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Why Is This Happening? The Chris Hayes Podcast
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Why Is This Happening? The Chris Hayes Podcast

Author: Chris Hayes, MSNBC & NBCNews THINK

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Every week Chris Hayes asks the big questions that keep him up at night. How do we make sense of this unprecedented moment in world history? Why is this (all) happening?

This podcast starts to answer these questions. Writers, experts, and thinkers who are also trying to get to the bottom of them join Chris to break it all down and help him get a better night’s rest. “Why is this Happening?” is presented by MSNBC and NBCNews Think.
334 Episodes
It’s been a wild last year or so in tech. We’ve seen a marked rise in the development of artificial intelligence, large language models and prolific growth of augmented reality systems. At the same time, it can feel like we’re moving backwards as concerns continue to rise about user privacy and the methods by which personal data is collected and monetized. Our guest this week points out that protecting privacy requires tech companies to ditch traditional business models that monetize user surveillance. Meredith Whittaker is president of Signal App and serves as the chief advisor for the AI Now Institute. She joins WITHpod to discuss the rise of big tech, the trajectory of the internet from being more commercialized to open, concerns about tech’s role in American democracy, her thoughts on proposed TikTok bans and more.
We’re thrilled to share the second episode in our WITHpod 2024: The Stakes series, in which we choose specific areas of policy and talk to an expert about Trump and Biden’s records on the topic. This week, we discuss the candidates’ stances and records on one of the most important and contested topics: tax policy. Kimberly Clausing is the Eric M. Zolt Chair in Tax Law and Policy at the UCLA School of Law. Before that, she was the deputy assistant secretary for tax analysis in the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Clausing also served as the lead economist in the Office of Tax Policy during the first part of the Biden Administration. She joins WITHpod to discuss Trump vs. Biden tax and economic policy, notable changes in IRS funding, who is most affected by recent major tax legislation and more.
We’re excited to share the first conversation in our WITHpod 2024: The Stakes series. For the first time since 1892, we have an election in which both candidates have presidential records, which provides a unique opportunity to cut through messaging and rhetoric and culture war flotsam and actually take a hard look at what each man has actually done as president. On The Stakes, WITHPod will choose specific areas of policy -- immigration, taxes, climate -- and talk to an expert about the two candidates' records on the topic. We’re starting with one of the highest salience and most complex policy areas: immigration. Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy director at the American Immigration Council, joins to unpack immigration policies under Trump vs. Biden, border enforcement, the state of the asylum system and more.
Our guest this week was thrown in jail and fired from his job after social media posts he made about Hamas’ attack on Israel on October 7th. Meir Baruchin, 62, is an Israeli history and civics teacher who was held in solitary confinement for four days after posts he made denouncing the war in Gaza. There was an adjudicated process in which he was later found to be wrongly fired from his job in the central Israeli city of Petah Tikv. He was later reinstated. Baruchin joins WITHpod to discuss the political persecution he says he’s faced, the intense suffering he’s witnessed, the ongoing legal process he’s experienced and more. UPDATE: Since publishing this episode, Baruchin was granted a permanent injunction against the Ministry of Education and the municipality of Petah Tikva, which will allow him to continue teaching and physically re-enter his classes.
There’s so much discourse about polling and it seems like there’s a poll for nearly every political issue. At the same time, polls often don’t successfully help us to predict the future, including election outcomes. What contributes to the mismatch between what we expect of them and what they actually deliver? Nate Cohn is the chief political analyst at the New York Times where he created the Times/Siena poll. Cohn points out that, among many things, polling plays a “central role in the way we understand the way campaigns ought to behave.” He joins WITHpod to discuss the complexities of polling, survey methodology, systematic biases and more.
Why have attacks on gender become so pervasive, especially within right-wing movements? Our guest this week points out that “the question of gender is fundamentally linked with the future of our democratic world.” Judith Butler is a philosopher, gender theorist and cultural critic. They are also a distinguished professor in the graduate school at the University of California at Berkeley. Butler is the author of numerous books, including their latest, “Who’s Afraid of Gender?” They join WITHpod to discuss their seminal work, thinking beyond gender binaries, the obsession with gender as a tool to further authoritarian movements and more. You might also enjoy these WITHpod conversations:Treating Trans Youth with Dr. Izzy Lowell The Fixation on Anti-Trans Legislation with Chase Strangio
If you’ve been following the news, you’ve seen that this week the House passed a bill designed to force the sale of TikTok from its Chinese parent company. If you’re confused about the ins and outs of this issue, we did an extensive exploration of it with NBC News technology correspondent Jacob Ward last year. So, we thought it would be good to re-share this TikTok 101. This conversation was originally recorded in April 2023. 

 From the original description: 
TikTok is one of the fastest growing social media platforms in the world, and now has over a billion users worldwide. But its future in the United States remains in limbo. The Biden administration, citing national security concerns, has demanded that the Chinese-owned company be sold, or face a federal ban. Montana lawmakers have already passed legislation banning the platform on personal devices, sending the bill to the governor. A lot of questions remain about the feasibility of statewide and federal bans, and why, exactly, do U.S. policymakers view this platform, that started as a lip syncing app, as such a threat? Jacob Ward is the NBC News technology correspondent and is author of “In The Loop: How Technology Is Creating a World Without Choices and How to Fight Back.” He joins WITHpod to discuss what’s driven the app’s exponential growth, the company’s lack of transparency in the past, the case for and against it, what could be ahead on the regulatory front and more.
Our guest this week recently traveled down to the border to confront the so-called “Army of God” as part of a larger project of providing alternative ideologies to Christian nationalism. Doug Pagitt is a pastor, author and the executive director of Vote Common Good, an organization aimed at influencing evangelical Christians. His group has been on a nationwide tour focused on directly engaging evangelicals in key swing states with the hope of swaying a critical percentage of them against former President Donald Trump. Pagitt believes a small portion of these voters are swayable and that if they are engaged, election outcomes can be flipped. He joins WITHpod to discuss the trajectory of evangelical politics, what he’s learned on tour and what’s at stake in this year’s election.
It can feel like the news industry is in a moment of crisis. Over 500 journalists were laid off from news outlets in January 2024 alone, according to a report from outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. These layoffs are part of a broader trend of seismic changes within the media industry over the past few decades. As disinformation concerns continue to rise and we prepare for another consequential election, why are newsrooms drastically reducing headcount? Ben Smith is editor in chief and cofounder at Semafor, a recently launched digital news platform. He is author of “Traffic: Genius, Rivalry, and Delusion in the Billion-Dollar Race to Go Viral,” which unpacks the ups and downs of the digital media business. Smith is also a former New York Times media columnist and the former editor-in-chief of Buzzfeed News. He joins WITHpod to discuss how we got to this moment, the impact of evolving news consumption habits, changing revenue models and more.
Nuclear power contributes to nearly 20 percent of the electricity generated in America, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Enormous growth has occurred since the signing of the Inflation Reduction Act in 2022, which allocated more money towards climate, and green energy subsidies than any piece of legislation in American history. But a lot of work still remains. Jigar Shah is director of the Department of Energy Loan Programs Office, a role in which he oversees investing and scaling carbon free energy. Before this position, he was a clean tech investor. He joins WITHpod to discuss recent inflection points, the future of nuclear, the importance of remembering that “big things” can be done and why he’s more hopeful now about the space more than ever.
The Department of Justice, created in 1870, was initially formed in part to enforce Reconstruction era laws aimed at ensuring voting rights for formerly enslaved people. Yet, nearly 150 years later, voting access is still under attack. Eric Holder made history as the first black U.S. Attorney General, serving in the Obama administration. Holder now serves as the chairman of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, which focuses on fighting back against gerrymandering to achieve fair maps. He joins WITHpod to discuss the fight for voting rights, growing redistricting concerns nationwide and how concerned he is about the possibility of former president Donald Trump being reelected.
2020 was undoubtedly one of the most consequential years in history. The ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, along with other cascading crises, can still be felt in almost every facet of our lives. Our guest this week points out that in order to heal, we must take time to reckon with what we lived through. Eric Klinenberg is a sociologist, the Helen Gould Shepard Professor of Social Science at NYU and the author of “2020: One City, Seven People, and the Year Everything Changed.” Klinenberg is also the director at NYU's Institute for Public Knowledge. He joins WITHpod to discuss stories of people he profiled in the book, the importance of grappling with what we experienced, the increasing pressures of daily life and more.
Just a few weeks ago, Chris and his family visited the Big Island of Hawaii. While there, he was completely enthralled with learning more about how the first inhabitants got to such a remote place and surrounding areas. For more than a thousand years, Polynesians have called some of the most distant islands in the Pacific Ocean home. Where did they come from, how did they get there and how did a group of people conquer the largest ocean in the world a thousand years ago? It’s one of the greatest mysteries ever. Our guest this week, who has familial roots to the area, set out to understand more. Christina Thompson is editor of Harvard Review and author of “Sea People: The Puzzle of Polynesia.” She joins WITHpod to discuss what drew her to this story, what makes this mystery so complex, the impact of the arrival of European explorers, the limits of our understanding and more.
From unlocking our phones, to scanning our faces to board flights, facial recognition technology has become a ubiquitous part of modern life. And while its implementation can make life easier, what are the ramifications of companies capturing and selling our biometric data? And do we really own our faces? Our guest this week points that unregulated, this technological superpower can lead to dystopian, sci-fi novel-like applications. Kashmir Hill is a tech reporter at the New York Times and author of “Your Face Belongs to Us: A Secretive Startup's Quest to End Privacy as We Know It,” in which she chronicles the rise of Clearview AI. She joins WITHpod to discuss the growth of this technology, privacy concerns, ways in which our online “dossiers” are linked to our faces and more.
Armed conflict, increases in public debt and the climate crisis are just a few factors that will accelerate humanitarian crises globally in 2024, according to the International Rescue Committee. Meanwhile, there’s a number of practical issues that have been raised by the high pace of migrants presenting at borders and applying for asylum around the world. Our guest this week points out the importance of creating “legal routes to hope” amid increased global migration. David Miliband is President & CEO of the International Rescue Committee (IRC), where he oversees the agency’s humanitarian relief operations in more than 40 war-affected countries and its refugee resettlement and assistance programs in the U.S. Before that, he served as a Foreign Secretary of the U.K. He joins to discuss the IRC’s 2024 Emergency Watchlist, myths about the global humanitarian crisis that have become a part of media discourse, actionable solutions and more.
We just experienced the hottest year on record in 2023. But amid so much doom and gloom, last year was also one of the best years ever for clean energy technology development and deployment. And while we’ve seen incredible strides towards a net zero emissions future, further innovation and policy action is still needed in order to bring to market more low-emissions technologies. Robinson Meyer is the founding executive editor of Heatmap, a new media company focused on climate change and decarbonization. Meyer is also a contributing opinion writer at The New York Times. He joins WITHpod to discuss the impact of rising fossil fuel emissions, recent inflection points, driving down the costs of clean tech and more.
Happy New Year! As our team returns from break, we're re-sharing another part of our "Future of" miniseries that originally aired in March 2022. From the original description: Time is running out to reverse the damage done by climate change, according to a report released by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in February 2022. Preventing further destruction will be the biggest undertaking in the history of human civilization. Can it be done? Jonah Goldman joined Gates Ventures, Bill Gates’s private office, in September 2014, where he is responsible for the organization’s relationships with policymakers around the world. In 2020, he helped Bill establish Breakthrough Energy (BE). BE is a network of entities and initiatives, including investment funds, nonprofit and philanthropic programs, and policy efforts linked by a common commitment to scale the technologies we need to achieve a path to net zero emissions by 2050. Goldman joins to provide a gut check on where we stand on the timeline for change as it relates to the future of energy.
Happy holidays! As our team takes some time away for a break, we're re-sharing another part of our "Future of" miniseries that originally aired in March 2022. From the original description: BFF connections have transformed rapidly during the COVID-19 pandemic. FaceTime calls, Zoom happy hours, voice memos, group chats and virtual game nights, in many cases, have reworked our in-person interactions of the past. What does the future of friendship look like? Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow have been friends for over a decade, twelve years to be exact. Living on opposite coasts for years now, they had a head start on managing a long-distance friendship. Ann, a journalist, essayist and media entrepreneur and Aminatou, a writer, interviewer and cultural commentator, co-wrote “Big Friendship,” a book all about maintaining their close bond. They join for an inspiring conversation about the future of friendship and what it takes to stay connected for the long haul.
Happy holidays! As our team takes some time away for a break, we're re-sharing part of our "Future of" miniseries that originally aired in March 2022. From the original description: The ways we consume media have changed tremendously over the last decade. Shows with live audiences, perhaps more than any other type of program, had to pivot virtually almost overnight when the pandemic started. That certainly was the case with “Late Night with Seth Meyers.” As viewers have more sources for entertainment now than ever before, the show had to find creative ways to keep fans engaged and entertained. Lucky for us, Seth Meyers, the affable host of the show bearing his name, joins to discuss what he thinks about the future of entertainment and comedy, why he felt closer to the audience while hosting from home and more.
Comments (224)

Soulaimana Assoumani


Apr 24th

Thomas De Quincey

Blah, blah, blah...same old, same old!

Apr 6th

Richard Scher

excellent interview with sari bashi. one important follow-up question that did not get asked- how could the right of return be implemented in a way that would be acceptable to both sides

Nov 17th

Tatiana Hanley

why would you put solar panels near a giant old tree?

Aug 15th

Krisztina Szabo

thanks for this fantastic interview! i wish i was a new yorker just to be able to support Mr. Salaam!

Jul 15th


Brilliant episode. It spoke to me personally.

Jun 2nd

Norma Byron

What an incredibly powerful podcast. I learned so much about the state and causes of authoritarianism around the world. I appreciate your introducing us to journalist Rula Jubreal and her work to expose the threats, dangers, and the tragic consequences of authoritarianism, and authoritarianism's basis in racism.

Mar 26th
Reply (1)

BUD 60

Thank You, Very interesting.

Jan 2nd

Samuel Price

great comments from Kara

Nov 18th

Golden boy

The annoying music beds

Jun 17th

A.K. Ferrara

Such an enlightening conversation on so many levels! Thank you.

May 26th

Lydia Nickerson

I really liked this episode, and I understand why you set aside the anti-capitalist argument, but for nuclear power, it really is the elephant in the room. All the documented nuclear power plant failures have been the result of cost saving measures colliding with poor working conditions. I'm fine with nuclear power as a concept, but without significant labor improvements, and regulation that is not sensitive to the needs of capital, it is dangerous. That is true of coal and oil and hydro, too. I don't see how the energy problem can be solved in end stage capitalism.

Mar 29th
Reply (3)


this is a great

Mar 6th

andrew omititi

mbn bbn M.

Jan 4th

Midnight Rambler

what a retard this guy is

Apr 5th
Reply (2)

Ed Potter

Chris, brilliant choice. I've heard John McWhorter in 5 minute blocks for 10 or 15 years! I appreciate the discussion you had with him so much!

Mar 30th

Johnny Hedlund

Chris. I am with you on most issues. This podcast really came off as quite snobby. I really appreciate Michelle's reporting and writing as well. Frankly, I fail to see a mask less rose garden gathering any differently from what Michelle described. The "middle" I would imagine (not really imagining), would not "understand", given stances publicly taken. I can hear people that I hang with....."can't bake bread? google it!". It's insulting to those of us who are not part of the intelligentsia. This is not a slam. It is only meant as a piece of advice I guess (which could be interpreted as snobby😋).

Mar 13th

Tracy Dennis

This was such a refreshing and thought-provoking interview. I'm going to listen more than once, for sure. Great work, Chris!

Mar 9th

Rebecca Bennett

"Prosumer" ⚡🎸

Feb 24th

Diane Neglia

What is the name of the rule that they got rid of that allowed the filibuster? Because instead of writing my senators to get rid of the filibuster, maybe we write them to reinstate the original rule.

Feb 14th
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