Andrew and Zach talk about the latest in vaccine development. Earlier this year, MSNBC producer Ariana Pekary resigned from her role in a letter that went viral. Ariana takes us behind the scenes of a major cable news show and reveals how broken media incentives can drive editorial decisions in negative ways.
By early October, even people inside the White House believed President Trump’s re-election campaign needed a desperate rescue mission. So three men allied with the president gathered at a house in McLean, Va., to launch one.
The host was Arthur Schwartz, a New York public relations man close to President Trump’s eldest son, Donald Jr. The guests were a White House lawyer, Eric Herschmann, and a former deputy White House counsel, Stefan Passantino, according to two people familiar with the meeting.
Mr. Herschmann knew the subject matter they were there to discuss. He had represented Mr. Trump during the impeachment trial early this year, and he tried to deflect allegations against the president in part by pointing to Hunter Biden’s work in Ukraine. More recently, he has been working on the White House payroll with a hazy portfolio, listed as “a senior adviser to the president,” and remains close to Jared Kushner.
The three had pinned their hopes for re-electing the president on a fourth guest, a straight-shooting Wall Street Journal White House reporter named Michael Bender. They delivered the goods to him there: a cache of emails detailing Hunter Biden’s business activities, and, on speaker phone, a former business partner of Hunter Biden’s named Tony Bobulinski. Mr. Bobulinski was willing to go on the record in The Journal with an explosive claim: that Joe Biden, the former vice president, had been aware of, and profited from, his son’s activities. The Trump team left believing that The Journal would blow the thing open and their excitement was conveyed to the president.
The Journal had seemed to be the perfect outlet for a story the Trump advisers believed could sink Mr. Biden’s candidacy. Its small-c conservatism in reporting means the work of its news pages carries credibility across the industry. And its readership leans further right than other big news outlets. Its Washington bureau chief, Paul Beckett, recently remarked at a virtual gathering of Journal reporters and editors that while he knows that the paper often delivers unwelcome news to the many Trump supporters who read it, The Journal should protect its unique position of being trusted across the political spectrum, two people familiar with the remarks said.
As the Trump team waited with excited anticipation for a Journal exposé, the newspaper did its due diligence: Mr. Bender and Mr. Beckett handed the story off to a well-regarded China correspondent, James Areddy, and a Capitol Hill reporter who had followed the Hunter Biden story, Andrew Duehren. Mr. Areddy interviewed Mr. Bobulinski. They began drafting an article.
Then things got messy. Without warning his notional allies, Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor and now a lawyer for President Trump, burst onto the scene with the tabloid version of the McLean crew’s carefully laid plot. Mr. Giuliani delivered a cache of documents of questionable provenance — but containing some of the same emails — to The New York Post, a sister publication to The Journal in Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. Mr. Giuliani had been working with the former Trump aide Steve Bannon, who also began leaking some of the emails to favored right-wing outlets. Mr. Giuliani’s complicated claim that the emails came from a laptop Hunter Biden had abandoned, and his refusal to let some reporters examine the laptop, cast a pall over the story — as did The Post’s reporting, which alleged but could not prove that Joe Biden had been involved in his son’s activities.
While the Trump team was clearly jumpy, editors in The Journal’s Washington bureau were wrestling with a central question: Could the documents, or Mr. Bobulinski, prove that Joe Biden was involved in his son’s lobbying? Or was this yet another story of the younger Mr. Biden trading on his family’s name — a perfectly good theme, but not a new one or one that needed urgently to be revealed before the election.
Mr. Trump and his allies expected the Journal story to appear Monday, Oct. 19, according to Mr. Bannon. That would be late in the campaign, but not too late — and could shape that week’s news cycle heading into the crucial final debate last Thursday. An “important piece” in The Journal would be coming soon, Mr. Trump told aides on a conference call that day.
His comment was not appreciated inside The Journal.
“The editors didn’t like Trump’s insinuation that we were being teed up to do this hit job,” a Journal reporter who wasn’t directly involved in the story told me. But the reporters continued to work on the draft as the Thursday debate approached, indifferent to the White House’s frantic timeline.
Finally, Mr. Bobulinski got tired of waiting.
“He got spooked about whether they were going to do it or not,” Mr. Bannon said.
At 7:35 Wednesday evening, Mr. Bobulinski emailed an on-the-record, 684-word statement making his case to a range of news outlets. Breitbart News published it in full. He appeared the next day in Nashville to attend the debate as Mr. Trump’s surprise guest, and less than two hours before the debate was to begin, he read a six-minute statement to the press, detailing his allegations that the former vice president had involvement in his son’s business dealings.
When Mr. Trump stepped on stage, the president acted as though the details of the emails and the allegations were common knowledge. “You’re the big man, I think. I don’t know, maybe you’re not,” he told Mr. Biden at some point, a reference to an ambiguous sentence from the documents.
As the debate ended, The Wall Street Journal published a brief item, just the stub of Mr. Areddy and Mr. Duehren’s reporting. The core of it was that Mr. Bobulinski had failed to prove the central claim. “Corporate records reviewed by The Wall Street Journal show no role for Joe Biden,” The Journal reported.
Asked about The Journal’s handling of the story, the editor in chief, Matt Murray, said the paper did not discuss its newsgathering. “Our rigorous and trusted journalism speaks for itself,” Mr. Murray said in an emailed statement.
And if you’d been watching the debate, but hadn’t been obsessively watching Fox News or reading Breitbart, you would have had no idea what Mr. Trump was talking about. The story the Trump team hoped would upend the campaign was fading fast.
The gatekeepers return
The McLean group’s failed attempt to sway the election is partly just another story revealing the chaotic, threadbare quality of the Trump operation — a far cry from the coordinated “disinformation” machinery feared by liberals.
But it’s also about a larger shift in the American media, one in which the gatekeepers appear to have returned after a long absence.
It has been a disorienting couple of decades, after all. It all began when The Drudge Report, Gawker and the blogs started telling you what stodgy old newspapers and television networks wouldn’t. Then social media brought floods of content pouring over the old barricades.
By 2015, the old gatekeepers had entered a kind of crisis of confidence, believing they couldn’t control the online news cycle any better than King Canute could control the tides. Television networks all but let Donald Trump take over as executive producer that summer and fall. In October 2016, Julian Assange and James Comey seemed to drive the news cycle more than the major news organizations. Many figures in old media and new bought into the idea that in the new world, readers would find the information they wanted to read — and therefore, decisions by editors and producers, about whether to cover something and how much attention to give it, didn’t mean much.
But the last two weeks have proved the opposite: that the old gatekeepers, like The Journal, can still control the agenda. It turns out there is a big difference between WikiLeaks and establishment media coverage of WikiLeaks, a difference between a Trump tweet and an article about it, even between an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal suggesting Joe Biden had done bad things, and a news article that didn’t reach that conclusion.
Perhaps the most influential media document of the last four years is a chart by a co-director of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard, Yochai Benkler. The study showed that a dense new right-wing media sphere had emerged — and that the mainstream news “revolved around the agenda that the right-wing media sphere set.”
Mr. Bannon had known this, too. He described his strategy as “anchor left, pivot right,” and even as he ran Breitbart News, he worked to place attacks on Hillary Clinton in mainstream outlets. The validating power of those outlets was clear when The New York Times and Washington Post were given early access in the spring of 2015 to the book “Clinton Cash,” an investigation of the Clinton family’s blurring of business, philanthropic and political interests by the writer Peter Schweizer.
Mr. Schweizer is still around this cycle. But you won’t find his work in mainstream outlets. He’s over on Breitbart, with a couple of Hunter Biden stories this month.
And the fact that Mr. Bobulinski emerged not in the pages of the widely respected Journal but in a statement to Breitbart was essentially Mr. Bannon’s nightmare, and Mr. Benkler’s fondest wish. And a broad array of mainstream outlets, unpersuaded that Hunter Biden’s doings tie directly to the former vice president, have largely kept the story off their front pages, and confined to skeptical explanations of what Mr. Trump and his allies are claiming about his opponent.
“SO USA TODAY DIDN’T WANT TO RUN MY HUNTER BIDEN COLUMN THIS WEEK,” the conservative writer Glenn Reynolds complained Oct. 20, posting the article instead to his blog. President Trump himself hit a wall when he tried to push the Hunter Biden narrative onto CBS News.
“This is ‘60 Minutes,’ and we can’t put on things we can’t verify,” Lesley Stahl told him. Mr. Trump then did more or less the same thing as Mr. Reynolds, posting a video of his side of the interview to his own blog, Facebook.
The media’s control over information, of course, is not as total as it used to be. The people who own printing presses and broadcast towers can’t actually stop you from reading leaked emails or unproven theories about Joe Biden’s knowledge of his son’s business. But what Mr. Benkler’s research showed was that the elite outlets’ ability to set the agenda endured in spite of social media.
We should have known it, of course. Many of our readers, screaming about headlines on Twitter, did. And Mr. Trump knew it all along — one way to read his endless attacks on the establishment media is as an expression of obsession, a form of love. This week, you can hear howls of betrayal from people who have for years said the legacy media was both utterly biased and totally irrelevant.
“For years, we’ve respected and even revered the sanctified position of the free press,” wrote Dana Loesch, a right-wing commentator not particularly known for her reverence of legacy media, expressing frustration that the Biden story was not getting attention. “Now that free press points its digital pen at your throat when you question their preferences.”
On the other side of the gate
There’s something amusing — even a bit flattering — in such earnest protestations from a right-wing movement rooted in efforts to discredit the independent media. And this reassertion of control over information is what you’ve seen many journalists call for in recent years. At its best, it can also close the political landscape to a trendy new form of dirty tricks, as in France in 2017, where the media largely ignored a last-minute dump of hacked emails from President Emmanuel Macron’s campaign just before a legally mandated blackout period.
But I admit that I feel deep ambivalence about this revenge of the gatekeepers. I spent my career, before arriving at The Times in March, on the other side of the gate, lobbing information past it to a very online audience who I presumed had already seen the leak or the rumor, and seeing my job as helping to guide that audience through the thicket, not to close their eyes to it. “The media’s new and unfamiliar job is to provide a framework for understanding the wild, unvetted, and incredibly intoxicating information that its audience will inevitably see — not to ignore it,” my colleague John Herrman (also now at The Times) and I wrote in 2013. In 2017, I made the decision to publish the unverified “Steele dossier,” in part on the grounds that gatekeepers were looking at it and influenced by it, but keeping it from their audience.
This fall, top media and tech executives were bracing to refight the last war — a foreign-backed hack-and-leak operation like WikiLeaks seeking to influence the election’s outcome. It was that hyper-vigilance that led Twitter to block links to The New York Post’s article about Hunter Biden — a frighteningly disproportionate response to a story that other news organizations were handling with care. The schemes of Mr. Herschmann, Mr. Passantino and Mr. Schwartz weren’t exactly WikiLeaks. But the special nervousness that many outlets, including this one, feel about the provenance of the Hunter Biden emails is, in many ways, the legacy of the WikiLeaks experience.
I’d prefer to put my faith in Mr. Murray and careful, professional journalists like him than in the social platforms’ product managers and executives. And I hope Americans relieved that the gatekeepers are reasserting themselves will also pay attention to who gets that power, and how centralized it is, and root for new voices to correct and challenge them.
<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/SXOUCRLW2UI” frameborder=”0″ allow=”accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture” allowfullscreen></iframe>41:31whole mask thing apparently I was like41:33really arguing you shouldn’t wear a mask41:35or you’re a [ __ ] god it’s but that’s41:38also the problem with sound bites on41:40Twitter yeah it’s41:41you know it exists it’s the content41:44factory and you know anybody that41:46creates content you know then that goes41:50out into the world and look they’re41:51looking for for eyeballs to and that’s41:54why I always feel like like I take [ __ ]41:58but I can’t complain about it because41:59that’s part of the guy right that’s part42:03of the game that’s what I do for living42:04so like when people say let it go42:06correctness it’s overwhelming I just say42:08like amen it’s just other people pushing42:12back and getting to say their [ __ ] and42:13that’s exactly what they should be doing42:16the internet and it’s democratized you42:19know outraged and there’s more speech42:23now than there’s ever been before in the42:25history of the world like we all know42:26you know it’s like that what’s the movie42:28with the Mel Gibson where he knows what42:32women what would you think Yeah right42:34so yeah ESP Twitter and the Internet is42:38just we all have developed the ESP and42:39now we know what everybody is thinking42:41it’s all every day we’re just bombarded42:44by what everybody’s saying well you’re42:46also bombarded by the people that spend42:47the most time doing it because there’s a42:50lot of mentally unwell people that spend42:52their entire day camp down on Twitter42:54having arguments and if you want to42:57venture into that world and risk your42:59consciousness and your health your met43:01your literal mental health by43:03communicating in this really crude43:05manner with text messages and you know43:08arguing over semantics with people that43:10you don’t even know it’s it’s a terrible43:12way to exist are you on Twitter do you43:15have a Twitter account but I don’t read43:16it it goes you know I post things on43:20inner on Instagram they go to Twitter43:22occasionally I’ll post things on Twitter43:23but I don’t read it it’s just too toxic43:26man I get it you know and I know when I43:29[ __ ] up and I know when people are mad43:31at me when it’s legit and valid and I43:33know when they’re mad at me for nonsense43:35and I I’m my worst self critic so I43:38don’t need other people yelling at me I43:40know what I did wrong and stay clear43:42healthy I think that’s the only approach43:44you can have in this environment I think43:46it’s a healthy way to look at it and you43:48know I always try and keep myself like43:50you figure when when people are coming43:52at it there’s probably to be something43:54constructive in there43:55sometimes energy to like find it and43:57sometimes I’m just like I really can43:59used yeah sometimes you can’t do it but44:01yeah there’s value in criticism it’s44:03very important but not too much it’s44:05like anything else like you there’s44:07value in a little bit of snake venom you44:09develop a tolerance but if you get a big44:11fat dose you’re dead and it’s in in many44:14ways it’s the same with interacting with44:16people that are upset with you there’s44:17gonna people people that are upset with44:19everybody for no reason no matter what44:21the story is in the news even if it’s44:22clear-cut to you and I there’s going to44:24be someone who has a violent opposition44:25to that idea it doesn’t mean they’re44:27right it doesn’t mean you’re right it44:29just means people have a lot of44:31different [ __ ] ways of looking at the44:32world and if you want to exist in44:34conflict in perpetuity stay on Twitter44:37and stay on Twitter all day long and44:38just argue with people I don’t want to44:41do that you know and again it’s not that44:43I don’t have any room for improvement44:45it’s not that I don’t appreciate or44:47accept or recognize the value of44:48criticism because I definitely do it’s44:50that it’s not healthy it’s not healthy44:53for me it’s not it could directly affect44:55the kind of content I put out it’s not44:57good that’s what I was upset do you feel45:00like one of the hardest thing to do is45:02to maintain your kind of creative45:06barometer so that you don’t let those45:10kinds of things when you feel like45:13they’re not constructive pulling it too45:15far to the outrage world where some45:18other things like to maintain that and45:21that’s why I think it’s good like what45:22you do in terms of Congress is like you45:22you do in terms of Congress is like you45:24basically say you know I’m gonna do long45:27form because that you know feels like at45:31least from my perspective the healthiest45:33form45:34yeah it’s conversation but is even in45:37that case people will take long-form45:40edit things out of context and then it45:42becomes the same problem that we have on45:45Twitter and with everything else you get45:46these little sound bites so there’s45:48little video clips and you don’t45:50understand the full context of the45:52conversation or what was actually said45:54and then people get outraged at that45:56it’s you know it’s we are living in a45:59very strange time and I believe it’s an46:01adolescent stage of communication and I46:03think it’s going to give our46:04frustrations for this are going to give46:06birth to a better full46:08and I think one of the things that46:09podcasts what it’s in response to the46:13popularity of the long-form is in46:15response to people being upset with like46:18these traditional late-night talk show46:20things where there’s a window here with46:22one guy on the right and a window here46:23with a guy on the left and there’s a46:24person in the center and they’re yelling46:25at each other and then you cut to46:26commercial and you don’t really feel46:27like things got resolved so the response46:30to that where people gravitate it’s46:32three is theater yeah I think he’s was46:37it hard for you you know when we came up46:39his comments it was also at that point46:42like it was sort of a gladiatorial46:43environment you know and I remember you46:45know the Boston scene you know was46:48always like that’s a tough scene yeah46:50he’d come up and it was kind of46:53gladiatorial and but you had that46:55audience and you develop kind of that46:57thick skin is it hard to then make that46:59switch in your mind to this different47:03form that’s so much more considered so47:06much less about conquering the stage47:11yeah it is about being open and is that47:15something that for you what was the47:19switch for you from those two forms47:22because that’s and that’s an interesting47:23switch well in the beginning there47:26wasn’t very good switch you know it’s47:28like one of the reasons why the early47:29episode sucked it’s like I didn’t know47:31what I was doing and I didn’t think47:32anybody was listening it was just for47:34fun and there was a lot of just hanging47:36out with comics and just doing what47:37comics do if we were at a diner47:39somewhere just talking [ __ ] and making47:41each other laugh but we were doing it47:43and videotaping it and then along the47:45way I started interviewing actual47:47interesting people and talking to them47:49and having conversations and not you47:51know I don’t you know I there’s a place47:53for comedy and then I don’t I make a47:56really big point in never trying to47:59force comedy into places where it48:01doesn’t belong that’s I do that also48:04with the UFC when I do commentary I’m48:05never funny there’s no reason to be it’s48:07not what my job is you know and then48:09when I’m doing a conversation with48:11someone I just try to talk I don’t try48:14to be a comic I don’t try I just I’m a48:16human I want I want to know what they’re48:18talking about and I want to I want to48:20get them to expand upon their48:22ideas as best they can and I want to be48:24engaged that’s what I’m trying to do so48:27it wasn’t that it wasn’t that was a big48:30transition it was that I had to learn48:31how to do this thing48:33that I didn’t I think was a skill I48:34thought that like being on the radio or48:37podcasting you know was just talking48:39that’s what I thought it so you’re just48:40talking and then I realize no no you’re48:42talking in a way that people want to48:45listen you’re making it entertaining48:47you’re keeping your ego in check you’re48:49you’re moving the conversation along way48:51not being overbearing you’re not letting48:54people ramble too much where it’s boring48:56you you got to figure out how to juice48:57things up and push them and massage them48:59and move him around it’s a skill and I49:02didn’t think it was a skill and you know49:04and like I said that’s one of the49:06reasons when my early episodes suck so49:07bad there wasn’t given any consideration49:10to the fact that people were listening49:11it was just fun we’re just doing it for49:14ourselves and then along the way and in49:17this house he also speaks to the value49:19of criticism I read a bunch of criticism49:21about what was wrong with the podcast49:23you know that I talk we talk over each49:26other I talk too much whatever it was49:28and I took it to heart and I would think49:30about it I’ll go okay I gotta consider49:32that people are listening to this this49:34isn’t just what I want to say it’s what49:36I want people to hear I know how I want49:38it just like stand up you wanted the49:40joke to easily enter into a person’s49:42mind so it’s so well written and so49:45perfectly timed that the audience goes49:47John Stewart’s got this I’m just gonna49:49sit back and let him take my thoughts on49:51a ride and that’s that’s what really49:53good stand-up is I mean it’s one of the49:55reason why dave was able to do that 8:4649:58special that way where he has this long50:02drawn-out story with so many important50:06points and a few laughs thrown in there50:08but so engaged and it’s he’s so you just50:12go with him you just let him take you50:14just let him take you and that’s that’s50:16everything whether it’s someone giving a50:19speech or you know I mean even like just50:24almost every conversation that we have50:26it’s there’s a skill to it that we’re50:28not taught I mean you know what it’s50:30like to talk to someone where they’re50:31not even really talking to you they’re50:33just kind of waiting for50:35them to talk they’re waiting for you to50:36finish so they can talk about themselves50:37that’s that’s a real problem with people50:40and communicating and I had to learn how50:42to I learn how to be a better50:44communicator really it also had to be50:46authentically you because there is now50:49like I think the best measure sometimes50:52of art or a standard for those things is50:55when you you hear things or see things50:57that are uniquely that person like50:59nobody could have delivered 8:46 good51:03day right line perfect yeah it just51:06authentically uniquely in your voice51:10that you develop authentically uniquely51:12and that’s a hard thing to develop it’s51:13funny because I feel like that’s what51:16stand-up helped to do for me hmm us when51:19you do that in front of our eyes even51:21I’ll give like boss as an example you51:22know when we’d be working next you do51:24that that run of mixes like in the51:26framingham and the other ones you know51:27we go to the the one in Central Boston51:31first and I can remember I hadn’t played51:36the room before and I was I was a young51:37comic and I just don’t let her and I51:39think I’ve gotten like a big break and51:41so the guys at Nick’s booked me on that51:44run to be a headliner my first run on51:48those next properties so I came into51:50Nicks and they were just gonna throw me51:53up on stage and what they did was so51:57such a learning experience because you51:58kind of think like I’m on Letterman I’m52:00just gonna walk into this place I’m52:01coming up from your top bed a comedy I’m52:04gonna [ __ ] strut my stuff and Nicks52:06and they threw up before me I think it52:10was Lenny Clarke Kenny Robertson and52:14swinging and I walked in the room and it52:19was like Dresden like they had so blown52:23that room out with brilliance and then52:25it was like and from New York a52:27Letterman guy John Stehr and it was it52:32was like they were clubbing a baby seal52:35I was just but man they did that to52:39everybody it but so like wonderfully52:42humbling yeah he is it makes you realize52:44in the moment like all right52:46I’ve got a [ __ ] ton of work to do yes52:48like okay just murder it brilliant [ __ ]52:52and you’re just like that boy yeah if52:56you want to be humbled that the Boston52:59comedy scene in the late 80s in the53:01early 90s that was the place to be it53:04was a great place to develop too though53:05because it lets you know I mean you53:08never want to be overconfidence one of53:09the worst things you could be in53:10anything and you never want to be lazy53:12if you’re especially when you’re53:14delivering something to people that are53:16actually paying to see you talk right53:19like man there’s such a such a important53:23connection that you have to those people53:25it has got it you’ve got to do the work53:28it’s got to be your best version and if53:31you’re not doing that and they know53:33you’re not doing that they get angry at53:34you it’s like it’s the anger that an53:37audience has towards a comic that’s53:38bombing is very difficult to describe53:41you know like they’re mad they can do53:43that too they can talk to like why the53:45[ __ ] are you talking like if you’re not53:48on in you know there’s real valuable53:50lessons to that as a crack coming up53:52that you do apply to whether it’s53:54podcast and you’re hosting any kind of a53:56show ya know there’s a fertility to it53:58and if you don’t stay on top of it you54:00know the energy that room is is a bear54:03that will get up and walk out of the54:04room if you’re not careful but it’s54:07interesting also though now so you’re54:08known now stand up when you’re down54:11versus stand up when you’re not there’s54:13also a difference because you walk into54:16a room when they know you and there is54:18you know you don’t have to be as sharp54:22if you don’t want to because they’re and54:23that’s a discipline as well yeah I mean54:26that you’re not coasting on maybe some54:29goodwill that they had for you based on54:32something else that’s very dangerous54:33that’s one of the reasons why the Comedy54:35Store is so important because when I go54:37there it’s not my crowd it’s my crowd54:39and you know Anthony Jeselnik crowd and54:43Ali Wong’s crowd and like there’s a lot54:45of people there coming to see everybody54:47and so and you’re going on after all54:49these murderers so it’s when you’re when54:52you’re in that kind of an environment54:53you sort of have to dot your i’s and54:55cross your T’s you got to do the work54:57right are you still really involved like54:59because for me you know once I did55:02started the show and once I had kids55:04like I’ll really get to the clubs55:06anymore so it almost feels like old55:09timers day when I show up showed up he’s55:13good you know but I wish I I wish I55:17could get out there more and every night55:18it would be you know you’re like 855:19o’clock I’m like I should I should just55:21drive up to the city and go work the55:23cellar and then my wife will be like55:25bachelor in paradise is on all right55:27yeah yeah well the way I had been55:31setting it up at the store was all my55:33sets would be after 10 o’clock for the55:35most part except rarely rarely I would55:38do an 8 o’clock show so everybody would55:40be in bed so I’d leave my house and my55:42set wouldn’t be probably until 11:00 so55:45I’d leave my house and everybody’d be55:46asleep and it was perfect and I just and55:49I that’s also my favorite time to write55:51to I would come home from the store and55:53everybody’d be asleep fire up a joint55:55and sit in front of laptop and come up55:57with some ideas and it’s I had it down55:59to a science before the the lockdown56:01right has the lockdown mess your56:06creature I don’t know I mean I mean my56:10comedy routine it certainly has I don’t56:12know I mean I’m doing my first shows56:14this weekend in Houston I don’t know56:15what the [ __ ] gonna happen I don’t56:17know if I know how to do it anymore56:18that’s gonna be very strange like you56:23couldn’t go more into the belly of the56:24beast like right juicy yeah like it’s56:26like being on the surface of being like56:28it’s off your charts with this thing56:29yeah I’m gonna go on stage with two56:30bottles of Lysol and just you know girls56:33do that thing when they spray perfume56:34and they walk through it I do that with56:37Lysol on stage I mean I think it’s56:42really critical to strengthen your56:44immune system and I do a lot of things56:45to do that and I think that’s something56:47that people need to really concentrate56:48on and I really wish that our elected56:50officials were talking more about that56:52and having speeches with doctors and56:55doing the office you never shall Obama56:58tried to do like try to put kale in57:01something and everybody was like what57:02I’m sorry go back to tater tots57:08yeah I mean just the science on vitamin57:12supplementation and how critical it is57:14for your immune system particularly57:15vitamin D that is that could literally57:17save lives and that knowledge is not57:20secret that knowledge is out there you57:22did those those episodes on the game57:24changers the James was and that was it57:28was fascinating it was because I watched57:30that movie and you know nutrition is57:33also like diet is such an important part57:35of what we do to ourselves that we that57:38we don’t think and especially in a time57:39of kovat where so many people like to57:43say like when you see what this does the57:45people with type 1 diabetes are four57:47with other kinds of you know conditions57:51that might be caused from either poor57:53diet or lack of access to know healthier57:56options and things like that you realize57:58like [ __ ] we put ourselves in a very58:01vulnerable position58:02yeah very vulnerable yeah we Andrew58:05Schultz had a really good point he said58:07this this pandemic highlighted the58:10vulnerabilities both in our economic58:11system and in our health system like the58:15way we are as human beings the what58:17who’s vulnerable the obese people people58:20with diabetes older folks I mean it58:22highlights all these issues where you58:25know we we really need to concentrate on58:28for the future if you want more people58:29to survive this there is there are58:32strategies that can be implemented and58:34we really we really need to talk to58:36people about just being normal stuff58:38being D hiding well hydrated making sure58:41you’re not dehydrated well rested teach58:44people meditation techniques is not hard58:46to learn some breathing exercises that58:48have been actually proven to increase58:51your immune function it’s not hard to58:53teach people about vitamin D and58:55supplementing it if you can’t go outside58:56so how do you get people then to take58:59action because here’s the other thing59:01you remember like those lives are hard59:02yeah you’re dealing when you’re talking59:04about like we talked about earlier like59:06economic inequality you know it’s hard59:10to go into an area where they feel like59:12[ __ ] I don’t know where my next meal is59:13coming from and be like so here’s what59:16we’re gonna do we’re just gonna sit and59:17breathe quiet these five minutes and I59:19know59:20it’s a really difficult it’s like59:23hierarchy of needs you know yeah how do59:26you how do you work into the idea that59:30those types of theories are actually59:33important to the betterment of like and59:36the stability of the larger part of59:38their life when they’re fighting so hard59:40just to stay afloat yeah it’s a that’s59:43an interesting point and I think what59:46you have to do is it has to be first of59:48all told by people who are doing it59:51successfully so people that are doing it59:54that like maybe were struggling with59:55their immune system and turned it around59:58and got healthier like those people are60:00the ones that the people that are in a60:01bad position right now they really60:03respond to when it comes to you live60:05there’s an emotional connection with if60:07you see some guide is in the cover of60:08Men’s Health magazine he’s ripped and he60:10starts talking about fitness you like60:11get the [ __ ] out of here I can’t relate60:13to you I’m never gonna look like that60:14but if you see someone who is in the60:16situation that you’re in currently and60:19they turned it around60:21well that me but listen I’ve been60:24working out my whole life I’ve never60:25stopped okay but if someone is fat I’m60:29talking from their perspective and they60:30see some guy who’s really thin and60:33chiseled then it’s not going to make60:34sense to them that they could ever be60:36like that but if they see someone60:38there’s a lot of really fantastic photos60:40and and and Instagram and Facebook pages60:43online where you can get inspiration60:45from someone who actually stuck to a60:47diet actually stuck to an exercise60:49routine and then speaks really well60:51about how much it improved the way they60:54feel their emotions their depression all60:56the aspects of their life and that’s I60:58think one of the more like David Goggins61:00is a great example that I use him all61:02the time because he’s this incredibly61:04inspirational guy who was a Navy SEAL61:07and at one point in time he’s 300 pounds61:09he was drinking milkshakes and he puts61:10those pictures of himself on Instagram61:12all the time just to let people know hey61:15I’m not some alien I’m a person who was61:18weak just like you I was lazy I got fat61:21and then I figured out how to train my61:23mind to be disciplined and I’d figured61:25out how to be happier and I think that61:27that’s really important for people to61:29see that it’s we’re not in a static61:31State we’re all in a constant state of61:34him61:34provement and growth hopefully or61:35deterioration if you’re not careful but61:38does that you know the thing that I61:40worry about those sometimes is similarly61:43to economic distress does it make a61:47person’s health61:49be a function of their virtue does it61:52does it take something that is beyond a61:54lot of people’s control that isn’t that61:57a little bit of like a matter if you61:59just pull your pants up you could do it62:02like no it’s not it’s known it is the62:04way I know what you’re saying but it’s62:06not it’s I did this and I can show you62:09how I did it and maybe you can do it too62:11that’s what it is we don’t have to look62:12at every success is somehow or another62:14thumbing in the face of people who can’t62:16achieve a similar goal but there are62:20enough people out there that can that we62:23should concentrate on that because I62:24think it’ll have a significant62:25improvement on the overall health of us62:27again as a community and I think this is62:30really how we have to look at the United62:33States and human beings on earth in62:35general we have to look at each other as62:37a bunch of people that could very well62:39be neighbors we’re community and if62:41you’re my friend and you were fat and62:43you were willing to listen and I used to62:46be fat too and I can tell you hey man62:48this is what I did I stopped drinking62:50soda was there are people that are I62:53mean I understand the point there and62:56I’m okay I’m an advocate for plant-based62:58stuff I think that’s it’s a healthy way63:00to do it63:01but obviously eating is such a personal63:03experience that I hesitate to ever63:05impart that in any other way but I just63:10feel like sometimes for people it’s63:15almost more debilitating for that63:18mentality of this is how you doing just63:21gotta get your [ __ ] together and go63:23through this way I do think you have to63:25present more options but know that it’s63:28maybe more complicated and people can be63:31overweight or whatever and be healthy63:33it’s not necessarily you know something63:38that’s corrosive to them but well it is63:40though being overweight is necessarily63:43corrosive it’s not healthy for anybody63:44it’s less healthy63:47and being at an optimal weight that’s63:50what’s important it gives you some sort63:52of a burden63:53whether that burden is sustainable is63:55debatable maybe for some people it is63:57for some people it isn’t look some63:58people can smoke until they’re 90 and64:00they’re fine64:01other people pancreatic cancer like64:03Hicks and died in their 30s it it64:06depends64:07wildly on the person but the idea that64:10you can be fat and you can be healthy I64:12think is a dangerous narrative because64:14you’re telling people listen don’t64:16improve you don’t have to you can be64:19healthy and be obese at the same time64:21but the medical science does not really64:24support that the more weight you lose up64:28to a certain point you know but when you64:30if you get to a healthy body mass your64:32body works better it’s really simple it64:34doesn’t tax your immune system as much64:36doesn’t tax your heart as much it’s64:38better for you it’s better for your64:40joints it doesn’t mean that we should64:44ignore people that are overweight and64:46you know and pretend that you know that64:49they’re they’re not worthy or they’re64:51not they’re not good folks I have a very64:55emotional because I feel protective64:58you’re nice over people and I I just65:01yeah I think you sweetheart it’s great65:04that’s a good thing no it is it’s the65:07the reason why you’re thinking like this65:09because we’re talking right we’re65:12talking about people doing well and you65:13like [ __ ] what about the people can’t do65:15well let’s reach out to them and offer65:17them an olive branch and yeah I get it65:18man I guess you’re right you’re right65:20look I have very good friends that are65:22morbidly obese and they don’t want to65:24listen and there’s nothing I can do I65:26just hug them when I see them and you65:27know I hope that one day they come to65:29grips with it and they change but they65:31don’t have to you know you you live this65:33life for a certain amount of time and if65:35you want to live it eating cake and65:36drinking beer that’s you you do whatever65:39you want we’re all on the end in the end65:41we’re all gonna be in the ground it’s65:42all pointless conversation sort out65:50optimistically take in this country and65:52turning it around and a very fatalistic65:55officer65:56well that’s true the end in the end65:57we’re all dying65:58that’s how that story ends we’re all66:00dead so the the story with what I don’t66:04want people to do is suffer and I want66:05people to feel better while they’re66:06alive and I think that’s something66:08that’s missed in the message of health66:10improvement like you will actually have66:12a better experience on earth and it’ll66:15help you mitigate stress it’ll help you66:17it’ll help you have better relationships66:19because you won’t be burdened down with66:21a lot of like anxiety and stress that66:23literally comes from a physical release66:25of energy I look at the body like a66:27battery and I think that some people’s66:29batteries just overflowing with66:31corrosive material because they never66:33exert it66:34they never blow it out a battery a66:35battery is a bad analogy but there’s66:37there’s a certain amount of physical66:39requirement I think your body has to has66:42and if you don’t give that that body66:44that physical exertion it doesn’t feel66:46good we’re we’ve evolved to hunt and66:49gather and build homes and survive from66:52predators and we carry around all the66:54burdens in our body of this past and66:57there’s no getting around that and you66:59could either deny it and just deal with67:01all the tension or you can exert your67:03energy find some way to calm your mind67:06and live a life that’s better let me ask67:10you a question egg because now this is67:11I’m wondering because you’re talking67:14about sort of evolving to a place where67:17your body and like when you had James on67:19and he was talking about babies do you67:23have moral qualms about meat or do you67:26not like you said well you know we’re67:28hunters and and that like is that ever67:30an issue for you or is it purely a67:32health issue or there’s both things67:35there’s a health issue there is a moral67:37qualms with factory farming there’s not67:39a moral qualms qualms with health with67:41hunting because I I know the reality of67:43the life of a deer if you don’t kill67:46that deer it’s gonna die a horrible67:48death from a wolf or a coyote or a67:50mountain lion or whatever the [ __ ] gets67:52ahold of it67:53it’s got Ruiz to death it’s going you67:55can either die quickly by the hand of a67:57person you respect that life and it’ll67:59nurture your body and the bodies of your68:01family our problem is a disconnection68:03more than anything and let me tell you68:05something when the kovat lockdown68:06happened I got more requests from68:08friends and more requests for68:09information about hunting and gun68:11ownership how do I68:12protect myself and how do I feed myself68:13and how do I grow food those were three68:15really big questions that I kept getting68:17from people it’s fine I have such a68:19different perspective on it in terms of68:22just the the relationship between myself68:28and I didn’t house a big meat-eater was68:30a big like deli guy pastrami and corned68:32beef and all that my wife got into68:35rescue and these types of things and we68:37ended over the farm with pigs and goats68:40and sheep and things like that and it68:44became untenable for me to make that68:47decision you know that that sort of that68:50decision of I think you’ll be better off68:53if I kill you and then it became it was68:58something I could no longer manage once69:01I knew the process of it and that it was69:05a hard it’s been a very hard process for69:09me it’s only been about four or five69:10years how was your health I mean I’m an69:14old Jew so baseline pretty much we don’t69:20age well to begin with how old do you69:23know John we age a bit like avocados69:25when you leave them out69:26yeah I’m 57 I’m 52 so or in similar69:32boats similar boat you know but I mean69:36it’s hard to know I feel good you know69:39if you look at markers like cholesterol69:41or blood pressure those things it’s69:44better but like you say I don’t I don’t69:48know enough about how the body processes69:52to know if I’m I feel better the numbers69:56say I’m better but you know genetics I’m70:00sure plays a part in it as well but the70:03funny thing is like I don’t even think70:06about it anymore70:06like it just don’t even think about it70:08anymore well let’s get into a custom and70:12once your gut biome changes you know you70:14really get accustomed to whatever you’re70:16eating good or bad unfortunately and70:18that’s one of the reasons why people70:19have such a hard time quitting sugar and70:20bread and pasta and things along those70:22lines so your body just craves it that’s70:24what it wants we start eating healthier70:26food your body does great that can go70:28off of meat and still be incredibly70:30unhealthy like you know you can be vegan70:32and just exist on Lay’s potato chips70:35yeah and so it is you know and it’s a70:38tougher Road and the world is certainly70:41not it’s not built for that and it70:44certainly feels a little bit of a70:49narrower lane that you have to do and I70:52also think it’s an incredibly emotional70:54topic yeah like very little that’s as70:56emotional and personal as what people71:00put in their bodies and how they eat and71:01what they do and I’m always very71:03respectful because I also I got no leg71:05to stand on man I like this is what I’m71:07doing it feels better for me but I I71:11always say like but it’s such a personal71:16and individual choice than you71:18everybody’s got to do for themselves71:20the only thing I would say is like I do71:22think it’s important for people to get71:24educated on it to read up on like you71:27say factory farming well what might be71:30the you know nutritional boss of it or71:33what are some of the things that are in71:35it or what maybe is it going to do to71:37our community when you know we use so71:40many antibiotics mm-hmm and the meat71:42production ah you know that’s the only71:45thing I say is like try and educate71:47yourself to how your meal gets to your71:50table that’s why I’m a huge advocate for71:53like local farming and agriculture71:55because those are the people they’re71:57just growing their food and they’re71:58bringing it to your table I find that72:00incredible but but I also don’t I try72:04not to take a position of judgment on72:07people because I feel like that’s unfair72:09but I think that’s very wise of you and72:11I think that there’s a lot of people72:13that share your position on animal death72:15and I think that’s one of the more72:16promising aspects of laboratory created72:18meat as long as it can be done in a way72:19that’s actually going to be healthy for72:21us it seems like there’s some real72:23science behind that and they’re very72:25very close to releasing that a large72:27scale so it would be actual meat that72:29doesn’t come with death which is really72:31fascinating oh really yeah yeah you’re72:34talking about like the the the one that72:36they had I saw like it’s a tank72:37and he pulls out it’s like $20,000 for a72:40chicken breast they did that yeah it was72:42really expensive at one point in time72:44but they’ve gotten it down to a burger72:46now like they can actually make a burger72:48out of this stuff and they feel like as72:51this if this technology improves they72:53essentially flesh when it’s not a would72:57you if you could if you could still have73:00the the part of me that you like but it73:03came without death do you think you73:05would make that switch or is that73:06something that well I certainly would73:08with domestic animals the the difference73:10between that and hunting there’s there’s73:12a conservation aspect of it one thing73:15that leads to protection of wildlife73:18habitat is actually the money that comes73:20from hunting tags and hunting equipment73:23there’s that there’s also the the type73:28of relationship you have with your food73:31when you actually work very hard and73:34hunt it and kill it is very different73:36than buying food from a store and I73:40would say similar in a similar way73:42growing food when you go to Whole Foods73:45sometimes you really got to stop that73:47you know there’s there’s a lot that goes73:48into the trip the whole yeah it’s a good73:52parking spot that’s right yeah I get it73:55growing your own food in your backyard73:57is very satisfying to and I would say to74:00people like that’s a microcosm I guess74:03it’s a very micro form of what it feels74:05like to hunt an animal and then eat it74:07and feed your family for you know if I74:08shoot an elk I eat it literally for a74:11year so one animal death equals like a74:14year of my meals and you know there’s74:19also the moral high-ground position you74:21know I think a lot of people love to74:24look at the moral high ground of eating74:27vegetables and only eating vegetables as74:29being a superior way to live their life74:31and that’s that’s a good decision I74:33understand where you’re coming from I74:35understand that there’s people that look74:37at life very differently than me they74:40maybe don’t have the sort of fatalistic74:42perspective even though it’s respectful74:44I have a very fatalistic perspective74:46when it comes to just all organic74:48organisms competing74:50for resources and for life these animals74:54I mean I’ve run into them when they’ve74:55killed each other I’ve seen animals that74:57have been taken out by other animals74:59I’ve come across their bodies torn apart75:00by wolves in in the woods it’s a wild75:03wild thing out there man and I think75:05we’re so insulated by it in the in our75:08culture of today that it’s one of the75:10reasons why veganism and all these75:11things are becoming so attractive I75:13would hope that along with that we’re75:15gonna be nicer to each other that we’re75:17gonna be we’re gonna grow to be a kinder75:19human race I really I really hope you75:21that yeah because I think it’s about75:24consideration you know for me I think75:26was there was a certain part of75:28consciousness that I never ascribed to75:31animals to some extent I mean it’s funny75:33because I always thought of myself as oh75:34I you know I love animals I you know75:36always had dogs and cats you know you’d75:38find a bird with a broken wing just75:39thinking the boss and two weeks later he75:41flies away and you’re a girl but I never75:44really ascribed like individuality to75:46them and I think backwards the change75:48for me was interacting in in an75:53individual way when I get firm on the75:56font yeah you know I always tell my75:59brother once once we named them that’s76:01five yeah you watch them like their76:04plate though they’ll play or they and it76:06just changed my relationship to what I76:12wanted it to be with animals and it just76:16made it untenable in that moment for me76:19but I truly understand like that that is76:23in a really individualized personalized76:28experience that that that I made and76:32like I said I would love it for people76:34to make that connection because I think76:36it’s profound there is there is76:38something about that connection for76:39people that when they do see it you know76:41it’s funny I’ll talk about the pigs and76:44they’ll be like what you know they’re76:48they just eat everything you’re like no76:49they’re really playful they’re smart76:51don’t go nuts you do belly rubs yeah76:54it’s it’s but that was shocking I didn’t76:56know that they’d stop oh it’s like a76:59blob but beings77:02we’re talking about nature John and77:04there’s nothing natural about a farm77:06that’s part of the problem I mean it’s77:07all it’s an animal prison and they’re77:09domesticated because we give them food77:11and we kind of remove the the natural77:13fear that they would have of any you77:15know eyeball facing forward predator77:18which is what we are you know what their77:21health like what having our farm with77:25sheep and goats and pigs and they’re all77:27rescues is like having a nursing home77:30like you can’t believe the fragility of77:34factory farmed animals like they are to77:38be sick like pneumonia like genetically77:43the design to gain too much weight for77:46their legs it really is you know the77:50island of misfit took like they’ve77:51genetically modified or done whatever77:53they’ve done and and the health of these77:57animals that are in our food supply yeah78:00that our mainstay of our food supply is78:02really suspect78:04yeah that’s why nursing them yeah that’s78:07why I prefer hunting the when if you’re78:09eating an animal that’s a wild animal78:12you’re eating an athlete I mean they’re78:14they’re sinewy and thick and they’re78:16strong and they survived and there’s so78:19much more nutrient-dense78:21when you’re when you’re talking about78:23factory farmed animals you’re talking78:24about I mean well factory fired animals78:26is the worst version of what human78:29beings are capable of they were capable78:30of ignoring suffering to the point we78:32lock them all in warehouses they’re78:34pissed goes down in a tunnel and fills a78:36small lake up and they’ve flown over78:38these places with drones it’s horrific78:39right the pig farms in particularly78:41they’re horrific but when you’re talking78:44about what you’re doing on your farm78:47like of course you can’t eat those78:48things they’re your pets that would be I78:50mean you’re naming them and flying them78:52and touching them but I extrapolate that78:55now so my I think what happened was I78:57went all right that’s in the same way79:00that like I love my dog but if you have79:03a dog I wouldn’t kill your dog running79:06eat because I look at dogs now in a79:09different way so I think I extrapolate79:10to the79:13animal kingdom in a way that different I79:15had it I feel like because of my wife79:17and she’s been she’s a much kinder79:20smarter version of me so because of her79:26kind of showing me that relationship and79:28experiencing myself like it’s just79:30changed the way that I view it and79:33that’s been and it kind of takes us back79:35around to the earlier part of the79:37conversation because when you think79:38about animal agriculture and you talk79:39about those hog farms where are they79:41located they’re located in the poorest79:43neighborhoods right they locate any79:46environmental damage that they do is79:48also damage that’s done to poor rural79:52communities that live around them now79:55I’m not suggesting that there’s not79:56economic there’s an economic incentive79:59and an industry around it and certainly80:02not you know you don’t just end80:04industries but reform again like it it80:10certainly Georgia P Bush said this he80:14was talking about Donald Trump because80:15I’m gonna support Donald Trump because80:18Donald Trump is the only thing standing80:20between America and socialism and I was80:24like the only thing standing between80:26American socialism is an inability to80:29meaningfully reform capitalism and it’s80:32more damaging effects and if we can’t do80:35that then the people take to the streets80:38I think reform like Bernie was talking80:43about those other guys that will save80:45capitalism that will save democracy by80:48showing that we recognize that there is80:51collateral damage to the systems that we80:54use to gain wealth and to gain power and80:57if we can reform those systems81:00meaningfully for the people who suffer81:03most terribly under them we save it but81:08if we can the best deal gets stormed81:11like that’s just what Kennedy say if you81:13make peaceful evolution impossible you81:15make violent revolution inevitable yeah81:17so we I think at some point we have to81:20demonstrate the81:21we’ll and the stamina to be able to81:24attack these problems and that’s why I’m81:26holding Joe Rogan ah yeah no I think81:31everyone agrees but everyone feels like81:33their hands are tied and again I think81:35that’s one of the reasons why these81:37protests and just this this whole81:39explosion after George Floyd has been so81:43transformative I think because people81:45recognize like this is a real moment of81:47change and of course opportunists and81:49looters and all kinds of other crazy81:50[ __ ] happened along the way but it’s it81:53speaks to the fact that there’s so many81:55people in street it’s beats it speaks to81:57this this like we can actually do81:59something now we’ve got momentum let’s82:01keep it moving82:02are you hopeful yes I’m always hopeful82:04I’m very optimistic even though I have a82:06fatalistic perspective exact same82:10in these terrible times how do you82:12remain Oakland I’m like because better82:15people outnumber shitty people yes a82:17long shot they dish that’s just the82:20truth there was some time powerless82:23sometimes we may act out of fear or82:26resource part whatever that is good82:28better people outnumber shady people by82:31launch and we’re in an adolescent stage82:34of our evolution of as a civilization82:37it’s growing and changing there’s never82:39been a civilization like us today and82:41we’re growing and changing to try to82:44suit our real sensibilities and to try82:47to to try to get better at this [ __ ]82:49thing and not just accept this old crazy82:52corrupt structure that’s existed forever82:55thank you yeah you put a little fire in82:58my belly like this like I really enjoyed83:03I’ve really enjoyed the conversation83:05this is man I always enjoy talking to83:07you I appreciate you very much and I83:09don’t get to see you enough all right my83:11friend and hopefully when this all ends83:14everybody can gather again at the you83:16know at the store and had do a good set83:19and talk some shared with each other and83:20have some fun let’s do it brother83:22take care my friend and good luck with83:23your film irresistible it’s out when now83:28tomorrow tomorrow please jump83:33thank you my brother thank you sir bye83:34[Applause]83:38[Music]83:39[Applause]83:44[Music]
that’s why I think it’s good like what
you do in terms of coversation is like you
basically say you know I’m gonna do long
form because that you know feels like at
least from my perspective the healthiest
yeah it’s conversation but is even in
that case people will take long-form
edit things out of context and then it
becomes the same problem that we have on
Twitter and with everything else you get
these little sound bites so there’s
little video clips and you don’t
understand the full context of the
conversation or what was actually said
and then people get outraged at that
it’s you know it’s we are living in a
very strange time and I believe it’s an
adolescent stage of communication and I
think it’s going to give our
frustrations for this are going to give
birth to a better full
and I think one of the things that
podcasts what it’s in response to the
popularity of the long-form is in
response to people being upset with like
these traditional late-night talk show
things where there’s a window here with
one guy on the right and a window here
with a guy on the left and there’s a
person in the center and they’re yelling
at each other and then you cut to
commercial and you don’t really feel
like things got resolved so the response
to that where people gravitate it’s
three is theater yeah I think he’s was
it hard for you you know when we came up
his comments it was also at that point
like it was sort of a gladiatorial
environment you know and I remember you
know the Boston scene you know was
always like that’s a tough scene yeah
he’d come up and it was kind of
gladiatorial and but you had that
audience and you develop kind of that
thick skin is it hard to then make that
switch in your mind to this different
form that’s so much more considered so
much less about conquering the stage
yeah it is about being open and is that
something that for you what was the
switch for you from those two forms
because that’s and that’s an interesting
switch well in the beginning there
wasn’t very good switch you know it’s
like one of the reasons why the early
episode sucked it’s like I didn’t know
what I was doing and I didn’t think
anybody was listening it was just for
fun and there was a lot of just hanging
out with comics and just doing what
comics do if we were at a diner
somewhere just talking shit and making
each other laugh but we were doing it
and videotaping it and then along the
way I started interviewing actual
interesting people and talking to them
and having conversations and not you
know I don’t you know I there’s a place
for comedy and then I don’t I make a
really big point in never trying to
force comedy into places where it
doesn’t belong that’s I do that also
with the UFC when I do commentary I’m
never funny there’s no reason to be it’s
not what my job is you know and then
when I’m doing a conversation with
someone I just try to talk I don’t try
to be a comic I don’t try I just I’m a
human I want I want to know what they’re
talking about and I want to I want to
get them to expand upon their
ideas as best they can and I want to be
engaged that’s what I’m trying to do so
it wasn’t that it wasn’t that was a big
Omar Wasow, assistant professor of politics at Princeton, joins hosts Katie Halper and Matt Taibbi to discuss his paper on protest tactics and ‘Agenda Seeding,’ and the polarized reaction it’s received.
Peter Atwater, president of Financial Insyghts LLC, sees the state of the modern world reflected in the rhetoric and actions that surround us. Whether it is China recalling loaned pandas from the San Diego Zoo, the troubled IPOs of Uber and Lyft, or the willingness of people all around the globe to elect previously unthinkable leaders, there are several recent signs that the ground is shifting beneath our feet. In this interview with Grant Williams, Atwater cuts through the noise to focus on the sentiment indicators that are informing his current world view. Filmed on May 22, 2019 in New York.
45 min: What role does passive play?
Since the invention of writing, human innovation has transformed how we formulate new ideas, organize our societies, and communicate with one another. But in an age of rapid-fire social media and nonstop algorithm-generated outrage, technology is no longer helping to expand or enrich the public sphere.
BERKELEY – Since 1900, human technology and organization have been evolving at a blistering pace. The degree of change that occurs in just one year would have taken 50 years or more before 1500. War and politics used to be the meat of human history, with advances in technology and organization unfolding very slowly – if at all – in the background. Now, the inverse is true.
The impact of technological innovation on the marketplace of ideas has brought about some of the most consequential changes. The shift from the age of handwritten and hand-copied manuscripts to that of the Gutenberg press ushered in the Copernican Revolution (along with almost two centuries of genocidal religious war). Pamphlets and coffee houses broadened the public sphere and positioned public opinion as a powerful constraint on political rulers’ behavior.
As John Adams, the second president of the United States, later pointed out, the “[American] Revolution was effected before the war commenced … in the minds and hearts of the people.” The decisive intellectual battle, we now know, was won by the English-born printer Thomas Paine’s pamphlet Common Sense. Still, even during the revolutionary period, the pace of change was far slower than it is today. In the space of just two human lifetimes, we have gone from mass-market newspapers and press lords to radio and network television, and then on to the Internet and today’s social media-driven public sphere. And most of us will live long enough to witness whatever comes next.
There is now a near-consensus – at least among those who are not completely steeped in social-media propaganda – that the current public sphere does not serve us well. “Social media is broken,” the American author Annalee Newitz wrote in a recent commentary for the New York Times. “It has poisoned the way we communicate with each other and undermined the democratic process. Many of us just want to get away from it, but we can’t imagine a world without it.”
Western societies have experienced a similar sentiment before. In the 1930s, my great-uncles listened to their elders complain about how radio had allowed demagogues like Adolf Hitler, Charles Coughlin, and Franklin D. Roosevelt (that “communist”) to short-circuit the normal processes of public discourse. No longer were public debates kept sober and rational by traditional gatekeepers. In the new age of broadcast, unapproved memes could spread far and wide without interference. Politicians and ideologues who may not have had the public interest in mind could get right into people’s ears and hijack their brains.
Nowadays, the problem is not a single demagogue, but a public sphere beset by swarms of “influencers,” propagandists, and bots, all semi-coordinated by the dynamics of the medium itself. Once again, ideas of dubious quality and provenance are shaping people’s thoughts without having been subjected to adequate evaluation and analysis.
We should have seen this coming. A generation ago, when the “net” was limited to universities and research institutes, there was an annual “September” phenomenon. Each year, new arrivals to the institution would be given an email account and/or user profile, whereupon they would rapidly find their online communities. They would begin to talk, and someone, inevitably, would get annoyed. For the next month, whatever informational or discursive use the net might have had would be sidelined by continuous vitriolic exchanges.
Then things would calm down. People would remember to put on their asbestos underwear before logging on; they learned not to take the newbies so seriously. Trolls would find themselves banned from the forums they loved to disrupt. And, in any case, most who experimented with the troll lifestyle realized that it has little to recommend it. For the next 11 months, the net would serve its purpose, significantly extending each user’s cultural, conversational, and intellectual range, and adding to the collective stock of human intelligence.
But as the Internet began to spread to each household and then to each smartphone, fears about the danger of an “eternal September” have been confirmed. There is more money to be made by stoking outrage than by providing sound information and encouraging the social-learning process that once taught net newbies to calm down. And yet, today’s Internet does offer valuable information, so much so that few of us could imagine doing without it. To access that information, we have tacitly agreed to allow the architects at Facebook, Twitter, Google (especially YouTube), and elsewhere to shape the public sphere with their outrage- and clickbait-generating algorithms.
Meanwhile, others have found that there is a great deal of money and power to be gained by shaping public opinion online. If you want to get your views out there, it is easier to piggyback on the outrage machine than to develop a comprehensive rational argument – especially when those views are self-serving and deleterious to the public good.
For her part, Newitz ends her recent commentary on a hopeful note. “Public life has been irrevocably changed by social media; now it’s time for something else,” she writes. “We need to stop handing off responsibility for maintaining public space to corporations and algorithms – and give it back to human beings. We may need to slow down, but we’ve created democracies out of chaos before. We can do it again.”
Such hope may be necessary for journalists these days. Unfortunately, a rational evaluation of our situation suggests that it is unjustified. The eternal September of our discontent has arrived.