New at Salon: Interview with Nathan Rabin on Donald Trump and The Insane Clown Posse

George Carlin once explained that when “you’re born you get a ticket to the freak show, and when you are born in America, you get a front row seat.”

Nathan Rabin, former head writer at the Onion A/V Club, cultural critic and author of “The Big Rewind,” has decided to test the veracity of Carlin’s theory with his new ebook, “7 Days in Ohio: Trump, The Gathering of the Juggalos, and The Summer Everything Went Insane.” Rabin is also able to offer insight into who the real freaks are: Are they fans of the socially stigmatized rap group, Insane Clown Posse, whom the FBI has labeled a dangerous organization and public threat, or Republican Trump supporters? At the risk of spoiling the fun, I’ll mention that the maniacs are not the ones wearing circus makeup.

In his equally amusing, fascinating and moving new book, Rabin chronicles his week in Ohio, attending both the annual Gathering of the Juggalos and the Republican National Convention. As if that were not enough to provide fodder for entertainment and journalism, Rabin spent the seven days with his long-lost brother, allowing him to further reflect on broken families, fractured relationships and the painful consequences of disconnection.

Rabin writes with his characteristic wit, but he also maintains an empathy that is staggering in its profundity and potency. As clichéd as it might seem, when I read Rabin’s account and analysis of Republicans, who frightened him, and Juggalos, who inspired him, mixed together with his own traumatic family history, I experienced the full range of emotional response — rage, laughter, tears.

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Rabin over email.

Read the exchange at Salon.


Truthout Runs My Interview with Author and Middle East Expert Gregory Harms

I’m happy to call author Gregory Harms a friend. He is not only a good conversationalist and generous person, but he is also a formidable voice of reason and justice on American foreign policy, international relations, and the history and politics of the Middle East.

This week the news and commentary website Truthout, which also ran my essay on the ten year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and ran a reprint of my tribute to Gore Vidal, is running an interview I conducted with Mr. Harms on the topic of his new book, It’s Not About Religion.

In the interview, Harms lays waste to much of the malicious lies and misguided perceptions about the Middle East, Islam, and the reasons many Arabs feel hostility towards the policies of the United States government. Readers will learn that Muslims are not frightening monsters hell bent on the destruction of all things American. They will also learn that much of the turmoil and tension in the Middle East is a direct result of American and Western policies, and that the tired expression “religion is the cause of all wars,” comes nowhere near reality.

Throughout the conversation, but more importantly, throughout Gregory’s brilliant and brave book, which I strongly recommend reading, he challenges the bigotry and aggression, that much to the pain of millions of people in the Middle East, dominates American political discussion of foreign policy and influences intervention abroad.

As I recall in my introduction to the interview, I met Mr. Harms at a bar called McBrody’s in Joliet, Illinois. We were reaching the wee hours of the morning, and Harms heard me make a positive remark about Neil Young. Harms agreed and incited a conversation , and a few years later, I’ve delighted in reading his three books (The Palestine-Israel Conflict, Straight Power Concepts in the Middle East, and the aforementioned It’s Not About Religion).

Anyone looking for truth to cut through the noise of the American media will experience the same pleasure and intellectual growth from reading his work. The new interview is a great place to start.

I’m particularly happy to have been associated with the interview, even if most of the insight in it comes from Harms, because Joe Macare, the editor of Occupied Chicago Tribune, gave it the highest praise imaginable. He called it a “middle finger to Sam Harris.”