Super hyped to present the first Disco Droppings interview of 2014. After interviewing Abby Martin, RT’s Breaking The Set host last year, I was so pleased with all the people checking out the feature. I will continue expanding the scope of Disco Droppings, which mostly focuses on music and showcase a wider variety of topics. In that spirit, I want to put Breaking The Set on a pedestal once again through it’s producer, Manuel Rapalo. See the humans behind the show..
DD You are the producer of Breaking The Set, hosted by Abby Martin. What kind of work goes into producing this show? How does this balance with your life outside of the job?
MR Wow, I don’t even know where to begin. Producing this show is a 24/7 gig, between booking guests, digging for the stories that the corporate media misses (either deliberately or not), fact checking our sources, writing and timing the show and God knows what else… it can really be overwhelming sometimes, and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t exhausting. But it’s a team effort, and we care deeply about the content and believe in it strongly, that makes it worth it. Work definitely bleeds into my personal life, but I’ve been lucky enough to surround myself with amazing friends and family who both inspire me and keep me from going crazy.
DD You grew up in Honduras. I didn’t know much about this country until I watched an episode of BTS back in June of this year. Abby talked about the 4th anniversary of the Honduras Coup, and the complete chaos and instability since. You joined her to speak about many of the country’s problems. Being someone that was spent a lot of time in another country before moving to the US, how was this impacted your perspective on national American issues, as well as the way America interacts with Central America?
MR I was born and raised in Honduras and immigrated to the US when I was a teenager. As proud as I am of my Honduran roots, I’m also proud and grateful for the opportunity to live in the US. Being here as an expatriate has actually given me a sense of obligation to try to help people contextualize the issues that are important to Hondurans and Latinos. And my upbringing and education in Honduras has certainly had a big role in shaping my understanding of US domestic and foreign policy. In fact, the US has played a major role in the history of Central America, both the good and the bad, and I think it’s important that this history isn’t forgotten. That’s why I’ve always been keen on shining a light on stories that challenge the way US interests continue to influence Latin America.
DD At 24, I’ve been attempting to widen my vision beyond just music, learn about a variety of issues and try to make some contribution for
the better. The process of taking in so much information on top of my work as an artist and my personal life is daunting. It’s also inspiring and challenging, but sometimes I just feel overrun by it all. Especially as an emotionally driven and sensitive person, I can soak in energies to very deep levels, sometimes to an extreme. I understand why many people block out so much that’s going on in the world, choosing to just focus on their immediate surroundings and relationships. However I feel like this pattern has had a devastating overall effect; allowing rights to be eroded, the planet to be pillaged to unsustainable levels, and for the governments and corporations to take precedent over ordinary citizens. What would you say to people who wish to help, but either feel overwhelmed, apathetic etc.?
MR Day to day life is hard as it is. Couple that with trying to grasp why there’s so much pain and suffering in the world and it’s hard to see anything other than defeat. But apathy is acceptance; even more so, it’s consenting to the status quo, and I really don’t believe human beings are programed to be that way. I think that people often turn away from news of a drone dismembering a child in Pakistan, or the shooting that’s happening every other school day of the year in America because that shit’s depressing. But how do you fix that? I think the first step is getting yourself informed, and I don’t mean flipping on some corporate media channel talking about Justin Bieber for a full 24 hour cycle… Seek out information for yourself and then share it, and if you have an opinion about it, share it too! People can accomplish big things when they share their opinions; just ask any same-sex couple in Illinois who’s planning their wedding this year thanks to a whole lot of people who shared the same opinion.
DD What are some misconceptions or criticisms of BTS, and what would you say to them?
MR I realize that this show isn’t going to please everyone. Actually, if we did I’d have to question what we were doing wrong! But I remember just before we launched the show, Abby – who’s a perfectionist, had a very clear idea of how she wanted everything formatted. Once we went on air we worried that people might not take well to the way we presented the content, but we were actually very surprised by the amount of support we got from day one. We were also surprised that the most common criticism was that Abby was “too attractive to take seriously”… we laughed it off at first, but it was very telling of how many people out there are still intimidated by a strong female voice. It’s been a great experience to watch the show grow though, and I think our viewers today appreciate our approach to discussing controversial issues; really it’s a learning experience for us too, and we’re always working on ways to make the show better.
DD I don’t just see Abby and yourself as journalists, I see real people. You guys often connect things on a very basic human level, not just a political one. What other interests or activities give you energy and inspiration?
MR I grew up spending a lot of time in nature and I love the ocean. Of course living and working in DC does limit how much time I have for making that sort of connection. But living here has allowed me to surround myself with some amazing people that inspire and motivate me every day. And although you can hardly pull me away from my email, there’s nothing more energizing than disconnecting and going off the grid every once in a while, I think that’s down right necessary.
DD Are you able to gauge the diversity within your fan base and/or viewers of BTS?
MR I wouldn’t be able to give you any statistics, but we’re very proud of how many people we’re reaching around the world. It’s always amazing when we get messages from a parent saying that one of our episodes about food safety inspired their kid, or activists in Gabon thanking us for coverage of corruption in their country’s government, it’s great to know that we’re always reaching new audiences and new demographics.
DD The fearless attitude of BTS seems to be rare these days. Who else would you lift up, as people and/or organizations that share your passions, ethics, and mindsets?
MR This is a great question because I certainly don’t feel like BTS is alone in challenging pre-established narratives. We follow investigative journalists who aren’t afraid of advocating for the public good. So shout outs to Nafeez Ahmed, Amy Goodman, Ben Swann, Andy Stepanian from Sparrow Media, our friends at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Free Press, and really anyone on social media who isn’t afraid to share what they believe.
* Photo credit: Ian Sblacio
Manuel Rapalo – Twitter
– Jimi Jaxon