there? I've asked this question to many people, nobody can give you an answer, but I can tell you the answer is very many. How many levels are there between you and the president of the United States? I mean, dozens, maybe hundreds, right? What's the point of that? Almost any organization, any institution that has its origin in the 20th century, that's almost all of them for us. The leadership, the elites disappear into the clouds. And I think the public feels, and maybe rightly that we are all after all fellow citizens. And here's what happens. I elect you to be my representative. Well, you look just like me. You sound just like me. I like you. You go to Washington suddenly you're wearing a different suit. Suddenly you're using different words. Suddenly you're trying to get those people in Washington to like you don't care about me anymore. You seem to be now engulfed in this elite world in which each one of you are trying to outdo each other in being nice and flattering each other and saying these weird words. So there's a sense of spiritual, almost distance between the ordinary citizen and sometimes ordinary people who get extraordinary jobs like becoming representatives say. And I think there's a whole lot of truth to the fact that our culture absorbs the elites and immediately teaches them to speak in ways that are very distorted and very unnatural in the 20th century that was expected. If you looked at Walter Cronkite, as I did when I was young, and he will tell you with a big voice, and that's the way it is on may 12, 2022, you went, oh yeah, yeah, yeah. In retrospect you think about it, you go, nobody talks like that. Right? Well, the heck talks that way. Right? That's a very artificial bizarre way. It's kind of like the robes of authority. Right. And what's happened with digital ages. The robes have been stripped and you realize just because you have a big voice doesn't mean you're smart or know what has happened on this particular day. Right? So I would say this distance is one thing that probably is grounded. At least in some empirical reality, the other one is failure. They absolutely believe that the elites have failed them. And they don't think it's because the elites are incompetent, but because they're corrupt, I think the failure is not a question of, they don't know what they're doing. They know what they're doing. They're feathering their own nest.
Kieth Simon: Okay. Let's talk about that. I think you're right. That the institution squandered their authority when they stopped working for the common interest when they started working for self- interest, when they started to lie or started to use their position as a platform. So we'd say, Hey, we're sending our representative, our Senator to Washington to change Washington. But what happened is that Washington changed them and they became more interested in getting invited to the elite cocktail party than doing what was best for the constituents back home. There's so many areas. Let's just take politics. Say on that for just another moment. It seems like that the way you get elected is to say you're the outsider. And it's a weird thing because I wanted to project myself as the outsider. But what I really want to do is hold this office that is very insiderish. So you have president Obama he was a community organizer and community organizers are ralliers right. They get people motivated behind a common issue in a community. And then he is a first term Senator when he launches his campaign to run. So he runs as the outsider. And that gives way to president Trump. Who's the ultimate outsider. It's almost as if we wanted him to be president because he had no government experience. So it's one thing though, to run as an outsider. It's another thing to then govern as an outsider, because what happens is these people get in power and then they turn around and critique the government that they're in charge of, help us understand. Why is that appeal as the outsider? Why does that work in American society? And what does that tell us about ourselves?
Martin Gurri: Well, I mean, that's new. I think if you look at the revolt of the public, it manifests itself politically in two broad forms, I would say the first one is what I said before, which is the eruption of crowds of people into the streets, protesting, essentially everything. Okay. In terms of their dislike of the institutions, the other one is populism, which is what you're talking about, which is politicians who tap into this impulse for repudiation for their own ends. And that's a hard acted poll. I actually think Trump and Obama, both in their very different ways, did a real good job of keeping their consistencies, believing that they were on the side of the angels. But most people have trouble with that. The closest to a person who has been on the streets, protesting actually achieving power in all the time, since the Arab spring began, the cycle of protests is Gabriel Boric. He's the President of Chile. He literally was one of the leading forces in the protest that began in 2019 in Chile. And over through the constitution there that had actually granted them a very healthy democracy with alternating left and right party and a booming economy. They had actually entered a club of rich nations, but somehow or another, these protesters thought that wasn't good enough. And about two months ago, they had an election and Gabriel Boric, leader of the protesters got elected. Today his popularity's crashing because he's standing there in his presidential palaces going well. I was against things and I was going to transform everything. I was going to change everything. And this guy's sincere. It's not like he's selling out. He just doesn't have an idea in his head, A. What he means by transformation or B. How the hell he's going to go about it. If he had an idea and his lack of understanding has become so apparent that his popularity within two months, I mean, two months, he's like in the twenties and thirties percent, it's like Biden.
Kieth Simon: So it's not hard to rally people to be against something. But then you're kind of the dog that caught the car. What are you going to do? Okay. Now I got elected to this office. What am I going to do? But imagine for a moment, choosing a doctor like you might choose a president. Can you imagine a doctor getting very far? If they said, I really don't know anything about medicine. I'm kind of against medicine, but if you make me your doctor, I will transform your health. And it just doesn't make sense. We wouldn't do that. Say with an airplane pilot, we wouldn't want somebody with no experience. But when it comes to being president, all of a sudden, we want somebody who's an outsider to the institutions who don't know how the institutions work, who don't value the institutions. Then they get elected and surprise, surprise, they don't know how to work within the institutions to get anything done. So we have this horrible cycle where we elect people who almost by definition are not going to be able to accomplish what we want them to accomplish. And then throw that in that they're all over promising. They're promising the moon. They can't deliver it. Like you just decided the gentleman you were just talking about. And now everybody turns against him because he can't do what he promised. It's a bad cycle, but let's move to public health for a moment. It seems like the public health institution has taken a big hit in the last couple years with COVID. Can you walk us through what the issues were, why we started out trusting public health and why now very few people trust what their public health officials tell them.
Martin Gurri: If you are an elite in politics, in the bureaucracy in Washington, D. C and COVID was coming. I mean, and I don't mean this in a bloody- minded way. Okay. But every issue, no matter how built with human tragedy in politics is ultimately political, right? So if you are an elite in Washington, D. C, and you see COVID, what are you looking at? Well, you're looking at a lever of authority. You're now have realized that, oh, I have squandered my authority, the public didn't trust me, but now I have a whole new pillar I can lean on. It's called science. And here I've got Anthony Fauci who has said himself. I represent science. So he's wrapped himself in this Toga, this Toga of authority saying I represent science. And you know, honestly at stake, in my opinion, this is hard to prove empirically. But I would say in my opinion, there was more than specific policies involved like lockdowns and the vaccine mandates. I think what was at stake was the public's habit of obedience that had gone missing during the Trump years. And I think they saw in COVID a tool of authority. And by the way, it worked, we were all terrified. So we were told, stay home, we stayed home. We were told, wash your hands, we washed our hands. We were told, wear those masks on the airplane. And believe me, I wore a mask for 18 hours going to Vienna Austria. We all did it. We obeyed. Okay. I think when you see the fuss that was made, when Judge Mizelle basically nullified the mask mandate for airplanes, which was all out of proportion, this is just a ruling about masks. Okay. And there was this immense brouhaha about that in which they called her a 35 year old and a Trump appointed activist and this and that and the other, they basically said she had no right to make that decision it's because the elites felt there was a tremendous loss of authority in the two years that this pandemic has lasted. The tsunami of information has worked its unhappy effects on our health officials. So they have been heard to say one thing and the opposite. And in the old days, that kind of was enlighted today. Well, you were telling us, I mean, Fauci literally said there would be no need to stay home within three weeks. He was saying, we need for the entire nation to lock down three weeks of that, right? He said, masks are not important and should be a left first care people. Then he said, no, everybody has to wear masks in public spaces. Well, one or the other has to be true. But if you are science and you have a monopoly on truth, you can't have truth in its opposite. Right? So I think all that is exposed in an environment of enormous, almost infinite information. And I think as time went on and these contradictions repeated and repeated and repeated, it became apparent that it was more at stake within these people. That Fauci is using as a representative of more at stake than health, there was politics. And there was that sense of authority. You know, him standing and saying, I represent science and that's why I'm being criticized. And the rest of you are just a bunch of medievalist, feudalist yahoos and to listen to what I have to say, you look at Fauci, who is he? Right. He's just a gigantic bureaucrat. I mean that's what the man is. He's at the top of this gigantic pyramid. And that pyramid suffers from all the pathologies that 20th century hierarchies suffer in the 21st century. They're too slow. They're too ponderous. They're pretentious. They're accreditation obsessed. They're like a little club that ganged together against outsiders. They hate amateurs. All of that. You can say about a moment when, what we needed was open thinking, which we got in certain places I think including vaccine development, we did not get that from our health institutions. I don't believe.
Kieth Simon: Yeah. It seems like that science can change its mind, but they have to be able to show why they changed their mind. In other words, science changes their mind because they get new data, they get new information. And so I think it's probably not that big of a deal that Fauci changed his mind. It's just that he changed his mind so quickly. And in the absence of a reason data to show why you changed your mind, it looks like it is about control and authority, especially when you come out and say, well, okay, I wasn't really telling the whole truth there. That was kind of what you might think of as a noble lie that I told people not to get masks because I didn't want a run on them. And I wanted the healthcare professionals to have them.
Martin Gurri: Yeah. And I think it's worse than that too. I think we have inherited from a 20th century, a peculiar kind of rhetoric, which our leads are very good at which at any given moment, they sound absolutely 100% certain that this is the platonic truth, right? I am now giving you. So if they had said originally, we think this is a way to go scientifically, that's the way to talk. Of course, science is organized uncertainty as opposed to some other fields where you start with your certainties and work from that science begins with uncertainty. But our elites have inherited this rhetorical turn from the 20th century in which they think that they're expected to speak with absolute certainty. So when you speak of absolute certainty about a thing and it's opposite it jars, it jars.
Kieth Simon: Yes.
Martin Gurri: So it's not just that you change your mind. Anybody can change your mind and you should change your mind if you're a scientist, it's that you originally sounded like you knew what you were talking about and that just, this is it. And then 6 or 10 weeks later, you were saying the opposite in an equally strong convincing way. You can't do that. I mean, it's got to be one or the other.
Kieth Simon: No, I totally agree. I think I'd vote for anybody who came out and said, well, here's what I think based on what I know now, but information's going to come in and I'm going to respond to that new information or if asked their opinion on something, I would love it. If we had somebody said, well, I'm not sure. I don't know. But everybody speaks as if they are very confident. They know. And then in the face of a pandemic where information is changing day by day, you're going to be made to look like a fool. If you speak authoritatively too frequently, you better make sure that you have the data to show why you are saying what you're saying. So I want to move real quick to elections because I think that's something that both sides are eroding trust in our elections. And I'm very concerned about this particular issue. And people think of it as something that's new or recent. It's not, I mean, all the way back in 2000, when the Bush, Gore election, you had the hanging chads in Florida. And a lot of people said, look, George Bush is not our real president. They thought he was somewhat illegitimate. Then you had president Obama and people are questioning him because of birth certificate. And where was he really born? Is he really an American? And that was one of many lies that were spreading about him. Then you have Trump and Russia. Look, Russia really is the one who elected Trump. He's not legitimate. You have Stacey Abrams going around in Georgia saying that she's the Governor, even though she lost by 50, 000 votes, but there was voter fraud. You have president Trump saying the election was stolen from him in 2020 in spite of no evidence that the election was stolen whatsoever. You have Joe Biden recently saying that if the voting rights act he was proposing before Congress was not passed, that we were not going to be able to trust the elections in 2022. So we have the elites turning on something that's really important that Americans trust their elections. You can't find something probably more important than that we trust the elections to be free and fair. And here are the elites turning against them, eroding trust, eroding their own authority. So you say they're not dumb. That must mean they're calculating. Is it just self- interest that's driving them to do this. Is there more to it?
Martin Gurri: They're not dumb. They're not calculating either. All right. It's like I said, the smartest person in the wrong setting is going to look confused. You speak Mandarin Chinese to me, I'm going to look confused. The world is speaking Mandarin Chinese to our American elites and to the elites around the world. So they are confused. They are very confused. The issue over elections has to do with a more profound divide, I guess, which is that both sides fundamentally believe that the elites are illegitimate and that they rig everything right? And the elites fundamentally believe that those people who ride the public to power like Trump are fundamentally illegitimate, because they have lied their way to where they are. Again, go back to that speech by Obama, that speech of Obama is like somebody should put in a museum because it's like a perfect way of looking at our contemporary elites. The speech was about disinformation. Okay. What has been the most successful disinformation campaign in the last, 10 years? Well, I think it was the Hillary Clinton people sticking Russia and colluding on Trump with a special council haven't been appointed that lasted two years until the Mueller report said, no, there was nothing to this. This was a hollow shell. It was empty of content for two years, that disinformation campaign was rolling along and thousands of articles, literally thousands of articles published in the New York Times alone about this in each one of one, Trump being culpable Obama never mentions this in his speech. He does not see that as this information, this information for him is what they used to call. When you were the Monarch, you were not supposed to be insulted. This information for him is anything that hurts the ruling progressive elites. And he just doesn't see, simply does not see that the other side has the exact mirror image of the elites projecting this information. So the fundamental divide is the issue. The elections just reflect that
Kieth Simon: One thing I've wondered about for the last few years, I don't hear too many people talking about it. I'm curious what your thoughts are relates to our political parties. And I'm wondering if there's a reorganization of those that is happening. Here's what I see. I see that president Trump and Bernie Sanders have a common message. I mean, they're very different. They don't like each other. They mock each other, but they both have this common message and their message is the system is rigged. The little guy is being overlooked. The elites are taking advantage of you. And I can almost see a day in which Trump and Sanders no time soon, but sometime in the future where they are part of the same political party. And then someone like Hillary Clinton and Paul Ryan, the former speaker of the house from Wisconsin are in the same political party because they are the highly educated, they're the elites that believe in the meritocracy. Do you see some sort of restructuring happening in our political parties like that where populism kind of has its own party like you might see in other countries? Or do you think that the public's inability to be for a positive agenda will keep that from coming to pass?
Martin Gurri: I would say the weight of history works against that. We Americans and maybe for good reasons, tend to be very conservative about messing with our political parties. I think the way to look at it is as follows. I think politically we are fractured. We're very fractured. There are multiple war bands that roam the zone of perpetual conflict, both online and electorally. But when you get to the elections, we can't be fractured. We're just divided because all the war bands get squeezed into one of two mega tribes, right? And of course the dynamic of the war bands is such that any one of them can defect at any moment. So any majority is basically on a Razor's edge, flipping back and forth, right? So I think that dynamic is going to continue. I think the way you win today is by assembling enough war bands inside your party, that you get a majority of the presidential election of the electoral college. And so you have to be wide enough to be able to bring in enough war band to say, yeah, you're a man and that's not easy. And what happens for example, to Joe Biden is he had several groups of people that voted for him that were not particularly natural Democrats or progressives or whatever who have bailed because once you get to office and you start with a positive program, people are saying, that's not what I elected you for.
Kieth Simon: Yeah. It makes sense that when you're running against a candidate. So if you're the out party, it doesn't matter which one it is. It's easier to focus on overthrowing the end party, right? Voting them out of office.
Martin Gurri: Yes.
Kieth Simon: So if you are the Republicans, now you can rally around the idea that we need to replace the Biden administration. But as soon as the next Republican administration comes, they'll have the same problems is that all those war bands will begin to split off and have their own agenda. And so the Republicans won't be able to enact a positive agenda, but the Democrats, if they're the out party then will all rally around replacing that administration. And we are in this endless cycle where it's easier to be against something than for something or easier to build a coalition around what you're against instead of what you're for. Let's talk for a second about how we can repair our institutions, repair the trust in our institutions, if that's even possible. In 1969, Daniel, Patrick Moynihan who you'll know is the Senator from New York famous Senator from New York. But before he was a Senator, he worked and a lot of people don't know this, but he worked for president Nixon. And so he sent a memo to Nixon when Nixon was president elect, this is in early 1969. And so he says this in one form or another, all of the major domestic problems facing you, meaning president Nixon derived from the erosion of the authority of the institutions of American society. This is a mysterious process of which the most that can be said is that once it starts, it tends not to stop. So back in 1969, Moynihan is saying, look, the trust in American institutions is decaying it's eroding. And once that starts, we don't know exactly how to stop it. Well imagine what's happened since that memo was written. I mean, you have the whole Watergate crisis, the Vietnam into Vietnam. I mean, we could go on and on of all the other things that have come along that have eroded the trust of Americans in their institutions. So in light of that, what would you say if you were king for the day, if you got an audience with the elite, if you had an audience with the institutions, what would be some things you would tell them about how they can repair themselves and regain the trust of the public?
Martin Gurri: Well, the first thing I'd say is you're fired right? And bring in the next crowd. Okay.
Kieth Simon: Okay. A younger crowd maybe or a different crowd?
Martin Gurri: I mean, I am a baby, but we're proud of it, but let's get some fresh blood into high places. I would say part of what we were talking about earlier, speak humbly, do not pretend you know things you do not know, be courageous, don't crumble when you get these little eruptions from below the demand that you take extreme positions, stick to what you believe in. But then I would say, and I've been saying this and nobody listens, so I have no hope that everybody will. Our politics today are not about policy issues. All the fights happen on policy issues, but almost all policy issues tend to be symbolic of this larger fight of the revolt of the public and the crisis of authority. I think we need to reconfigure the federal government and make it more like, mean, I'm not saying that you could do the same thing at this perfect parallel, more like Amazon and less like the great pyramid of Egypt, right? So our issues, no matter what are going to cause conflict, because as long as the structure stays the way it is, you can have a policy that gets enacted and immediately you're going to ignite a revolt for at least half of the people. So what we need to begin with is a government that resembles the 21st century, more than it does the 20th or even the 19th in some cases, and that can be done. And part of that will be, it will be flatter. It would be faster. There would probably be a lot more decisions pushed down to the lowest level. I've always said in this century, Switzerland may be the model for democracy. All democracies may look like Switzerland, where in Switzerland, if you want to become a citizen, it's not Zurich that decides it's not the federal government. It's the whole valley. You live in that votes on it. So you go around shaking hands and the people who vote in it, then can't say, well, the government forced this immigrant. I mean, no, it was you. Okay. So it waters down a lot of hostility when you are participating in the decisions. So, I mean, there are many things that can be done, but the main thing is to remember, this is a structural crisis. It's not a policy crisis. The policies are around the structure and symbolic of it. But what is that issue is that distance, a tremendous distance that the public feels so that whatever policies happen, they seem to come from different realm. Another world from the one ordinary people live in, so you're not bought into it. Okay. And in part that is like I said, a factor of the poor quality of our elites. That's why I would start out by firing them. I participated. And in late'60s, when Moynihan was writing that memo, there was a moment of crisis of authority. And then you had somebody like Ronald Reagan who restored at least a sense of what this country was about. And part that had to do with success with the economy understanding where we stood in the world, those kinds of things. We need people like that. We need bigger people in office than what we've got now.
Kieth Simon: Well, I would encourage everybody to pick up the book because in it you tell a lot of great stories that give kind of a good examples to what you're talking about from an earthquake in Italy and how the establishment messed that up all the way to Harvey Weinstein and climate change and how the scientists there have eroded trust in themselves. So the book is full of good stories. It's got great points to be made. I've been really challenged by it, and I hope that people will enjoy reading it. And I really appreciate you coming on with us Martin. Thanks so much.
Martin Gurri: Its been fun.
Kieth Simon: Thanks for listening. If you found this podcast helpful, make sure to subscribe and leave a review.
Patrick Miller: And make sure it's at least five stars.
Kieth Simon: Stop. No, just be honest. Reviews, help other people find us.
Patrick Miller: Okay. Okay. At the very least you can share today's episode, maybe put it on your social, your favorite text chain.
Kieth Simon: And if you didn't like this episode, awesome. Tell us why you disagree on Twitter @ truthovertribe_. We might even share your thoughts in an upcoming newsletter.
The elites used to control the narrative. Now? The public is revolting and the elites are panicking. How did we get here? This week on Truth Over Tribe, Keith talks with former CIA analyst Martin Gurri to find out. Gurri published a book in 2014, "The Revolt of the Public," where he correctly predicted the cultural chaos we have been experiencing the past few years. Today, he and Keith dissect what has gotten us to this point: What caused the narrative shift away from the elites? Why has the public lost trust in institutions? And most importantly, is there any way institutions can repair this lack of trust? Tune in now!
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