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tv   Democracy Now  LINKTV  September 3, 2018 8:00am-9:01am PDT

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september 3, 2018. september 3, 2018. democracy now! test [captioning made possible amy goodman: from pacifica, this is "democracy now!" >> use your white voice.e. > ththis is langston from m regal. > as always, we will be gettg that out to you right away. amy y goodman: today, we s sped the day with boots riley, director o of "sorry to bother youou,"
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a critique of capitalism seldom seen in a hollywood film. today, we talk with him about his film, activism, and more.. >> i believe progressives and radicals have turned more to spectacle and gone away from actually organizing at the actual point of contradiction in capitalism, which is the exploitation of labor, which is also where the working class has its power. amy gogoodman: today, boots s ry for the hour. all of that and more, coming up. this is "democracy now!,", the war and peace report. i am amymy goodman. we spend the rest of the hour with boots riley,
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director of "sorry to bother you." boots is also a poet, screenwriter, and community activist. this is his first film, a dystopian social satire that follows one o oakland man's rise to ththe upper ecechelons of an evil telemarketing company, only t to discover a secrett that threatens all of humankind. here is the film''s trailer. >>  sesergio: hey,y, cash. hohow much longer i got to wait for my money? cassius green: g god made this land for all of us.s. greedy people like you wawant to hog it to yoyourself and yoyour family and -- sergio: : me and my family? cassius s green: yeah. sergio: cassius, i'm your [blbleep] unclele. >>  cassius green: i just realally need a a job. 40 on two. anderson: this is telemarketing. stick to the scrt. cassius green: hello, mr. davidson, cassius green here.
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sorry y to bother r -- lalangston: let me give you a t. you want to make some money here? use yourur white voice.. cassiuius green: m my ite vovoi. lalangston: i'm not talking abot will smith white. like ts,s, young blolood: "hey, mr. . kram, ththiss langngston from regalvieiew." cassius green: as always, we'll be getting that out to you right a away. johnhnny: you're doioing so god with the voice thing. cassius green: holla! holla! holla! holla! holla!a! >>  andersrson: you're goingng upst, power caller. they even have their own elevator. amy y goodman: t that was the trailer to "sorry to bother you," directed by boots riley. we recently sat down with boots riley. i began by asking him to talk about his new film. >> an absurdist rk comedy inspired by the world of telemarketing. in it, lakeith stanfield plays cassius green, a black telemarketer with self-esteem issues
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and existential angst, who discovers a magical way to make his voice sound like it's overdubbed by a white actor. that white actor is played by david cross. hilarity ensues. [laughter] juan gonzález: and why telemarketing? >> i actually did telemarketing a couple times, one time in school while i was actually going to film school and then another time. after our second album, i had kind of a 24-year-old midlife crisis, where i decided i had been an artist too long, and i quit, and me and some friends created an organization called the young comrades. and i needed money to do that, and i was good at sales, so i did telemarketing. amy goodman: so, you talked about the white voice. i want to turn to a clip from "sorry to bother you." cassius green, played by lakeith stanfield, has just started his job as a telemarketer, when an older employee,
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played by none other than your friend danny glover, gives him some advice. langston: hey, young blood, let me give you a tip: use e your white voice. cacassius greeeen: man, i i ai't no white voice. langston: oh, come o on. you know whahat i mean. you haveve a white v voice in t. you can use itit. it's like being pulled over by the pololice. cassius s green: oh, no. i jujust use my regular r voice when that hahappens. i just sayay, "back ththe [blee] up off the c, and don't nobody g hurt." langston: all right, man. i'm justst trying to give youu some gamame. yoyou want to o make some money herere? then read the script with a white voice. cassssius green: well, peoeopley i tatalk withth a white v voice anywaw, so why ainin't itit helping m m? langston: well, you don'n't talk white enough. i'm m not taining about will smithth white. i'm talklking abouout the real . like this,s, young blood:: "h"hey, mr. krkramer, this i is langstonon from regal. i didn't catch youu at the wrong time,e, did i?" amy goodman: and for people who are listening on the radio, that was actually dadanny glover who's voicing g that. >> yeah. amy goodman: so talk about the white voice and what that means, boots. boots riley: well, so, in the film,
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danny glover''s character langston -- actually, that's an edited piece that we just played, but in the full piece, he explains that the white voice doesn't really exist. white people don't even have it. they use it, and it's a performance. there's a performance of whiteness that is all about sayiying that everything is ok, you've got your bills paid, and that -- and, you know, this kind of smooth and easy thing. and it's, at the very least, the idea of what black folks have to do in order to hide their identity sometime over the phone or to say that they're safe. it's like the opposite of the racist black tropes that are out there, which are there, that they say, "ok, black folks and people of color are savage, or somehow their culture is insufficient,
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and that's why they're poor." and these racist black tropes, these racist tropes of people of color, have a utility, because we live in a system that necessitates poverty. it must have a certain number of unemployed people to exist. and there's an -- but the explanation is that it's nothing to do the economic system, it's everything to do with poor people, and these racist tropes come. so the white voice is almost a reaction to that. and, anyway, so -- and there's all sorts of levels in there, too. what's also left out is, just so people know, the full-l-le is, "i'm not talking about will smith white. that's not white. that's just proper." juan gonzález: and then, as cassius masters the white voice, he rockets up the chain to success, and then the conflict begins with his girlfriend. boots riley: i don't know. ththere's conflict all through the movie. i don't know when it begins. juan gonzazález:z: yeah. boots riley: but, yeah.
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yeah, it's -- yeah, yeah, defininitely. tessa thompson plays -- her name is detroit. her character's name is detroit, who's an artist in the bayay area that is also -- that is trying to use her art to expose a lot of the injustices. and kind of what this film deals with is, you know, her character is probably the closest to me, you know, and deals with the q questions of what art can actually do, if anything. amy goodman:n: so, expanand on . and tetessa thompspson, heher job in life is dancing with signs in front of stores. boots riley: well, i don't think -- i don't think her character would say that''s her job in life. that's how she gets some money to pay the bills. but yeah, she's a sign twirler. and she -- for money. but she's a gallery artist and also part of a --
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i don't know -- a agitprop arts group that does things somewhat clandestinely. and, yeah, i think her character -- well, i know -- her character is always -- her character and the character played by steven yeun have somewhat of a conflict and an alliaiance, because steven yeun plays a union organizer. amy goodman: and that goes to the issue of what's happening, where they work, at regalview. i want to turn back to the film, "sorry to o bother you," when cassius green is promoted to be a power caller at the telemarketing company where he works in oakland. well, things take a dark turn. >>  casassius greenen: i got promoted.. i'm a power caller!
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detroit: what do t they sell?? langston: : they're not selellig whatat we are seselling. cassius green: no, there's no amoununt of money that'd make me do that. >> here's the starting salary. cassius green: and i'm m going o have to get meme some new suits! detroit: it is morally emaciated. i can't ride w with you. cassius green: i''m doing something i'm really good at. steve lift: cash, i'm going to make you a proposal. i i can see that you'd want t to say no, but i wouldn't do that before yoyou see what i i'm m offeri. cash, you are awesome. amy goodman: "sorry to bother you." that's part of the e trailer. boboots riley, so, he is pushed upstairs as the people at regalview, the evil telemarketing firm, are starting to organize. you have this big norma rae moment in ththe film. but talk about that. and we're talking about this as, well, just today, amazon prime day, there are people who are protesting in poland and spain and germany,
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to prorotest working condiditios at amazon workplaces. >> am i wrong to say the protests are taking the form of work stoppages? i think that is something put forward in my film as a tool that we need to use. i believe that since the beginning of the new left, progressives and radicals have turned more to spectacle and gone away from actually organizing at the actual popoint of contradiction i in capitalis, which is the exploitation of labor,, which is also where the working class has its power.
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and we've gone in favor of demonstrations that don't necessarily have teeth, but they show where our head is at. and i feel it we have to give these demonstrations more teeth, by being able to affect the bottom line and say, you know -- and say, "you can make no money today, or you can make less money and give us what we want." amy goodman: talk about the company, regalview, and then you have worry free. boots riley: it is interesting to in the film, there is a company called worry free that guarantees you housing and employment for life. they house their workers in the same places
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they produce whatever they produce. and it is a lifetime contract. so, in all extents and purposes, it's slavery. but what is weird is i don't know if that company is illegal right now. it would be an interesting research topic to seeee if the company worry frfree that's in "sorry to bother you" is actually legal. however, what i'm a little scared of is that then somebody will try it. you know? [laughteter] juan gonzález: and what is the big thing you are hoping folks will take away from your movie? boots riley: one, there are a lot of things i want people to take away from this movie. i tried to do something in my mind
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that was more akin to literature where there are a lot of ideas. if you take any piece of literature that you love and say, what is the one thing about it? you would be lying by omission. i wanted that t feel, that there are all these things. i would say over arching is i want there to be a symptom of optimism, that although things are messed up and all these things are going on, if there's a fight with a clear way to win, if there's a fight going on, then that's the optimism, the hope, right there. so, i don't want to give it away too much of what happens in the movie,, but, you know, it is a strange odyssey. amy y goodman: boots riley, didirector of
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ororry to bobother you," we will be back with him in a m minute. >>  >>  amy goododman:
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this is democracy y now! we r returned to boots r riley, who has justst directed his first film, "sorry to bother you." this is s a searingg anticapitalist film. one of the striking characters is armie hammer who plays a kind of elon musk or jeff bezos character,
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the mastermindnd behind worryry free, ththat profifits off of f slave. talk about his charactcter, how you chose armie hammer from the armand hahammer family. bootots riley: let's put it l like this, armie hammer is a wonderful person and gave so much to making this film happen. before we talk about his skill level and mastery of his craft, he was on a tour for pixar because he was a voice in one of the "cars" movies. he wanted to go over a line with lakeith and he made pixar fly him from london where they were promoting the movie, they flew hihim to london for a day and to oakland, and back, just because he wanted to give the film his all.
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i chose him because armie hammer is such a lovable dude and really represents where the idea of capitalism is right now. the new capitalism is, "there is no capitalism here, what are you talking about?" "this is not a workplace, this is a beanbag room." and "i am not your boss, i just tell you what to do." as opposed to the oil baron idea, these are the cool people that everyone loves. and so, armimie was perfect for that. also, he is very into research.
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i feel he really nailed this character and gave it a psychosis that is very friendly to the media. amy goodman: you retweeted an onion piece on jeff bezos' latest idea, after realizing it is just slaves. they write deciding at the last minute to hold off, jeff bezos set aside his latest cost-cutting initiative after realizing was actually human slavery. 'on the surface, it seemed plausible-owning our employees' bodies,s, implemementing a mandatory 1818-hour workday, restricting their movemements, and not t compensating them with anything besides minimal food and shelter, but then it started to sound really familiar in a bad way,' said bezos, who acknowledged his fears were confirmed when amazon's gegeneral counsel kept repororting back ththat such labor arrangementss had been illegal throughout the united states since 1865."
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now, again, that's an onion piece, for peoplele who don''t know the satirical l newspaper. boots riley: it's not true, meaning. yeah, yeah. although the way they lay it out there is illllegal, there are so many things -- the worry free in our piece, the real exaggeration is just that it's happening in the u.s. as opposed to where it already is happening, in other countries, and that u.s. corporations are knowingly involved in the production that comes out of this kind of labor. i mean, it's not exactly what's happening, but it's pretty close. you know, it's interesting, like a lot of people talk about labor conditions in china, which were spurred on by the u.s.
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as a matter of fact, what the students were fighting for in tiananmen square was the right to become management at these companies, the idea that they should let capitalism in more, so they could become the management at these companies right there. so, when we talk about all the symbols of fighting for our style of democracy, it ends up with worry free-like work centers. juan gonzález: well, you know, i had my students at rutgers university doing investigations of amazon, and one of the things -- amazon at one point was requiring their employees to line up and be searched on the way out. and, of course, , they operate in these huge warehouses, so that it wouould take the e workers sometimes
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half an hohour to get out of wo, while e they waited on line to be searched on the way out the door. boots riley: wow. juan gonzález: they went to court, and the supreme court upheld, in a decision, that -- because e the workers wanted to be paid. they said, "if you're requiring us to wait on line to be sesearched on ththe way o, pay us foror that time."." supreme court said no, that you're not required to pay an employee once they're off, even if it's a requirement to s search them. so, i mean, you've got this situation. it is virtual slavery in a lot of these huge warehouses, that people never see, because we just get our amazon prime, and we don't care how it comes to us, unless we open up what's going on in a lot of these places. boots riley: wow. yeah, i think -- i guess this is what the film kind of addresses, is that we might know something, like we'll hear that piece of information. but we hear that piece of information -- what can we do with it?
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right? and we are like, "ok, that's something i can't do anything about." and we file it away. and it's not apathy. you know, it's the fact that we don't have the momovements ththat able to - we don't have them big enough yet, the movements that are able to address this, movements that are actually confronting capital by withholding labor. those are the things that we need. and for too long, the left has gonene away from class struggle. right? we've gone away from clclass strugglele in favor ofof specta, and hidden in the arts and academia. so, a lot of our biggest fights are sometimes about not what we're saying, but how we're saying it. anand i agree how we're saying ththings are important.
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it means, though, that we have to look at how the working class is talking and what they really mean, as opposed to just trying to adjust how people are talking, and making a movement around things that we can do something about, because then people haveve a real choice of what they want to get involved in. you know, it's not that people don't hear that story, for instance, and think it's ridiculous,, bubut, even me, i'm sitting here like, "ok, how do i -- is thihis something i can do? let me move on f from this. like, what?" you know, throwing up my hands. and so, i think that it is time for us to have new, radical, militant,
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in the sense that they keep out scabs, radical and militant in the sense that they break the extiting laboror laws, and have these new, radical and militant labor movements. and, you know, that doesn't necessarily mean the existing unions, but if they want to come along and up the ante, that's great. but there is only something like 7% of the u.s. workforce is u unionized. and some of that has to do with some of the laws that have been enacted since the 1940's and d also some of the anti-comommunist stuff. but, you know, the taft-hartley laws make it so you can't do solidarity strikes. and the reason why they make it so you can't do solidarity strikes is because they're effective. and so, we need a labor movement thatat's going toto break thosese laws, because, as we see, the laws that are existing are going to make the current ways of organizing unions muchch harder.
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so, you know, and this is almost also a call out to folks that consider theieirself radicals, like we're willing to go to jail for statements s sometimes, for demonstrations, and which is good, but maybe if we were part of leading this kind of new radical labor movement, we'd go to jail for breaking the laws that bring people hikes in wages, that then also make for a movement that could handle other social justice issues with strikes. amy goodman: how does "sorry to bother you" fit into that picturure of organizing? i mean, it must be very interesting for you, as a well-known anti-capitalist artists and organizer, to now -- boots riley: communist. amy gogoodman: communist marxis, to now you have "sorry to bother you," which is, you know, this breakout film, to navigate this world of a film that is a work of art,
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a political statement, but also a -- almost a consumer prproduct. and you must be negotiating nonstop, dealing with this very successful film in a capitalist world. boots riley: yeah. i mean, it's never been my mission to create a separate, safer capitalist model, because that's what it would be doing, you knonow, is like, "let's create this other distribution network," whatever, which, if you're operating under capitalism, ends up being just a baby capitalist model that is maybe not as effective asas the ones that exist. so, it is -- i mean, i wasn't there, but i believe how even the communist mamanifesto got ot wawas that the books were distributed, that these books are sold. so, even marx sold books, right? so, and it wasn't because he was like,
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"i need to create something inside of capitalism that shows this model." i mean we've been seeing that for a long time. i memean, the u.s. h has had socialist communes since the 1800's. and as artists, too, we give ourselves that out, like, "i'm creating a model, you know, that other people can emulate." and it's really just a cop-out, because it's harder to organize people and geget them to get involved in a movement. it's easier to find other people that already agree with you, and d then do that thing. juan gonzález: i want to ask you about ways to move forward. a lot of the folks who have been involved in activist movement over the years, then ended up going into, especially after the bernie sanders phenomenon, electoral politics. we're seeing many more, quote, "progressives" or radicals getting elected into office. what do you think about thatat route
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as a means of being able to effect social change? boots riley: well, here's what i think. i think, inarguably, the two biggest reforms under capitalism in the 20th century might be the new deal and the civil rights bill, right? and how did we get either of them? was it by electing the right person? or was it by having a momovement that was able to disrupt? and let me be e very clear about whatat i mean by "disrupt" in the 1920's and 1930's in the united states, it's been said that there were a milillion cacard-carrying communiststs. and at the same time, we had places like alabama, utah, montana, oklahoma, where there were, for instance,
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mining strikes that were going on. and in places like alabama, there were even like conflicts, armed conflicts, with the miners and private security. in the midwest, during that same era, you had people occupying and shutting down factories. on the west coast, duriring that same era, you had the longshoremen creating their union, and of a bunch of workers that were thought of as like lower skill than we think of fast-food workers right now, who fought against, you know, militias, state militias, in order to create their union. and that's happening at the same time. during that same time, somewhat unrelated, pretty unrelated, there was a thing called the bonus march where world war i veterans marched on the white house for ththeir bonus checks, in large numbers,
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and many thougught to b be carrying arms. revolutions happening around the world. in that milieu is where we got the new deal. it wasn't because the radicals and progressives band together and were like, "we need to be putting all our energy into electing fdr." they made that happen. now, so, that's not to say don't get somebody in office. but what that does do, though, when you're doing that, it's a question of where are we putting our resources, where are we putting our time, what happens is movements get subverted, because, right nowow, there's oy so much time and energy, and the first people to act are going to be the ones that we need. and if everybody's putting their time into the electoral side,
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we're going to get caught in this loop, where you get an elelected official in there, and they're not able to do mucuch, because there's s not the movement to do things. we need to get to the level where we can shut down industry, and that we can go straight to the puppet masters. now, if we have that going on and somebody wants to get in office that can better aid those movements, but even any progressive or candidate out there will tell you that if you don't have a movement going on, there's not a lot they could do, you know? i mean, even on a low level like oakland polititics, you had like dellums, ron dellums, get elected mayor. great dude. didn't really do mumuch at all. and what he kept saying was, "i can't do anything
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if there's not a movement that allows it to happen." and so, i think that electoral politics is the easy way out. i thinink it's part of the sidetracking that we've been having. the left has not been willing to engage in class struggle for a long time, and we've left it up to liberals. we've left union organizing up to liberals. not just union organizers, but we have made our movements devoid of the analysis that says that -- that shows where the power point in capitalism for us is. and so, for me, it's not a matter of -- it's not a matter of can that work. maybe it could, but it's not going to work
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if we don't have a real movement. and it's going to get us sucked into the war of inches. i mean, think about it like this. really, you know, you end up talking about getting folks to vote. and right now, because of everything that we've gotten into, we get focused on the trump era, and we've got the democrats going way to the right, because of figuring out how do we get trump out. so people are like supporting the cia, supporting the fbi, and doing it fervently. right? and they are like, "well, that's just because we need to get trump out." but then, where does that leave you afterward? it is part of this game. it's part of this thing. i mean, where we are with immigration? i mean, immigration rights activists were complaining way before trump was in about the policies that the obama administration put in.
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amy goododman: they cacalled hm the "deporter-in-c-chief." boots riley: and so, where we are with trump is part of just that -- it is another few steps on the staircase that has been being built the whole time by playing this game of inches. i think that things are so drastic right now that we have got to reset. it is only since the 1960's that, you know, radicals have been thinking about like elections as the way. and it's very connected, you know, wiwith the new left stopping organizing labor and focusing on students. all of a sudden in the 1960's, you heard the students are the revolution. it was not historically accurate. it's not based on any other revolutions, except for maybe there was, at the same time,
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the cultural revolution in china. but other than that, wasn't historically accurate. and it was a a focus on students and spectacle that has led to like people not knowing what to do and basically saying, "well, all i'm going to do is electoral politics." amy goodman: boots riley, director of "sorry to bother you." wewe will be bacack with him in a minute. > 
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>>  amy goodman: this is demococracy now! i am a amy goodman with juan n gonzalez
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as we returned to boots riley who has just directed his first film, "sororry to bobother you." juan gonzález: you set the film in oakland, where you grew up. it has a always beenen a hotbedf radical politics and organizing. w you featature the city in the film. boots riley: i think that is a byproduct of wantnting to m make a good fil. i i come from oakland, so i'm going to write about what i know. i believe my ways of storytelling or making art have a lot to do with the details that wake people up. and those are the details that surround us. living in a place, you have great ideas of what you want to shoot. i also know so many y people in oakland and the bay area that we could get some locations for free.
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all of my art has to do with where i am, which is one reason why i never moved to l.a. or new york because it is part of what makes me. amy goodman: we have been doing a lot this year on the 50th anniversary of thehe various events of 1968. you have danny glover teaching young blood a few things at the telemarketing firm. he was one of those 50 years ago protesting at san francisco state, as was your dad. tell us about that history. boots riley: danny glover and my father met at san francisco state, educating and organizing the san francisco state. not being the organizers, but some of them. that strike created the first ethnic studies program
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in the united states. people passed the right measures, but they were forced to. it is a great 360 spiral. amy goodman: using something other than the white voice toto get wt t they wanted.d. boots riley: exactly. maybe someone usused that along the waway, but they had the backup of shutting down the school in order to force their hand. amy goodman: you will have to go in a few minutes. boots riley: sorry. amy goododman: the success of your film requires you traipsing off here and there. boots riley: yeah. amy goodman: but before you go, especially for young people to hear about your life and the life decisions you've made that have brought you to this point, can you talk about, you know, rapping, doing music, being an artist, being a radical organizer,
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and then deciding to make this film? you went to film school? boots riley: yeah. so, i mean, even to back it up earlier than that, because therere's soso many thi. my grandmother ran the oakland ensemble theatre in t the 1970's and 1980's. i was involved in theater in high school. i wrote a school play. i was also involved in a thing called the black repertory group, which is in berkeley now, in a big theater, but atat the time it was a storefront theater that like fit about 40 people. at the same time, i became involved in organizing in the central valley, supporting folks making what's called the anti-racist farm workers' union, in mcfarland and delano. but there, there was also this history that they talked about, about teatro campesino.
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and, you know, so i would hear all these stories. and we'd try to do things like it, but it wasn't very organized. and then, so i wanted to take it bigger, and went to san francisco state for film. but at the same time, i was doing music. we got a record deal, because we just happen to be -- the reason without a record deal is because many -- most record companies don't like music, and they don't know what's out there. so, if somebody has a hit that has, yoyou know, if they have a green jacket on, they're like, "we need more people with green jackets!" they don't lilisten to the musi. so, it just happened to be that therere were people with hits from oakland, and record labels were like, "we need groups from oakland." we were there. we got a deal. and we ran with it. goodman: can you talk about, just for a second, it is a detour, but after the attacks, the cd you had -- a major controversy around it.
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boots riley: yeah. in 2001, we were putting out a cd, a cd, an album, whatever, called "party music," and with a kind of double entendre -- party, part, political party -- blah blah blah. anyway, and i wanted to show that our music was meant to destroy capitalism. so, on the cover, i'm holding a bass tuner and pam is holding conductor's wands. amy goodman: pam the funkstress, who you dedicate the film to. boots riley: yeah. yeah, she just died last year. and she's holding conductor's wands, conducting the music that is making the buildings behind us explode, which is the world trade center.
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amy goodman: and this was when in 2001? boots riley: we shot it in may 2001. we sent it around to all the publications in august 2001, or, no, we sent it around to them in july 2001. they printeded it in august 200, the ads. and as a matter of fact, most magazines, when you send it, you give them a lot of choices of what to -- juan gonzález: and the fbi visited you when? in septemberer? boots riley: they didn't, because bill clinton had already made it ok for our phones to be tapped. so they didn't need to visit me- juan gonzález: right. amy goodman: so this is august, early september, before the attacks. there's s this cd cover. boots riley: yeah,h, that's being advertised. and matter of fact, manyny magazines were like, "this is the best album covever of the year," you know. and then, 2001 -- i mean, september 11th happened. and yeah, and i think the best thing i made of it
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was that at the time, many people were scared to say anything about what the u u.s. was getting int, which was automatically, that day -- it's weird that some of the listeners might be too young to really reremember it. amy goodman: might not even have been born. boots riley: but, you know, that day, they're already putting the american flag. and that wasn't really a thing yet, at that time. they'd already just been putting american flags on there, and it was clear that they were building up for war. and people were scared of doing -- of saying something. and i was part of -- i tried to call around and get artists to make a statement against the u.s. bombing afghanistan, and many artists said that they had already been told by their record label that, "look, if you do this, you're going to get boycotted,
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so, therefore, if you say that, as soon as you do, we're not putting your album out." right? so, saying that it was a protective measure, right? and so people were afraid to speak. amy goodman: so what happened with your album cover? boots riley: so, it got -- so, we changed it to something else, holding a martini glass with gasoline in it, with a gasoline can behind it, and the martini glass is on fire. and so, a more of a sophisticated molotov cocktail. and i was able to use it to be all over the news, being, you know, one of the few -- maybe with you -- but few artists that were speaking out against the war. you know who else deserves credit for speaking out against the war, that is not thought of in this way, is -
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"lord of the rings" was coming out then. viggo mortensen was going on -- went on a talk show with something like against the bombing of afghanistan. if you noticed, he wasn't -- if you lookeked through, i didn't see him agagain promoting -- he's the star of "lorord of the rings." amy goodmaman: rightht. boots rileley: and he wasn't promoting it. amy goodman: long beenutspokenen. boots riley: yeah. and yeah, so it allowed me to put - -- you knknow, i put out this-this whatever you call it -- press release, because our publicists at the time-friends with them, they're cool-but at the time they w were like, you know, i put out this press release that said, you know, the u.s. had just been found guilty of -- i forget now, but of aiding in thehe deaths-in deaths of folks in nicaragua, i believe.
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they've been found guilty by the world court. and eyey thumbed their nosee at the world court, saying, "we won't adhere to these findings." it was to do with their role in the deaths of 19,000 people. and so, i put out a press release saying, "look, this was an atrocity. and -- but it's in the context of u.s.'s atrocities, and this just happened. and so, we should not use this as a reason to bomb afghanistan." my publicist wouldn't put it out. they were like, "if we put out this press release" -- you know, i mean, not as an organization, but actual publicists themselves, they were like, "i mightht not be able to work in new york again." so, that is where we were at, at the time.
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amy goodman: so, i interrupted you. but as you wrap up and as you have to go, you go to film school. boots riley: i can talk for another hour. amy goodman: you drop out of film school to do your music. you're doing your music. what did that open up for you, and why did you then choose to go back to theater? boots riley: well, for me, back to film. well, we have done theater stuff. but, for me, it's all one big mess of ideas. and, you know, this is part of it, you know, music, any way that i can put out my ideas and talk to people. and i like music. i like film. you know, it's better than moving boxes. so, in a way, the critique that i have of the left,
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i very much embody that. you know. amy goodman: it's better than working at worry free. boots riley: yeah, although maybe some radicals need to go intoto worry f free and organie in there and get that going. amy goodman: can i ask you about this incident that took place last month in oakland, california, and the barbecue story, in which, well, you had a white woman who harassed and calleded the police on two african-american men for grilling at lake merritt, the incident sparking massive outrage in the city, where gentrification had displaced many longtime african-american residents. a few weeks later, hundreds of people turned out at t the same location for a massive picncnic and protest celebration dubbed "bbqing while black." and i bring that up now just in its own right, but also, in your film, "sorry to bother you," you have kamau bell making an appearance,
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who also was thrown out of a -- or asked to leave a berkeley restaurant when he went in a few years ago. boots riley: youou know, we've got thousands of -- hundreds of people of color in this movie, and i bet you they all have incidents similar to that that have happened to them in their life. anand yeah, and it's -- what's interesting, in part 1, i think i talked about having quit -- or maybe that was this part -- having q quit doing musisic after our secocond album to start an organization called the young comrades. and one of our big campaigns was at the lake in california -- in oakland -- amy goodman: lake merritt. boots riley: lake merritt, people of color had started hanging around at the lake, and it always has been this. but i think sometimes when people buy or rent
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near a place like lake merritt or some other public park, they feel like it's theirs. and they feel like they've paid more money to have it. and so, folks that lived around the lake went lodging complaints with the city council, complaints that actually literally saidid, "i walalked out of my house,e, and there wewere four black men leleaning on their car. and i felt endangered." and ththis was allowed to be l e a registered complaint, right? that group into the city council in the 1990's and the police instituting a no-cruising zone, in a place that's consididered a scenic route, and stopping every car and saying, ou can onlnly drive by once." anyway, long story short, we had a a campaign,
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thatat because the police were coming around harassing people, pouring out their drinks, trampling over their picnics and saying, "you've got to leave," or like, "you must have alcohol, and it's illegal," all this stuff. they they first banned barbecues at the lake to try t to get black folks toto not hang out there. and then, when that didn't happen, then they did the no-cruising ordinance, which really did work, because they were towing people's cars. you know, people have something wrong, you know, all those sorts of things. and we did that, and we followed it up with whoride at the city council. but my point is, is that this is something that's been happening for a long time. there's this documentary called "claiming open spaces," that was f filmed in the 1970'0's and 1980's that has to do with this idea of who owns these public places.
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so, this is more of the same. amy goodman: today is the fourth anniversary of the police killing of eriric garner. the new york police department that killed eric garner is issuing an ultimatum to the justice department saying this is too longg to decidide if you are bringing charges against the officers. your thoughts? this is an issue, police brutatality, you have taken on for many yearsrs. bootots riley: just persalally, i still help out campaigns against police brutality. i am a little burned out on them because i don't know where we can go with it. what happens after you get a whole community to spend a year of their lives coming together,
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sometimes in great numbers, to get an officer fired, and then they get transferred to some other department and get pats on the back? i don't know. this is not some well thought out thing. i feel like campaigns against police brutality may become more effective when other parts of our movement also grow. as i say, where we have some leverage, like, for instance, maybe in the mike brown killing, if radicals and progressives had been organizing labor.
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i don't mean existing labor organizations, that is fine. i'm talking about the rest of the working class, the 93% that is not organized, if we had a way to say we are shutting down the city, we are having a general strike until this guy gets inindicted. maybe that would have been a shorter campaign. i don't know. but i feel like we are operating right now from a place where we are not putting out a clear analysis of how power works. and so, i don't know, it i i a little frustrating to me. i feel like something has to be said about it. however, i think we need to tie it in with other movements so we have somome leverage. amy goodman: what do you hope will happen with "sorry to bother you"? what are you working on next? boots riley: i hope organizations that exist will see it as well as students,
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and that is because people are interested in these ideas. there are some people that do not like this momovie, honestly, but it is only because of some of the weird things in it. nobody has said i really disagree with this movie. i am saying tens of thousands of people randomly picked, just moviegoers, are going and agree with the ideas in this movie. and we need to be organizing those folks. we are not providing a clear analysis or a clear path for those folks. and i think what people like in the movie
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has to do with the optimism that comes from that analysis and the path that is presented. i am hoping organizations step up. i am hoping people don't just come out and look around and there is nothing for them to grab onto, no campaign, because then it will just become a thing. it will become part of culture and a t-shirt. amy goodmaman: bootsts riley is also cofounder of the legendary hip-hop grgroup the coup. that does it foror today's show. special thanks to them.
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and to our camera crew. i am amy goodman. thanks so much for joining us. >> 
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çç?? i am amy goodman. man: we have tonight yascha mounk, the author of "the people vsvs. democracy." let me tell you a little bit about it. he's a lecturer on government at harvard university and a senior fellow at new america. he's a columnist at slate and a host of the "good fight" podcast. he's a leading expert in the rise of populism and the crisis of liberal democracy. so, that's yascha, and i think the club will recognize our moderator tonight, francis fukuyama, who has been here many times before. he's currently a senior fellow at stanford's freeman spogli institute for international studies and his new book on identity, his "identity politics" will be coming out in september. so, thank you very much, francis. thank you very much. ok, thank you.


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