Tavis Smiley Explains Why Brexit Could Mean America’s Downfall (Video)

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Tavis Smiley is a celebrated journalist, interviewer, radio personality, author, and business man whose illustrious career has lasted for more than two decades. As a recent guest on Sway in the Morning, he brought to the table his insight on a far-reaching selection of topics, as his expertise is well documented in everything from celebrity to politics, music to science. When being introduced by his host, Smiley’s inspirational legacy is mentioned, and Sway is generous with the well-deserved compliments. “Journalism is being attacked right now in this day and age. Journalism is being lost to egos and egoism to me, and you uphold the traditional standards of what journalism is meant to do,” he tells his guest. But the conversation soon shifted to current events and Smiley’s latest book, Before You Judge Me: The Triumph and Tragedy of Michael Jackson’s Last Days, which examines the last 16 weeks of Jackson’s life.

Before asking Smiley to remark on the inspiration behind the book and anecdotes about the late icon’s final days, Sway takes a moment to absorb Smiley’s vast knowledge of what’s happening in the world around us by asking him to comment on Brexit, the nickname given to England’s recent vote to leave the European Union. Undoubtedly one of the most important socioeconomic events to take place in a generation, many Americans are unsure of how, if at all, the Britons’ decision will impact the United States. To help illuminate the intricacies involved, Sway asks Smiley  “What does [the Brexit vote] mean? Does it have implications of xenophobia to you?” (3:05), to which Smiley offers a tremendously stern and cogent response.

“It does. It’s a serious issue,” he begins. The first thing I thought when I woke up this morning was if it could happen there, it can happen here. History is replete with examples. I can give you a litany of examples of how fear mongering works. And that’s what happened. [England’s former Prime Minister] David Cameron made a real political right turn last year and basically threw refugees under the bus, threw immigrants under the bus and he thought that fearmongering was going to help him ultimately win his campaign. He was pushing, of course, to remain [in the E.U.]. But when you start playing to the worst in people, when you start playing to the worst of our fears and of our anxieties, when you’re not running a campaign that’s aspirational, that fear can be unsettling.”

Smiley is quick to include is thoughts on what the decision across the pond means for us, right here in America. “The first thing I thought was that Donald Trump is emboldened by this. ‘Cause the same thing that happened in the U.K. is the same strategy that he’s running here. That whole notion of ‘make America great again’…my first question was when was America great? What period are you talking about? If you want to make America great, let me know what period you’re talking about so as Black folk we can assess whether or not that’s a period we want to go back to,” he expresses with concern. It’s clear that, for Smiley, Donald Trump’s presidential campaign promises ring eerily similar to some of the issues plaguing England. Is it possible that something similar could happen in the United States?

He continues by saying “My greatest fear is that this race – do not be fooled by all these polls right now, that people hate Donald Trump. This race is going to tighten up. It’s gon’ tighten up and when we get to the end, I don’t know how close this thing is going to be, I just know that fear works and what happened with the Brexit vote…we live in a world that is more collaborative now than ever before. We all know we live in a global world. How is it that in a global world you’re going to isolate yourself on an island unto yourself? It just doesn’t make any sense any way you look at it. But that’s what happens when you start playing to people’s fears.”

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Shortly thereafter, Sway asks about Smiley’s new book and what it was that inspired him to examine Michael Jackson’s death, seven years after the fact. After sharing that he wanted to know, as a fan, how it was that in only 16 weeks, Jackson went from announcing a world tour to passing away.  “Michael surely made some bad decisions. Michael surely had any number of self-inflicted wounds over the course of his life, and that just means he’s human…this book is trying to get back to his humanity,” he begins (8:33). In the final few months, according to Smiley, Jackson was dealing with an array of complications that involved not only his health, but also his business dealings and the combination of such stressors is likely the ultimate cause of his untimely passing.

For example, Smiley references the fact that Jackson, in order to deal with all the parties “trying to get their claws in him,” was dealing with five separate managers at any given time towards the end of his life. “On one day, there were three different press releases put out by three different managers, on the same day, claiming to represent Michael Jackson,” Smiley relays. “How do you have three different statements from three different people, all claiming to be your manager on the same day? It was just a lot of stuff goin’ on.” Additionally, Smiley says, Jackson had to deal with the fact that “[h]is father Joe was trying to convince him to get out of the AEG deal, and do a reunion tour with his brothers. So his father is pressuring him, AEG is pressuring him, he’s trying to do the rehearsals, he’s taking this cocktail [of propofal and other high-risk medication], the creditors are coming after him…it’s just so much” (10:17).

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Other topics include Smiley’s financial arrangement with PBS, the importance of working for one’s self, his memories of his close friendship with Prince, and more. Heads can find out more about The Tavis Smiley Show by visiting its official website.