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The cost of our comfort

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An American flag flies outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 9, 2021.

An American flag flies outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 9, 2021. Al Drago/Getty Images

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There’s a lot competing for our attention these days, from the Jan. 6 committee hearings that get underway this week to the aftermath of the massacre in Uvalde, Texas. On the show today, we discuss whether our ability to turn away from seeing horrific images and witnessing history has a price. Plus, the Elon Musk-Twitter saga continues.

Here’s everything we talked about today:

Let us know what you think about today’s show. Email us at or call us at (508) 827-6278 or (508) U-B- SMART.

Make Me Smart June 06, 2022 transcript


Note: Marketplace podcasts are meant to be heard, with emphasis, tone and audio elements a transcript can’t capture. Transcripts are generated using a combination of automated software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting it.


Kai Ryssdal: Hey, everybody, it’s Kai Ryssdal. You know on Marketplace and Make Me Smart, we give you the context you need to understand all the big things going on in this economy right now. But your kids have questions about that stuff too. And we have got you covered with our podcast Million Bazillion, answering all the questions your kids have about money and the economy. A new season is out right now. With questions like what’s inflation? What’s cryptocurrency? And how does a credit card work? That’s Million Bazillion from Marketplace. You can find it wherever you get your podcasts.


Kimberly Adams: But I’m good to go. Let’s do it.


Kai Ryssdal: Oh, my. Oh my. Hey everybody, I’m Kai Ryssdal. Welcome back to Make Me Smart where we make today make sense.


Kimberly Adams: And I’m Kimberly Adams, happy Monday, everyone. We’re gonna do the news, share a couple of makes, make me smiles. Yes, those are the words I’m trying to say. But let’s start off with the news fix. You have more than I do. So why don’t you go first?


Kai Ryssdal: Well, yeah, but two minor related. And I think yours… actually, you go first, and then I’ll fold in? And then I’ll go to my other ones. How about that?


Kimberly Adams: Okay, so my first one is not an article. It’s actually a guide, from the Brookings Institution about the upcoming January 6 committee hearings, the committee that’s been investigating what happened during the attack on the Capitol and who was involved. And this is going to be something that’s… They have so much evidence, and we’ve been seeing like people being called in for interviews, some of the interviews are going to be live, there have been people who are being held in contempt, there’s all this stuff going on. But what they’re really competing with is our attention. The committee has done all of this work. But there’s so much going on. And people are so entrenched on what they already believe about what went down that day. And I really wonder how they are going to take on the task of setting the narrative of how this will be remembered in history. And can you even do that anymore, when we have so many false narratives around what happened that day. So I’m just looking ahead to that. And then my other story is indeed related to yours. It’s an op-ed in the New York Times about the power of a photo. And we were talking the other day about the power that the photo of the little girl in Vietnam had, where she had been hit by napalm and was running down the street screaming and naked. And that little girl wrote an op-ed, because she’s an adult now. And she was saying that she’s more than that photo, but that photo has shaped her life. She used to hate it. But now, she really does value that it was so important to that moment. And she ties it into sometimes the necessity of seeing the very hard things. And obviously, this is all related to the murder of all those kids in Uvalde.


Kai Ryssdal: So mine that fold into this is a piece in The Washington Post over the weekend by Nick Ut, who is the guy who took the picture of Kim Phuc on that day where she got napalm-ed. And it’s really interesting, because I do wonder, actually, if there was coordination getting these two… because of the conversation we are having about images of violence, and the violence that is happening in this country right now. Interestingly, Nick does not talk about the kids who were murdered in Uvalde, but he does say, “I believe a single picture can change the world; I know because I took one.” Which is kind of amazing. So I recommend both of these to everybody. There is also a piece in The Atlantic by a guy who used to be the editor of the Rocky Mountain News when Columbine happened. And he says, You know what, hang on, let’s think again before we publish really graphic violent pictures, because it might have the opposite effect. And I don’t know the answer. As I said when I brought this up the other day in the context of Jim Fallows talking about this. I don’t know the answer, but I’m really glad we’re having this conversation. Because to your first point about our attention being so diverted in so many places, away from the January 6 Committee, I think a lot of us are, you know, of necessity and self-protection, moving on, past all day in violence and all of that. And this is a conversation that I think we need to have. You know, I really do.


Kimberly Adams: You know, I’m here in DC, and they have the National Museum of African American History and Culture and has that Emmett Till exhibit, which is so powerful. The photo is there. And every time I go, when friends and family are visiting, and we go to the museum, and we get to the exhibit, and, you know, you have to kind of go out of your way to look at it. And I never have. I just, I just, I don’t know. I know I need to look, I just really don’t want to, but I have the luxury of not having to see it, which many people didn’t. And what we can and cannot, when we have the option to choose not to see something horrible, it’s a privilege. But what’s the cost of that privilege? What’s the cost of our ongoing comfort, and our ongoing ability to not feel worse than we already do?


Kai Ryssdal: Yep, exactly. Okay, so there was that. We are going to put all three of those pieces on the Show page, because they all kind of go together. I do want to just briefly interject an observation about the January 6 hearing this week, and that is this. And I will age myself, I will date myself, but that’s fine. I’m alright with that. I remember watching the Watergate hearings on the floor of my grandparents’ TV room, in 1973, and 1974. They had a big cabinet. Everybody had a TV cabinet that had the TV in it.


Kimberly Adams: I used to watch wrestling next to my grandpa on his TV. It’s okay.


Kai Ryssdal: There you go. There you go. And I remember that to this day watching those hearings. And I wonder if these hearings this week will stop the… I don’t want to say because I know the answer is no. But I wish that those hearings this week would stop the country like the Watergate hearings and the Sam Ervin hearings, and the John Dean and the Alexander Butterfield and all those hearings and witnesses did 50-ish years ago. It won’t, but it should. And we should all be able, you know, kids today should be able to say, “I remember where I was when those hearings were happening”, because it was such a seminal event in American politics. And I worried that that’s not gonna happen.


Kimberly Adams: I wonder if they’ll get as many viewers as say the Supreme Court nomination hearings?


Kai Ryssdal: Yeah. Right. Right. That would be a good metric. That’d be a really good metric. Yeah. Okay, my last little thing, and then we can move on to the Make Me Smiles, which I don’t have one, by the way, because honestly, I forgot.


Kimberly Adams: Oh, I put something in the Slack you can use.


Kai Ryssdal: Oh, okay. All right, good. So, you might have seen and heard this morning buzz about Elon Musk being pissed off about Twitter not telling him how many bots they have. And he really wants to, you know, back out of the deal. Oh, by the way, again. Fine. Whatever. Elon Musk is trolling the planet. Here’s the more worrisome thing. Turns out today that the Attorney General of the State of Texas, has launched an investigation into Twitter saying the company may have falsely reported fake bot accounts in violation of the Texas deceptive trade practices act. And oh, by the way, what is Elon Musk worried about? Bots. Oh, by the way, what has Elon Musk done for business in Texas? Well, he’s moved SpaceX there, right? And he’s building a Spaceport in Texas bringing millions of dollars in investment and conceivably thousands of jobs. That’s a bad way to make public policy.


Kimberly Adams: Not to mention political spending. Because…


Kai Ryssdal: Yeah, totally. I just. Texas. Man, I don’t know. But that’s no way to run a railroad.


Kimberly Adams: Well, I do want to bring up that when this whole thing first started, you said you would bet your whole paycheck that Elon Musk wasn’t really gonna buy Twitter. And then he was like, No, I am gonna buy Twitter. And I brought it up and I was like, what are you gonna do now Kai? And look how it’s come full circle.


Kai Ryssdal: I know. I know. I know. It’s, it’s, we’ll see. We’ll see what happens.


Kimberly Adams: Yeah, we should smile. That’s right. Okay, so my smile is a follow up to what I was talking about with Sam Field last week, about Swedengate, where the twitter and reddit kind of exploded when they discovered that in Sweden, it is not uncommon that if your kid is playing over at another kid’s house that they will not be fed. If the family is eating dinner… Wait, are you familiar with this? Or did you just hear about Swedengate?


Kai Ryssdal: No, no, I am. I am actually. Yes. I saw it.


Kimberly Adams: Oh, okay. Not like from your own Nordic family.


Kai Ryssdal: No, no. That would be fun. “Yeah, that’s what we did when I was a kid! My friends were over. No no no, you stay in the basement, we’re gonna go eat and I will come back down.” No, that’s not what I have.


Kimberly Adams: Okay. So anyway, you know, many people were horrified by this. And many Swedes are like, No, this is fine. This is just like, there’s all these different cultural reasons for it. However, there’s another piece in The Washington Post, where they talked to a lot of other Swedes who were like, yes, this used to be a thing, but it isn’t really anymore. This is not super common. Most modern Swedish families would not do this. We’re not that awful. And we’re a much more multicultural at this point. And people are different now. And so I just had to, you know, follow up. You know that it’s not everybody. It’s not universal. Nothing is. Not all Scandinavians. Oh boy. Anyway, It was entertaining.


Kai Ryssdal: Props for this one, obviously to Kimberly Adams since she found it and I didn’t, because I forgot that I had to make people smile today. Honestly? All right. Very brief detour. How much time do we have? Yes, we got three minutes. I have perhaps told the story. Not on this podcast. But when I was in boot camp, every morning… would happen at five o’clock in the morning. So the drill instructor would come scream and wake us up. And I would – just because it’s nicer to wake up to a little tiny wristwatch alarm than it is to a screaming Marine Corps gunnery sergeant – I would always set my alarm for 4:55 in the morning, right. And I would be awake when the guy came in to scream at us. And there was not a single day that I was in boot camp that if you would come up to me and given me a nickel and say, you know what, Kai, here’s a nickel, take it and go home. You can bail on this whole freakin bootcamp thing and all that. It’s just garbage. Just go home. And I would have taken it every damn day if you’d come in. This morning when my alarm clock went off, I had that feeling for the first time in a very, very, very long time. And I don’t know why. Maybe it’s just *gestures wildly* everything. Maybe it’s something else. I don’t know. But today for the first time in a very long time. I was like, screw it. I’m gonna pull the covers back over my head and sleep. It was wild. It was absolutely wild.


Kimberly Adams: I had a big, long To-do list this weekend and very little of it got done. Yeah, the toll is real. Yeah, there’s so much happening and a lot of it just so painful. I mean, we had more mass shootings this week. Like, it’s hard. It’s really hard. But we are in the make me smile section, Kai?


Kai Ryssdal: That’s true. Sorry. Sorry. Sorry. Sorry. Sorry. Sorry. Sorry. I don’t mind. I will proceed. So props again to Kimberly to share this one from Jalopnik. So a bunch of scientists. I love this so much because I was just having a conversation with somebody about whether or not they would ride in an AI-powered-and-driven car. A bunch of scientists wanted to recreate what the Mayflower did for whatever it is 300 years ago, and pilot an AI-powered ship across the Atlantic and get it to land at Plymouth Harbor. And what happened? This AI-powered ship missed Plymouth Harbor and went to Halifax Nova Scotia anyway. Went to Halifax Nova Scotia. 44 Miles, 440 Miles rather, is the error that this ship did. So next time you think about getting in an AI-powered-and-driven-and-steered car? I’m going to think twice. I’m going to think twice.


Kimberly Adams: I think the technology for AI cars is a little bit further along than AI boat.


Kai Ryssdal: Well, yes. But you know, one of the many conversations I had with Molly Wood on the air not even on this podcast was, she was telling me that self-driving cars is ridiculously hard and I believe it, because we’re not there yet. But man oh man oh man.


Kimberly Adams: Well, I mean, I feel like this story actually fits in very nicely with the narrative of colonizing, and Europeans leaving Europe and trying to get to the air quote, new world, and ending up in the wrong place over and over again. And then just like, oh, yeah, we made it to India. Sure.


Kai Ryssdal: That’s right.


Kimberly Adams: You know, it’s part of a proud tradition of being wrong and ended up in the wrong spot. All right. That’s it for today. Tomorrow, Kai and I are going to talk to the wonderful Amy Scott, Marketplace’s housing reporter, about the current housing crisis in this country. Long story short, we don’t have enough of it. So how do we fix that?


Kai Ryssdal: Send us your questions, your comments, your thoughts, your whatever you got. We’ll take a voice memo or an email Or you can just call us and leave us a voice message. I’m still, Bridgette, not entirely clear on why we have to differentiate them. But anyway, 508-U-B-SMART. I know they’re different. But whatever.


Kimberly Adams: One comes through email, the other comes through the phone. That’s simple. Make Me Smart is produced by Marissa Cabrera. Today’s program was engineered by Jayk Cherry.


Kai Ryssdal: Our senior producer is Bridget Bodnar, who just slacked: don’t ask me, ask our audience why they won’t just send us all the things or whatever it was. Sorry, it just went away. Anyway. Bridget Bodnar is in charge but really Donna Tam is in charge of Bridget, so that’s who’s in charge.

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