04/07/2023 - Would banning Tik Tok spare us watching both Trump and Paltrow trials? If so, Mark and Carrie are on board.

Mark Blyth, political economist at Brown University's Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, and Carrie Nordlund, political scientist and Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Programs at Brown University, share their take on the news.

On this episode:

  • What Trump’s indictment says about the state of American politics 
  • DeSantis’ cruel (and also a slightly boring) strategy for countering Trump
  • Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping’s recent bro-out in Russia, and how it fits into China’s larger geopolitical machinations
  • Congress's poorly informed and slightly xenophobic attempt to grill the CEO of Tik Tok
  • The underlying forces behind the protests in France, and why politicians can’t bear to tax the rich. 
  • The real story behind Scotland’s recent change of leadership. 
  • Gwyneth Paltrow, and the redemption of America’s judicial system

Learn more about the Watson Institute's other podcasts.



CARRIE NORDLUND: Hello, and welcome to the Watson Institute for International Public Affairs, Mark and Carrie, April edition. Here we are, Blyth.

MARK BLTYH: So, now, let me get this straight, we have to mention the Watson Institute first now? Is that policy?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah, I mean they're the backers here. Yeah.

MARK BLTYH: Oh, OK. Can we actually turn them into our sponsors?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Maybe we get a free mattress or some healthy green drink out of it or something.

MARK BLTYH: How about My Pillow.


MARK BLTYH: We'll get Mike on to do it. Come on, it's the Mark and Carrie Show. Speaking of Mike Lindell and other people who really like President Trump, he's been in the news again, hasn't he Carrie?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, you're just diving right into it. I feel like I need to take a deep breath here only because you just want to leave Trump behind. I feel like he's been in office running, for office since my entire lifetime.

So just that he's back on front page, all caps headlines, it makes it even more exhausting. But right, so he's indicted on 34 counts all having to do with the hush money. And the legal stuff, I think, is out there. That's not my particular expertise.

The politics of it, of course, are what's particularly fascinating to me. And the way that all of the Trump people have lined up behind him. And what this says about the Republican primary. And I could go on, and on, and on. But that was--

MARK BLTYH: Oh, please do. That's why we're here. I mean, for you to go on and on about this because you know this stuff. Let's start off with the-- I know you don't want to get the legal stuff, right? But the politics of are pretty straightforward, right? We didn't get Al Capone for being a gangster, we got him on taxes. And this really smells similar.

Now of course, the defense for doing this is, well, if he stopped committing crimes, we wouldn't have things to go after him on. So apart from this, there's also the Georgia lawsuit, which is actually more serious, at least in my opinion. That sort of stuff.

But it definitely smacks of, we're just going after this guy so he can't run for president because we are terrified, as a class, that he might win again. I mean, is that so off base?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, I mean, to your exact point is this is not the strongest of the cases, that leading with the one that's the most salacious, right, hush money, ha, ha, right? I mean all of that versus the more serious ones supposedly coming at him, Georgia included.

So what's, again, interesting to me is to see where this puts the Republican primary. Because I think that-- let's just say this is the only case and he actually-- and it's unclear whether or not he'll actually be sent to jail, which he probably won't.

And sad for Trump too. No perp walk. Supposedly, according to Maggie Haberman, he'd been practicing that. No mug shot, no handcuffs, sad times for him, practicing all of that stuff.

But where exactly does that put the Republican primary? And of course, DeSantis is the one that you're looking most at. And again and again he shows that he's just not willing to engage with Trump on the pugilistic politics of it. Meaning that Trump just hits him again, and again, and again in the face.

He workshops all these new nicknames for him, like Desanctimonious, little D meatball. We've talked about all of these before. And in fact, Trump's numbers have risen according to the polls, right? He's gained four points depending on which one you look at. He's raised, according to his people, $7 million since the indictment. And DeSantis' name is just off the front page.

And so to read the, I mean, not so secret tea leaves on this is that, Trump is in a really strong place to win the nomination of the party and just leave DeSantis and the rest of the people that we can't name right now in the dust.

MARK BLTYH: It does seem that DeSantis's only comeback to this is to repeatedly say, look, porn stars, hookers, hush money, infidelity, I can't talk about that, but what I can say. And then 5 minutes later to say, hush money, porn stars, infidelity. I can't say anything about that. So he just keeps basically saying, this is who Trump is. This is who Trump is.

And as you say, it's clearly not working. Because if you're dishonest, what you've done is to basically go all in on culture wars and culture war material, right? And you're going all in against woke capitalism and all that sort of stuff.

And when you do that, what you're doing is you've made a very high stakes game, that, number one, that outside of your base, people actually give a crap about this stuff, that they actually think it's a motivating thing. They really care about the politics of transgender.

And also the way that it's coming out, it's like, they just look mean. They just look like they're picking on vulnerable kids and calling anyone who has any sympathy for anyone involved in the trans movement as a groomer, which is so weird, and creepy, and just awful. So there's a bad, mean politics to it.

And then on the other side of it, you've got Trump. And Trump is basically just saying, look, I told you they'd come and get me. They're afraid of me. And look, this is what they're doing. And they're just putting this together. And it's all bullshit, right?

And little wonder amongst the base that DeSantis says, no, we must really just be mean to every vulnerable person. That's just decaying, versus getting behind the people's tribune, which is the role that Trump plays the best.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, DeSantis, you're just like what? Because he's saying exactly what you said. And I just fell asleep because I don't even really even understand it. Versus Trump, they're coming after you and they're getting to you through me. So they're going to throw me in jail and you're next. And I understand that pretty easily.

And DeSantis has garbled mealy mouthed blah, blah. And you're just like, I don't really know what you're saying. And they don't-- the base doesn't trust or like DeSantis. They trust in Trump, ironically. But they don't like DeSantis. And I think part of that is because DeSantis isn't actually-- Trump is genuine in who he is.

MARK BLTYH: This is a-- he's that self-made guy, even if his dad made the money, from Queens, right? He's the outsider. DeSantis, for all of us. Like, I'm so against all this woke stuff. He went to two Ivy League institutions and yet he managed to survive it without too much trauma. I mean, who's kidding whom on this one. No, I think I'm with you. I think this puts Trump in a very strong position.

Now, let's play the other side of this, right? Which is, well, what's a prosecutor supposed to do? They're independent. They operate at the level of the state. It turns out that in Georgia, they're concerned that the guy was basically saying, can we please overturn an election.

In D.C., they're looking into or at least, they were at one point, the fact that he was basically involved in a riotous assembly against the United States government that led to the deaths of several people. And then there's loads of stuff in New York.

Now, if you really were doing the politics of this, what you would do is you would pull back on the Manhattan one, and firm up the case on the other ones, and really go after them for that.

So in a way, the fact that they're doing this and going after them with this weak stuff attests to the independence of the judiciary. Which also suggests that, no, they're not out to get him. He's just done a whole bunch of bad stuff which ultimately catches up with you.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah imagine that. He's actually maybe guilty of this.

MARK BLTYH: Like my old fridge magnet that says, well, look at that. If it isn't the consequences of my own actions.

CARRIE NORDLUND: [LAUGHS] Yeah. I mean, that's exactly right. And I think that if you think about the swing voters, which there are three of them in America, and they reside in the suburbs, this kind of thing is just like, yeah, 34 counts, I don't really understand felony, seems bad. 34 seems like a lot. Do I really want to go through four more years of this?

And then on the other side, on the Democratic side of things, you got to think, Democrats are like, we don't want Trump or we want Trump because he's potentially the only person that Biden could beat. And then you think, that's all you got, Democrats to be anti-Trump? I mean, where are the other policy-- the other policy things that Biden is going to run on.

MARK BLTYH: And is Biden actually going to run? But we'll get to that one another time. What else has been going on then?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, I mean, there seems to be a few things going on around the globe. I thought the picture of Putin and Xi, clearly, very comfortable with each other, in Moscow. And then Xi's invitation, like, come on down for another romantic date in Beijing, seemed to be really very friendly.

And I just thought that was such an interesting picture to have up alongside of the grilling that the TikTok-- I don't know. Is he CEO? Yeah, CEO had in front of Congress which basically shows Congress has no idea how the internet--

MARK BLTYH: Yeah, tech or anything works. So it's like Facebook all over again, right? OK, let's separate these out. There's the whole issue with TikTok. Let's put that to one side, right?

I think what's really interesting with the Putin and China stuff, and then, of course you've got competitive bidding as to which Congress person can meet with the president of Taiwan just now, right? So there's the whole Taiwan thing. And Pelosi, but now McCarthy has got to be there and all that sort of stuff, right? What does all this add up to?

The thing that got drowned out in all of this was the Russian peace plan for Ukraine. So it wasn't just that they met. They came up and said, this is how we're going to fix it. And immediately the Ukrainians are like, no, you're not. And the Americans said, no, you're not.

Well, China's been pretty active. China just last month brokered a rapprochement between the Saudis and the Iranians. They're also on pretty good terms with other people in the region. The Abraham Accords, the Americans say, are bringing the Gulf states and Israel closer together.

But at the same time, the real Axis that you need to worry about, if you are worried about the Middle East at all is what's going on with Saudi and Iran. If they basically become, if not friends, then at least there's a modus vivendi that really curtails American power and in influence in the region. China gets closer there.

Their emerging as the credible independent broker. They're saying, basically, you may not like this peace plan. How about this peace plan? We're at least offering one. What are the Americans offering? More weapons and more death, right? So they're really putting themselves into an interesting position.

Now in terms of the relationship between the two, it's quite clear that Russia needs China far more than China needs Russia. And to a certain extent, like, come on down for the second romantic date, isn't really of, you know, and then we'll really get into bed together. It is more of an anti-American Coalition than as a love fest between the two of them.

And if the Saudis begin to realize they don't need an American security guard and seeing they're quite fine playing an independent role, and you've got Turkey doing the same thing on the southern flank, and you've got the Germans sending tanks, but at the same time, 30% of Germans want an end to the war now.

It begins to look like, once again, OK, America, what's your plan? What's your end game? How are you going to sort this out. Because at least, the Chinese seem to have some impetus and desire to end this rather than just inflame it.

CARRIE NORDLUND: I had forgotten about Saudi Arabia and Iran meeting. I mean, if that isn't a telltale sign that the US has gotten outmaneuvered, I mean, to have these two countries meeting, I mean, it's alongside--

MARK BLTYH: Big stuff.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah. And that the US didn't really seem to have any response to that either. Right just a shrug the shoulders. I mean, I'm sure much more than that. But at least, to the external observer, there didn't seem to be very much of a response. Yeah, I thought that was really interesting.

On Taiwan and China, just to put them together for a second, and I know this point has been made over and over, but it's really the only bipartisan issue that the US Congress has. That you could have AOC and Marjorie Taylor Greene actually agree on. And maybe they don't agree. But to have those two, the two left and right sides actually agree on it, yeah.

MARK BLTYH: So let's pivot from there to the great example of that, which is, everyone over the age of 60 in Congress hates TikTok and have no idea what it is. So did you actually watch any of the grilling that that guy got?

CARRIE NORDLUND: I watched A tiny bit of it. But I have to say, I mean, it was so-- to continue on this line of thinking, there were parts of it that I just thought were so xenophobic and just, I mean-- and were just like, you're Singaporean but do you understand Chinese law. I mean just weird stuff to the CEO. And I just found it to be-- really? These are our leaders of the country? And yeah, it's just disconcerting.

MARK BLTYH: Nobody ever turns around and says, well, Apple, it's an American company. Who knows what's deep inside the source code. Maybe every time you're making a phone call or looking at a video, they'll record and that is going to Langley and the NSA. I mean, why is it only a one-way street on this thing?

And given the fact that TikTok is basically used by teens to do funny videos, I mean that's literally what most of it does. The notion, this is a security threat. How? Well, because it's so networked it could be pulling data.

Pulling data on what? Who can hop the fastest on one leg? OK, maybe there's more serious implications than this. But as you say this is another coalition of convenience, right?

The one thing we can agree upon is we need an external enemy and the external enemy is Russia and China. Which, of course, immediately makes the enemy of my enemy my friend. And it's precisely those dynamics that push Russia and China together. So it's like, you why the world's ganging up on you? It's because you keep punching the rest of the world in the face.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, and doesn't Jeff Bezos, slash, Amazon, slash fill in the blank American tech company, doesn't China already know my data if they even want it because I bought something from Amazon, which is-- and the thing that they sold me is made or sold by a Chinese company, I mean--

MARK BLTYH: Well, look, not just that. I mean, we've got all these records now of Amazon Alexa basically listening in to conversations. But interestingly, particularly of ethnic minorities in the United States. And trying to basically improve its recognition by lurking in the background and doing all this sort of stuff.

No, we have no evidence that TikTok does anything like that. But we completely give all of the American tech firms a pass for all the egregious violations that they do in terms of both privacy, and in the case of Instagram, actual harm, mental health harm. And in the case of Facebook, weaponizing anger as its main business model. I mean, really, can we get a sense of perspective on TikTok here?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah. Well, and YouTube as well, the politics of it. I mean, angry-- I mean, that I can go from teaching me how to-- teaching myself how to knit to learning how to buy a shotgun in two videos, I mean--

MARK BLTYH: Right. Exactly. Yeah. So anyway, yes, that's kind of sad, what can you say? What else? Where else are we going to go? Let's get out of the US.

CARRIE NORDLUND: [CHUCKLES] We'll move on something happy and that's called the strikes in France. I think the French are really good at protesting. I feel like they're just-- they commit to it. And they're not in it for the short haul, they're in it for like mountains of trash and we're not going to give this thing up.

I thought it was interesting in that, there's so much talk about authoritarians around the world and all of that stuff, that Macron passes this through an executive order. And then they survive all these no confidence votes. And so that's what I thought was really interesting, is him passing this through a strongman type of way.

MARK BLTYH: Well, and when you think about it, he has this movement rather than the party, which is a bunch of disaffected people from other parties that failed. It's really about him. There's a whole thing there. So the whole thing with him and the luxury watch?


MARK BLTYH: The watch was banging on the table because it's some pathetic Philippe or something like this, that weighs four tons. So he took it off and of course, people are like, oh, he's trying to hide his wealth. And it's like, no, it was actually just banging on the desk. But it is the type of watch that you only have if you'd absurdly well off, right? It's as simple as that. So the signal is there.

But there was a really nice piece, I think it was a Twitter thread, actually, from Thomas Piketty who really put this whole thing into context in a lovely way. He said, look, you've underinvested in education, you've underinvested in skills, you've underinvested in infrastructure, you've underinvested in the future. All you really care about is some full measure of budget balance, inequalities rising all the time. And your solution to this now, is to make people work longer.

Rather than actually thinking about why is it that you're in this state, that this is even a plausible answer to the question as to why we're in this state. It's because people need to work longer. No, that's not it. It's everything else that's basically built up that you haven't addressed why not do something about that?

The other great way, and I think we spoke about this before. Simon Cooper had a fantastic essay in the Financial Times talking about this. Which is essentially, the French have got it right and everybody else has got it wrong.

The French talk about the '60s as the last good decade, right? And it's basically-- that is right. You know this is it. You've got about 10 years left. It's pretty good, whatever. And what we want, we want to extract all of the value out of that so that you basically wait until you're 68 in the United States, or even longer. You're a Walmart greeter when you're 79, right? Just work till you drop, you-- right? Just keep going.

And the French are saying, basically, look, we can afford this. We could change taxes. We could do all the things to make this thing solvent. It's the same as the American social security thing, right?

The current cap is something like 167. And we have a social security crisis because we can't fund this. There's many old people. Bullshit. Just lift it to a million so that everybody pays social security taxes on income to a million. Oh, but only rich people would pay that. Yes, exactly. And there would be no more solvency problems.

So the French are basically saying, look, 80% of us would benefit from retiring when we're still at the good side of our last good decade. It would be good for us. It'd be good for our families. It would be good for the country.

But no, rather than allow that to happen by raising taxes on you so you can have your ridiculous watch, right? We are going to basically have to work two extra years. No, get the barricades out. So yeah, absolutely. I think there's much more here than meets the eye.

CARRIE NORDLUND: This is so-- I mean, why are we so afraid of taxing the, quote unquote, "rich." And we're just terrified of it. I mean, to raise the Social Security to actually make it so that I might get like a 1/10 of what I've put into it, it doesn't seem like it's that crazy of a notion.

MARK BLTYH: No, just think about it from this way, right? So you go from basically, I am, what say, $200,000 a year, right? You're already above it. So you're not paying Social Security on $40,000. Let's go to people who they're now in a million, right? What that means is they're paying an extra $800,000 becomes taxable, 80%, right? So that's taken a big chunk of change. The only people who are in those upper brackets are going to pay.

Now it's a big revenue raiser. But it's actually targeted on very few people who happen to be the people who donate to politics, who are the people who are the most influential members of society. So you can see how it immediately runs into a problem.

Do you remember when, what's it called again, the 537 program that allows for higher education? It's a savings program. Remember when Obama tried to basically go against that to raise money for community college and he had the biggest backlash from his donor class ever?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah, that's right.

MARK BLTYH: I mean, that's it. The one thing we can't do is go anywhere near the wealth or assets of the upper middle classes. That's just verboten. You can't do it.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, and I was thinking a lot about this. This now seems like super old news. But I mean, last month was the failure of Silicon Valley Bank. And you read the non-social media TikTok or the TikTok of how that happened.

And you have people who were like, we have to turn back the regulation Twenty Eighteen, including the president of that bank, right? And then, flash forward to now, on the horn with Joe Biden or the Biden administration asking for a bailout.

And so, I mean, the cynical side of me was like, oh, I'm really curious. Why is it-- because I think a few days after, then there was a shooting in Nashville. And you think, oh, how is it that the banks get bailed out to the tune of however billions of dollars.

And so, in terms of finance policy, we can move the dial. But in terms of gun background checks, what have you when it comes to gun policy, we can't do anything. So I just quickly looked. And this is, again, a short and cynical way of thinking about things.

But the finance industry gives to both sides of the aisle because they're smart. They gave in Twenty Twenty, $220 million to Democrats and $219 million to Republicans. So I mean, I guess that's why it is that they get--

MARK BLTYH: They understand finance, right? You don't know who's going to be in, you give to both.

CARRIE NORDLUND: And they get a solution over a weekend. Yeah.

MARK BLTYH: So what's the story basically then with the gun lobby? Why can't you do anything or not? What's the equivalence there or the lack thereof to the finance people?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah. And I think that's the incentives, right? I mean, they only give to one side of the-- they only give to the Republicans, one. And there isn't any-- and there's no buy-- there's no part of the policy that either side can agree on.

And so, I guess, if you want to have some sort of gun control policy or gun policy in this country, you have to have a group that's willing to give to both sides and create an incentive structure by which they--

MARK BLTYH: Exactly, right. So you can play-- you can spread your bet, which is the finance industry side. Or you can concentrate your bet and make sure that those people can always block. And that's effectively the two strategies that you've got in politics. Yeah, absolutely outlined right there. Can we talk about Scotland?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yes, we can talk about Scotland. Sorry to be an American here. I saw there was a change in leadership. But I know this has much broader implications. But then I didn't get further into my newsfeed about this.

MARK BLTYH: Yes. So basically what happened was, in the manner-- or it seemed to be in the manner of, what's her name, the New Zealand Prime-- ex-Prime Minister.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Oh, Jacinda Ardern.

MARK BLTYH: Jacinda Ardern, right? That you know what, I'm knackered. I've had enough of this. I don't want to do this anymore. Get out of here, right? And she did. And this seemed to be that Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish First Minister was like, yeah, I've kind of done enough of this.

But that didn't smell right. Because first of all, they got themselves wrapped up in the whole culture wars over trans politics. Now a lot of this goes down to the fact that Scotland has a majority age of consent for a lot of things of 16. Yeah, bet you didn't know that, right?

So for example, when I was growing up, I couldn't have a drink till I was 18, which was bullshit. Everyone was in the pubs at 15, right? But I could legally have sex when I was 16.

CARRIE NORDLUND: OK. Totally logical.

MARK BLTYH: There you go, right? So that means weird things like, you are a legal person to a certain extent when you're 16, rather than 18, and such certain circumstances. So what this has led to is teens, essentially, declaring themselves to be estranged from their parents and declaring their own gender identity. And the state taking their side legally because that's just the way the law is.

So they tried to clear all this up with a bill that basically gave a Law of Rights towards trans identification amongst teens. And it really split public opinion. So there was a whole revanche, if you will, like, really?

And then, the another cynical reading of it was-- well, perhaps not cynical. Was they were getting nowhere on independence, right? I mean, the numbers were basically like 48%, 50%, 47%. It just wasn't going anywhere and they need to get 60%.

If Brexit was a bad idea at 52%, you're going to have to get real numbers to do this. And it wasn't going anywhere. And people were getting tired of or whatever. And then this whole trans thing starts to blow up. So the party was looking bad. So then it was like, you're just bailing because it's not working just now,

Then there were rumors that the then chairman of the party, who, I'm not mistaken, is Nicola's husband, had been giving the party short-term loans because they'd been losing members. And the accounts were a bit opaque, shall we say.

I switch on the news today and there's pictures of policemen on Nicola's lawn outside the house, and outside the SNP headquarters, all this other stuff. And it's just another one of these things, which, it's a kind of truism but it's also a kind of, as good as you get for a social scientific law. That although it's a democracy, Scotland became a one party state. The SNP was basically like, eh, right? And it set the agenda.

But at the same time it doesn't really have real fiscal independence. It doesn't have real sovereignty. So in a sense, it's got airbags. There's only so much damage it can cause.

And that creates a kind of, if you will, carelessness. You don't really have to bear the costs of your misadventures, right? Because ultimately you're still a embedded within the United Kingdom. So it create a politics of performance and performativity rather than substance. And I think that that's how this has started to come apart.

Now, of course I'm not there. I'm following this from afar. I could be completely wrong. But the minute I saw the policeman outside the house, I thought, oh, this is not going well.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, this is so interesting because a couple podcasts ago, I had a whole thing about the Prime Minister of New Zealand and Scotland stepping down. They're young women. And they have other stuff to do. They're tired because the whole thing was, politics is so hard, and the environment sucks, and blah, blah, blah.

And meanwhile, Joe Biden, who's 1,000 years old is like, I'm going to run for a fifth term. And you have all of the average age of Congress people are like 1,000. And so this is like-- this is clearly a gender divide in terms of, men are like, I can stay on until I'm actually dead. And women are like, I want to leave. But this is not-- I'm glad I didn't go off on that because it's not that.

MARK BLTYH: I mean, that's part of the story, right? But it's not all the story. There can be good old fashioned bad politics going on. We're going to have to bring it to a bit of a halt soon because I actually have to run off and pick up my daughter.

But anyway, because she's too lazy to walk, because she's part of that generation. I mean, really, I was walking to school when I was six. This is ridiculous. But anyway, the point-- actually, the thing is, if I let her walk home--

When I used to walk home from school all the time, there was also the chance that the local-- I went to the local Catholic school. And I actually had to run the gauntlet of the Protestant kids from the school up the road. And if I got caught, they would kick the living crap out of me on the way home.

And that was just the cost of doing business. I mean I must've been beaten up about 10 times over seven years, right? And the thing's that my grandmother was totally OK with that. It was just-- that's just what happened, right?

Now if I let my daughter go to school on her own at the age that I walked to school, she would be picked up, placed in social services, and I would be arrested.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yes, that's right.

MARK BLTYH: It's a totally different world. But anyway, let's end on a really interesting note, which, of course is Gwyneth-- stop laughing. Stop laughing. It's very serious, Gwyneth Paltrow's trial.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Justice has had its day, Blyth. I mean, your point about the independent judicial system. Here, this is the shining example of that. I mean, I think that the trial-- who ran into who on the really fancy ski slope.

MARK BLTYH: I love the drawings. I love the drawings of-- And at one point she was like, am I being groped from behind. I thought that was pretty interesting.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah. I love that at the end when she supposedly whispered, be well, to him, that on Twitter, people are like, that's LA speak for screw you. So I mean-- and I guess I just felt the fashion coverage, the-- all of it was just picked apart and analyzed.

MARK BLTYH: Yeah. No, I mean there was a big piece, I think, it was either the Atlantic or Vanity Fair had this whole thing on it, whatever. Now to me, what's really interesting is Gwynny herself, right?

So she's gone from being an actor, whether it's like the unexpected Oscar for Shakespeare in Love, whether it's Iron Man's girlfriend, all that sort of stuff. I mean, I don't think she even acts anymore.

Then there's the whole, I'm actually British, and I live in London, and I sometimes have a British accent. Then there's Goop and the whole, why don't you buy this candle that you put inside your body, and all this wonderfully weird stuff.

And then there's all the people that really hate her. And it's funny it's just become this fantasy object. She's this post-modern figure, whereby, on the one hand, she represents the aspirations of extremely privileged upper middle class people and their heightened sense of entitled consumption and being in the world.

And then on the other hand, she represents an entirely different thing, which is everything that's wrong with that class, right? And she's both. She's simultaneous. But she's, in a sense, there's no sense of who she is.

And what I thought-- I was fascinated by the title. There was still no sense of who she is. Gwenny was there but she wasn't there. She was just being-- she was being constructed through the commentary about her.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yes, exactly. And so her answers, therefore, were analyzed to put exactly those two different--

MARK BLTYH: Those two different versions of her. Which one is she today? Or how does it back up one versus the other?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah. So I mean, that kept me going for a few days, just the total-- I didn't know whether it was a mockery of-- yeah, to your point, whether people were-- I think they were doing both and more, mocking her while also putting her on a pedestal and all of that-- all of that stuff.

MARK BLTYH: No, absolutely. I mean, it's crazy though. I mean, you start the conversation with a conversation about America's most divisive ever president being brought into jail on charges that a lot of people can't frankly understand. And then you end it with one of America's most divisive celebrities being in a civil trial about who banged into whom in an elite ski resort. It's a very odd world.

CARRIE NORDLUND: And both of them are trying to sell us stuff, by the way, too. Whether it's candles, or green juice, or a sweatshirt, or to help him with his indictments, so.

MARK BLTYH: Hey, those lifestyles, although they're very different, both need to be financed.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yes, that's exactly right.

MARK BLTYH: Send your donations here, to the Carrie fund because Carrie needs your help.

CARRIE NORDLUND: We need it, yes.


CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, great to see you as always. Thank you for listening.

MARK BLTYH: See you all soon.



About the Podcast

Show artwork for Mark and Carrie
Mark and Carrie
Mark Blyth, political economist at The Watson Ins…

About your hosts

Profile picture for Mark Blyth

Mark Blyth

Host, Rhodes Center Podcast
Profile picture for Carrie Nordlund

Carrie Nordlund

Co-Host, Mark and Carrie