Masking Over Truth

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S1: The following program may contain explicit language and. It’s Friday, October 16th, 20 from Slate’s The Gist, I’m Mike Pesca. Did you see the debate? It’s sizzled. It shocked the back and forth, the obvious embarrassing stumbles and of course, the probing questions.

S2: What’s the break? Even price for a bushel of corn in Iowa this week. Oh, you saw him at the presidential debate. What became of it?

S1: The dueling town hall? No, no, no, no, no. That was Ron Steele moderating the Iowa Senate debate between Senator Joni Ernst and her challenger, Lisa Greenfield. Good name for an agricultural candidate. Was Greenfield ripe with knowledge?

S3: Well, a bushel of corn is going for about three sixty eight to sixty nine and break even really just depends on the amount of debt someone’s house. I suspect those farmers that are breaking even at that price. However, if their yields are down 50 percent, that’s certainly not going to cover it for them.

S1: Correct or actually seems correct. I don’t know. I buy corn by the pack up. Here was the incumbent who joined remotely from Washington, D.C., Joni Ernst.

S2: What’s the break? Even price for soybeans in Iowa. You grew up on a farm. You should know this.

S4: I think you had asked about corn, and it depends on who asked her corn. It depends on what the inputs are, but probably about five fifty.

S1: To be fair, there were technical difficulties, but Ernst did assert that Greenfield got the question wrong. She did not. So I guess they were the sort of technical difficulties that led Ernst to believe that she was correct, but her opponent was incorrect, even though her opponent was correct. Those sorts of technical difficulties. At another point, moderator Steve Carlyn gave the senator one last chance.

S2: But the price of corn, wheat ask for the price of soybeans from you, Senator.

S4: You want to take another crack at it and no, thank you.

S1: She did not, of course, whatever the price, Greenfield can pay it. She raised twenty eight million dollars in the last three months. She’s ahead by a little bit in almost all the polls. Twenty million dollars is quite something. Maybe not when compared to South Carolina Democratic candidate James Harrison, who raised fifty seven million dollars in the quarter. Maine Senate candidate Sarah Gideon raised forty million dollars in Maine. By the way, there are only eight hundred twenty thousand registered voters. It is the highest percentage in the country. But if we count up all the money that Sarah Gideon will raise in Maine, it’s well over sixty million so far. By the end of the campaign, she could give a hundred dollars to every minor who is registered to vote for her. But you know why waste one hundred on the trump die hard should just give one hundred and fifty to anyone who would have voted for you might have voted for you, wasn’t going to vote just really anyone but the worst of the worst. You literally can’t spend that much money in Maine. You can’t have two TV markets, Portland and Bangor, the seventy nine thousand one hundred fifty nine biggest markets in the country. You can’t buy enough commercials to spend sixty million dollars or thirty something million dollars this quarter. In fact, you could practically buy an entire station. CBS affiliate WABE in Bangor sold for eighty five million dollars a few years ago. She might get eighty five dollars million. It is too much money. It makes no sense. Well, it does. I could explain it. It’s just that lots and lots and lots of Democrats across the country really want Susan Collins and Lindsey Graham to lose. So they all write a check to whoever is opposing them. And, well, a nice lady by the name of Sarah Gideon has just become the fourth biggest industry in the state after L.L. Bean. But head of the bath ship works. It is no way to run an election or a country, except, I guess, for the alternative, which is letting the Republicans win on the show today, I spiel about the town hall to end it all. But first, it’s the second half of our interview with NRA defector and de facto whistleblower Josh Powell, author of Inside the NRA, a tell all account of Corruption, Greed and Paranoia within the most powerful political group in America. And today I use our opportunity together to bounce a couple of familiar NRA talking points at Josh and hear his account of what those actually inside the NRA were thinking when Wayne LaPierre and Dana Bash were giving voice to the familiar arguments. Yesterday, we talked to Josh Powell about his journey as a top NRA executive and the misgivings he as a gun supporter still has about the methods of his former employer. Today, I wanted to tap Josh as a resource and ask him what he must have been thinking whenever the well-funded lobbying group made public pronouncements about gun violence. So first, the old saw. The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. To what extent, Josh, do you and the NRA actually believe that?

S5: Honestly, I think that there’s a I think that that’s widely believed. I think that I do believe that that’s actually people actually buy that garbage and that’s just philosophically silly on its face. You know, there’s lots of things that can stop bad guys. But why do you say the real question is why did he say that? Right. Why didn’t why was that the line? Wow, that’s the line. Because that fires people up, that the press went berserk. That’s all that was it was an attempt to raise the pitchforks up on one side and the other side says, know, just flabbergasted that that would possibly say that, you know, after after all these children are gunned down in Sandy Hook. That’s your response?

S6: Well, if they were only Pitchfork’s, I think would be easier to take. What about the danger of concealed carry and the danger of open carry? The NRA constantly not only downplays the danger, but they say it makes situations safer. Do you know of any internal information on that that contradicts their public statements?

S5: Well, so there is very good data on the of all the concealed carry holders. So the concealed carry holder movement is somewhat new. Before Obama came, officers about four to five million concealed carry Holder members. Now there’s been upwards of well over 18. It’s probably pushing 20 million now with this year’s with these year’s numbers now. These folks are truly the the example of law abiding citizens, right? They go through background checks, they go through tests, all this rigmarole to be able to conceal their firearm and they commit a felony at a rate that’s lower than a police officer in the country. It’s less it’s like less than half a percent of all concealed carry holders commit a felony. It’s a very interesting topic, certainly now in the world that we’re living in and what we’ve seen with the protests this summer and fall, there isn’t a lot of data around. Does that how problematic are those folks? Right. Because in essence, they’re not in the system. Right. It’s a it’s somewhat of a weird law that morphed over time. And what I do think is incredibly problematic is the fact that nobody that teaches gun safety, gun handling, protecting yourself with a firearm, any of those courses, any of that training, any of those people would say go run towards a fight. That it’s the opposite, it’s run away from the fight. Do everything you can possibly do and at the last moment, if you have to in your life depends on it or your family’s life depends on it, then use your firearm. And what we’re seeing now is the opposite in this tragedy. And in Kenosha, where the young man had his rifle and he was unfortunately, he was looking for a fight. And, you know, it is it is concern is very concerning, at least on on that topic. I don’t think there’s anybody in the country that would disagree with that.

S6: After a mass shooting, the NRA and NRA affiliated politicians will frequently say and tweet out, well, let us not talk about legislation or fixes. Now is not the time. Let us not politicize this tragedy. Did anyone at the NRA ever say anything or were you privy to any conversations about that sentiment, the usefulness of that sentiment? How long can we keep expressing this sentiment? Or maybe they really do honestly believe it?

S5: Oh, I think that there’s definitely a real honest belief around that. And and. And really, the problem with that is, is that that in the meantime, like. What we should be doing as a nation on both sides, including the NRA, is talking about real solutions to gun crime in this country. It’s a very complicated topic to solve. You have kind of three big buckets. You have mass shootings, you’ve got suicide, and you have what the the violence in a number of inner cities in this country. And that that kind of if you take all that, that’s the problem. And each one of those requires a very different tailored solution to fix them. You know, you can’t just go and pass a universal background check law that even everybody agrees wouldn’t have any effect on any of the mass shootings that took place in the past 15 years. So there’s there is there’s no little silver bullet to fix all this. And it’s it’s going to take a lot more than it’s going to take a lot more time and effort and thoughtful thinking to come together on both sides to really, honestly talk about how do we solve this problem and to even agree that there’s a problem. There’s many folks within the area that thinks there is no gun violence problem whatsoever, which is absurd. Know just look no further than I know. I mentioned Chicago. That’s a fact. And so I would steer the answer, you know, very much toward that’s where we should be heading as a as a nation. And I don’t and I don’t see a movement on either side to think through a very thoughtful answer to some of these issues that we’re facing. Nobody asked the simple question of why does a young man decide to pick up a nine millimeter Glock and go and done gunned down his classmates is a last resort. And how why did he get here and why did we know about all this and not do anything about it? Those questions are typically not dealt with. Right, because that doesn’t that that doesn’t sell on your show. Right. They want to hear, you know, if we’re going to ban this or say no. Well, that that gets that’s a tweet.

S1: So this is what I’ve said. This is what I’ve said about the AR 15. And I will concede it is not the gun. It is literally not the cause of the gun that causes such carnage.

S7: But there is a correlation between the biggest and largest and most egregious mass shootings and this one weapon. And I do think that if you were to take this weapon away, those shooters would reach for another equivalent weapon. But I wonder if that equivalent weapon would each round would have the kind of force that an AR 15 or an equivalent rifle has. I wonder if it would be as easy to have multiple magazines, multiple round magazines. But the biggest thing is I wonder if there would be that law and that a law, just like so many of these shooters, you know, pretend to be soldiers or pretend to be a special ops guy and put on wear black and put on the bulletproof vests and they grab this AR 15, which reminds them of a weapon of war. Maybe there is some, you know, chemical going on inside their brain that is drawn to this weapon to commit the most heinous crimes. So as a as an AR 15 owner, what do you think of that?

S5: Yeah, I think it’s interesting the way you frame the question up. I hadn’t exactly thought of it that way, and so a few things come to mind on this is that, you know, nowadays nobody’s using an air 15 in the military that’s been replaced by lots of other variants of that with basically variants of a rifle of much higher calibers that have replaceable magazines. So it’s been replaced by pictures in folks minds already. I think that what’s made the AR 15 incredibly accessible is the fact that it’s patent. It was basically a gun that the the license was opened up and anybody can make an air 15. It was like open IP, if you will. That’s why it became so available. And the fact that people could, you know, build pieces, parts onto it. So I completely understand the argument that there’s going to be something else that replaces it. It’s one of the things in this debate where we’ve sort of, you know, it’s sort of the Darth Vader of guns. I get what you’re saying. But I also know the fact of the matter is, is that, you know, there’s also 20 million of these things floating around and in millions and tens of millions of magazines. And I don’t really I don’t view it as an effective. Answer to this and also we’ve got, you know, of all the homicides that take place in this country, it’s like less than half a percent are committed with an AR 15. Now, granted, there are the larger shootings and about 50 percent of those are where they are 15s. And the other part just from a political standpoint and actually solving this problem, you know, it would take so much political capital, the Supreme Court would flip it over and we’d be back to not really solving the problem. And so I I think that there’s other solutions that can be explored that would make a much larger difference. But I totally understand, you know, your question about it.

S6: So the last thing I want to ask about is gun registration and gun licensing, which in places that support it, which are a different kind of politics, there may be places that don’t does show to have some effect. Now, the NRA opposes gun registration and licensing. One of their arguments were, well, criminals not going to license a gun. Yes, we know, but a criminal is not going to also light. You get licensed to drive a car and you could say that a car thief is not going to license oneself to drive a car. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have car licensing. What’s the thought? So the public argument against licensing is something about privacy and the government will track you and you are giving up your rights if there is a gun licensing regime. Plus, they will also argue that it won’t have an effect on crime. What’s the reality within the NRA about gun licensing and registration?

S5: Well, I think you summed it up pretty good. And then you have to tack on the historical reference of, well, that’s what happened in Germany. That’s what happened. Yes, of course. Right. So people go see and I understand that. I don’t necessarily I I don’t necessarily need the government to know exactly where I am and what firearms I have. At the same time, I think that I need to go through a pretty rigorous test to be able to carry a firearm on me every day. And I don’t see any problem with that whatsoever. I think that part of the problem with this is much of what we talk about and even in our conversation. Right, because that’s what’s talked about is. Much of that isn’t really getting at how are we going to solve this problem and in driving and really driving into how how do we stop this? How do we actually stop these mass murderers? Right. If we know these guys are going to commit almost all of these folks, we knew that they were going to commit a really atrocious crime, that they were mentally unstable, their household wasn’t great. The FBI had visited in many cases, these homes multiple times. And and how does this happen? And and one of the things that I talk about is how the idea of opening the discussion in this will really freak people out of applying similar tactics that law enforcement, intelligence agencies use to stop terrorists. They’re very effective, incredibly effective. And I’ve spoken with a number of those folks and they believe that they could really clamp down on this because it’s almost every one of these guys. Lets people know they’re all crying out for help, right? I mean, Wayne labels them as monsters, but they’re sick human beings. They need help. And how do we identify these guys and and help them before this ever happens or make sure that their firearms are locked up in their home? If you have an Adam Lanza situation, which should have happened, if we don’t spend enough time talking about, you know, bigger, broader solutions that are that are multitiered, none none of the none of the the talking points everybody has solves are real solutions by themselves. Right. There’s a lot of parts to this. And, you know, our politics doesn’t allow the room to unpack most of these in a way that doesn’t become, you know, a political issue. You would think that when it comes to, you know, saving lives or even this pandemic we’re in, that we could somehow keep it apolitical. But, you know, here we are.

S6: Well, maybe it’s because of the NRA’s absolutist stance to say our politics doesn’t allow for it, I think after Sandy Hook.

S5: And that’s exactly the point.

S1: That’s exactly I think I think that there are a lot of especially Democrats who represent people who like guns, who wanted compromise solutions. But when the NRA won’t compromise on anything, we can blame our politics. But is really the one side of the there’s definitely people within the Democratic Party who would like their not to be a Second Amendment. But since there is one, I think a compromise could exist. It just that one of the sides of the negotiation will not compromise on anything.

S5: That’s exactly right. It’s hard to compromise when the answer is no. It’s just it’s obviously not going to happen. If the answer is no, then we’re not talking. I mean, who goes into an argument with their wife and just says, no, you’re wrong. That’s it. End of story. And that is my one of my overarching points in the book is that the NRA should be a leader on solving this stuff. And because of the way it’s marketed itself and raise money and become this fringe operation, it’s not representing, you know, how one hundred million gun owners feel about background checks or a number of these issues that we talked about. They’re representing a small percentage of of the country. And what I do want to I know we have just a couple of minutes, but you know what? People fail. What politicians kind of fail to recognize in this is that the NRA is some big, bad organization that, you know, you can make sure that people get voted for and that they whisk them into the office. People need to understand that they care about. There are folks out there that it’s part of their culture. It’s the way they grew up. They firearms or are part of their lives. And they’re going to vote on this like this is their issue. And so regardless of the NRA, you know, completely craters this year, next year or the year after, these folks are not going anywhere. This is their issue. And I think there needs to be a little bit of recognition on on the other side that, OK, I need to at least put myself in these people’s shoes and understand how they feel about it. But I guarantee you, all of those people, you know, feel very strongly about that. There should be a more solution oriented NRA. I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had over the year of, like, why don’t you guys give an inch from fellow gun owners?

S6: The name of the book is Inside the NRA, a tell all account of corruption, greed and paranoia within the most powerful political group in America. We’re speaking with Joshua L. Powell, who is the former chief of staff and senior strategist of the NRA. Thank you, Josh.

S5: Thank you.

S1: And now the spiel. Donald Trump and Joe Biden had dueling banjos style town debates. Here’s how it sounded. This was Biden did it. Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding.

S8: And here was Trump getting want to go on the.

S1: Anyway, Joe Biden treated the chance to talk to voters as a chance to talk to people whose vote he wanted. He ended most interactions by reinforcing that he was there to serve even when moderator George Stephanopoulos was doing some business.

S9: I hope I answered your question. I hope I answered your question.

S1: I don’t know the answer to a question. Biden was what we might call other oriented. I searched the transcript and he said, you or your two hundred thirty eight times in his town hall, Donald Trump said you were your one hundred eighty, but mostly in exchanges like this.

S9: What are you listening? I didn’t use white supremacy. What’s your next question for like this? I just want to see. How can you say that? You do read newspapers, watch the news, you read it, but you watch it. I do.

S1: Savannah Guthrie, the moderator there, are doing. Excellent job holding Trump accountable, asking about his rejection, but also professed ignorance about Kuhnen.

S9: I know nothing about Chulanont. I just tried very little, you told me. But what you tell me doesn’t necessarily make it so. I hate to say that I know nothing about it. I do know they are very much against pedophilia. They find it very hard, but I know nothing. They believe it is run by the subject. I’ll tell you what I do know about I know about Antifa and I know about the radical left and I know how violent they are and how vicious they are. And I know how they are burning down cities run by Democrats and Republican Senator Ben Sasse said, quote, Cunanan is nuts and real leaders call conspiracy theories conspiracy theory. Why not just say crazy is not true? He may be right. I just don’t know about you. And you do know. I don’t know. No, I don’t know. I don’t know.

S1: There’s nothing denying it three times. Three times. Like Simon denying three times the cock crowed his knowledge of Christ himself, which is of course, being noted on the Q and on conspiracy boards. Let’s examine the presidential defense. Don’t know. I just don’t know him well. He was asked about them on August 19th, said he didn’t know him except for one fact.

S2: Well, I don’t know much about the movement other than I understand they like me very much.

S1: OK, then his staff was all asked about them, really grilled about Kuhnen and how could he say that? And the staff claimed, I don’t know how he doesn’t know him. So he’s had months to learn about them. But still he refuses to find a fact. Read an article. Now he has learned one thing about Kuhnen. They don’t like pedophilia, but still he denounces them without knowing anything about them, except that they are some anti pedophilia group. So maybe he was denouncing the Department of Homeland Security’s anti child trafficking arm. Who’s to say? Certainly not him. That was disturbing, but possibly not to your average voter, who, by the way, polls show actually don’t know who Kuhnen is or what it is or why it is. But voters know masks and they know Trump is not exactly a proponent of masks. And if they didn’t know, they certainly found that out last night.

S9: I’m good with masks. I’m OK with this until people wear masks. But just the other day, they came out with a statement that eighty five percent of the people that wear masks. So I know that’s what I heard. And that’s what I saw.

S1: That’s what I saw. You’re the president. You can’t just pass along a half absorb segment from Fox News, except it can and does all the time. And by the way, Fox News, that is where it was from masks.

S10: What kind of person covers his face in public? Let’s say armed robbers do that sort of Klansmen and radical Wahhabis.

S1: That was Tucker Carlson in the intro to his discussion of this study.

S10: In other words, almost every one eighty five percent who got the coronavirus in July was wearing a mask and they were infected anyway. So clearly, this doesn’t work the way they tell us it works. Clearly, someone’s been lying to us. Many people, actually. How did this happen?

S1: OK, I can answer that. Working backwards. They don’t work the way they tell us they work. Yes, they do. Because what the experts have always told us is that unless it’s in ninety five mask masks aren’t a great protection against acquiring the virus. What they do is they’re effective in spreading the virus. So the proper reaction to the study is, well, at least those infected people were wearing masks because it’s less likely they went on to infect others. By the way, it was a small group. It was a hundred and forty nine people. And by the way, the eighty five percent of them wearing masks, meaning fifteen percent non mask wearers, that is double the population as a whole. Also, we should note that those 149 people, besides being extra non mask wearing, also were much more likely to dine out in restaurants. So this was actually a good study that told us useful things, just not the lies perpetuated by Tucker Carlson and expounded upon by Donald Trump. Now let’s get to the people are lying to us part. Yes, you are, Tucker. Or at least you’re misrepresenting the data and the president becomes the classic misinformation super spreader. He tells the lie on national TV and he’s been telling it at rallies as he goes along saying eighty five percent of mask wearers got covid. No. Eighty five percent of the covid sufferers in this one study wore masks. It’s different if eighty five percent of mask wearers got covid well. Ninety two percent of Americans polled by National Geographic said they’ve worn masks, so. Eighty five percent of ninety two is seventy eight percent of Americans. He’d be saying that two hundred fifty seven million Americans have the coronavirus. The numbers are obviously off. Makes makes no sense until he says them and it creates can. But here’s the other thing it creates, and this is important because we’re a couple of weeks to the election or we are during the election right now, in many places, it doesn’t just create confusion, it creates antipathy because the polling on masks is clear. Like I said. Ninety two percent of people wear them and the vast majority of people wearing them don’t mind wearing them. I mean, they don’t like the pandemic, but they think masks are an appropriate thing to wear during the pandemic. You know, two thirds of people or 60 percent to two thirds believe that mask wearing should be mandated. So when President Trump goes out there and belittles masks and contradicts himself and contradicts the effort, the effort that they the American people are making sacrifices for, they get mad. And it’s a tangible issue that they disagree with the president on. This is no missile attack on Syria or pardoning Roger Stone where they might like it. They probably don’t like it, but it doesn’t really affect them much. No, this is life and death. This is personal. And this is an area where they judge the president to not just be making wrong policy, but to be lying and endangering the people they love. And contrast that with Joe Biden’s stance where the mask. Yeah, it’s pretty clear. It’s pretty stark. The mask issue is, in short, a horrible political stance for the president and one that plays a big role in his status as an unpopular incumbent and one who is unlikely, maybe we could say very unlikely to be denied re-election.

S11: That’s it for today’s show, Daniel Shrader produces the gist, he knows the break even point for a hectare of sorghum is a trick question because sorghum bends, it doesn’t break. Margaret Kelly, just producer, can sight corn prices by the bushel or the pack. But she knows a hug around the neck goes for one dollar at the kissing booth at the state fair for a cool five million in the lawsuit years later. Alicia Montgomery is executive producer of Slate podcasts. She knows that what it takes to stop a bad spell check program with a gub is a good spell check program with a honey. The gist? I don’t know. The Manson family don’t know them, but they like the Beatles, the band. But I don’t know and I don’t know Pol Pot do not know him, but without him, we wouldn’t have the killing field.

S1: Sam Waterston, good actor, just saying, don’t know him denouncing and I don’t know cancer of the lymphatic system, don’t know anything about it.

S11: I do know that he killed the Night Stalker, Richard Ramirez, but I really just don’t know who you are. And thanks for listening.