Know Your Enemy

News #233Politics #83

A leftist's guide to the conservative movement, one podcast episode at a time, with co-hosts Matthew Sitman and Sam Adler-Bell.

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Recent Reviews
  • tylermiami
    The best
    Kye has become my favorite podcast informative smart well researched funny let’s you know how we got here with conservatism it amazes me every fear they try today they were doing 60 years ago
  • Matt but not a taken name yet
    Good music
    Come for the informative and insightful conversations; stay for the theme music
  • Recycled grandma
    Different view of issues
    This podcast helps me understand far right conservatism.
  • An inquiring journo
    America Last
    As a big fan of the pod, and a regular listener, I am compelled to weigh in on the America Last episode with Jacob Heilbrun. Lots of fascinating insights — and characters I was not familiar with— BUT how do you do an entire show about right wing infatuation with fascist authoritarians in the 1930’s onward without mentioning the simultaneous left wing infatuations with Communist authoritarians throughout the same period (Stalin, Mao, Castro, etc.) Come on guys, you know this history— Lincoln Steffins, the Webbs, Duranty, Herbert Mathews— a long history of white washing, apologizing for and even glorifying dictators whose abuses and repression were as awful as any of the fascists celebrated on the right. Doesnt this suggest that the phenomenon you were exploring is not distinct to right wing ideology but a larger yearning for authoritarianism during times of economic and political chaos that cuts across ideological lines? (Check out, if you need a refresher, Robert Conquest’s book, The Great Purge, about the Soviet show trials of the 30’s— and all the liberals in the west who tried to justify them.)
  • Christie76
    One of My Faves
    A must-listen for both political history junkies and anyone who wants to learn more about the American Right
  • Godot2
    Essential Listening
    If you want to know why American Conservatives are so insane then look no further.
    This podcast used to be good
    And still is! I learn something new every time I listen. More than one thing! It’s an excellent podcast
  • Sgt Zepp
    Really good
    Didn’t know about this podcast and heard about it on Matt Lewis podcast and really liked their conversation
  • Dkbaker8
    I cannot unsee Bomb Power
    That’s all
  • Luwidg 2
    Essential guide for understanding the complexities of the right
    I love this show. Mat and Sam walk you through the complex intellectual landscape of the American right. They discuss the historical dynamics and the internal debates shaping its evolution since 1945 as well as its more recent worrisome populist/reactionary turn. Most importantly, they do so with great empathy, trying to understand thinkers on their own terms and historical context. They resist the all too common populist pedigree hunting and the easy vilification of the right that is all too common on the left. This gives their analysis the credibility that makes you all the more worried when they reach into the deeper, more reactionary corners of the conservative movement. It is political philosophy, intellectual history, and journalist all wrapped in one by two buddies who clearly enjoying bantering about ideas. Much to enjoy and to learn here. Join the ride.
  • C-Lager
    Keen sifting
    This show is fantastic — like being with two really good friends as they follow their hearts through a violent and intriguing land (all the many conservatisisms before and present.) At the end of each episode I always feel I have nearly rounded the curve to see the cause and beginning. Best podcast in a crowded field!
  • David in Seattle
    An interesting idea for a show…
    …even a funny one. And the hosts can do a good job when they avoid hysteria & overstatement…._when_. But it can also be maddening when it assumes too much, offers grand generalizations without supporting facts. Listen and you’ll hear.
  • OpossibleKingdom
    Graduate level discourse
    I love this pod. It is probably the most intelligent pod I subscribe too. Amazing insights. Funny, I think it is has made me more conservative because the hosts treat their subject with such respect. Sometimes when you get to know your enemy, you realize their viewpoint is valid too!
  • Billybill1984
    Everyone agrees Netanyahu has been a disaster and has to go. What should Israel do about Hamas? Treat them as a partner for peace? Just live with it? Let’s put your grandmother in that situation and see how you deal with it.
  • B LeRoi
    The best podcast cover design ever.
  • BugdomKing
    Mixed Bag: well produced, politics iffy
    While this is a show in which leftists examine conservative intellectualism, it is not a leftist examination of conservative intellectualism. These hosts, wicked smart and full of panache, are primarily concerned with being taken seriously, which they accomplish by providing leftwing responses to rightwing questions rather than through rejecting the rightwing questions and asking their own. I was rather perplexed when they were talking about 2024 election earlier this year that their only critique of Biden was that he’s too old. But I’m not really the target audience here—these hosts are making their position on the left palatable to a wider audience, be it through emphasizing trade-unionism and condemning Stalin’s atrocities or by writing an article to define “woke” from the “left”, or by tutting over the foibles of certain leftists. This stance genuinely has some positive effects, like letting them be resources for rightwing youths who are unsure about their ideology and want an offramp. That’s great. Even so, I can’t help but feel these hosts have little interest in imagining and beckoning a better world, and would rather tinker with what we have now.
  • Felsina
    So many resonances
    I've been luridly curious about these folks ever since I read George Orwell's great excoriation, "Second Thoughts on James Burnham." What an essay! But I can scarcely bear to read the conservatives' words unfiltered, so I'm grateful to Matt
  • BGoodchild1
    One of my favorites….
    I discovered this podcast several months ago and find it to be very worthwhile. I’m, I guess, a liberal democrat, strong never tRumper, and familiar with most of what the hosts are discussing, but value greatly the depth and context they bring to the discussion….
  • ngarre
    Midge Dector
    Every time I hear someone say “the patriarchy” I cringe. It’s like communists who says “the proletariat”. What century are you in? I think this person is an ideologue who’s just regurgitating ideology.
  • GillaFlan
    deep, relevant political history.
    If you want to learn about the deep historic context of conservative power, there is no better way. Understanding conservatives is utterly essential if we are to defeat them.
  • Senhor Bruno
    Did you miss out on Harvard? Do you ever wonder what late night bull sessions there among those consequential young people are like? This is the podcast for you. Better yet, now these lads are all grown up and ready to serve up post-varsity cultural and political commentary. My only criticism is they’re not sufficiently skeptical of gender identity ideology, but these days who on the left is?
  • tys1121
    my favorite podcast
    I love when Matt says something gay like John Mayer is so hot
  • Blake B Thompson
    Intellectually spectacular
    This is the needle in the haystack.
  • newmo99
    Thoughtful and Engaging
    I love this show! I’ve enjoyed learning about politics all my life and Know Your Enemy is a master class in the history of conservatism and how it impacts us today. Despite the fiery title, the hosts neither dismiss nor belittle the topics of discussion but treat them seriously with a critical eye. Keep up the good work!
  • AmpersandPitchfork
    It’s just been strange recently. Particularly on gender topics. I don’t want to hear about masturbating with children.
  • SFrederickB
    Look forward to each episode
    As happened for me with other thinking-together podcasts(see Slate’s Gabfests), I’ve come to admire and like the hosts as much as the subject. Matthew and Sam are smart, honest, fair, thoughtful, deeply informed, kind and politically engaged. A terrific dose of critical thinking about the American right-wing and its past—and other interesting topics as well.
  • kober1oveR
    Best podcast I’ve ever heard
    This is one of, if not the, best podcast out right now. The hosts are thought-provoking, brilliant, and engaging in a way that seems hard to find elsewhere. They take the episodes and discussions seriously but not stuffily -and filling it with humanity & kindness too. It also sounds very good! The production quality is superb. And it’s very clear the hosts care about not wasting the audiences time - some podcasts seemingly just start BSing about the news off the cuff (which sure, there’s a place for that) but Know Your Enemy actually prepares - and it shows! The discussion is so much more interesting as a result, getting to hear the surprises they learned while researching. If you’re left leaning at all or right leaning and want to hear someone take the muck of conservatism seriously (as well as a delightful mix of other topics) listen to this podcast.
  • momilli_
    Kindness without killing it
    See title. Great show if you want the American subcohort gossip, perhaps less satisfying if you want the show to be something else. Affable hosts do their research. I love this show, in general, but wonder if the hosts are beginning to fall a little too in love with their bigger platform and guests. Agree with previous commenters that the show doesn’t talk enough about race, and really agree that these ancillary/spin-off episodes dilute the original concept and brand. But I do crack up when the historian Rick Perlstein fact-checks the show in the Patreon comments. A lot of the subjects of this show teach us that you can’t please everyone, but I think the show is not getting close enough to the bone about the someone’s in this movement who literally want to kill their political opponents! But as the Simpsons said, “it’s a helluva toboggan ride!”
  • Wake H.
    Excellent Podcast
    I greatly enjoy this thoughtful, intellectually rigorous podcast. Ignore the slight dismissals from conservative trolls - if anything the hosts are rather too respectful to the enemy (and it’s their podcast, after all). A personal request would be an episode on Francis Schaeffer and his influence - and more generally on religion, gender/sexuality, and (particularly) race, which are far more important preoccupations in modern conservative/fascist circles. And yes, the show is not about demagoguery, but the demagoguery has its roots (and “intellectual” defenders). I really appreciated the episode with Gillian Branstetter due to the immediate, urgent relevance.
  • Thomas TC
    A genius for kindness
    Regardless of the topic, the kindness is what I enjoy
  • PenisPiderot
    Most sensitive political commentary
    One of my favorite podcasts and always manages to tow the line between pessimism of the intellect and optimism of the will. Matt and Sam and company got me thru some pretty dark times during the pandemic isolation and I’ll always be extremely thankful for their commentary and perspective <3
  • Briseis27
    Still my favorite
    I never get tired of listening to these guys — and never stop learning from them. Episodes are so engaging and funny, but also densely packed with insight and set a high bar for what it means to situate contemporary conflicts in theoretical and historical context.
  • pancesco
    Thoughtful but tendentious
    They often make honest attempts at grappling with perspectives from the opposite side of the political spectrum but too often reassure themselves and their listeners of the ultimate inferiority of these views to their own with a lack of serious reflection. I too have little sympathy for many of the show’s “enemies” but am often left unsatisfied by the host’s all too facile dismissals. The episodes on Didion and Wills are particularly good, in large part because they can’t help but admire the source material, and, in the former case, because the guest is fantastic. In-group guests, like Ganz an Colson, tend to exacerbate the show’s flaws. Edit: the Chambers episode was so good that I raise my rating one notch. If you guys keep it up…
  • From Taipei, with Love
    Smart, Never Strident
    I can’t recall if it was Matt and Sam themselves or someone else who once described a scene in the 2022 film Triangle of Sadness, in which a Marxist yacht captain and a Russian capitalist take turns Googling and quoting Lenin and Chomsky at each other over a sinking ship’s loudspeaker, as “two guys start the worst political podcast ever,” but this is the opposite of that. Know Your Enemy is a well-informed, fun, and sometimes even slightly (just slightly) sympathetic look at the U.S. conservative intellectual and political movement’s past and present. The result is a portrait of the right that its advocates will recognize and its enemies can study, a rare feat pulled off by trusting its guests’ and listeners’ intelligence, if not always their commitments.
  • Wolfie T
    Professional Podcast with Knowledgeable Hosts
    Wonderful podcast with hosts intimately familiar with right wing politics. I would like to request episodes on Ferdinand Marcos, Netanyahu, Joseph Smith/LDS, radtrad Catholics, and ultranationalist movements and groups.
  • Robin Robinovitch
    Insufferable middle class dorks
    They barely hide their contempt for people who actually have to work for a living.
  • elrach32
    This podcast used to be so good.
    But now it is not.
  • Countfeeback
    Exposing the intellectual basis of the contemporary right
    I have a faculty colleague who writes for First Things and I have never understood his and others trad-Cath & IDW use of “the Therapeutic”. Thanks for the work you do, there’s no better podcast on the intellectual underpinnings of the contemporary reactive right wing.
  • AviS14864
    I don’t think this podcast takes race seriously enough.
    I don’t think this podcast takes race seriously enough. A more honest and entirely less pleasant take on the right would be courageous about naming and really addressing white supremacy, given it’s centrality to American Conservatism. That is to say, discussions of race could go on for more than one sentence. Really well researched though!
  • ThomasPaul117
    on it
  • Dino Kale
    The smug style epitomized
    This show is great for self congratulatory bad faith readings of conservative voices. It is worthless if you want to understand conservatives and conservatism in itself. Maybe the title should be "Know how to talk about your enemy at Manhattan cocktail parties."
  • DysfunctionalPotato
    This podcast helps me better understand my family and hometown
    I grew up in the rural Midwest. My family and the area are deeply conservative. I have since moved away, and this podcast helps me understand the underlying philosophies and assumptions of family members’ professed politics and their unspoken values. Despite the podcast’s name, the hosts overall treat the views of their subjects with respect (and with condemnation where deserved). While I am certainly a leftist, I hope to better relate to and sympathize with the concerns of my conservative loved ones.
  • gdluehosh
    This has become my favorite podcast
    As the child of religious conservatives, and for a time a card-carrying dittohead before I moved left, I find so much fascinating, illuminating, and even healing about these good-faith attempts to understand and take seriously the American conservative movement and its impulses. Matt and Sam are eloquent, knowledgeable, and charitable while unashamedly holding to their convictions. In this truly painful and at times even terrifying time in US History, I take comfort knowing there are people like Matt and Sam out there. Thanks so much you guys.
  • Lady Lawyer Listening
    A treat
    It is a pleasure and a privilege to listen to an hour or so of these two thoughtful, intelligent, and charming hosts. Their deep knowledge of and appreciation for their subject is evident.
  • Coffee Roaster Small biz guy
    Like grad school never ended
    Sam and Matt are generous & charitable to their ideological opponents without sacrificing their own principles. An incredibly tricky balancing act, particularly in our era of insane partisanship. These are two dudes with whom I’d love to share a drink or two and chatter politics. Awesome stuff.
  • iamwillparker
    Get through the wonk
    This is an incredible intellectual breakdown of politics that doesn’t dumb stuff down for the audience. As a non political intellectual it can be a little intimidating that they discuss so many things and people I had never heard of but stick it out! I promise it all starts to make sense. On top of their insight, the hosts are very honest and good hearted people that make an effort to not live in a bubble nor demonize people strictly for which side of the isle they’re on. I’d recommend regardless of your politics, just really great, honest thought.
  • squid 88
    Entertaining and Thought Provoking
    Stumbled across this podcast last year. I have been going through the older episodes, and I have to say, these guys are wicked smart. Not just leftest railing against Republicans, but thoughtful and fair insight on conservative thought and the source of right wing political philosophy.
  • WallyPie
    Troll-free zone
    Brilliant, honest, and respectful, this pod is part of a healthy media diet.
  • RiRiSuSu
    Most Excellent!
    Great insight given with every podcast!!
  • Pilgrim1959
    Smart and earnest. Matt and Sam are generous interviewers. Superior guests and topics.
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