In the latest episode of Scheer Intelligence, comedian Lee Camp explores the legacies of Richard Pryor and George Carlin, as well as Lenny Bruce, big tech's capacity to strangle independent media and the freedom of working for a network like RT America. "I’d just given up the idea of ever being on television, because the things I talk about are not generally allowed on corporate media," he says. "RT America [lets me talk] about infinite war and Wall Street exploitation...and I’ve never been told to say anything or told not to say anything."
Arguably the greatest comedian of his generation, Lenny Bruce appeared on network television just six times. Six times over a career that spanned the better part of two decades. On multiple occasions, he was cited for obscenity—a series of arrests that culminated in his 1964 conviction. (He was posthumously pardoned). Bruce was found dead in the bathroom of his Hollywood home two years later, a syringe and a burned bottle cap beside him.
Lee Camp knows something about being deemed beyond the pale. In June of last year, he found himself the subject of a bizarre profile in the New York Times that suggested, in so many words, that he was a stooge of Vladimir Putin. "We're in a new age of McCarthyism," Camp tells Robert Scheer. "I grew up with people telling me, 'What a dark time in America's past! Let's never go back to such a barbaric way of thinking...of guilt by association and letting our cognitive abilities just go by the wayside."
For the past four years, Camp has hosted "Redacted Tonight" on Russia Today—a comedy show that explores the all-too-familiar ills of American empire: unchecked militarism, Wall Street greed and, perhaps most importantly, the propaganda of our political press. During that time, he has developed a cult-like following among leftists desperately searching for an alternative to corporate media. "I’ve been doing standup comedy for 20 years," Camp says. "It became increasingly political after the Iraq invasion in 2002; you know, that’s when I kind of had [an] awakening as to what was really going on in our world."
Camp is not the only iconoclast at RT America. The network has featured such prominent independent thinkers as Jesse Ventura, Phil Donahue and the late Ed Schultz, an ex-governor and two former MSNBC hosts respectively. In November of 2017, amid a steady diet of Russiagate stories in the national media, the network was forced to comply with the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA)—a bill designed to target lobbyists. "[The American Israel Public Affairs Committee] (AIPAC) is the definition of what they’re talking about," Camp notes. "It is Israel’s lobbying arm in the U.S. And it has never been forced to register as a foreign agent."
Photo credit: Troy Conrad