Episode 544 – Mitchell Prothero

Virtual Memories Show 544:
Mitchell Prothero

“If you deregulate the global economy to the point where you can move whatever you want, wherever and whenever, and you deregulate financial controls so that it’s easy to shift money around and hide it, then you’re going to get a massive amount of cocaine. It’s a natural capitalist progression.”

Investigative journalist & longtime pal Mitchell Prothero joins the show to talk about his new podcast, GATEWAY: Cocaine, Murder, and Dirty Money in Europe (Project Brazen). We get into how the project evolved from his reporting on the global war on terror, how the cocaine trade mirrors the globalization wave, how Colombia’s piece deal led to mega-cartel consolidation, why his EU law enforcement sources did not want to talk about the cocaine trade, and whether the Netherlands trial of drug kingpin Ridouan Taghi reveals cracks in the security of the state itself. We also talk about the differences between writing for a podcast vs. writing for readers (like his reporting at VICE News), the strains of scheduling interviews with people under security detail, the changes in the media landscape over the course of his career, and his path through journalism, covering our days together in Annapolis to his time as a Capitol Hill reporter to stints in Afghanistan, Iraq, Serbia, and beyond. And we discuss what he misses about America and how living and reporting in Baltimore in the 1990s prepared him for pretty much any scenario he’s encountered since. Give it a listen! And go listen to GATEWAY!

“A shrink lectured me about my ability to process the normalization of abuse. You just go through life thinking bad stuff’s going to happen, and I think Baltimore in the ’90s truly got me on the road of accepting that normalization of abuse.”

“If everybody’s estimates were correct, then 70% of the world’s cocaine production was passing through the city of Antwerp every year. That’s not right; it can’t be. But it should give you an idea of the scale of it.”

“Narco-state has a very specific definition. I wouldn’t say Holland and Belgium are there, but Tiguan’s assault on the structure of the society was unique. The reason they aren’t narco-states is that they — at least so far — have weathered the attack.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

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About our Guest

A two-time Baghdad bureau chief, Mitchell Prothero closely covered the US occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the rise of the Islamic State. In 2016, he was awarded the Michael Hastings National Security Fellowship for work on jihadist militants in Europe by BuzzFeed News. Mitchell currently covers crime and intelligence for VICE News in Europe. GATEWAY is his debut podcast series.

Follow Mitch on Twitter.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded remotely via Zencastr. I used a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Zoom PodTrak P4. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photos of Mitch (left), Ridouan Taghi (center) and Martin Kok (right) provided by Project Brazen. It’s on my instagram.

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