Russian actors may have run an organized online disinformation campaign during the 2016 US presidential elections, but they likely learned their clickbait tactics from Americans. In our ongoing investigation of junk news for the PBS NewsHour, series producer Cameron Hickey managed to track down one of these pioneers of junk news, Cyrus Massoumi. He runs both liberal and conservative junk news sites, which have millions of followers on Facebook. To find out more about the murky world of junk news, I sit down with Massoumi on this episode of Miles To Go. You can listen to Part 2 of our conversation here.
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Miles O’Brien: Hello and welcome to another edition of Miles To Go. I’m Miles O’Brien.
Do you ever wonder who is responsible for all that hyper-partisan, sometimes outright false clickbait that streams through your Facebook News Feed?
I think a lot of us have the impression it’s created somewhere in Macedonia by an entrepreneurial teenager or maybe in St. Petersburg by one of Putin’s stooges. That’s true–it does come from there, a little bit. But, producer Cameron Hickey and I have been researching the subject of what we call junk news for 16 months now for the PBS Newshour, and actually much more of it is homegrown.
Before he came to work with me as a director of photography and a producer, back in the olden days, Cameron was in the world of software development. He was a coder–you know, one of those guys with a black screen and some green fonts.
And, so, in the course of this investigation, he used those skills to good end. He wrote some software that searches the web and social networks looking for the origins of junk news. In the course of that, he found two sites that were virtually identical, except for the fact one was liberal and one was conservative. He did a little bit of sleuthing; he discovered that the owner was the same person.
And then one day, the conservative site stopped publishing political content–just, out of the blue. Cameron was really curious at this point and so he decided to reach out to the owner and figure out what was going on. He found out very quickly he had stumbled into one of the pioneers of this genre, shall we say.
Now, we knew this would be an important interview to include in our series for the NewsHour, so Cameron spent a lot of time cultivating this source, reeling in the fish, as it were.
And the effort worked and got on a plane–not to Macedonia, not to Russia, but to Napa, California. And we had a fascinating visit with 26 year old Cyrus Massoumi. He’s a young man with a natural gift for marketing, a love of politics, and, frankly, a love of money too.
It’s a perfect recipe for what you’re about to hear. He is indeed a pioneer in the world of hyper-partisan news and misinformation, and what he told us was rather illuminating.
Cyrus Massoumi: I started a t-shirt website because I wanted to have an online business which I could essentially make $10,000 a month off of — it would take only a few hours a week to manage and I could travel the world freely. I had lots of inventory and I had lack of ways to market. I came across Facebook, I came across some Conservative groups which had the – –
Miles O’Brien: Sorry, so back up. You were in high school here in Napa?
Cyrus Massoumi: In Marin.
Miles O’Brien: Okay, in Marin, and you were selling t-shirts to your fellow students, is that what it was?
Cyrus Massoumi: Online. No, not in person, I never sold a shirt to anyone that I ever knew.
Miles O’Brien: Okay. I just want a few words in how you came into that business and how that —
Cyrus Massoumi: Well, I read Tim Ferriss’ book, 4-Hour Workweek, which is about creating an online business, which is automated. So I created an online business which was automated where people could go to the website. They could buy a t-shirt and everything was completed electronically from the production to the fulfillment.
Miles O’Brien: Okay, so you were a young entrepreneur, read this book and you were gravitating to some way to make some money.
Cyrus Massoumi: Sure.
Miles O’Brien: Okay. What was it about the t-shirt business that lured you?
Cyrus Massoumi: Everybody wears t-shirts.
Miles O’Brien: So what was it about the t-shirts themselves that made them successful, and did you do well with it?
Cyrus Massoumi: I probably sold 10 — 20,000 t-shirts.
Miles O’Brien: So the idea, you’re in high school, people wear t-shirts, you read a book, you’re inspired, you started selling t-shirts. That’s a pretty successful first foray for somebody in high school.
Cyrus Massoumi: Well, no, because the place that I sold them was on Facebook, I couldn’t find anywhere to sell them. So I went on Facebook very early on in the Facebook days and there were at that time some groups, what we would now consider small Facebook groups for Conservatives called like, “I Am a Conservative” or “Being Conservative” that had a million or two million fans. And at that point in Facebook nobody posted news links as you would now associate with Facebook. And so I reached out to those page owners and I said, “Well, I have something that can sell on your page and you can make money.” And so once a week we would do postings and I would sell several hundred from those postings each week.
Miles O’Brien: Okay, so these t-shirts, can you give us an idea what they were.
Cyrus Massoumi: Anti-Obama t-shirts. Like you know, “Gone” with the Obama logo, or you know “I was Anti-Obama Before It Was Cool,” whatever would appeal to a simple-minded person.
Miles O’Brien: What do you mean by that?
Cyrus Massoumi: Well, you’d never catch me dead in a t-shirt with a logo on it, let alone a political one.
Miles O’Brien: Why not?
Cyrus Massoumi: Well I have an IQ above a hundred.
Miles O’Brien: So, and you think dumb people do this?
Cyrus Massoumi: I think dumb people wear shirts with logos on them unless it’s for ironic purposes.
Miles O’Brien: All right so let’s back up to that. You came to this, wanting to make money, or did you come to it with a political point of view, or did it just kind of merge together there?
Cyrus Massoumi: Yeah, I hate Obama but I also thought that t-shirts would be profitable.
Miles O’Brien: Which came first?
Cyrus Massoumi: I loved the money since I was five but I didn’t hate Obama until I was 16.
Miles O’Brien: So all of these came together in high school, all of a sudden you’re selling t-shirts.
How did you get the idea to use Facebook as a platform for marketing your wares?
Cyrus Massoumi: Well, I had thousands of t-shirts in inventory and I had a website, and I wasn’t selling any because you have to have a marketing method. So, I scoured the internet until I found this perfect place where there were – – you know at that time Facebook obviously was more in its infancy and I found these groups, and they weren’t doing anything. So it was like, you know I could go to a website — I’ll put it to you like this, let’s say that you go to a website where like a million people are reading it and you’re like, “Hey, can I put my thing?” They’re going to be like, “I’m going to charge you a thousand bucks a day,” right? But if you go to a Facebook group where there is a million people and they’re not posting news links, they’re not selling products and you say, “Hey, you’re not making any money. But if you post my links, I’ll do revenue share with you,” money.
Miles O’Brien: So you approached — there was this — really, you were way ahead of your time in this, weren’t you in some respects?
Cyrus Massoumi: Well, I was also one of probably, debatably, the first person to post political links on Facebook in a partisan manner so —
Miles O’Brien: So there you are. Where did you get the idea? How did you get the idea?
Cyrus Massoumi: I wrote a newspaper which mocked my high school’s newspaper. It got me suspended. When I was trying to get that financed because it’s expensive to get a newspaper printed, I reached out to an existing Conservative t-shirt website asking them if they would you know, put a page ad in my paper and they said “no.” And I wrote my paper and I got suspended from my school and I was on like the front page of a few papers and I went on KGO 810, biggest radio station in California. It was very exciting. I learned that I loved media even more than I thought. And then after that I was like, “Oh.” I reached out to that guy like he has an online business. I’ve been reading this book about how to make a business online.
His website’s not great. He’s an old school guy. I’ve got a bigger stack than him of skills so I’m going to take that on.
Miles O’Brien: So, what are the key things that you happened upon or saw or maybe some combination of that? Is that political anger, discontent actually sells, doesn’t it?
Cyrus Massoumi: Right, well I mean, of course.
Miles O’Brien: What is it about political anger that sells t-shirts?
Cyrus Massoumi: Well political anger doesn’t just sell t-shirts. The reason that people watch the news is to feel angry.
Miles O’Brien: Do you think anger is the big motivator here?
Cyrus Massoumi: Why do people watch ABC, CNN, CBS, anything? They watch it because they want to feel anger towards Trump because it makes them feel righteous in their hatred. Why do people watch Fox, because they want to feel angry at the Liberals. Anger, core human emotions, primal human emotions, that’s what sells. That’s what keeps people going through the commercials.
Miles O’Brien: So how much money did you make on the T-shirts? Do you remember?
Cyrus Massoumi: Not much, maybe like a hundred thousand or so.
Miles O’Brien: Well, for a high school kid that’s not bad.
Cyrus Massoumi: Well, for a high school kid with expensive tastes it’s not much.
Miles O’Brien: You like the good things?
Cyrus Massoumi: Well, I thought that $10,000.00 a month would be enough, until I started making $10,000.00 a month. I’m sure that you experienced the same thing.
Miles O’Brien: Oh yeah, it’s terrible. I don’t how I get by. It’s tough. The more you make the more you want, right?
Cyrus Massoumi: Well, I’d blush if I saw your income.
Miles O’Brien: Tell me a little bit about how Sandy Hook got into the mix here?
Cyrus Massoumi: I got tired of working with other pages to sell T-shirts.
And I said to myself, “Well, I can post news, and I can post news better than anybody,” at that time. And so, there was Sandy Hook. And then there was a push to ban semi-automatic rifles, not assault rifles because assault rifles were already banned, but semi-automatic rifles. And this presented itself as the perfect moment to pick up cheap Facebook likes, cheap fans. And so I was able to purchase hundreds of thousands, millions, of fans during that time of crisis, if you will, where Conservatives, you know — if I put up an advertisement that said “Do you stand against the assault weapons ban? Click like.” And I was able to buy fans for a ridiculously low price. And so I’ve always — I felt subsequently in a reflection thereafter that I built my first business, sort of if you want to call it, “on the graves of young children who were killed.”
Miles O’Brien: Well, how do you feel about that?
Cyrus Massoumi: I don’t know how do people feel about things that they do badly? I feel bad about it, but I mean we do what we do to pay the mortgage, right?
Miles O’Brien: Help me understand the order of business here, you went from T-shirts to Sandy Hook. When does Mr. Conservative come in the mix?
Cyrus Massoumi: Mr. Conservative was what I built with the fans that I bought from Sandy Hook —
Miles O’Brien: So you’re selling the T-shirts, that business is going and you see Sandy Hook happening. And what’s the insight you had when Sandy Hook happened. Was there a moment of revelation to you when you saw —
Cyrus Massoumi: But it wasn’t like Sandy Hook happened, it was like Sandy Hook happened and then as usual what Liberals like to do is just that they follow the Saul Alinsky model. And they used to take every tragedy and then turn it into an opportunity, so they wanted to ban guns.
So despite the fact that for example in the inner city, lots of blacks shoot one another and kill one another all the time, Liberals don’t care about blacks shooting one another. They care about a white person shooting a bunch of kids, right? Because it’s all about the optics of TV, so that places like CNN, ABC, whatever can sell those commercials. So they came after a gun that they shouldn’t have, because the AR-15 is not what’s responsible for massive amounts of deaths. It’s responsible for a certain type of death, which makes us feel very uneasy on our stomachs. It makes us feel uneasy when 20 white children are killed, but we don’t care if 20 black children are killed throughout a city. So Conservatives know this and were very angry and it presented an opportunity in the weeks and months following where I could buy fans for a very cheap price.
So like am I guilty of committing a holocaust? No, but there was a marketing opportunity because of the fact that Liberals are taking advantage of tragic situations.
And being a marketing man and a businessman, I saw that opening. And in hindsight would I have preferred to start buying fans at a different juncture? Yes, but that was the opportunity.
Miles O’Brien: I want you to explain that for just a moment, how you were able to leverage an event in order to gain followers. Was this to your Facebook page, your personal Facebook page or —
Cyrus Massoumi: Mm-hmm — well, no, a business page.
Miles O’Brien: And so what was this business, it was?
Cyrus Massoumi: So In this event it would be called like the “Mr. Conservative Page.” So, essentially like — let’s say you go on Facebook and in the search bar you type in “PBS” and then you see for example that the PBS page has a million fans. Similarly, I made a page called Mr. Conservative, and what would happen is that, at that time on the right-hand side there would be an advertisement and I gave you the text of the advertising that we used, “If you stand against the assault weapons ban, click ‘Like’.” If somebody clicked “Like”, they would become a fan of the Mr. Conservative page. Thereafter, those would be people who would see my news stories.
Miles O’Brien: Okay. So, that position that you took, that kind of very volatile, debatable point in American politics, lured people to your site, created likes for you. Give us a sense of how successful it was. You went from how many fans to how many?
Cyrus Massoumi: Well I very quickly had, I think 700,000 or 800,000 fans which were making about 10 cents a month, so I was probably making $70,000 or $80,000 a month like within half a year.
Miles O’Brien: So you went from how much income to that?
Cyrus Massoumi: Like, negligible, like a few thousand a month to like 70,000 or 80,000.
Miles O’Brien: And really just based on one event and one subsequent ad which got into the issue of —
Cyrus Massoumi: Well, I made a multitude of advertisements around the subject of gun control and then subsequently once I found that those advertisements were cheap, then I tried all other sorts of advertisements. In terms of the actual number which I achieved strictly from the Sandy Hook advertisements, I would plot that somewhere around, like let’s say 500,000, but, for example Mr. Conservative has another million and a half fans on top of that.
Miles O’Brien: Mr. Conservative still exists, right?
Cyrus Massoumi: Correct.
Miles O’Brien: So, you very quickly have a good steady income. The Tim Ferriss book served you well.
Cyrus Massoumi: Well, it’s not net profit, it’s gross.
Miles O’Brien: You can quibble with me on that, but you’re doing pretty well. $70,000 or $80,000 a month.
Cyrus Massoumi: Well if you’re spending $65,000.00 a month on advertising.
Miles O’Brien: Well, how much were you clearing?
Cyrus Massoumi: I don’t have my accounting in front of me.
Miles O’Brien: Well give me a ball park.
Cyrus Massoumi: Six figures, low six figures.
Miles O’Brien: Okay. Did you feel like you had hit on something in particular, when that ad on gun control appeared on Mr. Conservative?
Cyrus Massoumi: Yeah, it was a volatile issue. It’s an issue which there is a segment of the population which feels strongly one way and strongly another way.
Miles O’Brien: And you saw it, as you say, as a marketing opportunity, right?
Cyrus Massoumi: Correct.
Miles O’Brien: Did you care about the politics of it or did you just see a chance to make money?
Cyrus Massoumi: By the politics of it, do you mean that I care about the politics of gun control?
Miles O’Brien: Yeah. I mean I guess my question is did you get in the fray? Did you make —
Cyrus Massoumi: Well I felt very strongly that the Liberal media was propagandizing the public about the issue of guns.
Miles O’Brien: So did you have further content on your site, which would further support that position? Was that —
Cyrus Massoumi: Yeah, we had like many letters for example from law enforcement officials writing to the Vice President saying that if Federal officers, for example, enter their jurisdictions that they would refuse to enforce any ban on assault weapons, and I actually thought that was very valiant of them. For example now, there’s like a crazy guy on FOX News, Sheriff Clarke. He was one of the original people who wrote a letter to Vice President Biden saying that if any Federal officers try to do it, then, you know, he would stand against it.
Miles O’Brien: All right, so you get 700,000 people. Whatever you may be clearing, it’s still a six-figure income. What happens next?
Cyrus Massoumi: I started buying more fans, and then I probably made my way somewhere into the, you know, plus million range. I started doing consulting work for a multitude of different Republican organizations doing similar things.
Miles O’Brien: So, can you give us an idea of the kinds of issues you exploited in trying to grow that audience?
Cyrus Massoumi: Yeah, my favorite one that I also feel absolutely awful about was the mosque at Ground Zero.
I was consulted and I don’t want to name the organizations, but they were some of the largest ones in DC, to make marketing efforts against the mosque at Ground Zero.
Miles O’Brien: Tell me how you injected yourself into that discussion.
Cyrus Massoumi: Sure. So, the mosque at Ground Zero is basically an Islamic community center which was going to be a few blocks away from where the 9/11 event happened. And I was contracted to, for example, create imagery and advertising campaigns which would infer that basically there would be some huge Islamic looking mosque with pillars, you know, like loud sirens to prayer, and that there would be like “towel heads” running around it, and that it would be like such a disgrace to the American ethic. It’s just patently absurd. It was a patent manipulation, it was patent neglect of the fact pattern and obviously endorsed bigotry and I am sure that it contributed to some to vile comments if not, violent comments.
Miles O’Brien: You say that almost proudly?
Cyrus Massoumi: I am sorry, did I?
Miles O’Brien: Yeah.
Cyrus Massoumi: Actually, I said it with shame.
Miles O’Brien: Okay.
Cyrus Massoumi: Perhaps I should work on my tonality. That was something that I was most ashamed of. I smiled at it because what else are you gonna do but cry?
Miles O’Brien: Okay. So, let me ask you this, who were you working for at that time? You say you where consulting or whatever, right?
Cyrus Massoumi: I was under non-disclosure agreements.
Miles O’Brien: Okay. But this is separate from your Mr. Conservative endeavors, right?
Cyrus Massoumi: Correct.
Miles O’Brien: These are for other companies? Did the world kind of come to you after your success with Mr. Conservative? Tell me what happened there.
Cyrus Massoumi: Yes, so basically what happened — so, in the wake of Mr. Conservative, essentially what happened is, is that I was doing extremely successful with the number of fans that I had. So for example, like let’s say I had a million fans on Mr. Conservative and let say other people had like a million fans or two million fans, but based on that, I was getting 10, 20 times better results than everybody else. Or for example, there was a tracking software which would show like whose stories are most viral right now. Like 80% of them were mine. Like I was the most viral across the board. Everybody was watching me, and everybody was just waiting to copy me, and everybody couldn’t not figure out how to copy me was pretty much everyone in the early days said, “Hey, can you consult for us? Can you work for us? Can you help build something for us?”
Miles O’Brien: You’re a pioneer?
Cyrus Massoumi: Mark Zuckerberg is a pioneer, I’m just a marketer.
Miles O’Brien: But you’re the first to see this?
Cyrus Massoumi: Yeah. I mean I’m a good marketer. I am not a pioneer. The pioneer is — Elon Musk is a pioneer. I would love to be a pioneer one day but I — it’s lofty for them, I don’t know.
Miles O’Brien: All right. Your success is building? Take us to what happens next after the mosque event. Well, first of all, that was a successful campaign you would say?
Cyrus Massoumi: Yeah, I mean it was a very small work, I mean compared to like how much gross revenue we were bringing it at the time. I helped build a number of other Mr. Conservatives. So like Mr. Conservative has two million fans, but like I probably — I couldn’t even tell you the exact number of other Mr. Conservatives that I’ve built. So like let’s say, somebody is rich, somebody who wants to have a conservative media outlet like there was basically like a consensus out there like, “Oh, like Cyrus can do this for cheap. Like Cyrus can make you like a big media presence on Facebook for cheap.” So, I charge my consulting fee, like I get equity split and then like I would get paid, right?
And then so Mr. Conservative was primarily starting to get traction in 2013. In 2014, for example, I was in DC working at a consulting shop over there, a really big consulting shop and I was — again, buying millions of fans throughout 2014 for other people.
Miles O’Brien: So, you went to DC? What did that do for the political component of all of this for you? Did it make you more politically dialed in or was it just another job?
Cyrus Massoumi: I was astonished at how these people — like for all the cynicism that I have about normal people and for all the hatred that I have of like, I suppose people’s ignorance in things politics, it is astounding on both the Democrat — because I have done work for both Democrat and Republic, collective organizations like the larger ones, the ones that control like, let’s say parties or governors or senators or congressionals. It is astounding, like just the animosity that they have towards their people.
Like just the sheepish way that a marketer will look because like, we look and we know that like if we move — if we change the amount of text on a page, or if we move like the graphics.
It’s like that we influence your decisions, like we influence how many people are going to put in the email, like, “If we do a pop-up this way or a pop-up that way.” It just becomes laughable like the words that you use to appeal to people. And so I came in to this game and I call it a game because I think most things in life are a game with love; just love, pure, pure love of politics. I still love politics, but it was nearly stolen from me.
Because these people, the people that actually like pull the levers on both sides, they don’t care. For them it’s just like it’s a system. It’s a system of like, “Can we charge a political candidate like a million dollars?” So basically, what they do is like let’s say — like I buy Facebook fans cheap, right? The cheaper that I can buy a Facebook fan, the better. Now let’s say that you make a donation to a political campaign, you, right? Like to the Obama campaign, you donate 5,000 bucks. Well, he has consultants which are paid a percentage of what they spend. So, if I buy a fan for ten cents and I’m just trying to make money and they buy a fan for a dollar, but they get 20% of it, well, they don’t want to buy them for ten cents and make two cents on the fan, they want to spend a dollar and make 20 cents.
So it’s a system built of off the swamp, like Trump’s talk of the swamp well obviously — you know Trump’s not my favorite guy in the universe per se, but this is the swamp, right? I mean when you think about the people intentionally wasting money, like intentionally thinking that people on their side of the aisle are idiots. They can really think that romance out of your view of politics.
Miles O’Brien: You have a healthy dose of cynicism, don’t you?
Cyrus Massoumi: It would be difficult not to have a healthy dose of cynicism in today’s world, right?
Miles O’Brien: You say you work for Democrats? Tell me about that?
Cyrus Massoumi: It was more limited work where like they wanted to collect email addresses, so data mining. I created systems on Facebook where we could manipulate — this was several years ago. This was not recent, but essentially, I created what we sort of call a native experience, where users wouldn’t have to migrate off of Facebook.
So we were building applications where you could donate money, you could give your email address, anything that you could imagine, like you might do on like Obama’s website or Trump’s website. We did it so that we could do it on Facebook and then we would increase the conversion rate 400% which is unheard of, right? If you bring a consultant, he increases your rates like 20%, you’re like, “Oh, you’re awesome you’re saving me 20%.” I was doing 400% increase of conversion rates.
Miles O’Brien: Explain what you mean by conversion rates.
Cyrus Massoumi: You see a link like for Obama or Trump or whatever and you click that link, it costs them let’s say, 25 cents, and then let’s say out of a hundred people, a conversion rate would be like, let’s say there’s a 10% conversion rate. That means they get 10 emails for example. So instead of getting 10 emails, I was getting 40 emails out of every hundred.
Miles O’Brien: So, what was your secret?
Cyrus Massoumi: There is no facet of Facebook that I did not make drastic improvements on relative to my competition. I was making it an organic experience inside of Facebook so that you no longer had to travel to some unfamiliar website. Like there was the trust factor of Facebook and I was keeping you on Facebook and then on top of that, I was just also like a much, much better, like web — I had a better team of coders. I had better web designers. I have better aesthetic sense. There is nothing that DC consultants can do better than me. Like I school them all day long, it is embarrassing how much better I am than the DC people.
Miles O’Brien: So, are they idiots or are you smart or both?
Cyrus Massoumi: Well, both. But I mean it’s not much to call them idiots.
Miles O’Brien: What is the secret though?
Cyrus Massoumi: I don’t know like what goes on in the brain of Elon Musk, like I see media different than other people.
Miles O’Brien: How?
Cyrus Massoumi: I look at it and I see everything that’s wrong with it. It’s just like it’s a fine-tuned sense like let’s say that like you look at a shape and one person can tell you a hundred things that could be improved or that there are wrong with that shape and another person just looks at it and says, “That’s a rock.” Well I’m just much more in-tune. When I look at media, I can just see a hundred things that are both wrong and that can be improved, whereas another person just sees a screen with a person talking.
Miles O’Brien: How did you get this insight in this talent you think?
Cyrus Massoumi: Thousands of hours of watching and reading endless marketing books.
Miles O’Brien: So, you taught yourself how to be a marketer?
Cyrus Massoumi: Yes, sir.
Miles O’Brien: So, when you were in DC, how old were you?
Cyrus Massoumi: 22.
Miles O’Brien: A young person make a lot of money
Cyrus Massoumi: I was at a firm of 50 people and I was the youngest person in the office and I was the second most powerful.
Miles O’Brien: And what was that like?
Cyrus Massoumi: Wondered why I wasn’t the most powerful.
Miles O’Brien: How did I know you’re going to say that? All right, so, what happened after this? So DC, did you realize you did not want to be there? What happened after DC?
Cyrus Massoumi: So, basically during DC, I was making an incredible amount of money. An embarrassing amount.
Miles O’Brien: Seven figures?
Cyrus Massoumi: No.
Miles O’Brien: Close?
Cyrus Massoumi: Yeah, and I developed drinking problems and girl problems and lifestyle problems, $10,000 suits and going to the club like two or three times a week, and eating out 14 times a week and like a nice brand new high-rise apartment.
And so I ruined myself and so then, I had to come back and recover. Not like rehab recover, but like it was just — it was eminently obvious that I was just like on the verge of bad things and so I have to come get my bearings. I mean, here’s what happened, like I was a young kid and I was just — I was looking to make it, right? Like I originally had that dream of 10,000 bucks a month and then all of a sudden like, I was thrown into this place where it’s like, “Oh, you can make a half of million.”
It’s not like I came from some background where it was like, “Oh, yes, like I am Theodor Cyrus the third, and I will be an investment banker at Goldman and I will be making half of million by like my — you know sixth year.” No, it was like I was a hustler and I never held a job before. Like I never flipped burgers, I never worked for anybody. It was like I just did my own thing. I had like excellence at what I did and I just came into great success.
Miles O’Brien: A lot of success at a very young age?
Cyrus Massoumi: Recipe for disaster.
Miles O’Brien: So, at that point, did you think you’d want to do something else? Didn’t you go to Austin? What happened there?
Cyrus Massoumi: I went to Houston.
Miles O’Brien: Houston? What happened in Houston, what was that all about?
Cyrus Massoumi: Well, like I said, whenever there’s somebody with money and they want to do a media website and I’ll go out and I’ll do it on a budget. So, like that was like basically, the month or year leading up to the election. So I was working with a business partner and I think we got 11 million Facebook fans that year. We actually spent more than the Russians did, so apparently the Russians spent 500,000 to a million. I think just on my Facebook accounts, like I spent over a million dollars on Facebook fans.
Miles O’Brien: You think we collectively spend too much time thinking about what the Russians might be doing?
Cyrus Massoumi: I think that the Democrats should spend 10 times more time talking about the Russians because the more that you talk about the Russians, the more my guy is going to have a better chance of winning. And I love it when you guys talk about the Russians, because it’s just — there’s a bunch of talking heads in the media, and it’s like “What is it mean anymore?” Because do you guys stop and ask yourselves like, “What does the Russia story mean anymore?” Because originally you thought like that there was going to be a secret meeting where Putin and Trump were like kissing one another and then Putin goes like, “Trump, here’s the secret files. Like here’s the kompromat, oh, and I have the video of you, I have the yellow tape.”
That’s what you guys started at and then you’ve gone down, and down, and down, and down and now you’re like, “Well, maybe like they hacked some information and like they emailed Don Fredo, obviously Don Junior Fredo and they were like, “Hey, Fredo, like do you want to see this content?” “Sure, of course.” Of course he wanted to see it, the same way that like Hillary hired Steele, spent millions of dollars getting that dossier, right?
So, if you actually look at like who actually spent more money and got more resources from Russians; if you, as the mainstream media actually reported this accurately, you’d find that it was the Democrats that actually received more benefit from Russian sources. I say, “Go for it.” I say you’re not spending nearly enough time, I say 10 times more time, because it’s going to make beating you guys in 2020 a hundred times easier.
Miles O’Brien: All right, we’re going off in a cul-de-sac. So, you finally get back here and what time frame are we in now when you get back here?
Cyrus Massoumi: April ’16.
Miles O’Brien: Okay, all right. So now you are back here, it’s April ’16. You’re trying to get yourself back on track. Suddenly the world is seeing Facebook and so called fake news in a whole different light, Donald Trump is running. Did you see opportunity there?
Cyrus Massoumi: So in the run up to the election, yes. Yes I was buying Conservative fans and I was making money off of those Conservative fans in the run up to the election. And then a couple months before the election, I also started buying Liberal fans.
Miles O’Brien: Tell me about that. Hedging your bets?
Cyrus Massoumi: Yeah, hedging my bets. I saw a big opportunity there.
Miles O’Brien: So, in that case, you took politics aside it was just pure marketing, right?
Cyrus Massoumi: Not really, because if you look at what I say, like if you actually look at the way that I parse my words, I love politics. So for example Bill Maher is my childhood hero, okay? In Chapo Trap House which is a socialist podcast is my favorite podcast and I watch MSNBC and I actually don’t really watch Fox News. So like, I love politics. I may have some views, but they really have nothing to do with what’s negotiated between Republicans and Democrats.
Miles O’Brien: So you’re political and yet non-partisan, is that what you described yourself?
Cyrus Massoumi: No, it’s just that I’m too sophisticated to conform the party lines because the issues that the mainstream media presents to the public are fantasy issues.
It’s like, “Can you believe that nobody will stand for the national anthem?” Don’t worry about the fact that like we have like empire all across the world. Like don’t worry about a hundred other actual issues, like worry about kneeling for the national anthem, worry about some silly protest, worry about the Women’s March, how absurd, in my view.
Miles O’Brien: Is there more money to be made in tapping in to the anger of Conservatives than Democrats?
Cyrus Massoumi: Well yeah, because Conservatives are angrier people.
Miles O’Brien: Tell me about that?
Cyrus Massoumi: Do you ever seen a Trump Rally on TV?
Miles O’Brien: Yes.
Cyrus Massoumi: Yeah, it’s gold.
Miles O’Brien: There’s anger there.
Cyrus Massoumi: Yeah, there is. I mean, there’s a lot of angry cat ladies at the Hillary rally, but there’s a lot of dumb rednecks at a Trump rally. The thing about political rallies is that generally the only people that go to them are people that don’t have anything to do. So you’re just going to find a lot of angry bored people.
But, I will say that like you look at like who listens to Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, like Lavine Stein in their car. I mean basically this is entertainment for angry fat white men in their pickup truck on the way to pick up lunch. So basically, the fundamental difference between Conservatives and Liberals is that Conservatives trust the individual, but they have mistrust of the collective. Whereas Liberals, it’s the exact opposite right? Like they don’t trust the individual, but they have a trust for the collective and this sort of manifests itself in different ways.
So when you are a Conservative and you think of yourself as an island, it’s much more easy to have default primal emotions which are like resentment, like “Oh, I resent the collective.” So when you resent the collective, like then the base emotions that — and me as a media marketer should feed you, primarily have to do with anger and I should be feeding you things which make you angry.
For the Liberals, like Liberals like to fancy themselves intellectuals although really, what are they? Like pseudo intellectuals. So they want to feel self-righteous. So, Conservatives, they want to feel like angry and like they’re in on a scoop, that the media just isn’t savvy enough to get onto, and the Liberals, their own thing.
Miles O’Brien: Conservatives are the perfect audience for your style of marketing you think?
Cyrus Massoumi: Oh, no. I mean my Liberal thing is just going gangbusters right? I mean great.
Miles O’Brien: So works in both ways?
Cyrus Massoumi: Sort of. I mean because basically, for all the hatred the Conservatives had of Obama, like Tin-Foil Hat wearing Alex Jones, right? In my mind, Rachel Maddow is Alex Jones now. So, it’s almost as if the pendulum is swung. I mean I’ve never seen such frothing at the mouth from such unpleasant looking people. It’s almost amazing if you wear a pink hat and just froth, how ugly you can look.
Miles O’Brien: Well, so what are you’re saying is the democratic ire the liberal ire is now very profitable as well.
Cyrus Massoumi: Yes. Although it should be noted that these are small segments on each side. I’m convinced there probably only 10 million people in America who are actually political. And by political, I mean probably like only listen like an hour of like some commentator just dribbling on.
Miles O’Brien: Well, it’s interesting you should say that because if you look at the audience of the cable news networks, collectively, it’s not a big number actually.
Cyrus Massoumi: Yeah.
Miles O’Brien: Their influence far exceeds the size of their audience, doesn’t it?
Cyrus Massoumi: Right. Well, yeah. I mean I almost wonder like how does polling move because it’s like people don’t even know anything like people really don’t know — it’s astounding how little — I mean you — like look at the people who are political and they don’t really know anything and then I wonder like the people who don’t even watch this, right? Just take away those 10 million who do even watch something.
It reminds me of, you know — what is it, Cicero talking about bread and circuses. Give the people bread and circuses and they’ll be satisfied but they’ll never ask for more. Like give them their McDonalds, give them their NFL. And they’ll never ask like where is my privacy, where is my freedom? Why do we have empire?
Miles O’Brien: You know you got to wonder if people actually took a proper civics lesson in school these days. Would anything we’re talking you about be happening?
Cyrus Massoumi: It’s strange that you mentioned civics. Liberals like to say that they’re more educated than Conservatives. Liberals have a higher level of standard education whereas Conservatives have higher civic knowledge, so that’s interesting. So statistically, Conservatives do have higher civics knowledge.
Should there are be more interest in politics?
Miles O’Brien: Not interested in politics necessarily, I’m just saying understanding of our system because what you’re talking about is a fundamental ignorance of the whole system itself. People don’t know their congressman is. They don’t know who their senators.
Cyrus Massoumi: Yeah, I don’t know who my congressman is.
Miles O’Brien: You don’t.
Cyrus Massoumi: You know, I actually thought it was hilarious when people were like Johnson doesn’t know where Aleppo is because I was one of the only people that was like you know like where is Aleppo? Because everybody else like — I love — okay, so like on PBS or CNN or ABC, they went like, Gary Johnson didn’t know that Aleppo, the capital — wherever — in Syria is, you know, like over there. So they give them the answer and then they’re like, “But Johnson didn’t know it.” But if they did it the other way around and they were like “All right guys, like jeopardy question like where is Aleppo?” And then like…
Miles O’Brien: Let’s get back to April 16, you’re back here, the election is heating up. Are you still running Mr. Conservative at that time? Are there other sites?
Cyrus Massoumi: In the run up to the election, I was running both the Conservative and Liberal side.
Miles O’Brien: Tell us about those.
Cyrus Massoumi: They were doing fantastic like I was probably coming up to the election, I was doing about $150,000 a month.
Miles O’Brien: We were at Mr. Conservative, now, we’re going to talk about these new sites. What were they?
Cyrus Massoumi: So I built with a business partner both a Conservative business as partners, you know he keep put up the money, I put up whatever you want to call it, skills. And then maybe like four to six months before the election, we started the Liberal one too.
Miles O’Brien: What are they called?
Cyrus Massoumi: Well, he and I split so I don’t want to give the name of the Conservative one. But Liberal one which I — now that we split, I own exclusively is called Truth Examiner and Truth Examiner is the third biggest liberal outlet on Facebook.
Miles O’Brien: Okay. Did you see an opportunity when you saw Donald Trump running?
Cyrus Massoumi: I mean, I sort of did but like honestly no logical person like nobody really thought he was going to win like, I mean, I try and pretend sometimes but like “Oh, yeah, I thought he was going to win.” Nobody knew he was going to win. One of my really good friends, she goes on Fox news, she was on TV that night saying, “I always knew he was going to win.” Like every time I talk to her she said, “I don’t think so.”
Miles O’Brien: Did you think he would win?
Cyrus Massoumi: No, I prayed though. Even though I’m an atheist.
Miles O’Brien: You prayed that he would?
Cyrus Massoumi: Of course.
Miles O’Brien: Because?
Cyrus Massoumi: The easiest answer to this and the one which I think people should people pay attention to. I don’t wear a Make America Great Again hat and I’m not a dumb white redneck. But I am a repulsed by Liberal culture and I don’t mean like you know like normal people in the city but I mean sort of like the professors at the colleges and like the social justice warriors. Trump is a conduit to wage culture war against my enemies.
Miles O’Brien: You have enemies?
Cyrus Massoumi: I view them as existential threats to my existence.
Miles O’Brien: Who?
Cyrus Massoumi: The professors on campus who’ve basically promulgated the left with moral nihilism which is — come about in — for example, hedonistic thinking, materialism, consumerism, the social justice warriors like the feminist professors, the social science professors who would contend that man and woman are biologically the same.
They have such absurd beliefs — they believe that we are literally identical and that all of our differences are purely cultural. They believe that you know being transgender is not a mental illness. Well, it was a mental illness until like 10 years ago and not only that like let’s just forget about our disagreement with that.
There are children as young as eight and ten years old in Hollywood who are being given drugs which will halt their hormonal development and it castrates them and there are people who have stood up against this like Owen Benjamin and he was cast out for standing up against like a person who wanted to give their child a hormone blocker and it castrates them. If you don’t think that there is a culture war, then you are not paying attention and I am definitely a culture warrior and I would much rather go.
If I was like going to be drafted for a war, I would much rather go to war with those people than like the Russians. I have nothing against the Russians. These are people who are burning my society to the ground. They’re Cultural Marxists.
Miles O’Brien: Aren’t you perhaps giving them a little more credit than they might have as far as —
Cyrus Massoumi: No —
Miles O’Brien: — giving them the status of an existential threat to us all? I mean these are just view points.
Cyrus Massoumi: First of all, they’ve decimated the first amendment like my people, like Ben Shapiro, a Jew. So they call all of us Nazis but Ben Shapiro, a Jew, can’t speak at a campus. Forget about Milo. Ben Shapiro, Murray, IQ curve guy, Suzanne Somers, like she can’t speak
She was a feminist. She was a second-wave feminist. She can’t speak, so, yeah. You aren’t my enemy but you — in my mind travel and in the same circles as people who intellectually believe things like that, that hate speech is violence, right? And that road erodes my first amendment right, and like what else is there really? What else is there if there is no first amendment right? And what else is there when we live in a society where also I think that you probably travel on the same circles of people who — if I said something online, I would never be able to get a job. If I said something that was politically incorrect, I would never be able to get a corporate job.
Miles O’Brien: Do you consider yourself politically incorrect?
Cyrus Massoumi: No, I consider myself correct and I don’t care with other people call it. When I say that men and women are not biologically the same, that was a scientific fact, like that was not disputed until gender studies professors started putting insane —
So basically what they did is they created programs at college to steal money from people who are never going to get real jobs. Maybe they’ll get jobs worth like Huff Post, you know, working in the gender studies section and they’ll never going to get a real job but it’s a scam to get them into college and then they’re going to go spread these insane views. Am I politically incorrect, I don’t know, if I say that men and women are biologically the same, do you think I’m politically incorrect? Because like I just think it’s science. Why don’t you go talk to a biology professor, he’ll tell you that it’s science, it’s not politically incorrect.
Miles O’Brien: All right, in the run up to the elections, let’s talk a little bit about the kinds of content. You created these two sites; one Democrat, one Republican. Did you suspect the Conservative side would do better?
Cyrus Massoumi: I think that they were about equal like in the very run up to the election, but I thought that after the election obviously, like once we need the results, the Liberal would be better.
Miles O’Brien: Okay. So give us an idea of just how you did — what was the content that was on these sites? So these are actual websites that you are driving people from Facebook too?
Cyrus Massoumi: Yeah.
Miles O’Brien: Explain how this works and help us understand the business.
Cyrus Massoumi: Right. So in the Facebook model is, it’s like you take breaking news, and you put partisan spin on it, and then you give it to people. It’s not like original content. It’s like you take what is from a mainstream outlet, and then you repurpose it to basically like exclude information which those people will not find favorable and I’d like just to jump in there. So you might say like “Oh, well then, are you misleading people?” No, because if I don’t exclude, then they’d call me like, “Oh, are you Trump supporter?” Like you put in it like Trump did something good. If I don’t blame Trump for it raining, the Liberals are like, “Did you just not blame Trump for it raining?” And I’m like, “Come on, man. Come on, really? Really?”
Miles O’Brien: So tell us, you know, give us a couple of examples how it works. You see a story, how does it work? You’re watching a story and you see something that – you see a wedge issue there and what do you do?
Cyrus Massoumi: So like, let’s say news comes off the wire, and we see that there is a partisan bent to – – I’ll give you a perfect example.
Like the kind of stories — so, this actually comes into contradiction with what Facebook thinks Facebook should be and what Facebook is, okay? Let’s say that there is a huge important story, something which is like genuine news like the tax — here’s a recent one; I know we’re not going to air for awhile. But Schumer and McConnell reached their two-year budget deal, big news, okay?
Trump was photographed walking up the Air Force One flight of stairs and it looked like he was holding his umbrella in way so that Melania and Barron weren’t covered. The Melania and Barron one, super viral because people wanted to see those photos. Budget deal was like literally so irrelevant that we didn’t even bother posting it, because it just would never would have done well. And Zuckerberg not only wants the McConnell and Schumer story to actually be the one, but he wants it to be a thousand word version from New York Times.
And meanwhile, people just want to look at ten images of Donald looking like an idiot.
Miles O’Brien: So what’s the lesson in all that?
Cyrus Massoumi: The lesson is this, that there should be a healthy ground, there should be a healthy mix. And, I mean as far as I’m concerned, like Facebook has done an absolutely horrifically horrible job of telling publishers what they should be doing. Every time that they say you know, do this, like we try it and it doesn’t work, right? So if they put out standards on Facebook, and they’re like, you know, don’t put fake information, right? Like that would be a basic one. But then like let’s say, they say make content more engaging, right? We’ve tailored it like 50 different ways. What they say never coincides with the results.
Miles O’Brien: Do you create fake news?
Cyrus Massoumi: No. No, I don’t.
Miles O’Brien: Tell me what it is, then.
Cyrus Massoumi: So on Facebok there is a newsfeed. And the thing about a newsfeed is that only one story can be at the top, right? And then you’ve got other stories. So let’s say you went on to Facebook, and you only liked to Mr. Conservative. Well then you would just see Mr. Conservative’s stories but now what happens when you like Mr. Conservative FOX News, The Blaze, Daily Caller, you like 10.
And now everybody is covering the same story. Now you have 10 outlets competing to be in those top spaces, covering the exact same stories. So suddenly, everybody is twisting their headlines to make it from, like let’s say, very, very you know hard line, like wire to, let’s say, click bait and then like hyper partisan, or like misleading, right.
So then what happens is this, that like then you have other people jump in, like let’s say, a marketing guy – -not like me but like a different kind of marketing guy. And he is like, you know what, I’m just going to hire one writer, and I’m going to do my advertising and then they have just that one writer. So they have one writer, writing 12 stories a day. And now we have 50 different places that you’ve liked. One newsfeed, okay?
So then this writer doesn’t have time to fact-check anything right, in the case of an outlet like that. And so then they come across like a parody website right, like The Onion or there was like a whole thing that was found in a report were they found stories from places that looked like at the real ABC News, right. And so these fake stories, sometimes get intentionally sent to that one person, right?
And then that person’s like, “Oh my God! That story sounds like it will go crazy viral.” Then they write it and they post it, because they’re writing’s false stories, they don’t have time to fact-check. Those types places. And then, like sometimes that could even permeate the market. Because like let’s say — then the other people who also don’t have time to fact-check, or maybe there’s two or three writers but they’re looking at the software and they’re like, “Oh it’s going crazy viral. We’ve got to get on that story.” They don’t go like, “Oh, can we like fact-check it, maybe it just hasn’t hit the wire yet.
So then like, they’re putting it out there, right? So, fake news is not, in my mind, something which is done maliciously. If you actually did like a forensic sourcing of it, you would find it, like it started somewhere as like a parody or on some sketch website. And in some place where a marketing guy had too small of the staff, got it, and then somehow permeated the market place. Now here is the important difference. Okay let’s say that someone like me, had my team and we accidentally posted something which the facts were not true.
As soon as I realize that, I would delete it. The difference is, is that I have colleagues if you want to call them that, people in the same marketplace as me, who, if they posted a story which was fake, and they saw that they were getting tons of traffic from it.
What they would do is that they would let it run until they got all the traffic resources from it, all the money from it and then they would delete it. That’s the important distinction.
It’s a by-product of the fact that Facebook is fundamentally flawed because there is too much competition. And out of that competition, everybody has too little staff and as a result of that, that occasional fake thing is getting in there.
Miles O’Brien: So this would be in your view, then. A logical consequence of an attention based economy, which is what Facebook is.
Cyrus Massoumi: Right.
Miles O’Brien: You know we have this joke in the newsroom, we say sometimes you know there are some stories too good to checkout.
Cyrus Massoumi: The CNN slogan?
Miles O’Brien: I’m just saying that we call it a joke, it’s a joke.
Cyrus Massoumi: It was a joke, yeah.
Miles O’Brien: But it sounds like, that’s rampant.
Cyrus Massoumi: Yeah, I mean you know, the upside is this, that there is fewer of you guys, I mean if there is like a hundred news stations on cable, I think that you guys would probably run into the stories the same way we do. You know on Conservative Twitter, we like to make fun of Liberal outlets. We’ll do a story like Trump has conspiracy theory that Trump Tower was wire-tapped, right?
And then they’ll get the headline from a month later and then they’ll be like you know like “Trump Tower Wire-Tapped”. And then what we do is we say like, Life’s Comes at You Fast, right. And it’s like you guys never get called on it, not you guys but the mainstream media. Or like Russians hacked the voiting booths.
But I believe that John Oliver ran with, turned out not to be true. There is actually a great number of Russia-related stories which have been promulgated and then two weeks later have been walked back.
Miles O’Brien: Fake news is kind of a politically-charged word, and also implies outright wrong hood. The term we been using its junk news.
Cyrus Massoumi: I prefer that.
Miles O’Brien: Tell me why.
Cyrus Massoumi: Well because, the history of the word fake news originally Craig Silverman created the term, John Oliver used it and then Trump because he is so good at branding, co-opted the term, and now it doesn’t mean anything.
Miles O’Brien: So junks news?
Cyrus Massoumi: I mean we need a new word.
Miles O’Brien: Does that describe it, accurately you think?
Cyrus Massoumi: I think that “junk” refers to quality while as “fake” refers to the fact that the actual information is fake. So I’m uncomfortable perhaps having junk be the direct substitute because like, to maybe somebody like you, like an intellectual white-collar guy, would look at what I do and say like that’s junk news while as like my readers on Truth Examiner, actually, if you look at our feedback it is like overwhelmingly positive reception.
Miles O’Brien: Well, no, I think you’re probably using a slightly different definition junk than I am. I’m thinking more like spam as opposed to junk meaning I’m not rating the quality one way or another, I’m just thinking of it in a different context as opposed to —
Miles O’Brien: I want to see how the sausage is made a little bit, a little more. You say you see a story picture with an umbrella or whatever it is, give us what is the perfect story and how is it — and this is probably pejorative word — manipulated or spun or presented?
Cyrus Massoumi: This is a very interesting question.
In my mind I sort of invented the rule book of how this is done. So in a previous interview, I said that I was the patient zero of fake news, and what I meant by that was not that I actually made fake news. I meant that I created a snowball which when a hundred other people entered the market, you know–
So basically it’s like, the concept of when too many people are competing then you’re going to have like that happened. Now, the perfect story to answer your question, it appeals to the basic human emotions. So, I mean, right, like love, hate, anger, kindness, feeling good, feeling self-righteous, if a story is simple to get for our caveman mind — so again, going back to the example, like the budget deal, caveman mind is like, What budget deal?” right? But like umbrella, it’s like, oh anger, Trump ogre, right? So the perfect story is simple for the lizard brain in us. And then beyond that — so first of all we need lizard brain story, okay? And then secondly we need headline, right, because results are contingent upon headlines.
So there’s an art form to delivering a headline in a way where people want to click on it but then simultaneously going along with Facebook’s rules where they’re like don’t leave information out of the headline, right? So it’s almost like this delicate tiptoe where it’s like, “Okay, well they have to know what the story is about. We’re not going to leave it out.” But we also want to make it so they want to click and read about it. And, it’s also a lizard brain, and the image is like enticing like it’s like Trump looking like a goof ball or whatever.
Miles O’Brien: So, is it simply clever headline writing or is there more to it than that?
Cyrus Massoumi: Well, it’s taking what comes off the wire. So a story — we write a story every hour from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m and it’s basically every hour deciding which story in the last hour is going to appeal to those basic human emotions or like have the most novelty factor, and then putting the best headline on it, using the best image for it, and then we have formulas for obviously how the content itself is done, which is a separate issue.
So it’s not like we’re like searching through vast arrays of stories. It’s like each hour there has to be a new decision, right? So I mean there’s not that many stories to choose from. I mean, there’s like, let’s say every hour, five stories. And we’re like, all right, that’s the lizard brain story. We’re going to give it a delicious headline that’s not misleading. But then, of course, I don’t run the editorial, I have an editor-in-chief. But it’s very sad to me that then when it comes to the content that we have to give people only the sides of the story that they find appealing.
Miles O’Brien: Well, tell me about that a little more. What do you mean? In other words, nobody clicks on it if you give them a balanced piece? Is that you are suggesting?
Cyrus Massoumi: Well, no, two facets.
Miles O’Brien: Yeah?
Cyrus Massoumi: So, let’s say that — so when I first entered the market and I was doing Mr. Conservative, I was competing against, let’s say, Wall Street Journal. They were just writing like the economy went up 2.5%? That was their headline and there is a picture of the Fed. And then I would be like, “Obama destroys the economy for another quarter. See the graph.” You know, that was much more “clicky” than what Wall Street Journal is doing.
Miles O’Brien: Clicky, I like that.
Cyrus Massoumi: And then when you got to the story, it couldn’t be — in terms of what information am I going to include. Okay, I’m going to put every fact that’s against Obama. But if I put like, “But under Obama, the food stamp rate has decreased 30%,” or whatever, just something favorable, then the whole comments are going to be like “Oh, are you Mr. Liberal now?” like “what’s going on with you?”
“I’m unliking this page.” And I‘m just sitting there thinking like, “Please die, please die.” Like, “I hate you. Please unlike my page,” like if you weren’t making me this — yeah, I don’t like them.
Miles O’Brien: You don’t like your customers?
Cyrus Massoumi: No, I like — I’m sure that 50% of them are great people but I think that if we could — yeah, just the other 50%, just find them an island.
Miles O’Brien: And, believe it or not, that’s about 50% of our conversation!
I frankly was engrossed, while at the same time being a little repulsed… The bottom line: we kept talking and I will share with you the rest of that in our next podcast.
We’re gonna talk about the role of tribalism in our current, fractured discourse. We’ll talk about those quaint little old things we call facts and whether they matter anymore. And, we’ll ask him if he thinks junk news actually tilted the presidential election in favor of Donald Trump. Oh, and one other thing–why does he think conservatives are more angry than liberals.
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