Episode 204: The Great Neoliberal Burden Shift (Part I) — How Corporate America Offset Liability Onto the Public

Citations Needed | July 3, 2024 | Transcript

Citations Needed
43 min readJul 3, 2024
Still from a 1973 anti-littering PSA, paid for by beer companies, among other corporations.


Intro: This is Citations Needed with Nima Shirazi and Adam Johnson.

Nima Shirazi: Welcome to Citations Needed, a podcast on the media, power, PR, and the history of bullshit. I am Nima Shirazi.

Adam Johnson: I’m Adam Johnson.

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Adam: Yes, as always, you can subscribe and support the show on Patreon. We’d be very grateful if you did that. If you listen to the show and you like it and you haven’t yet, please do. It helps keep the episodes themselves free and the show sustainable.

Nima: “Choose the product best suited for baby,” Nestle urged in a 1970s baby formula ad. “What size is your carbon footprint?” wondered oil giant BP in 2003. “Texting, music listening put distracted pedestrians at risk,” USA Today announced in 2012.

Adam: These headlines and ad copies all offer a glimpse into a long-standing strategy among corporations: place the burden of safety, health and well-being on individuals in order to deflect responsibility and most importantly, regulation. Whether in the areas of transportation, climate or nutrition and food safety, individuals, namely “consumers” are increasingly expected to assume full responsibility for their own well-being and are blamed, shamed, and punished or worse, made ill or injured or die when they can’t live up to these unrealistic expectations.

Nima: Sure, everyone must bear some level of personal responsibility in matters of health and safety, obviously. But corporations from Chrysler to Nestle in concert with a compliant US media have taken advantage of this truism to place a disproportionate level of obligation onto the people who work in their warehouses and buy their products. At the same time, they’ve been able to fend off even the most minor structural changes, say using less plastic or using healthier ingredients with often dangerous, sometimes deadly consequences.

Adam: Today’s episode is part one of a two-part series of what we’re calling the Great Neoliberal Burden Shift, a process whereby corporations deflect blame onto the relatively powerless. On this episode, we’ll examine how corporations have shifted the burdens of liability onto consumers and other individuals, examining how the auto, fossil fuel, and food and beverage industries have orchestrated media campaigns to frame people they harm, whether directly or indirectly, as responsible for their own misfortunes.

Nima: Later on the show will be joined by journalist Jessie Singer. She’s the author of the book, There Are No Accidents: The Deadly Rise of Injury and Disaster — Who Profits and Who Pays the Price, published by Simon & Schuster in 2022. Her writing has appeared in many publications, including the Washington Post, The Atlantic, The Nation, New York Magazine, and The Guardian.

[Begin clip]

Jessie Singer: If you look at history, it’s no coincidence that the rise of blaming workers for dying at work times exactly to the rise of vitriol around worker deaths and the rise of those deaths. When workers were dying in this country, more than ever, we start to see this creation of the mythology of the accident-prone worker. And those industrialists taught the same tricks to the automakers. And so, when road user deaths start to rise to catastrophic levels for the first time, we see the creation of blaming road users for dying in crashes.

[End clip]

Adam: This episode was done in collaboration with Workday Magazine, which can be found at workdaymagazine.org. So, we are grateful for their contribution. This episode, as again, we are required to say, by Illinois and New York and New Jersey state law is a spiritual successor to Episode 95: The Hollow Vanity of Libertarian Choice Rhetoric where we discussed just that. The use of choice rhetoric to deflect blame from large systems, large corporations, and to put the burden of managing one’s health and safety and every minutia of environmentalism onto the individual rather than those who are actually the author of our suffering. So, if you haven’t listened to that one, it’s a banger. I recommend it.

Nima: One of the starker examples of what we’re calling the Great Neoliberal Burden Shift really comes from the auto industry and its crusade to criminalize jaywalking. In the early 1910s, a number of US cities began to pass anti-jaywalking ordinances. Kansas City was the first to do so in 1912. In fact, the city’s primary newspaper, The Kansas City Star, may well have coined the term jaywalking in an October 1905 issue. Originally, the term had little to do with crossing the street in legally unsanctioned ways against traffic, referring instead to using the sidewalk without regard for other pedestrians. At the time the term jaywalk was introduced, “jay” was a slang term meaning a rube or hick, a yokel. In fact, “jay driving” was also used as an insult to refer to motorists who drove poorly. But as more and more cities passed anti-jaywalking laws, jaywalking assumed the definition we know today. Adding to this stigma, media quickly rallied around the cause of shaming jaywalkers. A widely republished piece from a May 1913 edition of the Cleveland Plain Dealer stated the following:

It is manifestly unfair to assume that every autoist or motorcyclist who runs down a pedestrian is primarily at fault for the accident. The victim may have invited the difficulty: the driver may have been wholly guiltless.

Adam: By the 1920s, the auto industry began to embrace the term, developing a PR campaign around it. With the increasing adoption of cars, pedestrian deaths were increasing likewise every year from roughly 1,600 in 1910 to over 17,000 by 1923. People thus began to seek safeguards. In 1923, for example, Cincinnati residents sought to advance a ballot initiative that would require a speed limit of 25 miles per hour. Car makers orchestrated a multifaceted strategy to shift the responsibility of road safety onto pedestrians. As writer Joseph Stromberg wrote in his 2015 article, “The forgotten history of how automakers invented the crime of ‘jaywalking’” in Vox:

The National Automobile Chamber of Commerce, an industry group, established a free wire service for newspapers: Reporters could send in the basic details of a traffic accident and would get in return a complete article to print the next day. These articles, printed widely, shifted the blame for accidents to pedestrians — signaling that following these new laws was important.

He would go on to add in getting pedestrians to follow traffic laws: “In getting pedestrians to follow traffic laws, ‘the ridicule of their fellow citizens is far more effective than any other means which might be adopted,’ said E.B. Lefferts, the head of the Automobile Club of Southern California in the 1920s.” So, the automobile Chamber of Commerce curated stories for local newspapers to place blame. And naturally, the blame was always on the individual rather than any kind of systemic issue or safety issue or manufacturing issue with the cars themselves.

Nima: Or municipal policy.

Adam: Or municipal policy or road design or anything of that nature.

Nima: In another example, in 1927, Chrysler founder Walter Chrysler wrote an article for The New York magazine The Outlook, claiming that the “only cure” for deaths and injuries from car accidents was to teach children not to play in the streets and train police to enforce these rules. Our guest Jessie Singer has added to this:

The catastrophic rise in deaths and injuries from automobile accidents, Chrysler wrote, was a problem of errors made by wild pedestrians, pedestrians in the rain obstructing their vision with umbrellas, and pedestrians crossing the street while reading books.

So, you can really see this shift from public spaces, sidewalks, and streets going from places where people can live openly and freely and conduct their business, walk where they want to becoming a place for cars. And as cars took over our streets, the laws adapted to favor corporations. Now fast forward 80 years, pedestrian deaths again began to increase in 2009, rising 15% between then and 2013. By 2023, pedestrian fatalities had reached a 40-year high. This is owed in large part to car-centric infrastructure, which is, of course, dangerous for pedestrians as well as the growing popularity of large SUVs and light trucks. From the year 2000 to 2019, the number of smaller vehicles on the road, such as sedans fell from 60% to approximately 40% of all vehicles in the US. Meanwhile, the number of SUVs rose from 10% to over 30%. In 2021, more than 80% of new vehicle sales were for trucks and SUVs.

The Ford F-150 is, so far, the best-selling personal vehicle of 2024. (Ford)

Adam: Not coincidentally, the auto industry and corporate-friendly media took a renewed interest in blaming pedestrians for their own injuries and deaths with stories of “distracted pedestrians” too engrossed in their phones or music to pay attention to traffic.

Here’s an example from January of 2012 from the Los Angeles Times: “Research highlights dangers to distracted pedestrians.”

December of 2012, USA Today: “Texting, music listening puts distracted pedestrians at risk.”

This is from ABC News from August of 2015: “Distracted Walking: How ‘Petextrians’ Are Endangering Our Streets.”

Over here, we have a neologism of “petextrians,” people who are texting, walking pedestrians. The term “petextrian” was embraced by Ford Motor Company, which used the term to paint pedestrians as irresponsible. Now, even if they crossed at a crosswalk, they could still be at fault for being glued to their phones. Ford also incorporated the term in a 2016 ad campaign for its new pedestrian-detecting feature. The Chicago Tribune, this is from June of 2016, the headline read: “As pedestrian deaths rise, the Illinois Department of Transportation reiterates the importance of paying attention.” Cities throughout the country, Hawaii, California and New Jersey and elsewhere even floated passing legislation against so-called distracted walking within the past 15 years.

And yet research, namely a 2021 report by Kelcie Ralph and Ian Girardeau from Rutgers University, shows that the emphasis on distracted walking has been counterproductive. The researchers attributed pedestrian risks to distracted driving and SUVs and included a number of important findings, such as the following:

“Listening to music was not associated with higher crash risk.”

“‘Distracted’ pedestrians were more likely to cross with the light and use the crosswalk.”

Pedestrian risks were highest in several metropolitan areas of Florida “that are known more for their inhospitable streetscapes than their distracted walkers.”

So, here you have again, a campaign. You say, oh, what? You think people should be distracted while walking? No, obviously not. But clearly Ford and Chrysler and Stellantis and GM, they all have incentive to put focus on these discrete moral failings from consumers whether it be pedestrians or drivers because again, it doesn’t do anything with the urban landscape, with the way we design roads, the car-centric focus of that design, and more importantly, the safety features and the safety elements of the cars themselves.

Nima: And bigger cars are also going to be more lethal when they come into contact at high speeds or even low speeds with people with human bodies, right? So, the shift away from smaller cars also leads to a rise in danger, in real bodily harm and lethality to pedestrians that are hit by cars. And so, basically, making the pedestrian the focus of blame for these injuries or deaths is certainly in the interest of the car companies, and we see that borne out in municipal policy. Now, let’s move on to another area where this happens as well: the climate and fossil fuel industry. One somewhat notorious example of this neoliberal burden shift is the introduction of the phrase “carbon footprint” into the English lexicon. By most appearances, the term first popped up in the 1990s in local news articles, and by the end of the decade, in a BBC vegetarian food magazine. But its more popular and common use comes from the oil company, British Petroleum or BP. In 2003, BP, which was in the process of rebranding as “Beyond Petroleum,” released a commercial in which people on the street were being asked about their “carbon footprint,” and then attempting to define what the term actually meant.

[Begin clip]

Interviewer: What size is your carbon footprint?

Interviewee 1: Ah, the carbon footprint. That I don’t know.

Interviewee 2: Whatever it is…the whole population of the world, make that a very, very big number.

Interviewee 3: How much carbon I produce? Is that it?

Interviewee 4: You mean the effect that my living has on the earth in terms of the products I consume?

[End clip]

Nima: The ad then ends with some text on the screen stating that “we can all do more to emit less,” followed by BP’s plans to reduce emissions by 4 million metric tons over the next four years. Yes, it’s all well and good, even necessary to encourage people to make efforts to reduce their contributions to fossil fuel emissions. But changes in individual lifestyles are dependent on structural and infrastructural supports as well — public transit, a healthy agricultural system, etc., not exactly what BP has in mind.

Adam: Additionally, it’s, of course, absurd for a corporation that emits this much greenhouse gasses to lump itself with the individuals. In 2007, which would have been the deadline for BP’s pledge, BP hired a new CEO who would later shut down the company’s solar and alternative energy divisions on the grounds that they weren’t sufficiently profitable. BP has continued to scale back its stated climate goals such as they are amid soaring profits, doing so as recently as 2023 and probably even later.

Nima: Yeah. So, this idea that even the term, which seems kind of just embedded in our language, “carbon footprint” as an individual way to assess how much you are contributing to destroying the planet necessarily is a marketing scheme. It is from an oil company shifting the burden from them onto you.

Adam: Yeah, you guys need to do better. In 2009, there was a documentary, this was sort of peak, called No Impact Man. And it’s a Manhattan-based family who tried to go without any carbon footprint whatsoever. They were going to be an example of how to leave a carbon footprint life. This was kind of the tide of sort of bourgeois environmental activism. But, you know, good for him, I guess. Yes, but clearly that’s not a very scalable way of handling a global crisis that’s going to kill humanity.

Nima: Similar to “carbon footprint,” there’s another environmental phrase with a similar story. This one: “reduce, reuse, recycle.” “The three Rs” refrain appears to have first arisen in the early 1970s, potentially coined by machinery manufacturer Rex Chainbelt, Inc. At that time, Claudia Lawrence, the director of one of the divisions of the company had been traveling throughout the country, evangelizing about the power of individual environmental action. A 1971 Tampa Tribune article reported the following: “Mrs. Lawrence believes it all begins at home: Consider the three R’s individually and be creative, she says, in thinking of ways to cut down consumption.”

Adam: Now, this all seems fairly innocent, and if you view the three R’s in descending order of importance, this can actually be somewhat good advice. Again, it’s not that these campaigns are necessarily inherently sinister. It’s that they’re used to replace rather than supplement corporate responsibility and regulation. So major corporations, namely the plastic, oil, and chemical industries soon took advantage of the slogan, the 3R slogan, to tout their own cynical recycling initiatives while effectively ignoring the reduce part and reuse parts, of course. In the 1990s, companies like Exxon, Chevron, Dow, Dupont, you know, really bleeding hard environmentalists and their lobbying and trade organizations began to fund TV commercials extolling the virtues of recycling their own products. Here’s a DuPont commercial from 1990 we’re going to listen to real quick.

[Begin clip]

Voiceover: The bottle may look empty yet it’s anything but trash. It’s full of potential. And at DuPont, we’re making sure that the potential isn’t thrown away. We’ve pioneered the country’s largest, most comprehensive plastic recycling program to help plastic fill valuable uses and roles instead of filling valuable land. At DuPont, we make the things that make a difference.

[End clip]

Adam: So, there was a garbage man, I guess, who keeps throwing plastic in his garbage truck and it keeps spitting back out at him, insisting that he instead recycle it. Now, it turns out some may already know this, it’s been in the news quite a bit over the last few years, but it turns out that plastic recycling is utter horseshit. It’s basically a corporate-made fiction that does not exist and has no functional, real-world utility. An investigation by NPR and PBS in 2020 confirmed that recycling plastic was a highly ineffective way to conserve resources. The report noted that less than 10% of all plastic ever in the history of plastic has been recycled. The rest, of course, is dumped and sent offshore to places in Southeast Asia. The report noted that executives had known about the inefficacy and pseudoscience of recycling plastics since the 1970s. Here’s an excerpt from their report:

At Syracuse University, there are boxes of files from a former industry consultant. And inside one of them is a report written in April 1973 by scientists tasked with forecasting possible issues for top industry executives.

Recycling plastic, it told the executives, was unlikely to happen on a broad scale.

‘There is no recovery from obsolete products,’ it says.

It says pointedly: Plastic degrades with each turnover.

‘A degradation of resin properties and performance occurs during the initial fabrication, through aging, and in any reclamation process,’ the report told executives.

Recycling plastic is ‘costly,’ it says, and sorting it out, the report concludes, is ‘infeasible.’

So yeah, plastic recycling turned out to be total bullshit, but the plastics industry in particular wanted to get ahead of the nascent environmentalist movement in the early 70s. If there was this horrible thing that caused all kinds of problems and environmental pollution to rivers and lakes and you can never get rid of, the obvious solution would be to ban it, but it was extremely profitable and extremely cheap. So, they had to sort of do something, right? You had to sort of look busy, like we were doing something and creating the theater and the sort of empty performance of recycling, something over 90% of the time, is total bullshit, is obviously the preferred alternative to actually banning it or outlawing plastics.

Nima: Now, let’s go a little bit further back into the history of plastic propaganda, a related phenomenon to the recycling push, arose with the concept of littering. In the middle of the 20th century, the food and beverage industry began to replace glass bottles and other forms of reusable packaging with plastic, a significantly cheaper material. As plastic production increased, so too did trash. Companies sought to frame this as a consumer problem though rather than a corporate one. In 1947, the American Advertising Council, also known as the Ad Council — the corporate-sponsored nonprofit that creates PSAs and ads on behalf of the industry — popularized and may have indeed coined the term “litterbug” to refer to an individual who threw their trash onto the ground rather than in a trash can. Paul B. Gioni, a copywriter for the Ad Council later created the tagline “every litter bit hurts,” which appeared throughout ad campaigns beginning in 1963.

Adam: A few years later, after the 1947 campaign in 1953, beverage and packaging corporations launched the nonprofit Keep America Beautiful, which created a series of ad campaigns to present keeping the Earth clean as a matter of personal responsibility. Initially spearheaded by William C. Stolk, president of the American Can Company, it currently today “partners” with Altria (formerly Phillip Morris, the tobacco company), Marlboro, Coca-Cola, Anheuser-Busch, McDonald’s, and Dow Chemical, among others. The founding of Keep America Beautiful was in large part motivated by, of course, what else? The threat of regulation. In 1953, Vermont’s state legislature passed a statute declaring that beer could only be sold in returnable, reusable bottles. After some corporate opposition, the law eventually took effect in 1954. The law was dissolved in 1957 after much industry lobbying and promotion from friendly media. Here’s an excerpt from November 16, 1957 New York Times article that was promoting Keep America Beautiful. The headline read, “KEEPING AMERICA CLEAN.”

New Yorkers are well aware of litter — thanks largely to the coordinated efforts of city departments to clean it up and the campaign to get people to stop scattering it being carried on by the Citizens Committee to Keep New York City Clean and also by the city. But litter is a nation-wide menace and there is a nation-wide drive under way to conquer it, witness the Conference of Keep America Beautiful, Inc., held at the Waldorf this week.

A few years later, in 1960, Keep America Beautiful and the Ad Council joined forces. At the time, as writer Ginger Strand noted for Orion Magazine: “disposables delivered just 3 percent of the soft-drink market. By 1966, it was 12 percent, and growing fast. As was the Ad Council. By then it was the world’s biggest advertiser.” The Ad Council, working at the behest of Keep America Beautiful would release a series of high-profile ads urging individuals to accept personal responsibility of preventing litter while corporations would continue on with business as usual. Some of the most famous include Susan Spotless from 1961, which we’re going to listen to right here.

[Begin clip]

Father: It happens in the best of places, in the best of families.

Susan Spotless: Daddy, you forgot every little bit hurts.

Father: Right, Susan Spotless. Every little bit thoughtlessly dropped blemishes a bit of America. Our highways, our streets, our picnic spots. Keeping America Beautiful is a family affair.

[End clip]

Nima: And of course, there’s the much maligned crying Indian ad featuring the actor Iron Eyes Cody, actually an Italian guy as a very, very upset Native American looking at the landscape that has been destroyed by littering. This started airing in 1971.

[Begin clip]

Voiceover: Some people have a deep, abiding respect for the natural beauty that was once this country. And some people don’t. People start pollution. People can stop it.

[End clip]

The New York Times, notably, has continued to promote Keep America Beautiful for decades, seeing virtually no issue with its corporate nature. A couple recent examples include this March 7th 2013 headline: “Keep America Beautiful Turns to Social Media.” And later that year, in July of 2013, the headline: “After the ‘Crying Indian,’ Keep America Beautiful Starts a New Campaign.” The article read in part this:

More than 40 years after teaming up to create the iconic “crying Indian” advertising campaign, Keep America Beautiful and the Advertising Council have joined forces to promote the benefits of recycling.

The new public service campaign, created by Pereira & O’Dell, uses a plastic bottle and aluminum cans — recycled, respectively, into a bench and a sports stadium — to illustrate how recyclable materials can be given a second, useful life.

Adam: And of course, plastic can’t recycle. It’s all just kind of corporate bullshit. But yeah, and this type of ethos, there’s so many examples of this. There’s sort of too many to count, this personal responsibility. But just one that popped up on June 11th of 2024, Governor Hochul of New York started a new campaign for New Yorkers to be “air quality aware.” So, when the air quality is poorer, they’re starting the campaign for individuals to educate themselves on how to read the air quality on Google and know whether or not they should go out. So now, as climate change accelerates increasingly, we’re going to be getting a series of endless awareness campaigns because obviously, that’s cheaper and easier than shutting down the fossil fuel industry. And now, this ethos has also been popular in the food and safety vertical as well.

One of the more notorious perpetrators of this is Nestle. In the 1970s, it was revealed that Nestle had been marketing its infant formula to mothers in exploited countries. Formula can, of course, be a perfectly healthy alternative to breast milk. But at the time and in the targeted countries like Jamaica, India, and Nigeria, the cost of Nestle’s formula for some parents to dilute their baby’s milk, thus reducing its nutritional content. And because formula is contained in bottles, it was much harder to keep sanitary than breast milk in places with limited access to clean water, washing facilities, and sanitation, leading to malnutrition and infections that could have been fatal.

Nima: According to a 1974 report by the organization War on Want, Nestle marketed its formulas, including the formula Lactogen, as a healthy modern alternative to breast milk for mothers in urbanizing regions, framing it as a solution to the problem of “when breast milk is not enough.” The report noted this:

The survey on infant feeding in Ibadan, Nigeria, threw some light on the effect of media advertising in that community. It showed that 38% of the 400 mothers recalled at least one advert for the baby milks, a large number in a community in which only 14% read any newspaper or magazine and only 52% ever listened to the radio.

The information they recalled is equally interesting. Twelve per cent of all mothers remember that, according to the advertising, Lactogen, gives, or restores, babies’ strength, energy, and power. Far fewer recalled that ‘it is good for babies if mother’s breast is insufficient’ and none had actually heard that mother’s milk was better than Lactogen!

Adam: Now, Nestle as of the time, included the following: “New lactogen, full protein, enriched with 11 vitamins and iron.” One read, “With Nestle, you can choose the product best suited for baby.” And they had different, I guess, focuses based on your baby. I don’t know how you would know that. I guess weight. Nestle had introduced a number of health initiatives in the West as well over the past couple of decades, but there was mountains of evidence showing the generally low-quality food manufactured by Nestle. In 2021, the Financial Times reviewed an internal presentation at Nestle that stated that more than 60% of Nestle’s mainstream portfolio of food and drinks could not be considered healthy under a “recognized definition of health.”

And in 2024, the groups Public Eye and the International Baby Food Action Network found that Nestle had been adding sugar to baby food in poorer countries like India and the Philippines, while keeping sugar levels lower in wealthier countries, contributing, of course, to early diabetes and things of that nature. So, this is part of their broader campaign to promote so-called healthy choices. Because clearly, Nestle doesn’t need to be regulated. The poor and obscure people in the Global South need to educate themselves better and take personal responsibility for their own babies.

Image of a 1970s Nestle infant formula ad. (All About IBFAN)

Nima: Yeah, this idea that it’s always on the user, right? It’s always on the consumer to make whatever choices they’re going to make based on, you know, hey, what is available in the marketplace, Adam, right? And sometimes those choices are absolutely necessary, right? Baby formula can be absolutely necessary. No harm there. But the advertising campaigns that push these products also totally absolve themselves within the campaigns themselves from any kind of responsibility. The corporations will bear no responsibility because it is up to the consumer to do right by themselves, their communities, and the planet.

Adam: Yeah, because the general idea is that corporate executives know that people are going to get mad when they’re polluting and poisoning them and making their lives miserable and making traffic kill human beings. They know the natural instinct is going to want to have regulation. So, something has to fill the gap. But most of the PR industry is about kind of filling up that space, saying, you know, corporate do-goodism. Corporations like Walmart are going to work on feeding people healthier choices. Like, you have to look busy. This is kind of what corporate PR and corporate so-called nonprofit or charity work is. It’s reputation laundry, but it’s also very much about taking up space and taking up oxygen and making it look like something’s being done. And again, that’s why these personal responsibility things, they’re true on some level. You know, it’s true that people should not be throwing bottles and glass and plastic in the streets like obviously, again, these are kind of obvious truisms, sort of good social behavior. But when they are the Alpha and the Omega to how we approach a problem, they obviously are going to have a very, very low ceiling, which is exactly the point. And most importantly of all, they indemnify, protect, and protect the profits of these corporations. So obviously, tons of money is going to go into making that the solution rather than just regulating it from the top down.

Nima: To discuss this more, we’re now going to be joined by journalist Jessie Singer. She’s the author of the book, There Are No Accidents: The Deadly Rise of Injury and Disaster — Who Profits and Who Pays the Price, published by Simon & Schuster in 2022. Her writing has appeared in many publications, including the Washington Post, The Atlantic, The Nation, New York Magazine, and The Guardian. Jessie will join us in just a moment. Stay with us.


Nima: We are joined now by Jessie Singer. Jessie, thank you so much for joining us today on Citations Needed.

Jessie Singer: Thank you so much for having me.

Adam: Yeah, so let’s begin by talking about the kind of broader approach that corporations and captured regulators have taken to offset legal and moral responsibility from the corporation onto the public. Now next week, we’re going to be discussing how this happens in the workplace, specifically the way that labor and workers are meant to be their own policemen and their own safety experts. But I want to talk about specifically in the context of your work, for want of a better term, the consumer, or to use a more high-minded word, citizen, how corporations oftentimes have structured society and legal regimes to indemnify themselves and to make it so there is a cultural and a legal burden placed upon the average person. So, I want to begin by talking about this very concept of accidents, which obviously is the theme of your work and your book. Let’s sort of begin there. And how the very concept of reducing these things to accidents necessarily puts it into this kind of discrete moral failing camp in terms of how people interpret it.

Jessie Singer

Jessie Singer: Absolutely, it’s a bit tricky, right? Because “accident” is a word we use 100 times a day, but when we actually think about what it means, it’s this random, unique, one-off, individual incident, you know, that could never happen again in the same way where a person is to blame because they screwed up. But not really that to blame. They’re not a murderer. They’re just a mistake maker. And this happens a thousand times a day across the country. But if you zoom out and you look at all of these accidental deaths, you see that there’s nothing random or individual happening here. Race, class, down to the county level define who dies by these so-called accidental deaths. And part of this is a byproduct of corporations and regulatory policy pushing us to see each of these as individual acts. Because if not, then we’re looking at the system and we’re saying oh, why are black people dying in house fires at twice the rate of white people? Why might that be happening? What does that have to do with how we allocate housing in this country?

I always like to cite this because I feel like it’s the perfect model of it, but something we all probably repeated at some point, which is guns don’t kill people. People kill people. This little NRA nugget of you know, this is not a matter of the product. The product is not the problem here. Cars don’t kill people. Corporations don’t kill people. Lawn darts don’t kill people. People kill people. So, if you look at history, it’s no coincidence that the rise of blaming workers for dying at work times exactly to the rise of vitriol around worker deaths and the rise of those deaths. When workers were dying in this country more than ever, we start to see this creation of the mythology of the accident-prone worker. And those industrialists taught the same tricks to the automakers.

And so, when road user deaths start to rise to catastrophic levels for the first time, we see the creation of blaming road users for dying in crashes exactly timed to when people start to get really angry about it. And so, this aspect of these corporations, the policies pushing us to see this as an individual matter because otherwise we blame this system, they’re kind of taking advantage of psychological tendencies we have, urges to find an individual to blame. And we can talk about the big psychology there, but part of that is really simple. Like, the problem is over if you find an individual who screwed up because then you can move on. You’ve solved it.

Adam: Yeah, because there is a kind of, what we refer to in the show as the macrotizing of the micro. It exists in all cultures to some extent, but I think it’s very acute in American culture especially, which maybe even parallels with a Western colonial kind of attitude where it’s like, we take these individual concepts which, on an individual basis, are perfectly reasonable and healthy. Like, I will teach my child to take responsibility for their actions. It’s sort of a thing you would teach a child, and then we kind of abstract that out to a policy level in a cultural way, which is, of course, exactly what your Koch brothers and your, you know, American Enterprise Institute and your Heritage Foundation want you to do. They want you to have this kind of moralistic framework.

As an example, there was a two-way access road on the highway growing up where I was in San Antonio. And I don’t know if you know anything about going down a two-way access road that feeds into a highway at 45 degrees is if you don’t really recognize it’s a two-way, you have head-on traffic coming towards you, and people died at this intersection quite often, quite frequently, accidents, severe accidents. And I just remember thinking when I was a kid, why doesn’t anyone change that? And of course, their brilliant solution was to just put, like, a bigger sign up. But then I remember people would say, well, you just have to pay attention. And I’m like, yeah, okay, but like, we don’t put a huge, you know, metal spike in our steering wheels. And then someone’s like, should we have the big spike in our steering wheels? This seems like a bad idea. You would say that’s a systemic problem. Not you should drive safer. Like, you know what I mean? Like, there’s this rather, like, cheesy faux —

Nima: The car manual comes with a warning about the steering wheel spike, Adam.

Adam: Yeah, the steering wheel spike, the kind of Mad Max thing facing you right in the face. So you know what I mean? Or, you know, your windshield just randomly goes black every 30 seconds. Clearly, there are systemic or kind of design issues that are not an issue of individual moral failing.

Jessie Singer: It’s funny you bring up that specific point because we actually did used to design our cars with more or less a steering wheel with a spike hidden in it.

Adam: Okay, well, there you go.

Jessie Singer: Because the original car designs didn’t have a collapsible steering column. And so in the 40s and 50s, it was really common. You didn’t have seat belts, and you didn’t have a collapsible steering column. And so, you would crash and the steering column would impale you.

Adam: Well, that’s bad.

Jessie Singer: And one of the things that comes out in essentially the actions that lead to our first automobile regulations, and this is Ralph Nader, you know, sounding the alarm, testifying before Congress, is that the automakers had a patent on the collapsible steering column. They had invented it, they had figured it out, and they just weren’t installing it in their cars. And so tens of thousands of people were dying every year in car crashes where they were impaled on their steering column. The technology existed to solve it, and automakers were simply not using it. And one of the things in that testimony that Ralph Nader really wonderfully points out is that the automakers created this idea of the nut behind the wheel and pushed this into the mythology, this thing that we would all talk about. The only thing that’s wrong with your car is the nut behind the wheel. And this was a thing people said, and it massively benefited the automakers, right? Because if you died in a car crash because of the nut behind the wheel, then you didn’t die because you’re impaled on your steering column. And there really wasn’t a notion at that point that a car could be made safer so that when you screwed up, when you drove like a nut, you didn’t die.

Nima: Right.

Jessie Singer: There wasn’t an inevitable consequence for your mistakes.

Nima: Well, I actually want to take this concept of the automakers pushing certain narratives, certain concepts, and actually flip it so we’re looking outside the car now. Earlier in the show, we detailed the evolution of the concept of jaywalking. And I’d love to get your thoughts, Jessie, on how this idea emerged into the popular imagination and how it plays out legally in addition to what the actual real human costs have been for this kind of shifting of burden, right? So, not only is it the nut behind the wheel, but now the jaywalker as well is to blame. So basically, everyone is to blame except the people who made the cars or the people who create road policy or have control over our municipal infrastructure.

Jessie Singer: Yeah, and that’s exactly it. So, to understand the jaywalker, it helps to imagine a city before cars. These are these pictures you see of the Lower East Side, where Orchard Street is full of a million push carts, and there’s kids playing in the street, and the streets were just public spaces. They were like parks. They were nothing more than the space between buildings. They were open-air shopping malls. They were public spaces. And then all of a sudden, cars come along. People start to own cars, wealthy people in particular in cities. And they move really fast, faster than anything else moves in the urban landscape. And pedestrian deaths start to skyrocket. People are furious about this, absolutely furious, and they blame the car. They blame the car because they see this idea pretty clearly that there shouldn’t be anything moving this fast in places where there’s people walking. There shouldn’t be people moving this fast in cities. The car becomes this kind of vilified thing in the beginning. And of course, if automakers want to sell cars, that’s a huge problem, the car being evil. And so they start to push forth these two narratives. That’s where the behind the wheel gets invented, and the jaywalker. Jay is an old word for hillbilly, like a yokel. You walk like a yokel, a country bumpkin. And they start to push this into the terminology. And they do this in all sorts of ways. They buy newspaper ads, you know, to publish editorial comics about the jaywalker. They develop their own crash reporting because there wasn’t crash reporting at the time. You know, where they offer to newspapers like, hey, here’s all the crashes that happened in Brooklyn last week. And they decide who’s to blame in each of them and always blame the jaywalker. And they even print street signs that say, “jaywalking prohibited” even before it’s a law and give them to cities to hang up. And since we’re on the Citations Needed podcast, I just want to say that I learned all of these wonderful stories from Peter Norton’s book Fighting Traffic.

So, I kind of call these two ideas the nut behind the wheel, the jaywalker. They’re like, personal responsibility red herrings, human error red herrings. This way to hinge on our urge to find a bad guy in every horrible tragedy and pin it on someone. But the jaywalker is really tricky because it quickly takes over. You know, people want cars. Cars become affordable. They spread everywhere, and they take over this space in our cities, and people get, you know, shunned to the sidewalk, and cars spread across the country. And then, you could really see what this looks like today. I like the bus stop as perhaps the ultimate location of it.

So, something that’s been happening, one of the contributors to the rise in pedestrian death — and pedestrian death has fell for decades, but it’s been rising for the past 10 years — and one of the main contributors is the suburbanization of poverty. People are getting pushed out of places like, let’s say, central Atlanta and moving to the suburbs of Atlanta, but they’re poor so they don’t own a car, and they rely on the Atlanta metro bus system. But roads aren’t designed for people to walk anymore. They’re only designed for people to drive. And so, you get this situation, which happens all over the country where there’s an apartment complex full of people who don’t own cars, and on the other side of the street is a bus stop that all those people need, but there’s no crosswalk because there’s no intersection there, because cars don’t need a crosswalk there. And intersections are only built where cars need to intersect. And so, if you live in that apartment building, what do you do? Do you walk 15 minutes up the street across the crosswalk and 15 minutes back down the street every single day on your way to and from work? Or do you run across the street? Now, there are explicit policy decisions going into what brings a person into living in that apartment complex to not being able to afford a car, to not building a crosswalk where there’s a bus stop and an apartment complex. But if you get struck and killed running across that street, you’ll be blamed for jaywalking.

Adam: I mean, clearly these are people who just like to jaywalk. I mean, they clearly are ideologically committed to walking in the street illegally.

Nima: Yokeling it up.

Adam: I mean, you can’t absolve them of being slack-jawed yokels for fun, for the lulz. Yeah, I mean, I think that you sort of touched on this idea of needing a bad guy. And it reminds me of what Cass Sunstein wrote about, the idea of the Goldstein effect from 1984 where there’s this sort of mysterious entity that shares these menacing videos. And the idea that to have an enemy, you have to have a face. And in many ways, there is a face, of course. There are CEOs of these car companies. There are lobbyists, the people who push for certain regulations. But it’s far removed. It’s more abstract than obviously when someone has a car accident and someone gets killed, they’re going to sort of blame the driver. And for the record, there are a lot of objectively horrible drivers. There’s a lot of speed demons. So, it is partially a moral or individual issue, which, you know, we want to keep reminding people. We’re not saying no one has any personal responsibility. But of course, this pales in comparison to the broader kind of systemic incentives as you mentioned, right? Putting a pedestrian walkway over a, you know, four-lane random avenue would have probably prevented most of those deaths or some variation thereof.

So, I want to talk about how this kind of approach obviously creeps into other sectors as we discussed at the top of the show, specifically the idea of food and food safety and food nutrition with a lot of the pushback over unhealthy, processed, crappy food. In parallel, to respond to that, especially large crappy food dealers like Walmart even teamed up with the Obama White House to do a healthy choice education, the promotion of choices. This is a kind of favorite of the Heritage Foundation crowd, the American Enterprise Institute crowd, where it’s about giving people the option, right? People love to talk about choices. It’s kind of this, you make it about individual moral decisions. So, I want to talk about this sort of use of the educational campaign that’s ostensibly directed towards consumers or the average person, but it’s typically almost always funded by big business, big ag, big processed food. And of course, this happens in other verticals, which we can talk about as well where it’s ostensibly an education campaign, but really it’s kind of a subtle propaganda campaign to make their systemic greed and deregulation become your fucking problem.

Jessie Singer: Nothing makes me more mad than PSAs. I hate PSAs. It’s like, they’re little secrets telling you who’s evil. There was this seminal terrible study in the 1990s — I’m sure the Heritage Foundation funded it, I don’t want to know — but the headlines were all like, researchers identified the top 10 causes of death, and it’s smoking, poor eating, lack of exercise, drug use. No question of why these behaviors arose. No question of why these behaviors arose more in certain people. And no question of relating these things to anything systemic. You know, just telling the bad person story. People die because they’re bad people. It so much is the root of all that money spent on PSAs, the Ad Council. And even when we got to the point of blaming tobacco companies, right? Their punishment when we were finally successfully suing Philip Morris, their punishment was to make ads.

Adam: PSAs.

Nima: Exactly.

Jessie Singer: Telling people not to smoke. To make ads saying, please don’t use our product. Our product is poison. We will keep selling it. We legislated personal responsibility to die, and then we were like, it’s freedom.

Nima: Yeah, I mean, this idea of nothing is the fault of the people creating the problem. And it’s you, idiot for buying the thing or using the thing. You know, look, we told you not to use this, and then you used it, and then we’re getting rich, and this is all your fault.

Jessie Singer: Yeah. But we also, in this other ad, told you to use it with a cartoon that might have attracted you when you were 18. I’m talking about Ralph Nader a lot, but there was this great old Ralph Nader op-ed that I dug up when I was reporting my book, and he was defending consumer regulations. And he said something like, the consumer can’t know if there’s poison in their water or flammable materials in their walls. It went on like that for a while, and it was a really important defense at the time, just this idea that there are bad things out there, and you don’t know about them, the government will help. But today, I feel like those regulations have become so warped and the regulator is so captured that the consumer may actually know that there’s poison in their water and flammable materials in their walls because that’s perfectly legal again, but also that the economic calculus has shifted so much that they can’t afford to do anything about it. You know, that you own a home in a toxic place now, and those are simply the facts, and that toxicity is within acceptable level.

Nima: Well, actually, yeah, I want to kind of stay on this for a second because I think it hits on something else that we were discussing, which is climate and environmental policy, right? And so, with the ongoing destruction of this planet, we get things like the BP-created carbon footprint idea or anti-littering campaigns or recycling programs. Now, to be clear, anti-littering and recycling is not inherently terrible, right? Sure. But the idea that, you know, individual consumer action is going to offset the massive corporate destruction of the climate is maybe the biggest neoliberal burden shift that we could think of. Can we talk a little bit about the approach to climate change and broader environmental regulation and how that has been so infected for decades and decades by these corporate-led PSA campaigns about individual responsibility? Again, clean up after yourself or recycle these plastic bottles that we insist on using or pay attention to your own carbon footprint even though we are the gas and petroleum company.

Jessie Singer: I think this is such an interesting example because it’s a little tricky. You were talking before about how, you know, there really are some speed demons out there, but we actually have a technological answer to that that’s regulated into cars in Europe where your car can’t go faster than the speed limit.

Adam: Which seems like a no-brainer by the way. And you bring it up, people act like you were trying to rip their heart out of their chest. But go ahead.

Jessie Singer: Yes, but it’s just, you know, with the safety stuff, it’s there. And we tell this story of individual responsibility to stick with the freedom. But I think what’s trickier about the individual responsibility stuff when it comes to climate change and the environment is it plays to our ignorance. That like, we might not really understand how global warming works or why a few degrees make a difference. And the overwhelming scope kind of makes these personal responsibility red herrings run out of their utility because as you understand more about climate change, you don’t actually believe that one person’s behavior will make a difference unless Taylor Swift is going to stop using her jet. So, at the same time, you’re seeing regulations like limiting emissions, say, from a chemical factory in Louisiana. But inherent in an emissions limit is a statement that this much emissions is okay. And so like, we get to this point where the problem seems so much bigger than the personal responsibility that they’re putting on us in a way that almost makes it not work anymore. Like we know too much. The veil has been lifted.

Adam: Yeah, to me, it’s the way I always look at it is a waterfall of responsibility. It’s about the people who make the most money off the destruction of the planet or the killing of pedestrians or the poisoning of people’s food, they should be the most responsible. But below that, there’s the middle manager, the distributor. Then below that, there’s the consumer. It’s not that there isn’t such thing as a kind of individual responsibility. And I think this is what makes people kind of nihilistic. There doesn’t seem to be a plan or a sort of broader responsibility structure. It’s just constantly some faceless corporation shoving responsibility onto us, and then people say, well, fuck it. Why would I care? You know what I mean? There’s no sense of, like, shared responsibility.

And you see that a lot around climate nihilism. You know, people talk in these kind of apocalyptic terms and how the world’s gonna end and all that’s objectively true, but none of the people who are sort of in charge, either in the sort of government space or even the corporations who kind of parrot some of the right liberal framing. They don’t ever seem to sort of take it urgently or take it seriously. And I think that’s part of the frustration for a lot of people, that there isn’t a sense that corporate CEOs or the government regulators are taking really any kind of responsibility. And to the extent to which they do regulate things, they present that as some kind of benevolence or beneficence. They’re sort of doing us a favor.

Jessie Singer: I wonder how much that has to do with the fact that it’s a bit obtuse compared to the other things that we’re talking about. You know, the best safety systems whether in worker safety or traffic safety, all adopt some version of the safe systems approach, which is essentially like, the people who create the system are most responsible for people’s safety in the system. The users are less responsible. And the users have to be able to make mistakes and survive. That’s the best of worker safety in the world, the best of traffic safety in the world. The people who are doing it right are doing that. But there’s not like a corollary to that because something I talk a lot about is the disregarded deaths of climate change that we’re seeing now. These are mostly accidents, mostly in that wheelhouse. You know, people overheating, farmworkers overheating. People drowning in floods in basement apartments, climate migration, emergency traffic crashes, which we’re seeing more and more at the border. You know, hypothermia deaths that are happening indoors in places that never used to have snow. It’s the closest we have to a tally that feels tangible, that could have a safety response because all the other stuff we’re talking about, these sort of beneficent, you know, actions from the government are to the environment. And it becomes this thing that’s a little loose, right? Like, a little hard to hold on to. I mean, I feel like the closest we have is all the bald eagles dying from DDT. But even that, it was specific.

Adam: Yeah, I think with climate you see this a lot, right? I write this column at least every few months where there’s, you know, Canadian wildfires or there’s a heat wave in South Asia, and there’s all this kind of reporting on it, but very, very, very rarely is climate change mentioned as a contributing factor. Because every journalist is kind of programmed to kind of stay in their lane. Of course, climate activists have been criticizing this for years where you have the 124-degree temperatures in Phoenix, you know, heat index. And then they have the B-roll with kids playing on the fountain in the playground. And it’s sort of this kind of fun little personal interest story. And again, we see this with tons of stuff we cover on this from perseverance porn, right? You know, Grandma works two shifts a day at Walmart to pay for her son’s chemotherapy.

Nima: Little Billy has a lemonade stand to cover all the lunch debt.

Adam: There is just an inability to look at anything in a systemic way. And the second you look at things in a systemic way, you’re a left-wing ideologue, you’re recalcitrant, you’re difficult, you’re ideological, you’re fucking annoying. We’re getting calls from our sponsors. Again, it all perpetuates this idea of individual moral responsibility in a way that makes everybody completely unable to connect any dots. And to the extent to which they do connect dots, it’s like dumb, dumb Alex Jones stuff. It’s kind of end-times Christianity or some other stupid pseudo-conspiratorial stuff.

Jessie Singer: I actually think that’s worth talking about because I think there’s a reason we do that. It feels really good. Blame has served an evolutionary function to us. We are psychologically primed to blame individuals, to find that bad guy story. So many different psychological tendencies point us in that direction. And so, I think that’s like, an important thing to recognize, and it’s a conversation I like to have a lot. I know it feels really good to be angry at that one person who threw that can on the floor. Or, I work a lot with families who’ve lost people in traffic crashes, and I know it feels a little better to be angry at that driver, but if we don’t look at the system that surrounds that driver, then the same crash is going to happen again with a different driver. And so, that feeling of seeing something horrible and really wanting to be able to separate ourselves from it, to remind ourselves that that couldn’t happen to me, it involves us going, I bet they did something to deserve this. Let me find what that something is. And, you know, seeking something, we find it. You know, and we find that human error, red herring, the distracted driver, the bad parent, the clumsy worker, and then we get to feel better. And that’s worth a lot of currency in a world where we’re not paying that much attention.

Adam: And also where things seem overwhelming. Where do you even start, you know, to put in a stop sign or to make a street safer or to, you know, make better barriers so people who step off the curb six inches don’t get destroyed. I mean, for most people, politics seems very inaccessible. It seems very abstract. And of course, that’s by design in many ways well, but

Nima: So much of this also has to do with this idea that we’re really beholden to the neutral tool, that these things are just created, and then they exist in our world, whether it’s a car or a gun or even ChatGPT. And it’s all just how we use them that is going to dictate whether they are used correctly or incorrectly, right? Whether they do good or they do harm. It’s all on the individual user of that thing rather than, you know, maybe those things shouldn’t exist. Maybe those things should be regulated in a certain way. Maybe not everyone should have access to certain things. All of these different ways of also thinking about how “tools” may be used. All of this just continues to protect this idea of corporate innovation, right? Like, oh well, but these are all just advances, and you know, we need to kind of figure out how to use these things. I mean, Adam, I think, you know, Citations Needed itself. We’ve discussed this idea even, of like, media literacy, right? That it’s like, well, yeah, people need to know how to parse these shitty narratives, these terrible stereotypes, all this corporate-controlled reporting, but it’s so hard to envision a world where you don’t have to be as media literate because your media is not inherently so shitty and dangerous.

Adam: Yeah, which ultimately goes down to who controls the systems and who owns the systems versus, you know, general awareness, which, again, is why, the function of a lot of the corporate nonprofit sector, they launder these things.

Nima: Raise awareness.

Adam: Yeah.

Nima: Well, Jessie, it has been so great to talk to you about all of this. Your book was really, really influential in our research for this episode. Can you tell our listeners what you are currently up to and where people can find your work? Of course, they can just look up your book and definitely buy it, everyone. But what else are you working on these days?

Jessie Singer: Yeah, I am really focused right now on child safety because I had a baby about a year after the book came out so now I have a toddler. But besides that, I’m starting to think about a new book that applies a lot of these ideas we were talking about, about blame and how bad person narratives kind of serve as an impasse to changing systems, but looking at how it applies not just to safety and accidents, but public safety and more stigmatized issues. So how crime and homelessness and drug use serve as a vilification of victims that prevent us from solving problems that have pretty practical, simple answers.

Adam: Well, that’s extremely our shit.

Nima: This has been so great. Thank you so much, Jessie, for joining us. We’ve been speaking with Jessie Singer, journalist and author of the book, There Are No Accidents: The Deadly Rise of Injury and Disaster — Who Profits and Who Pays the Price, published by Simon & Schuster in 2022. Her writing has appeared in many publications, including the Washington Post, The Atlantic, The Nation, New York Magazine, and The Guardian. Jessie, thank you so much again, for joining us today on Citations Needed.

Jessie Singer: It was such a pleasure. Thank you for having me.


Adam: Yeah, I think corporations, and again, you see this a lot with a lot of Koch-funded think tank stuff, Reason Magazine, Heritage, things of that nature, the focus on personal responsibility, the reason why it’s so appealing, again, it has a modicum of truth. It’s sort of a thing you, like you said, something you teach your kids. It’s something you, in theory, hope that you have in yourself, which is personal responsibility. If I mess up, it’s my fault. But this kind of moral sandbox is where these corporations want us to remain in play because conveniently enough for them, completely abstracts out their own responsibility. And again, I do think that’s a unique strain in American culture that they’re exploiting as well that they push and they promote, but to some extent, they don’t even have to because it’s inherent in our kind of self-perception as rugged individuals.

Nima: Right. Everything is individual responsibility.

Adam: Yeah.

Nima: If we like the convenience of plastic bottles, then it’s on us to make sure that those plastic bottles are recycled. And that makes a lot of sense, right? That’s common sense. It sounds true, but what it implies inherently is a world in which we are using plastic bottles and there is no other alternative, a world in which one-use products are the norm rather than an exception or rather than something to work toward reducing the use of and a world in which corporations are just going to continue to push convenience, right? Convenience, luxury items, or even absolute necessities, but in single-serving packaging that can’t really be reused, it can’t be recycled, and it certainly can’t be reduced because we all want the convenience.

So, you know, I sound like a grumpy old man railing at convenience culture, but that all kind of loops back around into this idea of personal responsibility, that none of this stuff can be regulated away because if it’s regulated away, you’ll take away our freedom of choice. You’ll take away what even makes us happy, right? Like, oh, you’re saying I can’t have this can of Coke or this can of beer? Like, that’s a drag. You’re taking away the only thing that makes me happy because you’re railing against where this can is going to go or where it’s from. And so, yeah, this idea of it’s all on you, the consumer because we can’t imagine that an alternative world is possible is basically the stock and trade of these corporations that continue to profit from this.

Adam: Are you suggesting that DuPont, Dow, and Philip Morris don’t really want to keep America beautiful?

Nima: I would never suggest that, Adam, because the Ad Council said that they do.

Adam: Ah, the Ad Council.

Nima: Right.

Adam: Okay, sorry. Whatever that is.

Nima: Well, that will do it for this episode of Citations Needed. Thank you all for listening. This, again, was part one of this two-part series on the Great Neoliberal Burden Shift. We will be talking about how corporations do the same thing but target the health and safety of their workers as being the responsibility of who? Their workers, not of the companies themselves, on next week’s episode. So stay tuned for that.

But until then, of course, you can follow the show on Twitter @citationspod, Facebook at Citations Needed, and become a supporter of our show if you are able to, and we hope that you are if you like the show through Patreon.com/CitationsNeededPodcast. All your support through Patreon is so incredibly appreciated, as we are 100% listener-funded. And as always, a very special shout-out goes to our critic-level supporters through Patreon.

Adam: I’m Adam Johnson.

Nima: Our senior producer is Florence Barrau-Adams. Producer is Julianne Tveten. Production assistant is Trendel Lightburn. Newsletter by Marco Cartolano. Transcriptions are by Mahnoor Imran. The music is by Grandaddy. Thanks again, all. We’ll catch you next time.

This Citations Needed episode was released on Wednesday, July 3, 2024.

Transcription by Mahnoor Imran.



Citations Needed

A podcast on media, power, PR, and the history of bullshit. Hosted by @WideAsleepNima and @adamjohnsonnyc.