Kevin and Benedict are colleagues. We have written and worked together. They have a podcast called This Week in News with Kevin and Benedict. I like them. Here’s their story. Kevin grew up in Sacramento California, where he conquered his enemies and saved the city from annihilation multiple times. He currently attends UC Berkeley as a Political Science major. He also worked as a heavy equipment mechanic for 5 years before college. He enjoys cigars, hockey (Go Sharks), politics, and saltwater fish tanks. Benedict is a Brit living in the US. He studied Spanish and Portuguese at Oxford University before moving on to a career in political punditry and journalism.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: You two are friends. You run a podcast called TWIN or This Week in News with Kevin and Benedict. What are the things that you two talk about that may be of interest to potential listeners?
Benedict: We try to look at the news. There is a lot of mass hysteria about the news. If you want to get the news, you can get that. We like to talk about the news in a way that makes us feel better. If we do not laugh, we will cry.
Benedict: We will try to rationalize and laugh about them because the world is hopeless and on fire.
Kevin: [Laughing] We are basically a political show. We come at it from our perspective, which is two atheist humanists. Obviously, we have complete editorial control over our content.
Benedict: I have complete control.
Kevin: That is true. It is almost impossible to not talk about the Trump Administration. It is hard to escape the black hole gravitational pull of Trump and the administration. We have t actively look for stories to talk about besides that.
We look at religious overreach into our culture. If we lived in a Trump-free America, we would be able to focus more on the “fun stories” like church-state separation issues. These days, we try to make sense in this nuclear-armed rogue state on your Southern border.
Jacobsen: [Laughing] How does this graduate training in Spanish and Portuguese at Oxford University help with understanding some of the news items of the day? As a friend, I have never heard you speak Portuguese.
Kevin: Give him a chance, he will go at it.
Benedict: [Laughing] I think more than the languages themselves. It is an appreciation of cultural differences that help me with that. Having spent time in four different countries now, I feel that I can come at things from a different angle now.
I can have an empathy for people with cultural differences. That is more useful to me than the languages themselves. It is not often that we talk about the news from Spain and Portugal in particular because there is too much news that happens in our own country, which we get wrapped up in.
Travelling broadens the mind, I hope that has done that for me.
Jacobsen: How has your education at UC Berkeley helped your work in the podcast? It is the third-ranking university in the world, I hear.
Jacobsen: You went to the University of Oxford.
Benedict: It is the #1 university in the world.
Kevin: Go fuck yourself.
Jacobsen: [Laughing] The premier institution in the world. From the United Kingdom premier educational institution in the world perspective, also, Kevin, a highly reputable institution in North America at UC Berkeley in the United States.
These are different cultural experiences, but high-quality educational experiences. This must influence the perspectives that you bring to the podcast.
Benedict: We are really smart [Laughing].
Jacobsen: This is true.
Kevin: I have direct training in political science. Obviously, I have direct training on these sorts of things that we talk about on the show. I think there is something that we haven’t explicitly talked about. But Benedict and I, in the back of our minds, we are very cognizant of that.
We are the epitome of two elitist coastal liberals.
Benedict: It is part of our brand [Laughing].
Kevin: [Laughing] It is part of our brand. We don’t play down that we are that. But we try to recognize that when we talk about topics because most people don’t have the background that we have. We try to – or at least I do; Benedict, I don’t know about him. He is just an elitist snob.
Kevin: We try and recognize that everyone has had the benefit of all of this training and education when we are talking about this issue. We try to explain this as plainly as possible and with analogies that are more easy to digest.
Benedict: Beyond that, not everyone has the time to think about these things, how lucky are we to be able to think about these things and not worry about where the next meal is going to be coming from?
Jacobsen: Do you notice an undercurrent that may have actually bolstered and is still a bulwark for the Trump Administration of a resentment for the “Hollywood elites” or the “Liberal Establishment”?
Kevin: Oh, definitely.
Benedict: It is a faux one because they voted for a reality TV president. It is just like if Hollywood disagrees with you, which it does a lot of the time. Fox News loves having conservative actors on. They love it!
Kevin: There is this not so hidden disdain for college and education. Not hidden at all! In their movie, on their radio, if you go over to Right Wing Watch, right-wing Evangelicals criticizing the education system in the United States because they believe it creates liberalism.
Education doesn’t make you a liberal.
Benedict: It helps.
Kevin: It helps. The educational process helps you realize the things that you were taught as a far-right fundamentalist aren’t true.
Jacobsen: Reality leans liberal.
Jacobsen: That leads to a question. What are the things – if we are taking the metaphor of Left-Right as the spectrum – those on the traditional Left get wrong? Within the context of a comedy-political podcast, what things deserve ridicule, humor, and incisive analysis?
Kevin: There are a lot of things that we on the Left do that are goofy and silly. We are prone to our own types of woo. There are a lot of people on the Left who are the natural green mommy who say, “I want to be all natural.”
Kevin: There are anti-nuclear people on our side. There is a huge difference between the Left and the Right. Our wackos on the Left are far less dangerous than the ones on the Right.
Benedict: The thing is, our wackos don’t run things when they get into power; theirs do. For me, I would go further than Kevin. The things like the technocratic worship on the Left. I think there is a lot of pandering to the centre-right that we still do on the Left.
Jacobsen: Do you mean the technological utopianism?
Benedict: Yes, the way people see Obama, Macron, and Trudeau to an extent run things. That technology will solve all of the problems.
Kevin: Relying heavily on experts is a big feature of technocratic thought.
Benedict: I feel like you are mocking me with that.
Kevin: The reliance on experts is not a bad thing. It is overreliance. It is assuming that your expert has the answer to all problems is the problem with technocrat philosophy.
Benedict: I think you are right, Scott, with the technological utopianism. It is “if we just did this, then all of the problems would be solved.” There is a short-sightedness. What problems will that create?
Kevin: It is a big problem caused by the demographics behind the Left. It is this short-sightedness. The Left has trouble getting people to go out to vote. You have people who aren’t enthusiastic about an election. Literally, that is all it takes. It was 77,000 votes in the right places would have put Hillary Clinton in the White House.
You did not have enough people excited about the election. There are more people on the Left than the Right. There are more people who lean Left that aren’t registered than Republicans. Republicans are old white folks who show up, who vote.
Jacobsen: What do you consider the big split between the news items we see on the conservative and the liberal sides, the Democratic or the Republican sides, or the Left and the Right sides?
Benedict: You can look at the news and predict what the Fox News top stories are going to be. I do not think that you should be able to do that. You can predict the angle they will take. You can do that to an extent with the Huffington Post, but they know their audience 100% and know what will sell with them.
Kevin: The whole Liberal Media, or the Left-leaning media, the flat-out unbiased media, there is no way that there is no bias in media. Sources like the Washington Post and The New York Times. People got pissed at them for publishing a bunch of op-eds from Trump supporters a couple of weeks ago.
People who go out of their way to get the other side of the story. The reason why we often see stories that are uncovered by the conservative media or have such spin that it is so incredible. You see a headline and think, “Wow, this is a whacked out twist on the story.” The reason is there is so much more.
On the Left, you have almost every newspaper in America. The big cable news networks other than Fox News. You have most radio, NPR, and that stuff. It is a matter of choosing what to cover. Whereas, the mainstream media covers every story that they can. They do not omit stories.
The Right has the option of omitting stories because they know they are the only sources that the conservatives will go to and so they can shape the stories the way they want to.
Jacobsen: The end.