tv The Week With Joshua Johnson MSNBC July 24, 2021 9:00pm-10:00pm PDT
to the way that smoke scatters light. meanwhile the danger that firefighters face remains extreme. according to "the wall street journal" almost 22,000 firefighters and other personnel have been deployed. check out this video that was taken from inside a fire department truck from the university of california davis. it shows the tamarack fire which recently spread from california into nevada. the crew was working to protect a housing development. so how will we deal with rising temperatures? researchers are testing some new technology to do just that in the united arab emirates. and instead of evaporating in midair from the heat, the rain drops were large enough to reach
the ground. it is the top of the hour and it's always good to be with you. the delta variant is surging in all 50 states. st. louis and st. louis county are both set to bring back mask mandates. we'll dive into the latest with our saturday night panel.br it's day two of the olympics in tokyo. team usa's three on three womens basketball, gymnastics and volleyball teams all compete in a few hours. we'll talk about how far the olympics have come for women anl how far they still have to go. and jeff bezos' rocket launch has a lot of people excited about space tourism. others are cynical about the billionaire space race, but i a see a problem with both sides of this debate. i'll explain in tonight's essay. from nbc news world headquarters in new york, i'm joshua johnson. welcome to "the week." you know, after more than a
year indoors and with vaccinations on the rise this io summer was supposed to be much more fun. ♪♪ scratch that record. the delta variant is threatening to pull everybody back indoors perhaps for a long time. just over 57% of eligible adults are fully vaccinated. and the biden administration is calling this new wave of infections the pandemic of the unvaccinated.ns cases are surging in states witt some of the lowest vaccination rates like louisiana, mississippi and alabama. but there's some good news. these states are also seeing an uptick in vaccinations. and this increase will save va lives, but not everyone is onboard. a new poll shows that the overwhelming majority of unvaccinated americans say they are still unlikely to do so.
confidence in the vaccine's potency against new variants is also low at least among the unvaccinated. and that's despite evidence that they do work. patience among the vaccinated is wearing thin. alabama's governor kay ivey has clearly had enough. >> what is it going to take to a get people to get shots in arms? >> i don't know you tell me.le folks are supposed to have common sense.e and it's time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks not the regular folks. it's the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down. >> so how do we increase vaccinations?do well, the nfl had one idea this week. maybe this will seem a little harsh but here's what they're going to do. commissioner roger goodell, told teams this week if they had an outbreak among their players they would forfeit a game, and d no player on either team would get paid for that week. could this be a model future companies might follow, or do we just need better information overall?
some anti-vaccination groups on facebook are using coded language to spread this information without getting flagged by moderators. they substitute words like "dancing" for vaccination. so much to discuss this hour with our saturday night panel. joining us tonight ben collins. he covers disinformation and extremism online.s kavitha david, a sports and cultural writer for the athletic, author of "loving sports when they don't love you back, dilemmas of the modern fan." and comedian and actor helen hall, you might know her from wait, wait don't tell me or the netflix hit "never have i ever." hello, helen, hello, everybody. and ben, let me start with you. and that story we mentioned at the very end, this disinformation that's kind of massacre aiding in other texts. explain what's going on there.
>> on facebook if you were to create a group that said the vaccine is filled with poison, you shouldn't take it that would get taken down very quickly. facebook does not allow that. so what are anti-vaxers doing to remain on the platform, they're changing the names of their groups to dance party or dinner party or swim party or things like that. s and once you're in the group y they replace the word vaccine with dance or beer or something. moderna gets changed to moana that sort of thing.de they are doing code word switches. d it's allowing them to stay on there, and there's no way that facebook's moderation bots can d catch this stuff. nothing is that advanced becauss they just change the topic and then they change the nouns in those topics to suit the vaccine. >> but doesn't facebook know which groups these are? i mean even though you change the name of the group it should be able to trace that's the same account with a new name, right? >> yeah, hypothetically, right? sometimes they build up followers, anti-vaccine followers on facebook and
instagram are not big famous people to regular parts of the planet, but they are big to people big in the national health community or already anti-vaccine to begin with, which is so really facebook's next step is to look at this on the after level as they'd call it in terrorism, to look at it on the level of the people who keep pushing this stuff and not go hunting for just ""p" words on their own platform. >> there's been movement among o some conservative politicos, well-known figures, republican lawmakers who have kind of changed their tune in terms of getting vaccinated. that includes fox news show host hannity who's walked back some of what he said. listen. >> i never told anyone to get a vaccine. i've been very clear.
i am simply not qualified. i am not a medical doctor. i know nothing about your medical history or your current medical condition. i think it's inappropriate for me to do so. >> what's your sense of what all this might mean in terms of actually getting people vaccinated? >> well, first of all, i don't think i've ever heard sean hannity admit to not being qualified enough. >> there's that. i'm glad you just said it. >> i think it's sad at the end y of the day we do need these commentators to change their ay tune. a very cynical part of me thinks this has to do with money. i think a lot of these commentators and politicians as well pandemic is a really bad business, the stock market dips if cases go up., and this is just not good polic or politics for our future. the sad thing is we need these people to change their messagine in order to reach those 81% of nonvaccinated folks that say they won't get vaccinated. >> i just imagine -- i just imagine like the fox news
executive meeting where they were like, oh, man, our audience numbers are dead.ik and they're like oh, really low numbers, and they were like no, they're literally dead. >> see, now, you had to make it personal. but i hear what you're saying. this gets at the heart of why many people have decided to not get vaccinated. i mean, we've heard of health care providers who try to help people get reliable, accurate, useful information and gotten pushback because, well, that doesn't match what tucker carlson told me. so i'm not sure what exactly to do about that. >> but this is also one of the reasons that we've seen such a push within leagues like the nba and the nfl to have the biggest names and the biggest faces representing their sports like lebron james go out and say i've been vaccinated. it's important for people who look like me and have skepticism about this, not the extreme skepticism, but this is why the faces of these leagues and these
issues that we see on tv matter to the people who are still skeptical about this vaccine. >> yeah, helen, what about that? if nfl players are getting vaccinated, i tend to think that's a really powerful kind of cudgel. "a," because i think -- and maybe ben, you can chime on this, too. but a number of the fitness influencers and bodybuilder s muscle heads i've seen on instagram seem to be very kind of proud of the fact they're sort of kind of going through life just without the vaccine, i kind of like macho man, going through -- it seems a little bii screwed to me. but nfl players have a very different kind of place in our culture. >> absolutely. they're totally idolized, and, you know, they have those great butts in those great like butt hugging outfits -- >> see, helen, what are you trying to do to me? >> if you're a top level elite athlete and you can still play at your a-game after getting vaccinated, i think joe shmoe really doesn't have a leg to stand on like, i don't know, i'm
not sure what the vaccination is going to do to me. it's really going to hurt my barstool time. like, come on. these are top level elite athletes. they're still playing great after getting vaccinated.st you just don't have an argument after that. and also it's so cynical, but i feel like it is -- it's true that the gop is finally coming around to the fact that, you know, the most unhelpful ll republicans are dead republicans.an and that's where they're at. it's like their constituency is literally dying off from the e coronavirus so maybe change your tune on that. >> i mean, there is that. i think as real world evidence begins to proliferate, that kind of changes things i think, particularly, ben, because more private businesses in real world like the nfl and others are saying that they're going to require some sort of vaccination to have access, to remain employed. so whether you like the vaccine or not, you know, push may be about to hit shove in this case.
>> yeah, i think what you said, by the way, about the nfl is great. i know this is kind of a stupid thought but here we are talking about people just, you know, people trying to prove how strong they are not getting the vaccine so i think we're already in the stupid thought territory. i think at some point here changing the narrative to be about the muscle youtubers you were just talking about being like i'm so strong, i got the vaccine. that's where this needs to head because right now that's the he constituency. i think what kavitha was saying about fox news realizing this is bad for business, i don't think it's necessarily wrong.si i think it's dead on. i think basically there was a constituency over the last year that has been guzzling youtube juice, and that constituency had one cable news network to follow. fox news was catering to people stuck inside, and the only network -- >> well, kavitha, also we heard from a number of administration
officials including dr. fauci who was on with neil cavuto of fauk news and he was among the officials who have made it just about as plain as can possibly be said. listen. >> if you don't get the overwhelming proportion of the population vaccinated, you will have the continual circulation and replication of the virus in the community. there are enough unvaccinated people that this could go on for a considerable period of time. there will be hospitalizations. there will be deaths, and every death and every hospitalization particularly every death is a tragic, avoidable phenomenon. >> kavitha, before we pause i think that's kind of nail on the head is that you don't have to get sick from this, you don't have to die from this.
and on top of that, even if you're not sick, if you're circulating it, then you're helping us get to the next problem. i'm not worried about the delta variant, i'm worried about the epsilon variant. >> yeah, absolutely. i think it's interesting to see how dr. fauci has had to evolve in his strategy on attacking this. he tried explaining the science. that clearly hasn't worked. i think now we're at a point of peer pressure and taking away toys from people, taking away the things they're going to be s able to do. you will not be able to go to a baseball game without a mask ont six months down the line if yous don't get the vaccine now, that kind of thing. and i think that's really, unfortunately, where the effectiveness is going to lie at and where we're going to see some change.e >> i wish we had time to play the video of dr. fauci rolling his neck at rand paul in a senate committee this week and saying you do not know what you are talking about. like oh, my gosh, you had a conversation with your m hairdresser and she told you to let him have it, and he did. as much as i love that video we have to take a break. so please stick around. y'all are going to be a fun panel, i can tell. we've got some interesting
things to talk about when we come back. coming up, we're seeing near equal gender representation at the tokyo olympics, but general gender discrimination across the sports world remains an issue. so what impact will visibility in tokyo have? also cuba's anti-government protests are still going on nearly two weeks after they started. are these demonstrations a moment or a new movement? but first richard louie is here with the headlines. hey, richard. >> very good evening to you. we're going to start with some video that may be disturbing to some viewers. a vehicle blowing through an intersection saturday hitting a woman and her infant. that vehicle then crashing into a building. the car trapped the baby underneath it. two police officers and some helpful bystanders worked ce together to lift that car. the child was rescued. mother and child seriously injured, but they are expected to survive. now, this new york car -- the driver faces charges including driving while intoxicated and vehicular assault. thousands hit the streets in sydney, australia to protest nd
covid lock down restrictions. unmasked marchers carried signs calling for freedom and truth over the last 24 hours. that area faced a record number of new cases. more of "the week" with joshua johnson right after a short break. break. ♪ ♪ experience, hyper performance that takes you further. at the lexus golden opportunity sales event. get 0.9% apr financing on the all 2021 lexus hybrid models. experience amazing. (upbeat pop music in background throughout) liberty mutual customizes car insurance
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more than half. across the board women will make up 48.8% of all olympians. that's up from 45% in 2016, and just over 2% in 1900. that's the first year they were allowed to compete. women were not included in the first modern olympics. it has not been all good news for female athletes in tokyo. this week the norwegian womens beach handball team was fined after deciding they would not play in bikinis. male players are allowed to play in tank top and shorts. women are required to wear bikini bottoms with a close fit and cut on an upward angle. so how far have we come, and how far do we still have to go? our panel is back to discuss. and helen hong, i thought i'd start with you on this whole -- >> wow. >> yeah. >> i mean this is the most blatant, sexist move. it's like there's obviously
no -- you know, like physical advantage to wearing bikini bottoms or wearing shorts if you're in competition. so this is just -- men just want to ogle womens bodies or something. it's just so blatant. and i can't say that i play beach volleyball often. i have hooked up on the beach, and i can tell you unequivocally that getting sand in your crotch not a fun experience. so i think these women should be able to be able to wear whatever they want to prevent sand crotch, and bikini is not going to cut it i'll tell you that to prevent sand crotch. >> i think we've made history on msnbc. i don't think anyone has used that phrase on the air. before, ever, yet, i don't think. >> i'm happy to bring sand crotch to the masses. >> appreciate it. that makes four times. kavitha, i think i would see this differently if the rule was all athletes have to wear
formfitting athletes. that if female athletes had to wear bikinis then male athletes had to wear compression shorts. that would make sense to me because at least you could kind of make an argument in the regulations it's functional as opposed to stylistic. >> sure, compression shorts being as controversial as they are. >> exactly, right. >> i actually wrote a column about objectifying athletes in the olympics during rio. and i started it because like leslie jones i had a similar admiration for our swimmer, conor dwyer, but the distinction i'll make is that when male athletes are objectified. obviously every olympian has a beautiful body. this is something that should be celebrated. that's part of the point of some of these games. now, at the same time male athletes even when they're noted for being beautiful or very well-built they're still seen as athletes first. and that's not the case with female athletes. there's also precedent here. several years ago the australian womens basketball team was forced to wear these very
skintight formfitting body suits, and their governing body -- and they said they were not comfortable with them. it did not help them play well on the court. their governing body came outright now said and this makes you more marketable because it makes you sexier to find. they're just saying the quiet part out loud all over again. >> i hear that. but another story with regards to women in sports we took note of is a model by the name of lana bloom set to make history as the first trans woman of color on the cover of the sports illustrated swimsuits issue. they didn't have a colored model until tyra banks in '96. this seems a big deal in addition to other luke athletes
in the olympics this year. >> by the way, it's kind of incredible. apparently what i read recently it's the most lgbtq athletes in any olympics. so that's an incredible advancement. i do want to just bring this up i read about in "the washington post" today. she is incredible. she is in her 30s. she has an architecture degree. she went to m.i.t., and she's not really certain skateboarding should be a sport at the olympics and she's skateboarding at the olympic. i think it's the coolest possible thing you can do. i think everybody should be like no, my sport is not a sport and by the way i'm going to win gold for whatever. >> i don't know if any of you should be here, but if you have to, get behind me. like what? >> yeah, exactly. and by the way that's an american right there. that is the most american thing i could ever think of. >> fact. >> we need more of these kind of people in the olympics. people so happy this is like a hobby, i guess, but i would like some gold in my life. >> if you got gold laying around you might as well, my neck's right here. helen, another story related to
women sports we saw kind of on the other side of the field or the court on the air we saw an all-women broadcast crew make history this week as they called a major league baseball game. i thought this was remarkable in part because of the way that the commentator, the play by play person is kind of cast versus the color commentators versus the side line reporters, like being the voice of authority that explains the game as it happens. that's big. like that is a -- >> absolutely. and it's 100% overdue. you know, i'm a stand up comedian, and, you know, we women comedians all stick together and we talk. and, you know, it's completely normal and accepted that you might go to a comedy club and see an all-male line-up and nobody bats an eye lash.
but if you went to a comedy club and saw an all female line-up people would be like it's ladies night, it's girls night, what is even happening? >> it's the funnest night of the week. that's what's happening. >> yeah. and the fact for literally the entire history of sports broadcasting it's been all men in all the positions all the time. like, let's give the women a chance, and let's not make a big deal out of it because we haven't been making a big deal of the men dominating. so the women dominating it's just overdue, and they did such a great job. and they were the voice of authority. no more just side line color commentator for us, ladies. we're taking over. >> kavitha, one more story i wanted to get to before we have to pause. the cleveland major league baseball team announced it's changing its mascot to the cleveland guardians. this is a reference to the statues on the hope memorial bridge which are known as the guardians of traffic. they were big icons that were built -- that were included in
the bridge when it was built. i've heard mixed opinions on this, not only as to whether or not people like the name. there is a cleveland native on our team and his one-word reaction to the name was blegh. but other than the people who didn't like the choice of the mascot, others who think this necessary, virtue signaling, if it's enough, how do you see it? >> first of all i think they should have gone with spiders. >> that's exactly what he said. what's up with the spiders? >> it was a missed opportunity. your clevelander knows. honestly we're going to have these conversations about whether it's necessary to change a racist damaging name or mascot. there are still more than 80 high schools in the country that use the former washington football team's name. this is something we need to continually change and evolve in. i will also say this is something that has been necessary and native peoples have been fighting for half a century and it's finally happening. >> can you explain to me in 10 seconds why spiders would have made sense before we go to break? >> the logo itself was enough. >> the logo. okay, all right.
>> and they're terrifying. spiders are terrifying. >> there you go. scary and the logo. i will see if my executive producer agrees with your assessment of spiders. >> just one second. i want to say i root for the boston red blanket you put on your tootsies every day so the idea we can't change these names is ridiculous. i would love a much cooler name. >> now i'm feeling boston red tootsies. you three stick around. we've got plenty more to talk about. up next jeff bezos took the billionaire space race to new height s this week. some folks aren't happy about it partly because of his conduct here at earth. we'll get to the panel just ahead. stay close. stay close what happens when you make power your thing... above everything? you decide fast... is never fast enough. you put muscle over matter.
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this week humanity took another huge leap into the future of space travel. but many here on earth were less than thrilled when jeff bezos became the second billionaire in two weeks to take his first spaceflight. the team at late night with seth myers tweeted, quote, his flight lasted 10 minutes or as amazon employees call it maternity leave. comedian jik nick pappas tweeted, quote, jeff bezos is making his first trip to space today. it's amazing in our lifetime he could create jobs that pay less than a living wage on other planets, too. and mr. bezos has not exactly helped his cause. after landing safely he said this. >> i want to thank every amazon employee and every amazon customer because you guys paid for all this. >> you're welcome?
how we balance these concerns about wealth inequality and the billionaire elite with the benefits of space exploration, and for some people the flat out cool factor of inventing new ways to go to space? our panel is back. standup comedian actress helen hong, also director and producer, nbc's ben collins, kavitha davidson, sports culture writer at the athletic. ben, i wonder if we're getting caught up in the weeds of some of this just because jeff bezos and elon musk are so controversial slash likable to some people as opposed to the benefits of being able to explore space in new ways including with reusable rockets that will just cost less to fly? >> yeah, i'm sure there are benefits. but, you know, at the end of the day these are some of the richest and most bombastic people on social media and in our lives. and, you know, they took a trip
funded by our purchases on amazon apparently up to space while, you know, as motherboard reported this week, there was a woman last year who worked at an amazon factory and asked for lighter duty when she was pregnant, was not given that because of the demands of the job and miscarried. also over the last few years amazon has consistently down-played or flat out lied about the fact that workers have to pee in bottles to get through shifts. they say it's not happening. it's absolutely happening. it's something workers continually talk about. so this guy went to space, which is cool. and we have a tremendous gap between people who can do that, people who need to work two or three jobs just to get by to put food on the table here. i think there probably was a more tactful way of doing it. however, quickly this is the thing on tv because it looks cool. look how cool it looks. that's amazing. but we're not talking about the people that are really, like, trod upon in society from these businesses. >> kavitha, in terms of what to do about that, i understand the concerns about wealth inequality and billionaires paying their fair share in taxes. but it you want to complain about taxes jeff bezos and elon
musk don't set tax policy. congress sets policy and the irs including president biden's going after the laws we already have. that's gotten push back from congressional republicans already. so i understand the complaint. i'm just not sure we're debating the right solutions to this problem. >> i mean, we've been debating closing loopholes in capital gains tax and the entire irs code for decades now. i don't see hopefully a new push from the administration will help do that. i do also think we need to at some point develop new technology to help these rockets look a little bit less like how they look right now. i'm also thinking back to when jeff bezos paid $20 billion for an ad and had to pull it because news of his affair broke. so this seems like maybe the most expensive rebound ever. i'm not sure where that stand.
>> helen, i'm almost afraid to come to you on this one because i -- >> you should be because here's what i have to say. jeff bezos we thought his spaceship looked like a giant wiener, and then, huh? then he opened his mouth. i just think, you know -- i just think, you know, a trash bag in space is still a trash bag. now it's a floating trash bag. jeff, pay your workers a fair wage, please. >> is that -- but helen, let me just ask. i hear you on all the points you're making. does that eclipse all the potential value of this flight for you? >> yes. right now currently there are like large swaths of the planet literally on fire. we are dealing with a massive climate problem, and we're going to -- and we've just contributed more carbon dioxide into the air so this guy can have 10 minutes, you know, to look at the -- like to experience zero gravity? come on, yes, there's absolutely
no help to billionaires not even doing scientific missions, just billionaires la-di-da'ing in space. no,. pay your workers a living wage and let's fix the climate problem. come on. >> we should note there was a nasa scientific experimental sample on the virgin galactic flight that went out. so there was some non-corporate related scientific research that went on with at least one of these flights. but, ben, the other piece of this for me is that the bell is rung, right? we already know there are other nations including china who are not shy about their aspirations in space. and i don't think that china is going to be nearly as permissive with space in terms of their military and commercial aspirations as the united states might be. also we have already kind of seen how space science is going to effect life on earth. elon musk already sent a rocket into space that was
self-piloted, so the debate over self-driving cars is over. they are coming. mark my words. this debate -- if you can fly a spaceship you can drive an 18 wheeler across the country. so, ben, i'm just not sure how we have the conversation in a way that allows us to raise the arguments that helen raised for sure but also kind of brace for future that is already on the way. >> yeah, we're -- it's difficult to decouple the conversation about the legitimate gains of space travel and how cool that could be and how useful that could be for us from the people who are -- you know, who got us to that place. at least for the privatization of that place. you know, when jeff bezos went up there he was like we're going to go on the moon and move industry to the moon. please don't mess with the moon. it's like the only thing we haven't messed with. i'm begging you leave the moon alone. it's the last thing we have. >> show of hands, who would go on one of these flights if money was no object, anybody? >> are they giving me money? >> if they were just going to
give you a flight. helen, you would go. ben, kavitha? >> after all the things i've said about jeff bezos, no, i will not go. >> ben collins, kavitha davidson, helen hong, you three too much fun. i appreciate you being here. thanks very much. the rest of you please stick around because i've got a few more thoughts on space tourism, so-called space tourism. coming up at the end of the hour. up next the cuban people are at a breaking point. will anti-government protests bring the change they're after? we did it again. verizon has been named america's most reliable network by rootmetrics. and our customers rated us #1 for network quality in america according to j.d. power. number one in reliability, 16 times in a row. most awarded for network quality, 27 times in a row. proving once again that nobody builds networks like verizon. that's why we're building 5g right, that's why there's only one best network.
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crisis since the fall of the soviet union, and covid cases are on the rise. here's nbc's isa gutierrez. >> reporter: the protests were spontaneous, thousands chanting freedom as they marched, organized loosely over social media. the biggest anti-government demonstrations the island nation has seen in decades. and the crack down was fierce. security forces shooting at unarmed protesters, plain clothes officers beating men, women and children. arresting protesters, dragging them off. hundreds swept up still in prison according to human rights groups. now the question, was it a moment or the beginning of a movement? >> we are not going to stay quiet.
we are not going to give up. cuban people have our support. and we're requesting president biden to take action and support the cuban people. >> reporter: in the u.s. and around the world cuban exiles are still marching in solidarity, cheering protesters on. but on the streets of havana patrolled by heavily armed government troops and police, are there have been no new large protests in days. the cuban people are at a breaking point. covid is surging. the economy is in tatters. many waiting six or seven or eight hours just to purchase simple goods. the only thing there is a lot of is scarcity. as they often do, cuba's leader blaming the u.s. embargo. though after the protests broke out he announced the regime would allow travelers coming into the country to bring in food and medicine until december, something they hadn't been able to do before. but with limited commercial
flights every day and not everyone having a family member that can support them from the outside, it's unclear what impact this will make. cuba has been ruled by a dictatorial socialist regime since fidel castro came to power in 1959. but as social media and the internet take hold and more young people find their voices, these protests may just be the start. >> that was "nightly news" saturday anchor jose diaz-balart reporting. the billionaire space race has sparked a debate over space tourism, but that term says something about us that we may not want to face. i'll explain before we go. i don't just play someone brainy on tv - i'm an actual neuroscientist. and i love the science behind neuriva plus. unlike ordinary memory supplements, neuriva plus fuels six key indicators of brain performance. more brain performance? yes, please! neuriva. think bigger. ♪ limu emu & doug ♪ oh! are you using liberty mutual's coverage customizer tool? sorry? well, since you asked. it finds discounts and policy recommendations,
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this week we saw history made, another successful human spaceflight with a privately built rocket. there's one more piece of this space debate i've been struggling with. maybe it's a sign of our cynical nonplussed culture. words matter, and i think we need to use two words in particular much more carefully -- space tourism. it's one of the possibilities supporters and critics of these flights point to. maybe you'd go if you could, maybe not. but either way i don't think this term is right. we seem to throw this phrase around too much. and that reveals something about us that we might not want to accept. but in a way it feels familiar. this concern that we're not devoting enough energy to problems here on earth. author gil scott-heron focused on that in a poem in 1969 just after the moon landing.
>> taxes taken my whole damn check. the junkies make me a nervous wreck. the price of food going up. and if all that crap wasn't enough a rat done bit my sister neln with whitey on the moon. her face and arm began to swell and whitey's on the moon. how come i don't got no money here. whitey's on the moon. >> can you brave the brother considering what race relations looked like in the late '60s. his poem reflects a common sentiment, that the highest etch lawns of human achievement and still pretty much reserved for white men. two things about this strike me as especially cruel. one, he was right at the time. and two, he was not quite as right as he thought he was. there was probably no way for him to know behind these whitey's on the moon were a lot of black women. many of us learned of them through the 2017 movie "hidden
figures." before a computer was an object in your pocket it was a job description, a human being who did exhausting mathematical calculations on paper. nasa employed human computers to help with the early space program before machines did all the math. back in 2019 nasa renamed the street in front of its national headquarters hidden figures way, and rightly so. every digit and decimal meant the difference between making history and causing tragedy. and last summer nasa renamed its headquarters after mary w. jackson, its first black female engineer. junel monet played her in the movie. these are not just trips. they're experiments, and they have gone wrong. which brings us back to the billionaires. this months flights imight have felt like an early form of space tourism, but admit it when you watch these flights especially if you watch live one thought
had to have gone through your head. what if it blows up? i know that's a horrible thing to think about, but how could you not? it certainly crossed my mind. i was at work in south florida on february 1, 2003, when i looked up and saw the same strange image on every channel in the newsroom. it was the space shuttle columbia destroyed on reentry with seven souls aboard. we know what a disaster looks like with a spacecraft we're used to. would this be our first memory of a new era of human spaceflight, disaster? nothing like spaceflight feels like tourism and i'm from florida. i know tourism. it's a way to forget your troubles, get away from it all, let someone else worry about the details. tourism requires planned, predictable experiences. there's no rule for the unexpected when you're building a thrill ride or mounting a broadway musical. none of this sounds like the galacic or blue origin flight at
all. we've never had privately owned spacecraft before, and each flight returns to earth overflowing with new data about how to get in, around and back from space. so at this point there's really no such thing as space tourism. it's all space exploration. every single person aboard every single craft is an explorer. what will it mean to have a growing number of civilian explorers on earth? what will the long-term impacts be on their bodies, on their relationships, their politics, their religions? how will that reshape humanity? and what will it mean when a civilian's life is lost on one of these commercial spaceflights? see, the fatal flaw of cynicism is that it requires certainty. there's not much room for nuance. i don't know one cynic in the crowd of critics who can answer one of those questions. we just don't know. we can't know. not yet. we've had three flights in three new vehicles during a pandemic. that is remarkable.
but maybe we're all just feeling really beaten down by the last few years, and we've emotionally armored ourselves up. i think some of us are so used to being upset that we forgot how to be impressed. maybe that's why some folks were quick to condemn these flights and slow to ask questions about every aspect of them. that's my complaint. not the presence of criticism but the absence of curiosity. and don't get me wrong, there are good, smart questions to answer about the futuref our tax structure, about spaceflight, about the power of the ultrawealthy. those questions for merit, and jeff bezos might want to find better answers than thanking amazon customers for funding his flight. i mean, what did he think we would say? you're welcome, i guess. we don't have to choose between cheering on these moon shot moguls or criticizing them, we can do both. but let's do both. we never know the impact things
like this can have. but if history teaches us anything we know we can be a part of it. once an idea gets out, it's there for anyone to grab onto. i'm sure the founders of nasa never intended for black women to be held in such high esteem there, but it happened. and i've said it before and i'll say it again, i know rockefeller never intended a guy like me to be living my dream in his skyscraper, but here i am. billionaires may shape the future, but they cannot make the future. just because we're not as powerful, that does not make us powerless. look, i get it. today's world is scary, uncertain. no wonder we're stressed out and cynical, but let's show some humility in the face of the unknown. humility, curiosity and above all some hope. we are explorers, all of us. we have to face the problems of today and we ought to let ourselves look up at the possibilities of tomorrow. remember, don't let your view block your vision. and with that said we'd love to
hear from you. how have the recent spaceflights affected you? e-mail us. tell us your name and where you live, send us pictures or video to tiktok. just make sure you took the pics or video yourself. however you reach out, we'll share some-of your stories tomorrow night. congratulations to team usa for its first gold medal. thanks for making time for us. and before we go do check out my essay on msnbc.com about the network's 25th anniversary. until we meet again, i'm joshua johnson. thanks for making time for us. good night. s. good night ♪
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