17 episodes

Literate Machine explores media through the lens of culture, history, and politics, examining the ways capitalism, power, and ideology shape and are shaped by the stories we love.

Written and performed by Eric Rosenfield, Literate Machine is available as blog entries, newsletter, podcast, and YouTube channel.

Literate Machine is available on Apple Podcasts and finer podcast apps everywhere.

Literate Machine Eric Rosenfield

    • Society & Culture
    • 5.0 • 4 Ratings

Literate Machine explores media through the lens of culture, history, and politics, examining the ways capitalism, power, and ideology shape and are shaped by the stories we love.

Written and performed by Eric Rosenfield, Literate Machine is available as blog entries, newsletter, podcast, and YouTube channel.

Literate Machine is available on Apple Podcasts and finer podcast apps everywhere.

    Elon Musk, Wokeness, and the Myth of Meritocracy

    Elon Musk, Wokeness, and the Myth of Meritocracy

    How Tony Stark, the myth of meritocracy, and our unspoken beliefs about genius explain Elon Musk and the (re)turn of eugenics to the right wing
    Blog version and information about podcast and mailing list: https://literatemachine.com/2024/04/01/elon-musk-wokeness-and-the-myth-of-meritocracy
    If you enjoyed this, please tell someone, as word-of-mouth is how projects like this grow.
    For as little as $1 an episode, you can get exclusive authors notes, excerpts, and early access to episodes by supporting me on Patreon at: https://www.patreon.com/ericrosenfield
    Thanks to my current Patrons: Kathryn Carruthers, Gabi Ghita, Hristo Kolev, Kevin Cafferty, Ulysse Pence, Wilma Ezekowitz, IndustrialRobot, Not Invader Zim, Jason Quackenbush, Arthur Rosenfield, and Nancy S. Rosen
    Bibliography and Further Reading
    Interview with Stan Lee where he talks about the creation of Iron Man: https://screenrant.com/stan-lee-iron-man-unlikable-hero-creation-marvel/
    How Albert Einstein was no "lone genius": https://www.nature.com/articles/527298a
    The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn, 1962
    How many filaments Edison tried in creating the lightbulb: http://uncommoncontent.blogspot.com/2015/05/how-many-times-did-edison-fail-in.html
    Talented and Gifted programs and their legacy of Eugenics: https://rethinkingschools.org/articles/the-forgotten-history-of-eugenics/
    On the creation of the IQ Test: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W2bKaw2AJxs
    Alfred Binet thought intellegence couldn't be reduced to a number: https://www.verywellmind.com/history-of-intelligence-testing-2795581 while Lewis Terman disagreed: https://stanfordmag.org/contents/the-vexing-legacy-of-lewis-terman
    Terman study subjects results more about socioeconomic status than intelligence: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/beautiful-minds/200909/the-truth-about-the-termites and the high performers and low performers had about the same IQ: https://www.nytimes.com/1995/03/07/science/75-years-later-study-still-tracking-geniuses.html
    The Bell Curve is based on junk, fraudulent "science": https://youtu.be/UBc7qBS1Ujo?si=UMJKOTiArp9qSnca
    What Intelligence Tests Miss, Keith E. Stanovich, 2009
    On "Gifted Kig Syndrome": https://thehowleronline.org/6490/viewpoint/former-gifted-child-syndrome/
    Local education systems are funded by property taxes: https://www.npr.org/2016/04/18/474256366/why-americas-schools-have-a-money-problem
    DeSantis campaign says "woke" is awareness of systemic injustice: https://www.motherjones.com/mojo-wire/2022/12/desantis-ron-woke-florida-officials/
    Someone working 40 hours a week at minimum wage is still below the poverty line: https://www.cnn.com/factsfirst/politics/factcheck_7e5bc7fa-1a5a-4c29-958f-53a07ac1b9ab#
    Why DEI was created: https://www.americanprogress.org/article/5-reasons-support-affirmative-action-college-admissions/
    Study where resumes were sent out with stereotypically black and white names and their results: https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2015/mar/15/jalen-ross/black-name-resume-50-percent-less-likely-get-respo/
    On the long, toxic history of "Cultural Marxism": https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/13/opinion/cultural-marxism-anti-semitism.html
    Cultural Marxism and the "vast, Jewish conspiracy": https://www.dailydot.com/debug/what-is-cultural-marxism/
    The "Hyperloop" is an idea that can never work: https://bigthink.com/starts-with-a-bang/elon-musk-hyperloop/ and was just a ploy to disrupt the development of trains in California: https://time.com/6203815/elon-musk-flaws-billionaire-visions/
    Wired story from 2018 about Musk mistreating his employees: https://www.wired.com/story/elon-musk-tesla-life-inside-gigafactory/
    Some More News on Musk: https://youtu.be/5pNL7MlUpmI?si=GNFvsKQQRpyfw-MH
    Tesla cars fall apart in motion: https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/tesla-musk-steering-suspension/
    Tesla cars suspected of turning off self-driving moments before a crash: https://futurism.com/tesla-nh

    • 37 min
    How Will Capitalism End? The Orville, Eduard Bernstein, and What is to Be Done?

    How Will Capitalism End? The Orville, Eduard Bernstein, and What is to Be Done?

    What does comedic science fiction television show The Orville tell us about how capitalism will end? How did Germany go from having the largest and most powerful socialist movement in the world to finding its movement gutted and its country given over to fascists? How did Eduard Bernstein, despite his best intentioned, upend the Marxist movement and provide cover for those who wanted to destroy it? And was he actually right all along? All this and more will be answered!
    The previous video, Star Trek into Socialism, is not necessary for appreciating this one, but the two inform each other: https://youtu.be/LJKDF0BwepI
    Also mentioned in this video:
    * Loki and How Conservatives Become Fascists: https://youtu.be/kBfTYUadGts
    * How the Hippies Became Yuppies: The Trial of the Chicago 7: https://youtu.be/LONtgVNaa7A?si=DvWznzsFnMZyYHR2
    Not by me: Using Corporate Governance to Understand Socialism: https://youtu.be/MmeIGcI60oc
    Text of the episode and other ways in which you can access it at https://literatemachine.com/2023/11/16/how-will-capitalism-end-the-orville-eduard-bernstein-and-what-is-to-be-done/
    Excerpts of deleted material on the Patreon at https://patron.com/ericrosenfield, which you can get access to for as little as $1 an episode, and also get exclusive author’s notes, draft excerpts, and early access to episodes. There’s also a whole thing I wanted to get into here about the role of identity politics in all this, but it was too complicated and too much of a digression from the main point, so I’ll probably talk about it there.
    Bibliography
    My primary literary sources were:
    - *The Preconditions of Socialism* by Eduard Bernstein, 1899, edited and translated by Henry Tudor, 1993 (originally published in English as *Evolutionary Socialism*)
    - *Eduard Bernstein on Socialism Past and Present: Essays and Lectures on Ideology*, edited and translated by Marius S. Ostrowski, 2021
    - *The Quest for Evolutionary Socialism* by Manfred B. Steger, 1997
    - *The Dilemma of Democratic Socialism* by Peter Gay, 1952
    - *The German Revolution 1917-1923* by Pierre Broué, 1971 (translation 2005)
    - The Manifesto of the Communist Party by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engles, 1848
    - Capital Vol. 1 by Karl Marx, 1867
    - Critique of the Gotha Programme by Karl Marx, 1875
    - “The Bourgeoisie and the Counter-Revolution” by Karl Marx, 1848
    - “Speech to the International Workingman’s Association” by Karl Marx, 1863
    - Socialism: Utopian and Scientific by Friedrich Engles
    - Anti-Dühring by Friedrich Engels, 1877
    - Reform or Revolution? by Rosa Luxemburg
    - “The Russian Revolution” by Rosa Luxemburg, 1918
    - *Capital in the 21st Century* by Thomas Piketty, 2014
    More sources can be found at https://literatemachine.com/2023/11/16/how-will-capitalism-end-the-orville-eduard-bernstein-and-what-is-to-be-done/

    • 1 hr 16 min
    Star Trek into Socialism: or Who Deserves the Future

    Star Trek into Socialism: or Who Deserves the Future

    Does Star Trek show us what socialism looks like? What would it look like if we organized society democratically instead of allowing a few people to control most of the resources?
     
    Bibliography and Further Reading
    * Obviously, the work of Marx and Engels is key to this piece. Particular texts I drew on here include The Civil War in France (1871) (modern editions contain the first draft and the address on the Civil War) and The Critique of the Gotha Programme (1875). Marx's "La Liberte" speech (1872) is where he proposes that some countries might transition to communism peacefully: https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1872/09/08.htm
    * One of my chief inspirations for this piece and in general is the book Socialism: Past and Future (1989) by Michael Harrington, founder of the Democratic Socialists of America. Socialism does a good job of summing up the history of socialism, the rise of democratic socialism, the problems we faced in the 20th century, and where we might go from here.
    * The Preconditions of Socialism (1899) (also published in English as Evolutionary Socialism) by Eduard Bernstein is a fascinating book by the father of the democratic socialist movement and the idea of achieving socialists goals through gradual reform. A controversial figure both in his time and today, both with orthodox Marxists and modern democratic socialists, his story is one I find endlessly fascinating. Much as during the Social Democratic period of the mid-20th century, when Preconditions was first published, it seemed as if gradual socialism was working in Bernstein's native Germany. Then of course the First World War brought Germany to its knees. Bernstein himself, who'd become a member of the Reichstag, would die three weeks before Hitler came to power, undid all the achievements of his party, executed its leaders, and most of the members of Bernstein's ethnic group. While researching this piece, I also drew on The Dilemma of Democratic Socialism: Eduard Bernstein's Challenge to Marx (1952) by Peter Gay, and the excellent introduction to the English translation of Preconditions from 1993 by translator Henry Tudor.
    * For the history of the Russian Revolution, I highly recommend China Mieville's October (2017), a highly readable retelling of the story of the revolution and the events around it.
    * I am highly indebted to the work of Richard Wolff, whose Democracy at Work (2012) and associated website and YouTube channel opened my eyes to the possibilities of worker cooperatives as a tool for workers to control the means of production within a capitalist society and so create a mechanism not only to improve the lives of workers in the near term, but to build up worker power and control in the long term.
    * I'm also indebted to the continued work of Cory Doctorow in and out of his Pluralistic project, with too many useful and informative pieces to list here. For example, Pluristic turned me onto how municipal broadband providers are the only ones with consistent customer satisfaction, or his piece in Boing Boing about how the notion of the "tragedy of the commons" is based on lies and fraud. Other important pieces include "What Comes After Neoliberalism" and "Excuseflation".
     * Carlos Maza's excellent video essay "The Pay for It Scam" is essential for understanding the ways in which only programs for the social good are ever asked "how will you pay for it", while corporate subsidies, tax cuts, and the military budget piles on the debt.
     * For more on the "primitive communism" of the Iroquois and other native tribes, I recommend The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity (2021) by David Graeber.
    * Most of my research on Gene Roddenberry comes from the book The Impossible Happened: The Life and Work of Gene Roddenberry, Creator of Star Trek (2016) by Lance Parkin
     * More on how modern corporations actually show the power of a centralized economy, a piece inspired by the book The People's Republic of Walmart (2019):

    • 1 hr 16 min
    Loki and How Conservatives Become Fascists

    Loki and How Conservatives Become Fascists

    Marvel's Loki shows us what fascism looks like, and how it comes to take root within innocuous conservatism.
    https://literatemachine.com
    https://Patreon.com/ericrosenfield 
    Corrections:
    • Rupert Murdoch and the Koch Bros are not Jewish. Actual examples of Jewish funders of the right include Sheldon Adelson and Ike Perlmutter. I may upload a revised version of this audio with the names changed.
    • Malthus never directly said that the poor and unskilled should be liquidated, but he did oppose aid to the poor on the theory that they should be allowed to naturally die out if they were of no use to society in order to preserve resources.
    Interstitial music:
    "I Can’t Stop" by Punch Deck | https://soundcloud.com/punch-deck 
    Music promoted by https://www.free-stock-music.com  
    Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en_US 
    Bibliography and Further Reading
    David Brooks article on the foundations of conservatism: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2022/01/brooks-true-conservatism-dead-fox-news-voter-suppression/620853/?utm_source=feed George W. Bush says he looked in Putin's eyes and "saw his soul": https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slovenia_Summit_2001 Mussolini on Totalitarianism and Fascism: http://www.historyguide.org/europe/duce.html "Ur Fascism", Umberto Eco Rich Scott wants to raise taxes on the poorest: https://news.yahoo.com/rick-scott-lies-tax-proposal-171630154.html 10% of Americans own 89% of the stock market: https://www.cnbc.com/2021/10/18/the-wealthiest-10percent-of-americans-own-a-record-89percent-of-all-us-stocks.htmlRight-wing proposals to nationalize Facebook: https://www.abajournal.com/news/article/bannon_proposes_nationalizing_facebook_google_data Laura Ingraham on punishing Disney: https://www.thewrap.com/laura-ingraham-disney-apple-republican-retaliation/ Texas arresting parents of trans kids: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/03/10/texas-trans-kids-abortion-lgbtq-gender-ideology/ Republicans allowed the Child Tax Credit to expire, throwing 3.7 million children into poverty: https://abcnews.go.com/Health/wireStory/study-child-poverty-rising-tax-credit-expires-83071832 FDR achievements: https://fdrsuite.org/americas-greatest-presidents-franklin-delano-roosevelts-top-achievements-as-president/ Half of Americans are "not American in any meaningful sense":  https://americanmind.org/salvo/why-the-claremont-institute-is-not-conservative-and-you-shouldnt-be-either/ More than half of Republicans believe in Great Replacement Theory: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/05/09/nearly-half-republicans-agree-with-great-replacement-theory/ 77% of drug traffickers are US citizens, and come through ports of call: https://www.cato.org/blog/77-drug-traffickers-are-us-citizens-not-illegal-immigrants The border is not a "war zone": https://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/not-war-zone-veterans-visit-texas-borderlands-military-outdoors-sierra-club Growing number of Republicans think Democracy is wrong for America: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/mar/21/republicans-biden-trump-election-democracy GOP seizing the election system: https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2022-01-01/insurrection-gop-seizes-election-power 401ks are a scam: https://pluralistic.net/2020/07/25/derechos-humanos/#are-there-no-poorhouses America's disappearing middle class: https://www.thedailybeast.com/in-the-future-well-all-be-renters-americas-disappearing-middle-class Peter Thiel's essay on how democracy is not compatible with freedom: https://www.cato-unbound.org/2009/04/13/peter-thiel/education-libertarian/ Republicans becoming anti-democratic in charts: https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/22274429/republicans-anti-democracy-13-charts More information on the Backfire Effect, where people dig into their beliefs when presented with contrary evidence: https://youarenotsosmart.com/2017/01/13/yanss-093-the-neuroscience-o

    • 41 min
    The Confused Ideology of Schitt's Creek

    The Confused Ideology of Schitt's Creek

    How a show about poverty that can't ever bare to really show poverty illustrates everything we've been blind to. Support the show on Patreon and get early access to episodes and exclusive Authors Notes: https://patreon.com/ericrosenfield
    Text of the show and more information about other formats it's available can be found at: https://literatemachine.com
    Bibliography and Further Reading
    - Hallmark Christmas movie montage sourced from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Vu6GlstKl8
    - On the urban-rural divide of Christmas movies: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-12-24/the-urban-rural-divide-of-tv-christmas-movies
    - The TV Tropes entry for From New York to Nowhere: https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/FromNewYorkToNowhere
    - Ted Koppel's piece on The Andy Griffith Show and modern politics: https://www.washingtonpost.com/arts-entertainment/2021/12/29/ted-koppel-mayberry-cbs-sunday-morning/
    - A fascinating video that explains how the ethos of "personal responsibility" leads naturally to white nationalism: https://youtu.be/jmT7nLDinhY
    - How and why small towns are in decline: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/12/14/opinion/rural-america-trump-decline.html
    - How teen birth rates are higher in rural areas: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/teen-birth-rate-higher-rural-areas
    - On the myth of welfare dependency: https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2018/03/welfare-childhood/555119/ 
     

    • 18 min
    Defund the Paw Patrol

    Defund the Paw Patrol

    Is the Paw Patrol an unintentional conservative utopia? What can the show tell us about how the political spectrum views the police, its purpose, and its funding.
    For as little as $1 an episode (going forward) you can get early access to episodes, as well as exclusive author’s notes at Patreon.com/ericrosenfield.
    More information about the show and other formats in which it's available, including YouTube, can be found at https://literatemachine.com 
    Bibliography and Further Reading
    How the regulations around tv shows as toy commercials were repealed in the Reagan administration How square dancing was popularized as a tool of white supremacy How EMTs are underpaid, overworked, and underrecognized About police officer Joe Crystal, shunned by police for trying to hold them accountable Wikipedia entry on the Blue Wall of Silence NYPD internal investigator called a "rat" Prosecutors don't like to prosecute cops Attorney General Letitia James plan for civilian oversight of the NYPD Police departments aren't largely being defunded Crime is rising in cities that did not defund their police the same as those that did How torture doesn't work About Abner Louima who was sodomized with a broken broomstick by the NYPD The great Forced Adversity video about the Punisher/Police Problem Some More News video about the Warrior Mentality training given to the police How congress buys equipment for the military that it doesn't want or need as pork barrel Study finding conservatives lack a sense of humor Last Week Tonight's video about Tucker Carlson and his lightly veiled fascism and even less well veiled white supremacy Edmund Burke and the origins of conservatism Conservatism defending the status quo The myth of meritocracy Book about how billionaires are funding the radical right: Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right by Jane Mayer On prison labor in America The Thought Slime video that covers the video where John Doyle says that conservatives aren't about equality, they're about hierarchy and natural law Police will tell you to obey them if you value your life Republicans legalizing the automative murder of protesters Poor people can't just get a better job Why conservatives are more punitive than liberals The penal system as slave labor

    • 24 min

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