Transcript: The Podcaster of Past Times | Jan 09, 2020

A male guest sits in The Agenda studio. He's in his late forties, clean-shaven, with short gray hair. He's wearing a cap and a gray shirt.

Steve Paikin says HE IS NEITHER A
HISTORIAN NOR A TEACHER, AND YET
DAN CARLIN HAS TAUGHT MILLIONS
OF PEOPLE ABOUT SOME OF
HISTORY'S GREATEST LESSONS.

Steve appears on screen. He's slim, clean-shaven, in his fifties, with short curly brown hair. He's wearing a blue suit, blue shirt, and dark blue tie.

A caption on screen reads "The podcaster of past times. @spaikin, @theagenda."

Steve continues HE'S DONE SO VIA HIS BLOCKBUSTER
PODCASTS "HARDCORE HISTORY" AND
"COMMON SENSE," WHICH HAVE VAST
AUDIENCES HOOKED ON THE STORIES
OF THE PAST THAT HE WEAVES OVER
HOURS AND HOURS.
HE'S JUST NOW WRITTEN HIS FIRST
BOOK.
IT'S CALLED "THE END IS ALWAYS
NEAR: APOCALYPTIC MOMENTS, FROM
THE BRONZE AGE COLLAPSE TO
NUCLEAR NEAR MISSES," AND IT
BRINGS DAN CARLIN TO OUR STUDIO
TONIGHT.

A picture of the book appears briefly on screen. The cover is white, with an image of a white stone cracking.

Steve continues IT'S SO GOOD TO MEET YOU.

Dan says THANK YOU FOR
HAVING ME.

Steve says THERE MAY BE A FEW
WHO HAVEN'T HEARD YOUR PODCASTS.
WE'RE GOING TO GIVE THEM A
LITTLE TASTE OFF THE TOP HERE.

Dan says GREAT.

Steve says IF YOU WOULD,
MR. DIRECTOR, LET'S ROLL IT.

A voice recording plays on screen, with the title "Voice of Dan Carlin."

Dan says There is no guarantee that the long peace lasts forever. And it's unimaginable to think about what a general war amongst great powers would even look like with the kind of technology we possess today.
Humankind is 70-plus years into an ongoing and unending experiment. Can we handle our weapons technology? And the only way this experiment ever concludes, is if we find out that we can't."

Steve says I WANT TO ASK JUST A
BUNCH OF QUESTIONS OFF THE TOP
ABOUT HOW YOU DO WHAT YOU DO,
STARTING WITH THE FACT THAT MOST
PODCASTS, I GATHER, ARE 20
MINUTES, 40 MINUTES, MAXIMUM AN
HOUR.
WHAT'S THE LONGEST PODCAST
YOU'VE DONE?

The caption changes to "Dan Carlin. Author, 'The end is always near.'"
Then, it changes again to "Regular history."

Dan says SIX HOURS.
WE HAVE MULTIPLE PARTS... WORLD
WAR I WAS SEVERAL PARTS, IT
LASTED 26 HOURS WHEN YOU PUT
THEM ALL TOGETHER.
THE FIRST WAS 20 MINUTES.
IT KIND OF GREW ORGANICALLY.

Steve says HOW DO YOU DO SIX STRAIGHT HOURS?

Dan says A FRIEND OF MINE CALLED IT
PERFORMS ART THAT'S EDITED.
SO YOU GO IN... CERTAIN PEOPLE
MAKE MOVIES THIS WAY TOO.
YOU GO IN AND YOU SORT OF
IMPROVE VICE AND THE
IMPROVISATIONS... THE STUFF
THAT'S GOOD IS KEPT, THE STUFF
THAT ISN'T IS OUT, AND YOU
STRING IT TOGETHER.
I USED TO DO TALK RADIO AND THE
PART I WAS BEST AT WAS THE FIRST
20-MINUTE MONOLOGUE OFF THE TOP.
THIS BECAME AN EXTENSION OF
THAT.
YOU THINK OF SEVERAL OF THOSE
PUT TOGETHER MAYBE.

Steve says WHY DO YOU GO SO
LONG?

The caption changes to "Dan Carlin. Host, Hardcore History Podcast."

Dan says WHAT ENDED UP HAPPENING WAS
PEOPLE WOULD WRITE IN AND WANT
TO KNOW MORE.
OR IT WOULD BE SOMETHING THAT
YOU WANTED TO MAKE SURE YOU
COVERED ALL THE ANGLES.
WE TRY TO LOOK AT THINGS FROM
MULTIPLE VIEWPOINTS.
IF YOU HAVE A STORY THAT'S AN
HOUR LONG, IT'S TWO HOURS.
IT GREW ORGANICALLY.
THE FIRST SHOW WAS 20 MINUTES.
THE FIRST TIME WE DID ONE THAT
WAS OVER AN HOUR, WE APOLOGIZED
TO THE AUDIENCE BECAUSE I FELT I
HAD TAKEN UP TOO MUCH OF THEIR
TIME.
THEY WROTE BACK AND SAID WE HAVE
PAUSE BUTTONS.
IT WAS BASICALLY THE FEEDBACK
THAT HELPED US UNDERSTAND THAT,
LISTEN, THIS IS A MEDIUM WHERE
THERE ARE NO RULES.
IT'S A WHITE SPACE.
WE CAN DO WHATEVER WE WANT.
BASED ON WHAT THEY WERE TELLING
US, WE WERE KIND OF GROWING IN
THE DIRECTION... EVOLVING.

Steve says THE THING THAT
SHOCKED ME THE MOST, AND I
COULDN'T WAIT UNTIL WE STARTED
ROLLING THE CAMERAS TO ASK THIS,
I ASKED YOU THE SECOND I MET
YOU, YOU DON'T GO IN WITH A
SCRIPT.

Dan says NO.

Steve says YOU ARE NOT READING
THESE PODCASTS.

Dan says NO.

Steve says ARE YOU RIF RIFFING?

Dan says I SAY I USED TO BE A GOOD
TALK SHOW HOST.
IF YOU WAKE UP ONE OF THOSE
MORNINGS AND IT'S A BAD DAY, YOU
TAKE A MULLIGAN AND THAT DOESN'T
GET INTO THE FINAL VERSION.

Steve says HOW DID YOU GET INTO
THIS IN THE FIRST PLACE?

Dan says I WAS A TELEVISION NEWS
REPORTER.

Steve says WHAT CITY?

The caption changes to "Dan Carlin, @HardcoreHistory."

Dan says EUGENE, OREGON.
WESTERN OREGON.
AND THEN WHAT ENDED UP HAPPENING
IS I STARTED A TECH COMPANY WITH
SOME FRIENDS AND WE WERE GOING
TO PUSH SOMETHING CALLED AMATEUR
CONTENT IN THE 1990s WHICH
MADE NO SENSE TO ANYONE.
SO YOU NEEDED TO HAVE A DEMO.
WHAT DOES AMATEUR CONTENT EVEN
LOOK LIKE BEFORE YouTube OR
ANYTHING?
THE PODCAST WAS GOING TO BE AN
EXAMPLE TO PEOPLE OF WHAT YOU
DO.
WHAT DOES THIS EVEN LOOK LIKE?
THERE WERE NO PODCASTS AT THE
TIME.
WHEN WE WERE ABOUT TO DEBUT,
ITUNES DEBUTED WITH PODCASTING.
IT WAS A WONDERFUL LESSON FOR ME
AS A HISTORY FAN IS HOW TIMING
IS SO IMPORTANT AND HOW WE MOVE
AHEAD IN OUR LIVES.
MY DAD SAID IF YOU LOOK BACK ON
YOUR LIFE AND TRIED TO CONNECT
THE DOTS, YOU NEVER COULD, THERE
ARE LEFT TURNS AND STRANGE
THINGS THAT HAPPEN.
THERE'S A PERFECT EXAMPLE OF HOW
I ENDED WITH A PODCAST.

The caption changes to "Connect with us: Twitter: @theagenda; Facebook, agendaconnect@tvo.org, Instagram."

Steve says YOU USED TWO WORDS I
WANT TO FOLLOW UP ON AND THEY
ARE HISTORY FAN.
DO YOU HAVE YOUR Ph.D. IN HISTORY?

Dan says NO, BA IN HISTORY.

Steve says YOU DON'T HAVE A MASTERS.
YOU HAVE A BA.
WAS THE PLAN TO BECOME A
FULL-FLEDGED HISTORIAN?

Dan says NO.
THE FUNNY THING ABOUT HISTORY
MAJORS, THEY HAD A HANDOUT, WHAT
TO TELL YOUR PARENTS ABOUT
CHOOSING HISTORY AS A MAJOR.
TEACHING WAS USUALLY THE ONLY
THING.
THEN I GOT INTO NEWS.
IT WAS FUNNY THAT SO MANY OF THE
REPORTERS I REALLY LIKED, THE
ONES YOU WOULD SEND ON THE
DIFFICULT COMPLICATED STORIES,
THEY WERE HISTORY MAJORS.
I STARTED TO REALIZE, OKAY, IT'S
ABOUT CONTEXT.
THAT HELPED ME AS A REPORTER.
IT HELPED ME AS A TALK SHOW
HOST.
WHEN WE STARTED TELLING STORIES,
THESE WERE JUST STORIES THAT
FASCINATED ME.
WHAT I LIKED MOST ABOUT THEM ARE
THE QUESTIONS THAT NATURALLY
ARISE.
IT'S SO FUNNY TO HAVE DONE
SOMETHING WITH A HISTORY MAJOR
THAT SEEMS TO BE INTERESTING AND
RELEVANT AND THE WHOLE THING.
I'M A HUGE FAN, BY THE WAY, OF
PEOPLE WHO TAKE HISTORY AS A
MAJOR.
IT HELPS IN A LOT OF WAYS YOU
MIGHT NOT THINK.

Steve says THE NEW PRESIDENT OF
BASEBALL OPERATIONS FOR THE
BOSTON RED SOX IS A 30-SOMETHING
CLASSICS MAJOR.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Dan says I LOVE IT, ACTUALLY.

Steve says HOW DO YOU PICK YOUR
TOPICS FOR YOUR PODCAST?
YOU REALLY DO COVER A WIDE GAMUT
AND I WANT TO KNOW HOW YOU ZERO
IN ON WHAT YOU WANT TO DO.

Dan says IT'S RELATED TO THE LAST
QUESTION, BECAUSE I DIDN'T
MASTER IN HISTORY.
BECAUSE YOU HAVE TO SPECIALIZE.
I LOVE THESE DIFFERENT AREAS.
I WOULD HAVE A HARD TIME PICKING
ONE AND HAVING TO STAY WITH IT.
I ALWAYS SAY THERE'S NO WAY
BETWEEN SHOWS TO EDUCATE MYSELF
FROM GROUND ZERO TO A PLACE I
CAN RIFF ABOUT IT INTELLIGENTLY.
ALL OF THESE ARE TOPICS THAT
ONCE UPON A TIME I WAS
INTERESTED IN.
YOU LEARN A LOT, FORGET A BUNCH,
BUT YOU HAVE A FOUNDATION.
I CAN BUY A BUNCH OF BOOKS AND
FIND OUT WHAT'S CHANGED OR
WHAT'S DIFFERENT AND BUILD ON
TOP OF THAT.
ALL OF THE THINGS THAT WE'VE
TALKED ABOUT ARE THINGS THAT
ONCE UPON A TIME I WAS REALLY
INTERESTED IN OR STILL AM.

Steve says WHAT KIND OF
FEEDBACK DO YOU GET FROM
ACADEMIC HISTORIANS?

Dan says GENERALLY IT'S BEEN GOOD.
WE SELL A LOT OF BOOKS FOR THEM.
I GOT A NOTE FROM THE WIFE OF
ONE OF THE HISTORIANS WE QUOTED
IN THE SHOW... NOT TO TOOT MY
OWN HORN.
SHE SAYS YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW
HARD IT IS TO GET PEOPLE
INTERESTED IN SOME OF THIS
STUFF.
WHEN I REFER TO THEIR BOOK, WE
GET A NOTICEABLE BUMP.
I'M NOT THE GUY YOU SHOULD
NECESSARILY USE FOR YOUR TEST
INFORMATION ON YOUR HISTORY
TEST.
I'M A GUY THAT CAN GET YOU
INTERESTED IN A BUNCH OF BOOKS
THAT WE SELL OFF THE WEBSITE, WE
HAVE A LINK TO ALL THE BOOKS WE
USE.
THEN YOU GO BUY BOOKS BY REAL
HISTORIANS AND FIGURE OUT WHERE
I GOT IT WRONG MAYBE.

Steve says THE ASSUMPTION IS
SOME ACADEMICS WOULD LOOK DOWN
THEIR NOSES AT YOU SAYING YOU'RE
NOT DOING SCHOLARLY WORK.
YOU MAY BE ATTRACTING A LARGE
AUDIENCE BUT YOUR WORK CAN'T
STAND UP TO THE ACADEMIC RIGOURS
OF OUR WORK.

The caption changes to "End times."

Dan says I DON'T HEAR IT BUT IT'S
ABSOLUTELY TRUE.
EVERY SHOW WE SAY AT ONE POINT,
I'M NOT AN HISTORIAN.
LISTEN, MANY OF THE PEOPLE I
GREW UP READING WERE NOT
HISTORIANS.
BARBARA... DON'T QUOTE ME ON
THAT.
A BA IN HISTORY.
IT'S ONE OF THOSE THINGS THAT
SOMETIMES THESE PEOPLE WHO ARE
FANTASTIC HISTORIANS DON'T HAVE
THE OTHER SKILL-SETS YOU NEED TO
INTEREST PEOPLE IN THE TOPIC.
I COME FROM ENTERTAINMENT, A
JOURNALISTIC BACKGROUND, WHERE
WE ASK QUESTIONS, AND I FEEL
LIKE I CAN'T GIVE YOU ANSWERS,
I'M NOT QUALIFIED, BUT I'M
QUALIFIED TO READ HISTORY AND
ASK QUESTIONS ABOUT IT AND AND
THAT'S KIND OF WHAT WE DO.

Steve says LET'S GET INTO THE
STUFF YOU DO RAISE IN THE BOOK.
YOU ARE FOCUSING ON APOCALYPTIC
EVENTS.
YOU DO ASK MANY QUESTIONS.
LET'S START WITH THIS: DO TOUGH
TIMES MAKE FOR TOUGHER PEOPLE.
WHAT HAVE YOU CONCLUDED BY THAT.

Dan says I HAVEN'T CONCLUDED ANYTHING.
ONCE UPON A TIME, 100 YEARS AGO,
AN HISTORIAN WOULD HAVE FELT
PERFECTLY COMFORTABLE ANSWERING
THAT QUESTION.
TODAY WE DO BETTER HISTORY, WE
AS A SOCIETY, THAN WE EVER DID
BEFORE.
IT'S RIGOROUS, IT'S PEER
REVIEWED, THERE'S CARBON DATING,
ALL THOSE THINGS.
WHAT GOES AWAY WHEN YOU START
BECOMING A SCIENTIFIC HISTORIAN,
ARE THE UNQUANTIFIABLE
QUESTIONS.
DO TOUGH TIMES MAKE TOUGH PEOPLE
IS A CONVERSATION WE CAN HAVE.
TRY WRITING A PEER REVIEWED
PAPER WITH DATA YOU CAN QUANTIFY
THAT.
WHAT I ALWAYS SAY TO PEOPLE IS:
IS IT IMPORTANT?
CAN YOU EVEN DEFINE IT?
AND THAT'S WHEN IT BECOMES AN
INTERESTING TOPIC TO TALK ABOUT,
TO EVEN SAY, WHAT IS TOUGHNESS?
DO WE HAVE A WAY TO MEASURE IT.
IF WE SAID THE ANCIENT SPARTANS
ARE TOUGH.
WOULD THEY BE TOUGH TO US?
ARE THEY TOUGH TO OTHER GREEKS?
IT BECOMES THIS WONDERFUL
QUESTION ABOUT, DOES IT EVEN
MATTER IN SOCIETY?
THOSE ARE A LOT OF THE
QUESTIONS, THINGS THAT
HISTORIANS WOULDN'T TOUCH
BECAUSE HOW WOULD YOU PROVE IT?
NONE OF THIS IS PROOF.
IT'S QUESTIONS THAT MIGHT SET
YOU OUT ON A PATH TO LOOK INTO.

Steve says IT'S GREAT FOR
DEBATE.
YOU HEARD ABOUT TOM BROKAW'S
GREATEST GENERATION.
THEY REPRESENT TOUGH FOR PEOPLE
OF OUR GENERATION AND AWARENESS.
WOULD THEY HAVE BEEN TOUGHER
THAN THE ROMANS OR THE SPARTANS?

Dan says THEIR PARENTS PROBABLY
THOUGHT THEY WERE SOFT.
ISN'T THAT THE NORMAL THING.
EVERY GENERATION IS SOFTER THAN
THE NEXT.
FIRST WORLD WAR GENERATION
PROBABLY THOUGHT THEIR KIDS WERE
SOFT.

Steve says THE INDUSTRIOUS
ANDREW MELLON, HE THOUGHT THE
DEPRESSION WOULD MAKE AMERICANS
TOUGHER AND MORE INDUSTRIOUS, IT
WOULD SEPARATE THE WHEAT FROM
THE CHAFF.
WAS HE RIGHT?

Dan says IF YOU LOOK AT STALINGRAD.
WHAT THEY DON'T KNOW IS THERE
WERE CHILDREN WHO WERE ORPHANS
RUNNING AROUND THOSE RUINS.
IT WAS LIKE A "LORD OF THE
FLIES" THING.
I THOUGHT ARE THESE CHILDREN
GOING TO BE TOUGHER THAN THE
KIDS WHO GROW UP TODAY IN
BEVERLY HILLS OR SOMETHING?
WHEN YOU SAY YES.
DO THEY NEED TO BE?
MAYBE YOU NEED A DIFFERENT
SKILL-SET TO GROW UP IN BEVERLY
HILLS TODAY THAN IN STALINGRAD
DURING THE WAR.
I WOULD SUGGEST IT MAKES THEM
TOUGHER.
IT DEPENDS ON HOW YOU DEFINE
TOUGHNESS.
THAT BECAME... A LOT OF THE WAYS
WE DEFINE TOUGHNESS ARE THINGS
LIKE WAR-LIKE.
WELL, IS WAR-LIKE AND TOUGHNESS
THE SAME THING?
WE KIND OF GO INTO SOME OF THOSE
QUESTIONS TOO.

The caption changes to "tvo.org/theagenda; agendaconnect@tvo.org."

Steve says I APPRECIATE THE
FACT THAT YOU DON'T WANT TO COME
TO HARD-AND-FAST CONCLUSIONS
BECAUSE YOU WANT THE PEOPLE WHO
LISTEN OR READ TO COME TO THEIR
OWN CONCLUSIONS.
DID YOU AT LEAST COME TO THE
CONCLUSION THAT ANDREW MELLON
WAS A BIT OF A JERK FOR SAYING
WHAT HE SAID AT THE TIME?

Dan says IT'S EASY TO SAY THAT WHEN
HE'S IN THAT POSITION.
IT'S FLIP TO SAY THAT... IT'S A
VERY CAPITALISTIC WAY TO LOOK AT
IT AND JUST SUGGESTING THAT
THINGS SORT OF, WHEN YOU HAVE
COMPETITION OR WHEN THINGS GET
TOUGHER, THE CREAM RISES TO THE
TOP OR WHATEVER.
IT'S A PRETTY HARD CORE ATTITUDE
TO HAVE TO THE PEOPLE WHO DON'T
RISE TO THE TOP IN THAT
SITUATION.

Steve says NO KIDDING.
YOU LOOK AT THE COLLAPSE OF THE
BRONZE AIR AND THE ROMAN EMPIRE.
DO YOU WANT TO GIVE US A LITTLE
HISTORY 101 ON COMPARING AND
CONTRASTING HOW THOSE TWO
EMPIRES FELL?

Dan says THE BRONZE AGE IS A SYSTEM,
RIGHT?
YOU HAVE... IT'S JUST GENERALLY
CALLED THE MEDITERRANEAN BRONZE
AGE.
YOU HAVE THIS ERA WHERE YOU HAVE
A SURPRISINGLY COMPLEX SYSTEM
AND A SURPRISINGLY
INTERCONNECTED SYSTEM.
AND WHAT'S SO INTERESTING ABOUT
IT IS THAT NO ONE KNOWS WHY THE
BRONZE AGE COLLAPSED, BUT THERE
ARE LOTS OF THEORIES AND SO MANY
OF THE THEORIES ARE THINGS THAT
LOOK A LITTLE BIT FAMILIAR TO
US.
I MEAN, ONE OF THEM IS AN
ENVIRONMENTAL SORT OF COLLAPSE.
ANOTHER IS A COMPLEXITY SORT OF
COLLAPSE.
IF YOU LOOK TO OUR SOCIETY NOW
AND SAID, GEE, IT LOOKS SO
STABLE BUT IT'S VERY COMPLEX AND
YOU LOOK AT HOW... I WAS TRYING
TO EXPLAIN TO MY DAUGHTER THE
OTHER DAY HOW MUCH THE WORLD HAS
CHANGED IN HER SHORT LIFETIME
WITH THE TEXTING AND SOCIAL
MEDIA AND EVERYTHING.
IF YOU FOUND OUT THAT SOMEHOW
THAT IS THE GERM THAT SOMEHOW
MESSED US UP DOWN THE ROAD, IT
WOULD ACTUALLY BE A SORT OF
MODERN EQUIVALENT OF MAYBE A
SYSTEMS COLLAPSE.
AND THE BRONZE AGE WAS MAYBE A
SYSTEMS COLLAPSE OR ANY NUMBER
OF OTHER THINGS.
THE ROMAN EMPIRE... I READ MORE
THAN A HUNDRED DIFFERENT
THEORIES ON WHY THAT FELL.
WHEN WE TALK ABOUT RIGHT ANSWERS
OR WHATEVER, THE VERY
KNOWLEDGEABLE AND AUGUST PEOPLE
DON'T HAVE THE RIGHT ANSWERS ON
SOME OF THIS STUFF, BUT THE
QUESTIONS THEMSELVES ARE BOTH
PERENNIAL AND FASCINATING.
YOU TALKED ABOUT SOMEONE WHO WAS
INTO CLASSICS BEFORE, THE OWNER
OF A BALL TEAM.
CLASSICS IS ONE OF THOSE THINGS
WHERE YOU READ IT, THE ONLY
REASON IT'S STILL VALUABLE IS
YOU GO, WOW, THIS IS THOUSANDS
OF YEARS AGO, AND YET THIS IS
MAYBE APPLICABLE, THIS STUFF
MAKES SENSE TO ME NOW AND SEEMS
TO BE RELEVANT TO OUR OWN TIMES.

Steve says THE SPEED OF THE
COLLAPSE OF BOTH OF THOSE
EMPIRES MIGHT BE DIFFERENT; FAIR
TO SAY?

Dan says ABSOLUTELY.
WELL, THE BRONZE AGE IS ONE OF
THOSE THINGS YOU MIGHT HAVE
NOTICED AT THE TIME, YOU MIGHT
HAVE BEEN ABLE TO SAY TO YOUR
CHILD, WHEN I WAS A KID, THINGS
WERE MUCH BETTER, WE HAD A LOT
MORE MONEY AND THINGS WERE GOING
GOOD.
WHEREAS THE ROMAN SYSTEM... IF
WE WERE IN A COLLAPSE NOW, THAT
MIGHT BE MORE LIKE THE ROMAN
SYSTEM WHERE WE COULD HAVE TALKS
ABOUT WHETHER OR NOT WE WERE IN
A COLLAPSE, BUT THE ROMANS WOULD
HAVE THINGS LIKE ROME WOULD BE
SACKED AND THEY'D COME BACK FOR
A WHILE AND IT WOULD BE SACKED
AGAIN, THEY'D CHANGE THE
LOCATION OF THE CAPITAL.
I'M NOT SURE YOU COULD PERCEIVE
IT IN THE ROMAN EMPIRE LIKE NOW.
THEY KEPT DOING EVERYTHING LIKE
EVERYTHING WAS GOING OKAY, EVEN
WHEN THE SO-CALLED BARBARIANS
TOOK OVER, THEY TRIED TO DO THE
SAME THINGS THE ROMANS DID, THE
SAME TIMES, THE SAME CIVIL
SERVANTS.
IT WAS LIKE TRYING TO RECOVER
FROM THE COLLAPSE WE MIGHT DO
TODAY.
KEEP THE SYSTEMS ON LIFE SUPPORT
AND KEEP WORKING THEM.

Steve says HERE'S AN EXCERPT
FROM THE BOOK...

A quote appears on screen, under the title "In its wake." The quote reads "The everyday illness and epidemics that people in the past faced, and the pandemics they occasionally dealt with, are beyond the scope of our understanding. Imagine all the ripple effects if our modern world were hit with a pandemic that killed just 10 percent of the human population. That's not close to the worst sorts of numbers of some earlier plagues, but given how many people there are in the world today, that would mean seven hundred million deaths in a short span of time. One out of every ten people. About ten times the deaths of the Second World War. What's the aftermath of that like?"
Quoted from Dan Carlin, "The end is always near." 2019.

Steve says GREAT QUESTION.
HOW DO YOU ANSWER?

Dan says YOU KNOW, ONE OF THE THINGS
IN THIS BOOK I KEPT TRYING TO
LOOK AT, AND I THINK BOTH
POSSIBILITIES ARE FASCINATING.
EITHER THINGS WILL GO THE WAY
THEY ALWAYS HAVE OR THEY WON'T.
TAKE PANDEMICS IN THAT SORT OF
QUESTION.
EITHER WE'RE GOING TO HAVE
ANOTHER HUGE PLAGUE LIKE WE
ALWAYS HAVE... IT'S INTERESTING
FOR ME TO NOTE, IF YOU HAD
ONE... OUR WORST NIGHTMARE IS TO
HAVE ONE EPIDEMIC OF THE SORT
THAT WERE CONSTANT AND RECURRING
ALL THE TIME IN HISTORY.
THE A.I.D.S. EPIDEMIC HAS KILLED
ABOUT 34 MILLION PEOPLE SINCE
THE LATE 1970s.
IT'S BEEN TRAGIC AND DISRUPTIVE
AND ALL THAT.
BUT SMALLPOX, ONE THING WAS
KILLING 50 MILLION PEOPLE A YEAR
NOT THAT LONG AGO AND KILLING
THEM IN A WEEK OR TWO.
SO YOU THINK ABOUT HOW
DISRUPTIVE THE A.I.D.S. EPIDEMIC
HAS BEEN AND THEN SOMETHING THAT
HAS KILLED MORE AND IT KILLED
THEM ALL IN A WEEK.
THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT THE LONG
INCUBATION PERIOD OF A MODERN
ILLNESS LIKE THAT THAT ALLOWS A
LITTLE BIT MORE ADJUSTING.
IF SOMETHING LIKE THE BLACK
PLAGUE HAPPENED TODAY, IT WOULD
HAPPEN SO QUICKLY THAT OUR
ABILITIES TO ADJUST AND DEAL
WITH IT WOULD BE, LET'S JUST SAY
SEVERELY CHALLENGED.

Steve says SPANISH FLU 100
YEARS AGO.

Dan says EXACTLY.
THE SPANISH FLU MAYBE KILLED
MORE ACTUAL INDIVIDUALS THAN
SOMETHING LIKE THE BLACK PLAGUE.
BUT BECAUSE WE HAD SO MANY MORE
PEOPLE.
THE SPANISH FLU IS AN
INTERESTING ONE.
WHOLE CITIES IN THE UNITED
STATES WERE SHUT DOWN, AND
THAT'S WHERE SOMETHING LIKE THIS
BECOMES VALUABLE.
BECAUSE HISTORY DOESN'T HAVE THE
KIND OF LESSONS SOME PEOPLE
OFTEN ASSUME IT DOES.
BECAUSE THERE ARE TOO MANY
VARIABLES.
WHEN YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT THE
MASS HUMAN POPULATION AS A
WHOLE, THERE ARE CERTAIN THINGS
THAT I THINK HISTORY DOES TEACH,
LIKE HOW WE PANIC, HOW WE TURN
ON MINORITIES OR PEOPLE WE THINK
MIGHT... THAT SEEMS PRETTY
CONSISTENT THROUGHOUT HISTORY.
SO FOR ME LOOKING BACK AT
SOMETHING LIKE HOW THE BLACK
PLAGUE AFFECTED PEOPLE'S
ATTITUDES AND WHAT THEY DID,
THAT I THINK IS APPLICABLE NOW
IF WE HAD IT AGAIN.

Steve says LET'S DO ANOTHER
EXCERPT.
HERE'S FROM THE BOOK.

Another quote from Dan's book appears screen, under the title "No appetite for war?" The quote reads "Large-scale warfare between the most powerful states has been a regular feature of human history right up until about seventy-five years ago -right about the time that humanity's weaponry made a quantum leap forward in power. This is not to say there haven't been bloody conflicts -human violence is, alas, ongoing and constant- but we've managed to avoid major conflicts between the superpowers. Have we seen the last of the big wars?"

Steve says CAN YOU IMAGINE A
SET OF CIRCUMSTANCES WHERE WE,
AS A SPECIES, AS GEOPOLITICAL
FIGURES, GIVE UP WAR?

Dan says THAT'S A PERFECT EXAMPLE,
THAT QUESTION EITHER THINGS WILL
BE AS THEY ALWAYS HAVE, OR THEY
WON'T.
I TEND TO BELIEVE IT WOULD BE
HARDER FOR ME TO BELIEVE THAT WE
NEVER HAD ANOTHER WAR BETWEEN
THE GREAT POWERS.
BUT WHEN A NUCLEAR SCIENTIST WHO
DEVELOPED THE BOMB SAID THAT THE
ONLY WAY WE'RE GOING TO SURVIVE
THIS IS TO GROW INTO A DIFFERENT
LEVEL OF GREATNESS, RIGHT?
HUMANKIND HAS TO GROW INTO A
HIGHER LEVEL OF GREATNESS.
IS THAT SOMETHING THAT IS
COLLECTIVELY OR NOT?
I THINK WE'RE IN THE MIDDLE OF
THAT EXPERIMENT.
IT'S AN ONGOING EXPERIMENT OF
WHETHER HUMAN BEINGS CAN
CONTINUALLY EVOLVE THE POWER OF
THEIR WEAPONS SYSTEMS.
WE USED TO THINK THEY WERE AS
BIG AS IT GETS.
MAYBE THE MOST DANGEROUS WEAPON
OUT THERE AND IT DOVETAILS INTO
THE PANDEMIC ONE COULD BE SOME
OF THE BIOLOGICAL STUFF.
AND WE'VE NEVER REALLY USED THAT
ON A WIDE SCALE.
DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR, THE
JAPANESE DROPPED INEFFECTIVE
FLEAS THAT HAD BEEN INFECTED
WITH THE PLAGUE OVER CHINESE
CITIES TO SEE WHAT WOULD HAPPEN.
IMAGINE THAT FOR REAL WITH GREAT
POWERS TRYING TO DO THAT.
EVEN IN THE TERRIBLE NUCLEAR
WAR, THERE'S A LIMIT TO HOW MUCH
DAMAGE IT DOES.
THINGS LIKE BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS
OR GERM-TYPE WEAPONS, THEY CAN
SPREAD BACK TO THE PEOPLE WHO
USED THEM IN THE FIRST PLACE.

Steve says I KNOW YOU DO SAY IN
THE BOOK THE METAPHOR WE USE,
THE GUY WITH THE FINGER ON THE
BUTTON, MEANING THE AMERICAN
PRESIDENT WHO CAN LAUNCH WAR.
HAVING SAID THAT, I AM CURIOUS
AS TO WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT THE
FACT THAT DONALD TRUMP IS THE
GUY WITH HIS FINGER ON THE BUTTON?

Dan says I THINK IT'S A BIT OF AN
EXPOSURE MOMENT.
AS AN AMERICAN, I'VE ALWAYS
FOUND IT WEIRD... ONE OF THE
THINGS WE ALWAYS LAUD ABOUT THE
U.S. CONSTITUTION IS THE
SEPARATION OF POWERS AND WE HAVE
SAFEGUARDS.
ONE IS THAT ONE BRANCH OF
GOVERNMENT DECIDES TO GO TO WAR,
THE OTHER BRANCH FIGHTS THE WAR.
BUT NUCLEAR WEAPONS SO CHANGED
THE EQUATION AND IT HAPPENED
REALLY WITHOUT A LOT OF PUBLIC
DEBATE THAT THOSE FUNCTIONS
FUSED INTO THE EXECUTIVE.
SO THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT REALLY
IS THE MOST POWERFUL PERSON IN
THE WORLD BECAUSE HE GETS TO
DECIDE WHEN TO GO TO WAR AND HE
HAS EXTREME WAR-FIGHTING ABILITY
ONCE WE GO INTO IT.
RICHARD NIXON SAID ONCE AND HE
WAS BOASTING BUT HE WAS NEAR THE
END OF HIS TERM SO THINGS WERE
GETTING WIGGY, HE COULD GO BACK
INTO HIS OFFICE, MAKE A PHONE
CALL, AND 100 MILLION IN CHINA
WOULD BE DEAD BY THE AFTERNOON.
THE FACT THAT SOMEONE EVEN
UNDERSTANDS THEY HAVE THAT POWER
AND MIGHT EVEN BRAG ABOUT IT
SHOWS YOU HOW DANGEROUS IT IS TO
HAVE THE POWER IN ONE PERSON'S HANDS.

Steve says YOU START THE BOOK
BY ASKING A SIMPLE QUESTION: DO
YOU FEEL THAT MODERN
CIVILIZATION WILL EVER FALL AND
OUR CITIES WILL EVER LIE IN
RUINS?
I APPRECIATE THE FACT THAT
THROUGHOUT OUR CONVERSATION, YOU
ARE TRYING NOT TO BE PINNED DOWN
BY THESE QUESTIONS.
YOU LIKE TO ENJOY THE DEBATE.
BUT I DO WANT TO KNOW YOUR
ANSWER TO THAT.
DO YOU THINK SO?

The caption changes to "Doomed to repeat it?"

Dan says YES, I DO.
WELL, ONLY BECAUSE... IT'S AN
ODDS GAME, RIGHT?
I THINK IT IS.
I WAS TALKING TO SOMEBODY JUST
THE OTHER NIGHT THAT WAS TALKING
ABOUT SPACE TRAVEL AND GETTING
US ON TO OTHER PLANETS AND ALL
THOSE SORTS OF THINGS.
IF YOU DON'T DO THAT, WE'RE
TRYING TO TALK ABOUT TRYING TO
WRESTLE WITH THE ENVIRONMENTAL
SITUATION OR THE WAR SITUATION
OR ANYTHING ELSE.
IF YOU MADE ME BET, I WOULD BET
WE'RE NOT GOING TO PULL THIS
OFF.
I THINK THERE ARE TOO MANY
CHANCES IN THE FUTURE FOR THINGS
TO HAPPEN.
I'M HOPEFUL.
I THINK SOMETHING LIKE PAYING
ATTENTION TO THESE THINGS.
EVEN BRINGING UP THE NUCLEAR
ISSUE WITH THE PRESIDENT THAT
YOU JUST TALKED ABOUT IS A GOOD
WAY TO HAVE A DEBATE AND A
DISCUSSION ABOUT REFORM.
IF YOU DON'T HAVE THAT
CONVERSATION, YOU CAN'T HAVE THE
REFORM.
I CAN JUST SPEAK FROM
EXPERIENCE.
IN THE UNITED STATES, WE DON'T
EVEN TALK ABOUT THIS.
NOWADAYS PEOPLE ARE SCARED
ENOUGH TO SAY, MAYBE WE SHOULD
THINK ABOUT THAT WHOLE NUCLEAR
WEAPONS.
SO I'M HOPEFUL, BUT I'M A BIT OF
A PESSIMIST BY NATURE, I THINK.

Steve says EVERY EMPIRE IN
HUMAN HISTORY HAS EVENTUALLY
COME TO AN END.
DO YOU SEE THE AMERICAN EMPIRE
COMING TO AN END AT SOME POINT?

Dan says YOU KNOW, I THINK... THIS IS
HARD BECAUSE WE'RE RIGHT IN THE
MIDDLE OF IT, RIGHT?
YOU COULD MAKE A CASE THAT WE'RE
INVOLVED IN THAT NOW AND THAT...
YOU KNOW, I ALWAYS TRY TO TAKE
STEPS BACK AND IMAGINE HOW THEY
WOULD WRITE ABOUT OUR TIMES 500
YEARS FROM NOW, WHEN EVERYTHING
COMPRESSES LIKE AN ACCORD I
DON'T KNOW...
ACCORDION.
IF YOU LOOK AT IT THAT WAY, THE
AMERICAN POST SECOND WORLD
WAR... EMPIRE IS A WORD WE DON'T
USE VERY OFTEN, BUT IT'S
ACCURATE... THAT MAY BE A LITTLE
BLIP ON THE HISTORICAL... WE MAY
STILL BE IN THE COMING-DOWN
STAGES OF EVERYTHING.
THERE'S NO WAY TO KNOW UNTIL YOU
SEE IT.
BUT, I MEAN, AS AN AMERICAN, I
WOULD ARGUE THAT NOT ONLY MIGHT
IT BE HAPPENING BUT FOR OUR
LONG-TERM HEALTH, MAYBE IT
SHOULD.
I DON'T THINK IT'S SUSTAINABLE.

Steve says IT SHOULD HAPPEN
BECAUSE WHY?

Dan says WELL, BECAUSE THE UNITED
STATES IS NOT AN IMPERIAL
COUNTRY IN ITS DESIGN.
SO BY BEING AN IMPERIAL COUNTRY
IN EFFECT CHANGES THE... WE JUST
TALKED ABOUT THE NUCLEAR WAR
THING.
THAT'S NOT A TRADITIONAL
AMERICAN WAY TO DO THINGS BUT
THE WORLD EVOLVED THAT WAY.

Steve says IT'S THE ONLY EMPIRE
I THINK IN HUMAN HISTORY, AS
SOON AS IT GOES INTO ANOTHER
COUNTRY IS ALREADY TALKING ABOUT
AN EXIT STRATEGY.
THAT IS A DIFFERENT KIND OF
EMPIRE.

Dan says IT IS.
AND CERTAINLY A SOFT TOUCH.
WE DON'T GO IN THERE AND PUT
JACKBOOT AND PUT PEOPLE ON THE
GROUND... THERE HAVE BEEN OTHER
EMPIRES LIKE THIS, COMMERCIAL
EMPIRES, THIS IS THE WAY THEY
USED TO BE PHRASED, DIPLOMATIC
OR COMMERCIAL EMPIRES.
THE ROMANS HAD A LOT OF THIS.
PEOPLE WOULD ALLY WITH THEM
BECAUSE IT WAS IN THEIR BEST
INTERESTS AND ALL OF A SUDDEN
THEY'RE PART OF THE EMPIRE TOO.

Steve says YEAH.
ARE WE DOOMED... THERE'S THIS
GREAT QUOTE BY GEORGE SANTIANO,
DOOMED TO REPEATS THE LESSONS OF
HISTORY UNLESS WE LEARN THEM.
DO YOU THINK WE'RE DOOMED TO
REPEAT THE BEHAVIOURS THAT ARE
NOT IN OUR INTEREST OVER THE
COURSE OF TIME?

Dan says I THINK IT WAS MARK TWAIN
THAT HAD THAT LINE.
HISTORY DOESN'T REPEAT BUT IT
SOMETIMES RHYMES.
THAT'S WHY THE LESSONS ARE SO
TOUGH.
WE LEARNED FROM 1938 IN MUNICH
THAT YOU CAN'T APPEASE
DICTATORS.
A REAL HISTORIAN, WHICH I AM
NOT, WOULD SAY, NO, NO, YOU
CAN'T APPEASE THAT DICTATOR IN
THAT SITUATION.
HISTORY DOESN'T TEACH THOSE
LESSONS.
IT CAN TEACH THINGS LIKE HUMAN
BEINGS ARE GOING TO PANIC ON A
MASS SCALE IF WE HAVE ANOTHER
PANDEMIC, OR NUCLEAR WAR
THREATENED LIKE IN 1962 DURING
THE CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS, THEN
YOU HAVE REAL POTENTIAL FOR
PEOPLE TO FREAK OUT.
IF WE FREAK OUT, WHAT DO WE DO
THEN?
I THINK IT TEACHES US A LOT OF
THE BASELINE HUMAN, AS A HERD,
SORT OF WAYS THAT WE ACT.
BUT AS INDIVIDUALS, WE'RE TOO
VARIABLE.

Steve says IS THERE ONE
OVERARCHING QUESTION ABOUT
HISTORY YOU HAVE NOT YET TACKLED
ON YOUR PODCAST THAT STILL
FASCINATES YOU?

Dan says OH, YEAH.
OTHERWISE THE PODCAST WOULD BE
OVER.
THE WAR HAS BEEN A LONGSTANDING
ONE, THE PACIFIC AND ASIAN
THEATRE IN THE SECOND WORLD WAR.
I'D LIKE TO GET BACK INTO SOME
OF THE STUFF WHEN THE WORLDS
WERE COLLIDING DURING FIRST
CONTACT WHEN EUROPE AND THE
AMERICAS OR EUROPE AND ASIA...
WHEN THEY WERE INTRODUCING
THEMSELVES SORT OF VIOLENTLY TO
EACH OTHER.
I THINK THAT'S FASCINATING TOO.
WE'RE NOT GOING TO GET THAT
SITUATION AGAIN UNTIL WE LAND ON
SOME PLANET SOMEWHERE AND RUN
INTO PEOPLE WE'VE NEVER MET
BEFORE AGAIN.

Steve says LET ME DO ONE MORE
QUESTION FOR YOU HERE.
SOME OF YOUR FANS MAY WANT TO
KNOW WHAT THE STATUS OF "COMMON
SENSE" IS RIGHT NOW.

Dan says A HA.
WHEN I WAS A POLITICAL OR
CURRENT EVENTS COMMENTATOR, I
FELT LIKE I WAS A QUALIFIED
PERSON TO GIVE A RUN-DOWN,
EXPLAIN TO PEOPLE OR GIVE
CONTEXT.
I FEEL LIKE THE CURRENT
SITUATION IS ONE THAT HAS ME A
LITTLE BIT BAFFLED SO YOU FEEL
LIKE, OKAY, IT WOULD BE
IRRESPONSIBLE OF ME TO TRY TO
TELL YOU THAT I COULD TELL YOU
WHAT'S GOING ON WHEN I DON'T
KNOW WHAT'S GOING ON MYSELF.
AND SO AT LEAST AT THE MOMENT,
THAT'S IN HIBERNATION.
I THINK I COULD EITHER FIGURE
OUT WHAT'S GOING ON OR FIND AN
INTERESTING WAY TO FRAME IT SO
THAT IT'S HELPFUL.
AT THE MOMENT WE FIGURED...
THERE'S ALSO IN THE UNITED
STATES... I DON'T KNOW THE
SITUATION IN CANADA... PEOPLE
HAVE BECOME SO DEFENSIVE AND
KNEE-JERK ABOUT THEIR REACTIONS
THAT I DON'T FEEL YOU'RE REALLY
ABLE TO CONVINCE PEOPLE THAT
HAVE DIFFERENT OPINIONS RIGHT
NOW.
THE DEFENCES GO UP TOO QUICKLY.
YOU CAN TALK ABOUT HISTORY AND
YOU CAN TALK ABOUT CONTEXT AND
IT'S ALMOST LIKE A BACK DOORWAY
TO HAVE THESE DISCUSSIONS THAT
SOMEHOW CIRCUMNAVIGATES THAT.

Steve says KEEP DOING THEM
THREE AND FOUR AND FIVE HOURS
LONG.
THEY'RE GREAT.
THEY'RE GREAT.
I CONFESS I LISTEN AT DOUBLE SPEED.

Dan says IT'S AGING ME.
WE'LL SEE HOW LONG WE CAN PULL
THAT OFF.

The caption changes to "Producer: Sandra Gionas, @sandragionas."

Steve says THE BOOK IS CALLED
"THE END IS ALWAYS NEAR:
APOCALYPTIC MOMENTS, FROM THE
BRONZE AGE COLLAPSE TO NUCLEAR
NEAR MISSES."
OF COURSE PODCASTING FANS WILL
LOVE "HARDCORE HISTORY."
DAN, THANKS SO MUCH FOR COMING
IN TO TVO TONIGHT.

The caption changes to "Subscribe to The Agenda Podcast: tvo.org/theagenda."

Dan says THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.
I APPRECIATE IT.

Watch: The Podcaster of Past Times