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Catfish Solution

Ralph talks to maverick former FCC Commissioner, Nicholas Johnson, about his two new books, the memoir, “Catfish Solution: The Power of Positive Poking” and “Columns of Democracy” and his views on social media and how to repair our democracy.

Nicholas Johnson is best known for his controversial term as a dissenting FCC commissioner in the Johnson/Nixon era. His most recent work is twofold: a memoir entitled Catfish Solution: The Power of Positive Poking  and Columns of Democracy an examination of the institutions needed to support democracy.

“In the last twenty years or so, [civics] has really kind of faded from the curriculum. Students need training in media literacy. They need training in what a democracy requires of them as a citizen. Until we start that with the young, it’s going to be hard to accomplish anything.”

Nicholas Johnson, Catfish Solution: The Power of Positive Poking

RALPH NADER RADIO HOUR EP 298 TRANSCRIPT (Right click to download)


  1. NooN says:

    Loved how you are bringing PUBLIC EDUCATION, PUBLIC RADIO~+~PUBLIC INTERNET “Back to LIFE” and to the Consciousness of ouR STATE SPONSORED COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD. We need our Education “World Wide” to Develop our Global Consciousness along with Workable Skills. We need Community’s that develop the Schools in their Community; and Schools that develop their Community’s. Nobody needs be without Teachers that drive & can travel safely from school to school if need be.

    When we have “College towns” that are closing elementary schools because of “Failing Grades”
    I ask “Why are “Hands~0n Public Charter Schools” so successful that the Graduating Students Join the Working World immediately after passing their State, National & International Boards. Of course, the Community benefits; vs the School Loan Shark Bankers who “poo poo technical skills.” Thank you for so clearly stating our Education Case for 0uR School Board here in this “College 0nlY” Town.🙏📚💞👵🏽💞📚🙏

  2. There are many ethical alternatives to Facebook. All they need is pubicity from shows like yours. Please talk to Eben Moglen or Mishi Choudhary at the Software Freedom Law Center or anyone st the Free Software Foundation.

    • John Alexander says:

      Sites like Facebook have a fundamental problem which will never be completely addressed through collective action by the users or external pressure. These problems are with the structure of the platform. The only solution is to abandon them. Facebook has operating costs to run their servers, users don’t want to pay to use social media. The result is that these tech companies have found ways of monetizing user data. This presents a power and information asymmetry between the user and the platform. In short, the users are exploited for profit. The cost and nature of that exploitation is hard to evaluate but I think people are gradually becoming aware of how damaging it is.

      There are three solutions that I’m aware of.

      One is to run the social media site as a non-profit, pay for server costs through whatever means: user donations, user fees, advertisement (hopefully not). One example that I’m aware of is called Tildes:

      Another solution is decentralized social media through federation. This is like breaking facebook into several much smaller instances rather than one monolithic entity. It doesn’t address the core relational problem but it reduces the scale. The power and information asymmetries remain but they are much less stark. An example that I’m aware of is Mastadon:

      Finally, the last solution is fully decentralized social media through a distributed model. This is the most interesting alternative in my view. Rather than hosting a site on a central server and having users interact with that site, build a virtual mesh network that allows users to communicate with one another directly. Coming up with a way of making such a system feel persistent and consistent between all users is a really hard problem but I’m aware of one platform that has achieved this beautifully.

      It is “free as in beer” because there are no operating costs. It is “free as in freedom” because there is no central server and moderation is democratically controlled (not fully implemented yet) and because the source code is licensed under AGPL.

  3. Don klepack says:

    Great Show: My Wife would yell at me STOP Talking to the TV, they Can’t hear you. Since listening to the Nader Radio hour I do less of this. I joined Veterans for Peace, and Citizens United because of you.

    My question you, always ask your guest have you been on various TV shows. However you do not comment on the extremely biased cable TV shows on FOX, MSNBC and CNN that seem just to repeat talking points from the Democratic and Republican Parties. Hannity and Limbaugh came up with regards to radio but not the Cable net works. Can the FCC do anything about cable stations. Can you go on those stations? Do you want to go on Hannity, Lemon, or Rachel Madow. What’s your opinion on those 3.

  4. monte mckenzie 304 466 1350 says:

    Ralph please work Kirk Sorensen and thorium electric generation into your weekly program as well as the vast geothermal electric generation unveiled by SMU of Dallas Tx and talk about this can get to post fossil fuel electric generation ,
    America needs to get out of the forprofit electric gen. industry!

  5. Don Harris says:

    Many people run their lives through their phone and/or alexa. This allows the phone/device to be smarter than the person as the person doesn’t have to think. This allows those controlling the devices to control the people using them.

    People should keep track of how often they tell their device to do something and how many times their device tells them to do something or tells them what they want to do.

    The problem with this is that they would probably use their device to keep track and those controlling the devices could make it appear to people that the people were making most of the decisions.

  6. Margaret Walsh says:

    If you have the means..go ahead buy your children private education…if you have the means..go ahead buy your own neighborhood security….if you have the means..go ahead and distribute some social services….just not in lieu of funding public protection..public social services…pay your taxes to the public pot…do you know what i mean?

  7. David H says:

    We’re racing to accumulate. Hippest music. Hippest books. To accumulate knowledge, knowledge of Nature (I share interesting Nature discoveries on social media myself, though in light of this show I see my messages need better honing…I see it all the time anyway). Yep, knowledge. Knowledge about how to quell workers working too hard (boat people at “chicken place” eg), IOW how to make old neoliberalism “work.” How to find a plan that’ll “work” and get ME to the top and my country to the top. Strange, though, the more we pay for net access, access to music, access to commentary…the more we see the markets for OUR favored substantive sources are up against something. They’re up against the high demand for mundane outfits that are streamed in restaurants, hospitals, and other public places (the rest of the 2 billion seem to be consuming something different?).

    On social media at least maybe the quirks of Nature thing has gone too far. Maybe we left behind those who had found out things specifically about HUMANS. I think of the John Heider podcast at humanmedia dot org…believe in the capacity of whatever student, or even whatever state in the union! If Iowa can provide “chicken place” jobs, let’em try. If CA can cut off ICE from the state database, let’em try. Know the regions of your country, and fight for their option to go the way they see fit (Heider’s sort of Taoistic Jeffersonianism). Nicholas Johnson is right regarding education. To know RIGHTS and to know REGIONS (and that they matter) requires EDUCATION.

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