Culture Wars/Current Controversies

The Incredible Political and Media Journey of Jesse and Tyrel Ventura


Interview with Substack’s newest contributors, who may be the ultimate symbols of America’s censorship regime.


Back on March 12th, not long after Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine, the New York Times ran one of the first of what would become a series of gloating articles about the demise of Russia Today. The state-sponsored TV network had just been yanked off the air by government fiat in Europe, and removed in America by private carriers like Comcast, Xfinity, and DirecTV. About the channel, the Times wrote:

A role at RT America was a rare job in an industry where if you had screwed up, were washed up or were completely new to the field, there weren’t many other options…

The Times then listed a series of those “screwups” and “washouts,” including the paper’s own former star war reporter Chris Hedges (also thriving now on Substack) and the father-son tandem Jesse and Tyrel Ventura. The paper neglected to mention that none of these figures had failed at anything, but rather had been driven out of the mainstream press essentially over opposition to the Iraq war.

In fact, if not for one of the most scandalous stories in the history of American media, former Navy demolition expert, pro wrestler, and Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura might still be occupying Rachel Maddow’s slot on MSNBC, broadcasting from Minneapolis rather than New York (“All we get is the East Coast, the West Coast,” Jesse told the network then, “You don’t hear nothing from the heart of America, and we’re true America”). Jesse and Tyrel moved to Substack this week, launching their site Die First, Then Quit, but their journey here — by way of two extraordinary censorship campaigns — just might be the ultimate illustration of how politics, not ratings, decides who’s allowed to sit in the big chair on primetime American television.


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