January 25, 2024


Michael Hilliard: Exploring Geopolitics, Journalism and The Red Line Podcast

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Jose Garcia
Michael Hilliard: Exploring Geopolitics, Journalism and The Red Line Podcast
Economista Jose Garcia | Ultima Hora | Noticias | Directo | Economia, Rusia, China, EEUU, Ucrania, Europa, India | Conflicto, Guerra | Geopolítica | Podcast el Economista | Mejora y Emprende
Michael Hilliard: Exploring Geopolitics, Journalism and The Red Line Podcast

Jan 25 2024 | 00:40:07

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Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Speaker A: Hey, everyone. Thank you for coming here. In today's podcast, we have Michael. Hello, Michael. [00:00:07] Speaker B: Hey, it's great to be here. Thank you for having me. [00:00:09] Speaker A: You're welcome, Michael. For those unfamiliar with you, could you introduce yourself, please? [00:00:15] Speaker B: So I'm Michael Hilliard. I run the Redline podcast, effectively a geopolitical podcast where we have experts from the White House, CIA, Oxford, Harvard, Cambridge, and they to come on and effectively unpack one big geopolitical subject each fortnight. [00:00:29] Speaker A: Thank you very much. And why do you choose journalist? [00:00:33] Speaker B: It's a really weird backstory, but I used to be a music journalist for a long time ago, and then I got into conflict journalism in a bit of a back way. And, yeah, was writing defense papers and a few other bits and pieces. But generally journalism is telling stories that need to be told, and there's lots of ways to do that. Obviously, there's guys who are doing breaking news, there's guys who are doing great work reporting from frontlines, there are guys who are doing gossip news, and that's perfectly fine. But where I found lacking is kind of giving people not just the what happening, but also the why. And the if. And what happens next is, I think, the big thing that's usually missing from a lot of journalism. So being able to do that and go into explaining some of these conflicts and why the world works the way it does has been really interesting to put together. [00:01:19] Speaker A: How was your experience in the front line? [00:01:22] Speaker B: It was all right. Everyone's different. You spend most of your time sitting in bars, just chatting to people, making contacts. Nothing particularly. It's much less glamorous than I think a lot of people think it will be. [00:01:35] Speaker A: Did you choose for your passion or. It was something random? [00:01:40] Speaker B: Very much a passion. Get into journalism to make money, unfortunately. But it's a way of not only for me, I'm always interested in these subjects. I want to learn a bit about Sudan. I want to learn a bit about this. I want to understand why the world works the way it does. So it's a good avenue to not only drive yourself to go look into these things, but also just to actually be able to give people the information they've been seeking on some of this stuff. A lot of it is. I feel like most of the stuff online is in this weird category of being the daily news. Like, here's what's happened in Sudan today, but you don't understand who the forces are, why they're doing what they're doing, what's going on, or it's the opposite way around. It's a very either really basic YouTube kind of ten minute thing, or it's a very advanced intellectual, academic paper on it, in which case, I love those papers. They're fantastic. But my God, they're difficult to read at times. So there is that kind of for people who want to understand and want to get their hand around a subject, but don't really want to be sitting there doing a four year degree on that particular subject. [00:02:44] Speaker A: And why are you so passionate about Central Asia? [00:02:49] Speaker B: It's a really interesting area of the world. I went there years ago and it is so off the beaten path, there is almost no one covering it. It ends up being in most mining companies or in those defense guys. It is usually the Russia guy's job as a side hustle. Side hustle is not the right word, but the Russia guy has to do that as well. Sorry about that. Or the, it's, you know, something they do very much know. There are know Asia think tanks that don't do Central Asia. It is just completely uncovered and it really drew me to a region that just no one is looking into. And it is a bonkers, amazingly interesting region that just no one is looking into. So I kind of stumbled into it, really enjoyed my time there and then have been looking lots into it for years since. Been really interesting. [00:03:38] Speaker A: And why do you like the Mongolia's flag? [00:03:43] Speaker B: Oh, you've been doing your research? Yes, of course. Yeah, I love flags. In fact, if I put my camera a little bit up, there's all the flags of countries I've worked from over the years. Mongolia just has this amazingly good red and blue flag with this nice yellow pattern on the left. And it's a nice symbol. It's crisp, it's clean, and it's know, particularly when you go to Mongolia and see that kind of very open step, blue sky, it just looks absolutely. It's always, that's been my favorite flag. Second place, probably going to be Kazakhstan. That's a beautiful looking flag as well. [00:04:19] Speaker A: Oh, nice. Very nice. I think it's the moment to go deeper. For example, with your current projects. Can you share something about that? [00:04:28] Speaker B: Yeah, so with my work at. So which project are you referring to? We're referring to the Central Asia project. Correct. [00:04:36] Speaker A: Everything. I refer everything. We're going to start, for example, with Central Asia project. After that, we can continue with the Redline podcast and we can continue if you feel comfortable speaking about your work with. [00:04:52] Speaker B: Yeah, sounds good. So effectively, the Central Asia project is a joint venture between a few governments, and I won't say too much because it's not fully out yet, but effectively, a few governments, a few organizations and think tanks rewriting the military handbooks of Central Asia, this region, it is very annoying for all the Central Asia analysts out there that every other theater you look at has this amazing array of military assets, military handbooks, military analysis, where the bases are, who's commanding, how the command structures work, and there's just none of that for Central Asia, unfortunately, the Russia guys have it. No, the Central Asia guys don't, unfortunately. So putting that together and just sort of. It's been the bane of my existence for years that this hasn't been here. So when the opportunity came up to effectively be on the team to put this together, it was like, yes, thank you. This has been desperately needed for the region. So the idea is to bring a bit of a handbook out on how these militaries function, how the command structures work, what they're modernizing, what they're buying, which is a really interesting time for Central Asia at the moment, with obviously the fallout from the war in Ukraine, but then obviously bringing a series with it, as well as part of my sort of, when I got the offer to do it, I went, I'm happy to do this, but I want to do a series with the red line on this because academic papers are fantastic. But I think there's another ways to learn things, another way to go deeper into things. And giving people both options is probably a better way to go. Considering we've done all the research anyway, we might as well make use of it. So that's been really fascinating to work on at the moment. There is so much weird things in central asian militaries. There are combinations of departments where it's like the State Committee for National Security is different to the National Security Committee, which is different to the State committee for sovereign security. Again, it's those kind of OD and weirdness. And then most of the military equipment is from effectively the Soviet Union. It was leftovers from when the union broke up. And then there's bits of these militaries where it's units that were given to Stalin in the 1940s as part of lend lease that have ended up in Kurdistan now, which is just a really od situation where you have all this weird tech that no one's looked at for years. And as well as kind of. Obviously, some of these states are very authoritarian. But at the same time, you call them up and speak with their minister, the defense teams, and they're like, no one's actually asked this. Yes, we do have tanks. Yeah, it's been a really interesting project to put together, so I'm very excited to put that one out. But we've been very lucky to get all the information we have and all the satellite imagery we have and all the data and everything else. And I have stared at so many tank schematics, I can't even think anymore. [00:07:44] Speaker A: And in today world, for example, we live in SEO wall, in a clickbait wall. Where did you find the courage for start some project like the Redline podcast? [00:07:59] Speaker B: Originally it was going to be a side. It was just going to be a fun kind of side project. That was the thing. My lovely wife now keeps telling me it's going to be 4 hours a week, nothing to worry about. It's not going to be a big thing. And then it kind of took off a lot faster than I thought it would and we got a bit of a team going and really kind of went from there. So yeah, it was a let's give it a shot, see how it goes. We'll do a couple of episodes. I know originally it was meant to be an australian politics one, but then again, I was always focused on foreign politics anyway. And then when the australian episodes really didn't cut it, and then we did a couple of foreign ones, those did really well. And then from there I was like, look, I'd prefer this to be foreign politics anyway. And we went from there. So it's been fascinating to see that there is this appetite for people who want to learn about the military movements of Suriname, which I don't think even we'd thought about before we got into that. Really researching the episodes like that. Yeah, getting into the real niche ones has been really cool to know. Look into subjects that frankly, there's just so little out there on. [00:09:04] Speaker A: And can you share with us the workflow of the episode of the Redline podcast? [00:09:11] Speaker B: I can. So it's a very long process, so effectively, and show you how the sausage is made. We go right back to the beginning of the cycle, which is effectively that my entire writing staff meets. In fact, we got our meeting tomorrow for this one and decides on usually the next four episodes, three or four, depending on what time of year it is. And from there we work out what our topics are. Effectively, everyone on the half will pitch ideas and say, hey, I think we should do an episode on how the UN works in this country. Or hey, I think we should do an episode on Montenegro, or that we should do an episode on whatever it is. And then effectively we'll decide as a team on the four episodes that we really want to do and then start to assign things based on quite often my time schedule, if I'm traveling quite a lot, so I've got to go off to Uzbekistan for a bit or something. We might do an episode that is a little easier to record or maybe not time sensitive. Something like the Tajik elections, for instance, were not a surprise to anyone. So we could feel fairly confident putting that episode out, knowing that nothing was going to change. Other episodes are really timely. We have to kind of work around that. From there, the teams sort of get broken up into research teams. Usually there's sort of six or seven people on each team. They put together their packets. I start calling friends and people I know who work in those departments or very know those areas well and start inquiring on what I should be asking. My staff put together a short list of guests quite often as well. We'll start going out and getting guests. We'll do interviews usually, depending on what the episode is, either two weeks beforehand or the week of, or a week and a half beforehand, and then the show gets edited together, usually the weekend before or sometime during the week. But, yeah, generally the process is, I don't even know what the episodes are going to be going into those meetings because it's obviously voted on by the writing team and what we have fit in. And it just comes down to, I know, like we walked into, we'll be walking into tomorrow's thing going, hey, we probably need something. Economics wise, we probably need something. I've got to go traveling somewhere, so let's make something, maybe Russia ish, because that's a bit easier for us. But, yeah, generally it changes with every episode, but that's generally the workflow is that we have a very good set of researchers who effectively will break into teams and hand me usually somewhere around a 40 to 50 page packet. Then I'll have about a ten page packet, I'll do myself and compare notes and make sure we're on the same page. And then from there we can formulate a bunch of questions and go into it. And by the time we interview the guests and cut it down to what the final product is, then, yeah, there's a lot of different parts and everything that goes into it. [00:11:50] Speaker A: And can you speak more about your team? [00:11:53] Speaker B: Yeah. So there's about 2021, 22 of us across the states, Europe, Australia. One's in Ukraine at the moment. I think one's in Georgia, a couple in Germany, in the Netherlands. And I'm probably in Canada, yeah, effectively the team. We have some researchers who are people who are just general researchers, some who are effectively the heads of desks. So someone like NATO Stiller, who works at the Kiev post, at the moment he is our soviet desk guy. So, for instance, if we do an episode on a Russia episode or a soviet bloc episode, quite often he'll be the head of that research team. We also have other staff who are there doing stuff like the second voiceovers, or helping us clean audio, or help putting transcripts together, or just generally helping with the website and doing content like that. So it's quite a large team that sort of helps put all this together. So as much as it looks like me speaking, there's a whole bunch of people in the background who are the reason the show works. I'm just the depressed guy who speaks into it and lets the guests talk effectively. [00:13:02] Speaker A: Can you share something about your economics, about the podcast, how it works, as. [00:13:09] Speaker B: In how the show pays for itself? [00:13:11] Speaker A: Yes, of course, because I listen not all the episodes, but a bunch of the episodes. I never listen some sponsorship or something like that. And I know that you have a lot of downloads. So how the financial works. [00:13:27] Speaker B: So we have completely funded by our patreons. None of us are doing this for the money. Most of us are doing this because we just generally want to do this. It's a very much passionate project for all of us on the team. Yeah, we have looked down that road of advertising and we're thinking about going down that road, but it's not been urgent to go do so. And fortunately we have everyone, effectively, myself, kind of volunteers at the show to do this. And I know it's a lot of work, but for me it's not too bad. I do my consulting work on the side for lots of other stuff and that keeps my lights on at home. But for most of these guys, I think almost everyone on my team has got a high powered job somewhere else. I know one of my team's working for the Emirati role family, another one of my teams working Kia post, and then a couple of guys working for ministers, and some who are working in as economists, others who are working all over this place. So for them it's a passion project and if it were getting ten streams, we'd be happy. But it's amazing that it's getting what it is. [00:14:34] Speaker A: And what's your goal with the podcast? [00:14:38] Speaker B: I get asked this question a fair bit. I actually don't really know what the end goal is. I think to probably get to let's say 200 episodes seems like a good place to see where it goes from there. But generally, I think we go into either there's no more war in the world, which I think might be a while away, or we just don't enjoy it anymore. And there's no stress that we have to do. We have to do this. And that's kind of why I'm trying not to make it a job for myself. But the fact that we still enjoy it is the reason we do it. And until when we stop enjoying it, then we'll look down that road. But I still enjoy the fact that we can do an episode and have this author where I read his book, and I absolutely loved his book, and I thought it was great, and just actually get him on the phone and be like, hey, you said this. It was bugging me for six months. I read this in your book. What do you mean by this? And just actually have that question answered. So there is some selfish benefit for me that I sometimes get to ask some questions about books and people that I probably wouldn't otherwise. [00:15:41] Speaker A: How do you find the expert for a podcast? [00:15:46] Speaker B: It's a good question. So usually we have a general thought of kind of what the episode timeline wants to be. So, for instance, the last episode we did was on Russia's six fleets, so we knew that the general lineup was going to go. Part one is probably going to talk. Let's outline the six fleets and really quickly breeze through that. Part two is going to be the kind of internal mechanisms, how this is funded, what's happening, and then part three is going to be tech and looking forward. So then effectively, everyone gets the short lists made of kind of who our dream guest is, and maybe three or four people who would fit that slot well, and we'll approach our first selection, and if they say yes, then great. If they're not, we go to the second. But generally it's someone who we think can answer that question well, who's written some good papers on it, who is an expert on it, who gives great analysis on it, and generally, once you work in the field and long enough, you kind of know who the main players are, and then it's just making sure that they fit in the narrative. Or if they fit in the narrative is probably the right word, but they can answer the chapter we're looking for. There's no sense getting H I Sutton, who's one of the absolute best technical experts when it comes to know military capabilities and russian technical capabilities. There's no point asking him about the internal politics of the general staff, because that's not what he does. So it's finding someone who can answer that question and go from there and obviously just know. We obviously go through some of their old papers, read what they've said, and have an idea about what they're probably going to tell us when they get on. I am occasionally surprised, though, but quite often my staff will give me excerpts of their book or some of their stuff they've written and say, hey, look, he has really good points on this. You definitely should ask him about this. Never ask someone what their favorite flag is, though, so they're not as well researched as you are. [00:17:37] Speaker A: I have a small podcast and I was banned from TikTok. My social media is floated occasionally by russian boats, and even I receive a death threat once. So I can imagine the pressure that you receive and your team with your program. Have you ever feel this pressure outside Armenia and Azerbaijan? Did you receive any seriously threat or. [00:18:11] Speaker B: We will always get some threats. It's almost a tradition. On a Tuesday morning after released an episode, I'll get something nasty in my email box from someone and they're always just I generally have the rule of thumb that when most politicians and most kind of guys do that, if you threaten someone or a death threat or whatever it is, then you put it in a file and keep it there or just delete it. If they say your name or they say your address, then yeah, you take it seriously at that point. But generally, if someone's just spouting stuff off the Internet, I don't really feel it's worth my this is the thing. We get lots of emails come through the website or just come through to me because my email is very public. I would say 30 to 130 of them are really nice or genuine questions or hey, you kind of went into this, but I wonder why. I don't understand this. And I will happily take the time for those people. It may take me two weeks to get the time to actually sit down and write it, but I happily write to those people and say, hey, here's the answer to that question. But to the people who are sending just you are paid by the Keghi government and yada, yada, yada. I don't take those ones seriously. So you can take the time to send me that email, but I'm just going to throw that one away. But the people who send generally lovely emails, I'm always usually pretty. I always love trying to answer people's questions for them. [00:19:33] Speaker A: Do you think this is the wall now? Or is the subject as in, like. [00:19:38] Speaker B: What the world is now? [00:19:39] Speaker A: Yes, the world is now where we receive hate in social media. [00:19:46] Speaker B: Yeah, I think it's a combination of two. I think we are probably a little angrier. I think the algorithm will see engagement and effectively go, oh, a person who is very pro Armenian, for the sake of the argument, saw this clip and they didn't like it. They commented three times. So obviously people who are pro Armenian saw that clip and the algorithm might push it that way. So you get pushed into people's feeds that may not agree with you, and that's fine. The other one is that people are just more accessible. If I think about my parents generation, if they didn't like the guy on the tv, that's all they could do. But now there's been times where I've had a few too many vodkas or a few too much wine, and I've looked at listening to a podcast or watching a movie, and I could probably go email that person and tell them I don't like their movie. That's a pretty crazy time to live in that we can look up people and send them a message. I don't because I know in the morning I'd wake up and it would just be, I would probably regret it. I think the worst I've done is drunkenly ask a professor a couple of questions, but that's about it. But generally, we are in a much more accessible world. And that's great because it means that, for instance, for the show, that we can connect with all these great professors without having to go travel all the way to the United States every week. But it also means that you do tend to get more crazy emails. But if I get 30 nice emails and one nasty email, then I'd still much prefer that than the opposite, which is that no one emails. [00:21:23] Speaker A: And what's your opinion about journalists today? [00:21:28] Speaker B: I think there's a lot of great journalists out there and I think there's great journalists. There's good journalists and there's journalists who are unfortunately pigeonholed by what they have to do. A lot of these organizations you might join and they have a, you need to get out ten articles a week because that's whatever it is, that's the minimum. In which case then you have to kind of go for quantity versus quality. And as much as you might stick your nose up at that and say, that's not great, unfortunately, that's how they have to pay their bills, or it's how the newspaper has to pay their bills. The unfortunate thing about this is that good journalism is very hard, it's very expensive and it's very time consuming, and not everyone could do what we do, which is take the time to. [00:22:15] Speaker A: Do. [00:22:15] Speaker B: What we do, which effectively we don't usually touch things when they've just happened. I'm usually the kind of guy that some people will call and say, oh my God, this happened, what's going on? I go, I'm not going to say anything until the dust is settled in two days. And in two days I'll give you a really good assessment of what's going on and where it's probably going to go in six months. The trouble is that there's this constant cat and mouse game of if you are, let's say war breaks out or there's a battle or whatever it is, if you're a good journalist you will take the time to vet it, you'll call your sources, you'll double check, you'll get on the satellite photos. You want three sources to kind of confirm things before you go out. But by the time you've done that, the guys who have no scruples, who just the twitter kind of just like just post it, who cares? I have no credibility anyway. They've already made the story, they got the clicks, they got the money from it and they're out and gone. And by the time you post and say, yep, I verified that it was correct, they go, that dude, that was two days ago. What are you talking about? That is the trouble that you want to keep those journalists who are really good at their job and say, no, you have to verify three sources and then all breaking news is the clickbaiters. Or do you accept that guys who are trying to doing breaking news are going to get things wrong every now and again and the good ones will actually correct themselves. So quite often you'll see a story come out and then 2 hours later they'll either change the story or they'll say, hey look, no new information has come in. My second source finally rang me back, no, this is not what it is. It was this weapon, not this weapon or whatever it was. So yeah, I do feel there's lots of great journalists out there. We use them all the time, we speak with them all the time, we work with them all the time. But it's a tough world knowing that you are competing, particularly if you want to be breaking news or you want to be on the front foot. You're competing with a whole bunch of people who will just press, retweet or will just make up stuff even, because it's just a rumor. And those rumors might be right sometimes, but those kind of journalists tend not to have very long careers in journalism, whereas a good journalist will do a bit more vetting and research beforehand. [00:24:20] Speaker A: Do you have any recommendation for a good journalist? Maybe. I'm thinking in an independent journalist, Thomas much is amazing. [00:24:30] Speaker B: He's doing great work. But again, it really depends on what theater you're looking at. There are good journalists covering stuff on the. And this is the trouble that you also can't. I had this talk a little while ago and kind of went through this, but there are kind of 10,000 foot journalists and there are six foot journalists now. A six foot journalist is really good. He's on the ground. He's in the trench. He can tell you what the condition of the rifles are that these guys are using, but he can only see his bit of the trench 2 miles down. He doesn't know what's going on. The guy who's probably in Washington, he's in a think tank. He's been studying this for 20 years. He's amazingly expert at this. Yes, he is going to know who the planners are, where the choke points are, what the important bits are, how the system works. But he's not going to tell you what condition those rifles are in. Because he's sitting in Washington. And I think as much as single journalists are really good and they can do good jobs, it is really important to get a mix of those and make sure that one kind of complements the other. You can't try and do both well. So you try and get one guy doing each, and that's usually the best way to go, which is why quite a lot of the show is effectively we're getting stuff from six foot journalists and then asking it to the 10,000 foot journalists and going, hey, this is what we've seen on the ground. Would that match what your years of analysis would say? And they'd say, yes, that would match. And I go, fantastic. Love to see it. [00:25:52] Speaker A: And can you share your political experience? [00:25:56] Speaker B: I can't say too much. I try and keep my personal politics out of everything. But generally, yeah, I've worked on a lot of foreign affairs committees for ministers and a few and done a lot of consulting for quite a few governments. But generally I'm in that weird position that my right wing friends will call me left wing and my left wing friends will call me right wing. So I do a political compass test, and I am pretty much not too far off a center I am the most boring political person. I think YouTube can actually tell. They've got a little algorithm. They can tell politically where you sit. And we were one of the most neutral channels they'd ever seen, apparently. So that's always good to see. But, yeah, my political leanings are very much in the center. [00:26:41] Speaker A: Oh, nice. How did you start with the consultant to the politicians? [00:26:47] Speaker B: Well, I've been working in politics, doing campaigns and door knocking and being interested in politics for a while. But generally, if you are doing frontline stuff, and I was doing war correspondent before that as much as, again, it's that classic 10,000 foot, six foot thing that you can understand what's going on in the war. And this is going to use Ukraine as example today. What the Ukrainians will be fighting with today, that's what a six foot guy will tell you. But what the Ukrainians will be fighting within ten months is what effectively the political guys will be able to tell you, because that's how the chain works. So if you are going to be good at either one, if you are working in the political space, you should know what's going on in the battlefield. You should know how this machinery works. You should know that, hey, we can give these guys 1000 artillery cannons, but unless we've got the spare parts and the spare little bits and pieces that you need for them, it's not going to be worth our time to do so. At the same time, you should be looking in the opposite way around and knowing that, hey, we can be winning this war, but if we burn through our ammunition and we have nothing coming down the line in six months, then how are we going to fight in six months? So, yeah, effectively, I was working in one sphere and kind of like moonlighting the other and then flipped over and tried to understand the other side. And, yeah, it's really interesting to sort of look at them from the two very different perspectives. [00:28:13] Speaker A: Do you think the politicians are ready for the today challenge? [00:28:18] Speaker B: Some are. I mean, this is the trouble that you. Obviously, every government is going to be different. Every political party is going to be different. Everyone has different systems. Some of them are really clever. But unfortunately, if the party goes one way, particularly in the United States, where, as a classic example, you can get primaries, most districts in the United States are not competitive out of, let's say, the 325, if Mary serves guys in the House of Reps, maybe, let's call it about 50, 60 competitive seats. The rest are primaries, which means that effectively, if, let's say, you are a republican politician and you go, hey, I want to go run. I think the wall is a bad idea because the majority of the population thinks it's a bad idea. You can't run on that because you get primaried out when the primaries are only republican diehards who vote, who, again, they'll have an 85, 90% approval rating of the wall. So even if you believe that this might be better for the country, you have to go with what the primaries do. And there's a lot of politicians who are stuck in that position where even if they believe something personally, the party will decide their policy and if they keep their job. Some politicians are terrible politicians. And I won't name names, but there are some ones that I walk away and go, oh, my God, I'm glad your chief of staff is smart, but this is the trouble that my dad used to do this to me all the time as angry teen. I would go, the system sucks. We need to change things. He goes, cool, what do you replace it with? And I go, damn it. And that's the trouble. And this is the real trouble with a lot of this is I find today a lot of politicians do this exact thing. They go, this kitchen sucks. Let's bash make a new one. Let's break the kitchen down. And they'll smash the kitchen. And then they'll go, well, it's too hard to rebuild. And they'll walk away. And I really hate that as well. So the system definitely needs to change, but it's also hard to, I also don't try not to fall for that rhetoric of, like, let's tear everything down. And I'm not going to tell you what we replace it with. So we are some in ways moving in the right direction, a lot of ways moving in the wrong direction, but I don't think I'm smart enough to figure out the best way to fix it. Some things work, some things don't. [00:30:37] Speaker A: But what we can do, like as. [00:30:39] Speaker B: Citizens, again, your politicians, your mps, you can write to them, you can lobby, you can effectively. If a lot of the people don't realize that your congressman or your mp or whatever it is, he may not answer your call when you call his office, but if you, let's say, walk up to a doorknock or a campaign event, he'll have to answer your questions. That's a fun one. Generally getting more involved in civil activity. People are shocked at how much, particularly local elections and state elections absolutely change the politics of the country and changes the politics of how you live. That's really important. And people keep forgetting that just effectively getting as involved in civil discourse as you possibly can, staying informed. And this is the, I've sat at dinner tables where watch the entire dinner table is just completely wrong on a political issue because they saw something on Facebook. And then someone will say, and I go, actually, that's not really how that works. And I'll go, here's how it actually works. And walk them through it. Not yelling at them, just, hey, this is how it works. And from there, people, oh, okay. And they completely change their views. You don't have to be the biggest political junkie, but just talking with your friends and bringing it up is the biggest thing. It does shock me quite often with some other cultures in the world where you do not talk about politics. And it just boggles my mind that why would you not? There can be fights, it can be divisive, but sharing ideas and going, hey, here's what I've heard. Because again, our algorithms are going to be very different. Someone goes, hey, here's what I've heard. And you realize, a, the truth is probably somewhere in the middle, and b, you'll find that most people are actually fairly aligned on most of the issues. When you actually look at when they poll, even Democrats and Republicans who are quite far apart in the states now on 90 something percent of the issues, they're going to be actually pretty much on the same. Workers should get live better lives, people should have more money, yada, yada, yada. It's only the really fringe issues that will divide people. And those are the fringe issues, unfortunately, we talk about. But yeah, I think discussing more about politics, bringing it up a bit more, having this, not yelling at people and just know I hate Trump. And I go, okay, that's cool. What policy don't you like? Or I hate Biden. Okay, what policy don't you like? And once you get into that road, you actually find that people are a lot less aggressive. It's really interesting to watch political polling when they poll Trump versus Biden or when they poll Trump policies versus Biden policies. It's a completely different numbers to what you get when you do the candidates. So I would like to see more people discussing it that way in my. [00:33:23] Speaker A: Perfect world, Michael, how do you see the future? [00:33:28] Speaker B: I'm optimistic there's way too many pundits and analysts. I see, they see the graph going like this and they go, okay, that's where the graph goes. We're going to be here. Which makes sense in some ways. But I tend to think that if we look at where graphs were projecting, let's say, 20 years ago. We're not there at the moment because we've adapted. We got better. There are innovations and technologies that we just don't know or won't come out yet. How would you tell people what the Internet or podcasts or Twitter or any of this stuff was 25 years ago? So I think technology is going to be a fantastic move forward. It's going to be something that really does help out with a lot of society's issues at the moment. But I also know that we are in some pretty dire and dark times at the moment, and I'd be ignorant to say that this isn't going to be a really tumultuous year. This year we'll see more elections than any other time in human history. And that's a very worrying thing for most analysts because frankly, elections, particularly if they're close, are usually catalysts for chaos and all sorts of stuff. Because most political people, unlike myself, have a life, most non political people, sorry. And a four year cycle. There's been three years not thinking about politics. And then this year, when it comes close to the election, that's when they will be actually thinking about politicians. Then they'll see the ads going, did you know that this politician is a baby murderer? The real red meat gets you out and gets you angry, and you have people all hyped up, you have people angry, and then the election gets close and people can go, oh, well, I had it stolen or miscounting or whatever you want to say. And that's unfortunately when you can see times of instability. So there's a reason why most, a lot of coups, most kind of rebellions, that kind of stuff usually happens around election times. So going into a year where, and also know, like coups in Africa, we do see that once one is successful, then we tend to see more, almost copycats is not the right word, but the viability gets seen in other places. So if we have, let's say, a few in the earlier parts of the year, go well, know a couple of politicians got away with it, or use some arcane law to effectively stop an election being certified, that may inspire other elections further on in the year. And that's a big concern at the moment. So I'm optimistic. I think people tend to be better than what we give them credit for. But I also know that this year is going to be a fun year. So I'm going to invest in vodka stocks. That's my plan. [00:36:06] Speaker A: And how do you see the future of the European Union. [00:36:11] Speaker B: Oh, that's a really interesting question. So I've only got about five minutes until I've got to jump off and do another interview. But the EU is in a really interesting place that you had this really low approval rating of the EU coming before Brexit. And effectively that was understandable because a lot of the Britons. The Brits are absolutely horrifying for anything goes wrong in british politics. They blame the EU. Bendy bananas. It's the EU. Everything is the EU's fault. The garbage man didn't come tomorrow. That's the bloody. You know, the EU won't let me do it. There are open politicians who are saying, I would love to help, but Brussels. And because Brussels is such a convoluted system of everything, it makes it really. No one can actually really be pointed to when something goes wrong in british politics. You point to Rishi Sunak and go, that guy. Whereas the EU, like most people, don't understand how the EU works. So what happened is the Brits just blame the EU for everything. Then when they left the EU, the economy has done quite badly since. It's in a pretty dire spot at the know, there was a bit of a, maybe we should leave the EU coming out of parts of France and parts of Italy as well, and Greece. And a lot of those guys are looking at Britain and going, no, thank you. If Britain does do really well, let's say know we believe some of the rhetoric that came out and Britain comes out of this and becomes even stronger five years on, maybe it's a big ask. You know, we are now what the EU referendum was 2016, and we're now, oh, my God, 2024. We're eight years in and we still haven't seen that bump up in the british economy. So the Brexit referendum has not been the grand success that many thought it would be. So I think that's scared a lot of people away from getting out of the EU. It definitely has its problems. I wouldn't be surprised to see if we go into another bit of an economic crash, that we might see more right wing politicians or right wing parties come in and strip some of the powers from the EU. But generally, a lot of these countries do far better off via trade and tariffs and everything else than not. And if you want to be, if everyone wants to jump at the boat, different story. But if you are one country jumping out of the EU, then the EU has an incentive to punish you. And unfortunately, if they're going to go down that road now, you're fighting a very large trading bloc. So at this point, I see it probably staying where it is at the moment, if not, maybe getting a bit stronger. But we are seeing a bit of a shift to the right in european politics. So again, I think it all depends on probably the next french election will be the one I'd be watching. But at the same time, the know if you're the one driving the car, why complain about the driving? [00:39:04] Speaker A: Thank you so much, Michael. And the last question. Can you share your future projects, please? [00:39:09] Speaker B: So I have quite a lot of stuff going on at the moment, so Redline's obviously doing its thing. We've got new episodes coming out every fortnight, and then the next one's on the indian economy. We've got the Central Asia project coming up, which is great. I've got our sister show, context matters, which is effectively almost redline episodes, like, with nice box style animation. With the nice animation, you know, it just condensed into that kind of 15 minutes package so people can. They don't have to listen to a depressing economics monologue for an hour and a half from me. Yeah, those are the sort of big three things I'm working on at the moment. I am just living on excel at the moment. [00:39:54] Speaker A: Okay? So, Michael, thank you very much for coming here. And if you are listening, remember to cry. Follow us and good luck. See you soon. [00:40:04] Speaker B: Thank you so much. It's been an absolute pleasure. Bye.

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