Happy Scribe
[00:00:03]

Hello and welcome to the intelligence on Economist Radio, I'm your host, Jason Palmer. Every weekday, we provide a fresh perspective on the events shaping your world. Chicago has always been a wellspring of music lately, its big export is a genre of rap called drill. We speak to an author who spent time with drill artists and asked whether the music simply reflects or actively promotes the city's gang violence. And getting your whites whiter has come a long way since the Romans who used Urin, we take a historical look at SoPE crossing paths with Victorian values, sparking the field of surface science and now offering a clean win against covid.

[00:00:55]

First up, though. The commission has designed the format six roughly 15 minute segments with two minute answers from each candidate to the first question, then open discussion for the rest of each segment. President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden took to the stage last night in Ohio for the first American presidential debate moderated by Fox News host Chris Wallace. Despite the early attempt at rule setting, the end result was chaotic.

[00:01:30]

At the individual mandate, I'm going to give you. I got rid of the individual mandate. I'm not here to call. I was like, everybody knows he's a liar. But you. I just want to I want to make vice president. I know, to be honest, it's a very excited being vitriolic. Don't ever use that word. Oh, give me a because you know what? There's nothing smart about you, Jeff. What you said one of the big debates.

[00:01:55]

Wait a minute. You get the final word.

[00:01:56]

Well, it's hard to get any word in with this clown and unlikely to change many voters minds just five weeks before Election Day.

[00:02:04]

We have ended the segment. We're going to move on to the second segment. It was really a productive segment when the debate left even seasoned commenters in shock.

[00:02:12]

As someone who's covered presidential debates, that was the worst presidential debate I have ever seen and raised serious questions about whether President Trump would accept the outcome of November's election.

[00:02:23]

I would say that watching the debate was like watching a car crash, but at least a car crash happens quickly, is over quickly.

[00:02:30]

John Prideaux is The Economist's US editor and the host of our American Politics Show Checks and Balance.

[00:02:36]

This debate was frankly hard to watch, was an hour and a half of mainly President Trump just talking over Joe Biden, trying to throw him off his stride. It was free of much substance. If you went there for policy, for what either man would do with four years in the White House, it didn't fit the moment, which, of course, is one where 200000 Americans dead from covid-19. The economy is in a mess. There are problems with wildfires in California and the West.

[00:03:06]

And America's in the midst of a bout of reckoning with itself over race. None of that was really apparent. It was a pretty awful thing to watch.

[00:03:16]

So how did it get so out of control? I mean, there was a plan at some point, wasn't there?

[00:03:20]

There was a plan. The candidates are meant to speak for a couple of minutes, each uninterrupted on each question. And there's a certain amount of allotted time for crosstalk. There's a moderator, Chris Wallace of Fox News, who's a very experienced, well respected journalist. Twitter thought that he did a terrible job last night by allowing President Trump to interrupt constantly and losing control of the process. I think that's a bit unfair. I think he was in an impossible position.

[00:03:47]

The only way this debate could have been moderated was if the moderator had the power to cut the microphones. It's quite a difficult thing to do to the president of the United States anyway. And the whole thing was was just a jumble, frankly, Jassam, for an hour and a half.

[00:04:02]

So there's nothing that you would reasonably call a highlight then just just a shouting match.

[00:04:06]

There weren't highlights so much as lowlights. One interesting part was Chris Wallace pressed President Trump on how much, if any, federal income tax he'd paid recently. That's an issue because The New York Times scoop that he paid seven hundred and fifty dollars in federal income tax in 2017 and no federal income tax at all in about 10 years. In the past 15, he said that he had, in fact, paid millions of dollars in federal income tax. Another one was when Joe Biden started talking about his son Beau, who died of cancer and had served in the Iraq war.

[00:04:40]

He was a patriot and the people left behind there were heroes.

[00:04:45]

And Donald Trump took that as an opportunity to attack Vice President Biden's surviving son, Hunter. That was excruciating to watch.

[00:04:54]

He was thrown out, dishonorably discharged. That's not true. It just continues.

[00:04:58]

And then I suppose the other low light that jumps to mind was when Chris Wallace, the moderator, brought up Charlottesville and white supremacists in America and invited both candidates to condemn them. Joe Biden did talked about a group called Proud Boys. President Trump, given this very easy opportunity to take a pretty clear stand on something important, declined to do.

[00:05:22]

So what do you want to call them? Give me a name. Give me white like me to about process and. Right. Stand back and stand by.

[00:05:31]

But I'll tell you what, I'll tell you what, somebody's got to do something about Antifa and the left, because this is not a right wing problem is another point that's been in the news for the past week or so is the the integrity of the election.

[00:05:44]

Was that at all part of the debate?

[00:05:46]

It was that was the closing question. Chris Wallace said to the two candidates, will you accept the result if you lose effectively? Biden said, yes, encourage people to go and vote. President Trump when asked the same question, Sanders said. And then started saying that male workers in West Virginia were selling ballots and that Democratic run cities were sending double ballots to try and rig the election and really refused to say that he would concede if he lost and encourage people to think that this election would be would be fraudulent.

[00:06:18]

This is going to be a fraud like you've never seen. The other thing, it's nice on November 3rd, you're watching and you see who won the election.

[00:06:26]

So that was the worst moment in what was a pretty awful debate.

[00:06:30]

Given all of that, is it reasonable even to ask the question, who won the debate?

[00:06:35]

I think that's a very good question, Jason. This debate will have been watched by millions of people. Some of them will have made it to the end like me. If we just forget for a moment about the content of the debate, the context here is important. Joe Biden went into this debate about seven points up and national polling averages. Donald Trump needed a breakthrough. His strategy seemed to be to discombobulate and frankly insult Biden in the hope that he got confused and looked sort of senile and old, which has been a theme of the Trump campaign that Vice President Biden isn't fit to be president and that the radical left would take over once he was in charge.

[00:07:16]

He failed on that score. And so I don't think it was a win for Donald Trump. I don't think it's going to move polls. Debates tend not to move polls anyway. And if President Trump needed breakthrough to rescue his polling numbers, this wasn't it. What do you mean by that?

[00:07:33]

Why? Why is it that the debates don't move the polls? There's all this attention on them, all this punditry?

[00:07:39]

I think it's partly because the people who pay most attention to the debates are the political hobbyists and junkies, and they've all made up their minds already. This isn't just a sort of assertion. There's quite a lot of data on this. So we did some analysis of polling data compiled by a couple of political scientist, Robert Erikson, Christopher Wazzan, who were at Columbia University and the University of Texas, Austin. And those numbers showed that past presidential debates had only a very small and sort of temporary effect on the polls.

[00:08:08]

So if the candidates then are essentially talking to people who have made up their minds, then then the bid here is simply to to double down on what their their hard core of supporters already think and know about them yesterday.

[00:08:19]

And in practice, I think that is what happens. There aren't that many undecided voters out there at this point. This ought to be an opportunity to sway some of them. I don't think that's what will have happened last night. And because of the relative polling positions, that goes down as a loss for Donald Trump. This debate also sets the tone for the remaining debates and the rest of the campaign. It was so bad that there's some question now about whether the two remaining debates that are scheduled will actually take place, though really it's as bad as that.

[00:08:50]

They would simply give up on the rest of the debate.

[00:08:53]

I don't have any inside intel on that, Jason, but the debates happen with the cooperation of both candidates. One candidate, likely Joe Biden, I think might well say that debate was such a mess and I wasn't allowed to speak. I'm not doing the remaining ones.

[00:09:10]

Mr. President, your campaign agreed to both sides would get two minute answers uninterrupted. Well, your side agreed to it. And why don't you observe what your campaign agreed to as a ground rule, OK? Sir, if you never keeps his word. No, he's not.

[00:09:26]

Certainly the feeling immediately after the debate last night was that it had gone so badly, had been so chaotic and so ugly, frankly, that America might not be well served by having two more of them.

[00:09:40]

And I guess you'll be looking further into this and trying to get some inside intel for her checks and balance this week.

[00:09:46]

Yes, that's right, Jason. We'll have a podcast looking at debates and talking about misinformation and American politics. And that'll be going out on Friday.

[00:09:54]

I look forward to it, John. Thank you very much for your time. Thanks, Jason. Last month in a prosperous part of Chicago where all the luxury boutiques are, it's called the Gold Coast, two cars pulled up through the streets and four men got out of the cars, pulled out weapons and started shooting. Adam Roberts is our Midwest correspondent. Their target was a chubby man in a blue tracksuit who is standing outside of a luxury goods boutique.

[00:10:32]

And they unleashed a hail of bullets against him.

[00:10:35]

Breaking right now, one person is dead, two others hurt after a shooter opened fire in the Gold Coast. At the scene, as many as 60, he slumped to the ground.

[00:10:45]

The windows behind him shattered. His companions were also shot and wounded.

[00:10:49]

And tonight, we're learning that the victim who was killed is a well known rapper.

[00:10:54]

The victim was a man called FBG Dark. He was a rapper. He was a drill musician who was targeted by gang enemies of his. It shocked Chicago. Despite the city having so many murders and so much violence. This killing really stood out for being exceptional, for being the most blatant example of gang violence that has broken out in the center of the city for many, many years.

[00:11:21]

You say he was a drill musician, that that's connected to the killing.

[00:11:24]

So FBG Duck was a singer of drill music. And that's a form of music that emerged about 10 years ago in Chicago. It rose up on the south side, the predominantly African-American, somewhat poorer and sometimes quite violent part of the city. And it's a form of music that is associated with the gangs that are prevalent on the South Side and other parts of the city. And it's a form of music that is quite somber, quite ominous, using rather dark, violent lyrics that will celebrate, for example, the murders of his enemies or will boast about the guns that he has, the money that he has, the drug dealing that he does.

[00:12:01]

So it's a fairly dark form of music that has become very popular.

[00:12:10]

So FBG Duck, who was particularly notorious because only a month before he died, he released a track and a video that would become the most successful of all the tracks he ever released.

[00:12:22]

Well, for no reason, but from last also Spanish.

[00:12:28]

And it's a fairly standard form of drill video. It's him dancing with his friends and his associates with guns, with money. And in effect, he's just celebrating the murder of a lot of members of a rival gang.

[00:12:44]

Well, it was him he was saying a on show.

[00:12:48]

And there are many who speculate that it was because of this track that he was targeted while he was out on a shopping spree.

[00:12:56]

And how common is that sort of musically inspired violence?

[00:12:59]

Well, that depends whose analysis you want to take. So the police in Chicago certainly argue that online activity is spurring a big uptick in deadly violence.

[00:13:10]

The mayor of Chicago said something similar to an individual who fancies himself as a rapper.

[00:13:16]

There's been an ongoing conflict between she suggested that FBG Duck, for example, was tracked because he was boasting on Facebook about his shopping spree and then his rivals were able to track him down. That online activity is adding and fueling the violence that has taken place in the streets.

[00:13:39]

As much as these young men fashioned themselves and presented themselves as these like experts in firearms, most of the time, like these guys didn't own guns. It was often only when they were taking selfies for Instagram that they actually ever held any of these firearms. They call them black guns. They're kind of like these communal guns that they have on kind of a time-Share basis.

[00:13:58]

Forrest Stewart is an ethnographer at Stanford University for his book Ballad of the Bullet. He embedded with drill rappers on Chicago's South Side for more than 18 months. What he learned made him question the often made link between online bravado and violence on the street. We're sitting around in one of their friends homes, the kind of air is full of weed smoke, guys are starting to upload to Twitter and Instagram. And somebody decides to go get one of the block guns.

[00:14:29]

One of the young men actually holds a gun to my head. I'm shocked. I knock the gun away and he laughs. He tells me that the gun was unloaded. And so I grabbed the gun out of his hands.

[00:14:40]

And I see that he has, in fact, taken the magazine out of the gun, cocked the gun and pulled back the slide and a bullet flies out. So there was a bullet sitting in the chamber the entire time.

[00:14:49]

He's got this gun put to my head.

[00:14:53]

And so this was just one of the many instances when I saw that these personas of these gun toting super predators that they put out on social media actually don't hold up to reality. So with you, Doug, we can't be sure the exact relationship between any of his videos, I will note that like he was already at a super high risk of being shot anyway.

[00:15:19]

Fidge Duck and his best friends have been engaged in a bloody gang war since the time that FBG Duck hit puberty at age 13, 14, 15. He is watching his neighbors be killed. He's watching his best friends be killed. So before he ever even makes a rap or before he even ever makes a taunt, there's already bloodshed being spilled between him and a whole bunch of people to blame him. Making some taunts on social media is to really blind us to the fact that, like, this is a kid who's growing up in crushing poverty and one of the most violent neighborhoods who's hyper traumatized, who's surrounded by this stuff, like why aren't we drawing a causal link between those conditions and him getting shot?

[00:16:03]

Why is it that we're so fixated on a Twitter post or a YouTube video given his social conditions? He was subject he was going to be subject to that kind of victimization, almost like whether or not he put up this distract or not. Adam, how much of a role do you think drill itself plays in gang violence? I'd hesitate to say that the music causes the violence, but it certainly celebrates the violence. If you ever watch the videos, they are always of young man standing around dancing and they are waving wads of cash, various forms of weaponry.

[00:16:41]

There have been examples of men not just dancing around with handguns and AK 47, but with rocket launchers. These are young men who are celebrating the violence and trying to show how tough they are, even when in reality they might not be the hardened gangsters or the really tough guys. They pretend to be in their videos. So it certainly celebrates the violence. It's very hard to be sure that it causes the violence.

[00:17:05]

And is it fair to argue that those who don't exist in that world of drill but who listen to the music have a part to play in all of it?

[00:17:12]

Well, the consumers of drill are everywhere.

[00:17:15]

They're certainly not only on the south side of Chicago. They're certainly white as well as black consumers of drill. There's a thrill that comes, I suppose, with listening to music that's associated with violent gangs. And there is an argument to be made that it's the consumers of this with every listener that they make online to the violence who are encouraging these youngsters on the south side of Chicago to dream that this is a route out from poverty and from desperation to become successful, to get money and to get status.

[00:17:45]

I wouldn't go as far as to say the consumers are therefore responsible for the violence, but they're part of the chain. And we often forget that the consumption of things has a big impact on whether these young men decide to get involved in it in the first place. Thanks for joining us, Adam. Thank you. In the pandemic era, purchases of soap have surged. It's the lowest of low tech solutions to tackle a sophisticated adversary, but there's more to it than mere cleanliness.

[00:18:27]

So brings with it associations, values, even that hark back to a time when cleaning products were marketed exclusively to women. The additives and fragrances may have modernized, but much of that core message hasn't.

[00:18:41]

So a strange thing happened in the Industrial Revolution that almost by chance all of the men's work became outsourced and all of the women's work stayed at home.

[00:18:51]

Catherine Nixey writes for 1843, our sister magazine.

[00:18:54]

There was an interesting paradox that whereas the industrial revolution late in the works for men, it made women's burn at home much, much heavier because everything had to be cleaner. You had to have white shirts, white collars, children had to be clean, steps had to be white, and sheets had to be green every week. It was backbreaking, really heavy work. And at the heart of it was this new abundance of soap and the eagerness of the soap companies to sell it.

[00:19:22]

So soap started to be sold to women not just as a practical tool, but a kind of as a mark of themselves and a way to make themselves better in the eyes of the world. And the soap companies started in part because the meat packaging industry had a lot of leftover fat. You mix fat with ashes or some kind of alkaline, and almost as if by magic you get this stuff that cleans. You take these two filthy seeming things and you get something that cleanses.

[00:19:51]

So what became known as women's work then became closely aligned with clean it with soaps and the like. And the advertising industry responded to that.

[00:19:59]

Yes, there was this Victorian ideal that the angel was in the house and making the house perfect for everyone. And men were out doing mucky, grubby, worthwhile jobs and soap advertising plumb straight into this because it implied at once that the woman was supposed to be clean and cleaning. And what women were left with was what was repackaged as fun. I mean, it wasn't fun. It was very, very hard work. But soap was sold to women at once as a pastime and a pleasure.

[00:20:27]

It's all you need to make your family happy and do you happy.

[00:20:30]

She is thinking, I wonder how I look. And he is thinking, you look beautiful, just beautiful. This girl has discovered this soft touch of today's new looks and to an extent that lingers on, you get these imperial leather adverts saying that if you've had a difficult day, you can have a little bit of me time in the bathroom, wash the day away as though, you know, what women need isn't isn't helpful. The man to chip in, they just need to have some time with some.

[00:20:59]

Suparna by Imperial Leather. But how did soap get from the primitive ashes and alkali mix to the well marketed product?

[00:21:13]

We know today one of the people who is key in making people realize what soap really was was this almost forgotten scientist called Agnes Pickles. She was in Germany at the end of the 19th century and she and her brother were both very smart. He went on to be a famous physicist, but she, being a woman, was left at home to look after her parents. And like anyone who's cared for anyone, old or young, you'll know that she'd had to do therefore a lot of washing up.

[00:21:41]

And she observed how the sons of the soap were behaving, and she saw some amazing things. If you grind pepper and put it on the surface of water, and then if you put your finger in a dab of washing up liquid and then touch the surface of the water, the pepper kind of races away from it, it goes so fast you can't even see it happen. But it disappears to the edge of the bowl. And this is what she noticed.

[00:22:02]

And then she worked from that the surface tension and water. And that was the start of a science that's now called surface science that's becoming increasingly important and is important in understanding how you wash things off. Other things such at the moment is quite a popular topic.

[00:22:19]

And obviously in the pandemic era where we're all using soap thinking about.

[00:22:23]

So quite a bit more, well, it would be nice to think, given that we're in the pandemic, that we're all eagerly washing our hands. But as it turns out, when you look at the statistics, it seems that women seem to be a lot keener to wash their hands than men. So an American survey before the pandemic found that only 75 percent of men wash their hands after using the bathroom and 90 percent of women do. And this hand washing seems to hold true for all aspects of life.

[00:22:49]

And it just seems to be women wash more and wash better.

[00:22:53]

Catherine, thank you very much for your time.

[00:22:55]

Thank you, Catherine. Scrubs clean the full history of soap in 1843, The Economist's Sister magazine available at Economist Dotcom 1843. That's all for this episode of the intelligence, if you like us, give us a rating on Apple podcasts and you can subscribe to the economist at The Economist, dot com intelligence officer. See you back here tomorrow.