Andrew Callaghan: Channel 5, Gonzo, QAnon, O-Block, Politics & Alex Jones | Lex Fridman Podcast #425

Andrew Callaghan: Channel 5, Gonzo, QAnon, O-Block, Politics & Alex Jones | Lex Fridman Podcast #425

Introduction (00:00:00)

Walmart (00:01:18)

  • Andrew Callaghan usually shops at Target but went to Walmart to buy a Wrangler shirt with the Texas Longhorns logo.
  • He considers Walmart to be a more humorous choice compared to Men's Warehouse for suits.
  • The most expensive item he owns is a watch that was gifted to him.
  • He used to own $2,700 Cartier sunglasses but found them embarrassing in retrospect.
  • Andrew Callaghan moved to Austin after a woman at Walmart complimented his appearance in a suit.

Early life (00:02:48)

  • Andrew Callaghan developed an interest in journalism in high school and began conducting interviews for class assignments.
  • He experienced HPPD (Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder) after taking psilocybin mushrooms, leading to depersonalization and derealization disorders.
  • Callaghan uses journalism as a therapeutic mechanism to cope with these symptoms and has abstained from alcohol and benzodiazepines to manage his condition.
  • He criticizes the education system for forcing students to take unengaging classes, hindering their ability to discover their true passions.
  • Callaghan's love for journalism stems from the opportunity to witness historical events and access different realities.
  • He cites influences such as the early Daily Show, Sasha Baron Cohen, and Hunter S. Thompson, particularly admiring Thompson's straightforward reporting style.
  • Callaghan acknowledges the comparison to Hunter S. Thompson but believes he still has room for growth.
  • He reflects on his past excessive partying and drug use, recognizing their impact on his life and the potential hindrance to creativity in the long run.
  • Callaghan expresses fascination with astronomy and the psychological effects of space travel, questioning the credibility of Wikipedia as a reliable source of information.
  • He emphasizes the importance of social connection and human interaction to combat feelings of insignificance when contemplating the vastness of space.
  • Callaghan gained valuable experiences from his 70-day hitchhiking journey across the United States.

Hitchhiking (00:21:38)

  • Andrew Callaghan, seeking a more exciting form of journalism, embarked on a cross-country hitchhiking journey after graduating, leaving behind his belongings and relying on the kindness of strangers.
  • During his travels, he encountered various characters, including older hitchhikers perceived as escaped convicts and Mexican day laborers who offered assistance.
  • Callaghan highlights the allure of traveling and exploring, which resonates with those seeking adventure, while also emphasizing the need for balance between stability and spontaneity.
  • He reflects on giving away his possessions twice, symbolizing his readiness for new experiences, and cherishes a watch gifted to him by his close friend Joe Rogan.
  • Callaghan acknowledges the importance of investigating controversies surrounding Hunter Biden, including alleged drug use and involvement with prostitutes, and expresses regret over losing a hard drive containing childhood pictures.

Couch surfing (00:33:14)

  • Andrew Callaghan used Couchsurfing to find free lodging during his travels and encountered nudist hosts.
  • Hitchhiking proved tiring due to the constant need to express gratitude to those who helped him.
  • Callaghan observed that people on the margins, such as those struggling with addiction, were more charitable than those with Christian family values.
  • He criticizes the dangers of hate being used by powerful people to maintain power and money.
  • Callaghan dislikes Oregon for its extreme contrast between being the most racist state and having the most psychotic anarchist city.
  • His personal experience with police brutality led him to become critical of law enforcement.
  • Callaghan transitioned from being an anarchist to realizing the incompatibility of anarchism with American society.
  • He admires Emma Goldman, prison abolitionists like Angela Davis and Ruth Wilson Gilmore, and continues to adhere to principles of radical prison reform.
  • Callaghan emphasizes the importance of having an open mind and warns against the potential suffering caused by extreme ideologies.

Quarter Confessions (00:42:14)

  • Andrew Callaghan faced ethical dilemmas while creating the "Quarter Confessions" series, including a request to share a homicide video and the regret expressed by participants.
  • Callaghan aims to create more intimate content, considering the long-term implications of sharing personal confessions digitally.
  • He approaches interviews selectively, focusing on individuals ready to talk and avoiding those in distress.
  • Callaghan highlights the underlying traumas and challenges faced by homeless individuals, emphasizing the need for comprehensive support beyond housing and material assistance.
  • He criticizes the romanticization of homelessness and addresses the shame and self-blame that hinder positive change.
  • Callaghan discusses the complexity of drug abuse, trauma, and childhood trauma in relation to homelessness, advocating for understanding and support rather than quick fixes.
  • His documentary about homeless individuals in Las Vegas was taken down due to a copyright strike from a corporation, raising concerns about potential corruption and abuse of power.
  • Callaghan plans to take legal action against the copyright strike to protect smaller creators and defend those doing good in the world.
  • His popular YouTube series, "All Gas No Brakes," evolved from "Quarter Confessions" and combined the road dog ethos with the editing style of "Quarter Confessions."
  • Callaghan enjoyed the early success and creative freedom of "All Gas No Brakes," which allowed him to travel and create content with the support of a production company.

Burning Man (00:59:58)

  • Andrew Callaghan and his friend Cel started a YouTube channel called All Gas No Breaks, where they interviewed people about their craziest trip stories.
  • They initially struggled to get interviews at Burning Man but eventually found success by announcing themselves as "psychedelic journalists" on Burning Man radio.
  • Callaghan and his team filmed a man dancing while covered in chowder at Burning Man, leading to pressure from powerful people to take down the video.
  • They traveled to various events, including Talladega race weekend, a Donald Trump Jr. book signing, and a juggalo-adjacent fetish mansion in Central Florida.
  • Juggalos are fans of the Insane Clown Posse (ICP) and are known for their outrageous behavior and fighting.
  • Callaghan discusses his experiences traveling the United States in an RV, his love for ICP music, and meeting a woman in Albuquerque who wanted to join him on his travels.
  • He recommends the book "On the Road" by Jack Kerouac and describes unique experiences on long bus rides and encounters with roosters.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic impacted Callaghan's career, leading to four months of depression in his RV in Seattle, but his YouTube channel continued to grow during this time.
  • The pandemic caused political polarization in the US, with Callaghan's first political video, filmed during an anti-lockdown protest in Sacramento, becoming his most successful video at the time.
  • Callaghan interviewed people with varying opinions on the lockdown, highlighting the extreme reactions and divisions among people during the pandemic.

Protests (01:15:08)

  • Comedic reporter Andrew Callaghan felt compelled to cover the George Floyd protests in Minneapolis despite concerns about the potential impact on his career.
  • Encouraged by his friend Lacy, he transformed his show into a source for social justice and arrived in Minneapolis during the second night of riots.
  • Callaghan encountered National Guardsmen enforcing strict restrictions on movement and joined Lacy and her friends to film the protests.
  • He interviewed a man holding a Molotov cocktail, capturing the sentiment of the protesters, and observed two groups involved in the riots: organized protesters and African-American community members expressing their anger.
  • Unlike Unicorn Riot, local news focused on the scene from a distance, lacking interviews with the protesters.
  • Callaghan witnessed various incidents, including an anarchist attempting to throw a Molotov cocktail at White Castle but being stopped by a black man, and a group destroying an ATM.
  • While covering the protest, Callaghan was shot in the buttocks by a rubber bullet and saw a group of friends fighting over money from a broken ATM.
  • Despite the pain, he enjoyed the experience and the positive reception of the video he posted about it.

Jon Stewart (01:20:41)

  • Andrew Callaghan discusses Jon Stewart's influence and comedic style.
  • Callaghan believes Stewart has a lot of clout and can say whatever he wants without being controlled by corporate media.
  • Callaghan admires Stewart's ability to step away from the spotlight during the Trump era and come back as an elder statesman.
  • Callaghan highlights Stewart's moment on the Colbert show, joking about the Wuhan lab leak theory, which made Steven Colbert uncomfortable.
  • Callaghan praises Stewart for standing up for what's right and considers him a true American.
  • Callaghan acknowledges the risk of groupthink, even for those not controlled by bosses or money, but believes Stewart has mostly resisted this.
  • Callaghan views Stewart as the freest talker in the corporate media economy.
  • Callaghan discusses how he gained popularity through his YouTube channel, Channel 5.
  • He attributes his success to his authentic and unscripted approach to interviewing people.
  • Callaghan mentions his coverage of events like the QAnon conference, the O-Block, and the Alex Jones trial, which brought him wider recognition.
  • He emphasizes the importance of building trust with his subjects and letting them speak for themselves.
  • Callaghan highlights the challenges of balancing his personal life with his work and the toll it takes on his mental health.
  • He expresses his desire to continue creating content that sparks conversations and makes a positive impact.

Fame (01:23:37)

  • Andrew Callaghan, the creator of Channel 5, gained fame for his journalism during the Minneapolis protests, Portland protests, and Proud Boys rally.
  • Callaghan's popularity surged during the COVID-19 pandemic when people were confined to their homes.
  • He experienced both positive and negative aspects of fame, including recognition, acceptance, free stuff, and the loss of anonymity.
  • Callaghan discussed his desire for anonymity and suggested attending furry conventions while wearing a fursuit to achieve it.
  • He received a direct message from Eric Warheim of Tim and Eric to collaborate on a show, which eventually led to a movie deal with A24 Films.
  • Callaghan predicted riots if Trump won the 2020 election and a coup attempt if he lost, and he planned to document the events.
  • Callaghan was fired from Doing Things Media, along with his childhood friends, due to disagreements over workload and profit sharing.
  • He criticized the "sidekick syndrome" mentality and emphasized the importance of creative freedom for creators.
  • Callaghan recalled being fired from All Gas No Brakes and the challenges they faced, including being stranded in a cold RV in a Walmart parking lot.
  • Channel 5 was born in March 2021 after Callaghan and his team finished filming for an HBO project.

Jan 6 (01:36:55)

  • Andrew Callaghan's film "This Place Rules" presents a microcosm of the division between the extremes of the left and the right.
  • The film features a character named Joker Gang who serves as a voice of wisdom and cuts through the division.
  • The film is available on HBO Max and is highly recommended by Lex Fridman.
  • HBO is praised for being professional and respectful to work with.
  • The film reveals the absurdity of the division and the circus-like atmosphere of January 6th.
  • Enrique Tarrio, former chairman of The Proud Boys, did not believe the election was stolen despite his role in hyping up supporters.
  • Many people's lives were drastically altered due to the events of January 6th.

QAnon (01:40:39)

  • Andrew Callaghan discussed his experience covering the QAnon movement and its impact on the Spencer family, observing their rapid indoctrination into QAnon beliefs.
  • Callaghan highlighted the role of children in the family as voices of wisdom, expressing disappointment and heartbreak over the failure of QAnon's predictions, particularly the events of January 6th.
  • He mentioned the existence of "Trump rappers" who effectively deliver political messages through their music.
  • Callaghan emphasized the need for retrospective analysis and lessons learned from the QAnon movement, rather than simply moving on.
  • He suggested that viral ideas, including conspiracy theories, can be driven by a small number of individuals seeking clout.
  • Callaghan acknowledged the allure of conspiracy theories and the possibility that QAnon may have served as a distraction from uncovering the true nature of the "Deep State."
  • The media landscape is driven by engagement and retention incentives, leading to the creation of fear and division to enrich corporate media establishments.

Alex Jones (01:46:24)

  • Andrew Callaghan interviewed Alex Jones for his film and found him to be the same off-camera as he is on-camera. Jones told Callaghan that he believes all real Americans die before the age of 58.
  • Callaghan had to campaign to get Jones in the film because the studios were concerned about platforming problematic ideologies.
  • During a promotional tour for the film, Callaghan appeared on CNN and criticized the 24-hour news cycle for antagonizing and stirring up people for financial gain.
  • Callaghan's interview with Jones caused Time Warner to cancel his press tour due to concerns that he was a "loose cannon."
  • Callaghan defended his decision to interview Jones by stating that the Sandy Hook family's lawyer had told him that Leonard Posner, the father of a victim, was a fan of his film.
  • Callaghan's film takes a critical stance on Jones and the grifters who exploit tragedies without judgment.
  • Callaghan believes that Jones's show, Infowars, is entertaining but dangerous because it can incite people to violence.
  • Callaghan feels pressure to conform to the YouTube algorithm and increase views but tries not to let it influence his content creation.
  • Callaghan admires Joe Rogan's ability to ignore metrics and focus on creating content he enjoys.
  • Callaghan emphasizes the importance of passion and enjoyment in content creation, leading to better and more authentic work.
  • Callaghan highlights the negative impact of audience control on creators, viewing it as a form of "slavery" that can harm their mindset and creative process.
  • Callaghan credits Jonah Hill for believing in the potential of his project and providing crucial support, including legal assistance that helped him gain freedom from his previous contract.

Politics (02:03:17)

  • Andrew Callaghan leans left on social issues but questions the effectiveness of leftist economic policies.
  • He advocates for free speech and a free internet, acknowledging the existence of "terms of exile" on both the left and the right for those who deviate from their respective norms.
  • Callaghan criticizes the left for being more sensitive and prone to attacking their own, while conservatives are more concerned about pedophiles.
  • His journalism remains unbiased, despite receiving backlash from conservatives for allowing migrants to share their stories about their journey to the US.
  • Callaghan observed the desperation of migrants who believe America is their only hope for success but warns them that the American Dream they envision may not align with reality.
  • He criticizes the conservative media's exploitation of real issues like homelessness to blame political parties rather than addressing underlying causes such as the housing crisis and gentrification.
  • Callaghan expresses skepticism about the possibility of another event like January 6th happening again, arguing that Americans are generally comfortable with their standard of living and unlikely to support a collapse of the country's basic structure.
  • He emphasizes the importance of local politics and believes that individuals can have a greater impact on their communities by participating in local elections and decision-making processes.

Response to allegations (02:12:53)

  • Andrew Callaghan faced allegations of pushiness during a consensual encounter years ago, leading to a potential multi-million dollar civil lawsuit.
  • Callaghan acknowledges that his fame and digital relationship with the person may have influenced their perception of consent.
  • Despite the allegations, Callaghan maintains that he obtained consent and did not engage in non-consensual behavior.
  • Callaghan also addressed false sexual assault allegations that resurfaced before his movie's release, causing significant distress.
  • He took time off to address the situation and ensure he never harms anyone again, criticizing the lack of support during this period.
  • Callaghan experienced backlash after his HBO documentary, leading to isolation, depression, and suicidal thoughts.
  • He emphasizes the importance of accountability, power dynamics, and trauma-informed conversations in sexual encounters.
  • Callaghan advises against one-night stands and encourages explicit communication about boundaries and triggers.
  • He challenges traditional gender roles in sexual encounters and highlights the impact of childhood trauma on behavior.

Channel 5 (02:29:53)

  • Channel 5 was initially created as a deterrent against people antagonizing the crew during filming by posing as a local news station.
  • The editing style of Channel 5 videos includes crash zooms, chopped-up vocals for comedic timing, and the addition of awkward silences or fast-paced cuts.
  • Voiceover storytelling is used to provide context and historical analysis in videos about social issues.
  • The primary goal of Channel 5 is to humanize people often portrayed as news items, reminding the public that they have lives, concerns, and dreams just like anyone else.
  • Channel 5 also aims to introduce more solution-oriented journalism, providing practical ways for viewers to help address the issues they see in the videos.
  • The YouTube landscape is saturated with videos of people suffering, but Channel 5 believes that simply raising awareness without offering solutions does not provide meaningful assistance.

Rap (02:35:28)

  • Drill rap emerged in 2010, possibly originating from Chief Keef or King Louie in Chicago, heavily influenced by Waka Flocka Flame's 2010 album "Flockaveli".
  • Drill music is characterized by its hyper-violent and adrenaline-boosting lyrics, often performed by individuals who are actually involved in street violence.
  • Unlike traditional gangsta rap, drill music has a true crime aspect where fans expect the rappers to have actually committed the violent acts they rap about.
  • Drill rap originated in Chicago, spread to England, and then returned to New York, specifically the Bronx and Brooklyn, before expanding to the rest of the country.
  • Drill rappers gain credibility by actually committing the violent acts they rap about, unlike traditional gangsta rappers who merely portray a gangster image.
  • The fan base for drill rap often consists of individuals who are not from the impoverished communities affected by the violence, making the rappers appear like superheroes to them.
  • Drill rap is not limited to a specific race, as there are also white drill rappers like Slim Jesus.

O Block (02:37:15)

  • O Block is a housing project in South Chicago, known for its association with drill music and true crime.
  • Chief Keef, the forefather of modern drill music, was raised in O Block.
  • O Block is trying to rebrand itself due to its violent past and Lil Durk's potential RICO charges.
  • Rappers in O Block have converted to Islam and are promoting a positive image on social media.
  • Andrew interviewed a rapper named Boss Top, who provided protection during the filming.
  • Andrew Callaghan left Seattle for Chicago to pursue his career, as he believes Seattle would have been detrimental to his success.
  • Andrew has a knack for attracting rappers and creating a safe space for them to express themselves.
  • Rappers are drawn to Andrew's camera crew because they feel comfortable and respected.

Crip Mac (02:41:11)

  • Andrew Callaghan talks about his interview with Crip Mac.
  • Crip Mac grew up in Ontario, California, and moved to Texas with his mother after his parents separated.
  • He started dating a cop named Mr. Gary, who was caught getting anally penetrated by a coworker.
  • Crip Mac's mother sent him to Los Angeles, where he joined the Crips.
  • Crip Mac is currently in jail for firearm possession, which was a probation violation.
  • Andrew Callaghan discusses his travels to various locations, including Philadelphia, the US-Mexico border, Seattle, and Ukraine.
  • He was arrested and detained at a Migrant Center for a few days after attempting to cross the US-Mexico border illegally.
  • The conditions in the Migrant Center were harsh, with detainees held in solitary confinement with no pillows or mats.

Aliens (02:44:23)

  • Andrew Callaghan believes in the existence of alien civilizations, including the possibility of an intelligent one within our galaxy.
  • He suspects that UFO sightings are more likely to be government projects rather than actual alien visits.
  • Callaghan is working on a series to preserve endangered languages in the United States.
  • He believes that most people are fundamentally good, even if they have different ideas about achieving their goals.
  • Callaghan views humans as inherently selfish but does not see selfishness as inherently negative.
  • He emphasizes the importance of listening to understand others, even those with opposing views, as a means to heal misunderstandings.
  • Callaghan expresses gratitude for the opportunity to be on the Lex Fridman podcast and thanks his listeners for their support.

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