From Beverages to Bankruptcy to Biblical Scholar: One Man's Epic Journey of Discovery

Glenn made a new friend a few months ago. He's Tom Scott, the Co-founder, Chairman and CEO of The Nantucket Project (TNP). TNP is a media and event company widely hailed for reimagining how short films and live gatherings are done. Richard Saul Wurman, the founder of TED, has called TNP "the most cared for and well-curated thing around."

Tom was an entrepreneur long before it was cool. In 1989 he co-founded the beverage company Nantucket Nectars with Tom First. The Cinderella story of "Tom and Tom," as the business duo was known, was the subject of a popular Harvard Business School case study and has since become a piece of modern business lore. The company reached national prominence, appearing on the “Inc. 500” list of fastest growing U.S. companies five years in a row. (Source: Disruptive Awards)

Tom joined Glenn in studio on Thursday to share his inspirational story that took him from beverages to bankruptcy to Yale Divinity School. Like Glenn, Tom is on a mission to help fix our country and businesses --- by fixing ourselves first. His latest project with TNP is a film about forgiveness following the atrocities of the Rwandan genocide, a mass slaughter in 1994 in which an estimated one million people were killed in just 90 days.

GLENN: Tom Scott. Welcome to the program. How are you? Great.

TOM: Thanks for having me.

GLENN: Yeah. So, Tom, you -- let's start -- gas crisis, 1970s?

TOM: Research. You did research.

GLENN: Yeah. Gas crisis in 1970s. You become an entrepreneur. How old were you?

TOM: I think I was ten. When was the gas crisis? '76, I think?

GLENN: Yeah, '73 to '76. Somewhere in that area.

TOM: Yeah. So near my house were the gas lines. And I went and started selling them things, coffee, muffins, and things. Yeah.

GLENN: People can't -- people can't relate to gas lines.

TOM: I know.

GLENN: But this is when we were having an energy crisis. And people -- you could only go if you were -- I think you were on even days. If your license plate was an even number.

TOM: Yeah.

GLENN: And so people would line up for hours at gas stations.

TOM: Which I still don't understand why that was. Maybe they could only turn the machine on at a certain time. I don't know. But on Brookville Road -- I lived right on the DC line -- there would this be long line of cars. And I used to sell -- selling food and things.

GLENN: So is that where you -- by the way, I don't think you would be able to do that now without a license. Is that where you got benefit by the entrepreneurial bug?

TOM: You know, I don't know the answer to that. And I'm saying that -- I'm not trying to be cute. But the concept of an entrepreneur is such a modern phenomenon. You know, it's so celebrated and labeled in a way. And I'm not saying it's a bad thing. But I think more than anything else, it was -- I think of it as like the Wild West. It's like the spirit of adventure where you want to go out and be Tom Sawyer for a moment.

GLENN: Yeah, yeah. Isn't that what an entrepreneur is?

TOM: Yeah, I guess so. I guess so. But my point is, I really thought it was just fun. You know, I wasn't thinking, oh, I'm going to get rich. It was more just, this is going to be fun.

GLENN: But, again, isn't that the best entrepreneur? I really believe money is a by-product. It doesn't -- if you focus on money, you're not going to get wealthy. If you focus on doing something that you love, that you enjoy, and you are making somebody else's life easier, you know people are caught in their cars and they want their coffee. And they're hungry. They've been waiting. You were going to have fun serving them something. Money is a by-product.

TOM: I think that's right. I think that's so true.

You know, it's funny. So I do this thing at Brown University. I went to Brown University. And I do a class there every year. And, you know, it used to be a business class. It's now turned into an entrepreneurial class. And people talk about their Series A, their Series B. Kids. And I think to myself -- which I didn't know what any of that was. Because no one knew what any of that was at the time. And I think like, wow, this has gotten so formulaic. That's why I'm kind of -- like the word kind of bums me out because the notion of startup or whatever you want to call it has become so formalized, that --

GLENN: That it's less disruptive.

TOM: Yeah, and I don't want to be that. There's something about that, that I just -- that's not interesting to me. That's not the Wild West. It's this other thing.

GLENN: Right. So you and a friend, college?

TOM: College.

GLENN: You start mixing, what is it? Peach juice and water together?

TOM: Yeah. Again, very good.

Similarly, boats in Nantucket Harbor are on hooks, they're on mooring. So they don't have access to the land. So we started a store where we would go around selling them things on a boat. Store on a boat. And one of the things that we sold was juice. And it was a peach juice, the first one. You know, this is in the days -- and I know this is ridiculous and somewhat arbitrary. But Tropicana Pure Premium hadn't happened yet. Right? So juice was bad. Just generally speaking, if you wanted a juice, it tasted badly.

GLENN: Upgrade from Tang, but not much.

TOM: Exactly. That's where we were. So we were making something that was...

GLENN: Fresh.

TOM: And just way better.

GLENN: Yeah. How did you go from there to the boardroom to PepsiCo, selling for how much?

TOM: I'm not allowed to tell you.

(laughter)

GLENN: A lot.

STU: More or less than $30?

TOM: More. Yeah.

I'll tell you this, the first time someone tried to buy the business, I was on one of those Motorola flip phones. I remember opening it. You know, you can remember certain things in your life. And the guy said, "I want to buy your company." And I said, "I don't want to sell it." And he said -- which was always my line. Because somebody told me, a company is worth four times net. Well, we didn't have much net.

And I -- he said, "You don't want to hear the number?" I said, "All right. Tell me the number." And he told me the number, and I thought --

PAT: I would have sold -- I really want to sell my company.

GLENN: What was the number?

TOM: I have no idea, it was probably more than 100 times what I thought it was worth.

GLENN: Wow. Wow.

TOM: Yeah, no, it was staggering. I had no clue. And, again, back to what I was saying before.

GLENN: You weren't doing it for that.

TOM: Well, people talk about exits. And I'm not trying to sound holier-than-thou. I just didn't know. I was clueless.

GLENN: Yeah. Yeah. So you sell it. Then what happens to your life? When you were up at the top, you're making, you know, Nantucket Nectars. Everybody in the country knows it. And who were you at that time? Who had you turned into, from the kid that just wanted to go have fun selling muffins, to that guy? Who were you?

TOM: You know, I thought it was silly to the end. It's juice. Like, I mean, really, what are we talking about here? It's silly. It's almost -- it's a child's toy in a way. Right?

But you -- I started getting praise like crazy, you know. And this is at the very beginning of dot-com. So entrepreneurs are hot.

And I always -- I'm just a person who feels slightly less than. It's just how I go through life. Which I'm -- I'm not alone in that. We all sort of like -- we have some degree of self-hatred. And maybe I'm wrong. But I know there are a lot of us.

GLENN: Yeah.

TOM: Well, if you get praised enough times -- I mean, who is the most praised human in modern history? Michael Jackson.

GLENN: I would say Jesus.

TOM: I mean, modern history. Really modern. Really modern.

GLENN: Okay.

TOM: And look what happens.

GLENN: Yeah.

TOM: Now, I'm not -- but just look at the way he looked at the end of his life. There's something about praise that is not very healthy. And Michael Jackson is not alone, by the way. And I'm not comparing myself to Michael Jackson. But I became somebody who didn't know where my center was.

You know, the normal oppositional forces that we all sort of go through life with are healthy. They're there for a reason. And I think when they come out of whack, they come out of whack. So I was out of whack, is the long story short. And, like, raising money in the year 2000, when you're 34 years old and you've just sold a business, it's pretty easy.

STU: When did you -- was that phone call on the Motorola flip phone the moment you knew you actually had something. Or was the business successful before that?

TOM: You know, I think the Motorola flip phone moment was a moment of, you know, having some sense of value that was dream like. You know.

Almost everything in my life has been so incremental that it's been hard for me to sort of identify moments. And in a way, if you think about it, like the -- my recognition of the value of the company was not incremental. It was not. Not in my kind of brain or in my kind of soul.

But maybe that's why it was so disruptive in a sense, you know.

GLENN: So I -- I have been rich. I have been poor. The problems of being rich are just bigger. I mean, don't get me wrong, being rich doesn't suck. But the problems are just the same, they're just bigger.

But -- but money can be very corrosive to a soul. Fame is the -- I think it's battery acid on people. I wouldn't wish real fame on anybody.

At what point did you -- at what point did you hit bottom, from such a high?

TOM: You know, for me, it was -- it happened more than once.

When you get that far out of whack, you're going to have problems in your relationships. You're going to have problems just sort of navigate through life. And if you think about it, you know, if you're off course by .1-degree and you're headed to Spain, you could end up to wherever. Right?

GLENN: Yeah.

TOM: So I think I had points where I recognized I was off course more than once. But, you know, one is I took a company through bankruptcy. I had also struggled with, you know, alcohol. Drugs and alcohol, probably around 2005 or so. And we -- I took the company into bankruptcy in 2012. What's important is I left the business in 2007, but I went back to take it through bankruptcy. And if you've never been through bankruptcy, it is almost exactly like -- and I know I'm being a little dramatic here. But what are the things called? Buzzards?

GLENN: Yeah.

TOM: What are those birds? Yeah. You know, they are alive and healthy. And they feed on a carcass. And in that sense, if you would take the drama out of it, that would make sense. If you're the carcass, it is dramatic.

Now, let me just say this, so you asked the question. They're laying out the case for the judge. And the judge has to sort of make choices that I think are in the best interest of whatever remains of this thing that was in bankruptcy.

GLENN: You sold for PepsiCo for a lot of money.

TOM: Oh, yeah. Sorry.

GLENN: Did you lose all of that money?

TOM: No, no, no. A lot of it.

GLENN: You lost a lot of it. And you lost all the investment of anything that you had done in this new company.

TOM: Yeah. In this new venture which was called Plum TV. And when you're in the bankruptcy court, they lay out all the facts.

GLENN: Yeah.

TOM: And if you're hearing all the facts laid out, you're thinking, who is this guy? Me.

And then so finally the judge says -- and I had suffered a lot through this. This was very painful personally, painful legally, painful -- financially painful. And then the judge says -- and this is going to sound goofy, but the judge says, "Who is Thomas W. Scott?" Which is me, right? And I thought, "That's a really good question." You know, and I know that sounds corny. But I'm being literal. I had a moment of clarity where I thought, "That's a great question." And all I can do right now --

GLENN: Did you raise your hand where you're like, you know, Judge, that's a good question. It might be that guy. Because I don't want it to be this guy.

TOM: Right. But I stood up, and I thought -- and here's the thing, people have been through a lot worse tragedy than this. And I want to just say, that's, of course, true, right?

But all I could do at that point was go in the direction out, which is just do the next right thing, keep doing the next right thing. And so I did. I stood up. And I started to sort of speak and share the story. And I think there was a moment probably five or ten minutes after I was on the stand, where I felt that the judge had connected with me. Because the judge's job is to essentially preserve whatever value is left here.

GLENN: Uh-huh.

TOM: And I got to say -- so MF Global was in bankruptcy when we were there. And hostess was in bankruptcy when they were there. And those were high profile --

GLENN: That was the end of the Twinkie.

TOM: That was the end of the Twinkie. But it's back.

STU: They've got Cotton Candy Twinkies.

TOM: Well, and it's back because I actually think our bankruptcy system is pretty good.

GLENN: I do too.

TOM: Yeah.

GLENN: I mean, debtor prison was pretty good. But our bankruptcy system is probably a tad bit better.

TOM: Right.

So, you know, it was sort of -- for me, that was a major turning point and just sort of understanding like what real -- what does value mean, you know.

GLENN: Okay. So let's play a little game. We'll play truth or dare. And my dare is that you will tell us how much you sold Nantucket Nectars for, if you don't answer true. I'll start: Truth, I fired a guy for bringing me the wrong kind of pen at the height of my alcoholism and height of my -- my being a really bad guy.

TOM: Did you say pen or pin?

GLENN: Pen. P-E-N.

TOM: Pen. Okay. I'm going to have to say true.

GLENN: Okay. Yeah, that's truth. Now, truth or dare for you: What was -- what was -- who was the worst -- describe your worst moment. And I'm leading to some place because you're not this guy now.

And you are -- you have done some remarkable things since this time. And so I want people to get a sense of, here's a guy who has been at the -- you know, been at the bottom, selling muffins. Went to the top.

Went back to the bottom. Not just financially. But also spiritually and everything else.

And I want to show you the climb out and what he's doing now.

TOM: Yeah.

GLENN: So you think about that. And you can either give us the truth on that, or you can tell me how much you sold the company for.

TOM: Am I supposed to give the worst, or just a story of significance?

GLENN: Just a story of significance that shows how deep --

TOM: What an ass I was?

GLENN: Yeah.

STU: And just to reset for the audience, just four dudes playing Truth or Dare on the radio. No big deal. No big deal. Don't think about it.

GLENN: Wow. That's weird.

[break]

GLENN: All right. Just four guys sitting around, playing truth or dare with Tom Scott. Cofounder of Nantucket Nectars and has gone on to do some pretty amazing things. We were just talking about the bottom of his life because he's doing some really incredible things that I want to talk to. But we've got about three minutes. And then I want to get to the good stuff.

TOM: Okay.

GLENN: The bottom.

TOM: The bottom.

GLENN: Where you were saying, man, I'm a horrible human being.

TOM: You know, I'm going to say something that's at that may sound like it's a little unfair. But it's --

GLENN: But I was never as bad as you guys.

TOM: No. I might have been worse in many ways. But to me, you know, bipolar and depression is a big issue, right? I'm not making light of it.

GLENN: Yeah, yeah.

TOM: I was really depressed. I suffered from major depression. And when you were talking about it, I thought, what I found in my depression, which I'm not going to -- I'm not diagnosing everyone else.

GLENN: Yeah, yeah.

TOM: Is that I was incredibly -- I was so self-centered, as to be completely depressed.

And I, in my case, am ashamed of that. I'm ashamed of how self-centered I had become. So when I think of the worst of me -- because it's not money. And it's -- you know, I did embarrassing things. I didn't fire someone for the pen. But I did lots of stupid things.

GLENN: See, for me, that is the same thing as being self-centered. That was how self-centered I was.

TOM: Well, and that's where -- you were talking earlier about the gas lines. It is service.

GLENN: Notice he's avoiding --

TOM: Am I avoiding it? Well, to be depressed on the couch is sad and embarrassing.

GLENN: Yeah.

TOM: But I wouldn't even want to tell you the lowest --

GLENN: Okay.

TOM: And I'm not trying to avoid it.

GLENN: Yeah, yeah.

TOM: I don't want to tell you because I don't want the problem that comes with that.

GLENN: Yeah. Okay. So you're wiped out.

What's the first thing you do to turn your life around?

TOM: You know, it is surrender for me. And so what do I mean by that? At some point, it became clear to me that I am wrong.

GLENN: Yes. Like, I am off track. And whatever I think is meaningless.

And so people kept -- you know, I -- I wanted to take drugs and alcohol out of my life. I wanted to live a happy life. And at some point, someone -- and I know who the guy is -- got through to me and said, you got to surrender. And I kind of thought, well, what does that mean? My father is a marine. My brother is a marine.

GLENN: Yeah, if you don't surrender --

TOM: Yeah, my whole life is gutted out. That was my father's line. Always. Still is. Gut it out.

You know, surrender and gut it out: They're the opposite. But I -- someone said, put this image in your head. Picture the most -- the strongest soldier on earth putting his sword down and saying, I'm fighting for the wrong side. And that image stayed with me. And I thought like, okay.

GLENN: Okay. So now what is he doing now? You're going to love this, when we come back.

[break]

GLENN: We're with Tom Scott. Cofounder of Nantucket Nectars. And about five years ago, started something called the Nantucket Project.

And has -- you've gone back to school. You're going to Yale Divinity School. And you've really changed your life. And you're looking to find the things that -- that change people, heal people. Explain. Because you're meeting all kinds of great people right now.

TOM: Hmm. You know, we say we're about what matters most. And on Fridays, we have our company meeting. And we will, all right. What mattered most?

And people share that week. Now, you'll always get to love and family and community. You can always get there.

GLENN: Yeah.

TOM: But sometimes it's certain technological things or sometimes it's political things. Tends not to be frankly that often, but it happens.

And if you start going through that exercise -- you know, I was listening earlier, the college kids and the socialism thing you were talking about.

GLENN: Yeah.

TOM: And part of my reaction was, what you're dealing with there is, you know -- so people say we live in an age of information overload. The truth is, information are those things that inform. They're not informing anymore.

GLENN: Right.

TOM: There's so much of it that it really is disinformation. So it's -- the level of noise is so high that most people in our generation, it was hard for us to identify this world that we live in, certainly vis-à-vis the world that we grew up in.

So in the midst of all that -- you know, my own desire to start the Nantucket Project came from this sense of lostness that I think the media really makes worse. I have no -- you know, Fox and CNN, they should do whatever they want to do.

GLENN: Yeah.

TOM: Which I'm all for. But I also think that the net is very unhealthy. And drama sells. And drama is, in its essence, kind of a lie. Not always. But generally speaking, drama is a lie.

So you get so far off course. And so, long story short, from my point of view, the Nantucket Project was an attempt to tell the stories that matter most in a form that's useful most. Like, that's kind of the idea.

GLENN: So you've been meeting some really interesting people. And, you know, where I wanted to get you the last half-hour was to the point of saying, I surrender.

TOM: Right.

GLENN: Because people don't look at that -- they look at it like the way you did. I'm fighting -- you know, I'm fighting. I'm fighting. I'm never going to surrender. I'm right.

And then they don't understand the power of laying that sword down actually makes you much more powerful. And not trying to win. But saying, I surrender. I'm not playing this game anymore. Because this game is wrong.

TOM: Hmm.

GLENN: We talk about oppression a lot in our society. And everybody is oppressed on something.

And nobody wants to surrender because they think that you're giving the other side that was wrong a pass.

TOM: Yeah.

GLENN: You are spending time in Rwanda with one of the greatest men alive today. And I don't know how many people know about him. The president of Rwanda is remarkable. We know Rwanda for the genocide. How much was it in a year?

TOM: Almost a million.

GLENN: Almost a million people killed. Just slaughtered in the streets, in a year.

TOM: In 90 days.

GLENN: Yeah, in 90 days. I thought it was a year.

TOM: Yeah.

GLENN: Imagine what that bloodbath was like.

Okay. So now they have a new president. And they're trying to heal from this. Tell me your experience with him.

TOM: Yeah. You know, we're making a film about them right now. And we had a meeting a few weeks ago where we viewed the film. And it's very hard for us to consider.

So, basically, what happened is you've got Paul Kagame, who brought peace through strength, arms effectively, in the beginning. And he sort of reluctantly agreed to be the leader. Which, in my heart, believe to be the case. In other words, he was a reluctant leader. And in the end, part of what he did that was brilliant, I would argue magnanimous, is he set up these trials. And the juries were made up of the families of the victims.

GLENN: You couldn't get a harsher jury.

TOM: Exactly. So I murdered your sister, you and your family were going to judge me as jury.

GLENN: Crazy.

TOM: Now, what I was asked to do was to stand up and say -- to be very straightforward, I killed the following people in the following ways. And if you the jury, the family, believed this person and felt they held true remorse, it's up to you what happens next.

Ninety percent of the people were let go. Right?

GLENN: Think of this.

TOM: Right.

GLENN: Think of this. You're standing -- you slaughter -- brutally raped and killed somebody.

TOM: Yeah.

GLENN: You're standing in front of their family. You have to say, I did all of those things. I own up to all of it. I'm really sorry. Here's why I'm sorry. Here's how I'm sorry. And then they have to say -- because the -- it's death penalty, isn't it?

TOM: I don't think it was death penalty. And it may have been in some cases. And I don't know for sure.

GLENN: Okay. All right. But the other is you're free. Ninety percent.

TOM: Right. Were set free.

GLENN: How does that happen?

TOM: Well, and you think about it -- which I'm not saying is wrong. But we as Americans, you know, a jury of the victim's family, no way, that would never work. Well, who is to say that? I mean, look at what's going on in Rwanda now. It's growing at 9 percent. Incredible peace amongst these former enemies. You know, they've got a democratically elected government that is a majority women run, in part for practical reasons, by the way.

GLENN: Yeah, they killed a lot of men.

TOM: They killed a lot of men. But it's amazing. It's a miraculous story. And I think when I tell -- the thing about this story is people -- it bothers me, because I do it. When people hear it as an African story. This is a human story. These are human beings. And I firmly believe we are all capable of, both sides of this equation -- and it so much depends on the circumstances.

But this is a beautiful story. And so like what's our role in this? Part of what we try to do is, don't make it seem distant. Don't make it seem African. It is African, of course. But this is who we are. I mean, a lot of what you guys were speaking about earlier, it is the nature of the way humans behave. And in the end, you know, forgiveness in Rwanda is so much more important than Snapchat.

GLENN: Whoa. Whoa. Whoa. What?

TOM: And that's -- and listen, I am very sympathetic. In today's world, to sort out priorities -- you know, in our day, there were 1,000 of them. Today, there's a million of them.

GLENN: Yeah.

TOM: So what do you put at the top? Like how do you sort of populate the top? That's -- that's what we're trying to do.

And when you really get the sense of Paul Kagame, or the sense of Rwanda, it's staggering.

GLENN: Who are the most incredible people you have met who have -- who have shown this kind of turnaround? Who have shown this kind of openness, turning point? I don't know what you would call it.

TOM: Yeah. So I was in San Quentin prison not -- I was visiting about a year ago. A little less.

And I met a guy named Chris Schumacher. And he was in a program in the prison. He was a crystal meth addict who had a sentence of 25 years to life for murder. And he -- he was working in a program -- long story short. I won't bore you with the details. But when I met him, I thought, God, this guy has a clarity that is amazing. We had a long conversation. And he, you know -- he owns up to the crime. He doesn't remember committing it because he was so tweaked out.

GLENN: Yeah.

TOM: But the guy impressed me on such a level.

So at the end of the conversation, I said to him -- I said, so you're going to go back to your cell now. You seem like one of the happiest people I've ever met. Are you happy in your cell when you go back each night?

And he said, "Absolutely. Every night."

Now, you think about that. Picture me on the couch, right? With my million-dollar problems all depressed. And this guy is back in his cell.

So I'm relating -- how does that relate to Paul Kagame? He said the most difficult thing he ever had to do in his life was to forgive himself. And that may sound simple, and we may think that's easy. I think that's as hard a thing to do as there is --

GLENN: I think it's hard -- I think it's much harder than forgiving others.

TOM: Yeah.

GLENN: Because you live with yourself. You look at yourself every day.

TOM: And in his case, we're talking about murder. He took a person's life.

GLENN: So I want to introduce you to somebody today since you're here in town. I just had dinner with a guy who is remarkable. I talked about him off air a couple of days ago. We have to have him on the air. He's a guy who lives right around here. He's in prison for around 37 years. Thirty-six and a half years, something like that. Wrongly accused for murder. Set up by the prosecutors. They said, plead guilty, and we'll get you ten years.

Instead, he pleaded guilty, and he got life in prison. No chance of parole. He's in for 37 years. He got out -- he went in 1977. Got out in 2012.

And he is the most peaceful, decent guy you've -- you've ever met. I mean, remarkable man. Remarkable man.

And I don't know how -- I mean, I kept looking for some bitterness. How do you -- how do you not feel horrible? I mean, how do you not hold feelings? He said, I just didn't. He said, I was -- that was my -- that was where I was. And I had to deal with it. And move on. And stay alive. And stay positive. And it's an amazing story.

TOM: You know, I think if this is the same guy. And you and I talked about this earlier. There was a time -- and I hope it's the same person -- where he was plotting to kill the prosecutor, the detectives. And then sort of later forgave --

GLENN: See, I hadn't heard that part of it, but maybe.

PAT: That would be your inclinings, right?

TOM: Of course. Of course.

PAT: That would be the tendency for a lot of us. A lot of us. Is to exact revenge.

GLENN: Oh, my gosh -- he got out. I said to him, what was the most shocking thing?

He said: Two things. He said, when I got into a car, he said, last time I was in a car was 1977. He said, getting into a car today is like --

PAT: Had they changed in that amount of time?

GLENN: He said, it was like a spaceship to me.

PAT: Internet. What about the internet?

GLENN: He said the other thing that had really changed was the culture. He said, there's no respect anymore. No respect for elders.

PAT: Wow.

GLENN: He said nobody has ever had to really pay a price for anything. He said, so there's no respect for anything.

He said that's -- that was shocking to him.

TOM: Yeah.

GLENN: Tom, it's great to have you here. Thank you so much.

TOM: Thank you, guys.

GLENN: How can people follow you?

TOM: Check out the Nantucket Project. Nantucketproject.com. Some of our films are there.

GLENN: When does the film come out about Rwanda? And it's a short, right?

TOM: Later this year. It will be a short. So Paul Kagame is coming to our gathering in the fall in September. We'll keep shooting. What we tend to do is our films are always a work in progress. And to the extent that we can gather others around the topic. The guy I mentioned from San Quentin will be there. There's sort of a number of people we're talking to about forgiveness in a general sense. That will all end up in the film. There's a guy in Virginia Commonwealth, who has sort of the -- you know, there's the five stages of despair. Is it despair?

GLENN: Yeah, of grief.

TOM: Grief. Grief. There's a similar thing for forgiveness that is so powerful. And, anyway, we'll be introducing that and incorporating it in the film.

GLENN: Can I ask you a question? May I say what you asked me?

TOM: Yeah. I don't remember what it was.

STU: That's a terrible question.

GLENN: You asked me to go. How do I fit in with the guy in Rwanda and the guy from prison?

TOM: Because I think in the end -- when I was listening to what you guys were talking about on the show here -- I was born in 1966. And I can -- as best I know, not that many people at the age of seven or eight can see the president leave office. So you're new in the game, and boom, the president is out. So now you're born in the cynical generation, right?

GLENN: Yeah, yeah.

TOM: And so let's just keep saying that it keeps going and going until the last election. I think the most patriotic thing we could do right now, regardless of your political beliefs, is to find a way to become one place again. And I think the fact that you guys are doing that is so interesting. And, you know, you could argue that there's not a good business model around that. I don't care what your argument is.

PAT: You could make that argument.

GLENN: You could.

PAT: We have.

GLENN: And, in fact, it's been made 1,000 times. Yeah.

TOM: Well, that's just not good enough. And it's also what makes that true?

You know, the business model after ten years for Pixar was a disaster.

GLENN: Yeah.

TOM: Okay. Those are normal things. The business model working quickly is not necessarily a sign of goodness or success.

GLENN: It's great to be with you. And to see you again. Thanks for sharing on the air.

Ryan: Kanye West and the Great Society

Graphic by Alexander Somoskey.

Donald Trump has been name-dropped by nearly every major rapper of the last 30 years, starting with a reference by Beastie Boys on their iconic album Paul's Boutique, the Sgt. Pepper of hip-hop.

He's been mentioned by Jay Z. Ludacris. Young Thug. Nelly. Kendrick Lamar. Juicy J. Rick Ross. Eminem. Big Sean. A Tribe Called Quest. Scarface. Lil Wayne. The Coup. Master P. Ice Cube. Mos Def. Raekwon, Ol' Dirty Bastard, and various other Wu-Tang Clan affiliates. R. Kelly. Pete Rock. Nas. E-40.

And don't forget this surreal moment in our nation's history.

Then-candidate Trump on SNL ... dancing to a Drake parody.(Screenshot from YouTube)

When Bun B referred to Trump on the Chopped-n-Screwed anthem "Pocket Full of Stones," he was keeping with a tradition of rappers admiring Trump. This only changed a few years ago.

But then there's Kanye West, who proudly donned the red MAGA hat after discovering Candace Owens and being called "a jackass" by our nation's first black President. Then Kanye was hugging President Trump in the Oval Office? While wearing a Make America Great Again hat, supposed symbol of white supremacy, Nazism, hate, evil?

(Screenshot from YouTube)

People flipped. Everyone did. Longtime critics suddenly — and bizarrely — embraced Kanye as an ally, while longtime defenders disowned him, abandoned him like nail clippings, often mocking his struggles with mental illness and labeling him, if you can believe it, a white supremacist.

Then, in a moment that changed music history, Kanye released the single "Ye vs. the People."

Ye vs. the People (starring TI as the People) www.youtube.com

In it, he challenges what he sees as the unspoken rule that black Americans have to vote Democrat. He had hinted at the idea on his track "Black Skinhead," from the hauntingly gorgeous album Yeezus, but now he was addressing it head-on, with the passion of a man going to Confession for the first time in a decade.

Why should black folks have to abide by any set of cultural or political or artistic guidelines to begin with? And, he argues, the pressure to adhere to this longheld framework is itself undergirded by a subtle and cleverly masked racism, imposed by a group of people who portray themselves as the champions of race and enemies of white supremacy and destroyers of dumb yokel rednecks with their Rebel flags and monster trucks and fully-automatic AR-15 assault weapons. All of which, it turns out, is some next-level projection.

Kanye also confronts the presence of these expectations and stereotypes in hip-hop. The idea that rappers must invoke a negative persona in order to succeed. And the moment they deviate from that image they are rebuked or ignored, even though the persona is damaging to the black community as a whole. Which is especially ironic given that the people who voice the most outrage tend to be highly privileged, supposedly progressive white folks who love to rant about white privilege and black oppression.

Is it better if I rap about crack? 'Cause it's cultural?
Or how about I'ma shoot you? or f**k your b***h?
Or how about all this Gucci, 'cause I'm f****n' rich?

Best of all, Kanye has answers. And they differ from the erudite solutions offered by, say, A Tribe Called Quest, who, like Kanye, have modeled a healthy, positive image of blackness for the black community.

A central theme within "Ye vs. The People" is empathy as power, rebellion, freedom.

Make America Great Again had a negative perception
I took it, wore it, rocked it, gave it a new direction
Added empathy, care and love and affection
And y'all simply questionin' my methods.

This concept is an extension of the powerful devotion to positive energy that Kanye adopted around that time, a purview he has cultivated into a wild new form of electronic gospel.

But his personal transformation was tough.

That [MAGA] hat stayed in my closet like 'bout a year and a half
Then one day I was like, "F**k it, I'ma do me"
I was in the sunken place and then I found the new me.

This is a struggle that many Americans undergo. Researchers call it the spiral of silence. The idea that the news media and social media present biased opinions as though they are fact, and when the message conflicts with a person's opinions or values, they feel isolated, alone.

Kanye and T.I. during the making of "Ye vs. the People"(Screenshot from YouTube)

As Kanye raps in "Ye vs. the People"

A lot of people agree with me but they're too scared to speak up.

Because we have an incredible ability to sense public opinion. So when we suspect that we hold a belief that rails against acceptable thought, we tend to keep quiet about it. That silence makes the opinion seem even more taboo, resulting in a more widespread silence.

In reality, many of these supposedly taboo opinions are not only popular, they are normal and practical and logical. Healthy, even. And the real danger is in demonizing them. But too many people are afraid they'll be ostracized for expressing their beliefs.

Like how — despite what we've been led to believe — most Americans cannot stand political correctness.

But the small minority of people who champion it are powerful and loud. They're like that cardboard city in North Korea, just visible enough from the border to make it seem like a thriving community. They're the Wicked Witch of the West, or Iago from Othello, or Plankton from Spongebob Squarepants.

So far, they have been successful. Although "success" by their metric is anarchic and primal, all destruction and loudness and people nervous to speak their mind. And the cost of rebellion can be devastating.

By the time Kanye West wrote "Yay versus the People," he had gotten sick of this power dynamic. So he broke the spiral of silence."

*

In the words of German philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer, "Whoever has language has the world."

Humans alone have it.

But in order for us to know freedom in our world, our language has to be public, shared, active. Because each of us thrives constantly with language, a stream of it always in our mind. Aristotle defined "thought" as the infinite dialogue between the soul and itself. Conversation is the exchange of thought between people. When we converse, we simultaneously release our infinite dialogue and accept the other person's. By speaking, we shape the world and free ourselves.

*

Another way to say it is that Donald Trump might have inspired the song that could very well signify the end of Hip-Hop, which is not only the most popular genre of our zeitgeist, it's the most popular, and successful, form of music in American history, which is the most important era of musical history.

If the Beatles were bigger than Jesus, and Drake literally outpaces the Beatles, then, well, you get the point God forgive me. And Kanye is bigger than Drake. So who better to have the final word on the capacities of Hip-Hop than Kanye West?

Nobody.

Every genre must come to a close. There's a reason why people aren't eagerly awaiting the next great disco album, or flocking to arenas to hear the newest bluegrass superstar, or asking to get their hair done like the latest syringe-armed guitarist of Guns N Roses.

(Screenshot from Instagram)

The great era of Rock 'N' Roll ended roughly about the time Radiohead traded their guitars and drums for synthesizers and sequencers, not long after Kurt Cobain took an insane amount of heroin and cradled a shotgun in his guesthouse, only to be discovered several days later by an electrician. Even worse, Nickelback soiled Cobain's legacy with godawful anthems, and who have their own weird and contradictory and hilarious connection to President Trump.

These days, Rock N' Roll lives mostly via nostalgia, as evinced by the explosion of cover bands. Notice how you don't see any hip-hop cover bands. You will, someday. But, for now, Hip-Hop reigns supreme. And Kanye is the King.

The brilliant Nina Simone once told a reporter that "An artist's duty, as far as I'm concerned, is to reflect the times."

Because music accords itself to the gravity and creative truth of the era. And currently we entrust hip-hop with this complicated maneuver.

But the past year, Kanye has been crafting a new sound through his Sunday services, weekly jam sessions with acoustic musicians and a choir and everyone dressed in white, praying through song, herding us into a better place, looking above for guidance. If it's anything like his track "Ultralight Beam," it will bring calm to our divided culture.

Mark my words: The resultant album will usher in an entirely new era, a magical flash in human history.

So far, hip-hop has been the defiant child of R&B and Electronica, the grandchild of Spoken Word and Steve Reich Minimalism, with tinges of Punk. Not for much longer. Kanye will see to that. And, weirdly, President Trump has helped inspire this transformation.

Meaning, Donald Trump will have had a hand in reinventing music as a whole, in spreading a movement of positive reformation. Love him or hate him, it does not matter. What other politician can make that claim?

There's an optimism to this that Dave Chappelle captured in his now-infamous Saturday Night Live monologue, just days after Trump was elected, asking Americans to at least give the man a chance. And again in his special "Equanimity," when he said

I swear no matter how bad it gets, you're my countrymen, and I know for a fact that I'm determined to work shit out with y'all.

In a moment of now-tired irony, the usual suspects heaped a barrage of hate at Chappelle for these remarks. But their outrage does not matter, in the grand scheme of things. Because it is an incredible time to be alive. It's beautiful. We should never forget that, no matter how petty or outrageous daily life gets.

At the moment, we are a country that is — everywhere, secretly — hurting. But we are Americans. Together. This is America. And, every day, God delights in our greatness and our empathy and our endless gift for love. So open your heart and listen. Say what you need to say.

New installments of this series come out every Monday and Thursday. Check out my Twitter or email me at kryan@mercurystudios.com

Ryan: Michael Bennet, Little League

Photo by Sean Ryan

Every day, life getting shorter. Every day, life going faster. Every day, like a roller coaster. These were the kinds of things that Michael Bennet was saying.

Michael Bennet, God bless him, he seemed like a decent lad. All week he had his family there. He said his campaign was their family vacation. He had had prostate cancer but would you believe he survived?

"Life is getting shorter," he said. "Every day."

Photo by Sean Ryan

He was well spoken. Dry. Talked with an air of consultation. Like you were in his office, and he had things to tell you.

Like a Little League coach who could actually be a coach someday.

*

I would encounter Bennet again the next day, at the Iowa State Fair.

Having just seen Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) at a small Baptist church, we ventured to the fair to see Bernie Sanders' riot of a Sunday speech. Bennet was on before him, so I got there early, and I paced off to get a restroom break. The media center is in the basement of the administration building, right by the Political Soapbox stage.

For whatever reason, the first-floor men's restroom has giant windows along the wall, and you can see right out onto the walkway that wraps around the building. I did not realize that this was the path that the candidates take to get to the stage.

Photo by Sean Ryan

And, this far into the 2020 presidential election, they never went many places alone. They had a press swarm and their wives and maybe an old friend who relocated here when the hurricane sank his house.

I was rushing. Panicking, really. Because I heard all the commotion. But nature abides by its own pace. And as I shuffled to the sink to wash my hands, my pants fell all the way down. I was exposed. Out in the open and in such desperation, you clobber yourself outside of time. It was all slo-mo with the Chopped-n-screwed voices as I scrambled to lift my trousers and audibly gasped the words, "Well just no." At that exact moment, that "accidental Renaissance" painting occurred as I locked eyes with Michael Bennet, slowly maneuvering the walkway.

These sorts of things happened, didn't they? There you were in a restroom, at an NFL game or a concert or maybe a bar, and you see someone you work with, or someone from church or school, and you lock eyes for a moment in confusion then revert to cave talk and shrug and get on with what you were doing. But it's weird when only one of you is actively part of the etiquette and allowances of a restroom and one of you is held to a higher standard, for the sake of common decency. Now let's say that you, the restroom occupant, happen to be credentialed press, and the outsider, Michael Bennet, happens to be a candidate for president of America.

Once the herd passed by behind him, I laughed a bit, quietly, because life could be very funny.

*

Onstage, Bennet, a senator from Colorado, gave the performance of a cake falling into a pool. Like he had been ghost-busted. Like he had spent the last two months learning the Fortnite dance moves and now that he had mastered them, suddenly Fortnite was for losers, and Fortnite dances, well, they were even worse.

The Political Soapbox is great because every candidate has 20 minutes. Those 20 minutes were theirs. Most of the time, they got romantic like a Backstreet Boy singing up toward an open window. Occasionally, they lost it. Bennet did neither. He belly-flopped into hay bales.

Photo by Sean Ryan

Remember that the growing crowd had the dangerous feel of a natural disaster. And it was gaspingly warm that day. So neither the crowd nor the environment were ready to give Bennet a freebie.

He gave a ravishing speech, full of neat invective. Then looked up and realized he still had 14 minutes on the clock. Oof. That was most of it, and he'd already done the Floss and the Robot and the Electro Shuffle, and honestly his shoulder was a little stiff from all that dance practice. So he opened the floor for questions.

Now, that was not the greatest idea. For one, this was not the type of place for such a thing. They called it a soapbox because you were meant to live out the phrase "on a soapbox" by ranting and fist-pounding and all other theatrics.

The Bernie Sanders supporters hadn't arrived en masse yet, so most of the people around the stage were clad in Trump gear. And they all had their hands up ready to ask him questions. Well, firebombs, really, masked as interrogative statements. Bennet shouted without breathing, then said, "I want to find a non-male person who has a question."

This did not sit well with the males who did not like the trend of personalizing all things, cautious gendering, and the sudden change of direction so that now they had to just listen.

Most people did not care.

"I do not support Bernie's plan," Bennet shouted. But would you believe the Bernie supporters had literally just arrived, you could smell their hair dye.

They jeered, then acted exactly — and I mean exactly — like the Trump supporters.

"I would rather support free pre-school than free college," he shouted. "Many people talk about... " but the jeering was too powerful. And the Bernie supporters had likely just had quinoa açaí bowls at their pre-Bernie brunch, so they were unstoppable. Well God bless the man for scratching "Give Presidency a Try" off his bucket list. Because at least he had a bucket list.

What did they have? Student debt and a restraining order? They being the growing factions of Bernie and Trump supporters in the audience. You could not see any pavement. It was just people and faces like the Mediterranean in the evening, all the way to the towering walls of the Grandstand.

Looking out at all that chaos, all that latent disaster, Bennet must have felt a deep stirring.

The night before, Slipknot headlined at the Grand Stand, a sold-out show. Rollicking and bursting and howling. How many drumbeats could drummer Jay Weinberg get per minute? At one point, vocalist Corey Taylor unleashed a demonic bellow, then adjusted his mask and looked out to all those people, those devoted fans, because many of them had Slipknot tattoos, and maybe he, like Bennet, indulged a moment for himself, a personalization of the grand setting, then shrieked, then persuaded the audience to lift their hands into the air, maybe toward a constellation of their choosing, and extend their middle finger like it was an egg landing on a pillow, which symbolizes the human condition.




New installments to this series come out every Monday and Thursday morning. For live updates, check out my Twitter or email me at kryan@mercurystudios.com

President Trump couldn't personally make it to Houston for the 3rd Democratic Debate, so he paid $7,500 for a single-engine Cessna to fly in circles over Texas Southern University campus while pulling a banner that said, "Socialism will kill Houston's economy! Vote Trump 2020!"

For four hours, it chugged around up there. You could hear it everywhere. It was the soundtrack of the night.

You can just imagine Trump's face as he had the banner-plane idea. You can hear him putting in the order. You can see his list of demands. And at the very top, "I WANT THE LOUDEST PLANE YOU CAN FIND!!!"

*

Was that Bret Baier in the aisle, adjusting his reading glasses and thumbing at the strap of his comically small backpack as he crossed the blue-carpeted gymnasium? He looked like the human version of Wisconsin. He was saying something but all you could hear was the plane overhead.

Photo by Kevin Ryan

Bret Baier, the stoic host of "Special Report with Bret Baier" on Fox News and the network's chief political anchor. He's underrated, if you ask me. Legacy. Old-school. He just delivers the news, which is what most people want. He talks the way anchors used to talk, with the American accent unique to news anchors even though he was born in New Jersey and raised in Georgia.

I had spent the last year-and-a-half on a series of in-depth profiles on some of the major countercultural figures of our time. People like Jordan Peterson, Dave Rubin, and Carol Swain. So my first impulse was to rush over to Baier and profile the guy. Nobody else would, after all. The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Harper's. But they ought to. The man has a hell of a story.
He joined Fox News a year-and-a-half after it was founded, as the southeast correspondent in Atlanta. A few years later, on a Tuesday in September, nineteen terrorists hijacked four passenger airliners and crashed into America.

When the first plane hit, Fox producers told Baier to just get in his car and drive to New York City. They needed back-up reporters for the next day. When the second plane crashed into the south tower of the World Trade Center at 9:03 a.m., they said, "Step on it, Baier."

He and his producer were an hour outside Atlanta when American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into the Pentagon. Still a good 8 hours away, but closer to D.C. than to New York City. So they re-routed to Arlington, Virginia, as fast as they could. Past a blur of fields full of indifferent cows. Past houses full of people who could hardly talk, people who couldn't describe what they were seeing and hearing, all the smoke and the blood and the office-supply confetti. Past towns that barely moved, gas stations with nobody in them, people sunken into a far-away stare.

Yet there was the sun, with only a few bangles of cloud every so often. America had been paralyzed but the earth kept trucking along, quiet and unbothered. It must have felt strange for Baier, to speed down empty highways — toward literal death and chaos — under a perfect sky, below cascading light and color.

Nature doesn't care if we make it out alive.

*

That day, Baier reported live from a Citgo station across the street from the Pentagon, rubble in heaps of flame behind him. It was like he'd fallen onto a different planet and was reporting back to home.

The next day arrived and it was so quiet everywhere. Nobody knew a damn thing. We could not believe our eyes. We all turned to reporters and anchors for answers. Most often, they blurted out whatever they could.

Something about Bret Baier gave audiences a much-needed boost. Reliable, sturdy. Like he said what had to be said and not a word extra.

Fox kept him in D.C., indefinitely. A friend helped him find an apartment. He never went back to Atlanta. Two weeks later, Fox News appointed him Pentagon correspondent, a position that saw him travel the world, including 13 trips to Afghanistan and 12 to Iraq.

Halfway through George W. Bush's second term, Baier became Fox News' White House correspondent.

Then, a year before he would earn his current position as anchor, Baier became a father. His son was born with holes in his heart — five congenital heart defects. Twelve days later, the boy underwent open-heart surgery. Baier and his wife waited in tiled rooms drenched with flowers and ESPN and drab ultraviolet light, surrounded by machines full of beeps and whirring and beeps and whirring.

Baier's son has since undergone two additional open-heart surgeries, nine angioplasties, and one stomach operation. In an interview with Parents Magazine, Baier said that his son's health problems have "given me perspective about my job, going through policy and politics in Washington, D.C., to see the bigger picture."

*Part of the reason I couldn't tell whether or not it was Baier is he's usually up on the main stage. For the 2012 election, he moderated five Republican debates, and co-anchored FNC's America's Election HQ alongside Megyn Kelly.

The 2016 election would propel him into a much larger role. He anchored three Republican debates, but this time he had to handle Donald Trump.

Baier knew Trump personally, from before the election. They'd played golf together. He described Trump as "a nice guy outside of his TV persona" and never thought Trump would actually make a run for the Presidency. Onstage, Trump was much different. And Baier had been tasked with maintaining control.

A devout Roman Catholic, he appreciates a nice glass of wine and a fine cut of steak. He likes a good joke, too. In January, 2019, Baier signed a multi-year deal with Fox News to continue "Special Report." A few weeks later, he and his family went to Montana for a ski trip. The weekend was wonderful. But they had to get back to New York because Baier was scheduled to appear on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" that Tuesday.

Imagine him, again in a car hurtling toward a fateful destination. How he squinted through the frost-pocked windshield and gripped the steering wheel. As he guided the white SUV along the two-lane road to the airport. The land looked haunted, barren, lifeless. Everywhere, the world was frozen white. Snow and ice blanketing the fields, gauze over the sky.

At some anonymous intersection, Baier pumped the brakes, but the tires hit an ice patch, and the SUV spun loose. An oncoming car slammed into the driver's side, launching the vehicle into an embankment, wedged on its side. A man named Zach stopped his pickup truck and helped the family crawl free, and the Montana Highway Patrol rushed them to the hospital.

"Don't take anything for granted," Baier tweeted later. "Every day is a blessing and family is everything. It's always good to remind yourself of that before something does it for you."

Before every debate that he moderates, Baier spends 10 minutes alone, praying.

*

A Freedom of Information Act request in 2011 revealed that Fox News was actually right. That the Obama Administration really did hate them. And had intentionally excluded them from a press pool two years earlier. Then laughed about it.

The documents unearthed snarky emails between various high-ranking aides in the Obama Administration. In one, the Deputy White House communications director bemoaned Baier's reporting on the bias. "I'm putting some dead fish in the [Fox News] cubby — just cause Bret Baier is a lunatic." That same day, deputy press secretary Josh Earnest bragged in an email that "we've demonstrated our willingness and ability to exclude Fox News from significant interviews."

The Trump administration pulled a similar stunt in July, 2018 by banning a CNN reporter from the press pool. Trump and Fox News had developed a beneficial relationship by then. And CNN was a lifelong competitor, a public enemy.
That night, Baier delivered an official statement, "This decision to bar a member of the press is retaliatory in nature and not indicative of an open and free press. We demand better. As a member of the White House press pool, Fox stands firmly with CNN on this issue of access."

Fox News rebuked Trump in solidarity with CNN. It was a heartening gesture between two seeming enemies. Fox News were standing up for truth, defending journalism, rejecting tyranny even though the ban would have benefitted them as a company.

Who knows how many books and dissertations and articles have been written about Fox News, usually in relation to bias, usually with a scathing tone. The conclusions differ wildly, yet each one claims certitude.

Generally, academics and journalists have taken a doomsday tone when talking about Fox News. Accusations of evil, fear-mongering, bigotry, hatred, misinformation, propaganda, racism, homophobia, and so on.

Despite these outcries, Fox News has consistently held its spot as the most-watched network in the country. Imagine how that makes its critics feel.

In an August 3, 2018 appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Baier said, "the biggest problem is that the people who are most critical of Fox are usually people who have not watched Fox News."

Fox News is composed of two distinct departments. Punditry and straight news. Or "opinion news" and "descriptive news." Consistently, surveys of the public rate Fox News as both the least- and most-biased news network.
Last year, a survey found Fox News to be the second most-trusted television news brand in the country, after the BBC.

In a separate study, Democrats rated its bias score at (negative) -87, while Republicans placed it at (positive) +3. Which is like if, at a football game, one referee said "Touchdown," while the other referee said "Turnover, leading to Touchdown for the Defense." It can't be both, can it?

Public opinion may not be the best metric for understanding Fox News, especially in 2019.

Quantitative studies have offered clearer conclusions. In 2016, a content analysis used crowdsourcing and machine learning to examine over 800,000 news stories published over a year by 15 major outlets, from the New York Times to Fox News. They wanted to chart media bias.

What they discovered is that news outlets are far more similar than we believe. Much of the perceived bias is a matter of separating "opinion news" from "descriptive news." For conservatives, it's punditry. For those on the left, it's op-eds and long form investigative pieces, although the left tends to insist that they're not biased, that they are instead just more apt to tell the truth, even though research has disproven this belief.

The researchers found a much larger bias-divide in opinion news, whereas descriptive news was practically neutral. One of the researchers described Fox News' descriptive news as "guided by similar news values as more traditional, legacy media."

University of California Berkeley sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild wrote that "Fox News stands next to industry, state government, church, and the regular media as an extra pillar of political culture all its own."

Say what you want about Fox News, they play a crucial role in the so-called mainstream media. And, despite what Fox News will lead you to believe, they are definitely part of the mainstream. And they are by no means the innocent victim. And certainly not powerless. And they have all kinds of problems that I will not defend. But we'll talk about that in a later installment, the one about Kamala Harris at a gun control rally, advocating for propaganda.

*

After two months of political events, I suspected that different news networks have their own signifiers, like the distinct stripes and markings on various spiders.

Wall Street Journal reporters tended to carry old-timey notepads and interview any bystander they could find. Breitbart usually only sent one person, and he wandered around with his iPhone, recording every single thing. Politico, prim-suited men who could just as easily work on the stock market.

Most of the reporters dressed like that, in stagey business attire. Prim for a high school job fair. Meanwhile, the photographers, mostly men, looked like professional paintball players. The camera crews and technical staff were the only ones decked in tattoos and wearing sandals and generally not caring about the chaos all around them. On-camera talent were covered in makeup and shrink-wrapped into dresses or suits with chip-clips along the spine.

The Washington Post sent the classiest and most bored-looking people I have ever encountered. They never looked at their laptops as their fingers chopped at the keys, and you assumed they were pretending until you read their stories online. You could spot ABC because their camera crew wore faded red ABC hats. Associated Press looked like they had just come back from a battlefield assignment in Syria, and never donned the same press credentials as everyone else, preferring a tattered AP lanyard. And you always knew when someone was with the New York Times because they announced it to the entire room.

And Fox News? At democratic events, they usually hid. But not that day, in Houston, as Bret Baier walked up the aisle to a table a couple rows in front of me.

Most people arrived in the Media Filing Center several hours before the debate. Fox News got there just slightly after that, as everyone was wiggling in their seats and connecting their laptops to a shared outlet.

There were seven or so in the pack of Fox News, all grinning. They all had white to-go sacks from Chick-fil-A. And the room got quieter, so Trump's plane got louder. It was a double trolling event.

As host of the debate, ABC would be providing dinner. This information was included in the credentials email that all of us had received. So nobody else had brought food with them. No need.

Even better, I was familiar enough with that part of Houston to know that there was not a Chick-fil-A anywhere close to us. Who knew where they'd gotten that Chick-fil-A, but odds are it wasn't warm. Who knew if there was even any food in the bags.

They had brought Chick-fil-A into a building full of national media during the third Democratic Presidential debate. The 2020 election was already full of outrage about plenty of things, and one of them was Chick-fil-A. To some folks, the red chicken logo might as well have been a swastika. That very week LGBT activists had vehemently — cartoonishly — protested the opening of several Chick-fil-A's throughout North America. Chicken sandwiches had become yet another flag on the tug-of-war rope in the Culture War of our country.

To be clear, the political left was anti-Chicken and the political right was pro-Chicken. The media tended to lean anti-Chicken, and frequently wrote about anti-Chicken causes, often scolding pro-Chicken voices, or ignoring the struggles of the pro-Chicken community only to deny any opinion on Chicken at all. That was the cowardly part, of you ask me, the pretending like they weren't activists.

The Democratic candidates definitely leaned anti-Chicken. Sometimes they took it so far that it upset moderate anti-Chicken advocates. Because was it really so bad to eat Chicken? Couldn't you be anti-Chicken but also enjoy Chicken occasionally? Why did everything have to be either "all Chicken all the time unless you hate freedom" or "no chicken ever unless you support hate"?

The fight had spread everywhere. Airports, stadiums, malls, campuses. All had served as battlegrounds for the anti-Chicken versus the pro-Chicken.

The previous President was anti-Chicken. In fact, he may well have enflamed the entire movement. During his tenure, there were nationwide protests that saw pro-Chicken advocates angrily and proudly eating Chicken while anti-Chicken advocates protested outside and occasionally engaged in homosexual affection, which was being threatened by Chicken, according to them.

Every time the pro-Chicken folks bit into a Chicken sandwich, it was like they were gnawing away at the anti-Chicken people themselves. Degrading their identity. Because, for them, it was about the identity.

But the current President, unabashedly proud of his pro-Chicken stance, once served Chicken at the White House to some winning sports team, and the anti-Chicken activists saw it as proof that Chicken and hate go together. And maybe Chicken would even lead to the impeachment of the President they hate, which would mean the Vice President would become the President, but he's one of the most pro-Chicken people in America, so they'd have to impeach him, too. And the Supreme Court, it was overrun with pro-Chicken types.

This election, the Democratic front-runners competed for the bolder plan. They would end Chicken in America once and for all. They would obliterate our evil President and his Chicken Supremacy. Their stump speeches relied on harsh criticisms of pro-Chicken voters, who pretended to find the whole anti-Chicken movement amusing but were secretly enraged by it. In fact, they were certain that the anti-Chicken movement had been systematically silencing them for years, and that they had to fight for their Chicken in order to keep everything that they valued, even all the not-Chicken.

The media and the democrats and Hollywood and academia — all hated the Chicken, because they hated the pro-Chicken people. If they had their way, no more Chicken, ever again. And no more pro-Chicken deplorables. And tonight the anti-Chicken politico-culture complex would prove it, with long rants which get confirmed by glowing articles, calculated takedowns about the merits of anti-Chicken and the evils of pro-Chicken.

Yet here was Fox News, with actual Chicken. And they were smiling. Maybe in part because the police who were guarding us all tended to be pro-Chicken. And this was Texas, after all, an incredibly pro-Chicken state. But there were 49 other states and 14 territories, and all of them were fighting for or against Chicken.

Some experts even said we were on the cusp of a Civil War.


New installments to this series come out every Monday and Thursday morning. For live updates, check out my Twitter or email me at kryan@mercurystudios.com

We've heard the catchphrase "follow the money" so often that it's nearly a joke. It gained added attention in the 1976 movie All the President's Men, which follows the story of the two journalists who uncovered Watergate. "Follow the money," their source told them, "and you'll find corruption."

Problem is, corrupters hide their bad behavior remarkably well. They are masters of disguise. But if you look closely enough, you can spot the seams splitting in their choreographed routine.

One technique that magicians use for psychological misdirection is called the false solution. The goal is to distract the audience, to make them believe that they know what's really happening. All the while, the machinations of the actual trick are happening right in front of them, because "implanting an unlikely and unfamiliar idea in the mind can prevent participants from finding a more obvious one."

Billions of dollars. Lost. Gone.

I want to tell you a story of tremendous corruption, masked cleverly, using many of the same techniques that magicians have used for centuries. Only it's not a rabbit disappearing into a hat or a coin vanishing behind an ear. It's billions of dollars. Lost. Gone.

And the people responsible are the same people who have been so monstrously worked up about Trump's impeachment. The same people screaming about Trump's malfeasance with Ukraine are actually the ones misbehaving in Ukraine.

It's essentially an elevated, highly organized form of projection. Only instead of one person lashing out at the world, it's an entire political party, right up to the top. The very top. Barack Obama. It's right there on video.

Or how about the audio recording we uncovered, with Artem Sytnyk, Director of the National Anti-corruption Bureau of Ukraine, openly admitting a connection between the DNC and Ukraine?

So far, the story told by the Democrats and the media has been about Trump and Ukraine. Every so often, you hear mention of Joe Biden's dubious history with the war-torn country.

We were the first to talk about Joe Biden's connections to Ukraine back in April, with our candidate profile on Biden.

It turns out, the whole debacle was much worse than we thought. It stretched further than Uncle Joe. What we found out is that the DNC was working with the Ukrainian government.

This isn't a conspiracy theory. And we have the documents to prove it.

Read on to discover everything you need for a 30-second elevator pitch that you can give to your friend and say, "Look, here's what you need to know. Here's what's really going on."

If anyone is guilty, they should go to jail.

Last night, in Ukraine: The Democrats' Russia I revealed the elaborate misdirection taking place.

I said it last night and I'll say it again: If Trump is guilty, he should go to jail. If anyone is guilty, they should go to jail. Because this is too important to the Republic.

Watch the hands, follow the money.

Here are the documents, video, and audio that we found in our reporting. This is the hard evidence that will help you explain this unbelievable situation to other people.



  • June 2016 State Department memos detailing contacts between George Soros' office and Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland.




As you can see, we did a lot of research on this, and we've done our best to condense it for you. It still requires you to do your own homework, but there's a tremendous freedom to that.

You are seeking the truth.

You are bucking the mainstream media. You are rejecting them. And you are seeking truth. Because they abandoned truth a long time ago and they certainly aren't interested in recovering it now.