Category Archives: Democracy

ITPL Ep 036 featured image

Episode 036 Libertarianism in US History


This week we take on the topic of libertarianism, an ideology that in recent years has gained many adherents, including political conservatives and people in business, especially the high tech industry. But it’s worth asking, what is libertarianism and where does it fit in the history of American political culture? Is it a mainstream ideology with deep roots in American history? Or is it one on the fringe? And what accounts for its surging popularity in recent years?
Well, to answer these questions, I’ll first give my historian’s take on libertarianism. Spoiler alert: I’m not a big fan. I’ll point out how libertarianism occupies a place on the very outer fringe of American political ideology. And that it’s mainly an ideology of recent origin (ca 1945) and that it’s popularity has a lot to do with the efforts of millionaires and billionaires, as well as large corporations, that fund pro-libertarian initiatives. The US has always revered individualism, but not the radical individualism that defines libertarianism. It’s an individualism that has always been tempered by an equally important commitment to the common good.
ITPL Ep 036 Woodside book cover
Then I’ll speak with Christine Woodside, author of the book, Libertarians on the Prairie: Laura Ingalls Wilder, Rose Wilder Lane, and the Making of the Little House Books. Wait, what? Little House on the Prairie has something to do with libertarianism? Yes. In fact, as you’re about to hear, it has quite a bit to do with it. Let’s just say that it’s a story that includes not only Laura Ingalls Wilder, but also Ayn Rand, the Koch brothers, and the Libertarian Party.

Among the many things discussed in this episode:
What is libertarianism and where does it fit in the history of American political culture?

How have billionaires and corporations since 1945 worked to promote libertarianism?

Why the Founding Fathers were NOT libertarians.

How Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter infused libertarian themes into the Little House books.

How the Little House on the Prairie franchise helped fund the rise of libertarianism and the Libertarian Party in the mid-20th century.

About Christine Woodside – website

Further Reading

Christine Woodside, Libertarians on the Prairie: Laura Ingalls Wilder, Rose Wilder Lane, and the Making of the Little House Books (2015)

Nancy MacLean, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America (2017)

Colin Woodard, American Character: A History of the Epic Struggle Between Individual Liberty and the Common Good (2015)

Daniel Cluchey, “The Founding Fathers Were Not Libertarians,” Huffington Post, May 25, 2011

Music for This Episode

Jay Graham, ITPL Intro (JayGMusic.com)

Kevin McCleod, “Impact Moderato” (Free Music Archive)

Ketsa, “I Will Be There” (Free Music Archive)

Doc Turtle, “Thought Soup” (Free Music Archive)

Hefferman, “Winter Trek” (Free Music Archive)

The Bell, “I Am History” (Free Music Archive)

Production Credits

Executive Producer: Lulu Spencer

Technical Advisors: Holly Hunt and Jesse Anderson

Podcasting Consultant: Darrell Darnell of Pro Podcast Solutions

Photographer: John Buckingham

Graphic Designer: Maggie Cellucci

Website by: ERI Design

Legal services: Tippecanoe and Tyler Too

Social Media management: The Pony Express

Risk Assessment: Little Big Horn Associates

Growth strategies: 54 40 or Fight

© Snoring Beagle International, 2017

ITPL Ep 034 featured image

Episode 034 The Zenger Trial and the Birth of the Free Press in America


With the mainstream news media under siege these days, and with some people – including one particularly powerful and influential person – denouncing it as so-called “fake news,” this seems like a good time to explore the history of a free press. Just consider how central the free press has been to American history. So many key moments in American history have derived from, or somehow involved, the freedom of the press.
* The abolitionist press and the eventual end of slavery.
* Muckrakers at the turn of the 20th century and the exposure of abuses by big business.
* The Pentagon Papers and the withdrawal of the US military from Vietnam.
* The Watergate investigation and the resignation of President Richard Nixon.

These are just a few examples of the vital role a free press has played in American history. And they raise the question: How did this idea of a free press get enshrined in the First Amendment? And how did it come to be seen as a fundamental principle of American democracy?

It’s a long and fascinating story, but it began with the arrest and prosecution of a little known New York newspaper publisher named Peter Zenger in 1735. And that’s the story we’ll focus on in this episode of In The Past Lane, the podcast about history and why it matters.
zenger-tryal
Among the many things we’ll discuss:

How the British defied “seditious libel” in the 18th century – and how American colonists began to develop a very different understanding of it.

The biography of Peter Zenger, the unknown printer at the center of the famous 1735 trial that bears his name.

How the 1735 trial of Peter Zenger popularized the idea of freedom of the press.

How the legacy and memory of the Zenger Trial led to the inclusion of freedom of the press in the 1st Amendment.

How Americans came to see a free press as essential to maintaining a healthy democracy.

Further Reading

Paul Finkelman, ed., A Brief Narrative of the Case and Tryal of John Peter Zenger: with Related Documents (Bedford, 2010)

Gail Jarrow, The Printer’s Trial: The Case of John Peter Zenger and the Fight for a Free Press (2006)

Richard Kluger, Indelible Ink: The Trials of John Peter Zenger and the Birth of America’s Free Press (2016)

Lyrissa Lidsky and Robert G. Wright, Freedom of the Press: A Reference Guide to the United States Constitution (2004)

Website: Federal Hall National Monument, New York (NPS) – permanent exhibition on the Zenger Trial.

Music for This Episode

Jay Graham, ITPL Intro (JayGMusic.com)

Kevin McCleod, “Impact Moderato” (Free Music Archive)

Ketsa, “I Will Be There” (Free Music Archive)

Hefferman, “Winter Trek” (Free Music Archive)

The Bell, “I Am History” (Free Music Archive)

Production Credits

Executive Producer: Lulu Spencer

Technical Advisors: Holly Hunt and Jesse Anderson

Podcasting Consultant: Darrell Darnell of Pro Podcast Solutions

Photographer: John Buckingham

Graphic Designer: Maggie Cellucci

Website by: ERI Design

Legal services: Tippecanoe and Tyler Too

Social Media management: The Pony Express

Risk Assessment: Little Big Horn Associates

Growth strategies: 54 40 or Fight

© Snoring Beagle International, 2017

 

ITPL Ep 033 featured image

Episode 033 The Ten Commandments in US History: The Making of an American Icon


This week at In The Past Lane, the podcast about history and why it matters, we look at the fascinating history of the Ten Commandments in the U.S. You might think that a history of the Ten Commandments would be situated in Israel, but it turns out that it’s a very American story. In fact, over the last 150 years Americans have found many imaginative ways to embrace, reimagine, and repurpose the Ten Commandments. To learn more about this story, I’ll talk with historian Jenna Weissman Joselit about her book, Set In Stone: America’s Embrace of the Ten Commandments.
Subscribe to ITPL - ERIAmong the many things we’ll discuss:
* The great Ten Commandments Hoax of 1860.
* How Americans came to embrace the Ten Commandments as an icon of religious devotion.
* How the Ten Commandments have served as an emblem of order and stability in times of wrenching social change in US history.
* Why Jewish Americans after World War II promoted the idea of an American Judeo-Christian tradition with the Ten Commandments as its iconic expression.
* How some late-19th century Americans supported a proposal to make knowledge of the Ten Commandments a requirement of US citizenship and a proposal to create a national holiday to honor the Ten Commandments.
* How the famous 1956 Cecil B. DeMille film, “The Ten Commandments,” helped promote the idea of erecting Ten Commandments monuments in the US.
* How Americans have come to use the Ten Commandments as a template for everything from the Ten Commandments of Safe Driving to the Ten Commandments of Healthy Relationships.
* Why monuments of the Ten Commandments have become the focus of so many First Amendment controversies.

ITPL Ep 033 Joselit book coverAbout Jenna Joselit Weissmanwebsite

Further Reading

Jenna Weissman Joselit, Set In Stone: America’s Embrace of the Ten Commandments (Oxford, 2017).

Katherine Orrison, Written in Stone: Making Cecil B. DeMille’s Epic, The Ten Commandments (1999).

Dr. Laura Schlessinger and Stewart Vogel, The Ten Commandments: The Significance of God’s Laws in Everyday Life (1998).

Music for This Episode

Jay Graham, ITPL Intro (JayGMusic.com)

Kevin McCleod, “Impact Moderato” (Free Music Archive)

Lee Rosevere, “Going Home” (Free Music Archive)

David Szesztay, “Joyful Meeting” (Free Music Archive)

The Bell, “I Am History” (Free Music Archive)

Production Credits

Executive Producer: Lulu Spencer

Technical Advisors: Holly Hunt and Jesse Anderson

Podcasting Consultant: Darrell Darnell of Pro Podcast Solutions

Photographer: John Buckingham

Graphic Designer: Maggie Cellucci

Website by: ERI Design

Legal services: Tippecanoe and Tyler Too

Social Media management: The Pony Express

Risk Assessment: Little Big Horn Associates

Growth strategies: 54 40 or Fight

© Snoring Beagle International, 2017

Jimmy Carter press conference

Episode 030 Presidents and the Media: The History of Political Spin


Subscribe to the In The Past Lane podcastThis week at In The Past Lane, we talk about the American presidency – specifically the history of how US presidents have endeavored to communicate their positions on key issues of the day. To use modern political parlance, it’s the history of “spin,” that important but sometimes tawdry business of crafting and communicating a political message in such as way that it enhances your political standing. American presidents have struggled to do this since the days of the Washington administration. To help us understand what spin is and how and why it’s played such a critical role in the evolution of the modern presidency and in the success or failure of individual presidents, I talk to historian David Greenberg. He’s the author of a fascinating new book, Republic of Spin: An Inside History of the American Presidency.

David Greenberg, Republic of SpinAmong the many things we discuss:
How Theodore Roosevelt created the original permanent White House spin apparatus.

Why Woodrow Wilson’s Committee on Public Information during World War I is unfairly characterized as a nefarious propaganda machine.

Why FDR’s “fireside chats” proved so effective in promoting Roosevelt’s New Deal agenda.

How Dwight D. Eisenhower became the first president to embrace the new medium of television.

Why image making became so essential to presidential success in the age of JFK.

How Jimmy Carter — yes, Jimmy Carter – was hailed early on in his presidency as a master communicator and manipulator of the media.

Why spin is not inherently negative but rather an essential element of presidential leadership.

Why the mainstream media is held in such low regard these days.

About David Greenberg – website

Further Reading

David Greenberg, Republic of Spin: An Inside History of the American Presidency (WW Norton, 2016)

Katz and M. Barris, The Social Media President: Barack Obama and the Politics of Digital Engagement (2013)

William E. Leuchtenburg, The American President: From Teddy Roosevelt to Bill Clinton (2015)

Stephen Ponder, Managing the Press: Origins of the Media Presidency, 1897-1933 (1999)

Music for This Episode

Jay Graham, ITPL Intro (JayGMusic.com)

Kevin McCleod, “Impact Moderato” (Free Music Archive)

Jon Luc Hefferman, “Winter Trek” (Free Music Archive)

The Bell, “I Am History” (Free Music Archive)

Production Credits

Executive Producer: Lulu Spencer

Technical Advisors: Holly Hunt and Jesse Anderson

Podcasting Consultant: Darrell Darnell of Pro Podcast Solutions

Photographer: John Buckingham

Graphic Designer: Maggie Cellucci

Website by: ERI Design

Legal services: Tippecanoe and Tyler Too

Social Media management: The Pony Express

Risk Assessment: Little Big Horn Associates

Growth strategies: 54 40 or Fight

© Snoring Beagle International, 2017

Haymarket Bombing

Episode 029 Spies, Traitors, & Saboteurs: Civil Liberties in Times of National Crisis


This week, In The Past Lane is in Chicago to check out a cool history exhibition and speak with John Russick of the Chicago History Museum. The exhibition, “Spies, Traitors, and Saboteurs: Fear and Freedom in America,” was originally created by the International Spy Museum in Washington, DC in the wake of September 11. The idea behind it was to exSubscribe to ITPL - ERIplore the way the United States has handled the challenges posed by internal threats — terrorists, spies, saboteurs, hate groups, etc — while at the same time protecting civil liberties. Some of the many incidents it explores includes: the Oklahoma City bombing, the Palmer Raids, the Weather Underground, the Haymarket bombing, Japanese Internment, the KKK, German sabotage efforts during World War I, Soviet spying and McCarthyism, and the militia movement. It’s an exhibition well worth seeing. Here’s a link with more info. I also took a lot of photographs, so if you’d like to see what the exhibition looks like, just scroll down a bit.

IMG_2083After I toured the exhibition, I sat down with John Russick, Vice President of Interpretation and Education at the Chicago History Museum, to talk about why the museum decided to host “Spies, Traitors, and Saboteurs” and why the issues it raises are so very important to our democracy. It’s a really interesting conversation about history and how it should inform the present. Among the many things we discuss:

Why Americans are really good at forgetting the past (and why it’s the job of public history institutions to help them remember).

How so many issues that we wrestle with in contemporary American society — immigration, terrorism, radical movements, violations of civil liberties, debates over security vs. liberty — are not new.

How the desire for security in America during tumultuous times has always been in tension with our civil liberties, especially free speech and free thought.

How America has always struggled to define itself and its citizens — What rights are essential? Which ones are the most important? Who should enjoy them? “The work of being a free and fair society,” says Russick, “is never done.”

Why “Spies, Traitors, and Saboteurs,” which was created 13 years ago, is still very relevant in 2017.

Photos of the exhibition: scroll down

Information on the exhibition: here

Further Reading:

“Exhibit on U.S. spies and traitors hopes to speak to present day,” Chicago Tribune, April 19, 2017.

Description of the exhibition from the International Spy Museum – link

Credits:

Music for This Episode

Jay Graham, ITPL Intro (JayGMusic.com)

Kevin McCleod, “Impact Moderato” (Free Music Archive)

Lee Rosevere, “Going Home” (Free Music Archive)

Ketsa, “Escape the Profane” (Free Music Archive)

Jon Luc Hefferman, “Discovery” (Free Music Archive)

The Bell, “I Am History” (Free Music Archive)

Production Credits

Executive Producer: Lulu Spencer

Associate Producer: Devyn McHugh

Technical Advisors: Holly Hunt and Jesse Anderson

Podcasting Consultant: Darrell Darnell of Pro Podcast Solutions

Photographer: John Buckingham

Graphic Designer: Maggie Cellucci

Website by: ERI Design

Legal services: Tippecanoe and Tyler Too

Social Media management: The Pony Express

Risk Assessment: Little Big Horn Associates

Growth strategies: 54 40 or Fight

© Snoring Beagle International, 2017

Photos of the exhibition:

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