38:01 mins

The Problem Podcast

Group Therapy: Talking WWIII, Lab Leaks, and Pedro Pascal

Exciting news: We’ve got new TV episodes starting March 3! To celebrate, Jon is joined this week by executive producer and showrunner Brinda Adhikari, senior research producer Susan Helvenston, and staff writer Kasaun Wilson to discuss the stories we’ve been following and the anxiety they’ve given us. Plus, they chat about the news that the COVID-19 virus may actually have leaked from a lab in China, whether we’re on the brink of World War III, and other fun, breezy topics.  New episodes start streaming March 3 on Apple TV+.


Group Therapy: Talking WWIII, Lab Leaks and Pedro Pascal

Ep. 228 Final Transcript

Jon: Look, Brinda. I’ve said this before, if you just toast the English muffin and you just crisp it up a little bit, it’s gonna do you so much — the bagel is too much bread.

Brinda: Right. Listen if you and I, if we ever part ways, it’ll be because of the bagel and the English muffin debate. [JON LAUGHS] Because I am fully entrenched in the bagel category and he is fully entrenched in the English muffin.

Susan: Team bagel.

Jon: It’s just not a sandwich bread.

Brinda: Oh, here we go.

Kasaun: My favorite part of this job is watching Jon give bagels the same intensity he gives Fox News. 

Brinda: That’s right. [LAUGHTER]


Jon: Alright, friends. We got a podcast here. “It’s The Problem with Jon Stewart,” who is the problem. It is finally here, the Apple TV+ show is back. New episodes start on March 3rd. That’s this Friday. I don’t know when you’re listening to this. It could be last Friday, cuz you are f*****g lazy and you’re not up on your podcasts [LAUGHTER] and you’re all of a sudden you’re like, “Ooh, I gotta listen to this Alex Murdaugh case.” No.

Brinda: Ooooh.

Jon: You’re staying with us here. To celebrate we’re gonna be talking about the upcoming episodes with the people who helped make these upcoming episodes. It’s the lovely, talented Brinda Adhikari, our executive producer and showrunner, extraordinary. 

Brinda: Hey!

Jon: Susan Helvenston, senior research producer. 

Susan: Hi!

Jon: So you can do two things in this book, you can Google something, or you can ask Susan. As Denzel once said, “Google ain’t got nothing on me.” [LAUGHTER] Alright, and then of course, Kasaun Wilson, our staff writer and our office poll maker. 

Kasaun: What’s happening, Jon?

Jon: What is the poll this week Kasaun?

Kasaun: If one person has to go and their entire career, who would you choose? And the options were Julia Roberts.

Jon: Mm-hmm.

Kasaun: Tom Cruise.

Jon: Wait, wait. They’d have to go like —

Susan: Their entire career.

Brinda: Gone.

Jon: They’ve never been born? This is “It’s a Wonderful Life.” They’ve never been born.

Kasaun: Yes. They’ve never been born and all of their work is gone.  Julia Roberts, Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, Tom Cruise.

Brinda: I don’t want any part of this.

Susan: It’s hard.

Jon: Yeah, I’d have to —

Susan: This is hard.

Jon: I’d have to go with Julia Roberts.

Susan and Brinda: [GASPS]

Kasaun: Julia Roberts did —

Susan: You and the majority of the office.

Kasaun: The majority of the office chose Julia Roberts and —

Brinda: Wow.

Jon: The only reason that, and that is in no way a slight on Julia Roberts and her million dollar smile. [SUSAN LAUGHS]

Brinda: Oh yeah.

Jon: But it’s merely got to do with, I think the plurality of her movies are less appealing to me. Just in general.

Susan: Mm. Mm-hmm. You don’t really care to watch “Eat, Pray, Love” again. [BRINDA LAUGHS]

Jon: I’ve got it so committed to memory that I don’t — you could even remove it.

Kasaun: The best part about being in office this week is that you’ll hear somebody being like, “Ron DeSantis said what?” And then in the background you’ll be like, “I’m not losing ‘The Devil Wears Prada!’” [LAUGHTER] [JON CLAPS] It’s been a very fiery debate here.

Jon: Equal priority as far as outrage is concerned. But more importantly, I want the audience at home to know that we don’t just sit around arguing movies, and polls. We work at least 30 to 45 minutes a day. [LAUGHTER] And there’s in between trying to figure out the best bread for our breakfast sandwiches.

Susan: Oh.

Kasaun: Oh.

Jon: And the movies. There is also work to be done. This season, coming up. We got crime and guns. We got, we talked to General David Petraeus about the military industrial complex. Turns out he’s more for it than I think we were. But we’re gonna have inflation. Larry Summers will be on the program. I will say this about those one-on-one interviews. I don’t care for them. [LAUGHTER]

Kasaun: You look like you have so much fun though.

Susan: We love listening to them.

Jon: Well, I’m very pleased that you do cause I find it’s like having six Thanksgiving dinners with relatives you don’t get along with.

Brinda: Oh boy.

Jon: In a row. What else we got? You know, we are all talking about World War III. One episode this year is going to be about what are the teams gonna be? And who’s gonna be providing what. And we talked to the foreign ministers of Germany and England and our own state department and the EU. And we’re gonna choose teams, see who’s got next. 

Kasaun: Who needs Julia Roberts for “Eat, Pray, Love” when we got Jon for Eat, Pray, War. [LAUGHS] Our staff has been talking about a lot of these things that have just been pertinent into our episode. We’ve been talking about crime, we’ve been talking about the defense. We’ve been talking about international things that are going on impending World War III. So Jon, actually, news is coming out every day about it. We should talk about some of the stories going on. It’s crazy.

Jon: Right. So our first episode coming up is crime and gun, and I’ll tell you a little bit of the, the, well, how would you say the, the beginnings of it, the etiology of it, would that be the correct?

Brinda: The provenance, the origin story.

Susan: The origin story.

Jon: Ahh ah. Ah, I like that. Give it a little superhero patina.

Susan and Brinda: Mm-hmm.

Kay: A nice little Marvel.

Jon: So, I’m sitting at home, I’m watching as, as most people do, watching Bachelor in Paradise during the midterms. [SUSAN LAUGHS] And every commercial break were the advertisements for the candidates that were running. And especially in New York. The Lee Zeldin advertisements were all about the chaos and crime that had been unleashed on the streets of New York City. And so what you do with that is you go in and you say to Susan “Susan, can you go back and look and see if the tools that the police need to solve gun crimes have been neutered by right wing legislation?” And then 26 seconds later when she gives me —

Susan: Process, process, process.

Jon: A report back from 1977 about everything that’s been done since Reagan I’ll say something like, “Doesn’t this new influx of guns make police lives more endangered?” And before I say the word endangered, she has a generally a five page sheet of things about permitless concealed carry and weakened restrictions on civilian guns and how that makes police lives more dangerous. And then it goes from there, but it generally starts with a spark of, “This seems utterly crazy to me, but nobody seems to be addressing it.”

Brinda: That’s right.

Jon: Now how did you guys feel when you were watching all these, “Oh my God, America is now a crime ridden gun infested hell hole.” Did that strike you in any way, that it was the Republicans taking the high ground?

Kasaun: So here’s what I’ll say. It always bothers me how much, how normalized dog whistling is, it just bothers me so much. It made me so mad cause whenever you hear politicians talk, they’re like, “We don’t want to be like Chicago. We don’t wanna be New York. We don’t want to be Atlanta.” It’s like they find every synonym for Black except for Black. 

Jon: Is Chicago now a synonym for Black?

Kasaun: A hundred percent. [JON LAUGHS] That’s exactly what it — because politicians are like, “Remember when your neighborhood used to look like whole milk and all that caffeine started moving in and keeping you up at night?” It’s like, come on man. Just say — “Remember when your lacrosse team was safe and then the Harlem Globetrotters moved in?” And it’s like, come on, man. Like stop doing that. We know what you’re doing.

Jon: Just be straight. You know what’s amazing to me, Kasaun is when, you know, there’s this wild nostalgia —

Brinda: Mm-hmm.

Jon: – from people like Sean Hannity and Tucker P. Carlson. And it’s always, you know, “This country has changed, man.”

Brinda: Mm-hmm.

Jon: “It was — it used to be great.” And the time they’re referring to is when they were kids when I was growing up. and you, the first thing you wanna say is, “Right. Cuz you were a f*****g child. You were a child.”

Brinda: Right. [SUSAN LAUGHS]

Jon: So, at that time —

Susan: Life was always better as a child.

Jon: — if you lost a tooth, $10 appeared under your pillow. Yes. That’s, it was an amazing, magical world. But the best part of it is when they start talking about how politics and Democrats ruin things —

Brinda: Mm-hmm.

Jon: What’s the decade they go to first? The 70s.

Susan: Right.

Jon: They always go to the decade that they’re talking about as when this country was great.

Susan: Right.

Jon: It’s when Carter was president and it was terrible.

Brinda: Right.

Jon: And then Reagan came in the 80s and made that little era great again, but there’s just no consistency. But Brinda —

Brinda: Yeah

Jon: — you’ve been in the news business for a long time. What strikes me is the utter lack of curiosity.

Brinda: Mm-hmm.

Jon: On the part of the news media that just accept a narrative.

Brinda: Right.

Jon: “Oh, Republicans are tough on crime and Democrats want our streets to be chaos.”

Brinda: Right.

Jon: And all the conversation was, “Will these attacks hurt Democrats?” And none of the conversation was, “Aren’t they the guys that are flooding our streets with guns?”

Brinda: Yeah. And look, it’s something you’ve said for a while now, which is that on the messaging part, you’re gonna go, you’re gonna lean into the thing that is conflict ridden. That’s the juicy headline that has the action in it. But the other part of this that was so fascinating to me is there is this broken conversation our country has around guns right now.

Susan: Mm-hmm.

Brinda: Which is that we actually don’t link it to the crime conversation. We only talk about guns in light of mass shootings. And while that’s an incredibly important thing to do, I don’t know how helpful it is that the only time progressives and liberals really get heated about guns is when they talk about assault weapon bans.

Susan: Right.

Brinda: Um, or, or — 

Jon: Right.

Brinda: — when they talk about great sweeping. changes. I think one of the things that I was excited about is us acknowledging that there’s a Second Amendment. Us saying that, —

Jon: Yeah.

Brinda: — you know, there’s gonna be a Second amendment and people can have their guns, but you cannot assume that loosening restrictions is gonna make this country more safe. And so that to me is just a different kind of way of looking at it. And I hope that people see that.

Susan: Yeah, absolutely. One of the things that you said very early on Jon, that stuck with a lot of us was that “Inconvenience is not infringement.” And whenever we have the conversation around guns, it seems like the rhetoric that we use for that is somehow different than absolutely every other part of life.

Jon: Right. “Shall not be infringed!”

Susan: Right. It’s the only thing that seems to, we seem to not be able to talk about. And one of the craziest things with the crime conversation that made me really excited about this episode was the Iron Pipeline. Because —

Jon: Yes.

Susan: — during the elections you kept hearing about Chicago, New York, California. These crime ridden places where, you know, violence happens every day, you can’t even leave your house. But in reality, when our team started looking into that, it was like the guns that are popping up in those places are largely not coming from those places.

Jon: Right.

Susan: In California, like half of the guns come from states that have weaker gun laws.

Jon: Yeah.

Susan: In New York, I think it’s like, 80% of guns are coming from places like Florida, Georgia, South Carolina. You know, like ultimately the guns that are showing up at crime scenes are coming from states that have weaker gun laws.

Jon: Right. The Baltimore — we’re talking to the chief of police, we’re like, “How do the guns get there? You know, what are the gun stores like?” He goes, “We don’t have any gun stores in Baltimore.” [JON LAUGHS] “What do you — what do you think we’re crazy?”

Susan: There is one gun store in Baltimore Proper and it is called, The Cop Shop. [LAUGHTER]

Brinda: Oh. Stop.

Susan: And it only, and it only caters to like law enforcement and first responders.

Jon: Can I just tell, I want to let the audience know very quickly you just got Helvenston’ed. [LAUGHTER]

Brinda: Yes, you did.

Jon: That’s when you’ll be in the middle of a discussion and you’re like, “There’s no gun stores in Baltimore.” And then Susan be like, “Well, actually there is, if I may just interject very quickly.”

Susan: There are no real gun stores, but I just think The Cop Shop is too good not to mention.

Kasaun: It’s crazy how much we celebrate and fight for guns, like we’re making it now to where there’s more restrictions to drive to a mass shooting than to actually conduct it yourself. Like you might have to go, you have to go to the DMV, you have to register for a license.

Jon: Hey brother.

Kasaun: You have to like, you have to do so much to drive to a mass shooting than it is to like, just go buy a gun, same day. It’s like all of these restrictions are really crazy.

Jon: Same day, same day.

Kasaun: And now not only are we like fighting for guns, but we’re like celebrating it in a way. Like I don’t know if you guys saw that —

Jon: It’s a virtue. It’s a virtue.

Susan: Absolutely.

Brinda: Yes.

Jon: It shows courage.

Kasaun: There’s legislation to make the AR-15, the National Gun of America. Which is like the stupidest thing you can possibly do. And of course the three co-sponsors are Lauren Boebert —

Jon: Yeah.

Kasaun: — Andrew Clyde and our good friend, George Santos.

Brinda: Something he believes in.

Jon: Can I tell you who’s not going to be happy? If the AR-15 is the National Gun of America will be the American Bald Eagle. [LAUGHTER]

Brinda: Oh, no.

Jon: Because I have a feeling, [LAUGHTER] the one who will suffer the consequences of that will be our national bird.

Brinda: Yes.

Jon: But it is shocking. So apparently all of your rights are infraigible in enormous ways. If they don’t have the four words, “shall not be infringed.” Comfortable infringing speech, comfortable infringing almost anything else. 

Kasaun: But don’t say gay, drag shows. I’m much more scared to Rand Paul than RuPaul. [SUSAN LAUGHS] But uh —

 Jon: That’s a bumper sticker waiting to happen.

Susan: Well, the thing we keep engaging with is the a good guy with a gun, you know, can tackle a bad guy with a gun. But like, ultimately we’re at the place now where there’s enough guns for one for every person and then some. So when do you get to the point where it’s enough guns for safety?

Jon: And a lot of these shootings, these are not crime — these are domestic disputes.

Susan: Right.

Jon: These are people who know each other, who are mad for a short period of time and end up doing these things. And as far as the cops, it makes them incredibly more in danger because we have an arms race, which leads us to the next episode that’s coming out the week after that, which is about the military industrial complex.

Brinda: That’s right. You know, Jon, to get into that, I wanna first talk about something that’s kind of stressing me out. I need a little therapy from y’all right now because —

Jon: Bring it.

Brinda: — like, in this job, we do a lot of research and we find out all these things and in doing it, you start to just look at all these connections that are potentially being made and it kind of stresses you out. So Jon, I’m gonna lay out a few breadcrumbs and you’re gonna tell me — 

Jon: Come on

Brinda: — if there’s any reason that these breadcrumbs are connected, OK?

Jon: Mm-hmm.

Brinda: It starts with the China spy balloon incident for me, OK?

Jon: Mm-hmm.

Brinda: That happened what, February —

Susan: Early February.

Brinda: — early February, right? I don’t really care about, like we spy on them, they spy on us. I get that, like that part I’m OK with.

Jon: Mm-hmm.

Brinda: Because you’ve, that’s the sort of price of admission in the world we live in. The thing that freaked me out is when we blew it up. So we blew up that spy balloon, right?

Jon: Mm-hmm.

Brinda: Soon after then we cancel that trip to China, right?

Jon: Mm-hmm.

Brinda: Because we’re like, “We ain’t talking to them.” Then we have this security conference in Munich. Stay with me, stay with me. We have a security conference in Munich. OK?

Jon: No. Uh-huh, mm-hmm.

Brinda: At that security conference in Munich we are talking to their foreign minister and then we go on the news in America and say, “You know what? They’re thinking about giving weapons to Russia.” The Chinese are thinking about giving weapons to Russia. And now we have a situation where I’m freaked out if that’s true or not, and it’s making me think about this kind of hot pot of a world.

Susan: Hot pot? 

Brinda: This kind of cauldron. [SUSAN LAUGHS] This like, tinderbox. I love a hot pot.

Jon: Now we’re back on food.

Brinda: Yeah. No, it feels like —

Jon: Yeah, sure. A wonderful family dinner.

Brinda: — it feels like with Russia and Ukraine and the alliances that are being cleaved as a result of it. And China kind of getting pissed off at us and us pissed off at them. But there’s these entrenched alliances and all it needs is one frickin Santa Ana gust of wind or a little errant cigarette to just drop in. And [SOUND EFFECT] that’s what it feels like. It feels like we’re a tinderbox right now. And I’m scared. Alright go.

Jon: Right… Wait, what I, now, what’s my role in this? [LAUGHTER]

Susan: Make her feel better.

Jon: You laid out a very convincing case.

Brinda: Oh no!

Jon: — that we’re escalating tension with China.

Susan: Solve it Jon.

Jon: Would you like me to talk you down?

Brinda: A little bit. Well, so here’s, OK. I’ll give you one other piece, which I went down a rabbit hole in the last couple of days and that it then will be my end freak out.

Jon: OK.

Brinda: I went down a rabbit hole about World War I, and one of the things I read about World War I, which again, it’s just a theory, but there’s this theory about the alliances that were already in place.

Jon: Secret alliances, sure.

Brinda: Yeah right. That you had Germany and Austria-Hungary. And Russia and Britain and all them right.

Jon: And the whole point of the United Nations and NATO —

Susan: Right.

Jon: — and those groups is that you have these alliances that aren’t secret. In other words, you draw the lines indelibly so that people know if I cross over that, that means, that’s an act of aggression and an act of war.

Brinda: Yeah.

Jon: That’s the point of sort of stating them out loud.

Susan: Right.

Brinda: Well, so with this one, what it made me realize was it wasn’t just the sort of assassination of this random a** archduke, like heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Jon: Right. By the way, random a**Archduke was his nickname. I don’t know if any of you knew that. [LAUGHTER]

Brinda: I’m like, who the f**k cares about this guy? I mean, I’m sad that he’s dead, but like, who the f**k cares about Franz Ferdinand? No. He was just an excuse for these people.

Jon: I think the Ferdinand family will take real exception to this. [LAUGHTER]

Brinda: Alright, you know what, may he rest in peace.

Susan: At the time people cared I think.

Jon: Alright.

Brinda: May the spirit of Franz Ferdinand rest in peace, but all I’m saying is that it feels like there’s no agent out there who’s deescalating. And no one out there to me feels like they’re really speaking the language of somebody who doesn’t wanna engage in conflict right now.

Jon: What you’re saying is you’re feeling an inevitability to an escalation that will be worldwide. Is that?

Brinda: Yes that is exactly right.

Susan: Is it inevitability or uncertainty? Because I think what’s scary to me right now is the uncertainty that it feels like there’s this thing happening in Ukraine.

Jon: Mm-hmm.

Susan: It’s not just about Ukraine though, right? It’s about all of Europe. It’s about our role in the world. It’s about which side China’s on. It’s about, you know, what Russia’s gonna do next. Putin’s, you know, sitting here waiting to see what we’re gonna do. China’s sitting here waiting to see how much will we punish Putin? How much will we not punish Putin? What could they potentially get away with?

Jon: Mm-hmm.

Susan: You know, like it’s — to me it’s the uncertainty of what happens next and how long does this go on for? And if our presidential election, you know, has some kind of change to our leadership in this country, what does that look like if this stalemate goes on for another year and a half?

Brinda: And that a lot of this is potentially in response to the fact that we’re about to go into an election year.

Susan: Right.

Brinda: And like, it just feels like we’re making decisions based on political calculations.

Jon: What? How dare you. I can’t even.

Brinda: I know it’s a shocking revelation.

Jon: So let’s start back with your original provocation.

Brinda: Alright.

Jon: And look, it’s like anything else. You know, we can do this with Israel Palestine, we can do it with anything. You go back, you can pick a moment in time and assume that that’s the onset or the in, you know, that’s the inflection point. But the truth is these are tensions that have been building, you know, ever since.

Brinda: Yes

Susan: Mm-hmm.

Jon: In terms of China, especially since we opened economic relations in the 1970s. We shot the balloon down because the news media got ahold of it. And apparently these balloons have been around all the time.

Brinda: Right.

Jon: But once, once it was seen, whether it was blown off course or whatever it was. Something they demanded action. And some administrations are confident enough to stand up and say, “Not the right move. We don’t want to escalate it,” and they explain it to the American people in a way, maybe that treats them like adults, but in the crucible of 24 hour news cycles and Twitter trolling and all these other things. I think you’re seeing an escalation in narrative resolvement.

Brinda: Yes.

Jon: Like everyone has to have the narrative resolved.

Susan: Mm-hmm.

Jon: And the way to resolve this one to show strength was, “I shot it down.” “Why did you shoot it down over the sea?” And then they invent a whole thing that this balloon could have killed millions.

Brinda: Right.

Susan: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

Jon: If you were to shoot it down in Montana, who, God knows where the shrapnel would’ve gone.

Susan: The fact that we started calling it a spy balloon from day one.

Jon: That’s right. It’s so, they created a narrative around it. I think the larger kind of tectonic plates are shifting as they always are in this world. As it’s been since, I guess forever, we’ll start with the inflection point of World War I, which is —

Brinda: Right.

Jon: — totalitarian governments versus democratic governments and who’s got the upper hand. But in truth, the world is so much more interconnected economically right now. It’d be really difficult. It’s hard to go to war with your best customer.

Brinda: I think that’s right on, and that actually takes me this headline over the weekend which is that the Department of Energy came out with a report saying that they have, low confidence that the COVID-19 was a result of a lab leak at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. They think it was a lab leak. I mean it — 

Susan: So this is, yeah, so, this came from the Energy Department, which, you know, if you were to read the headlines, you might think that the Energy Department was the White House. But the energy department is one of many agencies with a theory on this, which means that really our own government doesn’t even agree. But this was interesting because someone we know, Jon has, um, had a similar theory or gotten some heat over a similar theory in the past.

Brinda: My phone was blowing up over the weekend just being like, “Is Jon gloating about this?”

Susan: Do you feel vindicated?

Jon: Are you trying to get me canceled again? [LAUGHTER] No, there is no [LAUGHTER] What the, first of all, I wasn’t waiting for the Department of Energy to weigh in on [LAUGHTER] That’s —

Brinda: You were, you were refreshing the Department of Energy feed,

Jon: The larger problem with all of this is the inability to discuss things that are within the realm of possibility without falling into absolutes. And litmus testing each other for our political allegiances as it arose from that. My bigger problem with that was and for those of you who don’t know what we’re talking about, and God bless you if you don’t. I went on Stephen Colbert’s show, uh Stephen is a young up and coming [LAUGHTER] improv actor. 

Brinda: He’ll make it

Jon: And just really very wide hips, surprisingly. [LAUGHTER] But the point was I was doing a bit about. and it was similar to a bit I’ve done on religion. I used to do a bit about religion saying “Religion’s given comfort to a world torn apart by religion.” So the idea was you know, about the vaccines and other things that science had truly helped heal a world from a pandemic probably caused by science. And then I proceeded to go on a kind of a long tangent about why I thought that. I thought it was a pretty good bit that expressed kind of how I felt. And the two things that came out of it were, “I’m racist against Asian people,” and “How dare I align myself with the alt-right?”And I thought, “Well, that’s such a peculiar,” you know? And the backlash was swift and immediate. 

Brinda: Yes it was.

Jon: And quite loud.

Brinda: Right.

Susan: Mm-hmm. 

Jon: And again, I didn’t take that personally either. Like, we live in a world where like, I have my opinion. I’m not mad at the backlash either because they’re doing what I was doing, which is expressing myself. The part that I don’t like about it is the absolutes and the dismissive, like — 

Susan: Mm-hmm.

Jon: “F*** you, I’m done with you. I will never forgive you. You have crossed an unforgivable line. You’ve expressed an opinion that is antithetical to mine or not mine,” and it may not be one that has any real ramifications of anything. I was just saying this seems like it’s a pretty good possibility, which by the way, has happened before. But what was stunning to me, I think was the anger.

Susan: Mm-hmm.

Jon: That’s the part of all of this and it’s purposeful.

Brinda: Well, I think the thing that’s, so that we discovered what after that happened was —

Jon: Mm-hmm.

Brinda: You know, that natural transmission means you’re a Democrat.

Susan: Mm-hmm.

Jon: That’s right.

Brinda: Wet market means you’re a Democrat and lab leak means you’re a Republican. We were really puzzled by that one.

Jon: Right. You were literally though, like I had put “Hillary for prison” on my forehead. I just gone out there and — 

Kasaun: I think a big part of it is what we’ve been talking about, which is like we live in a huge narrative machine and in a time and place where news is supposed to cut through the “ifs” of our society, they’re creating more of them. It’s like, I am a comedian. I am telling a joke that if you look at, there is a deeper meaning behind it. But because the news cannot create informed members of society, they’re creating people who can build on narratives that they need for their own political agenda. Now we’re not creating people who can sift through —

Jon: Bars!

Kay: — what is really going on. Now we’re creating people —

Jon: Bars!

Kay: — who are just building more soldiers for the war.

Jon: Yes.

Kasaun: And it’s like —

Jon: That’s it. Building soldiers for the war is the perfect f***ing analogy for that. The crazy thing Kay is we’ve never had more speech and more information, and yet the amount of viewpoints have narrowed.

Brinda: Mm-hmm.

Jon: So we have more speech and less of a spectrum amongst that. Everything now nuance is for cucks.

Susan: Yep.

Brinda: Yeah.

Jon: And it all comes down to a black and white hobbesian, you know, whatever they call that, that viewpoint of the world —

Brinda: Nasty and brutish.

Jon: Nasty and brutish.

Kasaun: It’s like, why can’t we have these conversations? It’s one of the reasons why politics is such a hard conversation for me to have and why I just choose to watch “Frasier” every night. [SUSAN LAUGHS] It’s because —

Jon: “Frasier?”

Brinda: Wow. Wow. That’s a blast from the past.

Kasaun: It’s the theme song. It’s like who doesn’t love Scrambled Eggs? [LAUGHTER] But —

Jon: Good point. Solid point.

Kasaun: But there’s not just a hypocrisy that you guys absolutely need to watch out for, but there’s also the discussion of infrastructure that because we’re weaponizing these narratives we can never have the conversation.

Jon: Yes. 

Susan: Yes, yes.

Kasaun: Of why we can’t build American infrastructure. Like, listen, if we can do all of these things for defense, that’s great.

Jon: Mm-hmm.

Kasaun: The conversation is not about that. It’s that we have the resources to build American infrastructure.

Susan: Mm-hmm.

Kasaun: Great. We can weaponize, we can do things if we want to. Don’t say gay, we don’t want trans, we don’t want drag. We if this is what, if this is the narrative that you want to create, it shows that if you want to do something about gun control, if you wanna do something about gun violence, if you want to do something about all these other things that we’re saying is destroying our society, we have the power to do it. If you have this much money to give the Department of Defense, you have that to build our schools, to build our roads, to build —

Brinda: Nice

Kasaun: — to give clean water to Flint, Michigan. Like we have that to do it. And it’s like, why? Why do we always have to stand in the way?

Jon: Kasaun, the country is not incentivized for those solutions. The country doesn’t understand that solving those problems is investment.

Susan: Right.

Jon: Is strengthening, that’s what it is. It’s strengthening and it’s investment in human capital. Whereas look, if poor people had the lobbyists that Raytheon had? Boy, they’d be getting a better slice of the deal and —

Brinda: Yep.

Jon: You know, the system is set up and I think it really, I think, metastasized when you start getting into Citizens United and how money really supercharged —

Susan: Mm-hmm.

Jon: — a lot of this kind of corruption within politics. And when you start tossing around that kind of money in that kind of a system, you will see the withering of those areas. I mean, listen, it’s never been easy to sell infrastructure and human capital to people anyway, but those will wither.

Susan: Right.

Jon: And right now military industrial complex is king. Media industrial complex is king. And the two of those systems work hand in glove to create the incentives. You have to look at what are the incentives of this system to deescalation, and the answer is none.

Susan: Mm-hmm.

Brinda: I think that’s spot on. And I look at the two overarching storylines right now, right? It’s World War III and it’s election 2024.

Jon: Mm-hmm.

Brinda: And we are right now, every narrative to me is hurtling towards the platforming of those two realities. And I even look at, just going back to lab leak for one second. The reason that actually for me adds to my anxiety about global stability right now —

Jon: People use it as pretext.

Susan: Right.

Brinda: Look at what representative Mike Gallagher’s gonna do this week. Alright? And by the time this podcast airs, he will have done it. He is holding a house subcommittee hearing on the Chinese Communist Party. And in it, he’s gonna bring this up. He’s gonna bring up that like the lab leak came outta China, right? Or that there’s one intelligence agency that’s saying that. And he’s gonna —

Jon: Not even intelligence, it’s the Energy Department. [JON LAUGHS]

Brinda: Well, the intelligence wing of the energy, which by the way, I don’t know that every wing has, like, does the agriculture agency have an intelligence wing? I don’t even know.

Jon: I’m sure they do.

Brinda: The CIA of the DOE, um —

Jon: Nobody f*****g knows. Nobody will know. But it’s a possibility and a pretty decent one.

Brinda: Oh no, a hundred percent. But, what I’m vibing right now is that I don’t trust the environment we’re in to do the right thing with that information.

Susan: Right.

Brinda: Which is the right thing to do with that information is to make sure our frickin labs are gonna run safe all over the world. That —

Jon: Behind the scenes they are revisiting a lot of the rules around gain of function or what’s considered gain of function. Look, I’ve been talking about this for 30 years, the idea that there aren’t, that scientists, you know, as we always say, curiosity killed the cat. We’re the cat in many ways because we’re the ones — we do what we can do. It’s Crispr, it’s everything else.

Susan: Mm-hmm

Jon: I’m not suggesting that we don’t progress technologically, but we have to always understand that almost everything that we make that betters our lives, someone else is you is attempting to weaponize.

Susan: Always.

Brinda: Yes.

Jon: That’s the yin and yang. It’s always been that way and we have to be a society that’s cognizant of safeguards. And you brought up a really interesting word, Brinda, pretext.

Brinda: Mm-hmm.

Jon: And I think pretext is escalation and context is deescalation And the thing that our media is unable to do and unwilling to do cuz they’re lazy sensationalistic little f**ks is context. Because context takes the perspective. It’s, you know, Tracy and I were talking about this last night and the worrisome nature of the world. And I was trying to, you know, soothe by saying, “Look, when I was growing up, we had great people and we killed all of them. All of them. And we were in a war for no f*****g reason.

Susan: Mm-hmm.

Jon: — for a decade. Where thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of Vietnamese died. And we poisoned their country and we poisoned our own people. And we still haven’t reckoned with the fallout. Literal fallout from all of those wars. This instability is part of our, we live on a faultline.”

Brinda: And we crave it.

Kasaun: Jon, I need you to find better pillow talk. [LAUGHTER]

Jon: It came after “The Last of Us.” We had just watched —

Kasaun: OK. Alright.

Jon: A zombie apocalypse. Which by the way, forget about all our episodes. F*****g “The Last of Us” is so good.

Kasaun: I knew it was coming.

Brinda: Alright. I gotta watch it.

Jon: Oh dear god. 

Susan: Yeah Pedro.

Jon: Pedro Pascal is so f*****g so good.

Susan: So good. So good.

Brinda: Very handsome

Jon: Uh uh. It is so good. 

Kasaun: So so everybody’s night is doing research for World War III and “The Last of Us?” That’s what we’re doing as a staff?

Brinda: That’s what it’s come to.

Susan: When we leave work at the end of the day we need to, we need to rot our brains a little bit. We talk about this like, I leave work and I’m like, “I need to watch ‘Love Island’ or ‘Last of Us.’”

Brinda: I’ll say one thing, I’ll say one thing and Susan, and it, it’s one of the things we learned when we were researching our defense episode —

Susan: Mm-hmm.

Brinda: Was this idea that like we put so much more money into our military than we do into our diplomatic.

Susan: Into our diplomatic, yeah.

Brinda: Right. 

Jon: 10 to one..

Brinda: Yeah. And when you have that reality, how can war not be inevitable? Right? Like when you are putting so much less money into negotiations and talk.

Susan: Right.

Brinda: And again, like I, it also feels like these days negotiations and talk have a really bad reputation—

Susan: Right.

Brinda: — in the world. Like you’re considered a f*****g p***y if that’s what you want to do.

Susan: Right?

Jon: Look, the reason why we’re having so much trouble with China is I think pretty simple. Their economy has awoken. It has matured.

Brinda: Yes.

Jon: And they are now —

Brinda: Incredible.

Jon: — an economic rival like has never been seen in this country to us. And the thing that I think we’re trying to come to grips with is this idea that, well, if we’re not, if the world order isn’t built on the dollar and we can’t control and influence events through sanctions or withholding those dollars. Cuz ultimately, I think that’s what this feels like, is do I think Xi Jinping really gives a f**k about Vladimir Putin? No. But I imagine he sees it as an opportunity —

Susan: Right. 

Jon: — to give the United States a black eye.

Brinda: Yes.

Jon: And to weaken the foundation of American economic hegemony so that we have less options when it comes to influencing. And by the way, they’ve been doing that with their belt and road in Africa for, you know a couple of decades, and cornering markets to the point where now we’re like, “Well, what about Mars? Maybe we could get some of this s**t up. [BRINDA LAUGHS] Maybe that cobalt is on Mars.”

Brinda: Right.

Jon: But like it’s, I find it very hard to believe that America is acting this way because of its moral standing in the world. 

Brinda: Right.

Jon: Like, come on.

Kasaun: It’s also, um, very interesting to me because the international fights that we’re having now seem to be like such an outlier, but it’s almost a microcosm of some of the fights that we’re having domestically.

Susan: Absolutely.

Kasaun: We’re, we’re having the same fight between fighting. We are fighting more over Republican narratives than for American people. It’s — I don’t see much of a difference between Florida and Russia. Like, it’s kind of the same thing.

Jon: Look at the language that Putin is using.

Susan: Yeah.

Brinda: That’s amazing.

Jon: “Don’t say gay. We’re gonna be,” I mean, it’s the same Putin —

Susan: Yeah.

Jon: — is using DeSantis’ platform.

Susan: The playbook, yeah.

Kasaun: I don’t know if we’ll get into World War III before we get into Civil War II.

Brinda: Oh man, well —

Susan: S**t!

Brinda: — there are certain people that wouldn’t mind that.

Jon: I gotta end on that. That was, that was beautiful.

Susan: We should all just go home now. 

Brinda: That was poetry.

Jon: You know, but excellent guys, as always. Um, please check out our show Brinda, Susan, Kasaun. “The Problem” is airing on Apple TV+, what is it, Brinda? March 3rd?

Brinda: March 3rd.

Susan: March 3rd.

Brinda: Our first episode this week.

Jon: Um, what happens in this first episode is we buy a soccer team in England. [KASAUN LAUGHS]

Brinda: That’s right. And we make some delicious shortbread cookies.

Jon: Yes. And if you tune in, you’ll not only will you learn something, you’ll open up your heart a little bit if you watch our show.

Kasaun: Wow.

Brinda: Wow. OK. Yeah.

Jon: It’s a very — 

Susan: It’s wholesome, it’s wholesome.

Jon: — positive and affirming episode for these very, very stressful and difficult times. [LAUGHTER] And my mustache in our episodes is extraordinary.

Brinda: Believe, believe. 

Jon: Alright, kiddies. I will see you guys. Buh-bye!

Brinda: Bye.

Susan: Bye.


Jon: “The Problem with Jon Stewart Podcast” is an Apple TV+ podcast and a joint Busboy Production.