Episodes

  • In 2019, when Rutger Bregman published his book “Humankind: A Hopeful History” and made a case for the decency of human nature, the world had yet to experience a deadly pandemic. But what does the historian think of humanity now, amid protests against coronavirus lockdowns as well as the climate crisis and the rampant spread of misinformation?

    “What I see is a world where billions of people radically adjusted their lifestyle to stop the virus from spreading further,” he says.

    In this conversation, Kara Swisher invites Bregman to make a case for taking our capacity for goodness more seriously, even in anxious and uncertain times. But she stress-tests the theory, using examples that range from atrocities like the Holocaust to widespread apathy about the climate crisis. And they discuss what Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook got wrong about human behavior, his case for societies’ moving toward a 15-hour workweek and why he decided to publish a clip of Tucker Carlson blowing up at him.

    This episode contains strong language.

    You can find more information for all episodes at nytimes.com/sway, and you can find Kara on Twitter @karaswisher.

  • Emily Ratajkowski is winning in the Instagram era: She has 28.6 million followers and has spent more than half her life making a living as a model. But even at her level of success, she still wonders: When you make a living off your desirability, is the power of your body ever just yours?

    It’s one of the questions she explores in her debut book of essays, “My Body.” Because even now, she’s still working to keep her followers’ attention. “I want them to see me and look at me and also click the link to read the article that I care about,” she says. She calls Instagram an empowering tool for curating and controlling her narrative. But she also sees how the platform is a “validation machine” that can quickly turn toxic, especially for teenage girls navigating a world shaped by the male gaze.

    In this conversation, Kara Swisher asks Ratajkowski about why she’s chosen to stay in modeling for now, despite the ambivalence she expresses about both the profession and the double-edged sword of beauty. They also discuss how she wishes she could be angrier and why she doesn’t regret her appearance in Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” music video.

    This episode contains strong language.

    You can find more information for all episodes at nytimes.com/sway, and you can find Kara on Twitter @karaswisher.

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  • You might’ve heard Kara mention she and her partner are expecting a new baby. He’s arrived — four weeks early and right on time — so the team is taking a break this Thanksgiving week. Come back next Monday for her conversation with the model and writer Emily Ratajkowski.

    You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more information for all episodes at nytimes.com/sway, and you can find Kara on Twitter @karaswisher.

  • In May, Sally Buzbee became the first woman to be hired for one of the most coveted jobs in journalism: executive editor of The Washington Post. Since then, Buzbee has overseen ambitious digital investigations into the Jan. 6 capitol attack and how countries’ climate pledges are based on flawed information. But she’s also had to tackle the bigger challenges that come with running a newspaper today: a turbulent media landscape shaped by political polarization, social media and the spread of misinformation. Buzbee and The Washington Post have already had to address some of these issues: The paper issued corrections last week to a handful of Steele Dossier articles they published in the past few years. The paper has been sued by the reporter Felicia Sonmez, who has alleged unfair treatment by editors.

    In this conversation, Kara Swisher presses Buzbee on her agenda for The Washington Post. “I don’t want to give up on any reader,” she says. “Certainly there are people who are not going to trust the Washington Post, but I don’t think we want to give up on big swaths of the world.” They also discuss whether it’s possible for the Bezos-owned publication to cover Amazon independently and how newsrooms can rebuild trust with communities that believe they’re biased.

    You can find more information for all episodes at nytimes.com/sway, and you can find Kara on Twitter @karaswisher.

  • Hans Zimmer has spent his career scoring cinematic worlds, from the ancient Rome of “Gladiator” to the futuristic landscape of “Dune.” So what does the metaverse sound like to him? “It sounds like just some giant, horrible, dehumanizing mess right now,” he says.

    Zimmer sees tech’s influence everywhere in music. He posits that from drums to violins to synthesizers, “every piece that we use other than the human voice is a piece of technology.” But he’s also cleareyed about how innovations like artificial intelligence and streaming don’t fix underlying issues of fairness in compensation: “The people who have access to the distribution systems really still always will hold the cards.”

    In this conversation, Kara Swisher talks to Zimmer about his process for composing the score for “Dune” and why he says finding out that the movie would premiere simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max was a “crushing moment.” They also discuss how composers can adapt to the shifting demands of viewers and a streaming economy — and what he’s working on next.

    (A full transcript of the episode will be available midday on the Times website.)

    Kara Swisher is working on a podcast for HBO, which is part of WarnerMedia and is a major player in streaming media.

    You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more information for all episodes at nytimes.com/sway, and you can find Kara on Twitter @karaswisher.

  • Mark Zuckerberg might be trying to stake his claim on the metaverse, but he’s far from the first person to envision a more virtual world. Take it from Jaron Lanier.

    He’s often called the “godfather of virtual reality,” and his company, VPL Research, developed V.R. goggles and gloves in the 1980s. He says he always imagined a metaverse with “a hundred million micro entrepreneurs doing their little thing here and there — there wouldn’t be some overlord.” Now, as big companies like Roblox and Epic build virtual worlds, he describes how these technologies will continue to shape our lives.

    [You can listen to this episode of “Sway” on Apple, Spotify, Google or wherever you get your podcasts.]

    In this conversation, Kara Swisher talks to Lanier about Facebook’s pivot to Meta, which he says sounded “like some megalomaniac took my stuff and filtered it through some weird self-aggrandizement filter.” They also discuss why Lanier viewed technologies like automation and V.R. as “a little technological token of that hope of eternal creativity” back in the ’80s. And Lanier, the author of “Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now,” makes the case for why Facebook should be paying users for their data.

    This episode contains strong language.

    You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more information for all episodes at nytimes.com/sway, and you can find Kara on Twitter @karaswisher.

  • If there’s one thing the country seems united on, it’s that something needs to change at Facebook. The company has drawn critics across industries and political persuasions, from Silicon Valley to Congress.

    But one unexpected critic who’s been sounding the alarm long before the Facebook Papers comes, instead, from Hollywood: Sacha Baron Cohen. As revelations from the company's internal documents continue to roll out, Kara revisits her conversation with the actor, which originally aired in February. She and Cohen discuss his film, “The Trial of The Chicago 7” and what he calls the “Silicon Six,” a group of the most powerful people in tech who, he's said, are "all billionaires, all Americans, who care more about boosting their share price than about protecting democracy." And they trade notes on the competition between rival clown schools in France.

    Kara will be back on Thursday with a new episode.

    You can find more information for all episodes at nytimes.com/sway, and you can find Kara on Twitter @karaswisher.

  • The Facebook Papers and whistle-blower testimony have given us yet more insight into the company’s impact on polarization and mental health, but if you could wave a magic wand and “pull the plug on Facebook,” would these problems go away? Casey Newton, the journalist behind the newsletter Platformer, says no. Imagining a universe where “Mark Zuckerberg is not the C.E.O., the company doesn’t exist — I actually don’t think you would improve the internet that much,” he says. He caveats that Facebook has never been held accountable “in any meaningful way,” but the problems are much bigger than any one platform.

    This may make him a Facebook “apologist” in the eyes of Kara Swisher — which is exactly why she invited Newton onto the show to discuss everything Facebook.

    In this conversation, Newton and Swisher discuss Facebook’s rebrand to Meta and debate the merits of the metaverse. They go inside the Facebook Papers consortium looking into the whistle-blower leaks, discuss whether the company’s recent limits on facial recognition signals a shift in Mark Zuckerberg and talk about the role of government to really start regulating a behemoth company and industry.

    This episode contains strong language.

    You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more information for all episodes at nytimes.com/sway, and you can find Kara on Twitter @karaswisher.

  • As Tesla develops its humanoid robot and Facebook — sorry, now Meta — rebrands to signal its focus on the metaverse and an even more virtual world, some might continue to wonder whether an Armageddon that will have artificial intelligence overpowering humans is a possibility. But the novelist Jeanette Winterson is more optimistic. Her more utopian view of an A.I.-enabled future depends on more compassionate technologies and the diversification of the leaders driving innovation, who she says are currently “rich guys with a lot of power, and we can’t depend on their benevolence.”

    In this conversation, Kara and Winterson discuss her latest book, “12 Bytes,” and some of the ways that A.I. will change how we think, love and live. They delve into why Winterson thinks sex bots are the enemy of progress, Silicon Valley’s obsession with immortality and how A.I. might change how we die and grieve. And they discuss Mark Zuckerberg, with Winterson saying there’s “nothing in his history that suggests he can manage billions of people on the planet using his social media tool.”

    You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more information for all episodes at nytimes.com/sway, and you can find Kara on Twitter @karaswisher.

  • Katie Couric has drawn fire for her new memoir, which chronicles over two decades of a TV news career that had her co-hosting with Matt Lauer (who became “cocky and reckless”), working under Les Moonves (“a close-talker with bad breath”) and in competition with the likes of Diane Sawyer (who was “everything I wasn’t”).

    Yet Couric defends her frankness in this interview with Kara: “What’s the point of writing a book that’s just, like, your greatest hits or a victory lap or a sanitized version of your life?” Indeed, “Going There” does go there and, in the milieu of 2021, opens the former “Today” show host up to criticism on many fronts — including her decision to edit a 2016 interview with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg because she wanted to “protect” her.

    In this conversation, Kara and Couric discuss the zero-sum construct that seemed to define women’s broadcast journalism in the ’90s, how that construct has shifted in the decades since and whether Couric could have done more to support women in the field and on her own show. Her response? “I think this has kind of taken an outsized role in the narrative because I was honest about sometimes feeling insecure and territorial.”

    You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more information for all episodes at nytimes.com/sway, and you can find Kara on Twitter @karaswisher.

  • Representative Ken Buck has joined forces with the Democratic congressman David Cicilline and others to push through a package of antitrust legislation that could prove damning to companies like Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook. “As a conservative, I don’t think big is bad. I think big is great,” he says. But at the same time, he is quick to clarify that Silicon Valley isn’t the land of “benevolent monopolists” and that leaders like Jeff Bezos need to be more transparent about their business practices.

    In this conversation, Buck discusses how he’s moved further than his party on issues of antitrust, and why he — after initially backing the Texas lawsuit seeking to overturn 2020 election results in four battleground states — eventually stepped out against Donald Trump’s “Big Lie” of a stolen election.

    Kara asks Buck which antitrust bills will survive big tech anti-antitrust lobbying, and whether regulatory agencies like the F.T.C. will actually have the teeth to enforce the proposed laws. They also dig into the Facebook whistle-blower’s allegations, as well as conservative claims of social media censorship. And Swisher presses Buck on what he calls the “vigorous debate” within the Republican Party — which Buck says is happening “behind closed doors.”

    You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more information for all episodes at nytimes.com/sway, and you can find Kara on Twitter @karaswisher.

  • Maria Ressa and Dmitri Muratov recently took home the Nobel Peace Prize, marking the first time working journalists have won the award since 1935. Ressa believes the Norwegian Nobel Committee’s decision to recognize journalists this year sends a signal that, once again, “we are on the brink of the rise of fascism.” Through her digital media company Rappler, Ressa has been on the front lines of covering President Rodrigo Duterte’s regime in the Philippines, exposing the leader’s tactics of “violence and fear.” She also sounded the alarm on the role that social media platforms have played in the rise of leaders like Duterte and Donald Trump, saying that Facebook in particular “exploded an atom bomb” by amplifying misinformation and propaganda.

    Ressa’s reporting has made her a target for lawsuits from the Duterte government and online harassment from his supporters: One study found almost 400,000 tweets targeting Ressa over a 13-month period. And she was convicted of cyber libel in 2020, which has made it difficult for her to leave the country.

    In this conversation, Kara Swisher asks Ressa to discuss the role of social media in the rise of polarization, and to consider if new revelations from the Facebook whistle-blower will be a game changer. And Ressa shares how her work — and the onslaught of lawsuits in response to it — have impacted her personal life and her family.

    You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more information for all episodes at nytimes.com/sway, and you can find Kara on Twitter @karaswisher.

  • After leaked internal documents in The Wall Street Journal, whistle-blower testimony on Capitol Hill, a global server outage and drops in share price, Facebook has recently taken (another) spectacular beating. But the veteran tech journalist Walt Mossberg says none of it has been a surprise. A longtime friend and mentor of Kara Swisher, he tells her, “I think the company is fundamentally unethical.” And, drawing on his experience covering controversial leaders, including Steve Jobs and Bill Gates (as he calls them, “the old guard”), Mossberg says the Facebook C.E.O. is still an aberration: “In my encounters with Mark Zuckerberg, I’ve never been able to discover any principles.”

    In this conversation, Kara and Mossberg talk about “the sins of Facebook,” whether this new scandal really is the company’s Big Tobacco moment and why Sheryl Sandberg is still sitting at Zuckerberg’s side. They also swap stories of tech executives — from making Zuckerberg sweat (literally) and getting the cold shoulder from Elon Musk to Mossberg’s Taco Bell invitation from Gates and “arm-waving arguments” with Jobs.

    You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more information for all episodes at nytimes.com/sway, and you can find Kara on Twitter @karaswisher.

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  • It’s been nine months since the Capitol attack, and we still don’t have true accountability. Representative Adam Schiff and the rest of the Jan. 6 House select committee are issuing subpoenas to key witnesses, including Steve Bannon, Dan Scavino and two “Stop the Steal” rally organizers. “No one is off the table,” Schiff says.

    But in a political ecosystem that is defined in part by the spread of misinformation and polarization on platforms like Facebook and the power of right-wing media outlets like Fox News and One America News Network, how much will a congressional investigation actually move the needle on a democracy at risk? Especially when the effort — billed as bipartisan — has only two Republican members?

    In this conversation, Kara presses Schiff on the Jan. 6 committee’s ability to bring about change and its efforts to subpoena key witnesses. As Kara points out, “Issuing subpoenas is one thing, but getting people to comply is another” — and that is proving more difficult as Donald Trump advises allies to defy the committee. They also discuss the Facebook whistle-blower Frances Haugen, how Schiff wishes Mark Zuckerberg would have replied to questions about the platform’s role in amplifying polarization and whether Trump will run in 2024. And Schiff reflects on the former president’s nicknames for him.

    You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more information for all episodes at nytimes.com/sway, and you can find Kara on Twitter @karaswisher.

  • The 45th president may have been ripe material for (dark) comedy, but Samantha Bee sure does not miss him. After covering Donald Trump for six seasons on her late night show “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee,” she says, “Comedy is better without him. Just the world in general, — the globe — is better without him.” She now has airtime to double down her coverage of other challenges like climate change and the affront to voting and abortion rights.

    In this conversation, Kara Swisher asks Bee about her role as a “funny advocate.” They also discuss the challenges of pandemic socializing, the future of entertainment and Bee’s hopes that Vladimir Putin “ride a bear into the woods.” And she gives her two cents, as a New Yorker, on the Texas gubernatorial race: “I would vote for a pizza stained paper plate over Greg Abbott.”

    This episode contains strong language.

    You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more information for all episodes at nytimes.com/sway, and you can find Kara on Twitter @karaswisher.

  • When the actor Matthew McConaughey dropped his rom-com act to pursue hard-hitting dramas, Hollywood called it a “McConaissance.” Now we may be on the cusp of the next one, as he mulls over a run for governor of Texas. McConaughey is the first to admit he’s not a conventional pick for Texans. “I’m not a man who comes at politics from a political background,” he says. “I’m a statesman-philosopher, folk-singing poet.” Even so, he has some thoughts about the current political climate, observing, “It’s necessary to be aggressively centric, at least, to possibly salvage democracy in America right now.”

    In this conversation, Kara Swisher asks McConaughey to unpack his thoughts on key issues like mask mandates, abortion and voting rights, and what he actually means when he says he’s “measuring” a run for governor. They also discuss his recent memoir, “Greenlights,” as he doles out some of his life philosophies and cackles in good humor at the critical reviews that Kara insists on reading him.

    This episode contains strong language.

    You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more information for all episodes at nytimes.com/sway, and you can find Kara on Twitter @karaswisher.

  • Truth and context may seem elusive today, but for Monica Lewinsky they both “went out the door in 1998.” As the investigation into Bill Clinton unfolded, Lewinsky came under scrutiny as the most infamous intern in Washington, but kept largely silent due to an immunity deal with investigators. In this conversation with Kara Swisher, Lewinsky says she and the other women entangled in the president’s impeachment “were all reduced in different ways to serve purposes for other people: for either political points or to make money.” She considers the toll of that experience on her own life, and contemplates how it might all have played out differently in the age of online accountability and the #MeToo Twittersphere.

    Swisher also asks Lewinsky to reflect on the new FX series “Impeachment: American Crime Story” — on which she served as a producer, but did not have creative control — and Lewinsky’s latest project, an HBO Max documentary entitled “15 Minutes of Shame,” which explores the world of public humiliation. And they delve into cancel culture, Trump’s online trolling and how pitting women against one another “is one of the playbooks in the patriarchy”

    You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more information for all episodes at nytimes.com/sway, and you can find Kara on Twitter @karaswisher.

  • Andrew Yang failed in his campaigns for president of the United States and mayor of New York City, but that has not stopped him from trying to disrupt the political status quo with a new party, which he has named “Forward.” This time, the candidate known for evangelizing universal basic income, or U.B.I., is championing ideas like open primaries and rank-choice voting (which, incidentally, was the voting system used in the mayoral race he lost). But critics are skeptical that he needs to work outside the two-party system to accomplish these goals.

    In this conversation, Kara Swisher asks Yang whether the new party is a gimmick to sell books or a real solution to political polarization. She presses him for some self-reflection on his mayoral campaign, and they unpack whether lack of government experience is an asset or a liability. Also, we get an update on the Yang Gang.

    You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more information for all episodes at nytimes.com/sway, and you can find Kara on Twitter @karaswisher.

  • Beto O’Rourke came close to unseating Senator Ted Cruz in 2018 and fell far from winning the presidency in 2020. Now the former El Paso congressman has turned his attention back home. He’s been a key organizer and fund-raiser in the fight against Republicans’ efforts to restrict voting rights in the state, including their recent passage of S.B.1. He’s also rumored to be considering a run for Texas governor in 2022 — a race he describes as crucial given “the deep damage and chaos and incompetence that is connected to Greg Abbott,” the incumbent.

    But can O’Rourke pull a Stacey Abrams and help flip his state blue? And if he decides to run, can he do what she previously couldn’t: win a governor’s seat?

    In this conversation, Kara Swisher presses O’Rourke on why he’s being so coy about a potential run and how dragging his feet may box out other Democratic contenders. They dig into some of those rumored contenders — specifically, the actor Matthew McConaughey. They also speak about the connection between Republican legislative moves to curb voting rights with S.B.1 and to restrict abortion with S.B.8 — and what it will take for Democrats to overcome these hurdles and actually win in Texas.

    You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more information for all episodes at nytimes.com/sway, and you can find Kara on Twitter @karaswisher.

  • In a special Opinion Audio bonanza, Kara Swisher, Jane Coaston (The Argument) and Ezra Klein (The Ezra Klein Show) sit down to discuss what went wrong for the G.O.P. in the recall election of Gov. Gavin Newsom of California. “This was where the nationalization of politics really bit back for Republicans,” Jane says. The three hosts then debate whether the media industry’s criticism of itself does any good at all. “The media tweets like nobody’s watching,” Ezra says. Then the hosts turn to The Wall Street Journal’s revelations in “The Facebook Files” and discuss how to hold Facebook accountable. “We’re saying your tools in the hands of malevolent players are super dangerous,” Kara says, “but we have no power over them whatsoever.”

    And last, Ezra, Jane and Kara offer recommendations to take you deep into history, fantasy and psychotropics.

    Read more about the subjects in this episode:

    Jane Coaston, Vox: “How California conservatives became the intellectual engine of Trumpism”Ezra Klein: “Gavin Newsom Is Much More Than the Lesser of Two Evils” and “A Different Way of Thinking About Cancel Culture”Kara Swisher: “The Endless Facebook Apology,” “The Medium of the Moment” “‘They’re Killing People’? Biden Isn’t Quite Right, but He’s Not Wrong.” and “The Terrible Cost of Mark Zuckerberg’s Naïveté

    You can find more information for all episodes at nytimes.com/sway, and you can find Kara on Twitter @karaswisher.