Tech Bros or Tech Scoops? (with Kara Swisher)

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Tech journalist Kara Swisher was five years old when her father died, teaching her from a young age that time is precious and she didn’t want to waste a single minute of it. Sam asks her how that lesson translates into her choices today, from abruptly leaving jobs to asking prominent people blunt and uncomfortable questions. Kara shares her opinion on Biden’s age, offers tips on cutting through bullshit, and commiserates with Sam over the tech bros she chronicles in her new book, “Burn Book: A Tech Love Story.”

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Kara Swisher, Samantha Bee

Samantha Bee  00:00

I want to feel ancient. My twitter account is about to become a teenager. I joined Twitter 13 years ago in March of 2011. And I can’t think of a wilder 13 years to look back on. Oh, Twitter was once a place for goofy comments, make jokes and friendships and argue about what color our dress was. For a lot of that time, Twitter trolls lived mostly hidden under Twitter bridges where they belong, but now they have emerged from their bridges and they don’t just live out in the open they run the entire goddamn place. It is somehow safe for no one except for meme kings. I have some serious choice words for Twitter and okay, okay, so even choice your words for the fact that I should correct myself and call it X. I lows that a common good has been destroyed, I miss all Twitter. I miss scrolling every morning at 5am. Well, I try not to spill coffee on my due day. The only thing dumber than it being rebranded as X will be when Elon Musk buys the sky and makes us call it land. We’ll go out and say that’s dumb. And then we’ll do it anyway, and I hate that for us. You break it, you buy it? No, you bought it, you broke it. It fills me with rage to think about all the power that is wielded by a few tech bros. They have the money to solve all our problems. And instead they just make new ones. They hide behind phone naivete, oblivious to how their products harm or inspire or harm. But the ripple effects are monumental. They’re larger than life. And they still treat it like a game, just like oops like an extracurricular activity as they race to space rather than regulating the problems they have wrought on us here. It is childish, and it is reckless, and people die because of it.


Samantha Bee  02:20

This is Choice Words. I’m Samantha Bee. I might have some choice words for tech bros but my guest today has way more than just words and it works because they are scared of her. Of course, talking about Kara Swisher and I loved every minute of our conversation. Kara is the host of multiple podcasts, including on with Kara Swisher, Pivot, and her new book Bernbach a tech love story is out now. And it is, it is a serious page turner. So take a listen and make good choices.


Samantha Bee  03:01

I’m so happy to see I’m so happy to see your damn face.


Kara Swisher  03:04

Yeah, good to see you. How are you doing?


Samantha Bee  03:06

I’m good, thank you, how are you?


Kara Swisher  03:08

Really good, actually, super good, yeah.


Samantha Bee  03:10

So okay, so we are going to talk all about your book.


Kara Swisher  03:14



Samantha Bee  03:14

I want to talk all about our tech leaders in the industry. The ways in which they have, as you say, in the book, turbocharged, the discord for the book is also deeply personal. And actually, it’s, it’s frankly, very moving.


Kara Swisher  03:30

Thank you, thank you.


Samantha Bee  03:31

So I want to also talk about personal stuff, so I think I’m gonna I do like to start the podcast by talking about the theme of choice. I don’t want to assume anything about you, but I would say that based on your outward personality, I want to assume that you’re very decisive.


Kara Swisher  03:50

Yes, I am yeah. Well, I don’t have a lot of time to waste. I think that’s the one of the themes of the book is I, my dad died as a young age. And I think it gave me a really big sense at a very young age that nobody has that kind of time. It’s an old trope, the idea that you don’t have that kind of time, and it was it was stressed in me at a very young age, you know, because my dad was 34, he was just starting his life. He just gotten out of the Navy. And then it was done. And that was it,t hat’s all I got a cool car. He had a Volkswagen red Volkswagen convertible. And I just always had been like that. I’m like, no, I don’t want to talk to you because I don’t have time or I want to do that because I want to have time. And so the times I’ve wasted have been the most irritating to me like being closeted, for example.


Samantha Bee  04:38

Right, life’s too short is. It is a good it is a good guiding principle in a lot of ways, and you had your own health scare too. I did, which I’m sure had the same effect is goosing your decisions.


Kara Swisher  04:52

Yeah, it did, because I had a stroke when I was in China actually doing some work and, again, it was sort of unexpected. If I didn’t believe it was happening, I told my brother he was a bad doctor when he suggested it. Like what is wrong with you how ridiculous young people don’t have strokes that’s for like, aged, the aged as they’re wheeling their way, you know, to the cafeteria at the senior home. But I was another stop, I think one of my favorite books is the trial by Franz Kafka, and at the beginning of the trial, it’s I think it’s without ever having anything done anything wrong, Joseph Kay was stopped one fine morning, and everyone thinks it’s about like a Russia or authoritarian state, but I’m not a religious person, but it’s about God, it’s about God stopped him and made him start to think about his life and he doesn’t and that’s the whole point of the whole thing and so, these things stopped me in order to let me move forward, if that makes sense, and I’m not religious by any means.


Samantha Bee  05:53

I feel like I would very happily defer a lot of my big life decisions to you probably.


Kara Swisher  06:01

You should, I have […]


Samantha Bee  06:04

I’m sure you do, but okay, who do you owed you go to? Is there somebody you go to for advice other than like, a magic eight ball?


Kara Swisher  06:12

I like magic eight ball, and I have several. So, sometimes I do use those, I’m like, okay, I don’t actually, every now and then I’ll check in with my kids, you know about things that affect them. But not really, I dealt my wife a little bit, she’s such good sensibility. I’ll bounce things off of her and I, you know, roll a couple of things over. But in general, I, I think it drives her crazy, I’m like, we were just renovating our house a little bit. And I’m like that one, that one tiles and that one and she’s like, well, let’s look at them, I’m like, no, that one. And so I think it irritates her in a lot of ways but it also you know, I can I cut through a lot of shit and I and I think that’s very comforting to my family in that regard on certain things other things, they’re hugely irritated by me by that.


Samantha Bee  07:02

Do you second guessed yourself, do you wake up in the night? Do you have like dark night of the soul? You’re like, now the wrong tiles.


Kara Swisher  07:10

No, no, never I’m like, pretty happy with the decisions I make, and you know, there’s, there’s a whole study you know about choice. People don’t make some unhappy choice makes people unhappy, if you go into a store and you have two choices, you’re happier versus seven because you think you’re missing out and now with the internet. There’s hundreds and you’re like, did I get the right caught for my kids? Did I get like that kind of stuff can happen and it’s really psychically fucked up, right? The amount of choice and information were provided now. So no, I don’t you know, is doing that this night last night I just recommended an article which I did not agree with, by Jack Shafer about Biden’s age and I have recently been speaking out saying Trump is more incompetent, it doesn’t really matter. But by two things I said is you should read this because, and I didn’t say it’s a different point of view. I said, just read this. People went nuts, because I suggested reading it to them, right drove me nuts. And I was like, how dare you? You have all hands on deck, you can’t recommend things that are wrong, and I was like, no, I can and I shall like, and so I got into this whole, like, I got into this rabbit hole with people, and I was like, I’m simply asking you to read it, and that’s the problem progressives, are you fucking kidding me? And then someone was like, he’s not older than Trump, and I said, you know, technically he is he is actually but I don’t know if it makes a difference but he actually is that was met with like, don’t say that, it doesn’t matter because Trump, I was like, I never suggested it, but factually, so it was interesting, so I got into this thing. Long story short is, I got into it,. I was just checking facts and then at one point, I said several years, and everyone’s like, it’s three, that’s not several, then I put the definition of several over which is two and above, right. And I was like, it is indeed the definition of three. And I and I woke up this morning, and I thought, oh, did I just waste my time doing that? Like, I was just trying to tweak people and treat them the way I do tech bros, like, if you’re going to be stupid, I’m going to call you stupid and I was talking to my wife about it, and I felt that initially, and then I’m like, no, I feel good about that, that waste of time, you know what I mean? So no, I that was one moment I possibly could have felt regretful at a stupid thing, but.


Samantha Bee  09:18

Right, yes, no well, people can’t, I mean, what can talk about? I’m actually curious for your take on the whole debate about, the age of the presidential candidates.


Kara Swisher  09:30

They’re old.


Samantha Bee  09:31

Oh, they’re all yeah, they’re old. I mean, this was another guy, this was a conversation we were having as I was yelling at the radio this morning, and I was like, are we forgetting that? It’s really, you know, President aside. The presidency is really the company of cape.


Kara Swisher  09:48

That’s correct.


Samantha Bee  09:48

Company, it’s your staff. People around you.


Kara Swisher  09:51

Yes, agree, we actually made that point on Pivot this week, which was he’s got the youngest administration. You know, all of them are young and vibrant and whatever so it’s not, you know, in Trump’s got a lot of crazy he’s gonna have a lot of crazy people around him. My whole point was when I was argument people was to, if you want to persuade the unpersuaded bulls or people who are are persuaded, you can’t tell them they’re stupid. Like for being concerned about age, you just can’t keep up, that’s a normal concern. And if you do it by saying, oh, it’s a choice between an old man and a fascist, it’s like, that’s not what I’m saying, tt’s that I’m concerned. You know what I mean? Like, it’s a really interesting thing I do.


Samantha Bee  10:30

So yeah, it’s going to be a wild ride.


Kara Swisher  10:34

Oh, it’s gonna be people are just inflamed on you know, it’s either the end of the world or it’s the end of the world, and on their side, if you actually go and listen to them, and I spent a lot of time online, they do think it’s a holy war. They honestly do, it’s really percent.


Samantha Bee  10:51

We started rewatching, The Leftovers, which is one of my favorite all time shows, I love it. I watch the rapture streaming down my face about the Rapture. And it is so resonant for right now. I’m watching it through a different set of eyes. And the anger the anger in the world.


Kara Swisher  11:14



Samantha Bee  11:15

Three years post rapture is really reminding me of our history host COVID anger.


Kara Swisher  11:21

It is, and it’s bad because of that is because of tech, and by the way, tech has been the secret sauce to make it all come together, right? In some way.


Samantha Bee  11:28



Kara Swisher  11:28

I don’t mean that people were ignorant before but there was a lack of everything. If you have everything coming at you and much of it is false, and it plays into normal American things, which are our history is full of ignorance, right? And, I think that I think what tech has done and getting back to the book is that it is it’s a point I’m making the book is Hitler didn’t need Instagram, right to do his evil doings. But boy, would that what do you imagine people there’d be more followers, he’d have more followers, he’d have more adherence to his thing, because he could get it out there. They do these things in plain sight, right, and there are foreign entities that are trying to manipulate it. That’s not a surprise that should be is not a surprise to anybody. But what it is, is that it’s taking it and taking it to a steroid level. So we all are left feeling terrible and angry and reductive, right. And I think that’s an addicted, it’s also addictive, which is, and it’s also necessary. So you have all these things that you can’t not use technology, but it has by its nature. You know, I think I say something that look like engagement equals engagement. That is how you engage people.


Samantha Bee  12:44



Kara Swisher  12:44

In many ways, and the adding of addiction necessity, and a lack of accountability of the people running these companies, as the richest and most powerful people on the planet really is has done a mindfuck on the globe in that regard.


Samantha Bee  13:00

Yes, it’s definitely feels like something has been unleashed. And we are not prepared to nobody seems able to handle that.


Kara Swisher  13:09

No, they do.


Samantha Bee  13:10

And it’s only getting faster.


Kara Swisher  13:12



Samantha Bee  13:13

The Singularity is near […]


Samantha Bee  13:15

Oh, yeah, making it sound.


Kara Swisher  13:15

Who do you believe in the rapture, the best thing I ever did is my aunt believed in the rapture, one of my aunts and so she talked about a lot, I was like, alright, fine. I’m obviously not going to be taken out. You know, if there’s something like that happening. I’ll be here, and so my brother and I made her a bumper sticker that you can buy online speaking how good things about online that said, when the rapture comes can I have your stuff?


Kara Swisher  13:45

I know, right? Like some of these people, it’s like, would you miss them?


Samantha Bee  13:50

Is this house as a sauna?


Kara Swisher  13:52

Yeah exactly. Yes, exactly, you can move on to other people’s home. I’m an entrepreneur, I’m a rapture entrepreneur.


Samantha Bee  14:02

We’ll be right back with Kara Swisher after this.


Samantha Bee  14:23

I want to ask you about a choice that you have made in your life big or small that you feel really changed your life and having read the book, obviously a bunch of times I can think of a few leaving the journal was.


Kara Swisher  14:37

Yes, huge leaving, that’s leaving I’m gonna leave it probably the the the willingness to get up and go to leave things and get off the hamster wheel. I think that is probably and there’s bunches of them in the book. I leave the I live the journal I leave, I leave the Washington Post I was on I was on a you know, an express ride to covering the Clinton White out, which was like, no, thank God no, right? Yeah, right, oh, Blue Dress, that’s what type blue dress would just be soul sapping. I think whenever I get this, I kind of use like that Mary Poppins analogy, I’ll leave when the wind changes I’ll leave. And I think it’s served me well, in that, I’m very aware when I’m unhappy. I’m very good at I think a lot of my ability to make something like I don’t feel oh, no, if I leave, whatever will I do? I’ve never had I’ve always felt I had choices, and I for some reason, very talented people don’t think they do.


Samantha Bee  15:37



Kara Swisher  15:38

Which is weird to me, and the other thing that I think had was quite a good quality in that regard was I don’t like actually griping about where I work like, you know, you know, this you work in network television like those the suits that this best […] I just hate that, I’m like, why am I talking about them, and I can do something I can leave right kind of thing. And I think people spend a lot of time being bad employees, and also being bad to themselves, and I just don’t have that kind of time goes back to.


Samantha Bee  16:11

Going back to not having that kind of time, so it’s not necessary, it’s not always just about leaving something, it’s also about creating something new, and having the confidence having the belief that there was.


Kara Swisher  16:21

That’s correct, there’s something else that you can own that can be yours, tha.


Samantha Bee  16:26

You’ve done that.


Kara Swisher  16:27

Yes, 100%.


Samantha Bee  16:28

There’s nothing like you do say in the book that you’re a bad employee, you’re so funny.


Kara Swisher  16:35

I do I sit in meetings, I say terrible things to my bosses. And people are like, did you just say that? I’m like, I did I just if someone does something, don’t one person I, I was leaving, another person said, why are you leaving here? This is the most important place on Earth, right? That kind of thing, like, you know, I’m here, right? And I literally couldn’t believe I said this, and I said, I don’t want to talk to you anymore. Because they were pressing me, I wanted to be polite and just get out the side. Like I was like, oh, you know things. And then they press me, so I said, I don’t want to talk to you anymore, they’re like, what? And I said, I have so many minutes left in this life, and you’re you’ve used up plenty, and I don’t I literally, I find joy in the idea that I don’t have to talk to you anymore. Like it’s gonna be so good when I don’t have to talk to you anymore, or you can’t text me and bother me. And so, and then we’re like, well, that’s honest, I go. It’s true, it has the benefit of being true and I haven’t talked to that person.


Samantha Bee  17:32

So you get to walk away, so clean.


Kara Swisher  17:35

I know.


Samantha Bee  17:35

It’s clean, you really set it all.


Kara Swisher  17:37

Yeah, I think they felt good too because like a lot of people like told them the truth, and I think I said, you know, people don’t really like you here, but that’s a journey you have to go on.


Samantha Bee  17:46

Where do you think that you weren’t, did your sense of self come from? Because I mean, it’s so clear in the book, your your unwavering confidence, like it is enviable, I mean, did you have to learn to be fierce? Or did you just come out of the womb and stick the lamb?


Kara Swisher  18:07

Stick the […] my name when I was a kid was tempesta, which was a way of talking to women and girls, like don’t be attempt, don’t be stormy. Like, that’s what it means in a town, my grandmother’s Italian. But, you know, there was always a lot of, you’re bossy. And I didn’t I was like, okay, sure. Like, and I think it had to do with being gay. Like, I didn’t feel like please, you know, don’t go change it or try to please me that kind of, you know, I wasn’t trying to please anybody. And I think it does give you a level of confidence when you don’t have to please anybody, right? Because, look, a lot of people didn’t like, people because they were gay, and I was like, that’s stupid. Why should I care what they think at all? Like that kind of thing, right? And it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care what people think you should care what people you respect think, and often, when people say things to me, I’m like, oh, I should, you know, I don’t regret it, but I do take it take to heart to people who have who are really care about things, but I really don’t. Honestly, why should I care? Why should I just feel like and I think women on uniquely are made to feel lesser than almost constantly, right? Like, you might it was interesting, because you said it’s enviable right here, I’d interview with a male reporter about this book, and he’s like, you shouldn’t be so confident like you didn’t break every story. I’m like, I’m cran fucking Griffey Jr. of tech scoops. I didn’t get every hit but I was really close. Like, I didn’t and it was really interesting, you said enviable, and they said, you know, that’s arrogant, aren’t you? Don’t you call them the tech people out for being arrogant in your area yourself. I’m like, I call them out not for their arrogance about the good things they do. It’s the terrible things they do. I was like, I’m thrilled that the iPod is here or the iPhone or the things I like, but it was such an interest just interesting, men and women will react differently to this book, I suspect.


Samantha Bee  19:56

I think so. I think I’m gonna I think my kids I want my kids to read it? I want my kids to read it for multiple reasons. One of them is because I want to hear, because your voice is strong and clear. It’s as clear it rings my bell. It’s just.


Kara Swisher  20:11

Oh, thank you.


Samantha Bee  20:12

It’s full clarity, and I think that that’s important, it’s exemplary.


Kara Swisher  20:16

Thank you.


Samantha Bee  20:16

Especially for, for my teenagers. I have two girls, one boy. And also, I think it’s valuable for them to learn the origin stories of so many of these tech instruments.


Kara Swisher  20:28



Samantha Bee  20:29

That are part so much a part of their daily life in a way that they don’t even, they don’t even notice.


Kara Swisher  20:35

Right, that’s true. Although I do think young people are a lot smarter about tech than we give them credit for. I think we’re the ones that have lost our ever loving fucking minds. I could I think the people who are boomers, millennials are much more addicted much more angry that young, my sons, the older ones, the younger ones are just watching frozen and Moana on repeat so that short, that’s their entire tech experience.


Samantha Bee  20:58



Kara Swisher  20:59

But they’re much smarter and Cannier in their use of tech and less. It sort of reminds us remember, I don’t know how old you are, but I think you’re in my age range, before yeah, you’re younger than I am but remember, everyone thought that TV was the boob tube.


Samantha Bee  21:14

Oh, right.


Kara Swisher  21:15

Oh, if you watch that your your mind is funny. It wasn’t, too, it wasn’t a boob tube, and by the way, there’s some amazing television, including your work. And I just was like, I at the time you know, when parents were saying that to you like it’s not the boob tube. I’m not gonna have my mind beat. And I think that’s what they’re like, they’re like, I can handle this, maybe you can’t. So I feel okay about young people.


Samantha Bee  21:37

100% my parents used to tell me that my eyeballs were going to square off. They were like your eyeballs are literally going to turn into cubes if you keep what because I watched I mean, television was my babies that are that’s my everything. And so I said to her well, why I don’t know why cubes, is there […] their version, their version of a horror story was so far fetched, you’re gonna fall out.


Kara Swisher  22:02

That’s what they were gonna say. They’re gonna melt like a big cube.


Samantha Bee  22:06

Like, I don’t think that I don’t think watching The Price is Right, every day at 11 is going to turn my eyes into cube.


Kara Swisher  22:11

That was a good show. It was 4.99, really good, 79 scents.


Samantha Bee  22:18

Rice a roni 49 cents.


Kara Swisher  22:21

I love it.


Samantha Bee  22:23

It is invigorating, and like it’s actually it’s actually invigorating to listen to you speak to people so frankly, in a world where these people are, as you say, getting licked all the way up and down.


Kara Swisher  22:36

All the way every day.


Samantha Bee  22:37

All the way up and down, you are free. People have described you as affable and hostile, spiky but friendly.


Kara Swisher  22:47

Casually cruel, I interviewed Jon Stewart and I asked him if he was relevant and and he liked it. He liked the question. He’s confident man and someone said describe the interview as casually cruel. Like, he welcomed it, he knows people were thinking that.


Samantha Bee  23:04

And also, he’s a person who’s gotten licked all the way up and dance class. So someone who can get through that?


Kara Swisher  23:11

Yeah, he took it to sign he wants it, he wants it’s refreshing it is. It must be because I think you know, one of the things I spend a lot of time talking about is with these moguls when I talk to them. And the ones that get it get it like I said something to someone I didn’t agree with someone I argue with a lot. And it was Marc Benioff, and he’s like, do you have a list of these things? I like him quite a lot, actually, and because he’ll go at it with you and I don’t agree with him on everything, and I said something he didn’t like and he goes, he goes, that’s what my staff said, I said, you pay them.


Samantha Bee  23:44

You pay them.


Kara Swisher  23:45

You pay them, you made them rich, they are not going to dispute you unless they’ve got a real set. You know, they just aren’t and so and then he was like, oh, that’s that’s true. I was like oh penny drops with billionaire.


Samantha Bee  24:00

Like when a billionaire tells you who their friends are and you’re like wait, you pay all of them all of all those people you name a person who you are is not on your payroll.


Kara Swisher  24:09

Right and that’s hard.


Samantha Bee  24:10

Then I’ll believe you.


Kara Swisher  24:11

You must know that from running a show. You have to be very careful of where you’re getting your advice and how you how you are very careful, it’s hard, it’s definitely hard and as you know, I that’s why I do seek out like disputatious people, I don’t mind it, and again, if they’re being the only thing that drives me crazy, which is why I went on this rabbit hole last night was inaccuracy. I hate when they’re inaccurate, if they’re, if they have a different opinion. I could or a different take on something I’ll listen to it, but actual inaccuracy drives me nuts.


Samantha Bee  24:41

Right, you know what I loved too, I love the section about the performative playfulness of a lot of these tech dudes like Sergey Brin and a onesie one that is babies shower and rollerskates when Wendy dang in a diaper, she looked good with her, oh God.


Kara Swisher  24:59

Do you ever do that? Did you ever visit a tech company? They force you into some childish activity?


Samantha Bee  25:04

There were childish. Yes, I’ve seen them. I didn’t do the childish activity.


Kara Swisher  25:09

Oh, you didn’t do a pug last?


Samantha Bee  25:11

No, I’m blessed by being uncoordinated, that is I understand the limitations of my body, those situations.


Kara Swisher  25:19

But those companies are littered with those toys, litter. You’ve been there.


Samantha Bee  25:23

You’ve littered with toys and I hate that Peter Pan bullshit.


Kara Swisher  25:26

I don’t you, I hate go karts. My kids liked it, when I take them with me on a Porsche. They’re like, oh, a go kart, I’m like, yeah, go use that. You’re the correct age for a go kart and bicycles multicolored bicycles. One time, Sergey was interesting care, he’s very child, who’s childlike and childish at the same time. And he did those bicycles that are all around the Google Plex. If you’ve been to the Google Play, I think you might.


Samantha Bee  25:51

I might have briefly.


Kara Swisher  25:53

Like you have, anyway, so they have these multicolored bicycles, just like the colors on the on the Google. And they put them everywhere, everyone rides them everywhere. And his idea was to drop them all in New York City, he kept telling me he’s going to drop on cities, and this sandwich will get stolen but if I put a million I was like, what about the junk that it’ll create? You know, of course, later, this is what has happened with Citi bikes, but they’ve done it that it sort of evens itself out finally, and he goes, he goes, what do you think? And I can’t believe I said this to him, I said, I’m thinking about one, putting one in my car and just stealing one because they’re attractive and two, driving my car into them because they’re just so jaunty and I hate that, I hate jaunty.


Samantha Bee  26:36



Kara Swisher  26:36

They’re jaunty and he’s like, what? And I said, I’m not going to do it. But I want to do it. Just so you’re aware is.


Samantha Bee  26:44

The moment you try to enforce fun.


Kara Swisher  26:47

Fun, force fun, yeah.


Samantha Bee  26:49

Is so unfair, it’s the opposite of fun. We’re, oh god, I remember hearing the story of a guy it was like a tat one of those tech guys that we were talking to or whatever, who had it was like, it’s not fun enough around here and so he I don’t even remember who it was. But he was like, you know, we need in this office. Like everyone was miserable, they were working on these giant deadlines. It was like, you know, like crunch.


Kara Swisher  27:13

Difficulties in company, yeah.


Samantha Bee  27:14

You know, we need around here clowns, every Friday, we’re gonna have some clowns come in, and they’re just gonna like lighten the mood, and nobody said no, there was nobody there to say everyone hates clowns, they’re evil, is going to have the opposite effect. And the clowns came many many times. Clowns, jugglers. […] Just give […] give everybody I got to give everybody a coupon for Chipotle, they’ll be much happier […].


Kara Swisher  27:14

I have, I hate magicians. I gotta tell you, they don’t have that they’re gonna come at me. They’re gonna I’m gonna show up at the house.


Samantha Bee  27:56

A magician community has just been so they’re just stoked the flames of people who do magic, Kara, people who can curse you.


Kara Swisher  28:06

I love one thing about the internet that I love is now there’s all these people showing you how they do their tricks, like.


Kara Swisher  28:12

They must be […] Oh, they are.


Samantha Bee  28:12

I know.


Kara Swisher  28:12

I love it, I’m like, thank you, oh, they must be killed.


Kara Swisher  28:18

And then you’re like that is really stupid, how they do that.


Samantha Bee  28:21

So stupid, triplets. You mean all those big trucks were triplets okay, fine.


Kara Swisher  28:26

Wow, that’s a letdown.


Samantha Bee  28:28

That’s a lunch bag letdown.


Kara Swisher  28:30

There we have a plus from the internet, there we go.


Samantha Bee  28:34

When was the last time you felt nervous going into an interview?


Kara Swisher  28:38



Samantha Bee  28:39

Has it?


Kara Swisher  28:39

Never, no.


Samantha Bee  28:41

No, just like I have […]


Kara Swisher  28:44

Yep no, I can’t. No but I’m trying to think I mean, I haven’t done a murderous autoCrat yet. So I probably would be in that regard. For my, why we say to him, I said, what are you scared of? I said obscure, scary things. Like that’s it like otherwise? No, I’m not going to be scared by people and being but no, I can’t. I can’t say I was, I haven’t been I can’t think of one. I actually I actually get more confident in certain interviews with like, one with President Obama. But where I told him he talks too much, and so he’s got to keep it tight. I just did that to unsettle him because he’s right. He tries, he’s smooth operator of interviews, right? And so I leaned forward, before the interview, they had cut my interview 10 minutes, the woman who had green lipstick from MTV got my 10 minutes, who was very nice, but give me my fucking 10 minutes back. And so I had to change the interview. And he talks in full paragraphs and never stops talking because he’s the president speaking of being looked up and down all day, he never gets interrupted. And so I leaned over and I said, listen, they cut me by 10 minutes for the green lipstick lady. We’ll set that aside but now I have to change the interview, so I need you to give more pithy answers and you seem incapable of it. You talk in paragraphs, and I get that because when you talk, everybody listens, and you don’t want says hush, Mr. President, like they want you they want to they actually want to, and I, so I’m going to need you to, I’m going to interrupt you, and I know you’re not used to that. And he looked at me goes, I heard you were obnoxious, and I said, I am. And we’re going, and then we started and it was good, because then he gave, yes, whether he realized it or not, I had manipulated him into what I needed, which was someone to answer the question and not give me a giant Obama like lecture.


Samantha Bee  30:33

Yes, yes. Those people need that they need to just be out of their comfort zone.


Kara Swisher  30:38



Samantha Bee  30:38

Just a slightly like just a shift to the last tough.


Kara Swisher  30:41

He’s a tough interview. He’s a tough, tough interview, because he cannot he his goal, when I do interviews, one of the things I don’t know how you think about it, is not so much what they’re lying to you about for anything else. It’s one what they’re lying to themselves about, which I think is much more interesting. And secondly, what did they have to get through to you like, in terms of what is what is the message, I’m talking about these present these political interviews, or these celebrity interviews or so like that, because they have a message is sometimes it’s just a movie, I’m making a movie, and this is what I’m doing. But there’s often especially with these tech people is like, what do they what is necessary for them to have a better day? Like, do they have to be right? Do they have to seem smart? Do they have to look like they’re fun? What is their motivation of getting up every morning? And once you know that, it unlocks a lot of ability to do a really good interview I think.


Samantha Bee  31:33

Yes, it’s like getting people off. And sometimes you can identify. And just through the years of interviewing people, there were people that I just thought it is worthless to interview this person, I’m not even going to bother, because you cannot we don’t have enough time to get them off their talking points. We would have to, we would have to talk to them for three and a half hours to wear them down to the point where they would give us an actual answer.


Kara Swisher  31:57



Samantha Bee  31:57

And we don’t have that time with them. Yeah, I know that you’re you often just leave with the hardest question.


Kara Swisher  32:03

I do.


Samantha Bee  32:04

You just just to get it done. Efficiency, pragmatism.


Kara Swisher  32:08

Yeah, I think people would actually I think people don’t ask hard questions is what I’m always amazed by reporters, especially when they’re covering big politicians. It’s getting better, I have to say suddenly, people are sort of doing the tough question and not backing down from it. A lot of reporters used to and I used to watch them would be like, well, you know, some, some people say that this is the way it is, but critics say that this way, and how would you comment on whatever. And I’m like, and Stuart’s a very good example. I was like, I think he might be irrelevant. And a lot of people are talking about it. How do you think about yourself like, I just felt like, that was fair, like I was I took responsibility for the thought and I was reflecting something, you know, that people thought, and I wasn’t making it up, and I thought that was a good one, and so I think whatever interview I’m doing, that’s I want to go for that question, and it’s not everybody, I didn’t need to beat up Monica Lewinsky, there’s no reason because she’s been a classy dame throughout this entire show. She’s never dropped a dime on anybody. But I’ll tell you what, the best question I asked her was, in fact, at the end, where it just as I was talking, and I think a lot of interviews, don’t listen to what people are saying to them. I, I said she was talking about life and kids or something like that. And she was asking about my kids in the interview. And I said, what would Monica Lewinsky’s life be if this hadn’t happened? I thought that was one of the best questions I asked. She gave such an amazing answer. And she described her life if she hadn’t. And it was so sad and so graceful and so beautiful. And I people still come up, you’re like, I can’t believe you asked that, and I can’t believe the way she answered. A similar thing was Steve Jobs when he I won’t, and I did the last interview before he died. The last significant interview, I think it is the last interview and he was very thin and obviously dying, like he had gone up and down over the years of weight. And that at this point, you’re like, this is the end. This is probably the end, and I’m no doctor, but it was clear that he was struggling, but he was as vibrant as ever, I’ll tell you that and I was sitting there and looking at him and I I kept I was amazed that I said this. I said, what are you gonna do with the rest of your life? And everyone in the room was like, I can’t fucking believe she asked a dead man what, you know, a dying man, what he’s going to do. And my feeling was, you’re all dying. It’s just we just it’s a question of the date, right? And he seems he there’s a date probably we can guess with this guy pretty soon. And he loves that question, he actually said to me, I’m so glad you asked me that. And I was like, and that’s the kind of thing you want to do as an interviewer I think and and especially powerful people. Yes, because it’s they don’t see common for some reason.


Samantha Bee  34:56

I love the way that you wrote about Steve Jobs. I found it I really liked it. It was, it was tender. I was really moving this describing his last moments. When he looks around the room at his sister and his partner and his children. It’s a really, it’s beautiful.


Kara Swisher  35:17

People are gonna give me a hard time for being nice to him. It’s my opinion, I don’t care to these, these lunatics today, he’s fantastic. You know, he was he was he answered questions. Sometimes he was disingenuous but not know, like, he didn’t want to tell you it wasn’t like, you know, he had issues parking his car and handicap zones. Okay, not good, but compared to anti semitic tropes and trans stuff and the nonsense you hear on the all in thing, the elitism and the ridiculousness […] I like him he predicted podcasting, he talked about privacy he talked about bigger things and so I’m going to go with him and note that there’s nobody who has an inherited that wisdom that he I think he definitely had compared to most people. People give me a hard time for that, I don’t care.


Samantha Bee  36:07

There’s more with Kara Swisher in just a moment.


Samantha Bee  36:28

The book is it’s what is it? Is it a love letter to tech? Is it an oath? It’s certainly a chronicle, of your work.


Kara Swisher  36:33

Reason I said Love Letter and Burn Book is because I you know, I’m glad that movie came out right now it kind of people now understand Burn Book again. Which I think a lot of people don’t, actually but I wanted to say I love tech. I don’t you know what a lot of these techies will do like Marc Andreessen like that, it is stupid techno optimist essay. You know, you’re either for us or against us. It reminds it’s like Trump, I’m like, what? No, we’re not we have concerns about the border, and we think you’re cruel. Like, you know what I mean, we have concerned about age, and we think you’re crazy, actually, you know. And I think that’s what’s been ruined by the Internet and a lot of ways, and so what I wanted to do is say, I love tech, I hate what you’ve done with the place, I hate the way you’re taking things that could really change people’s lives. I had great hopes at the beginning of tech, that it would be an equalizer. And in some ways, it has, in some ways, it’s given a lot more opportunity to people and it’s etc, but why has all the money and all the power coalesced? It’s like oil, you know, it should it, this did not have to be like oil, but it is right now the AI companies are run by the big people. They lobby, you know, the our federal government isn’t powerful enough to defeat these people. That is an astonishing thing to say, right?


Samantha Bee  36:34



Kara Swisher  36:49

You know.


Kara Swisher  37:08

You write so much about Mark Zuckerberg and how naive he is to the forces that he owes.


Kara Swisher  37:52

Worse than sort of the nastiness of Elon Musk in a weird way. Because that’s you see that common right?


Samantha Bee  38:06

Do you think that he’s still is he still naive or now he just doesn’t care. Now he’s getting jacked.


Kara Swisher  38:13

He’s getting checks. He’s actually not he hurt his knee apparently. So he’s cause one good that he’s D jacking himself. Okay, that part of him I don’t mind, I’m like, oh, fine, have a hobby, like, shine, whatever, it’s an interesting hobby that you know, he remember when he was shooting buffalo because there’s a picture on the book of me with a buff, you’re not you didn’t see the pictures, but he killed a buffalo and then put it on a thing, and David, Sheryl Sandberg put it on him. He was a big fucking Buffalo and he ate the meat.


Samantha Bee  38:37



Kara Swisher  38:38

Okay, whatever, he has these hobbies. And I respect someone who likes you know, it’s like crafts or something.


Samantha Bee  38:45

Yeah, sure.


Kara Swisher  38:46

So and he has a real love of it, so I tend to not want to denigrate someone’s weird hobbies, if they really you know, like butterfly collecting or whatever, and but in his case, no, I think the reason I sort of call them the most carelessly dangerous person is because he, of all the people he knows, I think he could know better, right? He could write he has, he has redemptive qualities and that he continues, like, I thought when he I thought for a moment when he did that hearing, he did look a little shocked by the families, right?


Samantha Bee  39:17



Kara Swisher  39:17

Who had gotten hurt because of social media. And I think they were blaming them fully. Like they were just saying, look at what happened because of this. It’s like cigarettes or, or it just was, if social media played a part in these people’s desks, if you’re being very kind, I think it was much more than a part but nonetheless, he turned around to them, I thought, oh, finally he’s going to see the damage and say, I’m so sorry, and what he said was I’m so sorry, what’s happened to you? Which I think if you watch that, and I thought, oh, God, just say I’m so sorry for what I’ve done to help to fill the role I’ve played in your sorrow.


Samantha Bee  40:02



Kara Swisher  40:02

I’m I have to be more thoughtful and I wasn’t, and I should have been that I was like, why can’t you do that? Like I get why they can’t from a legal perspective. But man if what can they do to him, right? So they can’t even sue them, most of them because of section 230 so, what’s the cost of admitting the damage you’ve done? Or will and what’s, what’s the cost? Nothing.


Samantha Bee  40:29

What’s the cost of having having a human reaction to the people.


Kara Swisher  40:34

He was shocked he was into that’s why I give him a little credit. I can see in his eyes that he was like, oh, wait a minute. And I think that’s they won’t they they retreat into their wealth and power and comfortable homes and refuse to take responsibility when other people are always you always have to take responsibility when you break something or anything like it. That’s why I often was struck when I got to Silicon Valley of how many child ish things were there. And they celebrated a childlike I’m like childish. Like, it’s why do you need a hula hoop? Like I love a hula hoop. Let me feel I feel good about hoops existence in the planet but why is that make you more creative? And so I think they tried to just abrogate responsibility. And what drove me crazy was as they got richer and richer, they can continue when there was no cost to them to make it better. They didn’t meant not all of them, many of them did nothing, and that’s kind of like, the reason I have that line, you’re so poor, all you have is money, you know.


Samantha Bee  41:43

We think a lot, I think a lot about the term disrupter, you know? It is, it is great to disrupt systems that are broken, that are lagging that are constipated creatively, but you know, not everything is in need of disruption of disruption.


Kara Swisher  42:03

Breakage is what it is, breakage yeah.


Samantha Bee  42:06

Something’s work, okay.


Kara Swisher  42:07



Samantha Bee  42:08

And it never seems to me like, like, I think a way to disrupt in a helpful, there’s a helpful way, like you say in the book that you could also think of fix or change,


Kara Swisher  42:18

Things change, yeah.


Samantha Bee  42:20

Like, I think that we could help we could fix, we could assist, improve.


Kara Swisher  42:25

Improve, yeah, but the, but break is such an interesting word, and it’s software term in that case, but I think it’s more they have a mentality that it all sucks, and we have to burn it all down. And unfortunately, they’re the only ones with the life you know, with the life rafts in these situations. And, you know, this movie says, I love a sci fi movie, but there was a sci fi movie that Matt Damon was on earth and Jodie Foster was floating around above and cities, they all have escape pods, right, another one of those poor people down on iki Earth and rich people float on the sky. You know, that’s pretty much a trope. And there’s lots of those, there’s a lot of those. But I just the fact that the you know, they all have escaped, many of them, not all of them have escape hatches, whether it’s to Mars or to New Zealand or whatever, that fascinates me. It shows a lack of care for our community of people.


Samantha Bee  42:29



Kara Swisher  42:29

And at the same time, you know, one of the things with Mark when we used to speak before I did too many disastrous interviews with him. For him that me was he always used the word community, we want to build a community, Kara, we want to commit he used that word, he overused it. And he’s like, together we will build I was like, can I just stop you? Why then do you control everything? Why then do you have stock that allows you never to be fired? We can’t get rid of you. If it was really community, we’d all make a decision together as in terms of accountability, but there’s no accountability for you whatsoever. Well, that’s because […] I don’t want just you activist to come in. But I was like, why do you get to make the decisions, and then call it a community you can’t it’s a it’s a, it’s a kingdom, and you are either a good or bad king, but it’s a Kingdom is what it is, and that’s how you set it up, and I think one of the best columns ever was the first one I wrote for The New York Times, which was called the expensive education of Mark Zuckerberg, and by that I meant at our expense, not his that and it was about Holocaust, and there’s if everyone talks about how to do something, I was like, let me tell you how it happened. It was back there when that guy decided not to take them off his fucking platform, that’s where it started. It already existed yes, people have had anti semitic movements for ever, right? Just watch them Rachel Maddow documentary you can see it right, they’ve been around forever. But this guy amplified it this guy weaponized it this guy put it on steroids by letting them have their letting them out of the of the Pandora’s box and saying Pandora’s boxes need to speak I’m like they don’t they don’t need to speak you need to put them back in, that’s the whole they missed them, and to me, I was like, did you take any Greek mythology? Or did you study history? Like the ballpoint pen you read a book, Pandora’s box is like put it back the fuck on go see if you need to go watch Lara Croft that’ll help you, that was a Pandora’s Box movie, right? Like that was it that I was like, she put the top back on and then it’s sunk into the thing.


Samantha Bee  45:25

It’s hard to put […] like.


Kara Swisher  45:31

That’s I kept thinking like, watch Lauren Croft. It’ll help you understand the actual theme of it.


Samantha Bee  45:37

Is there a way to put the lid back on the gas tank? There’s no it’s no. Okay, great.


Kara Swisher  45:43

Now, yes, there is there’s a way to to assuage it, which is regulation, which I don’t I’m an entrepreneur, I don’t love a regulation. But I do love it smart regulation that helps us all right. I think regulations about privacy, about algorithmic transparency about what about AI? What are the guardrails? I think new antitrust legislation. This is something a lot of people try and pass how it’s changed this concept of what power is the ability to sue them the removal of certain protections under Section 230, not all of them, but I’m just using that broadly but the ability to sue them a lot easier, I think a law lawyer tends to bring cleanliness to the system as much as you might hate lawyers it does. It clears the throat if you did something wrong. I think the I think people have to elect officials who will stand up to these people and not again, that’s part of a larger problem around money and politics. These people are important, Amy Klobuchar had great bills and got yes her head and she was saying to me on stage card this year it’s going to do and I looked and I go you will not like there are 17 Facebook PR people just for Kara Swisher so you don’t have a fucking chance like they’re gonna they’re gonna kill you and.


Samantha Bee  46:54

Just need a little risk management.


Kara Swisher  46:56

Right, yeah right. And then we leave it up to them. And that’s the issue, and I think, you know, this is administration has been the most I suppose hostile to the Obama administration certainly wasn’t they were bare hugging them. Trump was hostile, but in a very unproductive way, right? Weird and not just directionally correct, but absolutely executional demented?


Samantha Bee  47:17



Kara Swisher  47:18

And sort of ruined it for us. I was like, oh, god, shut up, don’t like that’s not how we want to do this because it’ll get overturned and then we’re even more fucked. But it’s on a hostility to these companies, it’s a let’s see, airlines are regulated pharmaceutical companies are regulated media certainly regulated. Banks are regulated. You’re not regulated.


Samantha Bee  47:43



Kara Swisher  47:44

You’re the richest people on the planet and there are current regulations that exist for everybody that they some of which you know, like murder they can’t murder well maybe they could buy I think they are murdering people in many ways with the self esteem of girls and suicide rate you know, it’s just there’s such a there’s such a late they will say there’s no causality they’re lying there.


Samantha Bee  48:04

There is just not provable but of course.


Kara Swisher  48:06

That’s the whole point is that you need to see the rise and you have daughters you know, yes you are right don’t you just go like oh my fucking god like.


Samantha Bee  48:15

Yes your constant we’re constantly counteracting the messages in our in the way that we parent our children we are constantly.


Kara Swisher  48:23

And that wasn’t fresh and new by you know, look magazines you know this growing up magazines and television and depictions etc.


Samantha Bee  48:31

But our exposure to it is constant now, is constant, it’s not as.


Kara Swisher  48:37

Untargeted. It’s not just picking up a magazine and like cutting, cutting out the pictures and putting them on your mirror and looking wistfully it is in your face whenever you’re not escaped all that, so I never did that.


Samantha Bee  48:49

Actually, that is the one thing I never did. I never I didn’t do that either, I just didn’t, I don’t know why.


Kara Swisher  48:56

You’re lesbian adjacent because lesbian.


Samantha Bee  48:58

I am lesbian adjacent. I’m more put Rock Gods on my walls.


Kara Swisher  49:01



Samantha Bee  49:02

I’m more like the Judas Priest guy was.


Kara Swisher  49:04

Oh, really? Wow.


Samantha Bee  49:07

Oh, yeah all right. We’ve been talking for a while I’m gonna I don’t want to this is gonna be my last question for you.


Kara Swisher  49:13



Samantha Bee  49:14

And it wasn’t even really a question. It’s more of a statement because I was surprised to feel less like AI is going to kill us all after reading your book. And that would have been my blurb for you had you asked me.


Kara Swisher  49:27

I here’s what I I am seeing some regulatory action here that looks promising. Now, it could go the same way. But it’s early. It’s often it’s discussed. I think the current leaders understand they’re going to have to acquiesce on certain things, and some people think they’re going to drop kick them anyway, like and that may be the case but I do think there’s a level of concern I haven’t seen before because we know we’ve been through it. Two, I don’t, what I’m trying to get through is there’s so much just like the early internet there’s so much promise here, why are we going to indulge in the bad parts? Why are we going to let that happen? When we could solve cancer, we could sell it, we can do a lot of tech, climate change tech related to it, education, it has so many possibilities.


Samantha Bee  50:13

So many.


Kara Swisher  50:14

And but in this case, there’s also ways to pull back on them, if they’re not, if they have liability of copyright liability, as you know, as a performer, we could put all of you in an AI and there is a SAM AI, so.


Samantha Bee  50:25

Oh, yeah, same same. It’s like […] but same.


Kara Swisher  50:30

You know, you could, there’s a lot of creative possibilities, there’s also a lot of ways to abuse it, and so my message at the end was someone who’s like, are you scared of AI, and I’m a big aficionado of the Terminator, and that’s one of my favorite movies, the whole,  even the last ones I liked. And I was like, I’m not scared of AI, I am scared, and that’s how they do it to us. I’m scared of the people who own it, if it’s owned by a concentrated group of people, if it’s controlled, and they make the decisions, if they if they quash innovation and don’t let startups happen, I’m worried, but I’m worried about them. And I and that, if I leave you with anything, it was that conversation I had with either Larry or Sergey I, at one point, I stopped telling them apart, when I did a very tough piece saying you cannot buy Yahoo search, and this was during the Obama administration, and I was pushing, because you can’t have 97% of a market you just had, it’s such an important market, it was killing media. And you had 97, are you kidding me? Like when we allow that, and so I wrote a pretty tough column, and I think I said at least Microsoft knew they were thugs like these people do this cuteness that really I like, I got Bill Gates was, you know, he was tough. He never hid from that. And, and he’s, and he goes, we’re nice, you know, us, we’re nice people, my nice people, and you know, that kind of thing. And I said, I’m not worried about you, I’m worried about the next person. And the next person is slouching towards Bethlehem waiting to be born, and of course, they didn’t get that reference at all. You know, I was like that, I’m like, what? And I said, Oh my god, go. I can’t explain it to you, but that’s I like […] turning in a Widening Gyre, you know, the Falcon, I cannot hear the Falcon. You know, I’m like, I’m not gonna give you a lesson in English poetry, but it’s bad. Let me just say that’s a bad bad. And so I’m worried about bad people, bad people, bad actors.


Kara Swisher  52:23

And look, they’re waiting. They’re there.


Kara Swisher  52:25

They’re all there.


Samantha Bee  52:26

Look who showed up. Oh, my God, thank you so much. Thank you for this book. Thank you for talking to me.


Kara Swisher  52:31

Of course!


Samantha Bee  52:32

You have a great day have a great book tour.


Kara Swisher  52:34

Thank you, I’m gonna have a good time.


Samantha Bee  52:35

That was Kara Swisher, and I had no choice but to look up one thing. We were talking about lib tube, and by that I mean television, and I had to find out where that phrase even comes from? Well, okay, as early as the 1950s. TVs were called the tube because of the large tube inside of them and boob doesn’t actually refer to the TV itself, but the booms that would sit in front of them and waste away their days on the mindless content that feels familiar. But good news, the fun continues more Choice Words on Lemonada premium subscribers get exclusive access to bonus content, like a special outtake from my recent interview with Chris Gethard, so don’t be a boob. Subscribe now in Apple podcasts.


CREDITS  53:41

Thank you for listening to Choice Words which was created by and is hosted by me. We’re a production of Lemonada Media, Kathyrn Barnes, […] and Kryssy Pease produce our show. Our mix is by James Barber. Steve Nelson is the vice president of weekly content. Jessica Cordova Kramer, Stephanie Wittles Wachs and I are executive producers. Our theme was composed by […] with help from Johnny Vince Evans . Special thanks to Kristen Everman, Claire Jones, Ivan Kuraev and Rachel Neil. You can find me at @Iamsambee on Twitter and at @realsambee on Instagram. Follow Choice Words wherever you get your podcasts or listen ad free on Amazon music with your Prime membership.

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