Ever since the mid 1990s when, as a journalism and political science major, I discovered Democracy Now! on Los Angeles’ totally listener-funded Pacifica radio station (KPFK), I’ve been a supporter of independent journalism.
Having access to such journalism, which is not corrupted by the influence of corporate ownership and advertisers, has had a big influence on shaping my worldview and informing me about just how often the regular, oligarch-owned news media distorts the truth to serve its agenda. Or sometimes flat-out lies.
It was because of that access that I was able to better make sense of the 2000 presidential election debacle, the various misdeeds surrounding 9/11 and the outright lies that pushed America into the fateful war in Iraq in spring 2003.
So it was that in 2006 I found a new type of media which has been informing my perspective ever since: podcasts.
But with the 2020 election beginning with the idiotic Iowa debacle last week, and the way that so many smart people I know seem unaware of just how many aspects of that story suggest the Democratic Establishment was more than merely incompetent, well, it seems more important than ever for me to share some alternative media sources that can help a person have a bigger perspective on all that is going down.
Before I do, though, let me be clear: these are additions to whatever sources you currently use. I’m not trying to replace your media, or tell you you are wrong for using it. Instead, I think if you gave some of these podcasts just a little bit of your time, you’ll start to recognize that many of the mainstream sources are just not covering a lot of these stories with the sort of critical eye that real journalism requires.
You can decide from there what to do with the new perspective (perhaps one thing you’ll decide is my work is worth following!).
For now, here are the five progressive politics podcasts of 2020 that I think are most worth your attention. They are in no particular order; all provide valuable lenses with which to gaze at our increasingly hazy political world.
The Benjamin Dixon Show
Benjamin Dixon brings it. He covers the issues with fire and tenacity, but he is also very measured in how he does so. He knows his stuff and is probably my favorite voice to listen to on this list.
His show is, in general, about 30 minutes of him breaking down the news of the day, five days a week. He’ll have an occasional guest from time to time, but that’s the main format.
And he’s damn good at it. I was blown away by a recent episode he did; how well he was able to incorporate clips to illustrate his points. In fact, one of those clips went viral on Twitter because it showed just how dark and racist Mike Bloomberg is.
I found his show four years ago during the last Democratic Primary race and it became a regular listen. By that summer I became a Patreon and continued to support him even when his show went through a down period where he wasn’t producing much content.
Last fall, I was re-evaluating just who to support on independent media and actually stopped funding his show, partly because I had two beefs with him. The first was he was leaning toward Elizabeth Warren (I just don’t trust her) and the second was his insistence that we not fall victim to the asymmetrical warfare of the Republican Party, that we stand strong in our conviction that they are not playing the game as honest actors so we must be ruthless in our fight with them.
Fortunately, he came around to supporting Bernie and I came around to understanding his point about the Republicans, so I “made up” with him by becoming a Patreon again last week.
Anyway, check him out. He’ll give you a solid, grounded progressive perspective. And while he is not a person who pushes the fake identity politics, he does share information about how the black community perceives things that I find quite useful when trying to build a clearer picture of my native country.
The Majority Report with Sam Sedar
This is actually the podcast where I first heard Benjamin Dixon. So I’m indebted to it for that reason alone.
Unlike Dixon’s show, the Majority Report usually has a guest on after it covers the news of the day. I generally enjoy host Sam Sedar’s perspective but actually like cohort and Thursday host Michael Brooks better (he has his own podcast and YouTube channel which, to be honest, I haven’t listened to enough to put on this list).
Sedar is a comedian, though this show is usually done in a more serious tone. Like Dixon’s show, it comes out five days a week, usually is over an hour long and sometimes, for bigger events like the State of the Union or a primary election, they’ll do an extended version. Point is, they put out lots of content and most of it is good, especially if you want a bit more of the mainstream progressive perspective.
Useful Idiots with Matt Taibbi and Katie Halper
This podcast might be my favorite one to listen to on this list, if only because I really like the format and the rapport between the two hosts.
It just started at the end of last summer and comes out once a week, usually clocking in at around 90 minutes long.
Taibbi has long been one of my favorite journalists, not only because I think he does the actual hard work of digging into a story very well, but because he has a razor sharp wit and a very good BS detector.
As a result of this last thing, he’s been somewhat ostracized by the mainstream media during the Trump years, because he was one of the solid journalists who questioned things like the Russiagate narrative that the MSNBC’s and New York Times’ of the world promoted.
But this show is not just his; co-host Katie Halper is, like Taibbi, very well-informed and very funny.
They have four categories they cover every week: Republicans Suck, Democrats Suck, Isn’t That Terrible? and Isn’t That Weird?. And added another fun one, Most Stoned Moments, about the Democratic Primary and which moment showed the candidate acting the highest.
After they run through those things, they’ll chat about the news of the week and then usually have a guest to interview. Past guests have included: Dennis Kucinch, Michael Moore, Abby Martin and Jimmy Dore.
Media Roots Radio with Abby and Robbie Martin
This brother and sister team combine to produce one of the fiercest shows on this list, and they combine their investigative work with their passion for the common person against the threats of authoritarianism to produce this excellent podcast.
One fun thing about their show is hearing how they can shock each other with the things they uncover and they both uncover a lot.
Their episodes have a bit less structure than the rest on this list: some weeks it’s just them discussing the news of the day, sometimes they’ll dig into an issue (this podcast on the corruption of Pacific Gas and Electric in California regarding the fires in that state was amazing) and other times, they’ll have someone on to chat with.
Michael Moore’s Rumble
The newest addition to this list, Moore has put out a ton of content since starting late last fall and like Media Roots Radio, this podcast has a looser format, with Moore sometimes doing solo casts, sometimes interviewing someone (his interview with “Joker” director Todd Phillips was incredible) and sometimes going out and about to meet regular people and see how they are feeling about things.
He’s probably the most famous person on this list and it seems everyone has an opinion about him. But give his show a chance if, again, you want the more mainstream progressive take on what’s going on.
Okay, folks, that’s it for now. There are many more good ones, including my own (though it is not strictly a politics show) — I’ll share my favorite progressive politics YouTubers — in the coming days. In the meantime, happy listening!
Thanks for reading! I’m in the process of getting my independent media career up and running, so this will be updated as I go, but for now you can support me simply by sharing my stuff, by linking to me on Twitter, by checking out my old blog which has lots of good stuff, including a series on climate change (part 1, part 2 and part 3), or by checking out my new podcast, The B&P Realm Podcast. (This podcast is still in the process of being put up on all podcast sites. By February 1st it will be good to go! Each episode of the podcast contains a reading of my 2015 novel, “The Teacher and the Tree Man.” You can also find that book in full here, or you can find it broken down into four shorter books (book 1, book 2, book 3 and book 4). And if all that doesn’t get enough BW into your life, well, all I can say is stick around! Plenty more coming in 2020 and beyond!