The Racket takes its name from the speeches of Smedley Butler, a legendary Marine turned antiwar activist in the years before World War II. After decades of advancing the causes of U.S. capitalism, empire, and his own career at the expense of peoples all over the world, Butler became a fierce critic of all three.

In those later years, Butler turned his maverick streak against the powerful, taking the side of the working class and against fascism. And he wasn’t afraid to challenge the institutions he had dedicated his life to, declaring that as a Marine he had been no more than hired muscle for corporations and the banks—a “racketeer for capitalism.”

Written by award-winning author and journalist Jonathan M. Katz (Gangsters of Capitalism, The Big Truck That Went By), The Racket carries on Butler’s legacy: his fearlessness, his eagerness to challenge the powerful, and his willingness to be critical of himself. Building on a career he has spent exposing wrongdoing and corruption at the highest levels, each issue will help you better understand the webs of connections that link seemingly disparate parts of our world—in international affairs, disaster, U.S. politics, social issues, and more.

Who am I?

I’m Jonathan Myerson Katz. You might know me on social media as @KatzOnEarth. I’m a regular contributor to lots of publications covering world and national affairs. For the first half of my career, I broke news around the world as a foreign correspondent for the Associated Press.

My first book, The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster, was a PEN Literary Award finalist and won the Overseas Press Club of America’s award for the year’s best book on international affairs. I was formerly a national fellow at New America and directed the Media & Journalism Initiative at Duke University’s John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute.

My latest book is Gangsters of Capitalism: Smedley Butler, The Marines, and the Making and Breaking of America’s Empire. You can read more about my work here.

What people have said about this newsletter:

New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie:

BuzzFeed’s Melissa Segura:

Adam Serwer, The Atlantic:

Spencer Ackerman, Forever Wars:

Perry Bacon, FiveThirtyEight:

Via email:

Thank you for your work -- particularly your most recent newsletter ... [It's] earnest and honest ... and very encouraging. Please keep it up, and rest assured that I'll be buying a subscription.

The Racket’s logo was designed by Casey Burns, a rock poster artist who has also worked with Sonic Youth, Modest Mouse, and Spoon.

It all depends on you

None of this will work without your support. The more of you who chip in with $6 a month, the more we can do—more investigations, more Freedom of Information requests, more and better independent journalism.

You’ll get:

  • Every post

  • Access to subscriber-only discussion threads and message boards

  • Behind-the-scenes features, including exclusives from the field and behind-the-scenes info on Gangsters of Capitalism

  • My undying thanks and admiration

Subscribe to The Racket

Award-winning journalist and author Jonathan M. Katz explores the unseen connections behind international affairs, politics, disaster, and more.


Jonathan M. Katz 

Substacking since before it was uncool. Author of Gangsters of Capitalism and The Big Truck That Went By. Elsewhere @KatzOnEarth.