796: Control, Alter, Delete Shows


April 19th – There’s enough inequality for everyone! Post-crash America gets inequality! The internet gets inequality! Ukraine gets inequality! Your bitter, blind, broke, gap-toothed radio host Chuck Mertz wonders if that’s why he often feels “less than” more or less all the time.





David Cay Johnston: “The bottom 90% lost ground. They are worse off coming out of the recession than they were during the recession. That screams what’s wrong with our policies.”

The wealth gap between America’s rich and poor might be big enough to sink a county. We’re doing our best to find out. David Cay Johnston has been talking about that gap for so long, you’d think he’d have run out of words, but he’s found a wealth of inequality to explore in the book Divided: The Perils of Our Growing Inequality, a collection of writings on America’s deepening wealth disparity featuring past This is Hell! guests Joseph Stiglitz, Kim Bobo, Barbara Ehrenreich and, of course, David Cay Johnston himself. He talks with Chuck about how government policies create inequality, why every president since Reagan has been a Reaganite, and how the founding fathers saw this all coming.

David Cay Johnston is an investigative journalist and the winner of a 2001 Pulitzer Prize for uncovering loopholes and inequities in the U.S. tax code. David is the president of the 4,900-member Investigative Reporters & Editors, and teaches tax and regulatory law at Syracuse University Law School.



Astra Taylor: “Old social hierarchies, like the dominance of wealthy white men, continue in digital spaces. Who is running the big new media platforms? Who is running the tech companies? They’re even more male-dominated than the companies of yore.”

The internet is starting to look at lot like the real world. The more of our lives we live online, the more we submit to corporate consolidation, invasive advertising and the whims of a narrow subset of wealthy overlords. The last time Astra Taylor was on, she taught Chuck how to pronounce “Slavoj Žižek,” but now she’s working on something way harder – reclaiming the internet. She lays out the stakes and the way forward in her new book The People’s Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age. Astra calls in talk about how traditional power continues in digital spaces, why working for free is still getting someone paid, and how people around the world are taking the internet back for actual, real life people.

Astra Taylor is a writer and documentary filmmaker. Her films include the feature documentary Zizek!, a biography of Slavoj Zizek, and Examined Life, a series of excursions with contemporary thinkers. Astra’s writing has appeared in The Nation, Salon, Monthly Review, The Baffler, and other publications.

Interview Transcript via AntiDote.


Volodymyr Ishchenko: “The main enemies for Ukrainians are both Russian imperialism and Western imperialism, as well as Ukrainian oligarchs.”

We’re so uncertain about the facts in Ukraine, that maybe we should be even more uncertain about our opinions. That wouldn’t be very American of us, which in this case is a good thing, so we called Volodymyr Ishchenko, live in Kiev. His recent writing at the Guardian, including Maidan or anti-Maidan? The Ukraine situation requires more nuance and Ukraine has not experienced a genuine revolution, merely a change of elites, is certain about one thing – the ruling class stands to gain from whatever happens next. Volodymyr updates us on the situation in Ukraine, compares and contrasts Ukraine’s two recent uprisings, and explains why overthrowing a government isn’t always a revolutionary act.

Volodymyr Ishchenko is a sociologist studying social protests in Ukraine. He is deputy director of the Centre for Society Research in Kiev, an editor of Commons: Journal for Social Criticism, and a lecturer in the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy.

[Volodymyr's phone dropped just as we were asking him the Question from Hell!]

Interview Transcript via AntiDote.


Brian Mier: “The media from the expanded state, like the New York Times, are smearing Brazil right now. They’re trying to create a sense of instability that will favor the opposition, who they hope will privatize the state petroleum company.”

Brazil is busy preparing for the World Cup, from newly flush construction workers to real estate speculators and military police. Critics of the run-up to the World Cup have been busy too, and while there’s a lot of problematic neoliberal policies at work, Brian Mier is pretty sure a lot of the criticism is more about destabilizing a left-leaning government than defending the public good. Brian has new pieces up at Vice and NACLA. He updates us on pre-Cup Brazilian society, from workers to politicians, and explains why the US government (and media) don’t have a lot of room to criticize how the country handles its domestic affairs.

Brian Mier grew up on the North Side of Chicago and has lived in Brazil since 1999. He is currently a policy analyst at the Centro de Direitos Economicos e Sociais. His writing has appeared in Lumpen and Vice, and he has a novel coming out in 2014. Brian podcasts at Progressive Brazil.


Elvis DeMorrow: “One of the best things you can watch on YouTube is a young Michael Ruppert confronting then-director of the CIA John Deutch in a hearing, and just destroying him.”

There wasn’t anything mysterious about Michael Ruppert’s suicide, but Elvis DeMorrow devotes most of his Konspiracy Korner to mourning the writer and investigative reporter, who was a big influence on Elvis. About as much as Dimebag Darrell. That those are his two biggest influences shouldn’t be too shocking to listeners of This is Hell!. Here’s that YouTube clip of Ruppert vs Deutch he recommends you watch. We recommend you watch it too. Elvis also finds time to tell the story of how his solo acoustic black metal act got banned from the Heartland in Chicago, and updates us on the FBI’s investigation of the FBI’s handling of Ibragim Todashev’s killing.

Elvis deMorrow advocates ecstatic agnosticism when confronting the mostly hellish daily grind of contemporary USA. He infrequently explores the weirder fringes of the collective dumb-conscious and provides reductionist summaries for tolerant listeners via the Konspiracy Korner. An undisciplined but readable archive is maintained at Dead Metaphors. You may find him at an open microphone near you, performing as Black Stool.


Jeff Dorchen: “The only people for whom an all-white cast becomes a race-less cast are white people, so used to being the normal race that they don’t even notice they’re the only ones there. “

Before Jeff Dorchen wasted his time on BuzzFeed, he wasted his time watching an interview about the racial makeup of the cast of a Hollywood movie, reading the user comments on an article about white privilege and considering his own belligerent A-hole magnetism. Then the quiz. Which turned out to be a waste of time, because oppression isn’t quantifiable. But then how else would a waste of time BuzzFeed quiz work?

According to his contacts on LinkedIn, Jeff Dorchen can do just about anything. He’s a visual artist, songwriter/musician, actor, essayist, poet, playwright and screenwriter.




  • Shawn

    Good riddance to con artist and 9/11 conspiracy loon, Michael Ruppert. I’m glad he’s dead. He was such a sleazeball he made Alex Jones look like a decent human being.

  • http://www.thisishell.com/ Alexander Jerri

    Shawn you gotta at least write a couple sleazeball qualifying actions / qualities so people know where you’re coming from!

  • Dave Windowe

    Not even a mention of the documentary movie “Collapse” directed by Chris Smith? Which was an examination of Michael Rupperts life. In which Smith likened the title to not only to the collapse of the infrastructure, economy etc. of the United States and the world, but the collapse of what director Chris Smith saw of Mr. Rupperts life and mind. He now has committed suicide. Come on Elvis!

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  • kkharris

    I can attest that Elvis is a fan of Collapse. Someone must have been keeping him from mentioning it on air. Cui bono? Also, I find a bit of poetic justice in that Ruppert’s close friends immediately went on record as saying his suicide was no conspiracy but just a an act by a troubled man, and yet Frankenstein’s monster children did not believe it for one moment.

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  • Elvis

    “Shawn” — comparing Ruppert to A. Jones is baffling and betrays your level of knowledge in this area. OK you don’t like it, that is fine, but “good riddance” type willful acts are gonnna getcha in the end. Get mindful. “I’m glad he’s dead”. Did he say that?

    D. Windowe — good point, and kkharris is correct. Cui bono? I don’t have a full radio show to expound.

    It was a fake mustache.