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 Twitter 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.

Team Racket

The Racket is edited by Sam Thielman, an experienced journalist and editor whose credits include The Guardian, NBC News, and the Columbia Journalism Review. He also edits other excellent newsletters, including Spencer Ackerman’s and Rana Ayyub’s, so I know I’m in good hands.

Researcher Annie Malcolm, whose doctorate in anthropology from UC Berkeley far outclasses everyone else in the group. Her research was based on experimental ethnography in an artist village in China. She also curates art exhibitions and volunteers with unhoused people in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The Racket will also soon include a regular podcast produced and overseen by Evan Roberts, whose past projects include investigations into the food industry and an audio history of the struggle over the I-Hotel in San Francisco’s Manilatown.

The new logo and feel of The Racket is designed by Casey Burns, a rock poster artist who has also worked with Sonic Youth, Modest Mouse, and Spoon.

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.

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 actions, 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