MINI-EP: Building Left Media with Andre Goulet

Andre Goulet of the newly-launched Harbinger Media Network joins Team Advantage to talk about the problem of reactionary podcasts that unfortunately top the charts. How might we expand the reach of fledgling left-wing podcasts and help get our ideas into the mainstream?

To learn more about Harbinger, visit harbingermedianetwork.com and follow @harbingertweets. Follow Andre Goulet on twitter @andremarrgoulet.

A transcript follows the break.

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Kate: The Alberta Advantage is supported by listeners like you. Independent listener-supported media like this podcast is possible only thanks to the generous support of our listeners. If you think what we do is important, please head over to patreon.com/albertaadvantage and support our work with a monthly donation.

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Kate: Hello, and welcome to The Alberta Advantage. I am your host, Kate Jacobson, and joining me today is Andre Goulet, who our listeners may know from the Unpacking The News podcast. Andre, thank you for joining us here on The Alberta Advantage.

Andre: Hi, Kate. Thanks so much for having me today.

Kate: So, I am so glad that you are joining us here today because I actually invited you on the show because I wanted to brag —

Andre: Wait, wait, sorry — you wanted to brag? You asked me on the show to brag? That seems like kind of a weird flex.

Kate: Yes, I actually love bragging. Anyways, I wanted to brag because I was looking at the podcast charts and saw that The Alberta Advantage is 25 on the Apple Podcasts Canada news commentary category. Isn’t that incredible? We are number 25 in the country. Absolutely amazing stuff.

Andre: Whoa, that is amazing. That’s great, Kate! Congratulations on your success. So, what’s the competitions like in the 24 spots before you?

Kate: I don’t know, it’s some bullshit I’ve literally never heard of before — Bill O’Reilly’s No-Spin News, NBC’s Meet the Press, The Glenn Beck Program, Rebel News, Mark Levin, The Matt Walsh Show (hosted by Ben Shapiro’s Daily Wire), the Trump-supporting Dan Bongino show —

Andre: Right, okay. So, I’ve been meaning to talk to you about exactly this, because —

Kate: Andre, it sounds like these shows are awful, and they’re doing so much better than us, which is honestly kind of a bit upsetting. Is our podcast getting owned by right-wing chuds online?

Andre: [laughs] That’s actually why I wanted to come on your show and talk to you today. You see, while we on the left might not have giant stacks of money or run social platforms with rage-inducing clickbait, we have one thing the right-wing chuds don’t have.

Kate: And what could that possibly be?

Andre: That’s the power of solidarity, Kate.

[Solidarity Forever begins playing]

Kate: Andre, I’m not sure if you know this about me, but I actually love solidarity. Please, tell me more about what you’re talking about.

Andre: Well, that’s exactly why I’m here, and I’m so happy that I have the opportunity. [Solidarity Forever fades out] Because — you kind of alluded to, with that grab bag, that carnival, of terrible shows you talked about before — 75% of Canadian news and politics podcast downloads are actually American content, and most of it’s absolutely beige centrism or even dangerous far-right extremism. They make up most of Canadians are listening to, and even Joe Rogan, who’s number one podcaster in North America, 20% of Canadian podcast listeners are listening to his show at least once a month. So, yeah — what gives? Isn’t that crazy?

Kate: It’s pretty wild. I actually know many, many people who listen to Joe Rogan’s podcast.

Andre: Really, okay. That’s appalling. And then we might think, “Well, of course we have our national public broadcaster, the CBC,” but even the CBC — this year, they’re launching something called “Tandem,” which is them partnering with corporations to create branded content. So it’s looking bad, right? So, what do we need? Well, we need a left answer for that, and we just happen to have this really cool community of left podcasts all over the country who are kind of doing the same ideological projects, like you guys in Calgary or Kino Lefter and The Progress Report in Edmonton, like Chris Markevich’s Left Behind on north Vancouver Island and Out Of Left Field in Victoria and Oats for Breakfast in Toronto, Rob Rousseau’s 49th Parahell in Montreal, and even Paris Marx’s Tech Won’t Save Us in Newfoundland. Everybody’s kind of pushing the same ideas, but when we’re hanging out alone, we don’t have as much power as when we hang out together. So, the idea behind what I wanted to tell you all about, the Harbinger Media Network, is to really bring together these voices and find ways to amplify us so that our power can be greater in the Canadian media sphere.

Kate: So, we’ve got kind of this loose coalition of people and podcasts with generally similar politics, a generally similar line or a certain outlook or way of interpreting the world. What is the plan, and what do you envision this Harbinger Media Network looking like?

Andre: Well, like I say — when we’re alone, we don’t have as much power; when we come together, we have solidarity. And it’s kind of like forming a union, except, instead of fighting the boss, we’re fighting the fact that it’s impossible to find shows on podcast platforms. So, by coming together and creating this hub of content that’s all shouting in the same direction, we build this network, collectively, with presence across the country, to reach more people and to create this alternative, left podcasting sphere. So, to that end, we will be launching the Harbinger Media Network in October with a cross-country slate of shows, from coast to coast in French and English, that’s going to be amplifying the left message. And I’m super excited about it because it kind of seems like it’s been a long time in coming, and, finally, we’re going to pushing something out there that people are really going to like.

Kate: So, I want to ask you a question that might be a little bit controversial given the podcast that I am on and the project that you’re here to talk about, but I am the type of person who — I host The Alberta Advantage. I love doing it — it’s a really fun project for me, I think it’s a really interesting exploration of political ideas — but I don’t necessarily consider it to be super important political work. And the reason that I say that is that I think left podcasts are not necessarily a super far-reaching media tool and, even when they do have a lot of reach, they don’t necessarily have resonance with, say, the vast majority of people that live in our society. What would you tell me to maybe get me a little bit more on board with this project, or maybe to get me to understand why it’s so important to be doing this in 2020?

Andre: I totally get what you’re saying, and I can totally sympathize with that sort of skepticism about, “Why create content? What’s the point?” And I guess I’d say two things. For a lot of people, lifting a placard and going to march is not even conceivable because they’re not comfortable with that, or — a lot of people do live their politics online. A lot of people do just listen to shows. So that’s a project worth pursuing, too, right? And that’s why The Alberta Advantage having this very powerful social media presence is a key part of pushing forward the message of the show and the project you’re doing. So, I see Harbinger Media as being something similar. We just explained how Canadian media is completely saturated with centrism and far-right extremism — well, there has to be something to push back against that. It’s not the same as political organizing, which is also super key, but there has to be something pushing back against having Ben Shapiro in Canada’s top 10 podcasts, right? So the idea is to create this scope of opinion that is extremely online and extremely podcast and extremely pushing all that stuff, but it’s valuable — it’s something that has to happen because, if we don’t fill that space with smart, compassionate, empathetic people, then it’s going to be filled up with these insane sociopaths and centrist dipshits who are going to completely manipulate the discourse at any turn. So, to that end, I think this actually is important — I think there has to be room for both political organizing, which should be primary, but also a space for these sorts of networks to really go and push our ideas into the mainstream. Does that make sense?

Kate: Yeah, absolutely. And how do you think a media network like Harbinger can make these podcasts more accessible and more common for people to be listening to?

Andre: It sounds kind of not-okay to say branding, because I don’t like — I read Adbusters a lot in the late ‘90s —

Kate: [laughs]

Andre: — and it sounds not-cool to talk about branding, but when all of the shows are part of the same community, or the same sort of ideological family, then people know they’re going to get a certain quality, whether that is in terms of audio, and sounding nice, or, more importantly, in terms of having sound ideological perspectives. And so that’s the curation that we do with the network — it’s people who are from our side, our perspective. But having said that, there’s also space to present this network as a kind of — the branding’s actually pretty cute, we have really nice graphics, and it’s so cool, and we would love to lure some libs in to get the tote bag, and then the next thing you know, they’re like, “Oh, taxing the rich is actually a super good idea.” I feel like that’s the sort of slow way to manipulate how people see ideology. So, it’s a left project, but it’s also a project that wants to push our ideas into the mainstream so that they can become more acceptable. Because we all see the Overton window shifting dramatically in two directions at once — towards the left and towards the right — but the key is: how do we make the left more attractive to people? So that’s the idea — creating this space where people are eager to come and listen to, and get inspired by, and hopefully get involved in organization and real on-the-ground politics by listening to these really good shows and this really cool community that genuinely is working together, helping each other, having this sense of solidarity behind the scenes — whether that means skill sharing or working on projects together, amplifying under-heard voices that might not have otherwise found their space into the podcast universe, and sharing the space to lift all of our voices up at the same time.

Kate: So, if this is a project that appeals to listeners of our podcast, The Alberta Advantage, where can they go to learn more about it or to support it?

Andre: We are crowdfunding right now at harbingermedianetwork.com. People can go there to find out more and to see these things I’ve been talking about put down a little more clearly and with details and find out what it means to support the network. One thing I’m proud that we’re going to be able to offer is exclusive content to people who are supporting the network and who support this kind of vision of creating a broader media left in Canada; so, we’re going to have some exclusive shows on there in the coming months, and I’m really looking forward to working on some of those shows, hosting one of those shows, and helping to shepherd other new voices into a community that we’ve been building with left podcasting in Canada. So, it’s a super-exciting project, and I love that the collective in Calgary for Alberta Advantage is part of this big community of 45 people around the country, and I’m really excited for what’s to come, and I can’t wait for people to see what that’s all about.

Kate: Amazing. I am looking forward to seeing what the future holds in this specific aspect, as well. Andre, thank you so much for joining me here on The Alberta Advantage to chat.

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Andre: Thanks, Kate. I’ve really appreciated the opportunity to come here and tell you about the network. You can find us at harbingermedianetwork.com, and on Twitter at @harbingertweets.

Kate: The Alberta Advantage is supported by listeners like you. Independent listener-supported media like this podcast is possible only thanks to the generous support of our listeners. If you think what we do is important, please head over to patreon.com/albertaadvantage and support our work with a monthly donation.

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