'Useful Idiots': Surveillance in Tech, Obama's Drones - Rolling Stone
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‘Useful Idiots’: Surveillance in Tech, ‘Biracial Commercials,’ Obama’s Drones

Hosts Matt Taibbi and Katie Halper are joined by Edward Ongweso Jr.

In the latest socially distanced episode of our Useful Idiots podcast, hosts Matt Taibbi and Katie Halper are joined by Edward Ongweso Jr., a prolific journalist currently at Vice’s Motherboard.

Matt submits a story he recently published on the flailing efforts of Democrats to negotiate a Covid-19 relief package, citing a Congressional staffer close to the negotiations who was appalled at the Dems’ performance.

“Democrats basically negotiated against themselves, going back months, so that the relief package that people are ultimately going to get is by a factor of three or four, maybe even higher, lower than what it would have been had they negotiated correctly, or had they been willing to take a hit like in the form of allowing Donald Trump a headline or two along the way,” explains Matt.

Of course, Katie and Matt dish on Biden’s naming Pete Buttigieg for Secretary of Transportation. “What people should probably be most offended by is the relatively routine nature of us nominating people who have no expertise whatsoever in these fields,” Taibbi opines on the nomination of “Mayor Pete.”

Edward Ongweso Jr. then joins the show for a wide-ranging discussion on his beat as a labor and tech reporter at Vice“He’s very good on Twitter,” says Katie.

Ongweso caught our hosts’ attention for his impressive satirical tweet about how journalists should be treating the incoming Biden administration, and they break down the intention of the Tweet.

“I was hoping it would be so obvious how stupid the idea was if you took it to its logical conclusion,” says Ongweso. “And did not anticipate that a lot of people would be like, ‘Yeah, no, you’re right.’ “

They discuss Ongweso’s reporting on Amazon surveilling its employees in Spain, his coverage of the DOJ’s anti-trust lawsuit against Google/Alphabet, and his writing on Barack Obama around the release of the former president’s recent autobiography. They also dissect the journalist’s tendency to take contrarian angles, and what inspires his approach.

“If you have power, and if you’ve done evil and horrendous things, then all you really need to do is not even really say you’re sorry, but say that it made you feel bad doing it, and that’s enough,” Ongweso Jr. explains. “I hope to, in those stories and other stories in tech, counter narratives where it’s like, ‘We should believe this propaganda; we should believe this redemption arc; we should believe this nonsense that we’re being fed.'”


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