September 26, 2019

#148 Bedbugs and Aliens

by Reply All

Background show artwork for Reply All

This week, Yes Yes No returns. A raid on Area 51 and the very worst name you can call a New York Times writer.

If you haven't already, check out the 1st episode of Mogul Season 2 here.

Further Reading:

The tweet from this week's Yes Yes No.

Bret Stephens' interview on MSNBC

Bret Stephens' column: 'World War II and the Ingredients of Slaughter'

Professor Dave Karpf's interview on NPR

Lil Nas X's Area 51-themed music video


[Reply All theme]

ALEX GOLDMAN: From Gimlet, this is Reply All. I’m Alex Goldman.

PJ: And I’m PJ Vogt.

ALEX GOLDMAN: Welcome once again to "Yes, Yes, No" the segment on the show where our boss Alex Blumberg comes to us with something from the internet that he doesn't understand in the hopes that we explain it to him.

PJ VOGT: Hey Alex.

ALEX BLUMBERG: Hello. So I have, what I have is a tweet, and it is a tweet from a Twitter user named Casey Johnston. And her tweet says this: it says, "Area 51 but for going to Bret Stephens' house and calling him a bedbug."

ALEX GOLDMAN: Okay, I'm 100% on this one.

PJ: I’m 100% on this one.


PJ: Does any part of it make sense to you?

ALEX BLUMBERG: Well yes. So, I know about the Bret Stephens bedbug thing. 

PJ: How much do you know about Bret Stephens and bedbugs?

ALEX BLUMBERG: I know that Bret Stephens is a conservative opinion writer for the New York Times--

PJ: Yes.

ALEX BLUMBERG: And that he writes, um, he writes things that a lot of people get really annoyed about.

PJ: Yeah, he’s written about like the Arab mind and what's wrong with it--

ALEX BLUMBERG: The Arab mind. Right.

PJ: Um, He thinks climate change is overhyped, he thinks that the epidemic of campus sexual assaults is an imaginary problem. Um, he's like, "yeah, if this were really happening, women would just not go to co-ed colleges," which is a belief that somebody can have. Um, yeah.

ALEX BLUMBERG: Yeah. So, so, so I remember–I know he got in a fight with somebody and somehow there was a bedbug involved (laughing) or the term "bedbug."

PJ: Oh, this makes it- I'm glad–I was like scared for a minute I wouldn't get to tell you about this. This is a- I’m glad–this is good. You–

ALEX BLUMBERG: Right. So fill me in. Yeah.

PJ: So yeah, you're totally right about Bret Stephens. So, in August, the institution for which he works, the New York Times, got a bedbug infestation. Like actual bedbugs were in the building.


PJ: Which people found very funny.

ALEX BLUMBERG: This is separate. 

PJ: Separate.

ALEX BLUMBERG: This is, this is a B plot.

PJ: Yeah, B plot. There were bedbugs.


PJ: And people found it funny because bedbugs are super gross, and the New York Times is super fancy, and the idea of like you know these dignified, elegant journalists like scratching at their like three piece suits to get the bedbugs out, like people just enjoyed it for a day.

ALEX BLUMBERG: Side note: we had bedbugs once. Nightmare.

ALEX GOLDMAN: You, you had them in your house?

ALEX BLUMBERG: We had them in our house. You had to like take everything, wrap it in plastic, like even when you try to fumigate them they just run up into the walls and so they’re just like- they’re–they’re crafty… 

PJ: Yeah. I moved to New York, and my friend was like, “You can just take my furniture,” and I was like, “Cool, why does your box spring have knife cuts in it?” And he was like, “I thought I had bedbugs, but I didn’t. 

ALEX BLUMBERG: Uh huh. Yeah. 

PJ: He did.

ALEX BLUMBERG: (laughs) Oh no.

PJ: I moved to New York and then immediately had to give away everything I owned like some weird monk. 


PJ: So, the New York Times got bedbugs, and then, this professor named Dave Karpf, who's just like associate professor, George Washington University, not somebody with like a big following online or whatever--

ALEX BLUMBERG: Associate Professor Dave Karpf. Got it. 

PJ: Associate Professor Dave Karpf wanders onto Twitter, he sees everybody making jokes, he knows that bedbugs are funny and that people don't like Bret Stephens, and he tweets "The bedbugs are a metaphor. The bedbugs are Bret Stephens."


PJ: That's his whole thing.

ALEX GOLDMAN: And at the time he had like 6000 followers.

PJ: 9 of them thought it was funny enough to favorite it.


PJ: It’s like a pretty–

ALEX BLUMBERG: So he had 9 favorites.

PJ: Yeah it's one of those, like, everyone's, everyone's like shooting I'll, I'll, I’ll do a shot.

ALEX BLUMBERG: I've done that. You're like, "this will be good," and then you do it and you're just, eh, not good.

PJ: Yeah.


PJ: So, so when you mention someone on Twitter, (ALEX BLUMBERG: Uh huh) you can @ them, and then they see it, and it's like a weird thing to do if you're going to insult them, and if you want to be polite you just say their name and you don't @ them, there's no reason for them to see it.


PJ: It's sort of like the--

ALEX BLUMBERG: That's Twitter etiquette?

PJ: That's Twitter etiquette.

ALEX BLUMBERG: If you're just like, if you just, if you want to be polite you don't @ them?

ALEX GOLDMAN: Generally, if you want to tell a joke about Bret Stephens to your friends, you say Bret Stephens' name and you don't @ him. So you don't arouse his ire.

ALEX BLUMBERG: You're not trying to like start like some sort of Twitter battle, you're just like trying to--

ALEX GOLDMAN: You’re just like–you're talking to your pals.

ALEX BLUMBERG: You're just like trying to talk to your pals about like, gosh Bret Stephens ``did this other thing that I found annoying.

PJ: And those are like the rules by which we're allowed to have a society.


ALEX GOLDMAN: (laughs)

PJ: And everyone follows those rules. (ALEX BLUMBERG laughs) And it's considered breaking those rules, it’s considered somewhat gauche, if you go out of your way to search your own name in quotes on Twitter to see what people who are not trying to talk to you are saying about you.


PJ: The problem is if somebody says something to you and you name search, (ALEX BLUMBERG: Mhm) if you're gonna start a fight over it, the thing has to be really bad because the first thing you're doing is admitting that you name search.


PJ: It's like, “when I was doing my out of control vanity ritual--”


PJ: “I found this thing. And like the fact that--”

ALEX BLUMBERG: And it hurt my feelings. And now–

PJ: Yeah. But everyone's just gonna look at the fact that you name searched, they're not gonna look at the thing that got sent.

ALEX BLUMBERG: Right, right. Yes, ok, got you. 

PJ: So Bret Stephens, I can’t prove that he name searched, but he’s not @’d in this tweet, and he sees it.

ALEX BLUMBERG: He sees the tweet.

PJ: And then he sends an email to Professor Karpf and Professor Karpf's boss, the Provost of George Washington University, and says, um: "Dear Dr. Karpf, Someone just pointed out a tweet you wrote about me calling me a bedbug. I'm often amazed about the things supposedly decent people are prepared to say about other people--people they've never met--on Twitter. I think you've set a new standard." 

PJ: First of all, Alex Blumberg, you've been on Twitter, right?

ALEX BLUMBERG: (laughs) That is, I've, I mean I feel like you can like, every timeline refresh, there's like something worse.

PJ: Yeah, um.


PJ: "I would welcome the opportunity for you to come to my home, meet my wife and kids, talk to us for a few minutes and then call me a bedbug to my face."


PJ: Which like, sure.

ALEX BLUMBERG: Yeah, this is a really–I’m really enjoying the dramatic reading.

AG: yeah

ALEX BLUMBERG: You know what's funny is that he probably wrote that email with the same feeling that Professor Karpf wrote the tweet which is like "ha ha!"

PJ: "I got him."


PJ: Yeah and I think this is actually sort of Bret Stephens’ m.o. like awhile back there was this story where some young journalist wrote Bret Stephens a rude email. But the way Stephens responded was to say, you know, basically, “I have a lot of friends in this town, like, if you want to apply for a job, if you want to try to get some some of journalism award, like, you should be careful.”


PJ: But this time when Bret Stephens does this, the professor takes the email and posts it to Twitter.

ALEX BLUMBERG: Oh he screenshots the email?

PJ: Yeah.


PJ: Which gets–the original had 9 favorites, after this goes down, the original tweet gets 4.8 thousand retweets.


PJ: So then Bret Stephens has like a very emotional announcement that he's leaving Twitter forever because the discourse is too toxic. (ALEX BLUMBERG: Mhm) And then he pops up the next morning on television, like he goes on MSNBC to talk about this Twitter fight. 

PJ: So I want to show you this, like nine o clock in the morning, serious newsman on TV, in a suit and tie, soberly talking about somebody called him a bedbug.

MSNBC: Brett I have to ask you because there’s a lot of buzz about this, you deactivated your Twitter account after a controversy that involved someone calling you a name. Would you like to comment on that? 

BRET STEPHENS: Yeah, I’m gonna be careful with my words (MSNBC: Okay.) because I know these are gonna be examined carefully. 

PJ: Um, let me just skip ahead a little bit.

BRET STEPHENS: So I wrote him a personal email, I didn’t go to Twitter, I wrote him a personal email, which I think was very civil, saying that I didn’t appreciate it, that I would welcome him to come to my home in New York, meet with my family, and see if he would call me a bedbug to my face. Because a lot of the things people say on social media aren’t the things they’re really prepared to say in one-on-one interactions. I also copied his provost on the note, people are upset about this, I want to be clear, I had no intention whatsoever to get him in any kind of professional trouble. But is the case at the New York Times and other institutions that people should be aware, managers should be aware, of the way in which their people, their professors or journalist interact with the rest of the world. That’s certainly the case...

ALEX BLUMBERG: I wasn't trying to get him in any, any trouble, but I just wanted his manager to be aware of what he was doing.

ALEX GOLDMAN: (laughs)

PJ: Also it’s just- like, these are arguments that were made when Professor Karpf went on NPR to give a counter interview (ALEX GOLDMAN laughs) to Bret Stephens' interview about the tweets. 


PJ: Can I just play you a short clip of that?

ALEX BLUMBERG: Yeah, yes please.

Viget Ad: Support for NPR and the following message comes from Viget. Viget is a digital product agency that partners with businesses to propel growth -

PJ: Get a paywall.

ALEX BLUMBERG: Leave this in, leave this in, this is good.

Viget ad: revenue through innovation. Learn how Viget can-

PJ: Why is something called bigot? 

ALEX GOLDMAN: What a terrible name!

ALEX BLUMBERG: It’s Viget with a “V”

PJ: A little close.

NPR tape starts

PJ: I’m just gonna skip to the part where the professor explains exactly why he thinks Stephens’ email is messed up.

DAVID KARPF: The key here, again, is him deciding to cc my provost, which he discussed on MSNBC and he said that he wasn't trying to get me in trouble. He just wanted my bosses to know what I was saying. Cc'ing the provost means that he's not actually inviting me over to his house. He's not actually calling for civility. He is trying to use his station in life to make clear to me at a lower station in life that I'm not supposed to make jokes about him.

PJ: What I like about this is he just does a very good job of explaining exactly the subtext of the email. 


PJ: It's why you don't like mess with like a digital politics professor if you're going to mess with somebody probably.


PJ: Like he's very good at explaining what's going on.

ALEX BLUMBERG: One of the seven thousand reasons why he shouldn't have sent that email. 

ALEX Goldman: Right.

PJ: The next thing that happens in this story is my favorite part of the story. So three days later, pretend you're just a normal New York Times reader. You open the op-ed section and you see that New York Times op-ed columnist Bret Stephens has written a huge piece just about the Holocaust. And there's this massive picture of Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels. 

And it's just paragraph after paragraph of just sort of a primer on the Holocaust, which the writing is nice or whatever but you're reading it and you're like, "why, why on this random August day are we talking about this?" And eleven paragraphs in there's a reveal that only makes sense to you if you have followed all this drama, which is he has this–can I just read the part in question.


(clears throat) 

PJ: "The political mindset that turned human beings into categories, classes, and races, also turned them into rodents, insects, and garbage. ‘Anti-Semitism is exactly the same as delousing,’ Himmler would claim in ‘43. ‘Getting rid of lice is not a matter of ideology. It is a matter of cleanliness.’ Watching Warsaw’s Jewish ghetto burn that year, a Polish anti-Semite was overheard saying: ‘The bedbugs are on fire. The Germans are doing a great job.’”

ALEX BLUMBERG: So he's comparing that professor's tweet to the Holocaust.

PJ: He's saying that professor's tweet was anti-Semitic because everyone on earth knows that bedbugs are code for Jewish people.


ALEX GOLDMAN: And that this is the rhetoric that dehumanizes people and allows for genocide.

ALEX BLUMBERG: Is Bret Stephens Jewish?

PJ: He is Jewish.


ALEX GOLDMAN: The person he's ESSENTIALLY accusing of anti-Semitism is also Jewish.

ALEX BLUMBERG: Right. (laughs) 

PJ: So it seems, it seem like, yeah. Which like, I don't know what Bret Stephens' heart believes. Like in his original email to the guy, there's no sort of reference to him believing that this was anti-Semitic. Before sort of everyone on the internet started pointing out how much he'd overreacted and how strange this was for him to do, there's no reference to him seeing it as anti-Semitic. Once he started to kind of get–just like lose the public opinion battle--


PJ: This, he wrote this piece. And like, it’s the internet. You can be offended about whatever you want. Like that, those are the rules but like, just the final irony of this like step back like remember, this is Bret Stephens. His whole brand is that like, his whole brand is, “there needs to be more free speech, liberals are offended by everything.” He wants to be that guy, but he also wants to get really mad about being called a bedbug. And you just can't do both of those things. You can't be like "you triggered liberals" and then like--

ALEX BLUMBERG: Act in a way that is like completely–

PJ: Completely over–

ALEX BLUMBERG: Over the top– 

PJ: Yes. 


PJ: Because someone called you a bug.


ALEX GOLDMAN: So you guys wanna talk about Area 51 or what?

ALEX BLUMBERG: Yeah! So wait, right. There's a whole second part to this tweet. So, so that's the Bret Stephens part. So "Area 51 but for going to Bret Stephens' house and calling him a bedbug." So, yeah, what does that mean?

PJ: (laughs)

ALEX GOLDMAN: So are you familiar with Area 51?

ALEX BLUMBERG: I am familiar with Area 51.

ALEX GOLDMAN: What can you tell me about it?

ALEX BLUMBERG: Area 51, um, is the um place--

ALEX GOLDMAN: (laughs) You're off to a great start! It is a place.

ALEX BLUMBERG: Where, it's an area--

PJ: There's 50 other areas.

ALEX GOLDMAN: And it's a, and it's a place where, I think people believe that aliens–where conspiracy theorists believe that the US military is hiding the shit that they're hiding.

ALEX GOLDMAN: Ok! Yeah yeah yeah. 


ALEX GOLDMAN: Area 51 is north of Las Vegas and it is an Air Force base where allegedly aliens are being kept and experimented on by the US government.



ALEX BLUMBERG: Are they alive or dead?

ALEX GOLDMAN: A little from column A, a little from column B.


ALEX GOLDMAN: I don't know if you guys have ever seen the alien autopsy.

PJ: I've seen the alien autopsy.


PJ: Do you know about it?



PJ: It's this video supposedly of (laughing) it's like a grainy video--

ALEX GOLDMAN: God it scared the shit out of me.

PJ: I wrote a paper about it in science class in fifth grade.

ALEX GOLDMAN: (laughs)

PJ: You guys are laughing, but I got an A on it.

ALEX GOLDMAN: What was the–was the paper about whether it was real or not?

PJ: The paper was about, if it was faked, how they would have faked it. 


PJ: It was like a creative writing–I didn't do very well in science generally. (ALEX BLUMBERG laughs) But like, yeah, it's this video where it's like, it's like grainy and like sort of undercoverly and- and–undercover shots and it's supposed to be them like doing the autopsy on the alien body.


PJ: You really need a willing imagination to–yeah.


PJ: It's a classic. It's a pre-Internet classic.

ALEX BLUMBERG: Alright, got it. Okay–

ALEX GOLDMAN: So Area 51–like there were rumors in the 50s and 60s and (ALEX BLUMBERG: Mhm) there was like–there were UFO sightings in the desert.


ALEX GOLDMAN: But um, the person who really popularized Area 51 as a concept was this guy named Bob Lazar.


ALEX GOLDMAN: In like the 80s

ALEX GOLDMAN: So I'm sure he's well known in the UFO community because he's been talking about this for decades. And this fringe-y documentary came out last year that’s all about how he supposedly uncovered spacecraft and technology at Area 51 Um, let me show you the trailer.

TRAILER: This story is extraordinary. Especially if it's true. And it all started in the desert. Just north of Las Vegas. A local scientist who's worked at Groom Lakes/said to be where top secret weapons systems have been tested over the years.


TRAILER: He has asked that his identity be shielded/exactly what's going on up there? What's going on up there could be the most important event in history.

ALEX BLUMBERG: This is so, so slick.

ALEX GOLDMAN: So, so the story of Bob Lazar is he got hired at a facility near Area 51, this place called Groom Lake. This is, this is his version of events.

PJ: Okay.

ALEX GOLDMAN: Um, and he says his job was–he was like contracted by the government to reverse engineer like captured weaponry and aircraft from–

PJ: Oh like the alien ship dropped a laser, you figure out how it works so we can build our own?

ALEX GOLDMAN: Well initially it was like Russian (PJ: Okay) aircraft. And then one day they were like, "Oh we've got this other ship you should take a look at" and they brought him into a room with a spacecraft. That he calls–what does he call it? The sport model extraterrestrial?


PJ: So they're names like cars.

ALEX GOLDMAN: Yeah basically.


PJ: And so what ended his illustrious career reverse engineering alien space cars?

ALEX GOLDMAN: Well he–you know he decided to become a whistleblower. And he stars in this documentary and everyone hates it. It is an absolutely uncritical look at him. It requires no authentication of any of the information that he says. It's just like him telling his story and it's all treated as fact.

PJ: Yeah.


ALEX GOLDMAN: So the documentary comes out, it is largely ignored. One person who does not ignore it happens to be one of the most popular podcasters in the world, Joe Rogan. 

ALEX BLUMBERG: People love Joe Rogan.

PJ: (whispers) It’s wild.

ALEX GOLDMAN: Yeah, people do love Joe Rogan. 


ALEX GOLDMAN: And Joe Rogan is like really into flying saucer stuff. And I think Joe Rogan actually can sometimes be a pretty tough interviewer, (ALEX BLUMBERG: Uh huh) but like he really softballs this. He like loves UFOs so much--

PJ: He wants it to be true too much to–yeah.

ALEX GOLDMAN: That he is very, very deferential to our man Bob Lazar. 

And the result is that tons of people who never would've seen the documentary about him go and watch his documentary and are like talking about Area 51 again. 

PJ: The other thing that happened is that one of the singers of Blink 182 quit the band, started a non profit(ALEX GOLDMAN: Yeah) dedicating to proving that aliens (ALEX BLUMBERG: Right) were real.


PJ: Got ahold of what he said were like undercover Navy videos of unidentified flying objects, which turn out to be real and the Navy confirmed it.

ALEX GOLDMAN: And were actually kind of gripping.

PJ: Yes!

ALEX GOLDMAN: And pretty cool. Um, but basically, like, UFOs were in the public consciousness this summer because of all this stuff. And so like that is what is the sort of set up for the tweet that you need to know about. 


ALEX GOLDMAN: And what happened next is there’s this kid, his name is Matty Roberts and he heard that Joe Rogan Bob Lazar interview. And just like, he’s up, he’s in the middle of the night, he’s bored, he’s in college, he’s like, “alright, I’m going to make a joke Facebook page, largely for myself, for my friends, whatever, that is called "Storm Area 51. They can't stop all of us."


ALEX GOLDMAN: And, like–

ALEX BLUMBERG: It’s like absurdist flash mobs or something like that?

PJ: Yeah–

PJ: But you don’t go–

ALEX BLUMBERG: But then you don’t go.

ALEX GOLDMAN: So he makes a joke Facebook page called, "Storm Area 51. They can't stop all of us."


ALEX GOLDMAN: Um, and it says, "We will all meet up in rural Nevada and coordinate our parties. If we Naruto run, we can move faster than their bullets."

PJ: What's a Naruto run?

ALEX BLUMBERG: "Let's see them aliens." Um, a Naruto–you don't know what a Naruto run is.

PJ: Don't, don't be a nerd snob–

ALEX BLUMBERG: No, I don’t- I don’t–

ALEX GOLDMAN: I mean, (ALEX BLUMBERG: laughs) I expected you not to Alex. I’m not sure about PJ.

PJ: (mocking voice) Huh, he’s never heard of a Naruto run? 

ALEX GOLDMAN: So Naruto is an anime about ninja training. And just like, the show has like such a complicated mythos that I can't even begin to explain.

PJ: Is it good?

ALEX GOLDMAN: It's not for me, but I think a lot of people like it, so I'm not going to say it's bad!

PJ: You're, you're afraid of Big Anime?


ALEX GOLDMAN: I'm terrified of it. But in Naruto, the most talented of the nin–ninja? 


ALEX GOLDMAN: So, so they do this particular run where they sort of cock their bodies forward and they put their arms out behind them. I’m gonna try–there's no room in here to do this.

PJ: I would go for it. 


ALEX GOLDMAN: (off mic) But they kind of go–they kind of run like this.

PJ: Alex is trying to Naruto run in the studio apparently.

ALEX BLUMBERG: I'm not quite getting it.

PJ: Yeah you've got–I think you have to actually move.

ALEX BLUMBERG: (laughing)

ALEX GOLDMAN: Fuck you. But like they let the gravity of their, they let the gravity of their bodies propel them forward--

PJ: You're leaning like the woman on the front of the Rolls Royce.

ALEX GOLDMAN: (off mic) Kind of! They put their arms out behind them--

PJ: But then how do they actually run? Do the running part

ALEX BLUMBERG: Yeah, go out in the studio and do–

ALEX GOLDMAN: (off mic) There’s- well–hold on. Well, you've gotta move so I have like some runway to do this.


PJ: Alex Goldman has gotten up, is standing, and is revving himself up to do a Naruto run in the studio.

DAMIANO: This is gonna- you–take your headphones off.


ALEX GOLDMAN: (off mic) I'm going to! Alright ready? Here we go.


ALEX BLUMBERG: Oh my God, I thought you were gonna run right into the wall. Generate a lot of speed right there in the like, in the five foot length of our studio.

PJ: (laughs)

ALEX GOLDMAN: Well the important thing about the Naruto run is that you can dodge, uh, projectiles.

ALEX BLUMBERG: Right, obviously.

PJ: What is it about leaning forward and putting your arms behind your back that makes you faster?

ALEX GOLDMAN: It's anime logic. I don't know.

PJ: Okay.


ALEX GOLDMAN: It's just–but the idea is, if they–if you Naruto run–


ALEX GOLDMAN: You can dodge the bullets.


PJ: So everyone’s gonna Naruto run into Area 51.

ALEX GOLDMAN: Like here’s one from yesterday it says, "Area 51's gonna get raided. Hell ya boy! Naruto runners where you at?" And it's a GIF of people–a bunch of people Naruto running on a beach.


PJ: Are those people really Naruto running?


PJ: Is that a thing people just do in real life?

ALEX GOLDMAN: Yes. I mean it's like, it’s like as a joke–not like if they're trying to win a race but like it's a thing, it's definitely like a thing that people do, as a joke or a reference. You know what I mean?

PJ: Yeah there's just so much world out there--


PJ: It just makes me happy. Like somewhere on a beach a bunch of people did an anime run.


ALEX GOLDMAN: Here's another one that says, "Tomorrow's the day. Godspeed, you majestic warriors." (ALEX BLUMBERG: Mhm) And it's like a computer rendered image (PJ laughs) of a giant alien that's shackled and there's like all these people Naruto running in front of it.


PJ: And somehow the color scheme of it just looks like Independence Day.


PJ: Also at one point, uh, (ALEX BLUMBERG laughs) Lil Nas X did a remix of "Old Town Road"--

ALEX GOLDMAN: Oh yeah, don't you worry I've got that all taken care of for ya--


ALEX GOLDMAN: You know Lil Nas X, right? 

ALEX BLUMBERG: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

ALEX GOLDMAN: You know "Old Town Road"?


ALEX GOLDMAN: It's a great song. 


ALEX GOLDMAN: So, he drops this video. 


ALEX GOLDMAN: And the video is a depiction of the raid on Area 51.

PJ: He's made like a fantasy of how the Naruto run on Area 51 would perfectly liberate the aliens. It's like an advertisement for this doing this stupid thing.


PJ: And he's Lil Naz X who is like the person best at manipulating the internet right now.


PJ: And so him doing this also just takes the meme and like mainlines it even further.


ALEX GOLDMAN: And it's him and Young Thug, Mason Ramsey, Billy Ray Cyrus, and Keanu Reaves wearing Naruto's outfit. Here I'll put it on for you.

PJ: Just give him a second to collect himself.

ALEX BLUMBERG: (laughing uncontrollably) … Keanu Reaves

["Old Town Road" plays]

ALEX GOLDMAN: So, so this video, it opens, uh, with like a, like a panning shot of the front gate of Area 51 and it's flying an American flag with an alien instead of stars and there's like a sleeping guard and it pans to his cell phone and it's a text from Lil Naz X that says, "We comin for you, bruh."         


ALEX GOLDMAN: So the military rolls in. They get all primed for some kind of attack.


ALEX GOLDMAN: They're all sweating bullets. And Lil Naz X, Young Thug, Mason Ramsey, and Billy Ray Cyrus show up on horses.


ALEX GOLDMAN: And behind them are–is like a herd of people Naruto running, including Keanu Reaves.

PJ: Just 'cause.

ALEX BLUMBERG: (laughing)

ALEX GOLDMAN: Um, And then just skipping ahead a little bit,

So then they finally get into Area 51 and there are a bunch of aliens giving them like souped-up cars, hovering motorcycles.


PJ: [indistinct]

ALEX GOLDMAN: A metallic horse. And they ride away, they ride away into the sunset.

ALEX BLUMBERG: (laughs) That's amazing.

ALEX GOLDMAN: So, uh, by the time that the Lil Naz X video is released, this like Facebook page that Matty Roberts made as a joke for himself has millions of people on it saying, "Yes, we're going to go to Area 51, and we're going to storm it and find the alien technology."


ALEX GOLDMAN: So in addition to people finding it very funny, like authorities are kind of worried (laughs).

PJ: Mhm.

ALEX GOLDMAN: That something's actually going to happen. And the fellow who organized it, he kinda freaked out a little bit because he was like "Oh my God, what have I done? Like I’ve started–"

PJ: You throw a house party and the whole neighborhood's coming.

ALEX GOLDMAN: Right I've started a thing that could actually cause people harm.


ALEX GOLDMAN: So he decided he was going to do like a, a music festival that would try and move the crowd away from Area 51 toward this like music festival (ALEX BLUMBERG: Mhm) which he was calling Alienstock.


PJ: How old is he?

ALEX GOLDMAN: He's in college, he's like 21.

ALEX BLUMBERG: That's such a 21-year-old idea.

PJ: Yeah also the idea that you've gotten people excited about aliens and you're gonna get them to go see a music festival–

ALEX BLUMBERG: Tempt them away with a music festival (laughs).

ALEX GOLDMAN: So "Storm Area 51. They can't stop us all" was scheduled for Friday, September 20th.

PJ: Today is Friday, September 20th.

ALEX GOLDMAN: That's right.

PJ: Whoa.

PJ: So did it happen? 

ALEX GOLDMAN: Uh, well, uh, as you might imagine, millions of people did not show up–

PJ: Yeah.

ALEX GOLDMAN: To Area 51. And last night at about thr–at about three in the morning, uh--

PJ: A giant UFO lifted out?

ALEX GOLDMAN: A couple dozen people showed up at the front of Area 51 and politely asked to get in. (ALEX BLUMBERG & PJ laugh) Not exactly the same as Naruto running. 

ALEX BLUMBERG: Wow. I think we have enough to explain "Area 51 but for going to Bret Stephens' house and calling him a bedbug"?

PJ: Yes.



PJ & ALEX: Yes.

ALEX BLUMBERG: I think we now know.

PJ: Which is?

ALEX BLUMBERG: Which is, Casey Johnston wrote this tweet. "Area 51 but for going to Bret Stephens' house and calling him a bedbug." Which I now find very funny (laughs) as is often the case, two separate memes combined, there’s a bedbug one and the Area 51 one. We’re gonna take the bedbug one first. A professor called NY Times columnist Bret Stephens. Bret Stephens then made a big deal out of this, said this was akin to an anti-semitic slur from the Holocaust and actually wrote the professor an email in which he cc’d the professor’s boss--the provost--and told him in the email, this is the worst thing I’ve ever seen on the internet and why don’t you come to my house and call me a bedbug to my face. 

PJ: Yes.

ALEX BLUMBERG: That’s the bedbug part. The Area 51 part. In the last year, Area 51 has become a big thing on the internet because there was a documentary that came out about a UFO conspiracy theorist and a kid -- this young man -- made a joke online uh saying like, “Hahaha wouldn’t it be funny if we all went to Area 51 and do something called a Naruto run into Area 51 and rescue the aliens. And it was sort of a joke but then as sometimes things happen with jokes, actually people showed up at Area 51, demanding to see the aliens. Okay, so that’s the Area 51 part. And so the joke of this tweet is the writer is imagining that uh a group of people are taking the Area 51 treatment and applying it to the Bret Stephens invitation to come to his house and call him a bedbug. 

 PJ: I think we're at Yes Yes Yes.

ALEX GOLDMAN: Yeah we're very much at Yes Yes Yes.

ALEX BLUMBERG: That is amazing. 


ALEX BLUMBERG: That was one where it was like actually once I got the full story, and I read it again, it was 100 to 150 times more enjoyable.

PJ: It's like you needed the 3D glasses for the joke?

ALEX BLUMBERG: I needed the 3D glasses, and once I had them on I was like, "oh, oh, (PJ laughs) nicely done. Nicely done Casey Johnston. You deserve your check."

PJ: Just 40 minutes, (ALEX BLUMBERG laughs) 40 minutes of explanation and it's a good joke.


PJ: Coming up after the break, Mogul. 


PJ: Okay. Both Alex's are gone. I'm now in the studio with Sruthi. Hello Sruthi.

SRUTHI: Hello.

PJ: You for like a month, you've just been non stop talking about how much you liked the new season of Mogul. 

SRUTHI: Yeah, so everybody on the show knows this about me. I'm always trying to sneak like dance music into Reply All episodes. Um, if you ever hear like crazy techno that just before the break, know that was me. 

PJ: Yes.

SRUTHI: And the thing about Mogul, it’s a Gimlet show set in the world of hiphop. They managed to do this thing with their podcast, which I love, which is this like merging of music and story in a way that I just really love to listen to while walking around. Um, and I just wanted to, I was hoping we could play the first half of the second episode for people. 

PJ: Do we need to do anything to set it up?

SRUTHI: All you need to know is that the entire season, um, season two of mogul is about 2 live crew, this miami bass group that set the stage for hiphop in the South.

PJ: Okay

You also need to know it’s a band that for better and worse introduced really raunchy sex rhymes into hiphop. That’s part of what this season’s about. But for this clip, it means definitely don’t listen with kids.

PJ: Cool. Let’s go.

JACOB: Miami bass is hip-hop from the south, from the land of dade county, and it’s known for like extremely upbeat dance rhythm and BASS

BJ: If you had to make a sort of, not generic, but if you had to make a common bass beat with your mouth, what would the beat sound like? 

JACOB: It’s like based on the gumbe beat from the bahamas! It’s like (beating on table + music). Party rhythm, it’s a party rhythm. Caribbean party rhythm mixed with American funk and soul. 

JACOB: That’s what you’d hear on the garbage cans, or in the school lunchroom, it’s a festival beat, yeah yeah it sounds like a party exactly. 

The sound of Miami is the sound of a city surrounded by islands. 

[New music comes in]

LUKE: We’re basically a melting pot of haitians, jamaicans, bahamians, cubans, puerto ricans…

TRICK: That’s what it is, because that’s what we are. So, when we went to school, Bahamians and Hatians at the time…

[New music comes in]

TRICK: when Duvalier was trying to take over Haiti and mistreating the Zoes, they worked their way to Miami as well. And the Jamaicans had their sections, it was like, we all went to school together. 

Over the years, people have come from all these places to live in Miami. When they came, they brought their beats with them. And those beats, they became the backbone of Miami Bass.

Luke: The way I would describe Miami bass is congas, tom toms, combination of reggae bass and calypso. And you add a little salsa in it. That’s how I would describe it. With a tempo going about a hundred and 30 beats a minute.

JT Money: Bass kicks, cow bells doo doo doo, some high hats and a nice snapping snare. Gotta snap or pop.

And there’s one final ingredient. The thing that really sets this music apart from everything else: Deep. Booming. Bass. 

JK: Bass bro! I love that shit! That’s good. That’s good!

Because it’s not really Miami bass unless it knocks. Hard. 

JK: The beats getting inside your brain, or past your brain inside of your soul or whatever fucking makes you want to funk out and have fun. 

LUKE: One thing they do have in common is the music is fast, the dancing is very sexy, erotic and exotic.

A lot of people consider 2 Live Crew’s Throw the D to be the first true bass record. What Rapper’s Delight was to hip hop, Throw the D was to Miami bass. When the group dropped that single in 86, they captured the sound of Miami and put it on wax. 

But outside of the 305, hardly anyone had heard of the bass scene or the 2 Live Crew.

That was all about to change. Because the 2 Live Crew were gonna to take this new sound and add something of their own…lyrics so outrageous and so dirty that they permanently changed the hip hop landscape. 

And Luke Campbell, the King of the Pac Jam … he was gonna take this explosive new sound, [pause] and he was gonna sell it to the world.  

[few stabs of the theme music, something to break up tracking]

I’m Brandon Jenkins, and on this episode of Mogul, hip hop gets nasty.

[theme up]

When Throw the D started to pop off, the 2 Live Crew were a duo. There was Mr Mixx on the decks, crafting the beats, and producing the records. And there was Fresh Kid Ice on the mic, spitting rhymes. But Mr Mixx figured that the band could be even better if they added an additional MC. And he knew just the right person. 

Marquis: Marquis from the 2 live crew dade county’s old school early dissing triple og of the rap game official. Y’all follow me on Instagram BrotherMarquisOfThe2LiveCrew all one word Mark Demetrius on Facebook.

Brother Marquis had met Mr. Mixx out in Cali, a few years earlier. They hit it off, and Mixx told Marquis that if he ever needed another rapper, he’d hit him up. 

Marquis: I was kind of marketable, not bad to look at I think and.. I could rhyme.

With Marquis on board, the 2 Live Crew’s lineup was complete. So they all packed up their shit, and moved across the country to the place where their music was as hot as the weather: Miami. 

Luke Campbell had made the Crew a hit at the Pac Jam, and now he had offered to manage the group. He told them that once they got to Miami he‘d help get them a record deal. [pause] 

He also told them he’d set them up with a place to live …

Mixx: I’mma tell you how crazy it was…we were living at his girlfriends house that he was shacking up with, mom’s house. 

Jinx: Hahaha woah 

Mixx: The mom, the daughter, Luke’s living with her. He done convinced them to allow me, Marquis and Chris to live there at the house until he can get an apartment for us. ***

We was there for a month.

One of the most surprising things about this story, is that none of the architects of the Miami bass sound were actually from Miami. They were all outsiders. 

But as soon as they got there, they were ready to dive in. They wanted to make music that sounded, and felt, like their new home.

Marquis: Hot town, summertime, you know….the whole atmosphere just says...that says partying and sex, you know what I mean. Dancing, shaking ya ass and sex.  

Shortly after moving to Miami, the group started to work on a song called Move Something. It would take all of the things they were seeing and hearing and doing in Miami and stir them into a thumping bass track.

<<< marching band ambi here >>>

First came the drum loop. Mr. Mixx found that at a high school football game. See, Miami is renowned for its high school marching bands. They’re big, they’re loud, and they’re exciting to watch. That inspired Mr Mixx. 

Mixx: One of the High Schools down there had a breakdown in their drumline routine and they would say “move sumn” and they would go into some sort of drum solo thing “move sumn”

Mixx took that chant, and it became the foundation for the song Move Something.

[Marching band loop turns into the song]

But they needed something else to really make it pop. 

Since the early days when he was spinning in airforce barracks, Mr Mixx had been playing around with the idea of using samples from X-rated comedy records. Shit like this: 


<<< You know they got a new douche powder out now

This is made out of ?? LSD and Kentucky Colonel Sanders chicken fat

It makes your pussy up tight, outta sight and finger lickin’ good >>> 

These albums from comedians like Lawanda Page and Richard Pryor were incredibly raunchy. And Mixx figured that sort of stuff would play well with a Miami crowd.

Mixx: Seeing how sexualized the market was, I knew I could put those parts and pieces in and it would be funny and would be raw and all that stuff based on how those people was acting in Miami. I said “wow these MFs is crazy down here.” Florida made me kinda see those records was real life.

One night Mixx was listening to a skit by Lawanda Page and Skillet Leroy … and that’s where he found the perfect sample for Move Something. 

<<< CUE: MOVE SOMETHIN drop your drawers sample line>>>

Mixx: There’s a sample “Drop your drawers and open your legs up wide”. That's going through the record, going through the record.


So Mixx had the beat, he had the hook, now the song needed some lyrics. That was where Marquis and Ice came in. As soon as they heard the song they knew their rhymes had to be dirty ... and they swung for the fences. 

[Music up]

I've been wanting to tell you this for a while

I like your fake blue eyes and your hoe-ish style

So let's go for a walk through the park

You can suck my dick in the dark

And just do what I ask; bitch, bend over

Let me ride your backside like dogs do each other

I know that you're with it, so don't start frontin'

I don't wanna be your man; I wanna MOVE SOMETHIN'!

The way Move Something was made, that was pretty much the 2 Live Crew’s formula. They’d find a sample, or something that inspired them. Mixx would craft the beats, and then Ice and Marquis would lay down their vocals … 

and mine the English language for words that rhyme with dick. 

And it was these dirty rhymes that made the 2 Live Crew stand out. 

These days, we take it for granted that sex plays a big part in hip hop. We all know Khia’s My Neck, My Back. We’ve all seen Nelly swiping a credit card down a dancer’s ass crack in the Tip Drill video. 

But back in the late 80s when 2 Live Crew were starting out, this stuff felt really new. Mixx, Marquis and Ice were the flag bearers … for, well, flying the freak flag.

[Cue up]

MARQUIS: We're the only rappers out here talking really, really crazy when it comes to 

sex. Yeah, nobody else is doing it.

Jacob: What they did is they went fully uncensored.

This is Jacob Katel. Jacob’s a journalist, you heard him at the start of the episode explaining Miami bass. 

Jacob: They started talking about fucking and they did so with no remorse. They put it out there all the way because that’s normal that’s what real people doing in real life. 

The 2 Live Crew had their product. Booming base, and endless rhymes about screwing. But now they needed to get their music out there. 

And that’s where Luke Campbell comes in. Luke liked what he was hearing, and thought that it would appeal to a much bigger audience than just the kids at the Pac Jam. He was ready to shoot this stuff into the stratosphere.


After the break, Luke Campbell proves the oldest saying in the world: Sex sells. 

That is our preview of Mogul. 

Reply All is hosted by PJ Vogt and me Alex Goldman. We’re produced by Sruthi Pinnamaneni, Phia Bennin, Damiano Marchetti, Anna Foley, Jessica Yung, and Emmanuel Dzotsi. Our executive producer is Tim Howard. We’re mixed by Rick Kwan. Fact-checking by Michelle Harris. Our intern is Emily Rostek. Special thanks to Allegra Frank.