Jim Fallows, Maya Jasin, Nile Ferguson discussed on Commonwealth Club

Automatic TRANSCRIPT

It's about locating leaders in networks and understanding how those how those networks function, The distorting, I think perspective. Which the modern media uh the door is the one that emphasizes all was the personality of the person at the top, especially if that personality is dramatic or charismatic, or just clownish and amusing. It's a great mistake to argue, as James Fallows did last year in the necessary for the Atlantic. That the president of the United States is like the pilot of an aircraft and that if the plane crashes, it's it's probably pilot error. There's just no way being present. The United States is like flying a play not even close. In truth, people at the top of complex bureaucracies have and this is something I've learned partly from racing back to singer. Have surprisingly limited information flow often and generally confronted with choices after the options have been filtered down, typically three by the bureaucracy. So this is a very important point of connection between my 35,000 ft work books like Doom or the Square on the Tar and the biography. I mean, I needed to write a book about networks to understand Kissinger. And understand his role in American and world politics. And then I think I needed to write a book about disaster because ultimately in volume to Kissinger. I have to write about Vietnam and make sense of of one of the great military disasters and political disasters of modern American history. Now It does sound a little bit like I'm saying it's a bit of boats. It's a bit of great or wicked men. And it's a bit of, uh, the grapes forces of history. But let's face it. That's the truth about what we do is. Historians were trying to tease out those things over which individual leaders don't have control and and then we're trying to identify what exactly their decision making. Role was good illustration of this from Doom is Churchill and the The Bengal Famine, which has always been the stick with which Churchill's critics of have beaten him and it's not been hard to do because Churchill said numerous callous things about about the Indians and particularly about the leaders of the nationalist movement. But if one actually looks closely at what happens, and I discussed this with the marcher and got him to read the relevant part, it's clear that it wasn't the British prime minister who was the key culprit for what went wrong in Bengal during the war. And ultimately, although he didn't do very gracefully, Churchill did the right thing and making sure that supplies were diverted. To the area that was affected so that that's a good illustration of how I think we should proceed as historians Churchill matter the huge amount. I think he probably was, as a J. P. Taylor said, the savior of his nation Without Churchill, It's hard to mention. Actually, Britain would have come through 1940 1943 in Ben Gold doesn't seem to me like something that has a huge amount to do with his decision making had much more to do with the people closer geographically to the To the disaster. You are listening to the Commonwealth Club radio program featuring Nile Ferguson in conversation with Maya Jasin off you can learn more about the Commonwealth Club. It's many programs. It's travel program and how to become a part of it all at Commonwealth club dot org. You can find thousands of our podcast on apple podcasts, Google podcasts and Spotify now back to our program. I wanted to ask you a little bit about disasters that don't count, but that's what I mean. You know you just we're talking about Churchill Churchill is a man who spent much of a professional career. I mean, he was he was rather old. By the time he became prime minister, you have decades of experience before them Throughout the decades of his career before becoming prime minister, he frequently mobilized exactly the same sort of rhetoric that he would later applied to Hitler. Two very, very different kinds of situations. You know, he'll talk About the suffragettes as being you know, the the evil of all time he'll talk about, you know, Irish Fenian. You know Irish rebels as being you know, the greatest evil of all time. We'll talk about obviously the greatest evil of all time, and we'll talk about Himmler is being the greatest evil of all time with Hitler. He actually got a lot of people to agree with him. But my point of this is to say that there are obviously lots of people who Are wrong nine times out of 10. And then if they're right the 10th time. Um it's that's the time that really sticks and I'm wondering in your accounts of disaster if some of the disasters that are standing have here in a sense this goes back to my Titanic question is is that some of them are the ones that stick? I mean, that is clearly, you know. The Spanish flu killed an awful lot of people, but some of these other things such as again the Titanic or the Challenger. These are the ones that kind of rise above the transom. So what about the ones that don't you allude briefly? To the opioid epidemic. At the end of the book, Um one could point to the Syrian civil war on the migrant crisis that has followed do these counts as disasters. And if so, how? And if not? Why not? Well, certainly the opioid epidemic because it hasn't been global. It's been national has been a disaster. And it killed over the course of back Obama's presidency as many people as Covid 19 killed in the final year of Trump's presidency. And yet, I don't remember ever reading a piece By Jim Fallows blaming Obama for the opiate epidemic. It happened on his watch the each year more people died, the administration totally failed to to deal with the problem. And I do think it's a reflection of the way our media work that there was so little criticism of of the administration that presided over that disaster. A disaster that was beginning to urban, as of course, deteriorated again last year with big spike in overdoses. I guess The key here is is how disasters get framed, and you're right. There's a phenomenon of the the lucky Cassandra..

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