Useful Idiots Podcast With Ryan McMahon, Jon Thompson of 'Thunder Bay' - Rolling Stone
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‘Useful Idiots’ With Ryan McMahon and Jon Thompson of the ‘Thunder Bay’ Podcast

Hosts Matt Taibbi and Katie Halper read Obama quotes — and also discuss their exhaustion with the Trump administration’s shenanigans

In the latest socially distanced episode of our Useful Idiots podcast, hosts Matt Taibbi and Katie Halper are joined by Ryan McMahon and Jon Thompson of the Thunder Bay podcast.

For “Democrats Suck,” Katie dives into former President Barack Obama’s new best-selling memoir A Promised Land, particularly the section in which Obama laments overseeing the deaths of people that he asserts he had actually wanted to help.

“Yeah, he wrote that,” says Katie.

“That takes some stones to write that, I have to say. I’m very impressed,” responds Matt.

For “Republicans Suck,” Matt shows his exhaustion with the Trump administration, citing yet another failed attempt by President Donald Trump to swing the November election to his favor.

“I can’t keep track of all the legal challenges, it’s like fractals or something, it’s gone beyond my ability to follow,” says Matt. “It was funny: There was an element of humor to Trump’s absurdities when he was somehow winning. But this has gotten completely ridiculous.”

Joining the show for the first time are Ryan McMahon and Jon Thompson, who are releasing season two of their acclaimed Thunder Bay, a true crime podcast about the the deaths of indigenous youth in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

McMahon discusses his background as an indigenous Anishinaabe comedian-turned-podcaster, how his comic background influences his approach to the podcast, and what instigated his pursuit of covering this story. He explains how was previously working on a politics podcast that would tangentially cover Thunder Bay issues. “Because that’s home for me, and I grew up around Thunder Bay, I know that what we were doing on this other podcast that I formally hosted wasn’t doing justice to these stories,” McMahon says. “We have to stop doing these little drive-by hits on really complex and nuanced stories. And so I just pitched and made a compelling argument to take a deeper dive into this stuff.”
McMahon argues that there are parallels to what’s happening in Thunder Bay to other experiences for indigenous and marginalized communities in the United States. Our guests also discuss the current state of relations between indigenous and non-indigenous Canadians. “We have blueprints, we have agreements, we have history that we can look at, it’s just that the governments of my ancestors never intended to live up to any of that, and then didn’t,” says Thompson, who is not indigenous.
Lastly, McMahon and Thompson break down the dynamic they have as indigenous and non-indigenous people working to tell this story, and how the process has benefitted from having those different perspectives.
“This experiment in journalism and in this series has been fascinating for me, and refreshing for me. And to have these voices with these lived experiences and different ideas on how to tackle the questions and the problems I think is valuable,” says McMahon. “We often silo ourselves and funnel ourselves into conversations that don’t leave space for us to to be right or wrong or hear perspective we’ve not considered before.”
Listen and watch the full interview here. You can find the show on AppleSpotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

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