Jimmy Wales helped create Wikipedia, the interactive online encyclopedia founded in 2001. Users write and edit Wikipedia entries themselves; the site also has a dedicated corps of editors. There are often “edit wars” over entries — some, including the one headlined “2006 Lebanon War,” have been edited and then re-edited thousands of times — and Wikipedia’s accuracy has been questioned by some professors and colleges, who forbid students to cite it as a source. But Wikipedia, with versions in 250 languages, is one of the top 10 sites on the Internet.
The creator of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee. He created the web in 1989, as a way to organize his own projects. The Web has grown rapidly since then. In 1992 there were 100 sites on it, as of last May there were 22,000. Berners-Lee is dedicated to keeping the Web open as a public good. He now works at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he heads the World Wide Web Consortium, a nonprofit organization dedicated to developing standards, protocols and new software for the Web.
I don’t know about you, but I find American life these days positively exhausting. Everything is always trying to wind you up, from political tweets and cable news to sports debate shows, thrill-ride movies and Internet headlines that will say anything to make you click on a link. Small wonder that many people are looking for things that don’t do that, but that offer what we might call counterprogramming to our whole troll-infested culture.
Audiences have found that in what may be the summer’s most surprising and beloved hits – “Won’t You Be My Neighbor,” Morgan Neville’s moving documentary about Fred Rogers, the creator and star of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” and “Nanette,” starring the Australian comic Hannah Gadsby, which has been called transformative by viewers, critics and her fellow comedians.
.. Born into money, ordained as a Christian minister, registered as a lifelong Republican, Rogers turned out to be a gentle radical whose mission was to embody and promote humane values. As Neville shows, “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” was inspired by Rogers’ dismay at the existing television shows for children, which he thought degrading, fatuous, thoughtlessly violent and designed to transform kids into consumers.
.. Then, she shifts gears, and we discover a value she shares with Fred Rogers, a refusal to play along with the rules of the medium of which they are a part. Just as he thought ordinary TV demeaned children, Gadsby explains why she can no longer do stand-up. She argues that stand-up works by ratcheting up tension with psychologically fraught material then releasing it with a punchline. And the demands of this process, tension and release, keep you from saying anything that doesn’t fit into that pattern.
.. neither Gadsby nor Rogers are scolds who hate art, which is, after all, a way of expressing feelings and truths that can’t be fully expressed any other way. In fact, both are consciously artful in what they do. But they also suggest that too much commercial entertainment is dehumanizing because it’s all about prompting an instantly pleasurable reaction. “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” and “Nanette” do precisely the opposite. They’re humanizing.
.. Six years before Trump’s win, the state’s voters elected conservative populist Scott Walker governor. With the help of a Republican-controlled legislature, Walker waged an unprecedented assault on public employee unions in the state and later signed a right to work bill, which undermined private-sector unions.
.. he would go along to these small towns and speak to people about this danger of corporate influence on their lives.
DAVIES: And how far into the 20th century did this sort of progressive trend hold in Wisconsin? And I note that Senator Joe McCarthy – probably the most notorious anti-communist of the century – came from that state.
.. he undertook a pretty radical approach to dealing with public employee unions. What did he propose to do?
KAUFMAN: Well, he proposed to all but strip them of collective bargaining rights, which is their ability to speak as a collective voice around wages, benefits and other workplace concerns, workplace safety, basically, reducing their ability to act as a collective voice. He exempted the police and fire department unions. Some would say that cynically because some of these unions supported him.
.. Tim Cullen, a moderate Democratic state senator – he said, the one thing that was non-negotiable was the automatic dues checkoff.
.. He stoked resentment against the public workers. It was clear in his inaugural address in 2011. He said the public employees can no longer be the haves, and the taxpayers can no longer be the have nots. Privately, he even went further.
There’s a famous recording of him speaking to a billionaire donor where she says when will we become a completely red state? When will we become a right-to-work state? She conflated the two. And he answered, you know, have you seen what we’re going to do with the public employees? And then he went on. He said, you know, because you use divide and conquer. What he meant by that was he was going to first attack the public employees. And then several years later, he instituted a right-to-work law against the private sector employees. Now you have a state that went from 14 percent union density when he was elected to 8 percent.
.. in 2016, the presidential election arrives in Wisconsin, as it does in the rest of the country. The Democratic primary – Bernie Sanders beats Hillary Clinton by 13 points. Why did Hillary Clinton have trouble connecting to Democratic voters in Wisconsin?
.. she has never been a close ally of labor. Wisconsin progressives were deeply wounded by the attacks on labor. She was a former corporate board member of Walmart, a notoriously anti-union company. And she also supported for many, many years free trade agreements, like NAFTA and the China’s membership into the World Trade Organization, that have really impacted the industrial Midwest in such a profound way. People are aware that you can drive by a factory, and they’ll say, oh, this factory moved to Mexico and then went on to Vietnam. They are very keenly aware. Other factors played a role – automation and so on – but these agreements really impacted particularly the industrial Midwest – Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio.
DAVIES: And particularly unionized workers, I think.
.. I think people forget that Donald Trump’s message during the campaign – he also twinned his message of resentment – racial resentment – with a defense of the welfare state. You can look at his speeches. He staged five huge rallies in Wisconsin. He almost always mentioned, we’ve got to protect Social Security and Medicare, and he railed against these free trade agreements. So there was a different kind of Republican message that resonated with a certain sector of the population enough to put him over the top, coupled with Hillary Clinton’s noncampaigning and non-effort in these places, and it really impacted the race.
.. There was frankly a weak Democratic opposition to his message, and there was a stoking of resentment in a time of economic insecurity. That is very powerful. And they weren’t – people weren’t being offered an alternative – a very compelling one anyway.
.. Another example is gerrymandering. In 2012 election, Wisconsin Democrats won an aggregate of almost 200,000 more votes than the Republicans, and yet they lost seats. That…
DAVIES: You’re talking about in the state legislature.
KAUFMAN: In the state legislature in the assembly, and that leads to demoralizing (laughter) of your party. I mean, it’s hard to get candidates to run when they know they’re going to be defeated if the district is just so heavily drawn to favor the Republicans where – and the Democratic seats are – you know, they’ll routinely win more than 70 percent of the vote. So they pack them in. And that case was, you know, brought to the U.S. Supreme Court. It’s the first partisan gerrymandering case to go to the Supreme Court in more than three decades because the federal court agreed with the plaintiffs – the Democrats – that their rights had been denied because it was so extreme.
The right and the left seem to maybe agree on one thing. They oppose globalism. Not everyone on the right, not everyone on the left, but there is a commonality there. Do they oppose it for the same reasons?
ROBERT KUTTNER: No, they oppose it for very different reasons. The progressive critique of globalization is very simple. It is a critique of the use of a certain kind of globalization to dismantle what used to be a manage form of capitalism that delivered broad prosperity. The democratic nation-state after World War II was able to regulate markets in the broad public interest so that ordinary people would have economic security and economic prosperity. Beginning in the ’70s and ’80s, trade deals were used to undermine the ability of governments to regulate banks. They were used to put cheap labor that had no labor standards into competition with labor in the United States and in Europe that benefited from protections. And so globalization was used to return to a more primitive version of raw capitalism. That’s the progressive critique.
.. But I think if you want to get elected, you can’t ignore the plight of ordinary working people at the same time you’re asking the voters to open their hearts to immigrants and to other claimants for social justice. It’s asking too much of people whose living standards have gone down the drain to expect them to be liberal on social issues.
GROSS: The Sondheim song that’s closest to comic rap is, in my opinion, “Not Getting Married,” which is done…
MIRANDA: (Rapping) Is everybody here? Because if everybody’s here, I’d like to thank you all for coming to the wedding.
GROSS: Do more, do more.
MIRANDA: (Rapping) I’d appreciate your going even more. I mean, you must have lots of better things to do, and not a word of it to Paul. Remember Paul, you know, the man I’m going to marry? But I’m not because I’d never ruin anyone as wonderful as he is. Thank you all for the gifts and the flowers. Thanks to you all for the cards and the showers. Don’t tell Paul, but I’m not getting married today.
GROSS: Anyone who could do that song has an incredible tongue.
GROSS: It’s so tricky. It’s so fast, and the words are so – just kind of, like, dense and funny and rhymey (ph). And so, obviously, you know that song by heart more or less. And have you thought about that song a lot in terms of intricate rhyme schemes and what the human voice is capable of without totally tripping up?
MIRANDA: Well, I think about that – honestly, I think about that song more when people ask me, how did you think rap was going to work on Broadway? And I go, nothing in my show is faster than “Getting Married Today” in “Company.”
MIRANDA: So I don’t know what you’re talking about. There’s so much precedent for the work in both, quote, unquote, “hip-hop” and not in terms of patter for the stage. But, you know, what’s amazing about “Getting Married Today” is it’s also in a master class in making a lyric easy. There are consonants on which you waste air. H – there’s no H’s in that because if you say ha, you’ve lost half the air in your lungs. So it’s very T’s and P’s. (Rapping) Thank you all. Is everybody here? Because if everybody’s here, I’d like to thank you all for coming to the wedding.
It’s more about breath control than being – it’s not a tongue twister. It’s very consciously not a tongue twister. It’s about being able to say it in one continuous breath and getting out of the way and choosing words that do not require any extra air or any extra tongue or jaw work. So it’s actually not about trying to making it hard. It’s about making it easy.
GROSS: So did you learn that intuitively or did Sondheim tell you that that was his intention to stay away from as many H’s as possible and to keep it to things that could easily be said?
MIRANDA: I think I read about that in a conversation he had at some point, but I also knew that intuitively because of the hip-hop artists I liked who rapped fast. You know, they’re not trying to make something that’s hard for them to perform every night. They’re trying to make something that sounds impressive and is a joy to deliver every night. I’m trying to think of, like, a really specific early-’90s example. Queen Latifah – (rapping) Snatch ya stature. Your broken looks more like a fracture. Catch that rapper. Latifah will be back to crush ya.
That’s Queen Latifah in 1992, and it’s fast. There’s Queen Latifah’s “U.N.I.T.Y.” She goes (rapping) there’s plenty of people out there with triggers ready to pull it. Why you trying to jump in front of the bullet, young lady?
No H’s. So you learn intuitively that, like, the writer is trying to make something that flows easily off the tongue.
GROSS: So did the writer of Alexander Hamilton try to avoid H’s in writing the lyrics?
MIRANDA: Well, you will observe that Hamilton is not in any of the fast rapping that happens onstage, right? George Washington goes, Hamilton and then – he goes (rapping) sir, he knows what to do in a trench, ingenuitive (ph) and fluent in French, I mean.
So we’re not hampering anyone with Hamilton.
GROSS: Well, Lin-Manuel Miranda, it’s just been wonderful to talk with you. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Thank you so very much.
MIRANDA: Likewise. The joy is mine.
GROSS: Lin-Manuel Miranda created the musical “Hamilton” and originated the title role. The London production just opened to rave reviews. His grandmother died yesterday. We send our condolences. Our interview was recorded last January. Today’s broadcast was part of our holiday week series featuring some of our favorite interviews of the year. After we take a short break, film critic David Edelstein will tell us what’s on his 10-best list. This is FRESH AIR.