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Lee Fang On Tensions Within The Left

Lee Fang On Tensions Within The Left

He champions class over race and identity as the core progressive value.

Lee is an investigative journalist. He was a long-time reporter at The Intercept, and in late 2022 he was one of the recipients of the Twitter Files. He left the MSM this year to launch his own substack at

You can listen right away in the audio player above (or on the right side of the player, click “Listen On” to add the Dishcast feed to your favorite podcast app — though Spotify sadly doesn’t accept the paid feed). For two clips of our convo — how wokeness hurts poor communities, and the unsung successes of the Biden administration — pop over to our YouTube page.

Other topics: Lee growing up in a working-class area near DC; his Chinese dad’s immigration story; his granddad’s story of denunciation by the Red Guard and getting sent to a labor camp; the technological ways the CCP now shames and surveils; how journalists these days are more likely to back censorship; how media layoffs contribute to people turning to platforms; Australia forcing platforms to share revenue with journos; how neoliberalism touts “diversity” to deflect from lower wages and de-unionization; how corporate sponsorship at Pride is both progress and cringe; how GOP figures like Rubio and Vance, and mags like Compact, are pushing working-class reform; how the right is increasingly targeting Wall Street; polarized purism vs principled negotiation; Ryan Grim’s report on wokeness paralyzing progressive orgs; the attempted cancellation of Lee over an MLK quote; his growing disillusionment with BLM and the anti-cop movement; the rioting in poor neighborhoods and immigrant businesses; the recent wane of DEI programs; Biden’s wins on factory building and drug pricing; his extreme views in the culture war; non-white Dems being more culturally conservative than white Dems; how opposition to outsourcing is framed as xenophobic; illegal migrants at the mercy of big business; and how the resilience of Trump’s support is rooted in class resentment.

Browse the Dishcast archive for another conversation you might enjoy (the first 102 episodes are free in their entirety — subscribe to get everything else). Coming up: Josh Barro defending the Biden administration, Michael Moynihan on Oppenheimer and commies, and Vivek Ramaswamy on his vision for America. Please send any guest recs and pod dissent to

A listener loved our latest episode: “Thank you so much for your interview with Matt Lewis. Superb!” Here’s a clip of Matt supporting a ban on insider trading in Congress:

This week a Senate committee voted on a bipartisan bill called “Ban Stock Trading for Government Officials Act,” and Greenwald remarked on the result:

Josh Hawley proposed a ban on Congress members trading stocks, given the conflicts and corruption it fosters. Many favorite Dems voted NO (Durbin, Feinstein, Klobuchar, Booker, Whitehouse, Hirono, etc.), ensuring failure. Most YES votes only came once defeat was ensured. Ossoff’s YES vote seems honest given that he’s been a vocal proponent for this ban, along with Gillibrand. But most Dems joined with Cornyn and Tillis to guarantee defeat of the ban.

Boo. Here’s another clip — on Palin paving the way for Trump:

A listener dissents:

As one of your Democrat/Moderate/Liberal listeners, thank you for another great episode. I often disagree with you (mostly on the word “woke,” but that’s another conversation), but I’m grateful for an intellectual perspective without the bullshit.

I think both you and Matt Lewis missed a most important point when discussing how 2010 seemed to usher in a crazier populism among working-class whites. Trump was/is the “Great White Hope.” Yes, that population was disaffected, but seeing a Black man as head of state — and the elevation of African-Americans based on that presidency — was the creation of Trump. He hated the idea of Obama and set out to other-ize him, and he tapped into a changing America that needed the nastiest, strongest, richest white SOB that could be mustered.

There has always been a hierarchy based on race in this country (I am white and know it in my core, if I must be honest), and no group or person gives up their status or class without an ugly fight. Racial animosity in this country has always bubbled just below the surface, but at least people behaved themselves in polite society. No more. Even Obama has acknowledged that his presidency led to the backlash of Trump, who made it acceptable to call people names, humiliate them, and verbalize racial animus. We’re getting that cow back in the barn, as it were.

Just my two cents. I love hearing you discuss the current trans trend among kids. I am a newly retired high school/college educator, and it’s a thing.

Yes, I came to see the power of that racial targeting, and its context. As I’ve said before, I think Americans were more willing to vote for a black president than be governed by one. But … Obama was also elected twice, and backed by white Midwesterners both times. He did better than his white female successor as the Democratic nominee. And when you remember the animus toward Bill Clinton in the 1990s, or the Swift-Boating of John Kerry in 2004, you can see how right-wing extremism is happy to target white as well as black politicians.

Another listener has a great recommendation:

You once wrote that “it’s always worth reading” Thomas Edsall’s NYT columns. Well he’s just written a new book, The Point of No Return: American Democracy at the Crossroads, and he gave a really interesting interview with Ray Suarez in a recent episode of the Commonwealth Club podcast. Edsall has looked at many of the issues that you’ve written about, and he goes beyond easy narratives into a nuanced understanding of where we are and how we got here. You could have a great conversation with him.

Another guest rec:

Thanks for having Susan Neiman on the podcast. I think the interview was great, and I hope you received lots of positive feedback for it.

I want to put a related book on your radar: Cancelled: The Left Way Back from Woke by political scientist Umut Özkirimli, who calls out the similarities between right-wing populism and left-wing cancel culture. Özkirimli — a leading scholar of nationalism, populism, the far right, academic freedom and all things Turkey — is as unsparing in his critique of right-wing identity politics as in his takedown of left-wing censorship. The right, he argues, tries to conceal its own authoritarian agenda by blaming the woke left — which is more concerned with policing speech among fellow progressives than with building a common front against the right’s transgressions. 

Özkirimli is no stranger to cancellation. As a political scientist at Lund University, he was falsely accused of harassment, and though his accuser was later found guilty of defamation, the campaign against Özkirimli quickly spiraled out of control. The rhetoric used against him in Turkey, where he was known as a critic of the Erdoğan regime, was particularly vicious, resulting in numerous online death threats and smears from pro-government media. 

We’ll check him out. Another rec:

I have caught author Phil Illy on a few podcasts recently, and I think he’d be a great fit for the Dishcast. Phil identifies as a man with autogynephilia — men are attracted to themselves as women. He has degrees in mechanical engineering and physics and takes that sort of left-brain, dry approach to what can be a very emotional topic. More about him here, including his autism. (Full disclosure: I found out a few years ago that my husband of over 30 years has autogynephilia, and Phil’s info has been super helpful in understanding more about this small group of men.)

A quick dissent from a reader on the “normal” presidency of Joe Biden:

You wrote, “The buzziest story about Biden this week is that he sometimes loses his temper with staffers.” What about the story in the New York Times and elsewhere about his granddaughter?

That story had broken the previous week, but I addressed it on the Dishcast with Dave Weigel (and wrote about it in this week’s column):

Another reader dissents over a column I wrote back in May:

Thank you for “The Queers Versus The Homosexuals.” The clarity and specificity you brought to this topic is sorely missing, and you have done an important public service. But of course, there is no pleasing everyone, so I do have what I feel is a substantive complaint that I hope you will address at some point. You wrote, “The resurrection of bathroom bills and the move to curtail the rights of trans adults are repulsive and dumb.” These are two very different issues, but I disagree with your take on both of them.

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