Uncommon Decency

Jorge González-Gallarza & François Valentin

  • 42 minutes 28 seconds
    106. Europe’s Looming Right Turn, Russia’s Sleazy Interference & Pedro Sánchez’s Comeback—Decency Deep Dive

    Welcome to another Decency Deep Dive. This week we tackle the forthcoming European Parliament (EP) elections on June 9, widely expected to deliver a significantly more right-wing supranational legislature. Russia’s ongoing efforts to intrude into the news cycle, public debate and imaginary of Western societies are on the agenda, too, as we address its recent efforts at disinformation and lobbying. Finally, as Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez ups the ante of its effort to smear the country's press, its judges and the entire opposition, we ponder where goes Spain next.

    As always, please rate and review Uncommon Decency on Apple Podcasts, and send us your comments or questions either on Twitter at @UnDecencyPod or by e-mail at [email protected]. And please consider supporting the show through Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/undecencypod.

    8 May 2024, 12:30 pm
  • 46 minutes 3 seconds
    105. Collisions: Origins of the Russo-Ukrainian War, with Michael C. Kimmage

    “I think it is obvious that NATO's expansion does not have any relation with the modernisation of the alliance itself, or with ensuring security in Europe. On the contrary, it represents a serious provocation that reduces the level of mutual trust. And we have the right to ask: against whom is this expansion intended?”

    That was Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Munich Security Conference in 2007. This speech encapsulates Putin's long-simmering critique of the West and his framing of NATO's expansion as a form of provocation. It is often pointed to, today, as the beginning of Putin's foreign policy that led to the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Some in the West, most notably Tucker Carlson, have swallowed this argument hook, line and sinker—and continue to repeat it today. 

    In this week's episode, we spoke to Michael C. Kimmage, Chair of the History Department at Catholic University of America (CUA) and author of Collisions (2024), a new book with Oxford University Press that documents the build-up to all-out war between Russia and Ukraine. In his book, and in our discussion today, Kimmage takes us through the key moments that led to the invasion of February 2022.

    As always, please rate and review Uncommon Decency on whatever platform you use, and send us your comments or questions either on Twitter at @UnDecencyPod or by e-mail at [email protected]. We’re also continuing our giveaway of the "How to Win Brexit" board game to our patreons, so sign up today for a chance to win one. Thank you, and we hope you enjoy this episode!

    Bibliography:

    3 April 2024, 2:41 pm
  • 49 minutes 31 seconds
    104. Regulating AI, with Ian Bremmer & Anu Bradford

    “Day by day, however, the machines are gaining ground upon us; day by day we are becoming more subservient to them; more men are daily bound down as slaves to tend them, more men are daily devoting the energies of their whole lives to the development of mechanical life. The upshot is simply a question of time, but that the time will come when the machines will hold the real supremacy over the world and its inhabitants”. Samuel Butler wrote those words in the mid-19th century in his essay Darwin Among the Machines (1863). The somewhat satirical essay calls for the total destruction of all machines to save humanity from inevitable subservience to them.

    Starting with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, science fiction writing often fixes upon the fear that machines will surpass us, replace us, and even enslave us. Terminator, Mass Effect, The Matrix, and Blade Runner all deal with this existential fear. Now that AI has arrived in a mass use format through ChatGPT and Gemini, lawmakers around the globe are rushing to regulate this technology to prevent abuse while still enabling innovation. The EU has jumped out ahead in trying to regulate artificial intelligence and is hoping that its regulatory power will help set global standards for AI use; but will it?

    To discuss this complex and serious topic, we invited Ian Bremmer, Founder and President of the Eurasia Group, and Anu Bradford Professor of Law at Columbia University and author of The Brussels Effect (2020), and Digital Empires: The Global Battle to Regulate Technology (2023).

    This episode was made available in full length for all listeners but if you’d like to get the full length version of other episodes, you can join our Patreon for as little as 5 EUR a month. As always, please rate and review Uncommon Decency on whatever platform you use, and send us your comments or questions either on Twitter at @UnDecencyPod or by e-mail at [email protected]. Thank you and we hope you enjoy this episode.

    Bibliography:

    21 March 2024, 1:01 am
  • 1 hour 15 seconds
    103. America First, Europe Alone? with Shashank Joshi & Bruno Tertrais

    "You didn't pay? You're delinquent? No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them—Russia—to do whatever the hell they want. You gotta pay!" In February, former—and possibly future—US President Donald J. Trump launched a spine-chilling injunction to America’s allies in the sheer style of a New York City mob boss. If you'd like to enjoy the blessings of NATO membership, pay up or face the consequences. Trump’s comments constitute a significant break with settled policy precedent. America has provided a powerful “security umbrella” to most of Europe since at least 1948, but this could well be under threat from America First 2.0. This week, we cared to explore if Europe would be able to hold on its own two feet without American backing. How strong are the Europeans without the Americans, and has the old continent upped its military-industrial capacity since the Ukraine war? We are joined by Shashank Joshi, defense editor at The Economist, and Bruno Tertrais, Deputy Director at the Fondation pour la Recherche Strategique and recently the author of Pax Atomica (2024).

    As always, please rate and review Uncommon Decency on whatever platform you use and send us your comments or questions either on Twitter at @UnDecencyPod or by e-mail at [email protected]. And please consider supporting the show through Patreon to get access to the full episode where we talk in further detail about nuclear policy: https://www.patreon.com/undecencypod.

    And here's something special for you this week: do you love the intersection of strategy and diplomacy? Do you think you could have secured a better Brexit deal for the UK? Well, "How to Win Brexit" is the brilliant board game that allows you to relitigate the wars over Britain's departure from the EU and roleplay as the French President or the British Prime Minister. Whether you’re a political enthusiast, a board game fanatic, or both, this game should be up your alley. Great news for our patrons: we will be distributing two sets over the next two weeks, so if you’re on the fence, you might want to join us now!

    21 March 2024, 12:36 am
  • 46 minutes 19 seconds
    102. Woke America, Anti-Woke Europe? with Yascha Mounk & Pierre Valentin

    China might be the world’s factory, but America remains the earth’s cultural hegemon. And perhaps its greatest export of the last decade has been “wokeism” or “wokeness”. Once inhabiting the fringiest recesses of American academia, the past decade has seen the global dissemination of concepts like "cultural appropriation", "systemic racism", "critical race theory", "intersectionality"—and they haven't spared Europe. Thus, our aim this week is to take the time to define wokeism, explore the concept from its roots in critical theory to its manifestations in contemporary discourse, dissect the complex tapestry of its adjacent theoretical constructs, and explore how it has sparked explosive conversations on both sides of the Atlantic. We are joined by Yascha Mounk, a German intellectual, founder of Persuasion Magazine, and the author of numerous books including his latest, The Identity Trap: A Story of Ideas and Power in Our Time (2023). On the other side of the line, we are joined by Pierre Valentin. He is—as some of you might have guessed—François' brother, but most importantly, the author of Comprendre la Révolution Woke (2023), another effort towards "Understanding the Woke Revolution".

    As always, please rate and review Uncommon Decency on whatever platform you use, and send us your comments or questions either on Twitter at @UnDecencyPod or by e-mail at [email protected]. And please consider supporting the show through Patreon (https://www.patreon.com/undecencypod) to get access to the full episode, where we talk in further detail about France and “le wokisme”, wondering whether we have reached “peak woke".

    21 March 2024, 12:23 am
  • 44 minutes 45 seconds
    101. Munich Recap: Trump's NATO Remarks & Europe's Role in Israel—Decency Deep Dive

    Welcome to another Decency Deep Dive. This week we tackle various topics on the heels of the Munich Security Conference, where Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has urged the world to re-anchor security at the heart of global politics. Ukraine's defense pacts with France and Germany are on the agenda, as is Donald J. Trump's earth-shattering remark that he wouldn't budge the moment Russia were to move in against a NATO ally with a chronic record of underspending on defense. Finally, the unleashing of Israel's ground invasion around Rafah prompts us to think about the longer-term prospects for peace in the Middle East.

    As always, please rate and review Uncommon Decency on Apple Podcasts, and send us your comments or questions either on Twitter at @UnDecencyPod or by e-mail at [email protected]. And please consider supporting the show through Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/undecencypod.

    21 February 2024, 2:44 pm
  • 48 minutes 1 second
    100. Franco-German Russian Illusions, with Sylvie Kauffmann & Guy Chazan

    “The secret of politics? Make a good treaty with Russia.”

    Former German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck’s advice seems to have resonated with an entire generation of German leaders in the 21st century, from the Social-Democrat Gerhard Schroder to the CDU's Angela Merkel. For years, Germany built its economic ties with Russia, but also simultaneously its dependence on Vladimir Putin’s increasingly authoritarian and militaristic regime. A German illusion that crashed somewhere in the fields of Ukraine in February 2022.

    But Germany is not the only European heavyweight to have indulged itself with these Russian illusions. Across the Rhine, several French presidents, of all political stripes, have also attempted to build ties with Russia in the name of France’s strategic interests. With mixed results at best.

    Today we try to understand these Franco-German illusions and their consequences. We are joined by Guy Chazan, Berlin bureau chief at the Financial Times, and Sylvie Kauffmann, columnist for Le Monde and author of Les Aveuglés (2023), a brilliant book on today’s topic! 

    As always, please rate and review Uncommon Decency on the platform of your choice and send us your comments or questions either on Twitter at @UnDecencyPod or by e-mail at [email protected]. And please consider supporting the show through Patreon to get access to the full episode where we talk in further detail about France and the vindication of Polish fears: https://www.patreon.com/undecencypod.

    7 February 2024, 5:12 pm
  • 49 minutes 47 seconds
    99. The Left-Right Divide: A Eulogy? with Rob Ford & François Hublet

    In 1789, members of the newly-created National Assembly in Paris split between those for whom the king should retain an absolute veto, sitting to the Assembly President's right, and those who thought he shouldn't, sitting to his left. The primordial version of our structuring political cleavage was born: the party of order vs. the party of progress. This left-right divide has served as the founding metaphor of modern European politics. More than two centuries later, many are penning the obituary of that division. In 2017, the election of Emmanuel Macron against Marine le Pen seemed to usher a new cleavage, loosely defined as open vs. closed by some, nationalist vs. globalist or liberal vs. authoritarian by others. But is the left-right divide of yore buried just yet? Today we take stock of the evolving morphology of political fractures and map the main cleavages dividing European politics. With us this week: Francois Hublet, of Le Grand Continent, and the University of Manchester's Rob Ford, co-author of Brexitland (2020) and Senior Fellow at the UK in a Changing Europe (UKICE) network.

    As always, please rate and review Uncommon Decency on Apple Podcasts or the platform of your choice, and send us your comments or questions either on Twitter at @UnDecencyPod or by e-mail at [email protected]. And please consider supporting the show through Patreon, where you can access the full episode including an extra section where our guests discuss the forthcoming EU elections: https://www.patreon.com/undecencypod.

    24 January 2024, 4:10 pm
  • 43 minutes 54 seconds
    98. 2024: European Inflection Point? Decency Deep Dive

    Every new year seems to heighten the impression that History is accelerating, and this may well not be new. The novelty lies in the fact that with every passing year, that impression seems to root itself in firmer ground. This is not just about the Ukraine conflict, which will turn two years old in February, and seems to have trapped the European Union (EU) in a quandary of indecision between scrapping its end-of-history pieties to decisively win the war, or protracting its limited military aid to continue its controlled damage on Russia, at the risk of eternalizing the quagmire. History is accelerating in the Middle East too, where Israel’s offensive against a genocidal terrorist group risks turning the accusation of genocide against it, while the threat of regional escalation has become palpable in Yemen, where the Iranian-backed Houthis threaten to disrupt sea trade. To welcome 2024, this week we take one of our deep dives into the stories that we believe will shape the year’s European news cycle, such as the EU parliamentary race in June and the attendant rise of the national-populist right, elections in other latitudes, and how Europe will tackle the normalization of global conflict.

    As always, please rate and review Uncommon Decency on Apple Podcasts, and send us your comments or questions either on Twitter at @UnDecencyPod or by e-mail at [email protected]. And please consider supporting the show through Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/undecencypod.

    17 January 2024, 5:07 pm
  • 51 minutes 26 seconds
    97. Geert Wilders and the Rise of Platinum Populism, with Caroline de Gruyter & Ewald Engelen

    In a daring move, we kicked off March 2021 quoting none other than Francis Fukuyama, titling our episode "Getting to Holland" as a twist on Fukuyama's famous cliché of “Getting to Denmark”. The episode came in the heels of Mark Rutte's re-election as Dutch Prime Minister, which seemed like an apparent vindication of the Fukuyaman ideal of Northern Europe as the endpoint of political development. Not only had the country championed rule of law and the welfare state, but Rutte's liberal-centrist politics of moderation seemed to stand on a thick layer of consensus that other European nations lacked. But fast forward to November 2023, and the Dutch political scene takes a dramatic turn with Geert Wilders and his Party for Freedom (PVV) seizing victory a month ago. Join us this week as we unravel the beliefs driving Wilders, from welfare chauvinism to skepticism of Islam, and explore the implications for the upcoming EU parliamentary elections in June next year. Our esteemed guests, Caroline de Gruyter and Professor Ewald Engelen, bring their expertise to bear in delving deep into the dynamics reshaping Dutch politics.

    As always, please rate and review Uncommon Decency on Apple Podcasts, and send us your comments or questions either on Twitter at @UnDecencyPod or by e-mail at [email protected]. And please consider supporting the show through Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/undecencypod.

    20 December 2023, 3:10 pm
  • 50 minutes 12 seconds
    96. The Strange Death of Spain, with William Chislett & Michael Reid

    Dive into the conundrums and riddles of Spanish politics with our latest riveting episode. Picture this: a high-stakes election, an unexpected coalition, and a political landscape teetering on the edge of ungovernability. In a plot twist that kept the nation on edge, the anticipated "right-wing tsunami" fell short, leaving the ruling socialists hanging by a thread. As the political chess game unfolds, alliances shift, and the spotlight turns to a liberal-separatist party holding the key to the caretaking Prime Minister's second mandate. The drama reaches its climax with an unprecedented deal, an amnesty broadly deemed unconstitutional, and a nation grappling with heightened polarization. Joining us are two seasoned Spain-watchers, Michael Reid and William Chislett, to unravel the twists and turns with insider perspectives garnered throughout decades covering post-Francoist Spain. Our podcast, while now on a slower release schedule, aims to deliver each episode with impact, allowing listeners to savor the intrigue. Don't miss out on the unraveling of Spain's constitutional compact and the gripping insights into a modern European country in flux.

    As always, please rate and review Uncommon Decency on Apple Podcasts, and send us your comments or questions either on Twitter at @UnDecencyPod or by e-mail at [email protected]. And please consider supporting the show through Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/undecencypod.

    29 November 2023, 5:12 pm
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