If I Ran CNN, I’d Hire Dan Carlin

dan_closeupThere’s a journalist I think everyone should know about. His name is Dan Carlin, and he’s the host of what I think is the most interesting political program in the country.

Carlin records his podcast, which is called Common Sense, in Oregon. He is well-informed—incredibly well-read. He’s a student of history, but he plays close attention to current events, politics, defense and national security. As a result, he makes connections that most of us don’t see. He’s an amateur intellectual, and I mean that in a good way.

Common Sense’s strength is independence. Carlin isn’t a liberal or conservative. He often veers close to libertarianism, and then he comes out in favor of socialized medicine and blows that label to smithereens. He is a true capital I Independent, a host who judges ideas and men on their merits, and only after careful consideration.

Well, don’t we all?

No, we don’t.

Some of us are independents, but most of us adhere to the orthodoxy of one party or the other.

See: the success of third parties in this country.

I’ve been listening to Carlin for years, so why am I telling you about him now?

Because recent events have proved Carlin right about one of the pillar issues of his show—the surveillance state. And for this he deserves praise as well as your attention.

common-senseCarlin has spoken about the federal government spying on its own citizens for years. He spent whole episodes warning that the NSA and other agencies were probably listening to our phone conversations and reading our emails. The proof was there, for those who wanted to see it. As a believer in a strong Fourth Amendment, he was (and still is) outraged that Americans’ rights were being stripped without so much as a public debate.

Think about all of the thousands of hours of news programming on Fox, NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN and NPR—how much of it was dedicated to investigating or even talking about the possibility that the government might be using its post-9/11 powers to invade the privacy of American citizens?

When the David Gregory types of the world were tossing softball questions to entrenched power, Carlin was educating the public about what was actually happening. He was out on a limb. He risked being folded in with the tinfoil hat crowd—a sure blow to anyone trying to build an intelligent audience. But he stuck by his research, and he was proved right.


Journalist Glenn Greenwald deserves praise for shining light on the shadowy world of mass government surveillance. But Carlin helped prepare the public for the possibility that our government was spying on us. He steered the conversation so that when a whistleblower like Edward Snowden (above) stepped forward, the focus would not be on the whistleblower, but on the acts being exposed, because they were not so unbelievable.

If you do not care about politics or are too busy to stay informed or get involved, well, I’m glad you know Carlin’s name now, and thanks for reading. But if you like staying informed, and if you enjoy political discussion stripped of talking points, political influence, money and everything else that’s poisoning public discourse, then I recommend you give Common Sense a try.

I don’t agree with everything Carlin says. But I trust his integrity. And if we’re to have an honest discussion in this country, we need to hand guys like Carlin the microphone, because many of the journalists who are holding it now have failed us.

Check out Common Sense on Carlin’s website or on iTunes.

Joe Donatelli is a freelance journalist. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

Joe Donatelli
Joe Donatelli is a writer in Los Angeles
  • Whit Richardson

    I totally agree, Joe. I shared your post on Facebook. I love Carlin’s show, as well as his other podcast, Hardcore History.

  • Thanks, Whit. I am a fan of both shows as well. But I am starting to think “Ben” might not actually exist.


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