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06/04/2022 - We Promise Not to Talk About Margaret Atwood at Davos
4th June 2022 • Mark and Carrie • Mark and Carrie
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Mark Blyth, political economist at Brown University's Watson Institute, and Carrie Nordlund, political scientist and Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Programs at Brown University, share their take on the news.

On this episode:

  • The mass shooting in Uvalde, TX, and America’s mourning rituals around gun violence
  • What the potential end of Roe v. Wade means for the US, and what it says about the Supreme Court
  • Transitioning from an old inflation myth to our current inflation reality
  • 100 Days of grinding war in Ukraine
  • Harry and Megan attend the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, and Mark doesn’t care
  • Johnny Depp and Amber Heard: where toxic social media meets toxic masculinity
  • An ode to the summer blockbusters of yore

Learn more about the Watson Institute's other podcasts.


[MUSIC PLAYING] CARRIE NORDLUND: From the Watson Institute at Brown University, welcome to Mark & Carrie, the June edition. Hello there, Prof. Blyth. How are you?

MARK BLYTH: Well, hello there, Carrie. It's lovely to see you. I'm still stuck in my basement. But at least it's sunny outside. I mean, it's record-breaking heat waves. I don't know [INAUDIBLE] but let's not start there. Where do you want to start our wonderful monthly kind of quasi-monthly news roundup?

CARRIE NORDLUND: You have a nice fluorescent light tan. It's really wonderful.

MARK BLYTH: Yeah, totally. I've got the shiny dome. You know what I mean?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yes. Yeah. Oh, jeez. Well, a lot has happened since we last spoke, and most of it is just kind of dire. Of course, there were the two mass shootings. One in Buffalo, New York and the other in Uvalde, Texas.

To be honest with you, Mark, I don't know that I have a lot to say that hasn't been said. And mostly, I just kind of feel like a jerk trying to say too much about it because it's just so horrific. And it's hard to interact with it just knowing the context that they were third and fourth grade, so kind of everything. So I don't have a lot of deep thoughts on that just because it's just so sad and tragic.

MARK BLYTH: Let's not have any deep thoughts on it, but I'll talk about one thing. There's a sociologist, an Irish bloke who like me moved to the United States to do a PhD and never went back. His name is Kieran Healy. He's a very smart chap. And he posted on his website a really, really brilliant just one page thing that made the following argument.

If you're a sociologist, one of the things that you study in societies is how we institutionalize rituals. And he gave an example of sort of he went through the Catholic for his communion and confirmation as I did as it happened to be 40 years ago or whenever it was. And his nephew was doing the same thing. And obviously, the Irish society is massively changed in those intervening periods. But that ritual, in a sense, still gives a kind of meaning and stability, et cetera.

These are kind of the building blocks of what makes societies into distinct societies. And then he just did this pivot and said, if you think about mass shootings in America, what we've done is to basically institutionalize the ritualistic and regularized murder of children so that we can celebrate an abstract principle, which is an absurdist conception of freedom. And I just thought that was an incredibly powerful way of reflecting upon the utter stupidity and tragedy of the entire thing.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, and what struck me more than it has-- and I don't know that it ever stuck in my brain-- is that it only happens in the United States. It doesn't happen in any other country around the world.

MARK BLYTH: Yeah. And when you've got people like Abbott suddenly popping up to say, oh, it's a mental health crisis, despite the fact that he's been slashing mental health funding, it's just their last refuge of scoundrels. I mean, when Australia had a mass shooting, they just went, right. No more guns. And they handed in all the guns. And everyone went, yeah, it's pretty fair.

Britain after Dunblane, right? No more handguns, all the handguns. Everybody does this but not here. And let's not get into it, the Second Amendment. It's in the Constitution. No, that's an amendment.

That's not in the Constitution. You can amend an amendment. But never mind. All of us say, we know nothing's going to happen. We'll get the Republicans, giving it thoughts and prayers, thoughts and prayers, and then we'll all be even more angry for a little while but something different. And then we'll go on.

And this is what Kieran pointed out. We've institutionalized it. We've normalized it. We're no long-- we're only shocked by its magnitude, not by its occurrence.

CARRIE NORDLUND: And to your point that you just made that there is a shooting in Tulsa, I think, just two or three days ago-- and I didn't mention that. And so that normalization or that we've been normalized to is reflected just even in that. I was thinking about this in terms of the politics of it since you mentioned Gov. Abbott.

And I thought it was so interesting from a policy framing role of the mental health frame. And then they also quickly shifted it to that the local police were slow in response. And I just thought, wow, that is a really yucky way to try to turn things away from the bigger picture of it.

MARK BLYTH: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, the local police may have been totally hopeless and horrible, but nonetheless, throwing them under a bus is a fantastic distraction from the-- what we should actually talk about here is like why a mentally unstable teenager can just go buy NATO-level weapons and unleash them in a classroom. It's just outrageous. But speaking of other outrageous, as a woman, are you feeling slightly outraged with your friend, Mr. Alito?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, I just think that there's so much to be outraged about. I think that when we start to think about what the court-- I mean, any moment getting a hand down their decision in Roe v. Wade. And also, there's a big decision having to do with guns, as well.

There's a challenge the New York law about conceal and carry outside of your home and that the court is poised to strike that down, meaning that New York has a law that you have to get a license for conceal and carry outside of your home, which seems like fairly reasonable. But the court, because of the Second Amendment, is ready to strike that down.

So like the two things that have been politically on the top of everyone's of mind and then current events-wise is then also the court is going to decide on the vote to strike down the New York law and then really loose in Roe v. Wade as well.

I mean, it's a dire time to think about that. I think if I were to think about this in terms of the midterms, the hope on the Democrats is that this is going to mobilize people and get them to the polls or to the booth in November, but it seems so far away. I mean, the president's approval ratings are in the garbage can. It's just so hard to think about how this ends up as some sort of-- anything other than totally unmitigated disaster for the Democrats in November.

MARK BLYTH: So I mean, I've been on-- as you know, I've been on the Democrats of Doom thing for quite some time now. And we tend to be right when we're on this one. But let's play devil's advocate for a minute, right? So if the Republicans aren't stupid-- and they aren't stupid-- then they will basically backpedal on Roe v. Wade and probably on the gun decision until after the midterms, thereby proving that they are a completely politicized institution at that point in time. But nonetheless, they'll be sensible to kick it now.

If they're worried about long-term credibility, then you will know that if you do that, then that will hurt you more than the midterms. So you might just go for it and then see what happens. So that might work in their favor in that one. The second one is I was thinking about Biden's approval, disapproval numbers, all the rest of it. Don't all presidents kind of suck around this point in time?

When you look at Clinton, where was he? Right? I think you mentioned this last time actually. It's not actually that, but is this narrative around Biden, right? I think it's less performance and more just as like, oh, Biden sucks.

And that's it. And that somehow is the frame that everything gets kind of filtered through irrespective of what's going on.

CARRIE NORDLUND: I think that's so right. I was in the gas station paying for my $70 worth of gas, and I just overheard some people talking as they paid. And they're like, Biden's such a beep, beep, beep. He doesn't care about-- he just goes and beeps things up and doesn't care.

It'd be one thing if he cared, but he doesn't care at all. And I thought, that was interesting just that they assigned that he doesn't care about stuff. And that seemed to be his big calling card that he did care. So I mean, I think you're right, one, that yes, most presidents are kind of within the ballpark of where he is right now. But just this assignment of intention to a president that somehow he just doesn't care and like he's such a fill in the blank curse word, I think there's that personal resentment that some people really feel towards him.

And there's like 100 years left before the midterms, but it's-- just to start to see exactly how their narrative is furthered.

MARK BLYTH: I want to go back to the Roe v. Wade thing for a minute just to ask you a question on this one. Do you think it stops abortion, or does it go as many people are saying towards birth control? Does not necessarily follow? Because that would seem to be a sort of like real Taliban move, that one, that would cost them.

CARRIE NORDLUND: I mean, I think that it moves towards the fetal personhood first and then potentially to the birth control. But it's hard to know sort of what are the decision-making between abortion to birth control because abortion's such a horrible sounding word. And it's so easy to get people really mobilized around that. And then birth control seems like something your teenage daughter needs because she has really bad cramps or something like that. And it seems less horrific than the medical procedure.

So I think it's potentially further down the line. I mean, never say never. But I think it's maybe a third or fourth click down that particular policy.

MARK BLYTH: Because at that point, you really are in Margaret Atwood land once you get to that point. I mean, it's one thing to politicize abortion to the extent that we have. But once you start actually going at the birth control, it's like, we are now actively regulating bedroom practice.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Oh, yeah. And then Greg Abbott. He also proposes this weird thing in relation to Roe v. Wade that public education shouldn't actually be publicly funded. So then we're really in Margaret Atwood territory and that who needs free education when it should just entirely be privatized. So that's something fun to think about.

MARK BLYTH: Excellent. Back in short-term pain land, inflation-- inflation, inflation, inflation, inflation. So Biden has actually come out with this press release that's been picked up, and he wrote an Op-Ed type thing for The Times and The Wall Street Journal and that sort of stuff and his plans on fighting inflation. One of the really interesting aspects of this and hot tip to Dan, our engineer, for finding this one was this press release from the White House. I don't know if you've got a chance to look at it.

And it's about shipping. Basically, a full sort of 1% of inflation is estimated to be shipping costs. Because guess what? Everything else in the world, particularly in the world of the US economy, this has become a kind of giant oligopoly that's run by three or four firms. And they all price fix.

And their profits have gone up from like 3% to 57% margins and all that sort of stuff. And they've got a nice little graph that shows this. And it's just-- the thing from The Guardian about a month ago, where they went through all the top US firms and listening in on their investor calls. And they're all saying, oh, our profits are through the roof. It's amazing.

We got so much, right? And we're still doing this thing where it's like, well, labor. People are pushing for these wage increases, and it's unaffordable. It's like, no, this is simply profit gouging by these massive corporations. When are we going to get a hold of this?

So it's interesting what Biden's try to do or the people around him are like trying to change that narrative. But there's a weird way in which it's so hard to change this because the Democrats themselves have bought into and actively propagated the kind of fiscal responsibility. The Fed should be in charge, which all relies in a sense on a kind of monetary theory of inflation that is amenable to basically, you know, the unhinging of expectations, the wage-price spiral, all that sort of stuff. So they spent 30 years basically buying into this theory of inflation.

What happens now is a war and a series of supply shocks and the unraveling of globalization, are a bunch of corporations that take advantage of the [? series ?] prices. And now they've got to pivot and turn and start talking about this. So it just seems weird because suddenly it's like, now we're talking about shipping, right? It's like turning the supertanker, right? How do you get from that one narrative of like, it's all about money.

Milton Friedman was right. Money, money, money, money, money. And they go, actually, it's not money. It's all supply chain stuff. It's about globalization blowing up, and we have to turn around and look at the price of shipping containers.

And it's like, where are you going with this? Because you're still talking as if the monetary story is true. And then you're saying, no, we can control inflation, where we can do something about it. It's the shipping companies. I'm like, I mean, I personally think that that's true, but it just doesn't seem convincing I don't know. What do you think?

CARRIE NORDLUND: But I think-- no, I think exactly along the lines of what you are saying is that it's-- I mean, like-- because I know everything. I think that, for example, in relation to the baby-- in relation to the baby formula that there's no baby formula on the shelves. But Abbott controls 50% of the market on that. But then how do you explain in 15, less than 15 bullet points that this is really what the problem is with the baby formula on the FDA. And then everyone's fallen asleep.

So there's just no clear like, this is the problem, or this is the solution. And I know that things are much more complicated than one thing equals one thing. But that's like if you can't kind of boil it down to that, that's-- I mean, that's what politics is and-- then to convince people that your way is the way that they should be going. I mean, I've heard other commentators say in relation to gun violence. There needs to be a major march on Washington. Parents bring their kids into de--

I mean, then that's a visual sort of what the solution is. But I mean, to the point that you're making like the nuance of like, it's shipping or inflation and consumer demand with 58,000 other things, is it becomes-- the waters become so muddied on it. And no one can-- no one wins out of that except Republicans, who can say, I'm the solution for all of these problems because they're not in power.

MARK BLYTH: Yeah, and the solution is always the same thing, which is vote for me. I will run down the government and make things suck. And then I'll say, look at that government. It sucks. We should fund it even less.

And then you just rinse and repeat, and it just gets worse and worse. So Britain is an interesting point of comparison here. Of course, Britain has even higher inflation than the US. And a huge part of this is fuel prices. Because they run down gas storage and they basically signed all these short-term contracts and blah, blah, blah.

There's lots of technicalities leading into it. But the bottom line is they don't have public utilities like us. They privatized everything. And now these private companies are capped in how much they can raise prices. But because the wholesale market is going crazy because the Russian invasion and Ukraine and all the rest of it, then they have to pass on these increases. But in Britain, it's amazing. I was talking to John Hopkin of the LSE.

And he was sitting in some cases, millions of households are facing 100% or more increases in fuel bills.


MARK BLYTH: Right? So think about 60% of Britain is essentially a low-wage economy with extremely high cost, particularly for housing, particularly if you're renting and your gas bill just went from 80 quid to 180 quid, that's an eat-- no eat, no heat decision. So it's affecting millions. This finally seems to be the thing that's beginning to put a dent into the Conservatives is that what they're calling the cost of living crisis. And again, it's inflation.

Of course. Go back to the US. What causes the inflation? It was all those stimulus checks. No, it wasn't.

The last one was printed over 12 months ago and spent 9 months ago. And it was equivalent to one month's median wages being dumped into the system, right? That's basically it. And the Brits didn't do that. And now they've got super high inflation.

Why? It's because of fuel, right? So it's weird. We have this inability to just talk about what actually is going on in a clear and transparent way so we can fix the problem. It's like anything. We manage to politicize vaccines. We politicize masks. Now, we're politicizing inflation.

CARRIE NORDLUND: That's what my follow-up question to this was, and then you answered it was, are the Tories being punished for this? Or is it-- I mean, is that just [INAUDIBLE]

MARK BLYTH: Finally. No, I think it is. So one of the ways to think about the way that the Tories fund a successful kind of post-Brexit formula or other Brexit, through Brexit, or no formula was nationalism for the north, lots of flag waving and blaming the EU and all this nonsense. And then essentially, kind of like policies that protect the asset-holding classes in the south. And key in those asset protecting-- in the asset-protecting bucket is fighting inflation because inflation is a tax on financial wealth, right?

So they basically-- they, OK, we need to jack up interest rates. Because that, in a sense, compensates asset holders for the inflation. But if you were to raise interest rates significantly at a time when your fuel prices are going through the roof to a population that is already cash-strapped, you can forget winning the next election. So they're really in a bind. And what they did was they swore blind they weren't going to do a windfall tax on the energy companies, and they had to, because it was the only way they could find sufficient revenues to rebate to households to stop them going mental.

So they're under real strain for the first time. Boris went into some Westminster Abbey or some nonsense today to show up for one of these Diamond Jubilee events. We'll go into that in a minute. And he was booed.

Now if you think about the people who show up for royal events, that's the Tories' core constituency. So if he's being booed, ooh, that's kind of interesting.

CARRIE NORDLUND: But does the war in-- does the war in Ukraine loosen up fuel then for the UK? I mean, is it that simple, or is it so many different tentacles to this that now there's no easy solution and Brits are stuck with double the price for fuel?

MARK BLYTH: It's a knock-on effect in the sort of the global oil and gas markets. I mean, basically, that plus destruction of energy supply and the type of contracts that they sign all the way from the supply chain at the beginning right down the households. It's just basically everyone wants to pass on the cost of the end user. The end user is the household. That's-- so they just get it that way.

But speaking of Ukraine, are you bored yet? Have you actually-- does it pass the Apple News test? Have you opened up your Apple doomscroll device and found that Ukraine is not one of the top stories?

CARRIE NORDLUND: I like the Apple-- I don't follow Apple News. I read this story a long time ago about the person who runs it is like the most powerful person in the world because they--

MARK BLYTH: They get to decide what's their right.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah, exactly. So that was my question to you is where is it on the Apple-- on the Apple scroll, whether it was top or if had fallen off the bottom? Because I remember that you mentioned that last time.

MARK BLYTH: I did check today, and it's there because it's the 100th anniversary, 100 days since the war began.


MARK BLYTH: So this is an opportunity for everybody to sort of like play their moral virtue to the top. So you have the kind of like neocon cold warrior types, which isn't a left or right distinction. It goes all the way from an Apple bomb to this sort of real straightforward Conservative neocons, which is Putin must be defeated. And as we've said before, how are you going to get there? I'm not entirely sure, right?

When you're trying to do this lightning strike in five different places with the army that he's got, that went badly. Now he's just basically destroying Western Ukraine and Eastern Ukraine inch by inch with artillery and moving in and occupying it. And that is tremendously successful because they don't have any way to defeat it. Now we've got this new thing. We're going to give them some rockets.

It's like, OK, great. So then you push their artillery back, and then they start doing even sort of like longer rocket charges at you or whatever, right? So there's no sort of out on this. It's just this horrible grinding war of attrition. And the debate here in the UK and other places-- and you've got this sort of the cold warriors on one side. Then you've got the kind of-- the can this all just be over?

So you've got the Italians, the Hungarians, and the Germans who talk a good game but do nothing to support the Ukrainians, right? They basically like, oh, God. Can we just get our gas and oil back? This is becoming a huge pain in the neck. Can this just go away? Now, given the fact that you all grandstanded your moral commitments, no, you can't just make this one go away.

And in the middle of all this is the poor bloody Ukrainian people, whose country's been turned into an absolute disaster zone. So yeah, we're 100 days in. Nobody has an endgame. Nobody has an offer up. Nobody knows what's going on.

And the only person who's winning at this point is Putin.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Right. And who will-- I mean, if he gets what he wants, occupy Eastern Ukraine, which is now just rubble. So I mean, I guess, it'll be like--

MARK BLYTH: Yeah, he's done-- he did that in Syria. He did it in Grozny. They've done it before. I mean, that's it. Welcome.

We won. We destroyed everything. The really dangerous one is if they continue along the South Coast and they basically take Odessa. And then there's no more sea access for Ukraine. It just turns it into kind of like large [INAUDIBLE] Russia.

That's not good. That would be extremely dangerous. That could be one where you could-- because then you're up against a NATO border, right? So that one could-- so it depends when Putin decides and offers enough. That's when it's going to be over.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Right. And we just kind of hang on until he makes some sort of decision on that.

MARK BLYTH: Which is horrid. But it is.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah. Well, let me try to do-- your transitions have been so smooth. Let me see if I can move from Putin to Meghan and Harry, who are back for Platinum Jubilee.

MARK BLYTH: OK, what's the seg-- are you going to try that again? What's the segue that you could possibly do from Putin to Harry and Meghan?

CARRIE NORDLUND: I'm trying to think if there's any personality characteristics, but there isn't. But maybe people who-- maybe I could see Putin wanting to go to LA and live in LA and live in Santa Barbara. He just wants to relax. He's stressed to the max. He just wants a little relaxation time, live near Oprah, use his money that he stole.

MARK BLYTH: Yes. I think you've managed to confuse him with his other brother because that just doesn't strike me as that guy. But anyway, let's go for it then. So you, as a real American-- because I'm obviously a fake imported American--

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah, totally.

MARK BLYTH: --what do you think of this wonderful thing that we've got called the Diamond Jubilee and the repatriation of Harry and Meghan? I mean, come on.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, I have to say-- I mean, the Queen-- I mean, because she is very much-- I mean, for both of us has been the Queen our entire lifetimes. And so it is kind of incredible to think that she will step down, and it will be Prince Charles who will be the King. So just the longevity of that and that she showed up with-- did the whole-- whatever it's called, when she stood on the grand balcony and that sort of stuff. I mean, that just in and of itself I thought was really impressive.

And then I thought when I saw the pictures of Meghan and Harry, I thought, well, now, we've just moved into the celebrity stuff, or they're on People magazine, which I'm still interested in. But I just now want to know like behind the scenes like, did Harry and William talk and that sort of stuff?

MARK BLYTH: Yeah, I have another theory. You know what? I had to bring them back.


MARK BLYTH: Because once it turned out that the second son was basically a confessed child molester--


MARK BLYTH: Remember, right? Suddenly, they didn't look so bad. [LAUGHS]

CARRIE NORDLUND: No. Suddenly, he looks like the Prince that he is.

MARK BLYTH: Exactly. It's like, well, ooh, hang on a minute. Wait a minute. But can't we allow Andrew anymore? He's a bit, mm.

So what are we going to do? We'll bring the Americans back. Come on. Let's give them another chance.

CARRIE NORDLUND: What are your thoughts about the Queen as a Scot?

MARK BLYTH: So it's intere-- I mean, as somebody who was raised on the welfare state, I'm not anyone to criticize someone who lives in government property and state handouts. So we're two of a kind essentially. They're just a different type of sort of welfare case. Yeah. I mean, I've never actually been that worked up about it.

I mean, if I put my sociological hat on and see them as a kind of zenith of the British class structure and Oxford and Cambridge and this like network of little schools and Oxbridge, and all these royals and people connected to them that basically run the country for real and everyone else is just pretending, then I suppose I could get slightly annoyed about it. But most of the time, I just don't give it a thought. I mean, I think they're kind of comical in a way that this country still has this stuff. I mean, it enables things.

It enables things like Politics of Destruction and Brexit and all that sort of stuff. And then you've got this like flag-waving nationalism with this bunch of like ex-German squatters as sort of the royal family. So I've never actually been that bothered by in a sense. It'll be interesting to see how the succession goes. And Charles is wildly unpopular.

So if he's going to be sort of like holding it for more than a decade, who knows what that does to the longevity? The younger one, William, seems to be the only one who actually understands how the whole thing's worked and what his role in it is. And maybe he's just not relishing, stepping up to the plate to be that, but it looks like him and his wife are going to be the ones that the public would actually have an affection for, et cetera. But I don't know. Maybe they go European.

I mean, there are a lot of European Royals that survived, and they did so by going out to work and paying taxes. So maybe if they do that-- maybe if they finally get off welfare and get themselves a job, then they can earn my respect.

CARRIE NORDLUND: I mean, but is it-- I mean, I think it's just interesting that-- I mean, this is kind of like anything that we can-- any political thing that we can think about. But there's like a certain trust in the Queen and that people generally think that she doesn't do bad stuff. And I'm sure there's financial shenanigans that happen. But you do wonder like as the new people come, the new generation comes on board, if people are just like, eh, you're just like kind of A level Hollywood celebrity--

MARK BLYTH: Yeah, exactly

CARRIE NORDLUND: --in the UK and--

MARK BLYTH: Yeah, they're more like-- yeah. They're more like celebs than sort of deities, in a sense. And years ago, back in the nineteen-eighties, there used to be a Companion magazine to the surviving one, which is called New Statesman. New Statesman is actually-- I think it's the all New Statesman in society because it used to have this other mag called New Society. And Julie Burchill, the journalist, wrote in this essay, which I read when I was a teenager.

And it was just one of the first sort of pieces of kind of academic journalistic writing. But I read it and went, wow, that is insightful. And she wrote this essay called The Last Sacred Cow. And the basic argument that she made was that whatever the media creates, the media has to destroy.

CARRIE NORDLUND: That's such a great point.

MARK BLYTH: And ultimately, if you think about it, the royals are just the ultimate media creation because they're useful to them. They can pack out pages, sell the newspaper, sell a bit sort of right-wing jingoistic nationalism and a nice toffee wrapper or all that sort of stuff. But they're also the people that destroyed Diana, right? They're also the people that will eventually turn once the Queen goes on someone else, probably Andrew for his various transgressions, right?

And they don't really care so long as they're selling copy. And it's a question of how resilient that whole charade is once the Queen goes. They never go after her, but they go after everybody else. Charles will be totally fair game.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Oh, yeah. He'll be toast, too. Yeah. Well, this is a great segue. This is going to be much more natural to the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard trial talk about what the media creates and what the media takes down.

I mean, that-- I mean, I would-- I got like little bits of it, and I was mostly sort of fascinated by what people do when they have too much money, like Johnny Depp buys as a horse farm for like $30 million and sells it to Martha Stewart, like that sort of stuff. And then just like back and forth-- it's just like one of those things that I just kind of wanted to put in a box and put away because it just felt like looking through someone's trash that-- I didn't really need to have these details.

MARK BLYTH: Yeah, no, absolute-- but the bigger issus there are interesting. So the first one was the absolute global defenestration of Amber Heard, right? So I don't know how [INAUDIBLE] the story, but apparently, there's a Hollywood Starbucks that had two tip jars. And one was called Johnny, and one was called Amber.

And Johnny was overflowing, and Amber had nothing in it.


MARK BLYTH: Right? So there was just this sort of like because-- maybe I don't know. I didn't follow that closely. Maybe she's not a credible witness, she contradicts herself. Maybe she actually is quite violent. Who knows, right. But what I thought was fascinating was the narrow part of the case was basically, did she defame him in that op-ed?

So I do, I got the Op-Ed, and I looked at it. And I went, well, I could see why you could intuit that that's him, but it's really not about him. And this is why when they tried this in London, Depp lost. But then they put it in front of a jury. And basically, you have this incredible media affair where she's the worst person in the world.

And guess what? Suddenly, it is about defaming him. Now, and also trapped herself up in the stand and not sort of saying it went wrong or whatever. But the sort of the sociology behind it-- I'm really into sociology today. I don't know why. But the sociology behind it, there's sort of like the other side of celebrity as again, this thing whereby they take you up.

And then when they decide you're going down-- Amber, in this case-- you are going down big time. I thought that was really interesting and sort of really violent part of the whole thing.

CARRIE NORDLUND: And that somehow the Depp lawyers were able to change it from, he did this to me to no, she did this to me. And therefore, I'm really the victim here. And it was-- I mean, the response from her lawyers after the decision was this is a way to make women scared to speak out and that sort of stuff. And I guess now I don't really know if I have any clearer thoughts on it other than to say, I think, like 50% of that is true but is also within this through this [INAUDIBLE] of this Hollywood celebrity thing.

So it's hard for me to have a really clear sense of whether it has any real implication for those of us who are not Hollywood celebrities.

MARK BLYTH: So on the other side of the pond, in the UK, you're probably not aware of this. There's exactly the same thing going on in another celeb battle trial. And it's between Coleen Rooney, who is the wife of Wayne Rooney, the ex-Manchester United and England footballer, and Rebekah Vardy, who is the wife of Leicester City and ex-England striker Jamie Vardy. Do you know about this?

CARRIE NORDLUND: No, I don't. I only one of those names, too. Yeah.

MARK BLYTH: All right. So here's what happened in short forum, right? Somebody was selling stories about Coleen Rooney and her family to The Sun newspaper. And she wanted to find out who it was, so she has a private Instagram group. So what she did was she basically bond everybody except this one person who she thought was doing it.

She knocked them off one at a time. And then by process of elimination, basically figured out it was her. And she revealed that it was this person. And she used this phrase, it was Rebekah Vardy's account, right? So what happened is Vardy basically comes out and goes, it wasn't me.

Lots of people have access to my account, including my agent, et cetera. I wasn't doing this. And the whole thing ends up in court for defamation, right? They are spending millions on it, right? Now two points of contact with the Depp thing.

The first one is, if you're going to [INAUDIBLE] your reputation by trashing someone else's-- like Jesus said, let him who is without sin cast the first piece of poo, right?


MARK BLYTH: And the stuff that's been coming out in this and just like particularly on the Vardy side, just making her look really, really bad, even if you win this, you're definitely going to lose it, right? The second sort of point of contact on it is the gender dynamic in this one's gone because it's two women, right?

And what you do find then is that behind is this entire industry of lawyers who basically make millions with people revealing in public all of their garbage. It's so weird. So there's a great podcast on BBC Sounds called Wagatha Christie because that's what Coleen Rooney got nicknamed because she's one of the WAGs, the wives and girlfriends, right?

That's right. So it was Wagatha Christie. So if you're into the sort of stuff, have a listen to the first few episodes of the podcast. It's really kind of fascinating. But it's the same dynamics as the Depp-Heard case.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Oh. I mean, I'd definitely listen to that. I like Wagatha Christie as well. But it's very--

MARK BLYTH: That's very good. Yes.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Very catchy. So it's the start of summer. Have you seen Top Gun? Are you going to see Top Gun?

MARK BLYTH: I haven't been back to the cinema.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Oh, you haven't?

MARK BLYTH: No I just wait until-- I mean, I've got-- behind this door is a cinema. So I just wait until it--

CARRIE NORDLUND: I thought it was just like blank space.

MARK BLYTH: I just wait until it drops onto a platform and then watch it. It's like kind of the cinema-- it was bad enough when you could-- Batman would show up and start machine-gunning you, right? But now you've got possible plague as well. It's just like, oh, for God's sake. And then you've got people talking all the way through the bloody film.

It's just like annoying, annoying, forget it. So no, I haven't been.

CARRIE NORDLUND: I actually have-- I did go see Batman, which was an ex-- I went at like 2 o'clock, so there's nobody there.

MARK BLYTH: How was it? How was The Batman reboot?

CARRIE NORDLUND: I usually thought it was pretty good since-- I mean, the best since Christian Bale. I think there's Ben Affleck in between, but anyway, I thought Robert Pattinson was actually pretty good. Top Gun is like when I was kind of understood what was going on in the world but not really. So there is a lot of nostalgia in seeing the second one and seeing that Tom Cruise clearly never-- Scientology doesn't age you either. So I will-- but I think I'm going to wait to see this one through streaming, too, and not go to the movie theater.

MARK BLYTH: So the other thing that I've suddenly-- I mean, it's not-- not that I ever had a passion for this. But remember how you just couldn't avoid Marvel superhero films. Right. They were just always there, and somehow you just ended up going to see them. And it's like, oh, bugger. I'll need to go see Endgame, whatever, right?

So you end up seeing these things, and you justify going to the movies because it's a big screen and all that sort of stuff. So now there's been other ones that have come out. I thought, absolute, maybe it's just age. I'm just sort of like, [BLOWS RASPBERRY], I don't care.

I just don't. No, I'm not going to do it. I just don't care. I mean, at some point Doctor Strange 2 will drop onto a platform. I'm going to watch it, but it's just not enough to motivate me to go out and do it.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah, yeah. No, I hear you. I know there's not really any big movie that I'm looking forward to. And usually, there's some big like--

MARK BLYTH: Yes, well, that was a very '90s thing-- '80s, '90s the summer blockbuster, coming this summer. This kind of stuff.


MARK BLYTH: And yeah, exactly. But no, I don't do that anymore. So listen, do we have any stories of hope? Do we have any positive things to give our listeners on the way out the door rather than just-- I'm getting mail now, just in sort of like, hey, I love the podcast.

Never felt so depressed. So can we get a light note? Have you got something you can give us?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, so Dan, our engineer, prompted at me yesterday to start thinking about this. But it's taking me a while to come up with something. And here's my-- is that graduation at Brown was over the weekend. And I love graduation.

It's just as like so-- like I love pomp and circumstance, and it's always a celebratory atmosphere. So it was nice.

MARK BLYTH: We've got that in Britain. It's called the Diamond Jubilee. You should check it out.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Oh, I didn't know. And--

MARK BLYTH: We wrote the book on pomp and circumstance.

CARRIE NORDLUND: I know. I love that kind of stuff.

MARK BLYTH: You know where all this stuff-- do you know where the stuff came from by the way? So what happened was Queen Victoria went into a huge depression when her husband died quite young. And she basically spent 10 years at a black frock being mean to her children.

And Benjamin Disraeli, the prime minister at that point, figured out that the whole royal house was going to go. And if it weren't, then what will happen to the Parliament and what happens to the Tories and all the rest of it?

ation for the monarchy in the:

CARRIE NORDLUND: And right around in the carriage around Buckingham Palace--

MARK BLYTH: Yeah, all this nonsense and Trooping the Color and the second birthday and all that nonsense, yeah. It's all made-up.


MARK BLYTH: So anyway, hope, back to hope.

CARRIE NORDLUND: So one of the honorary degrees was given to Shaggy, who is a Jamaican reggae, dance hall. You might remember "It Wasn't Me." It was one of his big hits but also a real philanthropist as well and has given away, I think, hundreds of millions of dollars through his philanthropy. He gave remarks.

There was a [INAUDIBLE] graduation, Class of Twenty-Twenty, Class of Twenty-Twenty-Two. He gave remarks to class of Twenty-Twenty. And it was just so touching listening to him. I didn't go to college. I wish I had the college experience.

Let me use my words of wisdom. And one of them was, every time that I doubted myself, I leaned into my talent. And that was what sort got me through tough times. And I [INAUDIBLE] to myself. I mean, not anything that was like rocket science, but it was just really nice.

And just the joy on his face. And he did a little rap at the end. And to see, and you'll appreciate this as a professor, seeing the top administrator just kind of bopping along to reggae was funny.

MARK BLYTH: That's a terrify-- that's not hopeful. That's terrifying.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah, it is terrifying. But it was just nice, and it was-- and you just kind of felt good after that. So that was my good/hope-inspiring news item.

MARK BLYTH: Oh, it's not bad. It's not a bad one to sort of leave us to begin this summer, to think that graduation opens up new possibilities. A new crop of young and idealistic folks tasked with fixing climate change have now migrated into Wall Street and the consulting industry to sell ESG products to each other. So I mean, that's hopeful, I guess. Help.


MARK BLYTH: All right. Well, I'm off to Europe in the Middle of June through July, and then I'll be back. And then I'm going to spend the last six weeks of the summer with one of my [INAUDIBLE] madly writing a short book.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Whoa. Can you give us any preview or no?

MARK BLYTH: Yeah, absolutely.


MARK BLYTH: So for all those publishers out there, to set up a frenzy of interest, we're going to write a little short book called Inflation, A Guide for Losers and Users.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Oh. Well, now that is a hot topic.

MARK BLYTH: That's a hot one, ain't it?


MARK BLYTH: Exactly. Now, 120 pages. Everything you ever wanted to know why most people are talking bullshit, who actually wins, as well as loses, because not everybody loses, shipping companies. So yeah, we'll just do a whole sort of like survey of the whole thing throughout and see what people think.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, that sounds fantastic. Well, I hope that I see you before the end of summer.

MARK BLYTH: Yeah, we should-- so I'm back middle of July. So let's get together end of July, and we'll do a sizzling summer special.

CARRIE NORDLUND: That would be awesome. It was great to see you.

MARK BLYTH: You too.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Thank you for listening.