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The cut, the cut, cut, cut, cut, the cut. The cut. Whoo! All right, one week into the Biden administration, you know, it's so funny.
I was scrolling through Twitter on Inauguration Day and amid all the burning memes, I saw this tweet from GQ that said, a Biden administration also means an incoming Biden watch.
And my first thought was, oh, God, is there some kind of militia that's camping out in Wilmington or some foreign surveillance program that's liaising with him or a watchdog organization that's monitoring his behavior?
And then the article is just about Biden's watch, like his literal wristwatch.
And it was one of those moments where I was jarred by how deep the damage of the last presidency was.
I don't know exactly what it did to my brain holding so much fear and suspicion and anxiety all the time. And yes, I probably should have had some more of that earlier and my privileged little life. And some of it is definitely important to still carry and keep with me. But I'm just not sure what constitutes a healthy amount of fear anymore. And I cannot imagine how much more uncanny it's been for someone who's actually been living in D.C. and writing intimately about the Trump White House.
On Tuesday morning, I talked to a friend of mine who was preparing to go to the inauguration, Olivia Nuzzi is the Washington correspondent for New York magazine.
I talked to her the day before inauguration and he asked me, what are you wearing to the inauguration? And I was like, oh, I'm wearing like this new coat that I got for my birthday. What do you wear? He was wearing a bulletproof vest. And then we learned that. Then we learned that they were not going to be permitted for for press.
I mean, would you want a bulletproof vest if you were able to wear one? I don't think I would. I mean, is that really stupid? I genuinely don't know. On the one hand, it's like that feels really dramatic. Or do the terrorists win if you let them ruin your outfit?
I mean, thank heavens. Now we know that Olivia looked good in the press pit and she was OK, but it was a hard one, kind of OK, because the rest of us have been freaked out for four years and Olivia has been right in the thick of it.
And I wonder how much of your job involves fear and suppressing it. And like, I don't know, how do you approach fear in your work?
You know, I feel like a lot of the Trump era has just kind of been this extraordinary, bizarre situations that are too much to process in the moment that you just sort of have to try and document in real time and be present for in real time and then later try to sift through, like the meaning of these strange events. I was interviewing the president and I know he had handed me or he made his secretary hand me a sheet of paper with his supposed accomplishments printed on it and bullet points in very large type, I will add, and you and I and the vice president happened to be standing over my shoulder and I noticed him noticing that my hand that was holding the sheet of paper was sort of like rattling.
I didn't feel nervous in that moment and I didn't feel like afraid in that moment. I think it was just more like adrenaline. And I was not consciously processing the situation, but it was manifesting as my hand shaking.
And it's kind of like for me anyway, it's been a lot of putting off processing.
But I guess the question is like, when do you process it or when will you process it?
I have no, I really I don't know. It's funny because I've been having a lot of conversations like this with White House officials and administration officials who in a completely different way are realizing that they have a lot to process because they were trying to survive and by choice were committing to stick it out for as long as they could. And I guess in some ways, the experience of the reporter kind of mirrored the experience of the subject in that it just required the suspension of the kind of normal human impulse to process things in the moment.
I guess that's so fast.
You're I mean, Olivia, it sounds like you're living this sort of weird anti's in where you're, like, entirely present but not focused on your emotions. Is that fair to say?
I yeah, I think that that's totally fair to say. And I don't I don't know. I guess I don't know how much of that is specific to the Trump era and how much of that is just specific to me as a human being. Like, I don't I maybe being this way made me well suited and made me attracted to covering this in the first place. If that if that makes sense, it does.
But like I have to ask about your age because it's like it's just paraded around as just like, oh my God, Olivia, she's so young.
And I mean, do you think that that contributes to your your energy for this kind of work?
I I don't know if it contributes to my energy, but I think I think it is probably contributed to like my threshold, if that makes sense. This is the first administration I covered and it was also the first. Campaign that I covered the first time I interviewed Trump, I think I was twenty two. It's not like I went from being on the Romney plane in 2012 to covering the Obama White House and the Pentagon. And so I have no nostalgia for the before because I don't I don't know anything about living through it as a reporter.
And so everyone keeps saying, like, oh, it's going to be a return to normal with the Biden presidency. But I'm just so used to talking to these characters and appealing to.
Vagueness and pettiness and a level that's just like unseen outside of the set of Celebrity Apprentice before this administration, I'm assuming, and I just keep thinking like, oh my God, I'm going to be trying to talk to these people, like trying to like law, someone into, like, talking shit about their colleague. And it's going to turn out that they have a very healthy working environment.
I relate to this so much, even just through my extremely second hand experience reading the news. I just feel like I've become so small minded and petty. And I've learned to expect the worst from people with power, and so I've learned to indulge in the drama of it all, just to cope, to laugh at Sean Spicer on Dancing with the Stars or make fun of Giuliani's hair dye. You know, rather than think about the hundreds of children who have been orphaned at the border or the thousands of needless covid casualties.
So I just worry about what the last four years did to my brain, I just feel myself becoming a bad person in terms America and I can only imagine with your proximity to this incredibly toxic work environment. I mean, you said, like, you are taking on the attitudes of some of your subjects.
And I guess, well, one external fears aside, does that frighten you and like to do you have any sort of ballast against that?
Like, how do you fight that, if anything? I feel like I have become almost paralyzed by empathy in the Trump era, where like writing about a lot of ugliness and a lot of people who are just bad people has made me. I've always been extraordinarily sensitive, but has made me so much more sensitive and almost paralyzed by. The pain I feel about human beings in general and what we do to each other and like I've been existing with this.
Fucked up, extended family of sources and subjects for years and years now, but it even as I write this just I have this distance that I impose. I think I've become more and more hurt as a human being, observing this type of ugliness of close. I don't know.
I consider myself super sensitive and I don't think I could do what Olivia did. I couldn't retain a soft, tender core that close to the swirling churn of chaos. I think I might have unraveled or gone ice cold, stoic, but Olivia found her own way.
If anything, I think that extreme sensitivity is bravery. Like if someone someone cries during an interview, I always have. We usually have the response of all of crying in response. I always kind of mirror, I guess, the emotions of whoever I'm trying to understand when I'm speaking to them. That makes sense. And I remember once interviewing a White House official and they try to use against me the fact that during an earlier interview we had been talking about something upsetting, some subject, some upsetting.
That subject came up and I tear rolled down my face and it didn't even occur to me that that would be something to be ashamed of. But in the Trumpy, in orbit, a display of emotion like that, I think is was viewed as something to be embarrassed by. I mean, there was like a story leaked against the the final chief of staff, Mark Meadows, about how he was a real crier.
And Mike was always getting emotional in the West Wing.
And it's like, I don't view it. It's like either you're, like, really tough. And you.
Feel absolutely nothing and you just document the facts of the Trump era or you're an emotional wreck and everything upsets you and you are constantly crying because of what you see of humanity while we're covering them. I don't think that those are the two choices. I think it's for me anyway. It's very much both. Even as we've watched it, the country like teetering on the verge of. Collapse and. Even as there has been so much to. Fear and so much.
To mourn. In these last four years, I guess I do feel optimistic. In that the system held. And it is genuinely incredible to to watch it up close, even if it is. A huge pain in the ass as and totally exhausting a lot of the time. It's cheesy, but it's true that Olivia is helping to make the first draft of history and she takes that mission really seriously. And so this was my takeaway that that is the ballast against fear brought on by extreme chaos, a sense of purpose.
And while Olivia is wrestling with all these feelings early in her career, after the break, we turn to a veteran journalist with a very practiced perspective on fear, because, as she puts it, she is living and the terrifying future that the United States only narrowly avoided. Man, I feel like we have spent so much time hopped up on anxiety and looking towards the future, crossing our fingers for the election, crossing our fingers for Georgia, exhaling after the insurrection at the Capitol.
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Free babble language for life. In twenty sixteen, a nation was shocked by the election of a blunt, hostile, tyrannical new president fueled largely by social media. But I'm not talking about the United States, I'm talking about the Philippines, the park is going to take it from here.
As a young journalist myself, something I'm still working on is I'm just absolutely scared of. Ruining someone's life. And I don't know how to get past that, that is what makes you an amazing journalist, right? Because we don't know what we don't know. Always it's about being responsible and having the humility to actually say, I don't know. So I will be 150 percent careful. And how journalists we have this, like, incredible profession where we have to publish, but we don't know what we don't know.
And that kind of humility is what protects society and also protects you.
By the way, I found myself getting advice from Maria Ressa, a journalist in the Philippines who's covered war zones and stands up to dictators. And right now in her own country, she's public enemy number one.
I was arrested twice in a five week period. I had to post bail eight times in three months, in less than three months. And then just a week ago this year, I got my 10th arrest warrant.
Maria is CEO of the news website, Rappler, based in Manila. And the reason Maria and other reporters at Rappler are in grave danger is that they simply reported the truth about the president.
Rodrigo wrote that the president of the Republic of the Philippines. That's a clip from the recent Frontline documentary, A Thousand Cuts, and it shows how Rodrigo Duterte, president of the Philippines, is like a truly horrific, almost cartoonishly evil Trump parrello would be like if Trump just overly talked about the size of his penis at rallies and bragged about actually murdering people.
That's new territory, I must admit, they have killed, and right now he's rounding up his critics and locking them up, journalists in particular, just because you have the power of what press freedom you are Filipino was allowed to abuse our country.
President Duterte in twenty seventeen in his State of the nation address, calls us criminals. And a week later, I get my first subpoena. So that's twenty eighteen. I get 11 cases and invest 11 cases filed against me and Rappler.
But it's not like that stopped her from talking or talking shit about you today. Honestly, you can't even hear a hint of fear or nervousness in her voice is success in good days, misogynists and bad days.
And the rise of the church is very similar to Trump. It's an us against them kind of populism. He also he uses fear and violence. And I asked him whether that's necessary violence.
And you say this violence is OK to lead.
There is a need because there's a war.
And he said, absolutely, you have to make Filipinos afraid, otherwise they will break the law in the first place. Maria Ressa has become a massive national figure for freedom of the press. Amal Clooney is her lawyer.
She and the journalists at Rappler were investigating a series of ruthless murders by the charity and his people as he was supposedly fighting a war on drugs, which was really a war on poor people who opposed him.
We have a president who is facing the International Criminal Court, potential charges of genocide. He was being investigated. At one point, the UN itself said there were at least twenty seven thousand killed from last December.
He was elected. And then three hours later, the first bodies were on the streets. And Rappler swiftly got pushed back from Duterte and his administration. And it's the thing Olivia Nuzzi described earlier of having to contort yourself to live in this upside down universe. For so many years, Maria Ressa has done the same thing. Except in her version, the leader is even more ruthless and the universe is genuinely deadly. The way Maria describes it, everything we experienced over the last few years was honed and practiced in the Philippines.
First in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the whistleblower Christopher Whiley actually said that the Philippines was like his word was Petri dish was a petri dish for Cambridge Analytica and its parent company, FCL, because they tested these tactics of mass manipulation. And if it worked here, the word used was they ported it over to you. You were the target. We were the guinea pigs.
Maria has lived through the targeted tactics on Facebook, fake news by algorithm.
We're one of two Filipino fact checking partners for Facebook, and that happened in twenty eighteen. The very first investigation we did was we found a sock puppet network. Twelve accounts that were attacking not just Rappler, not just me, but journalists in the Philippines.
She's watched President do to take full advantage of targeted Facebook messaging and use every resource available to him to spread fake news, which leaves it wide open to the manipulation, this kind of insidious manipulation.
That's geopolitical, but it's also advertising that shifted from the advertising we knew in the past to be a behavior modification system.
And she's watched him cultivate a loyal army of Internet trolls who will essentially go wherever he tells them to go. And then she watched that army storm grapplers office.
And so we're now hearing traveler office. They're destroying our country and we're not going to sit here and let them do it.
I watched the documentary less than a week after they stormed the Capitol in DC. And immediately I saw the group that stormed Rappler. In that moment when that happened, what were you thinking?
I was worried about our folks and at the same time, so I wasn't sure whether the police was going to protect us. So we brought in our own security. That's when I realized that it crosses over to the real world. And that was in February of twenty nineteen, more than a year before what happened in the capital. President Deuterated, did I say Trump, Trump and do a very similar if you look at stop the steel right. In the Philippines.
Our battle for democracy is an individual battle for integrity. Each one of us will have to make a choice. I think that's the same in the United States. You just had stronger morals. Your institutions were stronger than ours. But you almost waited too late, you know, so close and now you have to deal. How long will Americans take to recover?
And who knows what other dystopian control tactics will be tested on the global south before they make their way to Western nations. The scary thing is that there aren't a lot of outlets that can talk about what's going on in the Philippines. This is another reason why Raptors work is so valuable. And why do charity is so hellbent on sending Maria to prison?
In the documentary, we see Maria in the pre covid times coming to the United States to give talks and tell her story, and when she returns to the Philippines, she immediately gets arrested at the airport. What can you say? You go to America and you come back to the Philippines, I'm like, what, just stay in D.C.?
Just like I. I was one of the founders of Rappler. I have three other partners. My co-founders were incredible and also not just one reporter. I helped found this team of a hundred people who are incredible. You saw them.
They're young and idealistic. That's the other part.
Like, I'm lucky enough that, you know, while I'm old and I have real experience, I'm still idealistic. I think about how this is a time when I can't buckle. So I think about it like this. History is like a relay race. And, you know, I wish it wasn't me, but the baton was passed. I have to hold it and hand it to the next runner or carry it over the finish line. See, now now I get emotional.
I don't have a choice if I am who I am. My lawyers sometimes think I'm crazy, but. But you are who you are, you know, and I mean, look, we're speaking on the day that Navalny went back to Russia and was arrested when he landed at the airport. If you believe in something, you have to stand up for it. I'm very Zen. Like in this. I embrace my fear. You know, it's like because if you are not confronting it, then you are in denial.
You think of your worst case scenarios and then you prepare for it. You workflow it. I think the first preparation is in your mind. Imagine it, really imagine it, feel the fear and then and then plan out what you would do if that happened. And then when you're prepared then you throw it away, you put it in, you put it aside and then you walk down the road.
What is the worst case scenario and what's the worst case scenario?
I think the best case scenario, I'll fight it out in court and win every single case. Actually, that's called the reality scenario. That should be what it is. I mean, the worst case, I'll go to jail and there will be violence, I don't know I'm prepared for you have to be prepared because I'm not foolish and the danger is not over for Maria.
The territory is still president and will be for I mean, who knows how long his election isn't. Twenty, twenty two and many of his followers have already been elected into office.
The Philippines, our democracy essentially crumbled within six months. Our institutions, the checks and balances are gone.
And even though the US avoided this complete disintegration of democracy culturally, globally, the damage was done.
People who were marginalized before became more vulnerable today because of our information eco system and what looks like just a real world problem is actually because our information ecosystem has already shifted the way we see the world. Derat, actualizing people who are misogynists, who believe Trump's lies, who believe dictators lies, this is not going to happen quickly. An election is not going to fix it.
And I guess you have to ask yourself, what are you willing to sacrifice for the truth? Hopefully not as bad as what I have to sacrifice. But the more will do it, the easier the better it will be. The podcast is produced by Alison Barrenger via Parker and Me Mixed and Scored by Joel Robbie, executive produced by Hanna Rosin and Stella Buckbee for the additional advisory from the shot.
Kawa were made possible by the team at New York magazine. Subscribe today to support their work at the Cut Dotcom Slash Subscribe. I'm Avery. Thanks for listening. Hi, I'm Jesse David Fox, a senior editor at Mulcher and host of Good One, a podcast about jokes. Each week I speak with a comedian, listen to one of their jokes, and then figure out how it all came together for this week's special episode. We're taking a look back at Trump's impact on comedy and its role in society today, talking to guests like Sara Cooper and Roy Junior, people who discovered comedy in the last five years.
Oh, what the fuck? Got opinions and they're ready to give them. And that goes back to the whole Klaper isn't a punch line type thing. And they'll figure that out and they'll grow out of that. But they're far more opinionated in their comedy has way more teeth than most of the people that I came up with. The 98 writing jokes about Waffle House. Listen to Good One weekly on Tuesdays, Vulture and the Fox Media Podcast Network. Subscribe on Apple podcast Spotify or on your favorite podcast that.