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March 25, 2024 40 mins

Robert sits down with author and activist Cory Doctorow to discuss his new book, the Bezzle, and how finance monsters have turned American prisons into an even crueler institution.

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Speaker 1 (00:01):
Al Zone Media.

Speaker 2 (00:05):
Welcome everybody to it could happen here, a podcast about
it happening here. The slow crumbling of the institutions that
make up our society, and that includes not just the
good stuff that's become the bad stuff, like for example,
Google Search, but it includes the stuff that's always been
bad and has gotten worse, like life inside the prison

industrial complex, which is partly what we will be talking
today because our guest is the great Corey, doctoro activist, writer,
author of a book called The Bezel, which is a
fiction novel but deals with some very non fictional stuff
in relation to how finance goools have changed life for
people behind bars. Corey, welcome to the show.

Speaker 3 (00:50):
Thank you for having me on. It's a delight to
be on again.

Speaker 4 (00:53):

Speaker 2 (00:54):
Yeah, it's always wonderful to have you. I just finished
The Bezel. It took me. It was one of those
about day, you know, in part because I just like
didn't want to stop reading it, Like I just kind
of blasted through. I picked it up in the morning
on a walk and then was done with it at
about like nine pm. So I found it pretty compulsively readable.

Speaker 3 (01:13):
Amazing. That's great to hear with the first one. I
knew that I had something going on when I woke
up at two in the morning and my wife was
sitting up in bed next to me and I said,
what are you doing? And she said, I just had
to find out how it ended.

Speaker 2 (01:25):
So, yeah, and you said the first one. This is
the second book in a series based on a character,
Martin Hinch, who's a self employed forensic accountant. I do
want to let people know right at the jump, I
actually have not read your first hinchbook yet.

Speaker 3 (01:39):
And they don't have to be read an organ Yes, yes.

Speaker 2 (01:41):
That's what I was going to point out before we
get into the stuff about the plot of this book
and how it relates to some very real things that
are ongoing. I wanted to talk about a not so
stealth advertisement within the series for a guy that we're
both a big fan of, Stephen Bruce. There's an extended
digression where where Martin is sending books to a friend

of his in prison, and you talk a lot about
Stevens Taltos series, which was a huge influence on me
as a young person. I could definitely see, I think,
an influence on this series as well.

Speaker 3 (02:12):
Yeah, I mean Steve is a wonderful writer, and everything
he writes is amazing. That particular series, you know, he
started when I was thirteen years old. I'm now fifty two.
I just had dinner with him in Minneapolis. Or he
tells me he's two books away from finishing it.

Speaker 4 (02:30):

Speaker 3 (02:30):
Yeah, he had planned the whole thing all those years ago.
He's a Zelosny protege. Yeah, and also a giant Fritz
liber fan. And the it's got that wise cracking Robert
McGee kind of or Travis McGee rather kind of affect

those books. And also the stuff that I love about
the best of what you know, disparagingly we could call
men's adventure fiction, which is that it at its best.
And Maria Ferrell just wrote something really good about this
on Crooked Timber, and it's best. That stuff really geeks
out about a lot of stuff that the bad version
of it is the kind of James Bond version where

it's like, yeah, you know, this is what the status watches,
and this is what the Status Martini is, and this
is what the status whatever it is, and that you
call that the gourmet version right where it's like, you
know what all the best of everything is, and you
know how to how to signal you know, your ver
blend goods to other people, had to signal that you
are posh and upper class. But the good version of

it is the is the gourmand version, which is like,
if you're going to eat cardboard pizza, this is the
best cardboard pizza. And if you're going to you know,
like the very best gas station toilets are and the
you know, the one thing that you should always do
if you're staying in a flop house is right, And
it's just that kind of it could be like streets,

but it's also very uh, I want to say self indulgent,
but that's not the right word. It's no, it's very uh.
It's it's it's there's a lot of self care in it.
There's a lot of like deliberate like, oh, this is
how I'm going to live my life so that it's
as good as possible, and I enjoy all of the
finer things as much as I can. This is the
thing that I do when I'm making a burger so

that it's a ten percent more delicious every time, you know, yeah,
type of thing.

Speaker 2 (04:25):
It's it's it's interesting. I came across the first book
in that series that I read was Dragon, which I
came across a strip cover from my uncle who worked
at a bookstore, and that's his like military fiction book
in the series, which is very much in line with
the like boys adventure stuff. But as the series goes on,
it increasingly trends towards like Russian revolutionary literature too. There's

a little bit more that which I think get an
influence on me.

Speaker 3 (04:52):
Well, Steve's a Trotskyist, yeah, yeah. But the thing about
communist fantasy writers, there's a few of them, There's you know,
China Mayville and Stephen, a few others well, Shadderley and
so on, is that the one thing that they can
always be relied upon to do is get the ratio
of vassals to lords, right, Yeah, you know that the
number of peasants in the field is always vastly larger

than the number of lords in the castle, and they
all have a life and an interiority and a reason
for being that that's not just being scenery or cannon fodder.

Speaker 4 (05:22):
Yeah, yeah, that's it's something he does. Well.

Speaker 2 (05:25):
I think that's enough of a digression. I just always
love having a chance to talk about Stephen Bruce's work.
Let's let's talk about the bezel because the basic I mean,
I try, I'll try not to give away more than
is in like the good read summary. But the basics
of this story is that you've got this guy, Martin Hinch,
who's this forensic accountant, and as a result, he's friends

with some people who have, you know, really succeeded in
sort of the pre dot com bubble tech industry, I
guess you'd say, and you take us.

Speaker 1 (05:54):
With, you know.

Speaker 2 (05:54):
He goes with one of them to a place called
Catalina Island, which is a real place that was founded
by one of our nation's early plutocrats who had a
bizarre obsession with their not being like fast food available
on the island.

Speaker 3 (06:09):
Yeah, he had a lot of bizarre obsessions. This is
William Wrigley, the chewing gum Fortune, and his first obsession
was chickle trees and which you need to make gum.
And his particular obsession was owning every chickle forest in
the world, which he did, which meant that if you
wanted to make gum, even if you were one of

his competitors, you had to pay him for the chickle.
So there was no gum that wasn't Wriggly's gum. In
some important sense, this made him, as you might imagine.

Speaker 4 (06:37):
Very rich.

Speaker 3 (06:38):
He bought the Chicago Cubs. There is a reason the
Chicago Cubs play at Wrigley Field, and they would have
their spring training on Catalina Island, an island that he bought.
He loved Westerns, and one of the people who lived
on Catalina Island was or summered there, rather was Zane Gray,

the great Stern writer. Yeah, and there were a bunch
of Zane Gray movies that were made on the island,
including one where they brought over thirteen bull bison because
they were needed for the movie, and because they didn't
know a lot about animal handling. Particularly, they did not
know that male bison do not ever come into contact
with one another except to have a violent dominance clash,

which is how the thirteen mail bison all ended up escaping.
And then Wrigley, in one of his other obsessions, thought
it was Unchristian for these bachelor bison to be on
his island, so he brought over thirteen cows and created
the bison invasive species think. He also didn't know that
bison operate in Harem's, which was another thing that he

was just badly wrong. Like it is true that like
being a billionaire lowers your IQ by thirteen points and
being the son of a billionaire lowers your IQ by
forty points. Yeah, and you know, Wriggly had all kinds
of esthetic ideas in the same way that like, you know, know,
when Ford built ford Landia in Brazil, a planned community

that was an identical copy of dearborn Michigan, including the
south facing windows, because he wouldn't let his architects explain
that south of the equator you want north facing windows. Yeah,
you know, he said, oh, well, we're you know, like
he came up with all kinds of weird rules for
rubber planters rubber harvesters in the Brazilian jungle, and Wrigley

came up with his own rules for people living on
his island, and one of them is no fast food.
And this turns out to be consequential in the story
because the protagon of the story, who's Martin Hench, who's
this you know, two fisted, hard fighting forensic accountant who
busts finance scams and his pal are on the island
in the party scene while his friend waits to vest

from Yahoo, where he's been imprisoned by dint of having
sold them a company for millions of dollars, which he
can only realize if he can sit tight and not
murder any of his colleagues. While they buy and destroy
every promising startup in Silicon Valley, using the money from
the Royal family of Saudi Arabia that was funnel to
them by Masioshi's Sun and Soft Bank, they encounter a

Ponzi scheme, and the Ponzi scheme is grounded in what
is an actual practice of people bringing fast food to
Catalina Island. Like if you go to the K twelve
school and you have an away game, everyone brings back
a sack of burgers for their friends because it's forbidden fruit,
it's exotic, and this turns into a Ponzi scheme to
sell flash frozen burgers brought to the island by various means,

And as with every Ponzi scheme, the thing that they're
actually selling is the right to sell the right to sell,
the right to sell burgers. Yeah, no one, No one
wants the burgers right. They want the downline, And this
is why Ponzi schemes always implode. And what Marty realizes
is that this Ponzi scheme is going on, and that
it has been cooked up by this guy whose parties

they've been going to, this real estate baron, and that
he's done it the same way you might carefully tend
an ant colony for the sole purpose of burning them
with magnifying glasses. You build this enormous sort of Rube
goal Berg machine, a self licking ice cream cone, and
then you destroy it, you smash it. He's waiting for
this economy to collapse once he's extracted every penny from

the island, which will add one percent to his net worth,
and so they do a controlled demolition of it. They
foil this guy's plan, and this kicks in motion the
real action in the novel, which is about the private
prison system.

Speaker 4 (10:21):
Yeah. Yeah, and I love that.

Speaker 2 (10:24):
In preparing to read this chunk of the book, where
I learned quite a bit about the private prison system,
I also learned a bunch about Catalina Island and this
wealthy madman's insane dream. I appreciate that about your books.

Speaker 3 (10:37):
Yeah, I mean Catalina Island. We could go on. Marilyn
Monroe is a fifteen year old child bride on Catalina Island.
The CIA was founded on Catalina Island. The channel between
Catalina Island and the mainland is the deepest channel known
to humanity, and Dow dumped fifty thousand barrels of DDT
into it in iron that is rusting and that we

have no way to remediate, and that will someday rupture
and kill every bird downstream of that channel, and also
lots of fish. Catalina Island is this very fraught place,
this very beautiful place, very weird place. It's one of
my favorite places to go. We just booked another trip there,
and everything about it is is amazing and also terrible,

but also beautiful.

Speaker 2 (11:37):
Yeah, And I appreciate the way that you write that,
and I appreciate the way that you kind of wrap
us into by first establishing this character, this friend of Martin's,
who then winds up in a California Department of Corrections
facility and taking us over a period of time as
it goes to the way I think most people think

prisons still are, right kind of the vision of like
prisons that was formed from movies we watched in the
early two thousands in the late nineties, where you know,
they can be pretty ugly places, but like you have
family and they can come and visit you. Right, there's
a big room where everybody gets together with their we
arrested developments. Maybe the most before this all changed, most

recent kind of touchstone on this. And also it's a
place that has like a library, and not just a library,
but like what comes with the library is opportunities for
people to like better themselves, to learn things, to build skills,
to potentially take some more agency of their situation. Right,
That idea of like the jailhouse lawyer who becomes informed

in all that, and that world has really gone away
to a significant extent. It's not completely gone everywhere, but
certainly a lot of those a lot of that has
been pruned away. The ability of prisoners to have face
to face contact with their loved ones and the ability
of prisoners to like use a library is something that
is a lot less common now than it used to be.

And it's because a lot of these a lot of
these kind of attitudes that have characterized finance for so
long or increasingly becoming common within the companies that run
these facilities.

Speaker 3 (13:15):
Yeah, and you know, maybe this is a good place
to explain what a bezel is and how this moment
relates to what a bezel is. So I really think
the title bezel is a banger. But I didn't realize
until I started touring this book that if you say
it aloud, it sounds like be eazel, which is the
rectanglar on your phone screen. It's actually be easy z

l e or zed zed if you're a Canadian like me,
And that is a wonderful term coin by John Kenneth
Galbrath to describe the magic interval after the con artist
has your money but before you know it's a con
and in that moment, everybody feels better off. And one

of the great bezel moments was the moment between the
crash of the dot com crash of like two thousand
and two thousand and one and the crash of the
Great Financial Crisis, the housing crash, And in that period,
all the money that people put into so called investments
and into the market and that made them feel better off,

made them feel like they had a pension, made them
feel like they had savings, and so on. All that
money was already gone. So this is one of the
things about a scam is it feels like the moment
that you lose the money is the moment you realize
it's a scam, But you actually lose the money the
minute you give it to the con artist. The con
artists might let you keep some of it for a
little while, but they can take it away from you

whenever they want. That was a moment of kind of
giddiness where none of us really wanted the dream to end.
We knew that once the dream ended, we would all
be poorer, although in reality we're all poorer. Right then.
One of the things about that moment is it was
the moment when another long con came, and that was

the long con of the California three strikes rule. So
there had been a couple of quite ghastly murders of
young people, a teenager and a child in California that
were weaponized by some fairly cruel racists to pass a
law in California that says that if you were convicted

of three felonies, you would go to prison for the
rest of your life with no chance of parole. And
you know, this is California, which is a place that's
quite allergic to higher taxes, famously the Home Proposition thirteen,
where you know, we can't raise our property taxes unless
something like seventy percent of us go to the polls
and specifically vote for it, which is why our cities

are so cash strapped. And so in this place where
you have these anti tax extremist types and you have
this increasing tax burden associated with locking up an ever
larger fraction of the population for the rest of their lives,
you have this this you know, unstoppable force and this

immovable object on a collision course with one another. Because
at a certain point, you're just going to have prisons
that are so full that you're going to have to
do something to relieve them. You're gonna have to build
more prisons, You're gonna have to reduce the cost of
operating those prisons. Something's going to give. In the end,
what ended up giving was a Supreme Court case that

rule that just being in prison in California violated your
Eighth Amendment rights against cruel and unusual punishment. That every
California prison basically constituted a violation of the Eighth Amendment,
and California went through the you know, five stages of grieving,
which I know, they don't replicate that it's it's not real.

We don't. That's not really a neat description of exactly
what happens when we grieve. But they they certainly went
through a period of denial and bargaining, including mooting at
one point sending to like Arizona, so sending California State
prisoners to Arizona and paying Arizona to take them off
their hands. And as all of this stuff was going on,

some grifters saw great opportunity, and that opportunity was to
cut costs in the prisons and facilitate moving prisoners further
and further away from their families by replacing all of
the services in the prison with a tablet that you
would get for free.

Speaker 4 (17:26):

Speaker 3 (17:27):
So remember, you know, the iPad comes out in two
thousand and eight. Steve Jobs is touting it as the
future of the world. Media companies are going crazy. They
they finally found their daddy figure who's going to save
them from tech by you know, siloing everything in an
app that isn't part of the web. And all we
can hear about is how tablets of the future, And

this sounds quite futuristic, right, We'll put tablet will give
every prisoner a free tablet. It's like one laptop per child,
but for prisoners, and those tablets will replace the live
and in person visits and phone calls and music and
TV and continuing education and all of it's going to cost,

and it's going to cost a lot more than you
would pay outside of the outside of the prison for
the same services. So you know, four bucks a minute
for poster stamp sized video instead of free zoom calls. Yeah,
music for three bucks instead of one. And then, of
course these companies are very grifty, and so they're constantly restructuring,

going bankrupt, being bought, buying one another. And every time
that happens, the company changes its name and says, oh,
we're no longer the same company. We no longer supply
all of those services. We are wiping out all of
your data and you're going to have to buy it again.
And so you know, if that's music, it means that
the song that you pay three dollars for, that you

bought by working in the prison workshop for twenty five
cents an hour, is gone and you're in prison for
remember this is California, the rest of your life. And
so you're going to have to go back and earn
more money to get that song again. But also the
five dollars your kid paid to have the birthday card
that they wrote for you scanned. Because you can no

longer get parcels or mail, your family have to pay
to have their letters scanned, or they have to pay
to send you email. And so your kid who's growing
up with that the principal breadwinner, has paid five dollars
to have their handmade birthday card scanned. That goes away
too when the prison changes vendors. And it's a kind

of perfect parable for the indifferent sadism of capital, like
the degree to which the pursuit of profit drives people
to be far more cruel than mere ideology.

Speaker 2 (19:54):
Yes, yeah, that's so important because like prisons were not
nice before, they were not humane before. But someone who
is simply trying to run a government prison facility would
not think of the idea of doing like a doing
like a shell game yank away of people's music after
letting them buy it and then make them buy it again.

That's like, that's not something that like a bad prison
guard comes up with. That's only something that somebody from
somebody from finance comes up with.

Speaker 3 (20:26):
Well, and you know you it helps if the way
that you're running these prisons is by employing guards through
staffing agency, and so you don't even have to contend
with the rising costs associated with staff turnover when prisoners
go bug fuck crazy because you took all their shit away. Right,
those guards are not your employees and it's not your problem.

The whole thing is is kind of running at several
layers of indirection and remove. It's what Douglas Rushkoff calls
going meta. You know, the don't drive a cab, found Uber,
don't found uber, invest an uber, don't invest in uber,
invest in uber derivatives, don't investor in uber derivatives, invest

in uber derivative futures. Right, Like go meta, Like get
further and further away from the useful activity. Yeah, you
are insulated from the consequences of whatever it is you do.

Speaker 2 (21:22):
And that's such a it's part of it's like a
recipe for breaking things right because the people who are closest,
not that they're always good at it in the case
of prison guards, but the people who are closest to
the useful activity tend to know how to make things
work right. Whereas the further away you get from that,
the more likely your ideas are to break things that

you wouldn't have even thought of. And again, but for
that kind of person, everything you break is usually an
opportunity for financializing something else.

Speaker 3 (21:51):
Yeah, you know, the extent to which finance is the
true banality of evil is hard to overstate. Yeah, you know,
we think, well, we've heard a lot when you read
about the Holocaust and World War Two, you hear a
lot about the cruelty of Nazis, and no one said
to say, well, the Nazis weren't cruel and the ideological

cruelty of Nazis. So, for example, there were moments where
rather than transporting troops to decisive battles, they were shipping
Jews to concentration camps on those same trains and losing
battles so they could murder more Jews. Right, But up
the road from Auschwitz was another private concentration camp run
by ig Farben called Monowitz. And ig Farbin were war profiteers.

They were gouging the Wehrmacht on war material that they
were manufacturing with slave labor, and they bought thousands of
slaves from Auschwitz. Preferring women and children because they were cheaper,
and they worked them to death. And the lifespan of
a slave in Monowitz was only three months before they

were worked to death. It was half of what it
was in Auschwitz. The conditions were so bad at Monowitz
that the SS guards who were seconded to it from
Auschwitz wrote to Berlin to complain about the cruelty of Monowitz.
At the end of the war. In Nuremberg, twenty four
Ig Farben executives were tried for this. Their defense was

that they had a fiduciary duty to their shareholders to
maximize returns, and nineteen of them were acquitted on that basis.

Speaker 2 (23:31):
Yeah, God, and this is you know, before the Chicago
School guys had really like fully taken over. So this
this idea that like that was really the only responsibility
that a business had, even above a moral responsibility, was
much less established. Like the more you get into how many,

particularly of the money people got off at Nuremberg, Like
it's maddening stuff. Yeah, indeed, and it is, like I
think one an accurate way to look at the Holocaust
from the perspective of those guys is the mining of populations,
like mining them to death. That's really how a lot

of this like because a huge chunk of especially the
early stages of Nazi oppression of like starting with German Jews,
but going beyond that as they conquered more Land, was
the appropriation of businesses and property, right, like was it
was mining human beings. And that attitude is persistent. Right,

It's not just a thing that happens in Nazi Germany.
It happens whenever you let people who don't have any
sort of human concern take control of every aspect of life.

Speaker 3 (24:47):
And you know, this is some of the structural stuff
that's going on in the book. So my editor on
this book is this great guy, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, who's
been my editor since my first novel, and I met
on a BBS in the nineteen eighties, so I've really
known him most of my life.

Speaker 4 (25:04):
Oh wow.

Speaker 3 (25:04):
And Patrick, when he gave me the editorial note on
my first novel, he said something like the way that
science fiction works is you have a world that is
like a thought experiment world, and you have a character
who's a microcosm for that world, and they are like

a big gear that's the world, and a little gear
that's the character. And if the microcosm meshes correctly with
the macrocosm, then as the person spins around and around
doing their plot stuff, they spin around enough times that
the world, the big gear that they're meshed with, makes
a full revolution. So you have this microcosm macrocosm thing.

And often when a book doesn't work, it's because the
microcosmic macrocosmic correspondences aren't sharp enough. There's some way in
which those teeth aren't meshing. One of the things that
this book tries to do, and that the Martin Hinch
books generally try to do because they're all about these
these finance scams, these high tech finance scams set in
different eras from the nineteen eighties through the twenty twenties,

is that they try to create a series of these
similar correspondences between small scams and big scams. You know,
they use the small scam as a kind of setup
or a frame or like a cognitive tool for understanding
the much bigger scam. And so that small scam, that
Ponzi scheme, where you have a person who is setting

out just for shits and giggles to make some money
by destroying a bunch of other people's lives and viewing
those people as not as people, but as as things,
as a means to an end, not as an end
unto themselves, ends up creating this sadistic, brutal, pointless, and

deliberately unsustainable situation that he knows is going to hurt
all these other people. And the way that he's able
to do it is by simply not considering the people
who are enmeshed in the scheme as fully people entitled
to their own sort of moral consideration. And in the

same way that is that's like a microcosm for the
kinds of decisions that are made when people go on
to found these prison tech companies and these other companies
that do these these ghastly things.

Speaker 2 (27:41):
And it's it's also very accurate to how an unfortunate
number of just like regular people in society and in
government think about the victims of these schemes. Like when
you when you try to talk about how unfair and
how much worse this situation has gotten, it's like, well,
they're prisoners, they're being punished, as if.

Speaker 4 (28:01):
As if that makes it all okay.

Speaker 3 (28:04):
Yeah, it's kind of a it's kind of a like
a much more extreme and therefore much more easily spotted
version of caveat emptor or you know, not your not
your keys, not your coins. You know these ideas that
if something bad is happening to you, it must be

because you did something bad.

Speaker 1 (28:26):

Speaker 3 (28:26):
That the kind of providential ethics. And I think that
the work that that does for people is it helps
them put their own anxiety about their own future to rest,
because you know that the if you are worried that
something bad might happen to you, and you can convince

yourself that the reason that something bad happened to someone
else is that they had a deficiency right, they committed
a sin, they were foolish, then you don't have to
worry about it happening to you, you know. I I
a couple of times in the last decade. I have
been the victim of various kinds of con and I

am also someone who's written a lot about cons. So
I've been successfully phished once, and I had a phone
scammer talked me out of my credit card number once.
And I always write about it when it happens, and
I write about it in part because I want to
make sure that people understand that you know, you're not
too smart to be conned. Anyone can be conned and
so on. And I think that's an inoculant against getting conned.

But I also do it because the reactions are a
kind of sociological study.

Speaker 1 (29:35):

Speaker 3 (29:35):
If you want to see into the minds of tech
bros who justify the terrible things that they are doing
or planning to do, or fantasizing about doing or working
on to other people, look at their fraud apologetics where
they say, you know, oh, that was just a business
and you know, you had a caveat emptor or you

were lazy, or you were foolish, or you know, like
you did something deficient and that's why it happened, and
so you deserved it. And that means, on the one hand,
it's never going to happen to me because I don't
deserve it. And on the other hand, if I ever
do it to someone else, that's fine, because if they
fall victim to it, then they must deserve it. The
old con artist saying that you can't cheat an honest

man in a version of this.

Speaker 2 (30:21):
Yeah, and it's I mean, that's like it's such a
limited view of it, right, because It's it's true that
like there are some cons that you can't trick someone
into unless they have a little desire for some larceny, right,
But like an increasing number of cons are just like
a company using your bank's phone number calling you and
telling you you've been defrauded, and you give them information

because you're not used to the or or somebody calls
using the voice of your child and says that they
need a ransom payment. Right, that's not you're not there's
not like dishonesty in your heart because you don't want
your kid to be kidnapped.

Speaker 4 (30:56):
You're just not ready for what tech has been able
to do, you know.

Speaker 3 (30:59):
And well, there are some of those cons where they
you know, they're they're playing on your cupidity or your
dishonesty to make money off of you. Even in those instances,
it is downstream of a system where it feels like
you can't survive unless you're cheating, right, like one of
the things. And so multi level marketing is actually a

theme that runs through all of these books. That the
next one is set in the nineteen eighties and it's
about a faith scam. It's an early PC company I
made up called the Three Wise Men run by a
Mormon bishop, a Catholic priest, and an Orthodox rabbi who
use you know, affiliate marketing through congregations to prey on

their own faith groups. And one of the things about
these Ponzi schemes, these pyramid schemes, is that they take
the only capital that working people have, which is social capital,
right the relationships they have among one another, and they
convince them that it is entrepreneurial and therefore virtuous to

instrumentalize your relationship to the other women in your life
who help you look after your kids, or to your
coreligionist who you can turn to if things go really
bad at work or with your family or whatever. And
that turning that into a transaction that you can milk,

you know, turning those people into a down line who
have to recruit other people to make you whole so
that you can feed your own upline is just hustling.
It's just your shot at the American dream. It's you know,
Spike Lee telling you that investing in shit coins is
building black wealth.

Speaker 4 (32:45):
Yeah, yeah, I.

Speaker 2 (32:49):
It is like the the fact, and I think low
key this is one of the top couple of problems
that we have in this society because it feeds into
everything else like it, like it's a I think that's
probably why it runs through so much of your work,
because this the scam economy, is behind every and it's
increasingly becoming everything right, and there's this kind of pernicious

effect where by people don't The more people are victimized
by this, both the less they trust other people and
the more the more they begin to accept that, like, well,
this is just how you get by in our society, right,
Why shouldn't we take away prison libraries and replace them
with more expensive kindle that we can yank away at
any moment. Everyone's always nickel and diming me. I'm always

getting more money taken away from me by these same people.
And I'm not even in prison, you.

Speaker 3 (33:40):
Know, right, Why shouldn't there be junk fees in prison
if there's junk fees everywhere else. If you're you know,
local water company that's owned by your city is sold
off to you know, plug a hole in the budget
because you can't raise taxes, and then they start charging
you a convenience fee to your your water bill with

a check, and then a different convenience fee to pay
your water bill with a credit card, and a third
convenience fee to pay your water bill in person with cash.
And then you realize that, like there, that none of
these are convenience fees. They're just they're just fees.

Speaker 2 (34:14):
Yeah, it's just more money. Yeah yeah, I mean, we're
in We're in a pretty infuriating situation here, and you
get to that in the bezel, you really get that across. Well,
if this guy is trying to deal with the and
and it kind of brought home to me the horror
of like having someone you care for in this situation

and seeing like their avenues for any kind of relief
edged out, chipped away at for the profit of some
guy who will never notice the money in his bank account.

Speaker 3 (34:47):
Yeah yeah, I mean, and you know the the Unlike
Steve Brust, I well, like Steve Breust in some of
those volumes, I told this story from the perspective of
a fairly powerful person who's got a lot of agency,
only because it gives you the opportunity to tell a
story that at least holds out the possibility of some relief.

I'll leave it to the reader to find out what
actually happens at the end. And you know, there have
been successful prisoner uprisings that have been led by working
people who are serving long terms, but for the most
part those uprisings, we never even hear about them. You know,
there was a prison labor strike before lockdown. I believe
it was twenty eighteen or twenty nineteen. There's a national

prison labor strike, and it barely made a dent in
anyone's consciousness. It was, you know, ultimately one of the
largest strikes in modern American history. You know, the thousands
and thousands of workers were on strike, and we didn't
even hear about it because there's such control over the
narrative about prisons and prisoners that's run by the Carcerle system.

And so you know, by telling this story about someone
who goes into prison all already a millionaire, and who
has a friend on the outside who's kind of a
hustler and a pal, and who is someone who knows
how to finagle the system, I can spin out a
yarn that takes you, like back to Patrick Nielsen Hayden

and the big gear driving the little gear, takes you
on a three hundred and sixty degree tour of how
fucked up the system is. Rather than just the ant's
i view or the worm's eye view that most people
get because they aren't even able to explore all the
avenues and run into their dead ends because they're just
stuck where they are.

Speaker 2 (36:37):
Yeah, Corey, this has been wonderful. I want to again
let people know your book, The Bezel is in stores now.
You can purchase it wherever fine books are sold. Do
you have a preferred you are l for buying it.

Speaker 3 (36:50):
The Dashbezel dot org is fine, but wherever people want
to get it. Yeah, it's a national bestseller for the
third week running. Very good.

Speaker 4 (37:00):
That's great.

Speaker 3 (37:01):
Whoever feeds into the USA Today bestseller.

Speaker 2 (37:04):
List you apparently, that's wonderful. Yeah, well, Corey, doctor, do
you have anything else you wanted to get to before
we roll out today?

Speaker 3 (37:13):
Well, I guess you know, if you want to follow
the work that I do. Pluralistic dot net is a
newsletter that I write every day or almost every day,
and it's open access it so that means it's Creative
Commons licensed. You can reproduce it. You can reproduce it
and sell it if you want. And there's no DRM,
there's no tracking, there's no you know ads, there's no anything.

It's it's you know, black type on a white background.
You'll never get to pop up asking you whether you
want to subscribe to my mailing list or whatever. Yeah,
And the the email version of it, you can get
it as an email list. The email version also no tracking.
I can't tell when you've opened the email or anything.
I keep no statistics, and I just it's letter in

a bottle I write and throw into the ocean every morning,
and it's great. That's so much fun to write.

Speaker 2 (38:06):
It's a great letter in a bottle. You've been talking
writing a lot, I'm not talking a lot about AI lately,
and kind of the how that all feeds into a
lot of this this stuff you've been covering about or
the stuff you write about often about, you know, bezels
and scam economies. And I've I've really enjoyed getting your
take on that because I think you're one of the

one of the people who hasn't lost their minds over
all this stuff.

Speaker 3 (38:29):
Oh yeah, I mean, I think we're really like so
that the we hear so much about AI disinformation and
the people who have like most fallen prey to AI
disinformation are bosses who've been convinced that AI is good
enough to fire you and replace you with and you know,
it's like, it's not true. It doesn't mean they won't
do it, right, but it's not true. Yeah, that's that's

actually kind of the worst of all worlds, right, technological
unemployment without without actual replacement. It's just uh, it's just
another bezzel. It's a yeah, it's a It's that long
moment where you think you've zero out your labor force costs,
but you haven't realized that you're no longer productive because
the chapbot keeps, you know, as in the case of
Air Canada, just like telling people they can get refunds

they're not entitled to. And then you know, regulators come
along and smack you around and charge you, you know,
find you for your chatbot having lied to people about
their bereavement, flight discounts and stuff.

Speaker 2 (39:27):
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I'm looking forward to that moment hitting.
I guess because where we I mean, I do kind
of think we are sort of nearer to the bursting
than we are to the peak of the bubble right now,
But I guess we'll we'll see.

Speaker 3 (39:43):
Well, remember, the market can remain solvent, irrational rather longer
than you can remain solvent.

Speaker 4 (39:49):

Speaker 3 (39:49):
So I've been predicting the collapse of the London housing bubble,
for example, for a very long time. We're nowhere near it. Yeah.
So that is my that is my humbling lesson. It
is definitely a bubble. It is going to burst when
it's going to burst, and is very very very hard
to predict.

Speaker 4 (40:08):
Yeah, what we'll burst with it? Yeah, jeez.

Speaker 2 (40:12):
Well, Corey, thank you so much for being on the
show again. Everybody check out the Bezel Wonderful book and
check out Corey's other wonderful books like walk Away. That's
the episode, have a good one.

Speaker 3 (40:24):
Thanks Robert.

Speaker 1 (40:30):
It Could Happen Here as a production of cool Zone Media.
For more podcasts from cool Zone Media, visit our website
cool zonemedia dot com, or check us out on the
iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.
You can find sources for It Could Happen Here, updated
monthly at coolzonemedia dot com slash sources. Thanks for listening.

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