Mar 28 • 43M

Episode 16: Drew Holden, Commentary Writer and Maker of Threads on Media Hypocrisy and the COVID Policy Communication Failures

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Drew Holden, who does more than almost anyone on Twitter to hold pundits, media members and news organizations accountable for intellectual hypocrisy and inconsistency, joins the podcast to discuss the coverage of COVID, the failures of government communication and his favorite examples of the media’s rush to judgment.

Follow Drew on Twitter and check out a list of his articles here.


***Unmasked: The Global Failure of COVID Mask Mandates is available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble***

Past episodes of the Podcast are available here on Substack, or also available on Spotify or Apple Podcasts


Full transcript is below:

Ian Miller:

Hello, everyone. Welcome to another episode of the unasked podcast. We have a very special guest today drew Holden, who is a a maker of threads and, and defender of intellectual consistency in those threads. He's also a freelance commentary writer who is written for a lot of major publications, New York times, Washington post Federalist Fox news, et cetera. So welcome drew. Thanks so much for doing this,

Drew Holden:

Ian. Pleasure's mine, sir. I appreciate you having me on.

Ian Miller:

Yeah. so I wanted to ask, and you might have answered this previously, but I'm curious what, what got you started making these threads? They're so, you know, brilliantly simple, but incredibly important. And to me, especially, what was it that made you start putting these together?

Drew Holden:

Well, I, I appreciate that. So the first time I remember the, that I ever put together a thread was it was, it was back around the time when general Soleimani, the, the Iranian general was killed. And the reason I had put it together was because I, I remember the coverage and I looked at a lot of it and I was like, man, this is, this is weird. And I don't know that we always get these honorifics for for, for these sorts of titles, but who knows, maybe, maybe there's some new trend where we're trying to be nicer to people when, when they die. So wash forward a couple weeks and Don, I miss the bomb throwing radio host, who famously made a, a racist comment about the Rutgers women's basketball team back probably about a decade ago. So he passed away a couple weeks later and just got slammed his obituaries, the, the headlines across all his corporate press were just really trashing this guy hours after he had died.

Drew Holden:

And I saw them and I was like, you know, I, I get it. People had issues with, I miss. Obviously he made some, some really indefensible comments, but there's no way on any sort of moral playing field. Is he worse than a guy who is the leader of a terrorist organization, right. Who has, who has an enormous amount of innocent blood on his hands? And so I went through for a bunch of different outlets and I posted the two side by side and I didn't even, I didn't think I even said anything, right. There was no real analysis. It was just the pictures. And I looked at them and they jumped off the page to me. And I was like, whatever, I'm, I'm gonna string six or seven of these together and see if folks like it. And you know, I got, I had a pretty good response. And then I started thinking about it and I was like, man, there's, there's definitely a lot to say here, and I should figure out how to do that. And then from that, that kind of moment, the, the thread, the at least as a concept was born. And then I've had to tinker and refine a little bit on the format to, to try and get the point across a little bit better. And I'm, I'm sure I'm still learning too.

Ian Miller:

Hmm. Do you have a, a favorite example of an issue? I mean, obviously that one kind of jumped out at you, but what, you know, after you started making them has been going down through this, through the process, was there something that came up where you're like, oh, this is, this is it. This is gonna be perfect. I've already got, I know, I already know the examples are coming for this one.

Drew Holden:

Yeah. So this, I think the one that, that comes to mind, it's not so much the side by side, but it's the the takes that were preposterous in the moment. And people didn't realize that until they saw the light a day, a little bit later. And it was the, the coverage around Michael Anot, I think was really, you know, what I end up doing is when, whenever I see something that just doesn't pass the sniff test for me, I end up going through and taking a whole bunch of screenshots. Sometimes they pan and, you know, whatever, whatever I thought was gonna happen happened, sometimes they don't, sometimes it's not close enough. And so they just kind of sit in, in my phone forever. But I remember during the heyday of Michael Ave, when CNN was speculating about what his primary strategy was going to be as a potential democratic nominee for president 2020, I was watching.

Drew Holden:

And I was like, man, the fever on this is, is just unbelievable. And eventually all of these people are going to regret these just really preposterous takes about Anot, not just in terms of his political future, but in terms of his intellect and his savvy and his morality and everything else. And I, I remember I just, I kept collecting and collecting and then, you know, the, the trial started and I was like, well, eventually these I think are gonna have to come back around. And so that, that to me was probably the most egregious example of, you know, the, during the Trump era. I think there were a lot of people who were made in the heroes for really no conceivable reason other than they were in opposition to Trump. But I think he was probably the most dramatic now in, in hindsight where I think he's in prison now. Right. Or if he's gone through his whole trial, yet he, he is either in or headed to prison.

Ian Miller:

Right. Yeah. You hit on a, a very important point though, which I think has become increasingly relevant over the past couple years with the, with the pandemic as well, which I I'll get into it later a bit. But so speaking of COVID, I, you know, I wanted to get your, you know, everybody comes out from a different, different point of view and, and so I was kind of curious what your initial reaction was to it. Were you concerned about COVID? Were you, what did you think of the policies lockdowns, all of that stuff as it rolled out?

Drew Holden:

Yeah. Good question. Good question. So I think when it first happened, I, I was pretty much your standard 20 something living a blue city who was, was definitely concerned and was handling the ambiguity of it as something where we should have a, a strong and urgent response. So, in retrospect, I remember, I think I put, I posted something on Facebook that I, I ended up coming to regret that that was about how all we need to do is, is just be quiet and trust the experts on this one. And so my knee jerk first couple of days, first couple weeks were, were very much that. And I remember part of that was, you know, my my, my girlfriend works on Capitol hill and she had gotten sick in the first couple of weeks. And we were like, oh, I mean, I'm sure it's not connected at all, but who knows maybe.

Drew Holden:

And then it turned out that, you know, the district she was working in was one of the first that that had cases. And so she might have been, you know, one of, one of the first cases here in DC of, of COVID. And so my first thought was, eh, you know, if it, if it's maybe already here, we should really kind of clamp down and, and be, and be, and be cautious with this. And I think that probably for the first week, week and a half, I, I stuck to that. And then that started eroding. I think, you know, when I, when I look back and I try and think through how I would've done it differently, I think I probably just wouldn't, I wouldn't have responded with a a level of fear that was inconsistent with what we knew at the time. And I think the time I really did do that is that I really, I really kind of jumped and got spooked and scared and, and was calling for policies that have had really, you know, calamitous long-term impacts. I certainly wasn't, wasn't I think pushing too hard on them early on. But I think I, I wasn't, I wasn't as clear out as some other folks were right outta the gate.

Ian Miller:

Well, don't blame yourself too much because just by, by saying that you've already exceeded the, how everybody that you you know, post on your, your Twitter threads, what they're willing to say about anything that they ever post on the internet, but that's fair. And, and also to be fair, you know, the world health organization initially was saying that like three and a half percent of people that got COVID were gonna die. So, you know, I think the expectations were, you know, wildly overstated early on by, by the experts and yep. But it did, it did influence opinion. Speaking of early days of COVID you, your pin tweet is still about the origins of, of COVID in, in Wuhan from a couple years ago. It, to me at this point, I, I mean, it, it feels pretty obvious. It's very likely it came from the lab. So, you know, why do you think so many of the media have been kind of desperate to avoid coming to terms with that or, or have been unwilling to examine that at all?

Drew Holden:

Yeah, that's a good question. So, yeah, I've been thinking a lot about this one lately, cuz there was a new, I think maybe two studies in pre-print that came out recently that claims to fully debunk the lab league hypothesis, which, which just isn't true. And so to me, there's, there's a few factors. I think one is, you know, when it first came up, there was enormous resistance to the idea because the people who were suggesting it were the media's bad guys. And so it was Donald Trump, it was Tom cotton, it was Republicans. It was, you know, the, the, the people who the corporate press saw as not just the fringe, but kind of morally compromised, right? You've got all of these people who are GNED up with these racist or at least racialized intonations who are, are concerned about this thing and China and cleanliness and all of these things that aren't quite fair.

Drew Holden:

And so I think that that that's cast a really, really long shadow and it led the media to be very deliberately one way about the, that they talked about the potential for the lab league and I think Fauci and the CDC and other people too. And you eventually, eventually the fever broke a little bit. Right. I remember to me, one of the really big breakthrough moments was I think it was in January of, of, of 2021. There's a piece in the new Yorker about why the lab leak theory was plausible. Not that it was right, not making the case, that it was more believable than the, than the the, the wet market theory, but just this is plausible there. The, the hypothesis here at least holds some water. And to that was the first time that I can remember at least where there was a, a corporate mainstream press outlet that was even willing to give voice to it.

Drew Holden:

And then you saw things change pretty quickly. I think, thereafter where you had Fauci come out and say, yeah, you know, I'm not a hundred percent positive that it really was from the wet market. And you had a lot more outlets who at least starting to consider the idea that maybe this hypothesis is worth exploring. And then they hit, I think another set of headwinds where the researchers, particularly the researchers involved realize that one of two things is gonna happen either. They're gonna really go to the mat and say, this isn't plausible. Even if it might be, or they're gonna have government prying around in things that one government probably doesn't understand and two will make their jobs and lives more difficult. You know, if you, if you look at these two new studies they're by people who do a lot of call it cutting edge medical and biological research.

Drew Holden:

And if the government starts imposing restrictions, even in good faith, even if they're the right things to do, which I certainly think that they are, it's gonna make these people's lives and research a lot more difficult and probably cut off access and resources in China. And so that's the last thing they wanna have happen. And so you see these new studies come back around that are pushing back on the loudly hypothesis. And then of course the media, cuz this is confirming everything that they've thought all along is more than willing to run with those ones and not anything that, that cuts counter to the narrative.

Ian Miller:

Yeah. There's a lot of great points in there. It speaks to the, the power of media that all it took was one piece by an established outlet and all of a sudden that kind of Overton window shifted. And but also it, it, it brings up a, a, a hypothetical that I've thought about a lot and have asked people a lot you know, would the response have been different if we had a different president in Marshall, 20, 20, you know, would, what would the media's real action have been? How would that have changed? Do you think?

Drew Holden:

Yeah, that's a good question. You know, there's, there's a part of me that wants to think that if it, if it weren't Trump and it was someone that the media thought was more reasonable, then we could have had a more open and honest conversation about the potential for the lab league. Like there's, there's a part of me a, a little bit a wet behind the ears part of me, but there's a part of me that wants to believe that the that's true, but to be honest with Eden, I think what what's probably more likely is that if we had a president who felt more beholden to China than, than Donald Trump did, which I think is anyone else who might have been president quite frankly including more of the like kind of core participant, more traditional Republicans, then I think they probably would've had the same MIS that most of the voices in the media had about the lab league that even talking about it was kind of racist and we should, like China got hit so hard.

Drew Holden:

It couldn't possibly be their fault, right? The morality in all of that is, is, is complicated. If you're not even like, if you, if you are not of the opinion that the lab league theory is relatively probable, which I think most people in good faith are, but like, let's, let's say it's something new to you. I think it's really easy to cast off and say, oh yeah, it's racism. It's xenophobia. It's, you know, this, that, and the other thing. And so I, unfortunately I think what probably would've happened is no one would've been giving it voice at all. People who would've been giving it voice wouldn't have had the same kind of a microphone. And so there wouldn't have been that dialogue. And I think it, in some ways, having the leader of the free world come out and push on this thing, even if he didn't do it particularly articulately, it forced people to kind of take up sides on the issue. And in a lot of cases, I think it, it forced a lot of people on the left corporate press and otherwise to, to make themselves seem a little bit foolish by trying to, trying to write off this possibility that was eminently plausible by saying, no, no, no. If Trump is pushing it, it's gotta be off the walls. And so I think that as a result of that, we've actually had a lot more valuable and good dialogue around this thing. Again, even if Trump wasn't exactly coming in understanding any stuff,

Ian Miller:

That's very interesting. I that's, that's a really unique answer. I haven't heard anybody say that the trumping president actually helped something in, in this, in the pandemic though. Yeah.

Drew Holden:

I'm skeptical. Like there's a part of me that even as I say that I'm like, is that really true? But like it is right. I'm I, I'm very rare accused of giving Trump too much credit. And, and, but I, I, I think that in this case, it actually, again, not, not because he was playing some 14 dimensional chess or anything, but I do think the way that he handled it probably benefited everyone.

Ian Miller:

Interesting. so I write a lot about masks and, and I've been curious to see what you think and, and, you know, what did you think of the mask minute's when it started rolling out, because obviously you, you Chronicle a lot of these kind of intellectual inconsistencies and, and then you have the experts saying everybody needs to wear a mask after all these statements saying, oh, you're an idiot for wearing one early on in the pandemic,

Drew Holden:

Right? Yeah, exactly. And like, so I, I think as a result of that, because I spend so much time kind of nose, nose down and media, and I saw all those early takes, I was already a little bit skeptical, I think, of, of masks and whether or not they made sense. I live in DC at, at, you know, by the time that masks really started taking off, it had started to get warm. And so I think just from a comfort perspective, I was definitely definitely opposed the idea that from, from very, very early on, but I remember seeing those, you know, the, the original that of people like the surgeon general saying don't buy masks and Fauci saying, don't buy masks then coming around and saying, well, we said, we only said that because we wanted you to behave a certain way. And that I think triggered, you know, had my, my hairs a little bit on end of maybe we're not getting the full range of information here.

Drew Holden:

And if we're gonna require everyone change their behavior and if they don't be punished by the government, then like the, the bar should be decently high. And I would think that if masks were, were helpful and beneficial, we never would've had this back and forth. Right. You wouldn't have outlets like VX coming out and saying that masks don't make sense. The, the way that they did early on in the pandemic. And you saw a lot of outlets in the corporate press, or, you know, just outright left wing outlets saying, no, no, no, this mask thing, it doesn't make any sense either as a Dick to Trump or because they had just familiarized theirself with the information and it didn't really hold a lot of water. And so I think for me, I was, I, I came out of it skeptical of the idea that these, these things actually helped and made sense willing and open to the idea that maybe that they maybe they do. But I think I was a little bit skeptical right. From the jump on them.

Ian Miller:

Hmm. Yeah. And what's interesting is they, they said that, oh, it's about protecting supply, but privately, and that we found out later in the buzz feed emails, Fauci was telling people, you know, individual people, February of 20, 20, oh, you don't need to wear a mask. So, you know, I think it's pretty clear. He was, that was a, a, a post hoc justification for what they were saying. Exactly. Yeah, yeah,

Drew Holden:

Exactly. And when, you know, when you have leading you're right. It would've been one thing if all along, they said, Hey, we can't have a run on these things. So don't, don't worry about them right now. We're still not what their benefit will be. We're not sure that there's gonna be mandates or anything like that. So yeah, don't sweat it for now. We'll figure it out, down the road, if they had done that and then come out strongly in favor of math, then I think maybe I would've, I would've been a little bit less resistant to go along with it, but the fact that they, so adamantly came out and say, look, these things don't make any sense. BA you know, based on the particle sizes, they're, they're not really gonna do you a whole lot of good. And we're not sure that anything is even gonna work outdoors, you know, as soon as I, I heard that, and then I saw the tune change 180 degrees. You, I, I thought to myself pretty quickly, like whenever, whenever you have to get this quickly into the behavioral modification element of government origin, it's not, it's not encouraging that they have the facts on their side.

Ian Miller:

Yeah. It really has felt like COVID has kind of exacerbated the kind of tendencies of politicians and authority figures to engage in the kind of like hypocrisy and rush to judgment. That's, that's been prevalent that you Chronicle so well. Is that, is that fair assessment, do you think that's accurate?

Drew Holden:

Yeah. Yeah. UN unfortunately, I, I do. I do think that's really accurate, you know, I think some of it is it's, it's a little bit of, of the, the Trump era in miniature, where whenever something is, is on fire or of concern or off the tensions, get ramped up on these things. And I think you have people who aren't aren't, aren't quite as worried about intellectual consistency as I tend to be. And so that, that's, that's just a natural, a natural side effect of this. But I think part of it too, in Fauci, really, to me, has been kind of the spitting image of one is as soon as you start trying to play your guidance based on what you expect, the response to it will be, you really start rather than what's true. I think you really, really can trip up extremely quickly because you're not thinking about the facts and it's, it's, it's the same idea of, if you tell, you know, if you tell one lie, it's harder to tell a whole bunch more lies, cuz not only do you have to worry about whether the thing you're saying in the moment makes sense.

Drew Holden:

You have to be looking backward at least somewhat to make sure that you're not contradicting yourself. And I think that that, that that's that kind of second set of eyes of, oh no. Did I say the other thing last week? It just never clicked in and at some point I really do think that that folks like Fauci just stopped caring, right? They, they had, they had lost the confidence of so many people. We're looking at a public health system that has, has just seen its public approval, absolutely crater. And so I think when you know that you, you are losing the number of people who are buying the thing that you're saying, it be a lot easier to, to lean into the things that maybe in the moment would be really helpful if you could get at least some people to believe them. And that's obviously not particularly good when you're worried about actual public health outcomes.

Ian Miller:

Right. That's a good point. So you know, my, my personal view is that over time, the media really helped kind of the paper over how poorly the predictions and all these kind of dramatic assertions and Fauci statements and kind of contradictions as you brought up, how well they aged over time. I blatantly ripped off your style and did a long thread last year after Texas lifted their mask mandate, you know, it was, it's like 25 things of, of experts and politicians and cetera and nothing happened, cases went down. So, you know, media is supposed to be the first to kind of question authority at least theoretically, but they never seem to do that with COVID. So why is that

Drew Holden:

Right? You know, I, I think that's a really good way to put it, you know, because the one thing that I, that I could at least pat the media on the back for during the Trump years is, is they were dogged in their criticism of the most powerful person on earth. Right. And I, I did like that. I think there were times where it was unfair, but I'd much rather they, they missed in that direction. But you know, one of the things that I, that, that I think has really been exposed from COVID is that, you know, people like me and plenty of others, and I know you do too. Talk a lot about the, the kind of media group think and conformity, and the fact that the people who tend to become reporters and journalists overwhelmingly have a certain set of values and world view and everything else.

Drew Holden:

And so I think that that's always problematic. It's always a challenge for the media. Certainly during the election of Trump, it was a big challenge for the media. But I actually think that COVID is probably the most acute challenge where that group think is really what gets mired and kind of bogged down because you've got a whole bunch of people who, even if they're somewhat conservative, they're educational attainment and, and, and income and familial income and all these other different kind of variables, point them in a direction of seeing the world in a particular way, which is pro mandate pro-government control pro everything else. And I think it made it really, really hard for them to look back and say, actually, this is the government doing a bad thing, as opposed to, well, we need the government to step in cuz no one else is willing to, to do this thing.

Drew Holden:

And so since it was kind of cloaked in that fuzzy paternal sort of we're, we're just here to help because there's no one else to help. Then the media, almost one, they, they, I think they were overly willing obviously to believe that. But I think to them, it's like, well, duh, what else would we possibly want? And I, I can, I can never help with the think that maybe, you know, just maybe if we had 10% more conservative journalists, you would have at least one reporter in the newsroom who would be like, Hey, are we have we thought through what this is gonna look like in next months when all of these governors and mayors still have the same power and authority? Like, are, are we sure that's really something we're comfortable with, but we haven't, I think at any point had that. And I, I, I, I think unfortunately a lot of it is due to just the, the, the type of people who tend to be journalists.

Ian Miller:

Yeah. You hit on something. I think that's really a problematic going forward in just general life, which is these echo chambers. And it kind of gets consolidate even more in things like corporations now it's, you can see it's, it's affecting that. Right. So you work in communications a bit and obviously communications about COVID policy have been incredibly important and also extraordinarily bad, in my opinion, where you see things like the former CDC director saying mass are gonna provide better protection than vaccines, things like that. Yeah. So as somebody who does this professionally, what's that, what's that been like watching this unfold in the communication style?

Drew Holden:

Yeah. I mean, certainly frustrating is, is, is the, the first word that comes to mind. And, and I think it's, it's frustrating, not just cuz it's bad, but because it's avoidable, right? Like I, there was a really, really good piece early on in the pandemic that I think was a New York magazine that compared the crisis responses from Seattle and New York city to the pandemic and, and what they did, particularly from a communications perspective of how did they relay important public health information to the people who needed to know it. And I think one of the things that's really killed me throughout the them, but particularly coming out of New York with Cuomo and, and, and with other authorities is you saw time and time again, individuals over promising the amount of information and confidence that they had, or at least had a rights to have based on the limited information that we had.

Drew Holden:

And so one of the things that piece, I think explored really well as out in Seattle, they were, they were ground zero for cases, right. And so they knew and kind of put their hands up and they're like, look, we're gonna keep giving you the best of our information and we'll do that as long as we can, but we don't have much to go on right now. And in New York you saw a very different approach where you, you, one had way more confidence and two, the people who were communicating it were partisan actors, right? You add someone like an Andrew Cuomo get up there and tell people what it was, you know, what he thought the case was and what, what the situation on the ground was gonna be. And that's kind of, you know, from my understanding, that's basically a 1 0 1 thing that you don't do.

Drew Holden:

If you are a government that's communicating through a crisis, you don't want all of these issues refracted through the lens of politics. And you saw from, I, I think unfortunately eventually from you certainly, but from a lot of blue state governors, you, you had these two things get meshed. And I think some of that unfortunately was deliberate where there, they were appealing to their voters to say, look, you trust me, you care about people, you wise and seasoned Democrats, you need to do the right thing. And so for me, I think the, the really, really frustrating things you had that spirit of, of overconfidence and this kind of political calculation, very obviously undergirding so much of the communications that it was only a matter of time before they got something wrong and needlessly destroyed their credibility at a time where their credibility was incredibly important. And so that, to me, I think seeing that first happen and then snowball from the sidelines was, was unbelievably frustrating.

Ian Miller:

Yeah. That's a great point. Kind of relatedly, it, it seems like all of their mandates and, and, you know, the vaccine passports and things, it all went away at once. And like the last couple of weeks you know, there's been some polling data and PR advice that continue to come out, suggesting Democrats have gone too far with COVID measures. Obviously, you know, the kind of sideline Fauci he is not out there every week talking on the, the, the news shows. Yeah. so do you think that that, that kind of polling shift explains how quickly and dramatically everything changed?

Drew Holden:

Yeah. Yeah. You know, and I think I do the one other thing too, and it's probably on fair in terms of what its impact is, but, you know, I keep thinking that that time should at least nominate Stacy Abrams as, as person of, cause I, I do think a big part of it was that picture, right? That, that, that picture that she shared of her sitting crosslegged and masks in a sea of masked children. And I think that was so Vista a role for so many people and particularly so many parents who are unbelievably frustrated that within two or three weeks you saw mass mandates in schools. And then just in general too fall in places like in New York and California, that had really been some of the most oppressive in terms of their restrictions. I do think what it comes down to is mostly how, how ever and UN unfortunately is the polling.

Drew Holden:

You know, I think the, I think not just the, the loss of the governor's race in Virginia and then the close call, this is the one that I think it's overlooked too much, the close call in New Jersey, a reliably blue state. That really just by a couple, you know, a couple of fractions ended up going to a democratic incumbent over a, a little known Republican challenger. I think that caused a lot of Democrats to finally wake up and go from saying, eh, whatever, leave it to leave it to the states and people to decide to this is a five alarm fire for our party. And if we don't, if we don't do this soon enough, so that people have forgotten it by the time they're casting their, their Mailin ballots in a few months, then this could be CATA li. And so I think that they, they collectively took a hard look at that. They put out some new talking points, and then I would imagine there was a lot of really strong internal pressure on blue state governors to say, you gotta knock this off. And it should happen a long time ago. Right. I'm certainly glad with the outcome. But as, as you've written, there's, there was never compelling information to support these anyway. So it really is unfortunate that what took us getting to that point were some really awful poll numbers.

Ian Miller:

Yeah. It shows you how much of this is influenced by, by politics in a lot of ways. So kind of on the flip side of that, I you mentioned California, I live in Southern California. So, you know, the messaging here has, has definitely been that master almost certainly gonna come back, you know, whether that's in the fall or you get a new variant or whatever, the CDC even phrase it as, oh, we're gonna give people a break from asking this. So, you know, am I being too pessimistic to think that they will bring it back up? You know, the next time cases go up or after the midterms are over,

Drew Holden:

You know, that's a, that's a great question, Dean. And my, my thinking is that it's, it's gonna have to be state by state, whether there are different places that are more confident in the willingness of their population to subject themselves, to masks where you probably will see it come back. But, you know, getting, getting back to your political point. I, I do think a lot of this will have to do with when do case to spike and what do polling numbers look like and how can, what, what are, what are these, you know, these blue state governors, what do they think about what's, what's gonna happen come 20, 22? Cause if I'm, if I'm Gavin Newsom and I've just survived the recall election, I might be a little bit more confident in my ability to reimpose the mass mandate or just encourage cities and other localities to, to reimpose the mask mandate.

Drew Holden:

But man, you know, if I'm, if I'm a, a governor of a, of a purple state, you know, your, your Colorados or something. And I look at the polling of parents when it comes to masks and masks in schools, and I don't know if I'm willing to, and, and to me, and I, I'd be curious to get your take on this. The thing that I think is really complicating, a lot of this is the, the messaging on mask mandates in general versus mask mandates in schools. Right? And so to me there, it's, it's always been untenable that we would expect kids who are in the least high. They are the lowest risk when it comes to contracting and suffering severe consequences from or dying from COVID. It always seemed to me to be pretty untenable, that we would force them to wear masks in the long term.

Drew Holden:

But I'd be really curious what you think is gonna happen if that, if that switch does flip, because now those facts are all out there because when, when they pull the mask outta schools, a lot of 'em admitted that, right. They said the quiet part out loud around, around kids being pretty soon. And so what do you do now? Do you repo a mass mandate, but not in schools? Do you put the, the mass back on in schools and risk frustrating all of these parents who have already had it up to here with, with, with states and governments?

Ian Miller:

Yeah, that's a great question. I, I personally, my concern is that they are willing to risk it in large part due to the teachers unions where, you know, in Los Angeles, they lifted the mask mandate in schools, or I, I think they at least mostly did. And the teachers unions were furious and basically said, no, we want to keep it. You know, New York is still masking toddlers. It's the only age demographic in the whole city that required to wear masks or unbeliev ages, like two to four. Yeah. It's because exactly, it's unbelievable. So I don't know. I really, I would like to believe, like you said, they keep kind of destroying their own arguments after the restrictions lift, cuz they go, oh, well actually, you know, Leanna went on, CNN says ma cloth, master, facial decorations, you know, Washington post and mass mandate. It's never worked, but you still kinda have that, that, you know, I, I don't know. I'm concerned that cat is out of the bag as far as like people think that masks work and, and a lot of these specific demographics and it's go gonna be hard for them to give it up.

Drew Holden:

Yeah. That, that sounds right to hopefully I'm wrong. I think you make two really good points there. One or three really good points. Really one is just the power of the teachers unions. I think in, in places like LA and Chicago and New York where the teachers unions really have a ton of poll, then in some cases it doesn't matter, which is the second point that I think you, you kind of alluded to here, which is that there's a shamelessness about all of it where like, I wish the, I wish the hypocrisy mattered and I wish it would prevent people from doing something, but it, it just doesn't right. Like Dr. Le went is a, a great example where I think it was maybe a month, a month and a half apart. She went from saying that kids in schools needed to wear at least at least a three apply surgical quality mask in schools to their facial decorations.

Drew Holden:

Right. If, if you can have an expert flip the switch that quickly in terms of what she thinks schools should be doing, then like, yeah, you're right. The cat is out of the bag, but unfortunately, so many of these people don't care. And so the thing that compels them, I think to care is going to be those polling numbers. And, you know, I was, I was walking around DC, we got a little bit of snow early this week and I was walking the dog and I looked and I, I started counting at about 50% of the people outside on Saturday morning when I was walking, my dog were wearing masks outdoors while it was snowing. And it was like, you know, these maybe, maybe some of these people like they've, they, they just, they feel safe wearing these stupid things. And so they don't care.

Drew Holden:

Like if, if the mandate comes back, they're the they've, they've still got their masks cleaned and ready and washed sitting by the side of their, of, of, of their bed waiting to put them on as soon as they wake up in the morning. And so maybe bringing back the mandates, aren't gonna hurt them with those people. And so I think in some places, particularly in cities, maybe they do, and maybe it's because they don't think there's gonna be huge political repercussions, but I really do think it's some of those states, like the, the, the parents are done, right? Yeah. Like if you are, if you are a, a, a governor and a Virginia or, or a Colorado, or I, I wonder even a Michigan, if you're looking at this and you're like, man, I, unless I'm willing to lose 65% of the parent vote, then this ship is sailed.

Ian Miller:

Yeah. Sometimes it makes Florida seem seem very appealing when you think about these things coming back forever. So, you know, there's obviously other issues in the world other than COVID and, and you recently put together a, a great large threat on, on the Biden claims about energy production. You know, you could say this about most of the threats you do, but you know, these people do realize the internet exists. Right. I mean, it's, it seems like an especially greatest example of asking people to kind of ignore or forget reality.

Drew Holden:

Yeah. Yeah. I, I, I think so too. And, you know, as I, as I was putting it together, I, I started to think it, like, maybe this is just how gas prices is a political issue have always worked a little bit, right. Where like, this is, it's a, it's a famous can to kick on the, on the other side of the street, whenever there's someone else in office doing this. But, you know, I, I think one of, one of the reasons I wanted to pull together the thread, wasn't just that the way people had talked about, about gas prices at one time or another before and after, it really was about what Biden had done on energy production and how it was greeted. Right. You know, I was, I was reminded today about the, the secretary of energy, making some statements back about a year ago, about how fossil fuel companies need to get on board with a green transition.

Drew Holden:

Like the people seem to have forgotten in about a year's time that Biden and his, and, and the people around him, both on his campaign. And now that he's in office, this was a really important point where he took flack from both sides on the environmental issue. And he scored a lot of points with, with the greens, the environmentalist voters, everything else by saying, I'm gonna stick it to fossil fuels and legacy fuel sources. We're gonna be tough on these things in a way that other presidents haven't been, and he got all sorts of Plotts for this, when things were going at least. Okay. And now, as soon as things really take a turn, you see all of that kind of commentary get memory hold. And, and for me, it was so frustrating because you would think like, if you were someone who is a, even like, let's say you're a reporter, but you're committed to the environmental. Cause whatever, like your talking points should be the same. Even if gas prices go up. And it was so obvious that so many people were, were willing to very, very quickly abandon these principles and precepts that they purported to believe in. So as strongly a year ago that it, it, it really did gimme a sense of whiplash.

Ian Miller:

Yeah. that's a, that kind of is related to one of the other things I wanted to ask you about, which was our, our good friend, Jesse SMOT

Drew Holden:

Yeah, yeah.

Ian Miller:

That, that seems like a, a, a really perfect distillation of the rush to judgment that kind of turns out to be inaccurate. Right. Is, I mean, it's, it's just kind of, so sums up so much of what we've been kind of talking about, doesn't it?

Drew Holden:

Yeah, it does. It does. You know, now, now that I think about it, the, the better answer to the, an, the question you asked earlier about kind of the perfect distillation, it may not have been Ave. It might have been, it might have been small. It really you know, one of the things, one of my favorite kind of details that I think confirms enormous amount about the media from the Molet cases. And, and so CNN was one of the first outlets to break the Molet story. And one of the reasons they did is that they confirmed his account. They said in, in their reporting on it, and, you know, you know, how they had confirmed his, his account of what had happened.

Ian Miller:

I actually don't know this because

Drew Holden:

Don lemon friend of Jesse will talked to him and that was their confirmation that, that it had happened. And so you got like, to, to me, the, the, you know, the, the Jesse Case does a, does a few things. One I think it is really the, the perfect capture of the media's willingness to believe that something happened when it fits their priors and what could possibly fit their prior more neatly than a gay black man attacked by, by mega hat wearing Trump voters. Right. It's, it's, it's, it's so perfectly constructed to, to hit those priors that it allowed the media to overlook just preposterous things. I mean, I'm sure you've seen this, this, the Chappelle bit about this, where, you know, people really did believe, at least in the moment that there were, you know, the, the two chunkiest fans of the TV show empire who were just hiding out in Chicago at two in the morning when it was like negative 30 windchill and just happened to see him, right.

Drew Holden:

Like, I would love to know the ven diagram of people who voted for Trump and people who are such big fans of empire, that they could recognize small it out on the street, particularly in the middle of the night. Cause I don't, I don't think, I think those are two separate circles. And so it wasn't just, you know, the gets back, I think to a little bit of what we talked about with the COVID stuff. It wasn't just that they were willing to believe it it's that they were willing to ignore. So, so many potential inconsistencies to believe it and believe it with Gusto, right. When you look back at the coverage, one of the things that still, when I look back at it strikes me is how unbelievably and kind of shamelessly confident in the narrative corporate pressed mainstream outlets were, we're not talking about opinion, commentary people or opinion analysis. This was supposedly straight reporting from some of these places about what this, what this incident said about Trump and Trump voters. And so the ability to draw those kinds of over hyped conclusions in general should be problematic. But the fact that they did it based on a hoax really does, I think, capture so much of what so many people are frustrated about, about the modern media.

Ian Miller:

Yeah. It reminds me of the the Lincoln project stunt in Virginia with the oh yeah. Just exactly the same thing. They just kind of immediately buy into something that it never made any sense and is completely unrealistic, but it fits the narrative. Yeah,

Drew Holden:

Exactly, exactly. And like, look, obviously mullet knew it was gonna fit the narrative. Right. You don't, you don't go out and hoax a hate crime if you didn't think anyone's gonna believe you. Yeah. And so to, to me, there's a little bit of, there has to be at least a smidgen of self-awareness on these sorts of things where they were the mark, right? Like the, the, the people who ended up defending him to the death were the mark all along and they got taken for a ride. And, you know, I remember I, I went back and saw there's, there's a tweet from like a CNN talking head guy. Keith, what was a Keith Pointon I think is his name. And he, he came out like a week or maybe two weeks after all this blew up and tried to dunk on people who questioned whether or not small was, was like entitled to his, you know, a, a, a fair day in court or something because the, because Chicago had temporarily dropped some of the charges against him. Right. Cuz he's like friends with Kim Fox or whatever all it was. Yeah. And remember I saw that and I was like, how, like what, how blinkered does your reality have to be where you think this is your opportunity? Not just to be vindicated, but to dunk on your opponents because you think you've been momentarily vindicated.

Ian Miller:

Yeah, exactly. And that kind of is related to, I just a couple more questions for you. And that's kind of related to one of the ones that I wanted to get your idea just broadly, you know, like where are we heading with all of this? It it's, you know, fact checks are often completely ridiculous. You have, like you said, CNN verifying the reporting by talking to one of the reporters and, and similarly with the Cuomo situations with them you know, people can kind of ignore reality and get away with it. I, I, the Nicholas Sandman story. Yep. So is this just what life is going to be like going forward? Is there any hope for that to ever kind of go back to normal?

Drew Holden:

You know, it's a, it's a great question. This is probably the one question in kind of like American life that I spend the most time thinking about. And I, I think I'm kind of, of two of mines. There's a, the opt optimist in me that wants to say that the Trump years, so ridiculous with some of this reporting and the things that they bought on and like, you know, the Russian collusion hoax and everything else that surely by now, the fever has broken trust in the media is at an all time low. And they have to be able to just look in the mirror at this point as their industry repeatedly contracts. And no one is watching them anymore and say, Ugh maybe we were wrong on this and that there has to be some correction if they wanna survive. And so that's, that's the optimist in me.

Drew Holden:

Unfortunately I think the side that probably wins out, usually when I have this argument with myself is, is the opposite case where I, I think unfortunately the incentives in media are really, really bad if your goal is telling the truth, which is an unfortunate fact, I think between social media and the fact that all of these places make a ton of their, their revenue from ads and clicks and views, and that none of those things are necessarily tied to building trust with their audiences. Right. And so to me, my worry is that their, the, the, the media ship is sinking for a lot of those reasons, plus cuz of the group think, but that no one really individually has much in the way of an incentive to change or stop that. And so what we're probably gonna see, I think is you'll see these trends continue and amplify and speed up.

Drew Holden:

And I think, you know, if, if Donald Trump runs for office in 2024, forget it everything's out the window, it's gonna get a thousand. But, but I think even like everything else kind of staying as it is, let's say we get a normal nominee in 20, 24 and things could conceivably or should at least calm down. I, I, I don't think they do because you, you know, you look at places like MSNBC or like the Bryan SELs of the world, their audiences are a tiny, tiny fraction of what they were in the Trump heyday. And I think that they've been designed over the last couple of years to chase those clicks and chase those views. And the only way they know how to do that, even if it's unsuccessful is by cranking up the volume to, to a, a decibel level that is inconsistent with reality.

Ian Miller:

Mm. Yeah. I as a somebody pessimistic person myself, I tend to agree with you, so hopefully we're wrong, but I, yeah, I,

Drew Holden:

I hope, I, I hope beyond hope that I'm wrong. Right. And I do tend to be an optimist about, about this and most things, but ah, I, I, I unfortunately don't see this ship writing itself anytime soon.

Ian Miller:

Yeah. So that's, that's kind of related to my last question, which is a little bit more of more fun. You feature all a lot of the same people in your threads. I mean, are queen Jennifer Ruben, for example. So do, do you have, have a favorite? Is there somebody you're just like, I gotta, as soon as some major event happens, I gotta go to their feed. I know they're gonna have just the, the hottest take in the world right now.

Drew Holden:

That's a, that's a great question. Yeah, I mean, it's, I wish I could come up with one. I, I, I wish it were true that there was like a, a deep cut take of someone who was just super reliably wrong and super interesting who could outdo Jennifer Ruben. But, but there just isn't. I mean, like if you need, like if I had to make my perfect arch nemesis in a lab, it would come out as Jennifer Ruben, like it, I don't think I would change a single detail. And so, you know, there, there are a lot of other people who are kind of in that cloth, right. Of those former Republicans, the max boot types, who I think are, are good and reliable for, for producing something ridiculous. But to me, what really sets Ruben apart in at least in the Biden years is just the shameless pandering. Like she is truly willing at one point with Ruben, it was, she was willing to say something today. That was the antithesis of what she believed three or four years ago, but now it's week to week. I mean, whatever, whatever the political goal is, she'll, she'll spout the talking points and that just creates such perfect fodder for what I'm looking to do on Twitter. That, that she can't be top. She, she simply can't be topped

Ian Miller:

It's it's, it's amazing and hilarious.

Drew Holden:

Yes, it is.

Ian Miller:

Thank you so much drew for doing this. Please, everybody go follow drew on Twitter. If you're not already, which you should be it's drew Holden 360, it's it? I mean, legitimately you're probably my favorite person, individual person on Twitter. So thank, thank you so much for doing this. I really appreciate it.

Drew Holden:

Pledge is mind. I, I really appreciate you having me on it's a blast of conversation.