Meet a Progressive: From Punk Rock to Podcasting with Kevin Mahoney
He founded Raging Chicken Media back in 2011 with the goal of helping build out a progressive media space in Pennsylvania. Support progressive independent media!
Meet a Progressive returns this week! This is when I showcase progressive activists and organizers, with an emphasis on Pennsylvania folks (especially Bucks County). However, I have also introduced folks from across the country, and sometimes from around the globe. The idea is to create relationships, build solidarity, and offer readers ways to get involved with the issues they care about most. This week you can get to know Raging Chicken Media’s Kevin Mahoney a little better!
What inspired you to start working for progressive social change?
Two things happened when I was quite young that really laid the groundwork for so much of the way I began to make sense of the world. When I was about 3 years old, my sister had a severe reaction to the MMR vaccine that was followed by a series of medical mistakes that led to her becoming seriously mentally disabled. Not long after, my parents got a divorce, thrusting my mother, my sister, and I into poverty. For years we struggled to make ends meet and to find resources for my sister. I vividly recall the disdain people would look upon our family when we went shopping with food stamps, or when my sister had an “outburst” in a public place. Those early experiences never left me.
By the time I was in high school, I was doing great in school, but I was angry and resistant. That’s when I found punk rock music. Or, I should say, it came skateboarding down my street with a group of kids up the street. I dove into the music of the Dead Kennedys, Conflict, Subhumans, and a range of other bands. It was the first time I found a political language that helped me understand my own experience within a wider, social, political, and economic context. I often half-joke with my students that punk rock music saved my life. In many ways it did.
I began connecting with other young folks with similar interests. We explored injustices in our world, our nation, and our schools. We were eager to learn more and to link up with groups and organizations that were seeking justice. Sometimes that meant challenging the narratives teachers told us. Sometimes that meant joining marches against war or racism in our town. I learned about the power in organization - both in terms of speaking out about things we saw wrong in our world and in building solidarity with others. It just seemed like there were so many people hurting in the world, in our town, in our schools and it didn’t have to be that way. And even though we didn’t have the power to change things on our own, we found we could certainly put a good deal of pressure on those who could. Gotta love that punk rock DIY attitude.
In college I connected up with more people who were interested in activism. At the time, the U.S. was funding death squads in El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Central America. We formed a student solidarity group with a student group in El Salvador and staged a series of protests and acts of street theater on our campus to raise consciousness about what was being done in our names. Every step of the way I learned more from organizers, scholars, activists, agitators, and thoughtful people. I would go on to learn more in the labor movement, bringing me back to the strong union culture and history in my father’s family. As a local elected union leader in my union, APSCUF, I learned even more about the nitty gritty of organizing, negotiating, and building coalitions.
So, the short answer is that my early taste of social marginalization and injustice is what fueled - and continues to fuel - a quest to fight for justice, equality, and solidarity. I can’t point to one specific inspiration. All I can say is that anytime I saw someone standing up for fairness, equality, and justice, I wanted to learn more and find out how I could help.
What do you identify as the top issue progressives must confront a) locally, b) statewide in PA, c) across the nation, and d) around the globe?
I’ll take the issues in order here:
The fight has really come home to our school boards and county elections.
We’ve seen a shift in strategy of right-wing dark money groups over the past several years. Back in 2009, dark money groups noticed that progressives and Democrats were not paying attention to state-level politics. Progressives tended to be more tapped into national politics. That led to a huge influx of money and resources to extremist and right-wing organizations like the Tea Party. In one election, right-wing billionaires coupled with Republican operatives took control of state-houses across the country. They gerrymandered districts, gutted labor laws, restricted abortion rights, and challenged voting access. This time around, we’re seeing big money being dropped in school board races and local elections in a local replay of the 2010 midterm elections. Now we're seeing QAnon adherents and conspiracy devotees running to control our kids’ education. The mission of public schools being the site for critical education for democratic participation is at stake. Our challenge is to get people in our communities to pay attention.
While I could point to a list of issues that are critical right now, perhaps the most important is defending voting rights and expanding access to voting. The dominant tendency in the PA Republican party right now is seeking to undermine the right to vote by actively discouraging, dissuading, and preventing people from voting. Voting is a foundational right in a democracy."Everything spurs from voting rights," said @kadidakenner. "Civil rights, voting rights. Economic justice, voting rights. Educational justice, voting rights." Follow, join & donate to @NewPennsylvania to protect our #votingrights. #PA #PA01 #BucksCountybuckscountycouriertimes.comMychalejko: Join the Civil Rights movement of 2021 and beyondA Pennsylvania group is working to keep voting rights from becoming more limited, especially as the demographics of the state continue to change.
That is, all other rights depend on our ability to take part in determining our futures. When a group or a party tries to limit access to the vote, they are trying to exclude certain people from being able to participate in self-governance. At a time when we need to deepen participation for our multiracial democracy to ensure historic injustices are remedied, making voting easier, not harder, should be the baseline.
I’m going to take these two [nation/globe] together. The short answer is the climate crisis. And, the climate crisis is bound up with virtually every other fight we need to have. From my perspective, we cannot adequately address the climate crisis without also taking on corporate and dark money in politics. We have to break the strangle-hold of the fossil fuel industry and all that supports it.
That means getting money out of politics. That means deepening democracy. It also means that we need enormous investments in a new economy and new renewable infrastructure that can only come from the government. That means burying four decades of free marketing fundamentalism. We need to remember that we can do great things together when the government is responsible to organized, democratic demands. And, finally, we can have a just transition that invests in a caring infrastructure and rights historic wrongs. If we do not address the climate crisis like the emergency it is, God help us all.
What types of organizing and projects are you working on right now?
My main project right now is Raging Chicken Media. I founded Raging Chicken back in 2011 with the goal of helping build out a progressive media space in Pennsylvania. We started out primarily as a space for progressive, investigative journalism. Now, we focus mostly on our three podcasts: Out d’Coup LIVE, our weekly interview show; Out d’Coup, our Friday politics round-up; and, most recently, The Wednesday Show featuring the one, the only, Cyril Mychalejko.
Over the past couple of years, I have expanded our podcasts to include interviews with progressive politicians, writers, activists, and troublemakers of all sorts. For example, we’ve interviewed State Representative Elizabeth Fiedler; State Senator Nikil Saval; sci-fi writer and technology activist Cory Doctorow; higher education and labor activist Brian Bailie; Joshua Pribanic, co-creator/director of the award winning “rights of nature” documentary, Invisible Hand; and, investigative environmental journalist, Kristina Marusic - just to give you a sense of things. You can check out all our podcasts by going to
. You can also check them all out on our YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/RagingChickenPress .
How can folks get engaged and involved?
The best way to join our community is by subscribing to our podcast wherever you get your podcasts. We are on Podbean, Apple podcasts, iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, Google podcasts, or wherever you get you podcasts. Also, subscribe to our YouTube channel and hit that notification bell so you know every time we go live.
On Monday evenings at 7:00 pm is our live interview and listener call in show. Join us on our YouTube channel and check out that night’s show description for how to join the broadcast on Riverside.fm and call in to the show. I am always interested in suggestions for guests. We want to highlight progressive political candidates, activists, public intellectuals, journalists, and troublemakers of all sorts. Just drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also join our Discord community to continue the discussion all week long. You can do that here: https://discord.gg/WMW98RQEYV.
And, you help support all the work we do by becoming a patron for as little as $5/month. Just go to https://www.patreon.com/rcpress.
Finally, if you might be interested in writing for Raging Chicken, drop me an email at email@example.com with “Writing for Raging Chicken” in the subject line. As we gear up for the 2022 midterm elections, I am looking into relaunching our main media site focusing on activist reporting with a focus on Bucks County and the Lehigh Valley.
Which journalists, writers, podcasts, and publications do you turn to for information and inspiration?
I am always scanning news from mainstream news sites to progressive/left publications. However, I have some that are my consistent go-tos.
Journalism: American Prospect and anything by David Dayen; In These Times for activist and labor; Labor Notes for rank-and-file union reporting; The Guardian; The New Republic; The Washington Post; Jacobin and Catalyst for headier pieces from the left; Dissent, for longer, in depth analysis; PA-based Public Herald for environmentally focused, investigative reporting.
Climate change: Naomi Klein, Kate Aronoff, Emily Atkin, and David Roberts
Supreme Court: Ian Millhiser
Dark Money/Corporate: Rachel Cohen, Jane Mayer, Aída Chávez
Voting: Ari Berman
Pennsylvania-based: Will Bunch, Angela Couloumbis, Bill Schackner, and, of course, Cyril Mychalejko
The Rick Smith Show
Sisters of the Night Caucus
The Majority Report
BBC World News
Cory Doctorow Podcast
Tech Won’t Save Us
Thanks for reading! I look forward to your feedback and suggestions. And most importantly, keep organizing!
Thanks for the interview Kevin and Cyril! Good to getting to know Kevin a little better!