Overcoming Extremism Podcast
Leaders across the country, in government, businesses, the academy and the activist community, share how to counter extremism, intolerance, and political violence in America while promoting reconciliation.
Episode 1: Mike Signer
Mike Signer, the former mayor of Charlottesville, VA, introduces "Overcoming Extremism."
Episode 2: Vegas Tenold
Vegas Tenold is a journalist originally from Norway with an unusual focus. With the horrific massacre of children by a white supremacist in Norway in 2011 in mind, he covers extremists. He spends months at time in their midst. He gets to know them, how they tick, in real time. He was embedded with the forces who invaded Charlottesville, and he shares in this interview powerful insights into the mechanisms that brought these violent extremists together, and what might happen next.
Episode 3: Mary McCord
Mary McCord is a former federal prosecutor now at the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at Georgetown University Law Center, who created a pathbreaking lawsuit against extremist militias in the wake of the violent “Unite The Right” rally in Charlottesville that makes her a key example of the idea guiding this podcast: that just as extremism in America is home grown, the norms and institutions of American democracy can be marshaled to deal with it. We’ll find out why America’s founders wanted to protect the new country from violent groups like today’s militias and hear a bold new idea she is fighting for: a federal law that would, for the first time would make domestic terrorism a federal crime.
Episode 4: Amy Spitalnick
Amy Spitalnick is the Executive Director of Integrity First for America. Along with her colleagues, the noted lawyers Roberta Kaplan and Karen Dunn, she has been spearheading another lawsuit against some of the same militia groups who invaded Charlottesville, but this time it’s for monetary damages on behalf of plaintiffs who were badly injured and it's based on a set of laws that were passed to deal with the KU Klux Klan’s reign of terror. The interview explores a groundbreaking attempt to use the rule of law to stop extremism in its tracks and to force these violent forces to be held to account for their acts in a public court of law.
Episode 5: Jonathan Greenblatt
Jonathan Greenblatt is the CEO and National Director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), an organization originally founded to combat anti-Semitism that today has become a leading civil rights organization against bigotry of all forms. (ADL is also the home of this podcast). As you'll hear in this interview, in this time of increased extremism, civic organizations like the ADL can do important work in strengthening what he calls “democracy’s immune system”—the democratic values and the institutions, the relationships, that society itself can use to protect the body politic from the disease of extremism.
Episode 6: Niki Hemmer
Listen to historian and A12 creator Niki Hemmer describe the roots of today's conflicts and the present and future of extremism in America.
Episode 7: Jesse Arreguin
Jesse Arreguin was a progressive activist in Berkeley California, before serving on the City Council. In 2015, he defeated seven other candidates, to become at the age of 32, the youngest mayor in Berkeley’s history. He was mayor in 2017, the year seven violent extremist events occurred in Berkeley, featuring extreme clashes between the far right and far left. The events shone a national spotlight in a city so famous for the Free Speech Movement of the 1960’s on the problem of extremism and the challenges of balancing freedom of speech with public safety. In this interview, Arreguin talks about how the city learned to handle these events and his own controversial proposals to deem anti-fascist “Antifa” activists as a gang.
Episode 8: Andy Berke
In 2015, a native of Chattanooga, Tennessee, attacked two military recruiting centers in the city, killing five people. The terrorist attack shocked the nation. In 2019, the city’s mayor, Andy Berke, announced a new “Mayor’s Council against Hate” that would include task forces working on action items in seven different specific areas, including the city's public university and the public school, the police department and the business sector. Along the way, the city has innovated in other ways, for instance, in teaching their police to build bridges to marginalized populations who could be radicalized. As a Jewish mayor of a Southern city he has also been the target of vicious attacks, but as you’ll hear in the interview, they have only strengthened his resolve to fight for democratic values.
Episode 9: Samar Ali
Samar Ali is a Muslim-American attorney who grew up in Tennessee. She worked as a White House Fellow, where she designed counter-terrorist protocols focused on radicalization. But after she moved back to Tennessee to work for the governor, she became the target of a vicious smear campaign to frame her as a potential terrorist who would impose Sharia law and shut down the Jack Daniels distillery. All of it was obviously false. Instead of becoming a victim, she chose to engage with her attackers. And she saw an opportunity to flip the script. She founded Millions of Conversations, an organization that creates connections between marginalized and mainstream groups, through conversations that stop “othering” and create a more inclusive society.
Episode 10: Alvin Edwards and Sarah Ruger
In this episode, we turn to another set of democratic institutions: faith-based organizations and alliances. Alvin Edwards is not only a former mayor of Charlottesville; he is the pastor of Charlottesville’s largest African American church and he founded the Charlottesville Clergy Collective, which includes Charlottesville synagogue, Catholic church, and mosque. As you’ll hear him describe, the collective played a significant role in designing the community response to the alt-right invasions of 2017 and afterward. Sarah Ruger runs Free Expression programs at the Charles Koch Institute. It has been surprising to some that this podcast includes a partnership between organizations like the Anti-Defamation League, the Ford Foundation and conservative organizations like the Charles Koch Institute. She speaks about the power of alliances in working against extremism, and what brought the libertarian Koch Institute to this cause.
Episode 11: Ifeoma Ozoma
Overcoming extremism is going to require leadership from not only the public sector but from the private sector as well, and especially from tech companies. Ifeoma Ozoma is the public policy and social impact manager at Pinterest, the very popular internet platform. Pinterest has decided to do everything they can to make their platform safe for all their users. Safe from hate, safe from dangerous medical misinformation and safe from extremism. In the process, Ifeoma herself has been targeted by extremists. But that hasn’t stopped her work, or Pinterest’s. As you’ll hear, this company’s work against extremism doesn’t just happen on its own. It takes protocols, teams, follow through, and help from users.
About the Producer: Elliot Majerczyk
Elliot Majerczyk is a radio producer, freelance podcasting producer, and a podcasting/sound production teacher. Between 2004-2019 he produced the show “With Good Reason” which is heard on various NPR stations around the country. Several of his shows have received national recognition, including a “Best Radio Documentary” Gabriel Award for “The Legacy of Massive Resistance.” He also teaches podcasting and radio/sound production courses for the Media Studies Department at the University of Virginia. Before relocating to the US, he worked as an arts writer-broadcaster for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) in Montreal. He is a graduate of McGill University. In his spare time, he composes and produces music; selections from his compositions are included in episodes of “Overcoming Extremism.”