The Young Turks

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The Young Turks, or TYT, is an online progressive news show founded by internet hothead pundit Cenk Uygur featuring commentary, analysis, and snarky critiques of conservative and authoritarian politics and personalities.

Beginning as a radio program hosted by Uygur in 2002, TYT jumped to CurrentTV and covered the 2012 presidential election. Among the more notable moments was an interview with Andrew Breitbart mere days before he died, and breaking the news on Michael Hastings' death in 2013. The channel itself was shut down and sold to Al Jazeera,[1] but TYT is still broadcast exclusively on YouTube.[2]

TYT was the first daily streaming online talk show, having begun in 2006.[3] Since then, they've added a number of YouTube channels to their "TYT Network", including shows like Agressive Progressives, TYT Politics, What the Flick?!, TYT Sports, ThinkTank, Pop Trigger, Nerd Alert, The Point, The Jimmy Dore Show and Kyle Kulinski.[4] TYT remains their main show, and as of 2017, it's also broadcast on SiriusXM radio.[5]

It's pretty impressive; no web "news" company can compare to what they've done. But not everyone's impressed; Uygur's bombastic personality has inspired a legion of (largely conservative-friendly) detractors and critics, like Sargon of Akkad, who dismisses the show as inhabiting the "progressive echo chamber",[6] and the Daily Caller, which spread rumors that Uygur's Wolf PAC was a moneymaking scam.[7] Even liberal New Atheists like Jerry Coyne and Sam Harris have clashed with TYT over what they feel is the show's "smug and arrogant form of regressive Leftism".[8] TYT's loud, in-your-face style has prompted some to disparage them as a mirror image of far right conservative political outlets.[9][10]

The Young Turks show streams live for two hours a day. Featured hosts include CEO and founder Uygur, co-host Ana Kasparian,[note 1] co-host John Iadarola, film critic Ben Mankiewicz, and comedian Jimmy Dore.

Political positions[edit]

The Young Turks are arch-left by American standards:

  • Back when they were just a talk show, they were among the very few news outlets saying don't go into Iraq before the war officially began. Their first real claim to fame was Uygur's ripping of USA Today for parroting George W. Bush's talking points about the war.
  • While Obama was in office, the show was extremely critical of his administration's progressive shortcomings, decrying its conciliatory attitude towards the GOP, and condemning the Democratic party as being hopelessly compromised by big money donors.[11]
  • In 2011, TYT devoted heavy coverage to Occupy Wall Street[12] with Uygur making impassioned speeches in support of the 99% movement and formally launching Wolf PAC at one of the protest demonstrations.[13]
  • During the 2016 Democratic Party presidential primary, TYT went all in for Bernie Sanders. Much debate and analysis on the show centered around why "corporate Democrat" Hillary Clinton would fall far short of liberal ideals and only serve the status quo establishment. The Sanders campaign's "political revolution" was right in line with TYT's progressive bent, and Uygur sometimes spoke at Sanders rallies on behalf of the candidate.[14] After Bernie lost the primary, TYT officially endorsed Clinton in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, saying the dangers of Trump were "too great to risk". This angered staunch Clinton supporters who felt TYT's previous anti-Clinton, pro-Sanders position had harmed their candidate.[15] The majority of TYT hosts resigned themselves to voting for Clinton as the lesser of two evils, with the exception of "Never-Hillary" holdout Jimmy Dore, who felt a Trump presidency would bring about a unification of Republicans and Democrats against Trump.[note 2][16]
  • TYT did some impressive boots-on-the-ground coverage of the Dakota Access Pipeline and Standing Rock protests via their correspondent Jordan Chariton, who literally encamped with Standing Rock Sioux and pipeline protesters and activists.[17]
  • Needless to say, the Trump administration is a frequent (pretty much daily) target of the show. TYT's swag website sells "Jurassic Prick" merchandise depicting Trump as a tiny-handed T-Rex character.[19]

Topics[edit]

TYT stories run the gamut, from Michael Moore-esque humor[20] to a hard-left version of Truthout,[21] but always with a liberal progressive slant. Topics that Uygur and company take on, in no particular order:

Their main 2-hour live stream block also includes some groan-worthy frivolities and silly news about rappers, weed, celebrity gossip, and sex. An especially unfortunate 2008 TYT segment centered around whether Chelsea Clinton's appearance was "hot or not".[23]

TYT's coverage of news occurring outside the US has tended to be haphazard, such as in 2014 when they mistakenly referred to British Youth BNP leader Jack Renshaw as a "conservative",[24] confusing the far right for the center-right. More recently, their Brexit news coverage has been better received,[25] although critics still see foreign affairs as TYT's weak point.

Drama[edit]

During a remote broadcast from the 2016 Republican National Convention, Alex Jones and Roger Stone famously crashed the TYT set waving a T-shirt emblazoned with a Shepard Fairey-style parody image of Bill Clinton and the slogan "Rape", igniting an aggressive shoving match, the video of which went semi-viral.[26] At the height of the shoving, yelling, slap-fest, Jimmy Dore can be observed spitting at Jones, and Ana Kasparian can be heard to shout "get off the stage you fat fuck!". Hordes of users online quickly criticized Kasparian, labeling her outburst as fat shaming and hypocritical,[27][28] and the story enjoyed a burst of popularity on conservative news sites.[29]

GMO[edit]

TYT has often drifted dangerously close to supporting conspiracy theories regarding the dangers of GMO foods and the culpability of Monsanto, prompting critics to say their position "is less based on the science and more based on their distrust of corporations".[30]

For example, in a 2017 response to Monsanto's statement that glyphosate is not likely to be carcinogenic to humans according to an EPA report, Kasparian hedged: "but also keep in mind that someone who was working within the EPA at the time that that statement was released had very cozy ties to Monsanto ... and also that they were working with scientists in order to manipulate the outcomes of certain scientific research."[31][32] Earlier, in 2012, Kasparian said: "I think that it's a little naïve to make the assumption that scientists won't get corrupted by money because scientists obviously have an incentive to support GMOs."[33]

Uygur has also expressed disagreement with the current scientific consensus on GMOs:

Beware of people telling you online how the true scientific position is to be pro-GMOs, pro-Monsanto and pro- these chemicals that they're putting in there that they claim coincidentally people got cancer from.[34]

It didn't help that one video's clickbait title, Monsanto Giving People Cancer?,[31][35] seemed to appeal directly to the anti-GMO crowd, and that they favorably interviewed the producer of an anti-GMO propaganda film GMO OMG.[36]

Cenk means battle[edit]

"Oh… I'm on RationalWiki? That's… great…"

More politely described as an "idealist who sticks to his guns", Uygur has a reputation as someone who likes to fight. In fact, his own father named him after the Turkish word for "battle". In 2016, he was kicked off an American Airlines flight after arguing with a supervisor about delays.[37] His rise as a "righteous ranter" and pioneer of new media was the subject of a 2015 documentary called "Mad as Hell", named for a quote by the iconic fictional TV hothead Howard Beale in the 1976 film Network.[38][39]

Uygur got his start in TV with a public access cable show in the mid-1990s called The Young Turk Show. He was a Republican at the time, so the show followed the typical right-wing Talk Radio formula of a combative host lambasting President Clinton and Democrats while butting heads with callers who don't agree with him. But somebody liked his style, and he got a job with a local Miami TV news magazine show. Once while conducting an interview with veteran TV news reporter Connie ChungWikipedia's W.svg, he introduced her as “the irrepressibly sexy Connie Chung”,[40] which at least one detractor has characterized as "sexual harassment". [41]

In the late 1990s, Uygur got disillusioned with the Republican party. He explained his earlier flirtation with the GOP saying, “you could be, back then, a reasonable Republican”. He adopted a progressive Democratic stance, and earned a stint on MSNBC in 2011, before being dropped and replaced by Al Sharpton.[42] Depending on who you ask, he was fired for either being too critical of Democrats or gesticulating too much while criticizing Democrats.

Armenian Genocide denial, retraction, and acceptance[edit]

People have pointed out that the name of the show "The Young Turks" is the same name used by a Turkish political movement from 1915 to 1918 that committed acts of genocide against the Armenian people. Typically, those of Turkish citizenship or family origin tend to downplay the genocide, or simply not want to talk about it. Uygur is of Turkish descent, and has come under heavy criticism for statements he made in 1991 and 1999 denying that the genocide happened.[43][44] In more recent years, he just avoided the question.[45][46]

Uygur had said TYT's show name was not intended to have any connection to the Turkish political movement, and in 2016, two days before the 101st anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, Uygur posted a retraction of "the statements I made in my Daily Pennsylvanian article from 1991," as well as "the statements I made in a letter to the editor I wrote in 1999 on the same issue," formally retracting his earlier denial. Regarding his silence on the topic throughout the years, Uygur has said that "I am going to refrain from commenting on the topic of the Armenian Genocide, which I do not know nearly enough about."[47]

When TYT reported on the persecution of Muslims in Myanmar and the Turkish President's referral to it as genocide, Cenk (not his Armenian co-host) was the first to accuse Erdogan of hypocrisy for himself refusing to recognize the Armenian Genocide. Uygur said, "They targeted an ethnic minority, and marched them off the country. What does that sound like?" If that wasn't clear enough, he continued, "The temerity of [Erdogan] to mention the word genocide when Turkey doesn't recognize the Armenian Genocide, where an ethnic minority was targeted and driven out of the country, that's an irony too ridiculous for [Erdogan] to bring out."[48]

The PAC to end all PACs[edit]

Uygur has his own political action committee: "Wolf PAC", which he flogs heavily on TYT.[49] Uygur founded it to get money out of politics as a response to the Citizens United ruling, with the ultimate goal being to amend the U.S. Constitution to limit the amount of money that any one person or organization can donate. Wolf PAC's “Convention of States” plan calls for a constitutional convention to draft an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to that end. So far, Vermont, California, Illinois, New Jersey, and Rhode Island are all on the board.

Unlike, say, the Club for Growth, Wolf PAC doesn't raise money and then give it to politicians in the form of campaign donations. Instead, they raise money to pay the salaries of lobbyists who work to convince state legislatures to pass resolutions calling for an amendment to end big money in politics. And sometimes they buy campaign materials for local Democratic candidates, for example, spending more than $50,000 on direct mail to promote Democratic candidate Greg Cava in a 2017 Connecticut state senate race.[50][51]

Naturally, conservative opponents have labeled Wolf PAC as "anti-free speech", [51] and right-wing Redditors and right-wing outlets like the Daily Caller have even pushed a rumor that Wolf PAC is a scam and a grift designed to line the pockets of Uygur and his pals. Citing public records on OpenSecrets.org that identify nearly two-thirds of the organization's expenditures going to salary and overhead, these mostly right-wing detractors erroneously claim the salaries are being paid to Uygur and his staff rather than Wolf PAC lobbyists.[52][7][53]

2014 feud with Sam Harris[edit]

Uygur collided with New Atheism figures Jerry Coyne and Sam Harris over the question of whether the causes of religious extremist terrorism could be traced to Muslim fundamentalism or blowback from Western Imperialist actions.[8] The following points emerged over the course of many debates between Harris and Uygur:

Issue Uygur Harris
Islam Uygur maintains that Harris contrives his critiques of Islam to demonize Muslims as a whole while giving a comparative pass to Christians and to Judaism. He further argues that Harris is pretty easy on Christians notwithstanding that there are many passages in the Bible advocating violence. Uygur argues that fundamentalists are not the ones who adhere most closely to their religion's fundamentals. Harris claims Uygur misrepresents his views on Muslims by conflating his critiques of Islam, the religion, with Muslims. Essentially, where the two disagree is Harris claims fundamentalist Muslims do far less cherry picking than the moderates. Islam has specific doctrines that allow for, if not outright encourage, Muslim terrorism, while Uygur counters by saying many instances of modern Muslim terrorism are blowback for American and Western imperialism; that political grievances are delivered in a religious package. Harris, however, counters that the Qur'an is a more uniformly militaristic book.
Israel Uygur brings up Harris' defense of Israel's government and its oppression of Palestinians; Harris argues that the elected leadership in Gaza, Hamas, makes peace less tenable. To which Uygur replies that Benjamin Netanyahu's heavy-handed, and trigger-happy conduct is unacceptable and that the Gaza bombardment in 2014 was intended to break up the Fatah-Hamas unity government. That Israel actually wants the Palestinians politically fractured as an excuse to avoid negotiating land for peace. However, the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank[54] and blockaded Gaza[55] live under what many consider to be Israeli-imposed apartheid. Uygur also notes that with the growing ethnocentric, unjust sentiment and practice[56] within Israeli society and the semantic gymnastics often resorted to by Israeli government spokespeople to justify, perpetuate, and intensify the occupation of Palestine. A true liberal democracy would include the Palestinians, not deprive them of basic rights. Harris' response is that Arab Muslims living in Israel enjoy considerably more rights than they would have anywhere else in the region, including full voting rights and guaranteed freedom of religion. Harris insists he does not condone the actions of Netanyahu's government, but he maintains that Israel "looks like a model" for pluralistic, peace-loving democracy when compared to Hamas.
Terrorism For obvious reasons, both Harris and Uygur oppose terrorists ever obtaining nuclear weapons. Essentially, where they disagree is that Uygur feels the "greater sin", so to speak, is gunboat diplomacy and Western imperialism. The Western destabilization of Muslim countries, such as Iraq, helps to radicalize the formerly secular population who wrap their deeply-political grievances in religious rhetoric. Moreover, while acknowledging that international terrorism is committed mostly by Muslims, Uygur notes that right-wing Christian terrorists and militia movements have been identified as more dangerous and prevalent in the United States than Muslim terrorists. Harris believes that fundamentalist religion is the "greater sin." Harris notes that most terrorism in the world is conducted by Muslims and that the rationales for their terrorist attacks are expressed in religious terms, such as belief in the glory of martyrdom and the necessity of armed jihad.

Kyle Kulinski, host of Secular Talk and TYT affiliate, has noted that the biggest divide between progressives like Uygur and New Atheists such as Harris is that the latter focus more on religious dogma, and the former focus more on foreign policy grievances.

Some Harris fans decry Uygur as an apologist for Islam. Some Uygur fans find this implausible, given that Uygur: 1. left Islam at a young age, 2. criticizes belief in religion 3. reports on the crimes of terrorist groups such as Boko Haram and Daesh and did so before any other mainstream news outlets, and 4. relentlessly criticizes both the scripture and its fundamentalist practitioners.[57]

Videos[edit]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. Some may assume that Kasparian, sometimes identified as a "professor" at Cal State-Northridge, has a doctoral degree, however, her accreditation comprises a Bachelor's in Journalism and a Masters in Political Science.
  2. How's that working out for you, Jimmy?

References[edit]

  1. Youtube: Cenk Uygur on the End of The Young Turks on Current
  2. The Young Turks: The Young Turks and the TYT Network
  3. Chavala Madlena (April 26, 2010). "Cenk Uygur on the success of The Young Turks". The Guardian.
  4. Shows TYTnetwork.com
  5. The Young Turks (TYT) Announces It's Back On SiriusXM Empty Lighthouse Magazine
  6. Sargon of Akkad Twitter
  7. 7.0 7.1 PAC Founded By Young Turks Host Cenk Uygur Spends Absurd Amount Of Budget On Operating Costs Daily Caller
  8. 8.0 8.1 The Young Turks lose it over the election Jerry Coyne
  9. The Young Turks Really, Really Don’t Want You to Compare Them to Breitbart. And yet… Mother Jones
  10. Cenk officially becomes the Rush Limbaugh of the Far Left DailyKOS
  11. Mediaite: Cenk Uygur: President Obama ‘Doesn’t Have The Guts’ To Fight For Contraceptive Mandate 8 February 2012
  12. The Young Turks at Occupy Wall Street Reports TheTruthDenied.com
  13. Cenk Announces Wolf-PAC.com at Occupy Wall Street YouTube
  14. Why The Young Turks, and their viewers, love Bernie Sanders Washington Post
  15. NOW the TYT and Cenk Ugyur endorses Hillary Clinton? Too Late! Daily KOS
  16. Voting For The Lesser Of Two Evils In 2016 TYT on YouTube
  17. The Core Issue in the Dakota Pipeline Fight is Sioux Rights, Not Oil New York Times
  18. Tomi Lahren's Back And Worse Than Before YouTube
  19. Jurassic Prick T shirt ShopTYT.com
  20. YouTube: TeaPartyReport
  21. YouTube: Acronym TV
  22. YouTube: Drug War Failure In Mexico
  23. Chelsea Clinton Hot? YouTube, 1.3.08.
  24. "Conservative Threatens Homosexual Dog" TYT's official channel
  25. tytonreddit
  26. Alex Jones crashes TYT set, a fight ensues YouTube
  27. I would shame Alex Jones any day, in anyway[sic]. You come to our stage and interrupt our show for publicity, you get called out. Ana Kasparian, Twitter
  28. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A0k3-X-_NTY
  29. Ana Kasparian fat shames, Jimmy Dore spits in Alex Jones' face during Cenk's meltdown Abcnewsgo.net
  30. The Young Turks get the science wrong on GM food Skepacabra: Science, Pseudoscience, and just plain nonsense
  31. 31.0 31.1 Monsanto Giving People Cancer? The Young Turks (YouTube). May 27, 2017.
  32. The Young Turks are Morons of the Highest Calibre Myles Power (YouTube). May 30, 2017.
  33. Genetically Modified Food Label Initiative Failing - Why? The Young Turks (YouTube). November 1, 2012.
  34. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Jeuv9i0fPQ&t=10m4s
  35. https://twitter.com/TheYoungTurks/status/868605606344744963
  36. Interview - Actress and GMO OMG Executive Producer Jill Latiano Howerton TYT Interviews (YouTube). November 11, 2013.
  37. Liberal Host Cenk Uygur Livestreams Himself Getting Kicked Off American Airlines Flight Mediaite
  38. The Young Turks' online news host attempting a 'hostile takeover' of Democratic Party ABCnews.com
  39. The Righteous Ranter, Howling at Left and Right. ‘Mad as Hell,’ a Documentary About the Pundit New York Times
  40. Old Turk: Web Pundit Cenk Uygur’s Journey Chronicled in Mad as Hell Village Voice
  41. Cenk Uygur is crazy Someinconvenientfacts.wordpress.com
  42. "Cenk Uygur: Al Sharpton Is Replacing Me Because He's Friendlier To Obama (VIDEO)", HuffPo, updated 9.23.11.
  43. The Daily Pennsylvanian: Historical Fact or Falsehood? 20 November 1991
  44. SalonPunk Rock Hall of Fame Awards 1999 9 June 1999
  45. YouTube: Cenk Uygur Fails To Address Past Comments Denying The Armenian Genocide At The Progressive Caucus Meeting Of The California Democratic Party
  46. Reddit.com I am Cenk Uygur… AMA
  47. The Young Turks Network Blog: [1]
  48. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YNzucJGfYGc
  49. Wolf PAC: About
  50. PAC Spending Big Money to Rid Political System of Big Money Hartford Courant
  51. 51.0 51.1 Anti-Free Speech Wolf PAC Spends Big in 32nd District Special Election Daily Ruction
  52. 2016 Wolf PAC expenditures, OpenSecrets.org.
  53. Subreddit r/EnoughSandersSpam
  54. https://books.google.com/books?id=e93JIwTBjHgC&pg=PA351&hl=en#v=onepage&q&f=false
  55. https://www.hrw.org/news/2004/10/28/israel-disengagement-will-not-end-gaza-occupation
  56. http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/193237/the-two-jewish-state-solution
  57. Even Other Terrorists Denounce Taliban School Attacks In Pakistan