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The Summer #WITHpod Mailbag: podcast and transcript

Chris Hayes talks with producer Tiffany Champion for a post-quarantine vibe check on the WITHpod inbox and an update on exciting changes happening on the show.

Producer Tiffany Champion is back with a post-quarantine vibe check on the WITHpod inbox. In this backstage glimpse of the podcast, hear how Chris Hayes prepares for interviews, which recent episode got the biggest response from listeners, and find out about the exciting changes happening on the show.

Note: This is a rough transcript — please excuse any typos.

Chris Hayes: Hello and welcome to "Why Is This Happening?" with me your host, Chris Hayes. Well, it's the dog days of summer. We're patching together a staff here at WITHpod and All In because we've had some departures and then we've got vacations. So, we're kind of catch-as-catch can, but a special, special, special thing is happening today. It's been a long time coming. We have not had a mailbag where we get to hear from you, the listeners in a long time. And more importantly, we haven't heard from our great producer Tiffany Champion in a long time. In fact, Tiffany Champion, who will still be working with WITHpod, we're about to get a new staffer on WITHpod, which is very exciting. You'll learn more about this individual in the upcoming weeks, but we thought it would be a good time for a little summer mailbag with the one and only Tiffany Champion. So Tiffany, how're you doing?

Tiffany Champion: My triumphant return!

Chris Hayes: How's your post-vax summer going?

Tiffany Champion: Post-vax summer has been great. I got to go home to Chicago for a little bit. I didn't see my family since Christmas of 2019. Yeah, we were supposed to go back for Christmas of 2020. And then Illinois, where I'm from, the numbers were just absolutely catastrophic. So we canceled our plans at the very last second, which a lot of people did. And we stayed home. So, it was 18 months, 16, 17 months since I had seen my family. Got to go home, have one of those picturesque reunions that everybody's had. And yeah, it was great.

Chris Hayes: It's the only upside is that, for you, you're not close to your parents and they don't love you a ton. So it's a super chill scene.

Tiffany Champion: It's great because we’re so estranged!

Chris Hayes: That's a joke, because Tiffany is very close to her parents. And they're the most adorable human beings on the planet. And they love her so much and are so proud of her. And so, I can only imagine how much it was breaking their heart to be away from you.

Tiffany Champion: Can I tell you something extremely cringe then we will absolutely get into the mailbag?

Chris Hayes: Oh, yeah, definitely. Your dad can bring the cringe.

Tiffany Champion: So this is a combo. This is a Tiffany dad combo cringe situation, in that, last year, I asked my dad for his birthday in June what he wanted and he said, "I want nothing. I want a promise that you'll be home for Christmas." And so I typed up a fake legal document.

Chris Hayes: It's like when you're seven and you give them a good for one back rub or whatever.

Tiffany Champion: Literally. Yes, that's exactly it. And I made two copies. I mailed one to him, included a self addressed return envelope, saying that I would return and so he had kept that as proof bearing witness that I would be home for the holidays.

Chris Hayes: It's so cute.

Tiffany Champion: Yeah, so are those people. So yes, it's been great. Looking forward to seeing more friends and family next summer, and getting into the WITHpod mailbag. It has been a long time. It's been a long time since we dug into this and a lot has happened.

Chris Hayes: Yes. Was the last mailbag before the pandemic?

Tiffany Champion: Yeah.

Chris Hayes: My God.

Tiffany Champion: The before times. So, we have a lot of ground to cover. And here's how I'm going to preface this. As Chris said, we've been extremely understaffed on All In, and we have big changes coming to the podcast.

Chris Hayes: Changes that you'll like.

Tiffany Champion: Changes that you'll like, we're all so excited.

Chris Hayes: Yeah, very excited.

Tiffany Champion: Yeah. But that means that this mailbag sort of a last minute, a great idea but we didn't solicit questions. So what our inbox is sort of if we do a state of the inbox, is a lot of vibes. So this is going to be riding off vibe check sort of energy, general feelings.

Chris Hayes: We are not doing this because we couldn't book a guest this week, just to be clear. This was all really planned. We’re doing a vibe check.

Tiffany Champion: So, another reason I did want to do this is because we've actually added a lot of listeners during the pandemic, that was sort of a question of people aren't going to be commuting, people's lives have been upended. Will people still be coming to podcasts and what our inbox has said is like yeah, absolutely. People were trapped inside and needed to get out and take walks or trapped inside and just needed to escape with headphones on from whomever it is that they are quarantining with. And so, we actually added a lot of people to our listenership during the pandemic, and a lot of people have written in saying that they discovered us because of one episode. And then, God bless them, binged our podcast.

Chris Hayes: God. You love to hear it.

Tiffany Champion: I love to hear it. I have to say, if I'm going to shotgun a podcast in the times of the pandemic, I probably would have chosen a light hearted comedic fair. So we've got some really strong willed listeners.

Chris Hayes: I'm sort of amazed. I'm always amazed because I mean, I love, this is one of my favorite things that we do as a podcast. And I love doing it because I feel I learned a lot from it. I also feel if I weren't doing this for a living, it is a podcast I probably almost certainly would listen to. That said, there are different podcasts that I go to for different things. I have to be in the sort of the right mindset for this kind of podcast. Kate, my wife has a great legal podcast called Strict Scrutiny, which is awesome and really smart and fun, entertaining, but really super sharp, sharp discussion of legal issues where you got to kind of be locked in. It's one of those podcasts where you'll do the 15 second back be like, wait, what? And people say that about our podcast all the time, which I love.

But then there's podcasts I listen to where it's just people just talking and that, that's its own kind of comforting, ambient things. So there are different modes. If I'm on a walk, or a drive where I'm listening, that's the kind of podcast I listen to, which is the category I would probably put us in. And then if I'm grilling, or making dinner, or doing a thing, a multitask, and there are others, but I'm really impressed by people that have the attentional ability to kind of have us on in the background. Because there definitely are people that do that, although I also have heard from a lot of people that do, walking their dogs is a big one. And going for walks is a big one. I like a good real focused, intellectually challenging podcast for a walk because that you can lock in.

Tiffany Champion: Someone emailed in saying that they've been binging us while doing house renovations. And one, that's another pandemic hobby a lot of people had, but also I work on this show. I listen to the episodes many times, and I'm still a back 15 second person when I'm trying to take something in. So this is what I'm saying about that, we have a lot of ground that we've covered over the last year and I'm curious about what you think the most emailed episode has been, let's say since 2021?

Chris Hayes: This is a thing that happens all the time of the show where we will literally be in an editorial meeting, and one of us will be, "Wait, what was the B block yesterday?" And there's a long 30 second pause, and people scramble back through, "Wait, what did we do yesterday?" Because it's just, we do a lot of content. So, you're asking what episode was the most emailed about?

Tiffany Champion: Yes.

Chris Hayes: One that comes to mind and maybe I'm totally wrong. But we had that philosopher on who wrote that book, This Life, named Martin Hägglund, I think that was his name, which is a really profound and beautiful book about why, basically how you think about meaning and the meaning of this life in a philosophical tradition in which that you're, there's no heaven, and this is all we have. That one stuck with me for a really long time. So that one comes to mind, but what's the answer?

Tiffany Champion: I'm going to let you in on a secret that we published that in November 2019. So a while ago.

Chris Hayes: It's weird to me the resonance that those dates take on now, like November 2019, oh yeah, it's already starting to creep its way across Hubei Province at that point.

Tiffany Champion: Right, someone, somewhere out there. Well, of our most recent, our last year or so episodes, the one that got the most response, partially because you did solicit it. And our editor Bryson sort of snickered at it when he heard your plug, was John McWhorter, “Who Gets to Say”.

Chris Hayes: Oh, that was interesting. That makes sense. Because that was, I think there's that conversation about sort of speech censure, so called cancel culture, wokeness, all these things has been so in the discourse and I think kind of maddening in a lot of ways. And I think that conversation, I enjoyed that conversation. I think there were probably parts of it that people also found frustrating that got them emailing, but I'm curious what the tenor was.

Tiffany Champion: So, that's what's really fascinating. Our inbox tends obviously to skew pretty progressive liberal. But this got pretty much equal responses on both sides, people who identified as liberal and said, "thank you, this has gone too far. And we really needed a reality check on the situation." People who are liberal and said, "this is absolutely incorrect," and picking apart some of the arguments. And some people who identified as leaning more conservative, regular listeners of the show, who said that they were glad to hear a progressive podcast take this on and do it with the tenor that we had.

Chris Hayes: That's interesting.

Tiffany Champion: Yeah, but what's interesting is this was in March, right? Obviously, cancel culture has been a constant. This is before, largely this entire critical race theory, cancel culture versus history sort of debate. And I wonder if, since we've had that conversation in March, and everything that we've been covering on the show All In weeknights, 8 p.m, Eastern, 7 p.m. Central, if there's anything that you have been thinking about in that field?

Chris Hayes: That's a great question. So, here's how I would order my thoughts on this. One is that, I think everybody draws a line between ideas to debate and ideas to denounce. That's a distinction that everyone draws. So, there's just some things that people are not going to like, like debate. Anyone can come up with an idea for a thing that, I mean, the reason that we have Godwin's law, which is this famous pronouncement by one of the Internet's forefathers that, any debate online, and message boards will eventually end up invoking the Nazis.

And the reason for that is that the Nazis are an example of a kind of level of sort of evil and taboo, a line across which there's sort of a test of the extreme. So, in a philosophical sense, it's a thought experiment, a real experiment from real history. And so, that's the reason for it. And the point that that to me makes is that we're having a lot of meta debates about what's in what bucket, what's debatable, and what should be denounced. And the line between those moves over time. And in some ways, the movement of that line is both a product of social progress and good, but people aren't wrong to say, "wait a second, the line is moving."

It's like, yeah, it's true. Certain things, you could say that were in the debate category, got moved into the denounce category. But that's part of what social progress is. Now, all of that said, I also think that sometimes I see people responding to ideas online with denunciation that I don't think are in the debate category. I think there's this conflation sometimes, a speech and violence that I think can be really problematic. And when people say certain kinds of speech is violence, I don't think it's a ludicrous idea but I also think it's a concept that could be really abused to turn debate into combat, and to sort of invoke notions of sort of violence and physical safety in contexts that then end up shutting down debate. So, all of these kind of, I think, these sort of discursively challenging and kind of illiberal impulses that are roiling through certain parts. I think, particularly of the left, I'm talking about these ways.

But the thing I think I would say about it is that, what we're seeing is that those impulses, these sort of anti discourse, anti speech impulses, or impulses to use power to shut down conversations is the idea that this is just a issue of the left is ludicrous. And in fact, the people that seem most intent on wielding state power to do that now seem like conservative Republican state legislators vis-à-vis this critical race theory moral panic, where they want to actually legislate these sort of conversations and use state power to sort of coerce them.

And then another great example is this brouhaha over Ben and Jerry's, which announced they won't be selling their ice cream in the occupied territories of the West Bank. That resulted in conservatives saying, Senator Lankford of Oklahoma, tweeting that they should close the Ben and Jerry's shops in Oklahoma. Now, first of all, that's obviously flatmate unconstitutional. Second of all, that's essentially authoritarian and crypto fascist. Third of all, it's not what the actual anti BDS law of Oklahoma states, of course, because they did have lawyers who worked on that law who understand that would obviously not fly. And it has to do with penalties through government contracts with companies that boycott, right? So yes, the state of Oklahoma can cut off its contracts with Ben and Jerry's. And I think that's constitutionally acceptable, although, in my view, dumb.

Chris Hayes: But I guess, again, all this stuff is complicated and thorny. And in the discursive environments we often find ourselves in get reduced and very slogan eared. And I think, I guess the last thing I'll say is that, and I've said this a few times on the podcast recently, and I think part of the reason that I find the podcast such a great balm, B-A-L-M, is I like wrestling with complexity. I like thinking through things. I think a lot of things in life are pretty complicated. Again, even when things can be morally simple, it's a line that I've used multiple times down the podcast, and there is a kind of, exhausting sloganeering that happens in a lot of the realm of, I think social media, particularly, that even when I agree with the slogans, it's just a little discomforting, because it feels a kind of a bludgeoning and a reductive impulse.

Tiffany Champion: Yeah, something else some people have emailed in is how much of these conversations that we have are things that are taking place online, and as extremely online people is our jobs is of being sort of on Twitter, and where a lot of politicians are now and make major announcements. How much of that conversation, that flattening, that reduction of complex topics inherently happens online, because it is an unnaturally flattening space. But then that is what is now transposed into conversation in the real world, that all of our conversation has been dictated by our brains adjusting to the flattening of these conversations on social media.

Chris Hayes: That is such a great and profound point, and I think is a huge thing that I'm wrestling with. In fact, I'm writing something on this right now. And in preparation, I'm reading two things that are both on this topic, and both about forms of discourse and media, prior to social media. So the first one is this classic book by Neil Postman called Amusing Ourselves To Death, it's a very kind of curmudgeonly argument, but it's quite, I think, smart, and persuasive even in parts I don't agree with it, which there are lots, which basically says that, the migration from a print culture to a visual culture in the US made our political discourse much worse and much dumber, he makes a very strong argument, which is that the forms of discourse actually provide forms of thinking.

To what you just said, Tiffany, which is that the forms of discourse, actually create mental structures that then kind of work up through our brains so that we think in the forms of the discourse. And he makes this argument that basically, the dawn of television and the move from a print culture to a visual culture, basically made the whole country dumber. That's an oversimplification, but the very smart way that he goes through it, it's pretty persuasive.

Then I just read this essay by George Saunders, re-read an essay from 2007, called the Brain Dead Megaphone, which is great and short, you can read it in 15 minutes. In which he basically analogizes our current media environment, I think, particularly he is talking about cable news to being at a party and everyone's talking, and then one guy shows up with a megaphone, and just starts yelling whatever dumb thing comes to his head. And how suddenly, everyone in the room is now listening to and are responding to the megaphone. And you can't actually, it ends up ruining the party, because you can't have other conversations in the presence of the megaphone. And he basically, is using the brain dead megaphone as a kind of metaphor for I think, basically, mostly broadcast and cable news in the run up to the Iraq War.

I think, so to extend that metaphor, I do think the modes of discourse we engage in and the forums and platforms we engage in them in, do structure our actual thinking about things and I do worry that the specific modes of social media which I think, you and I, I mean, I'm extremely online to the point that it's compulsive and sort of, it's compulsive and unnatural and kind of bad, but my own addiction aside, everyone is pretty, I mean, it's not just us, people are pretty embedded in social media. And I do wonder how it's affecting our thinking and how we think about things.

The other thing I would say on the other side of that is that I also think it's very tempting to blame whatever technology is latest for problems that are ancient and human. So it's like oh, my God, misinformation, people are spreading misinformation. It's like, remember the witch burning that happened back in the early days in the US, they didn't need Facebook.

Yeah, wild misinformation spreads through communities with horrible deleterious effects that riles up mobs into horrible action. That is a problem of human life that very much predates Facebook. And so, which is not to say the algorithms aren't playing a role. It's not to say that, so I'm just trying to hold two ideas in my head. One is that I do think the specifics of the platform, or the given technology, structure discourse, and by structuring discourse, they even go so far as to structure thought. At the same time, I'm also saying that, there are aspects of human behavior and the problems of being social humans who have incredible capacity both for good and evil that gets morphed by our social circumstances and social structures, that predates whatever the technology is, and often, it is useful to blame the technology when things go awry.

Tiffany Champion: Another one that we did that we weren't sure the reception of would be treating trans youth with Dr. Izzy Lowell. And I have to say the response to Dr. Lowell was extremely positive in our inbox.

Chris Hayes: I mean, how can you not love Dr. Lowell?

Tiffany Champion: Well, yeah, let me clarify, a phenomenal human being.

Chris Hayes: Clearly, a phenomenal human being.

Tiffany Champion: In absolute awe, but something that we talked about that we talked about, how we can cover these things on our show on All In, and how we can cover them on the podcast, is you're always trying to speak to people who you think you can invite in. And this was one of those conversations where people who would identify as progressive or inclusive, will be unsure of this territory. And we had a really great response to it. And I'm curious about how you prepare for those types of interviews? For interviews where you are trying to represent or are in a population where you're unsure of it and trying to be as charitable to both sides, that conversation includes?

Chris Hayes: So, that's an interesting question. I think there's a few things. One, so this is kind of a weird thing to admit, but I will admit it. At a technical level, I try not to prepare too much for those kinds of conversations. And the reason I don't is that I have within me a show off demon. And sometimes what happens is that if I prepare too much, then the show off demon wants to come out. And the show off demon wants to show to the guest how much I know. This is not my favorite quality about myself, but I'm old enough, and therapized enough to be self aware of it. And obviously, parts of the show off demon are useful for my job where I am kind of paid to show off at some level.

So what I have found is that if I really bone up on a topic, that I've got all these ideas and thoughts in my head, and then I want to talk. And so, if I keep myself more ignorant, that forces me to just ask questions. So, that's one thing. Like, I didn't do a ton of research into these questions on purpose with Dr. Lowell because I wanted her to answer them. And I wanted to follow the natural thread of curiosity.

The other thing I would say is that the medium that we have, where we're having conversations that's not live and can be edited, you can go into conversational dead ends and it's fine. Whereas if you're in a four, five minute live cable news segment and things flag it's a little, you don't get that time back, people are watching it. So that also allows you to kind of experiment a little bit with what's the right level of assumed knowledge or ignorance to pitch this at conversationally. And the final thing I will say about that conversation and some other conversations, we had this is true, I think of the one we did on the war in Yemen, it was true about the conversations we had about the Uighurs. A thing that I encounter in my life and my consumption of news is that sometimes an issue gets introduced through the prism of a political battle over it or, or a call to action about it. And you receive it first through that prism without actually knowing the basic factual predicate underneath it.

Tiffany Champion: You have an opinion before...

Chris Hayes: Yeah. So it's like Yemen. It's this awful blockade is happening in Yemen, and stop the war in Yemen. And again, that's I think, the correct position morally, but also, wait back up for a second, what is going on in Yemen? Who are the Houthis? Where did they come from? Why does the US think they're being funded as Iranian proxies? What was the government beforehand? And so I think that it's really useful. And I think one way I conceptualize one of the things that I think we do on WITHpod, and I thought the Dr. Izzy Lowell conversation was just, put aside for a second the conversation capital C about trans youth and healthcare and literally, what are we talking about? A person comes to your clinic and they what?

And I think there's a lot of times in the way that our discourse works, that stuff could just get skipped. I even like you, you're in the editorial meetings every day. There's a lot of times where I will even say that in editorial meeting, where we're talking about a thing that's fighting about, I'll just be like, "Wait a second, what are the facts about this thing before we ascend to the level of who's right and who's wrong?

Tiffany Champion: Yeah. So I also have a question for you about interview prep, I have some exciting updates on the podcast. And we're going to get to all of that right after. See where I'm going with this?

Chris Hayes: Yeah, I'm standing back in awe.

Tiffany Champion: Right after we take this quick break.

Tiffany Champion: So, that's how you prepare for interviews and trying to bring people into a new topic or understand things from the ground up. Would you put John McWhorter, that conversation and that same sort of vein?

Chris Hayes: Oh, that's interesting. No, that's a little bit of a different vein, because that's a place where I want to like push and pull a little bit.

Tiffany Champion: Yeah, so okay. So that's how you plan to do interviews where you're trying to walk someone through something that's new, new territory, new ground. How do you prepare for a conversation that is more of a debate without making it into a contentious knockout brawl?

Chris Hayes: Yeah, that's a good question. I mean, I think, how do we do that? Well, I think mostly, if we're doing a topic it's one that I'm already pretty embedded in. So I have already, in the John McWhorter example, I already have a lot of thoughts that have been percolating in my head, and I am extremely read into the latest developments in that conversation. So, that was kind of, I'm trying to have the conversation that I would have at a bar, a party with a person that I liked, but disagreed with. People have different means of preparation. Some people are real note takers, some people are not. I have always been lucky enough that I just retain a lot of things and remember a lot of things.

Tiffany Champion: Oh, I'm so jealous. Your ability to just, at your fingertips recall something that someone has said, so unfair.

Chris Hayes: I mean, again, it's a weird little, it's a kind of like a party trick. It's not correlated with any other talent or ability. It's just that I have always had the ability to just instantly recall stuff that I read. Although, you know what's very weird? This is really fascinating. So, Kate, my wife, is a voracious, insanely voracious reader. And a voracious fiction reader and has been since she was five years old.

Tiffany Champion: Fiction. I didn't know that.

Chris Hayes: Yeah, Kate's a voracious fiction reader. Loves fiction, reads fiction all the time, always has a book, always going through. She's a member of two different book clubs. And I am a pretty voracious nonfiction reader and don't read that much fiction. My recall for nonfiction books is really high. I just remember facts and dates and quotes, and things people said. I cannot remember anything from any novel I've ever read. It is so freaking weird. It is a complete black hole. And Kate, who has great retention for nonfiction also, but Kate remembers plots of books' characters. This character dated that character, remember when, and I'm just, a thing that I read literally two months ago, I'm just like blank stare, nothing. They were in Italy, I remember that part of it. It's so weird.

Tiffany Champion: That's your summary of an Elena Ferrante novel...

Chris Hayes: Yes, exactly. That's my summary of Elena Ferrante... Girls in Italy, I think. A lot of people being mean. But anyway, so for preparation, this comes back to preparation, which I just, I tend to, I read a lot, I read all day. I also have a lot of avenues. There's people that I like, text with, DM with, there are people that I'm constantly in some conversation with about these things too. So, I'm also kind of discursively engaged around a lot of these topics. And so, when it comes time to do a John McWhorter podcast, I've just thought a lot about that specific issue. And so, it's a kind of let her rip situation.

Tiffany Champion: Something I personally found as someone who works with you and who works on this podcast is a part of the interview you did with Anna Deavere Smith, earlier this year, “Finding Truth in Doubt." And she is a prolific interviewer, that is how she creates these amazing shows, these amazing one woman shows that she puts on is just conducting hundreds of interviews, and the craft that goes into it and the patience and the planning, it isn't a conversation, it is labor. And that back and forth that you had with her I thought was really interesting. And as someone who people come to the show for your ability to have these types of laid back interviews and conversations that still are able to get to the heart of something is difficult. And I think people can take for granted how difficult it is to navigate an interview.

Chris Hayes: Yeah, and I think it's definitely a skill, and it's one you build up over time. And I feel interviews on the show and cable news, they're way higher difficulty just because they're live and they're shorter. There's less room for error. And frankly, I feel with those interviews, I feel a little bit like a baseball hitter, sometimes they're good, and sometimes they're not what I would have wanted, and a lot of time that's on me. I boot stuff for sure all the time on the show.

Just a nature of, the same way a good baseball hitter strikes out, we're doing a lot, there are different situations, sometimes technical issues, whatever. But the one thing that I will say, the key skill, I think for good journalism, and good interviewing is listening. And a thing that I really like about journalism that I think has been good for me as a person is that it's really made me a much better listener than I think I would have otherwise been because I'm very clearly someone who likes to talk and likes to hear myself talk.

Again, not my favorite quality about myself but I remember early on first being a reporter and interviewing people. I think I might even said this on podcast before but interviewing people and having this kind of amazing feeling of this burden being lifted from my shoulders that I didn't have to do anything, I didn't have to correct them, I didn't have to argue with them if I disagreed, I didn't have to impress them. I didn't have to charm them or make them laugh. All I had to do was listen to what they had to say and then ask more questions to get them to talk more.

And I find that a relief and very enjoyable and when you talk about the Izzy Lowell podcast, I love that podcast both in what the podcast was but just in the moment I loved it, because it gave me that pleasurable sensation that I still get doing reporting or interviewing that I first got as a 22 year old with a pen and pencil. The part of me that feels the need to perform for people. That's kind of compulsive and also maybe a little needy and also is activating my adrenal system, for that to kind of shut down in that period is a very pleasurable experience.

Tiffany Champion: So the end of another episode you solicited feedback was Dr. Peter Hotez, which was about the vaccines before they were largely available to the majority. This was early April, I think. And you asked how people's vaccine process was going and for the majority of people, wonderfully it was smooth, people reached out across the US and around the world. And people had a really positive experience, very affirming and the infrastructure that they were able to go and have this experience with their community in this turning point.

But there were a lot of people who were still struggling through conversations with loved ones who were vaccine hesitant for X, Y, Z reasons, but none of them were medical, they were a block of conspiracy or fear about the development of a vaccine. And someone asked if you had, had to have that type of conversation with someone that you love? These are conversations that we have on All In and we talked about it at length with Dr. Hotez. But if that's something that you've had to do in your own life?

Chris Hayes: So, I have not had anyone. I have had people who were, I thought, not prioritizing getting it as fast as I thought they should have. But I have not had anyone close to me who was like "I really don't want to get it or I think it's they developed it too fast," or all of those things. I would say that partly, I think a little bit of the life world of pandemic life is shrunk a little bit. So, I'm just having less interactions with people and less casual conversations with folks than I normally would in my normal life, I think. But I'm very aware that my family, social circle, life world is not representative of anything.

But no, I have to be totally honest and say there are people that I felt were dragging their feet, and gave little kind of nudges to, you should really just schedule it in that kind of way you do with someone who's putting something off, but not the, "No, I've heard it's bad for X, Y, and Z," I really have not had those conversations.

Tiffany Champion: That's good. I’m happy to hear that.

Chris Hayes: How about you?

Tiffany Champion: I do have people that are in my family who are not going to get the vaccine for a lot of the reasons that we cover on the show. Political reasons, the downplaying of it, thinking it's not that bad. Largely, everybody is vaccinated and healthy, but I think in my family falls down political divides, for sure.

Chris Hayes: Yeah, I was just talking to a friend who has had this with her family members, some of her family members. And she was just saying, "I just have no interest and no ability to feel like I can. First of all, I love these people, and I want to keep feeling positive about them. And we already have things that we don't see eye to eye on, we disagree about that we just kind of agree to put aside. And I just don't feel I have the ability to persuade them." And I was, yeah, I don't think, I think everyone's going to make judgments for themselves about those relationships and what conversations are and aren't going to be productive.

And I think one of the things, I think is possibility and I think is probably playing out a little bit is, there is a little, you know how you get that spidey sense of someone comes up to you on the street, and you can tell they're trying to sell you something? It's a very New York specific thing too, "Hey, man, how are you doing today?" And you're, "Okay, wait, what? You're not saying, hey, man, how are you doing today because you want to know how I am doing today. You want to sell me something." And I do think that there can be a kind of a little bit of a back, there's a kind of resistance, autonomy resistance that happens from feeling you're being sold something that I think I'm not sure, I'm sure there's research on this, I don't know engaging in those conversations necessarily helps that, but I know that it's a thing. It's so many people that I have heard from dealing with this issue.

And it's, I think, really hard because it's funny, there are lots of things that I can, if I work to subjectively access, understand where people are coming from. I felt that way about a lot of the resistance to lockdown and mask wearing and that stuff, that did not seem inscrutable to me or strange, I 100% got it. In the end I thought that those policies are really important because I think the benefits way outweigh the cost. But this one I have a harder time with I have to say. It's much harder for me to put myself in the mindset of wanting to not, of resisting vaccine than say, not wanting to wear a mask or thinking it's ridiculous that we can't get in elevators together and things like that. It's just a harder one for me to psychologically access.

Tiffany Champion: Well, I think it fits into something that Dr. Hotez talks about, is that there is already an existing ecosystem, a machine built of antivax, messaging propaganda. And that those are all well worn paths that people could easily walk down.

Chris Hayes: Yes. And I think here's another aspect to it. And we didn't talk about this with Hotez. And I kind of was regretting that we didn't because I was having this conversation. The way most vaccination works in the country, and I know this firsthand, because I'm the father of three children, ages three, seven and nine, your kids get a ton of shots. And it's a whole big thing. There's a yellow card, there's a vaccine schedule, you take them in, there's, they get certain shots at the six month, in the year, and then at two, they're constantly getting shots. It's a big part of the experience of going to the pediatrician when you got a little kid, particularly because it's sad when your six month old gets jabbed in the thigh and wails until the breath doesn't come out of their mouth, just what tends to happen.

But then it's, then that's done. And the only kind of vaccine you really get as an adult, there's HPV which you get as a teenager. But really, it's the flu vaccine. That's the big shot you get as an adult. And there's lots of people who don't take the flu shot. Lots. Even though I, late in life, became convinced that it's really important to take the flu shot, and I now get a flu shot every year but I do think the part of the weirdness of the resistance is that we're asking adults to go get a needle stuck in them, which is not the way that most vaccines are administered. Most vaccines get administered without any actual autonomy, as required by school entries, that require opt outs to children who then forget about it, basically. So it is a weird thing, mass vaccination of adults is a somewhat novel undertaking.

Tiffany Champion: All right, let's close this bad boy out with some updates. Exciting changes on the WITHpod front. We've talked, I think, a few times maybe dropped a couple of hints that this is a very small enterprise, a very tight team that makes this happen every week. When we launched it was just a side project and it was something that we would go and record for an hour, we would have, our editor would turn it around and then that would be it basically. Since then, because so many people find value in it and listen to it, which we're so thankful for, it has become much bigger than what just our tiny little team is able to do in our free time.

We've done live tours, we've done live shows, the marketing for our promos, we want to be able to do a lot more. And that just expands beyond the scope that I could do and Chris could do in our spare seconds. So we have hired, so exciting, that we have hired a full time producer. And this show is going to be his job from soup to nuts. Have you heard this phrase?

Chris Hayes: I have.

Tiffany Champion: I said it to someone and they looked at me-

Chris Hayes: It's a little boomery. I think it's an old school phrase. But yeah, soup to nuts.

Tiffany Champion: Alright well, I'm an old school person. So they are going to be, his name is Doni, he's going to be starting very soon. And he is going to take over the daily production of the podcast and what we can do, how we can expand, where we can go from here. We have some ideas or things that we're excited about. Some people have emailed about live shows. A lot of things that have to be figured out, but we'd love doing those. So in our ability to do them at some point in the future, we would love to revisit that.

But if there are things that you, besides just topics, but things that you would love to see ideas for where the podcast could go, we would love to hear from you. Because right now is an exciting time of change and growth, and expansion. And so if you have any thoughts, hit me up on that Gmail I'm always checking that inbox. If I'm not replying, it's because once I start replying, I will do that for four hours.

Chris Hayes: Well, and one of the things, I have to say, as committed WITHpod listeners know, is that this show can't happen without the one and only Tiffany Champion who does also have, I was going to say day job, but it's actually kind of a night job, which is being the line producer for All In, which is a very, very difficult job, one of the more demanding jobs that exists in cable news, because she is the person that manages the show moment by moment down to the seconds, how long the show is going to be, it has to timeout the same time every night and then live in the moment is managing it and dynamically figuring out where to cut, how to move things around so that we always hit the mark.

It's a really, really, really demanding job, I mean, there's sort of three most demanding jobs during the actual show are the director who's sitting in a control room actually calling out the shots that you're seeing, anytime there's B roll, any element that comes up whenever I throw to a piece of sound, he's dynamically doing that. There's a line producer, who's managing the second by second tick through of the show, which is Tiffany and then there's me who's doing, hosting the show. And the three of us are just people that are most kind of dynamically surfing the time, the wave of time that is live television. So, Tiffany has an incredibly demanding and difficult job every day. And this show would not happen without her incredible, indispensable talent. So huge thanks to Tiffany for taking that on.

But we're both very happy that Doni is going to come on board. And the other thing I would say is, when I talked to him, one of the things that I really want to do is just build out a little bit the WITHpod community because I feel there are people who are really invested in the show that I would like to be able to interact with more and maybe that means doing more mailbags, maybe that means Q&As online or that might mean starting up a newsletter. But all of that stuff is some stuff I want to develop around the show and follow up. Some people have questions, we have guests and finding ways to sort of, keep those sorts of questions and the kind of intellectual life of the show going in between episodes. So, we've got big plans there and we haven't really been able to do them on that front because of how overextended we are.

Tiffany Champion: Yeah, that's definitely, it's hard. I'm excited. It's also hard because these are all things that I wish I could have been able to do. I've seen where we could grow and where we could expand and parting is sweet sorrow.

Chris Hayes: I mean, you're not going anywhere.

Tiffany Champion: I'm not.

Chris Hayes: You can still do mailbags. All right. Do you want to do the throw, do you want to do the tag?

Tiffany Champion: Yeah, sure. Let me pull up the cheat sheet. I wonder if I could do it by heart.

Tiffany Champion: Why Is This Happening? is presented by MSNBC and NBC News and produced by the All In team, features music by Eddie Cooper. You can see more of our work including links to things that we mentioned here by going to

Chris Hayes: Nailed it!

Tweet us with the hashtag #WITHpod, email “Why Is This Happening?” is presented by MSNBC and NBC News, produced by the “All In” team and features music by Eddie Cooper. You can see more of our work, including links to things we mentioned here, by going to