7 episodes

A podcast for activist citizens, hosted by campaigner and political consultant Mehran Khalili. Tips, tactics and debate with people who confront power and make change happen. There’s a weekly newsletter too – sign up at https://subvrt.org so you don’t miss a thing.

Subvrt Mehran Khalili

    • Society & Culture

A podcast for activist citizens, hosted by campaigner and political consultant Mehran Khalili. Tips, tactics and debate with people who confront power and make change happen. There’s a weekly newsletter too – sign up at https://subvrt.org so you don’t miss a thing.

    e07: Hope in the dark

    e07: Hope in the dark

    An interview with Miguel Duarte
    Hope in the dark, with Miguel Duarte (Episode 7)
    0:00/34:01



    About this episodeMiguel Duarte is young migrants rights activist who helped save 14,000 people and faced 20 years in prison for it.
    Back in 2016, the EU migration crisis was at its peak. Tens of thousands of migrants from Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, and other countries were getting stranded in the Mediterranean Sea, trying to reach Europe on small vessels, unfit for purpose.
    Using a converted fishing boat, Miguel and his team saved thousands of desperate people. But his mission came to a halt when the Italian government charged him and his crew with aiding illegal immigration.
    In this interview, done live for DiEM TV in April 2022, Miguel shares his fascinating story with me. We talk about how he got involved with sea rescue, the tension between changing the system and providing services, and the establishment's dirty tricks campaign against him and his colleagues. And we also explore why the attacks on Miguel ultimately failed, and how as long as the migration crisis persists, activists will be stepping up to address it.
    There are some fascinating, timeless insights here that are worth hearing for activists citizens everywhere.
    Mentioned in the podcastSeebrückeHuBB (Humans Before Borders)Open Arms"Hope In The Dark" by Rebecca Solnit* * *
    Subvrt is a podcast for activist citizens, hosted by Mehran Khalili. It features interviews with people who confront power, and tips and tactics on how to make change happen. Subscribe on iTunes, Google, Spotify or RSS. And sign up to get the weekly Subvrt newsletter, so you don't miss a thing.

    e06: Disruptive protest

    e06: Disruptive protest

    An interview with Miriam Meyer
    Disruptive protest, with Miriam Meyer (Episode 6)
    0:00/39:48



    About this episodeWe're entering a difficult winter here in Europe, with a cost of living crisis and an escalating war in Ukraine. Analysts are predicting a season of activism and civil unrest.
    So now is a good time to look at the kinds of protest tactics that force you to pick a side.
    My guest is Miriam Meyer, a young German activist with the environmental group Last Generation. She's been getting arrested full time for blocking busy German motorways.
    In this interview, done live for DiEM TV in June 2022, we discuss how the group has organised for impact just a few months. And we debate those controversial tactics: does stopping people from getting to work really help your cause?
    Miriam gave some thoughtful answers in this interview that we can all learn from. I hope you'll get value out of it for your own activist projects.
    * * *
    Subvrt is a podcast for activist citizens, hosted by Mehran Khalili. It features interviews with people who confront power, and tips and tactics on how to make change happen. Subscribe on iTunes, Google, Spotify or RSS. And sign up to get the weekly Subvrt newsletter, so you don't miss a thing.

    e05: Taking the power back

    e05: Taking the power back

    An interview with Chris Smalls
    Taking the power back, with Chris Smalls (Episode 5)
    0:00/32:59



    About this episodeChris Smalls is known today as the man who took on Amazon and won. He's the leader of the first successful union drive in Amazon's history.
    He's inspired workers the world over. He's campaigned with Bernie Sanders. Time Magazine asks: "Is Chris Smalls the future of labor?"
    But back when I spoke to him for this interview in May 2020, in a live show for the political movement DiEM25, Chris was the ex-Amazon employee who exposed the corporations unsafe practices on COVID. He was just starting to organize against the company.
    This interview is especially interesting given Chris's meteoric rise since it was recorded. It offers a look inside the mind of a real David to a corporate Goliath,  someone who took on a problem and flipped it into an opportunity.
    I hope you'll enjoy it.
    * * *
    Subvrt is a podcast for activist citizens, hosted by Mehran Khalili. It features interviews with people who confront power, and tips and tactics on how to make change happen. Subscribe on iTunes, Google, Spotify or RSS. And sign up to get the weekly Subvrt newsletter, so you don't miss a thing.

    e04: The grassroots battle to eliminate COVID

    e04: The grassroots battle to eliminate COVID

    An interview with Vicky van de Togt
    The grassroots battle to eliminate COVID, with Vicky van de Togt (Episode 4)
    0:00/19:16



    You might not know it, but there’s a vast, well-organised international grassroots effort to address the gaps in our governments’ response to COVID.
    I spoke to Vicky van der Togt, founder of the Zero Covid Alliance and a central figure in this grassroots mobilisation, to learn more about how it works, the victories they’ve had so far, and how anyone can get involved. We also talk about the Zero COVID strategy, COVID myth-busting, and Vicky’s own experience of the disease.
    It was a fascinating chat – despite the audio issues – and I hope you’ll find it as eye-opening as I did.
    This interview was originally recorded live for DiEM TV.
    About the podcastTheta Project is a podcast about confronting power, and the people who do it. Subscribe on iTunes, Overcast, Google Play, Spotify, and RSS.
    Transcript of the interviewIntroVICKY: I’m Vicky. I live in the Netherlands. I worked as a communications expert and I used to run a platform for sustainable living.
    But then last year, in March, I got hit by COVID. I got infected. This was back when in the Netherlands, they talked about COVID as if it was the flu, and it only hit the elderly. That made me think, well, I’m only 28… if it only hits the elderly, then why am I so sick? So that started to get me thinking on all of this.
    MEHRAN: That was last March that you got COVID. But you’re still suffering from the symptoms of COVID today.
    VICKY: Yes. I’m still suffering. That’s really the thing about COVID that a lot of people still don’t know about, sadly. It really hits a lot of people my age as well, and kids as well. And they go on to have long-term symptoms.
    And these are not necessarily the people that end up in the hospital. So they don’t end up in the data, with hospital admissions.
    So that got me thinking, if I am in that group that’s not being talked about, how many people are in this situation?
    MEHRAN: And you started your grassroots action with a Twitter poll. Tell us about that.
    VICKY: So back in March , I was already sick and I spent my days online. And I saw so many people mentioning that they were sick at home. And they didn’t have access to testing.
    I decided to do a Twitter poll. I got so many responses. 400 people.
    These numbers showed that we didn’t really have a clue how many people were sick at that moment. I reached out to a journalist, who decided to reach out to our CDC to see how many people were tested.
    MEHRAN: The Centre for Disease Control equivalent in Holland.
    VICKY: Yeah. At that point, they only did 3000 tests, most of them people that they tested twice or even three times. That gives you an idea of how unclear it was, the amount that were already infected.
    It’s crazy that we were dealing with such a severe disease and the organisations that were there to protect us, weren’t doing their job! And at that point I was still, like "I live in the Netherlands, with a good healthcare system”. But yeah, that bubble burst really quickly.
    MEHRAN: And so this kicked off a series of grassroots actions that you did, first at local level, culminating in you creating at the end of last year the Zero COVID Alliance.
    VICKY: In the Netherlands there was this group, pushing against the chosen strategy. And back then, there were only a couple of groups worldwide doing the same thing. Of course I was sick for the first couple of months, so I wasn’t a member from the start. But when I joined, it was evident that we were the only ones out there fighting against this.
    So we decided, if we want to show the outside world what’s happening in our countries, we really have to amplify our voices, with international collaboration.
    So first I had the hope that someone else would take this on, and would make this umbrella organisation, of all these COVID efforts around the world. But nothing was happening. So, I just

    e03: Creative protest and how to build a movement

    e03: Creative protest and how to build a movement

    An interview with Radomir Lazovic
    Creative protest and how to build a movement, with Radomir Lazovic (Episode 3)
    0:00/29:40



    An inspiring, hands-on interview with the activist Radomir Lazovic, one of the founders of Don’t Let Belgrade Drown, a political movement that’s making big waves (!) in Serbia.
    We talk about how to build a movement, protesting in COVID times, making the jump from being a grassroots group to a political party competing in elections, and of course those creative tactics that Don’t Let Belgrade Drown has become known for.
    This interview was originally recorded live for DiEM TV.
    About the podcastThe Subvrt podcast is about confronting power, and the people who do it. Subscribe on iTunes, Overcast, Google Play, Spotify, and RSS.
    Transcript of the interviewIntroMEHRAN: My guest today is the activist Radomir Lazovic, also known as Mika.
    Source: Zetland.dkHe’s one of the founders of Don't Let Belgrade Drown [Ne da(vi)mo Beograd], a political movement that, if you'll excuse the pun, is making big waves in Serbia. The movement started off as a grassroots group focused on reclaiming public space, specifically around a massive development project to turn a piece of Belgrade into Dubai.
    Since then, Don’t Let Belgrade Drown has become a prominent force against the increasingly authoritarian and some would say corrupt regime of the Serbian president, Aleksandar Vucic.
    With Mika we discussed movement building, how we can protest in COVID times, making the jump from being a grassroots movement to a political party competing in elections, and of course, those creative tactics that Don’t Let Belgrade Drown has become known for.
    I found it fascinating talking to Mika. He’s warm, he’s funny, and he’s very open about all the failures and lessons learned on his journey to becoming a significant political actor in his country.
    OK, let's get to it.
    MIKA: I am one of the people that started this movement, Ne davimo Beograd [Don’t Let Belgrade Drown], in 2015, '16, '14. We were in general, a group of people that were even before that, really concerned about the development of the city of Belgrade, but also about the idea how to have sort of different kind of city, the place where you can really live in, and which can be considered your own home, but not the playground for the capitalistic destruction, and the privatisation, and everything that's happened during the last few decades.
    We were mainly involved in the cultural projects and taking over the abandoned buildings, creating different kind of community centres or galleries out of the space that is unused or left to deteriorate. So when the creation of the Belgrade Waterfront, a maniacally huge project in the city of Belgrade, when it started we were ready to confront it and it was really a big, big struggle until today.
    The challenge: the Belgrade Waterfront mega-projectMEHRAN: You say you started the initiative around 2014. What was the scene in Serbia at that moment? In terms of the political landscape, in terms of the media, in terms of the tradition for grassroots activism. What was the challenge that you were responding to when you decided ‘look, we can't deal with this anymore, we need to start something’?
    MIKA: Let's start from 2012 when the regime of Aleksandar Vucic won the elections and they got a landslide in debt to the other ones, and they basically created this idea that the flagship project in Belgrade should be Belgrade Waterfront Project. Belgrade has its huge part that is most valuable land that has been left undeveloped for decades. And every architecture student and professor was doing like different kind of ideas, what should be there, should it be a huge park, should it be a public object, what should it be there? It's a really huge part in the centre of Belgrade, on Sava River.
    But when the new guys got into power, they created this really, really clever scheme how to take this part of the land out of the Serbian laws, to

    e02: Exposing the far-right

    e02: Exposing the far-right

    An interview with Antonis BougiasWhat do you do, when your country is holding the biggest trial of a Nazi party since Nuremberg, and the media can’t be trusted to cover it properly?
    I spoke to Antonis Bougias, a key person in the Golden Dawn Watch grassroots journalism project in Greece, to find out.

    Exposing the far-right, with Antonis Bougias (Episode 2)
    0:00/27:35



    We talk about the rise and fall of Golden Dawn, the project and the media failures that made it necessary, how to measure impact, and the challenge of trying to remain impartial in the face of neo-nazi ideology.
    Antonis gives us some great insight into an unconventional but effective digital activism project. The far-right is gaining power across the world, so the story of how he and his colleagues are tackling them in Greece, is increasingly relevant for all of us.
    About the podcastTheta Project is a podcast about confronting power, and the people who do it.
    Subscribe on iTunes, Overcast, Google Play, Spotify, and RSS.
    Transcript of the interviewIntroWhat do you do, when your country is holding the biggest trial of a Nazi party since Nuremberg, and the media can’t be trusted to cover it properly?
    Now, while some may rush off to hold marches, or write angry letters, my guest today did something quite different. He helped organise a grassroots journalism operation to cover the trial day by day.
    His name is Antonis Bougias, the country is Greece, and the party in question is the infamous Golden Dawn, once Greece's third largest political force.
    Antonis is what I would call a ‘fire in the belly’ activist. He's passionate, militant but he's also very strategic and driven by results.
    We did this interview in March 2020, just before all the Coronavirus craziness started. We talk about the rise and fall of Golden Dawn, the project and the media failures that made it necessary, how to measure impact, and the challenge of trying to remain impartial in the face of neo-nazi ideology.
    I really enjoyed this conversation. Antonis is a rare breed, very inspiring, and he shifted my views a bit on how we label things we dislike.
    OK, let’s get to it.
    ANTONIS: My name is Antonis Bougias, I'm also known as Ypopto Mousi in the Greek social media landscape. I do digital communications, grassroots research and journalism.
    We are doing a project about the Golden Dawn trial, called Golden Dawn Watch. And the major purpose of it is to disseminate information and broadcast what’s going on in the trial day by day.
    It’s a trial that goes on for almost five years now. We are talking about a criminal organisation trial. Golden Dawn is a far-right, Nazi party, that used to be in the Greek parliament up to the last elections of 2019.
    The rise of the Golden Dawn partyMEHRAN: Could you tell us a little bit about the history of the Golden Dawn party in Greece?
    ANTONIS: They existed in the Greek scene since the beginning of 1980. They were mostly skinheads, like a club, in a way, like a secret club.
    A Golden Dawn rally. Source: IndependentThey began their presence in the streets during the mid eighties with attacks on communists and anarchists. And then, during the beginning of the nineties, when we had a huge influx of migrants from Albania, they formed their anti-migrant platform, which eventually in 2012, along with memoranda in Greece and the financial crisis and so on, gave them the chance to participate in the elections and go into the Greek parliament.
    MEHRAN: Just to be clear, when we're talking about memoranda, we're talking about the very harsh, destructive austerity measures that Greece had to implement.
    ANTONIS: Yeah.
    MEHRAN: And if I'm not mistaken, in 2012, Golden Dawn became the third largest political force with 7% of the vote.
    ANTONIS: Yes, unfortunately, that anti-memorandum and anti-migration platform, sounded attractive to a small but important percentage of our fellow citizens in Greece.
    MEHRAN: Do they self-identity as a neo-Nazi party? How would they te

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