Transcript: Michael Moynihan On Afghanistan And Free Speech
One of the handsome hosts of The Fifth Column comes on to kibbitz.
Moynihan is a long-time correspondent for Vice and one-third of the The Fifth Column — the sharp, hilarious podcast he does with Kmele Foster and Matt Welch, now on Substack. In this episode we mostly cover the withdrawal from Afghanistan, but also bounce around to topics like old media, woke media, neocons and Israel, Big Tech, and third rails. We also reminisce a little about our mutual friend, the late Christopher Hitchens — like that one time Hitch called me a lesbian on air.
The episode aired on August 20, 2021. Some money quotes from Moynihan:
On the mess in Afghanistan: “When I saw what was happening in Kabul, I wanted to send a text to the Kremlin, or send a text to somebody in Beijing and say, ‘Here’s your moment guys, do it.’”
On changing your mind: “Being wrong or correcting yourself on things really just looms over me … These people who are totally sure of themselves, I find them fascinating and kind of repulsive.”
On forgiveness in woke ideology: “They don’t want your apology. They want the ritual of you begging for it, but it’s never accepted. Have you ever seen anyone who apologized, who was allowed back into polite society?”
On what’s happening in journalism: “The idea that we’ve replaced the verb ‘report’ with ‘platform,’ is when I realized our industry was totally fucked.”
Andrew: Hi there. Welcome to another Dishcast. This is the last one of the summer. I'm taking a couple weeks break, as I always do at the end of August. So I was thinking, who could I get on to have a good chat about everything? And who would be amusing and fun to talk to? And that man is Michael Moynihan. He's a big honcho now at Vice. What's the actual position that you hold there?
Michael: I don't know how big my honcho-ness is. I'm a pretty low honcho. I've just been there a while. I'm a correspondent, so I do on-air stuff there.
Andrew: If you are browsing through your streaming service and see it, it's always worth a look. It's kind of macho, Vice. It's always reporters going around with people who are running around shooting at people. You've done that kind of thing, right?
Michael: I've done some of that. I think we're less macho now, but ... can we switch the recording off, then I can tell you? No, but I do some stuff like that.
I'm too old for that now, Andrew. I'm probably the oldest correspondent there. It's me and my buddy Ben Anderson, a British guy who was in Afghanistan in 2001, a BBC guy who did war correspondent stuff. He's fantastic and very talented. But yeah, it's just us. We're the old guards.
Andrew: You are, as we just discussed before we came on air, clearly one of the most handsome pundits there is, which is not exactly a very high bar.
Michael: We didn't discuss it! You make it sound like I was saying it! [Both laugh] “Do you know, Andrew, how handsome I am as a pundit?”
Andrew: Yes, as we were saying, only Jeffrey Toobin really comes close to your powerful sex appeal.
Michael: I am the Jack Germond of my generation.
Andrew: Oh God, Jack Germond, what a great man he was. Now, he was an old-school guy that stayed reporting until the very end. There used to be even foreign reporters would hang on until they were decrepit, right?
Andrew: But not any longer. All the millennials and Gen Zers rushing in and replacing all those old people.
Michael: We don't really report. There's a practical reason for it in some ways. And I can't entirely blame them. Remember, when you and I started doing this, that there was a lot of money in it. Especially newspapers made tons of money through advertising. If you were in midtown Manhattan, you could go to a bar and see half the staff of the New York Post at this one particular bar at 5:00pm. Then you went home and you did your thing.
Now, the new cycle doesn't end. There's no money. So you need more people with fewer resources. And now what do you get? You get people who sit behind desks telling you that the newest Jurassic Park is transphobic.