#112 The Prophet

December 15, 2017

After Andrea is attacked by a stranger in Mexico City, she just wants to figure out who the guy was. Investigating this question drops her right into the middle of one of Mexico’s biggest conspiracies.

Show transcript

PJ VOGT: Hey, quick warning: this episode has descriptions of sexual assault and violence. If that’s not something you want to hear, you should skip it.

[THEME MUSIC]

PJ: From Gimlet, this is Reply All. I’m PJ Vogt.

It always feels like kind of a cop out to me when people say the Internet sucks, the Internet’s bad. Because while I completely agree, it’s absurd that the same place we go for jokes and news is also the place where we have to wade through death threats, and racism, and like endless, endless bickering.

But it always feels kinda weird to blame it on the Internet. Like, that’s us. Those are the people we know and see everyday, behaving how they want to behave under the cover of darkness. Like, it’s a mirror. It’s our responsibility.

That’s what I’ve always believed. But what if that wasn’t true? What if you found out the internet was bad, not because of the people on it, but because powerful people were designing it to be that way? What if you found out it was part of somebody’s plan?

This is a story about a person who met the people behind the plan.

Her name’s Andrea Noel, and she’s an American reporter who covers Mexico.

ANDREA NOEL: I was based in Mexico City for several years and now I float between the border region and Mexico City, I go back and forth.
PJ: And what do you usually cover?
ANDREA: Normally I cover politics, corruption, drug war. I’m kind of on the drug beat.

PJ: So the thing that happened to Andrea, it actually happened on her day off.

[MUSIC]

PJ: She was taking a walk in Condesa, her neighborhood in Mexico City,

ANDREA: I remember very vividly that I was walking down the street, kicking myself and just thinking, you know, what have I been doing for the last six months, why haven’t I been leaving the house and walking around. It’s, you know, walking by the park and everything’s beautiful and people are laughing and it’s a great day and I was literally having that thought–

PJ: When out of nowhere, she feels a stranger’s hands pull up her dress and pull down her underwear. She drops to the pavement.

ANDREA: And I do this 360, and there’s nobody behind me, and this guy’s running away in like slow motion, and I’m not chasing after him and he’s just running away.

[MUSIC]

PJ: The guy turns a corner and he vanishes. Andrea stands up, she looks around. No witnesses. This guy has just attacked her in broad daylight, and there’s nothing she can do about it.

ANDREA: Like, I blamed myself basically. Like why am I wearing these shoes, why didn’t I chase the guy? In any case, the–these thoughts lasted for a few seconds. And I started walking, just ready to continue with my day. And then I saw that there was a camera pointed at exactly where this had happened in front of a building.

[MUSIC]

ANDREA: So I saw that camera, and then I looked around, and saw another camera, and then I looked around, and saw another camera, and there were just cameras everywhere.

[MUSIC]

PJ: And so right then and there, she comes up with a plan. After blowing off some steam with an angry tweet, she decides, “I am going to get the surveillance footage.” So she starts knocking on doors, until she finds this building manager who says, “Yeah absolutely. You can have it.” He lets her tape it off the monitor using her cell phone.

The video is short. You see Andrea, alone on the street. You see the guy as he runs up behind her and attacks. And as he flees, he runs towards the camera, so you get this blurry glimpse of his face. And then there’s just a moment where you look back towards Andrea, you see her pulling her underwear back on and looking around on the street. Even watching it feels kind of like a violation. But Andrea writes a new tweet, she asks if anybody can help her identify this idiot, and she posts it, along with the video.

PJ:  Did it feel weird just like putting that online? Like letting people see you in a way, in a moment where you were being attacked?
ANDREA: Yeah ‘cause I- I- well–I mean I wanted people to believe that it was real, because I had tweeted when it happened, “This happened,” and people were like not believing it.
PJ: Mmhmm
ANDREA: I- I–I just could not wrap my head around the fact that people were accusing me of like making this thing up.

PJ: Particularly because street harassment is notoriously bad in Mexico City. Nine out of every ten women have experienced sexual violence on their daily commutes, and police rarely prosecute the people who do this. Actually last year, the mayor’s big solution was to hand out whistles that women could blow if they felt unsafe. So Andrea knows that the guy who did this to her fully expects to get away with it, and she just decides she is sick of this.

[MUSIC]

ANDREA: Because at that point, you know, like, my initial fear just became like, rage, and I really wanted to get the guy.

PJ: It turns out, she’s not alone. When she posts the video, she immediately starts hearing from all these women who are just as mad as she is.

ANDREA: Thousands of tweets started pouring in, faster than you can scroll. I mean it’s fifteen per second, and it’s just going, and you can’t even read them all.

PJ: All these women across Mexico responding with their own stories of horrific violence.

ANDREA:  You know, it was like I was a proxy, I was like a vessel for all of this… just impotence, I think is the thing. It’s like, “Shit man we’ve been silenced, but here’s somebody who’s talking so like, GO GO GO GO” you know? It’s like…
PJ: Yeah.

ANCHOR: Como espuma crecido el indignación por el caso de Andrea Noel

ANDREA ON TV: Entonces volví, tome fotos de las cameras, y luego…

PJ: By the next morning she’s live on the news.

ANCHOR 3: Andrea Noel escribío en su cuenta de Twitter. “Me acaban de levantar el vestido y bajar los calzones…”

PJ: It’s like overnight, she’s become a household name. And Andrea’ll be the first to tell you, she’s a weird poster child for this moment. She’s American, not Mexican. And what happened to her on the street is bad, but it’s not even the worst thing that had happened to her in the past year. But the fact that she’s saying, “Even this shouldn’t happen to women on the street,” that feels audacious.

And her supporters decide, “We are gonna help you find this guy.” And within 48 hours, they have a suspect.

[MUSIC]

PJ: This local YouTube celebrity named Andoni Echave.

Not only does Andoni look like the guy in the surveillance footage: same hair, same build, same complexion. The real thing that makes him look guilty as sin is the actual show that he hosts. It’s a prank show called Master Troll.

[MASTER TROLL VIDEO, LAUGHING]

PJ: Master Troll looks like a show where a bunch of people watch Jackass, and they were like “Let’s make this, but dumber and meaner.” So the pranks are stuff like, they’ll run up to an old lady and hit her with an inflatable hammer.

Another one is they’ll go up to women, and French kiss them, and then run off. And they like to pull men’s pants down. They run up behind men, they pull down their pants, and spank them. And the place where all of these pranks were filmed was Condesa, Andrea’s neighborhood.

Andoni put out a video officially denying responsibility, but you could tell he and his crew didn’t mind the negative attention. They were actually trying to promote the new TV show they had premiering that week.

ANDREA: They were really thrilled about the publicity, and loving it. Living, living it up. You know, they uploaded one video where they go around like pulling men’s pants down and said, “If you thought some lying hysterical hag would stop us, well, you’re wrong, hahaha!”

[MASTER TROLL CLIP]

PJ: Andrea and Andoni, they have now stumbled onstage for the sort of culture war that we have every other week in America.

[MUSIC]

PJ: And you know how these go. It’s Mike Pence vs. the cast of Hamilton. It’s Lena Dunham vs., for some reason, a local no-kill animal shelter.

And the two of them, Andoni and Andrea, they’re just like perfect foils for each other. Like Andoni is like the chauvinist with the offensive TV show. Andrea’s the feminist Internet writer who writes articles about how shows like that are problematic.

And it’s exactly the car crash you expect. Team Andoni says “Not only did he not do it, Andrea’s a fraud, she’s a liar.” Team Andrea actually circulates a petition and gets the Master Troll TV show cancelled.

Fighting goes on for weeks, and it’s an even bigger story because the Mexico police are involved, which is crazy because the Mexico City police do not investigate crimes like this. Only seven out of 100 crimes in Mexico are even reported.  But now, when Andrea goes to the prosecutor’s office, they live tweet that she is being attended to.

That eight-second video of the attack, it becomes like the Kennedy assassination film. Everybody is watching it, trying to figure out exactly what they think happened. Including Andrea, who despite this huge fight is still not completely sure that Andoni is in fact the guy who attacked her.

ANDREA: You know I–I spent so many hours over the course of those weeks like frame by frame by frame.Doing like side by sides and really, really trying to look and like at one point I was looking for a tattoo that may or may not have been on his arm and you know I was looking at the shirt that he was wearing that looked like maybe a logo of a skull and then going through all of his photos trying to figure out like, “Is there a shirt like that? What is the clothes–” He wears vests. This guy is wearing a vest.

PJ: But while Andrea is anxiously re-watching the video, the story she’s in, it’s actually turning into a kind of nightmare. Andrea starts getting these death threats, not that she hadn’t gotten death threats before, but these are different.

ANDREA: Not just like, you know, “I’m going to rape you, bitch.” It’s more like photos of like skinned animals and like dead women.

And you know video messages saying, “I know where you live and the boss gave the order.”

SCARY AUDIO: (in Spanish) “Miss Andrea Noel, if you do not forget what happened, we’ll cut your little face. Remember (unintelligible) and we do what we want. Respect your life and that of your friends.

PJ: This person is saying, “If you don’t forget what happened, we’ll cut your little face. We do what we want. Respect your life, and that of your friends.” But what really scares Andrea are the pictures they send of themselves. Young men with dead eyes, staring into the camera holding guns.

ANDREA: Mexico is a country where only criminals and cops have guns, so when you think, he’s got guns, that just kind of shows you that you’re dealing with the level of like we’re either dealing with an authority, or we’re dealing with somebody who’s like involved in drug cartels.

PJ: It was only later that the strangeness of all this would sink in for her.

In what possible world did it make sense that that her accidentally getting a month-old TV show cancelled would piss off these kinds of people and this much?

Also, they seemed like an organized group. For instance, when they wanted to attack her, they had this signal, they’d retweet one of her tweets and just attached one word: ojo.

ANDREA: Which means eyeball ,and it just means like, “look.” Um, so I would see under a tweet that I would post, um, somebody would tag a troll and say “ojo” and then that troll would retweet that, and then his whole network of thousands of Twitter followers to go directly after me, and then, everybody knew to jump onto it.
PJ: They’re like little messenger ants.
ANDREA: Yes, absolutely. And that would precede a slew of death threats and rape threats.

PJ: There was this one guy that Andrea calls Pasta Prophet, he would show up again and again.

ANDREA: He probably had about 80,000 followers, and a very large network of people he was, you know, interacting with.

PJ: She gets Twitter to shut his account down. That does not phase him at all.

ANDREA: I then saw him re-emerge immediately as a new account, um, which very rapidly accumulated tens of thousands of followers.

PJ: And then it starts to bleed into the real world. Like the day that she’s eating at a restaurant and Pasta Prophet tweets a map of the area. Or the time she’s just walking out in town and she gets another tweet with her location, this time with the message: “Finish her off.” She starts to feel like the only place where she’s even safe is at her house. And then one day, she’s at home, in her apartment:

ANDREA: I was in my living room, I was sitting at my computer which is over by a window and noticed like a green light in my eye and um realized that there was like a green laser on my forehead.And then, I stood up and ducked and moved away and the laser followed me across the room.
PJ: That’s so creepy.
ANDREA: It felt like a, like a, “We know where you live.”

PJ: Andrea’s had it. She gives up her apartment, she gives away her cat, she leaves the country. She’s just not safe there anymore.

And then comes the final humiliation. This whole time, the police have had additional surveillance footage of the attack, but Andrea hasn’t been allowed to see it. Now they’re saying she might get to, but there’s a catch. They need her to come back to Mexico, and go in front of a judge for something called a preliminary trial. Essentially, what this means, is that for the first time, Andrea will be publicly saying, “I think Andoni did it.”

And then, and only then, the judge might decide to release the surveillance footage.

So she agrees to do this. And while she’s in the air, there’s no Internet on the flight back to Mexico, she actually misses the big news. Which is that Andoni has found his own surveillance footage of the attack.

ANDREA: And you can very clearly see that it was not him. He tweets the video. And outrage cycle begins again, I land, and I’m the biggest piece of shit that’s ever walked the earth.

PJ: Andoni is now the real hero of the story. Andrea’s the villain who tried to take him down. The cops completely drop the investigation. The actual culprit, whoever he is, will never be found. Andrea cannot believe that this is where things have ended up.

[MUSIC]

ANDREA: By the time this was over I was near suicidal to be honest. I could not believe what had happened. You know, I was just, I was horrified. I was horrified.

PJ: At first she just tried to stay off the Internet, to not read anything about what had happened to her. But it didn’t take long before she realized, she still had a question. Like, where had all of those people who were attacking her come from? Who was Pasta Prophet, who were his followers, what was going on here?

And as she started to wonder about this, she realized she had one clue she could follow. Which was that the trolls used to do this thing where they would send her pictures of this random guy and they’d say “He’s the one who attacked you, not Andoni.” At the time, she dismissed it, because she knew they were lying. But now, she started to wonder: Who was that guy? Why did they want to set him up?

ANDREA: So in some of those photo exchanges, in the sub-tweets and in the comments, I start to get a picture of, you know, I realize the guy’s named, let’s say, Jose. That’s not his name but let’s call him Jose. And, then I just keep watching. Weeks go by. Months go by. And then I learn that his name is Jose Felipe. And then a few more weeks go by, a few more months go by and then I see a last name. So you know over–just really being vigilant and aware, eventually I piece together a full name.

PJ: The full name gets her to a Facebook page. The Facebook page helps her piece together this guy’s life. But the thing that cracks it is when she notices that sometimes these accounts that are harassing Jose, they don’t call him Jose, they call him Pasta. Pasta Prophet. She finds Jose’s phone number and one night at a hotel in Mexico City, she decides, “I’m just going to try to call him.”

[RING RING]
JOSE: Bueno?
ANDREA: Hola, perdon te marque ahorita, y si me había equivocado el numero, pero te buscaba a ti. Soy Andrea Noel, como estás?

PJ: After the break, Pasta Prophet.

[BREAK]

PJ: Welcome back to the show. So before the break, Andrea Noel was about to meet Pasta Prophet.

[MUSIC]

[HOTEL SOUNDS]

PJ: She’s at the hotel bar. She’s waiting for him. She’s watching different strangers come through the door.

[HOTEL SOUNDS]

And finally, he enters.

ANDREA: And for me it was like seeing a ghost. It’s like, this guy walks in and I knew his face, like, so well at this point.

PJ: He’s short, he’s a little chubby, he’s got a babyface.He sits down across from her, and they begin a very long conversation.

[HOTEL SOUNDS]

PJ: Pasta Prophet, for reasons that’ll become clear, did not want to be interviewed for this story. But here’s what Andrea says happened next.

ANDREA: The first thing we did was call a truce, of course, because, you know, I brought down his account and, he didn’t like that. And then he also threatened to kill me, and I didn’t like that.

[PASTA PROPHET TALKING]

ANDREA: My main motivation in talking to him was of course, I just wanted to know why, you know, I just wanted to know why all of this had happened.

PJ: He says, “OK, I’ll explain. Everything that happened to you happened because you were a pawn in a much bigger plan.” And he says he wants to tell her about that plan, because he feels like at a certain point, things just went too far.

ANDREA: He was basically a–a door opening into all–this world that I had spent the previous year only like poking at from the sidelines, and not really fully understanding.

[MUSIC]

PJ: So for years Andrea had heard about this conspiracy theory. That the Mexican government had somehow found a way to manipulate what news people ended up seeing on the Internet. Not censorship, something sneakier. And Pasta Prophet told her, these rumors, they’re true. I know because this is the work that I do. And so Andrea started to get a picture of how this worked. Not just in this one conversation, but in many more she would have with Pasta Prophet, and then many interviews she would have with other people who had been involved in this whole system.

[MUSIC]

PJ: So, as far as Andrea can tell, here’s how this whole thing started. In the year 2000, a completely unprecedented thing happened in Mexican politics, which is that the PRI, the party who had ruled Mexico for 71 years uninterrupted, they lost a presidential election. And then they lost the next one. And so they got desperate. And when the next campaign season started, these mysterious help-wanted ads started to appear online. Job opportunities for young, Internet savvy people with an interest in politics.

I talked to a woman who actually ended up answering one of these ads. We’re gonna call her Sophie. We’ve disguised her voice.

SOPHIE:  I went to an interview, and they asked me things, like if I knew how to use Twitter, if I knew what was a hashtag. And I told “Yes yes yes,” and then they hired me and I began working like 3 days after my interview.

[MUSIC]

PJ: So Sophie shows up for her first day of work. The office is actually a house, in a neighborhood that she thinks is kinda sketchy.

And she learns that her job is gonna be to get young people to vote for the PRI’s candidate, Enrique Pena Nieto.

PJ: Would they have you tweet under your own personal account or did they have an account they wanted you to use?
SOPHIE: No they gave us a lot of accounts. In my case I had three or four. There were people that had more, like five or six, there were people that only had one, but they were fake accounts. You could not use your Twitter account for anything, anything, anything, because it was like secret.

PJ: For the record, we’ve reached out to multiple people at the PRI. None of them were able to provide us comment for this story. Sophie, and the hundred other people that worked alongside her, their job was to amplify good news about Peña Nieto, and bury the bad news. And for the people in her office and the many other offices like hers, the techniques for burying the bad news were kind of fascinating. Andrea got her hands on a bunch of the internal emails where this is described, but basically if you were an employee in one of these offices, you were given meticulous plans for how to fill the Internet with white noise.

ANDREA: So, in the morning you arrive at your desk and there’ll be an hour by hour strategy beginning, let’s say, 8 a.m. We’re gonna launch the hashtag “Happy whatever day it is.” Next would be, “Hashtag don’t you hate it when,” and then would be, “Hashtag my mom just told me,” or like “Hashtag I’ve never felt better than.”
PJ: It’s sort of- it’s the same–
ANDREA: It’s fill-in-the-blank sentences–
PJ: Terrible, mad-libs memes that dominate actually like a lot of American Twitter.
ANDREA: Yeah–

PJ: So they were basically do the work that Russian trolls would later do in the American election. Fill the internet with spam, and then have a bunch of fake people promoting opinions. But sometimes that strategy wasn’t enough. Sometimes there’d be a piece of news that was just too big to drown out. Like when The Guardian released a story alleging that the PRI had been bribing the country’s big TV network in exchange for good coverage.

For stuff like that, they would create a massive diversion online. They’d make up an event.

ANDREA: So you know, they call them smokescreens and you can see it like bullet pointed–
PJ: Like internally they called them smokescreens?
ANDREA: Oh yeah, I mean, there’s no, they’re not–they’re not shy about the terminology and they’re not pretending like I mean that’s the really, the thing that surprised me is how explicit and blatant the language is that they’re using. So a combination of smokescreens that can be like, actually I think they killed Justin Bieber when that article came out.
PJ: They killed Justin Bieber?
ANDREA: Yeah, but they’ve done that a bunch of times. You can see them killing Bieber three or four times.

PJ: So Andrea actually corrected herself later, it turns out that that time, after The Guardian story, they didn’t kill Bieber, they just pretended to cancel one of his concerts. Other times, he was not so lucky. And if every diversion failed, they still had one more tool. They’d just start a fight. They’d tweet some offensive, vitriolic hashtag and then hope that the ensuing argument drowned out any other conversation.

ANDREA: So it’ll be like “fuck gays” and there you go and all these people jump on to it.
PJ: Like instead of saying, “Hey everybody loves the president and hates his opponent.” You’re like, “Hey does everybody love Wednesday and hate gay people?”
ANDREA: (laughs)
PJ: And like- through like–banality and viciousness you can just like flood the room so that no real conversation takes place.
ANDREA: Exactly, and so that’s the whole strategy and you can see it hour by hour by hour.

PJ: So for three months, Sophie kills a bunch of celebrities and pretends to be a bunch of different people who really love Peña Nieto. And then it’s July, and it’s election day.  And on election day, something happens that Sophie does not see coming.

[NEWS FOOTAGE]

PJ: Peña Nieto actually wins. The PRI is back in power. Sophie and a lot of her coworkers were stunned.

SOPHIE: The day of the, the final results of the elections, we cried.
PJ: In the blog center?
SOPHIE: In the blog center. We cried. Yeah because we didn’t want Peña Nieto to win, but we were working for him. So it was a very strange thing. But we thought at the beginning that Lopez Obrador was going to win.
PJ: So it felt safe to do a job that you didn’t agree with because you didn’t think it would matter?
SOPHIE: Yeah, exactly. Yeah.

PJ: So, Pena Nieto takes office. And Andrea says that afterwards, things change. Some smart person at the PRI realizes, “Oh no. We’ve built a super risky system here. There’s a paper trail of pay stubs and contracts that runs from us, to our marketing agency, to hundreds of people like Sophie. Which is a huge problem, because what we’re doing here is against the rules.”

[MUSIC]

And so they build this new system which other parties quickly adopt. Now, you take your money, you give it to your agency. But instead of hiring a bunch of people, they contract out to a very small network of anonymous freelancers. Freelancers like Pasta Prophet.

ANDREA: So, to explain. what we’re talking about is a network of freelancers who are basically faceless, you know, they don’t have to know each other’s names, they just know each other’s usernames, they’re in these WhatsApp groups, and they share information.

There’s no way to trace back the money. There’s no way to know where it’s coming from.

PJ: Pasta Prophet is a mercenary. He doesn’t have political loyalty. He’s happy to promote or target anybody, as long the money’s good. And it–the money is really good, he says he can make $1,000 for getting a political hashtag to trend. And the reason he can do this, the thing that makes him good at his job, is that he has this huge volunteer army by his side. This volunteer army that’s made up of Mexico’s most notorious Internet troublemakers.

ANDREA: There are these groups of, they’re Facebook groups that exist in Mexico That have gathered hundreds of thousands of like young, young children, like, 12 years old, 13-year-olds, 14-year-olds.

PJ: The kids in these groups, they’re the kind of kids who would be on 4chan in the U.S. They like sharing memes and they like trying to impress each other with excessive, imaginative acts of cruelty. The most notorious groups is called Holk Legion, their logo looks like Pepe the Frog, but on steroids.

The quickest way to explain what they’re like: In the aftermath of a horrific school shooting in Mexico last year, Holk Legion started publicly bickering with another similar group saying the shooter is one of our guys, not yours.  Anyway, Holk Legion? They also happen to be Pasta Prophet’s army.

ANDREA: He’s what they call in Mexico like a chavoruco, like an old kid. You know like he was too old to be one of them, but he was their boss. He’s their admin. So they do a lot of stuff to get into his good favor, because they wanna be cool, and they wanna be accepted.

PJ: If Pasta Prophet asked one of these kids to go do something mean or cruel or mischievous, they’re game. But remember, he needs them to help him do his professional political work.

ANDREA: So, and here’s how he explained it to me. Say you’ve got 300 kids at your disposal. These kids want to spend their day sharing momos and having lolz. So obviously these kids aren’t gonna sign up to just move this really boring political spam all day.

He’ll say, “We’re going to do this for 15 minutes. Everybody get in. Everybody get on it. The rest of the day is recess.”

PJ: Recess meaning that Holk Legion got to do what Holk Legion actually liked doing: harassing people. Which finally answered the question that had brought Andrea all the way to Pasta Prophet.

ANDREA: You know specifically I asked him why he threatened to kill me, because that was a question that I had —
PJ: Yeah.
ANDREA: — lingering. And he essentially explained it as, his exact quote was it was for love of the sport.
PJ: The sport.
ANDREA: Yeah. I was recess. I was for love of the sport.
PJ: Wow.
ANDREA: I got trolled by a bunch a 12-year-olds
PJ: Christ. How did it feel, finding that out? You seem chagrined more than anything.
ANDREA: I mean… wha- I mean what can I say about this? You know it’s just- it’s so… It’s been so confusing and, once I finally did figure it out- I mean you just feel like the biggest idiot in the world.

PJ: Everything that had scared her so much: the pictures, the messages, the thing with laser pointer, even the fact that they knew where she was sometimes– They were just a bunch of kids who liked to troll her, and some of them probably lived in her neighborhood. The more scared she got, the funnier it was to them. The only person who hadn’t been that amused was Pasta Prophet. After a while he started to feel bad, like they’d gone too far. And so he tried to cut ties with him.

ANDREA: It’s kind of life the mafia, I’ve realized, in that you can’t voluntarily leave. So then he became a target.

PJ: Which is why the kids had been sending Andrea his picture, trying to frame him. But in doing so, they’d made a mistake. They’d left a breadcrumb that Andrea could follow back to Pasta Prophet, back to them, back to the whole system they were a part of.

A system where Mexicans were getting an Internet that was more toxic and more horrible, and politicians were making it that way so that they could distract them. So Andrea has spent the last year learning everything she can about how that system works, and she’s showed us the hundreds of documents she’s planning to publish, demonstrating everything she’s learned. Her timing couldn’t be better, it’s election season.

[MUSIC]

ANDREA: We’re about to just decide, you know, the future of Mexico. And it could go a number of ways. We could either stick with the ruling party, which has shown itself to be brutal and horrific or we could go with like the leftist populist leader who’s often compared to like a Chavez-type. You know, I can’t remember a time that was quite as decisive as right now

PJ: And so Andrea finds herself in familiar, treacherous territory. She’s about to go out in public, and say this thing that she knows will piss off a lot of people, draw a fresh bullseye on her back. She knows Holk Legion is not going to like what she publishes.

ANDREA: Um and then obviously the rest of the story is when I like start pointing fingers at a lot of these super filthy politicians…And the president of the fucking country. Um so yeah I’m a little bit nervous.
PJ: But it’s funny you’re talking about like the hell-storm that you’re very possibly about to walk into and like, I can hear that you’re smiling.
ANDREA: Um..
PJ: What’s that about?
ANDREA: Well okay, so for me, it is incredibly satisfying to have an answer to a question, to a series of questions that um, to have reached an understanding of something that I did not understand. Um, you know, it’s like, becoming an expert thereminist.
PJ: (laughs) You mean cause it’s like this obscure strange thing?
ANDREA: Yeah it’s–just strange thing and you don’t quite know where to begin and then a year later, you know, um, –you’re uh, you got it.

[MUSIC]

PJ: Andrea Noel reports for the Daily Beast

[CREDITS]

PJ: Reply All is hosted by me, PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman. Our show is produced by Sruthi Pinnamaneni, Phia Bennin, and Damiano Marchetti. Our editor is Tim Howard. We had additional production help from Khrista Rhypl, and additional editing help from Sara Sarasohn. The show is mixed by Rick Kwan. Factchecking by Michelle Harris and Ana Prieto. Our intern is Anna Foley. Our theme music is by the mysterious Breakmaster Cylinder. Matt Lieber is snow before you get sick of it. Happy first birthday to Fitz Nagle. If you’d like, you can visit our website at replyall.limo. You can find more episodes of the show on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or on cassettes that you’ve recorded the show on to, if you’re really old fashioned. Thanks for listening, we’ll see you next week.

View full transcript

Subscribe

Subscribe to the show feed here

You can also subscribe to the show newsletter