By Mansa Musa / The Real News Network
The topic of solitary confinement was the focus of a recent episode of John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight on HBO. Thanks to the hard work of activists organizing against solitary confinement for decades, awareness of the brutality of this practice has begun to enter the mainstream. Its history as a counterinsurgency tactic, however, has yet to be fully examined in the light of day. TRNN Editor-in-Chief Maximillian Alvarez joins Rattling the Bars to speak with Mansa Musa, who spent 48 years behind bars himself, a number of which were spent in solitary, to discuss the cruel truths about solitary confinement that people on the outside need to know but rarely hear about.
Studio Production: David Hebden, Cameron Granadino
Post-Production: Cameron Granadino
The following is a rushed transcript and may contain errors. A proofread version will be made available as soon as possible.
Welcome to this edition of Rattling the Bars, I’m Mansa Musa.
And I’m Maximillian Alvarez, Editor-in-Chief here at the Real News. Recently on his wildly popular weekly news and entertainment show Last Week Tonight, host and comedian John Oliver spent an entire segment analyzing and exposing the practice of solitary confinement in America’s prisons. As usual, John Oliver and his staff did a pretty thorough job of exposing one of the many horrifying practices that are commonplace in the United States. Solitary confinement in the prison industrial complex is very much a horrifying practice that we should all be horrified by.
Having said that, there of course are many other facets to the practice of and the experience of solitary confinement, particularly the experiences of those who are locked up in solitary confinement. They’re worth unpacking at greater length than Last Week Tonight was able to do in a 20-minute segment. I wanted to sit down with Mansa once again in the Real News Studio to get your thoughts on this segment, and to walk viewers and listeners through your perspective on the practice of solitary confinement, how widespread it it in the prison system in the United States, your own experience with solitary confinement, and what the hell experiencing something like that is like.
A lot of people watching and listening to this will have no idea of what that’s like, how frequently it’s used and what damage it does to human beings in the longterm. Given that we have the incredible fortune to get to work with you, someone who was locked up for 48 years, but never stopped organizing while you were incarcerated, and now that you’ve been released continue to organize and raise awareness. So I figured what better opportunity than for us to sit down and get your thoughts on this John Oliver segment, and the practice of solitary confinement writ large. So I guess first things first, I was just curious what you thought of the segment.
It’s ironic that a comedian would be doing this and bringing this to national attention. The reason that local governments, state governments, the federal government should be the one to be addressing, since they’re the ones that’s responsible for implementation of it. But overall, I thought he did a good job in terms of observation, because that’s really what it was about. He was making an observation about how ridiculous the policy makers talk when they talk about these types of things, people not staying in their cell more than 24 hours, people being let out frequently. All those things was suspect and didn’t exist at best, right?
So overall, I think he did a good job in terms of, one, bringing to the attention of the public and opening the door to have conversations about it. I know most people that looked at it probably would respond to his comedic behavior, but at the same time he wasn’t making light of that, he was making light of how idiotic the policy makers are when they come out and they get to talking. They’ll just say anything that comes to the top of their head that they think is just going to come across and sound intelligent, but it really is ignorance.
Right. Like New York Mayor Eric Adams saying, “Oh, we don’t do solitary confinement, we do punitive segregation.” Motherfucker, that’s the same thing. Pardon my French. So one of the things that John Oliver talked about in the beginning of that segment, when he was trying to give the history of solitary confinement, is that this is a practice that was developed by Quakers hundreds of years ago as a form of punishment that was, at least in theory, supposed to isolate prisoners to give them time to sit and reflect on their misdeeds, their wrongdoings, become more penitent before the eyes of God, which is where we get the name of penitentiary, right?
Then in the narrative that John Oliver lays out in that segment, he says that the practice was ineffective and was more or less abandoned, until around the 1970s when the period of mass incarceration, the new Jim Crow really started to explode. This is what I mean when I say we’re incredibly fortunate to get to work with you and talk to you, because that is essentially where your timeline in the prison system began. So you have firsthand knowledge of that system and you can tell us how accurate that narrative Oliver laid out was. But I guess let’s start there, so when you first entered the prison system, was the practice of solitary confinement widespread? I guess how would you explain to people how and why prisons started using this system more?
That’s a good point, Max, because when I got locked up and I went into Maryland Penitentiary in ’73, they had what they called the hole, and the hole probably would have been consistent with the concept of solitary or isolation, because they basically had made about four or five cells and they would isolate people in them that they deemed to be unruly. But overall, you had punitive segregation, which was you stayed locked in your cell, but you was in an environment where you had access to people, you could talk to the person in the cell next to you.
But when solitary confinement reemerged, it reemerged and when they started locking up radical elements, they started locking up the Black Panthers, the Weathermen, Puerto Rican nationalists, anybody who was fighting, anybody who was antiestablishment, anybody who would stand up for human rights and self-determination, that’s when it became a tool, a mechanism to be used to suppress that. I think George Jackson talks about that when he talked about in his essay Towards United Front, how this massive prison population exists and in its existence it creates a threat. The threat being the potential for organization and organizing to combat and fight fascism, racism.
So that’s where it started taking shape. When I was locked up, you had basically tools to segregation. Maryland hadn’t got to the point where they had developed what they call security housing units, but on the West Coast, the Adjustment Center, that’s where you see the development of that concept, of what we know to be solitary confinement today and what they called SHUs, security housing units. That evolved, that came out of Quinton and probably Angola, Louisiana, places like that where in the southern part of the country, Alabama prisons, where they could get away with it with impunity. But in Maryland, Maryland developed a concept when they created Supermax in the ’80s. That’s where I ultimately winded up at.
Yeah. Speaking of Angola, and we’ll get to this in a minute, but that’s where Albert Woodfox was incarcerated after being another lifelong activist, Black Panther, wrongfully imprisoned for over 40 years and spent over, I think it was 44 years in solitary confinement in Angola, and was released I believe in 2016 and died only a few years after that. Just the thought of 44 years in solitary confinement breaks my brain a bit. Like I said, we’ll talk in a second about how to possibly try to communicate to people what it’s like to be in that situation.
But I guess two things I wanted to just underline for people, because already you gave us I think a really crucial detail that was not in the Last Week Tonight segment, which is, like I said, John Oliver and his team of writers, they talk about the reemergence of solitary in the 1970s, coinciding with the explosion of the prison population. So we’re entering the age of mass incarceration, more people are coming into the prisons, I think the way that they explain is that there’s overcrowding, there’s fighting, and then solitary emerges as this punitive weapon to try to get this prison population under control.
But what you’ve already added to the conversation is that, like you, like our dearly departed brother Eddie Conway, like so many other radicals that we’ve talked to on this show and that you knew when you were on the inside, when they started coming into the prison they were targeted for solitary confinement because they are these radical elements coming in, they’re going to organize, they’re going to talk to other inmates, they’re going to build and develop that revolutionary consciousness as we talked about the last time we did one of these episodes on May Day. We talked about the organizing you and Eddie did on the inside.
So for a prison warden, they’re like, “Well, we don’t want that, so let’s just isolate these guys.” So there’s that, I think was a really crucial additional context to the John Oliver segment. Then I just wanted to clarify for folks watching and listening, so like you said, before solitary really became the weapon of choice in the prison system, there were other proto mechanisms for isolating, proto solitary confinement mechanisms. So the punitive segregation that you’re talking about, you’re still in your regular cell, but you’re not allowed to leave. So you’re still restricted, but you’re not as isolated.
Right. In those situations, you get an infraction, and you get … The thing about solitary confinement that’s separated from punitive say, you might get an infraction, you get 30 days on punitive segregation, you’re released back into the jail population. In solitary confinement you have no way of knowing when you’re going to be released, ergo we just talked about 44 years in solitary, because now you’re in there indefinitely. There was the design is to break you, because now you’re in an environment where you’re totally isolated, you have no contact with nobody. The guard is the only person you have contact with and when they come everything is like handcuff you, come to the back, put your hands behind your back, in some institutions come to the slot, kneel on the ground, put your hands behind your back.
You’ve got to literally stick your arms all the way up so they put the handcuffs on you, then they tell you, “Stay right there.” They hit the door, when they open the door they come in there and raise you up and then move you. Now, you imagine that kind of practice for 44 years. Every day and all you find yourself in a situation where you’re supposed to get an hour out of your cell. I know when I was in Supermax, mind you we’re in a highly secured environment, they got these sensitive sensors on the roof, so whenever the wind blows it sets off the alarm. So what they will say is, you’ll be getting ready to come out for your shower, they say, “Now the jail’s locked down.”
That’s an oxymoron, the jail is always locked down. So now you’re telling me that I can’t come out because the sensor went off on the roof, but the reality is it’s 12 people on a pod, it’s 12 of us, we have very little, no contact, and you’re going in there indefinitely. So that’s what they call security housing unit, and that’s where Hugo Pinell and Pelican Bay, right? That’s where Ruchell Magee is at right now in Pelican Bay, that’s where Jalil Muntaqim was in in Pelican Bay. Then you had Conrad George, San Quinton Six, and they was in security, they was in adjustments in San Quinton, which was 120 people in one area.
You don’t have no … They still use it today. So this is the reality that when we talk about the John Oliver piece, he raised a conversation, a subject matter, but when you go delve down into it, when we was talking about New York, New York got what they call, passed a law called HALT, stop solitary confinement, because of the amount of people that was dying as a result of being isolated and not having no human contact, losing their mind, that they now just say that it creates posttraumatic stress disorder, but they qualify it by saying, “Prison posttraumatic stress disorder.” The disorder that comes from being housed in these type of environments are so inhumane that the person’s ability to function after they get out of them is hard.
I know this to be a fact, because I know when I went to Supermax I went in there in 1996, ’97, and went on the pod, the average person was on the pod had been there three years prior to me getting there. I did four-and-a-half years before I was let out of it, and the people that was in there prior to me being there was still in when I left, and had been in there indeterminate amount of time, years. No programs, no real interaction with nobody, everything is restricted, they didn’t have no library, they didn’t have no books. The things that you could probably get and that your family could send you, depended on what the attitude was of the administration, depended on whether you got them or not.
So when I left, I knew that I was damaged. There was no doubt in my mind. I knew that in my mind, because I had to really dial down on how am I going to deal with this day in and day out, not having no human contact? The conversations that you’re having is so neural at times, and you become frustrated real fast, that when I got out of prison the first thing I did was went and seen mental health to unpack the damage that not only the 48 years did, but the periods that I spent in Supermax did. This is what they’re talking about today, the impact of it. This is one of the reasons why they’re trying to abolish it and eradicate it completely because of the impact it has on a person mentally.
Yeah. That was one thing that I thought the John Oliver segment did really well was emphasizing that you don’t just … Solitary confinement isn’t just something that is done to people in prison, it’s done to them for their whole lives. So if you go into solitary, the impact that it has on you is going to traumatize you in ways that are going to stay with you long after you’re released from prison. Which really does beg the question, if our whole justification in this society for the prison industrial complex that we have and the brutal practices that go on there, if the whole reason that we keep that system going and the whole justification for it is that it’s meant to rehabilitate people, how can we possibly say this is a rehabilitative practice when it’s clear it’s just torture that damages people and probably makes them more likely to die or hurt or harm when they get out of prison? That’s not rehabilitation, that is just pure torture and punishment, regardless of what the consequences are to the individual or to the society that they’re released to afterwards.
That point you raise, that’s exactly what it is, torture. Because I remember I was in Supermax with one guy, and it was a young guy, and the whole entire time we was in there, he kept on complaining about his stomach. They told him he had gas, so when we get out and we wind up in another environment together, I don’t see him so I ask, “Where he at?” They said, “He’s over at the hospital for a bleeding ulcer.” You don’t get a bleeding ulcer overnight. So all that time he was in there, the stress from being in isolation, the stress from being in solitary confinement and not knowing when you’re going to get out had created, had caused him to get cancer.
Because of that, and they misdiagnosed really, it’s not a misdiagnose, what they do is they ignore what the symptoms are because it’s expensive to treat. So it’s easy to ignore it to the point where it becomes irreversible, and then you give him some medication until they die off. This is what happened with this guy, he literally died. That’s what they talk about in pushing them to abolish and eradicate solitary confinement and not have another person be confined no more three days, no more two days. If their behavior’s that egregious where it calls for you to put a person in an environment for 44 years, what did he do to put him in that environment 44 years, other than have independent thought? He was a threat that educated the population that they should stand up for themselves.
So that threat right there was so severe to the establishment that they said, “Well, we’ve got to keep him isolated.” Then as a result of that, when he got out he passed on because of what they did to him while he was incarcerated. This is where the torture, and it’s inhumane and it’s criminal.
I want to follow up on that, because one thing that I’ve heard repeatedly from reading testimonies of people who have experienced solitary confinement, like yourself, I think one of the most common things that they say is it’s impossible to communicate what it’s actually like to people who have never gone through that. So I guess let’s take that as a given here, that me and the people watching who have never experienced this are only going to be able to understand so much of what you and others have gone through. But I guess as best as we can, can we try to communicate to people what a day, a week or more in solitary is? What does your life look like in what I can only imagine is the most hopeless place imaginable?
Just imagine, lock yourself in the closet and wait for somebody to open the door, put a tray in there, shut the door, open the door, tell you you can go out in the courtyard, that you don’t have no contact with nobody. You go out there for an hour maybe, put you back in the closet. Open the closet up again, tell you to go to the shower, put you back in the closet. Everything is controlled, all your movement is controlled. We talk about passable conditioning, this is a perfect example because you anticipate everything is designed around what they’re going to do for me, what am I entitled to?
Okay, they’re going to bring the tray at 7:00 in the morning, that’s breakfast. They’re going to bring the lunch tray at 10:00, that’s lunch. They’re going to bring the dinner tray at 4:00, that’s dinner. So now I’m anticipating that. Every other day I’m supposed to get out and get a shower, so I’m anticipating that. Everything is designed around me anticipating what you’re going to do for me next. I don’t have no individuality. So it stands to reason that I’m not going to have no social skills, I’m not going to be able to communicate unless I take the initiative to educate myself, unless I take the initiative to try to take advantage of, if I can get something to read, unless I take the initiative to exercise, unless I take the initiative to not allow these four walls to close in on me like a vice grip, then I’m going to break.
That’s the design, and it don’t have nothing to do with how strong you are mentally, it’s the relentless pressure like waterboarding. It’s really like that. Day in and day out you don’t have no control over what’s going on with you. If they feel like they want to come to your cell, strip you like a pancake, take all of your stuff and leave you in there by yourself, with nothing, with the jumpsuit you’ve got on, no mattress, no sheets, no nothing. If they want to do that, they can do that. They have done that. To find yourself in that situation and how do you hold onto hope in that situation?
Then the breaking point is you don’t know how long you’re going to be there. So it would be something different if you could say, “Well, okay. I’ve got a year.” Half the time I try to focus on, “Okay, I’ve got a year of this. I can hold out.” No, 44 years, Albert, and he held out. The reason why he held out was because he knew he was in there for his thinking, and so he held onto his thinking. My thinking got me here and my thinking is going to get me out. My thinking will make me survive when I get out, because if I relinquish that, I’m relinquishing my right to my own humanity. That’s the purpose, the whole purpose of it is to take and dehumanize you to the point where you don’t have no more individuality. Now you just become what they call you, a number.
Jesus, man. I genuinely can’t wrap my head around it, because we know … I remember saying this at one point during the first year of COVID-19, something like this hadn’t happened in my lifetime, at least on this scale, where we went into crisis mode, as many who could socially distanced and locked themselves away in their houses and so people were going a bit stir-crazy with their kids and their spouses. So they got a tiny, tiny taste of what it’s like to be socially isolated, and people freaked out about it, because human beings are not meant to live like that. We are social creatures who actually depend on our relationships to other people to be ourselves.
When you take that away, I can just imagine it’s like the features of the human being start to get erased, they start to drip and melt off and disappear, like you said, until you’re basically just a number. That’s such a cruel and inhumane thing to do to people. I get, again, like John Oliver said, we all understand that there are times when if a person is a danger to themselves or others, you maybe have to get them out of that situation so that more violence doesn’t happen, but this is all taking place in the context of a prison industrial complex that is violence, that is a violent institution.
I just wanted to ask one more personal question on that front, again, as you’re isolated, you’re socially cut off, everything, like you said, revolves around what the guards are going to give you at what time. When you’re in solitary, you do not know when that period is going to end, it could be 30 days, 60 days, a year, three years, four years, or like Albert Woodfox 44 goddamn years. I genuinely can not imagine what it takes to survive that and still have some of yourself intact afterwards. What did you do? I guess how did you think? How did you pass the time or what did you hold on to when you were locked up in that situation?
See, because I had been so accustomed to being, I had been back and forth on lockup, and lockup is nowhere near what solitary confinement at Supermax is, but I had been accustomed to being locked behind the door, so I always had a routine, I always went … I would basically schedule myself out. I would work out, I would study, I would draw or whatever I could develop as far as an outlet, that would become my routine. I would do it in and out. When we was in Supermax, me and a guy, because we was in the proximity to talk, we had got our family’s to send me two Spanish books. So every day we would get up and outside the door we would talk, we would teach each other Spanish. It was bastard Spanish, but it’s a new language, and we would talk about people on the tier, in the area.
This was our way of having an outlet. What it did, it made me have to get a routine. So in that routine I would create vocabulary mechanisms. Those are things that you find most people do, but at the end of the day it still comes down to [inaudible 00:29:48]. The breaking point is you don’t know when you’re going to get out. So in your routine mentality, you’re just holding on because that’s what your fortitude tells you to do. But you’re not being given no encouragement. I seen men, I seen them lose it. I seen guys hang themselves, I seen people commit suicide in this environment, primarily because of the inability to cope. I seen them get to the point where they medicate them and then that becomes an outlet, so now I went from being a human being to being in a cage to being a vegetable in a cage, because now I’m depending on the medication.
These are the things, that’s why they have this thing in New York called HALT, stop security housing, this is why you got ADX in Florence, Colorado, where it’s ultra-max. This is what you have, this is the kind of environment you have there. This is what you have in most major institutions now, you have security housing that’s primarily designed to isolate you and dehumanize you to the point where you will go crazy, or you’re such a shallow individual when you get out that you’re such a shallow individual that you don’t have the ability to function no more.
Right. There was a study that came out last year spearheaded by the Yale Law School, which we’ll link to in the show notes for this episode, showing that around 50,000 people a year are subjected to extended solitary confinement. That is crazy. It’s crazy that tens of thousands of people are just locked away in solitary confinement, a box the size of a parking space basically, living like this, not knowing when they’re ever going to get out, if they ever do get out. We’ll round off in a second by talking about what could we do about this, and what a better option is. It feels like anything’s a better option than solitary confinement.
But I just wanted to pick up on two points really quick. One thing that the John Oliver segment noted was that prison officials, politicians, people in the media, people who’ve never experienced what you’ve experienced, they will talk confidently about how and why we need solitary confinement, and how it’s only used in the most extreme cases. But that’s obviously not true. As John Oliver mentioned, people can get sent to solitary for looking at a guard the wrong way, or not tucking their shirts in, so on and so forth. So I wanted to ask if you could just comment on that, but also if you can say a little bit about what it was like the day that you got out of that. What the fuck was that like?
The fact that they started out by utilizing it to stop political prisoners from having access to the population, but because it became, it started growing, so you’re right, John Oliver’s observation was correct. So now you put somebody in solitary confinement under the pretense they’re a gang member, so that’s the big one that they use, they put you in solitary confinement because you’re a gang member. Then they put you into solitary confinement because you have mental health issues, so now I’m being put in solitary confinement because I’ve got a mental health issue and they know I’ve got a mental health, but they’re going to put me in solitary confinement, it’s going to do no more than exacerbate the problem.
Therein lies the problem. It should be outlawed and there’s a push to outlawing it. But I remember when I got out, when I was going back and forth to court, the warden of the Supermax he knew us from when he was a correctional officer in the penitentiary when we first come in there. So he knew me and he knew Eddie, he knew all of us, and he knew pretty much where we stand. So I was sitting in the hold waiting to go back to my cell and I seen him walk by, and I said, “Well, I’m not going … Hey, hey, look at me.” The door opened and he came in there and he said, “Man, you think I’m going to walk by and see you and don’t say nothing?”
So he, because of the years we had been locked up and the fact that we stood up, he respected that. So we’re talking, so he asked about my situation, I tell him, I said, “Yeah, I don’t know when they’re going to let me out. I seen the board, I’m waiting for them to tell me.” That’s another thing they do, you go up to see the board and two years later you’re still waiting for them to come back and tell you no. They might in two years later, three years later come and tell you no. So all that time that you went from, “I don’t know when I’m going to get out.” To “I don’t know when they’re going to tell me no.”
First I went from, “I don’t know when I’m going to get out.” To I went up in front of the board, the board said, “Okay, we approve you to come off, we’ve got to send it to somebody, they’ve got to approve it, and they’ve got to send it to somebody and they’ve got to approve.” So now you wait three years later, they say, “The third person, no.” So now you’re really jaded. But they came and got me, they just came and got me abruptly. Somebody, the warden had called there and told them let me off, that he had made, whatever he did, he helped me get off. So when the police came to my door, the guard came to my door and said, “Look, pack up, you’ve got to go. Hurry up.”
I’m like, “Well, I don’t want to leave all this stuff that I’ve got. I don’t want to take it with me.” Somebody asked me for the mattress, “Hey, let me get your mattress. Let me get your blankets.” You want to leave that stuff to people. Anything extra that you’ve got that’s going to help them. I was taking my time, he was like … I said, “Man, look, you shut my goddamn door. I’m not rushing.” Because I already knew that if he’s rushing me, he’s rushing me because he’s thinking that the warden’s saying get me out right away. But I already knew that at some point in time, I said, “Well, okay. Somebody must have said something that got him like this, but it ain’t that serious.”
When I finally got out and got to the general population, I had issues because I wasn’t comfortable with people being around me. So it took me a minute. I wouldn’t, in the crowd, when the crowd’s going to chow, I’d always stand on the outskirts, because I wasn’t comfortable. I hadn’t had people around me, I hadn’t had people walking behind me, I hadn’t had people walking in front of me. Every time I came, I came up by myself and I came up with handcuffs and shackles on. So I wasn’t accustomed to not having that. I wasn’t accustomed to waiting on them to hit the doors when you stand on the tier and you wait for them to hit the doors, lock you in. I wasn’t accustomed to standing in the middle of the tier just socializing. I always had my back on the wall.
It took me a while to get not so much as not do that, but to understand why I did it. Because it didn’t really dawn on me that I did it until I started seeing other people that came out of Supermax that was in there with me doing it. When I looked and said, “Damn, as soon as you go on the tier you put your back on the wall.” Everybody else is just moving around freely, because now you’re in an everything that you’re not accustomed to. So at the end of the day, the push to abolish it is necessary. You’ve got your tax dollars paying for the prison industrial complex and the military industrial complex, your tax dollars are paying. So you should write on your tax form, “I want my money to go to torturing people.” Because that’s what your tax dollars are going to.
Or you should take a conscious effort to find out what this is and make a concerted effort to get it eradicated, because this is inhumane. There’s nothing humane coming out of this, a person to go on solitary confinement because they can’t cope with the general population, so they lose their mind, they have a breakdown. Instead of you trying to help them and treat them for that, you put them in solitary confinement that ain’t doing no more than exacerbating their problem and driving them further into their insanity. That’s why they was talking about the amount of deaths that come out of that, the amount of deaths that come out of it is a result of the torture that comes from that environment.
I guess even now do you feel like there are lingering effects from that time you spent in solitary?
Yeah, because you ain’t going to spend no 48 years in prison and a portion of that in isolation or the uncertainty of the environment and not be damaged. That’s just not a reality. It’s really what I do and how I manage, how I deal with it. Like I told you, I got somebody to help me unpack and understand it, and understand I don’t have a big thing about being like I like to hang out. I’m sociable, but then I can also just be comfortable sitting in a chair in my house and not doing nothing, no TV on, no radio on, not reading, just sitting still, because I’ve done that repeatedly in prison. Just sat in a cell and did nothing, just sat there and just did nothing.
When Eddie turned me onto doing, when I got with Eddie and I seen Eddie doing puzzles, when I found myself when we was locked down in a prison, I got them to get us puzzles and I would do puzzles 17 hours. I would just get the most complicated puzzle. Wouldn’t do nothing but just do a puzzle all day long, because that’s solitude. So yeah, I see lingering effects, but at the end of the day, and I want our audience to know this, that when you look at this right here you need to understand what it is and take a stand on it. This is what we’re doing here at Rattling the Bars and the Real News. We’re talking about John Oliver, but who else is going to come and editorialize John Oliver? Who else is going to come behind an event like the Palestinian and give context to the murder and the genocide that’s taking place?
No other news media, no other outlet is doing it. This is why it’s important that you as an audience and our listeners support the Real News and Rattling the Bars. We are in fact, and I know this comes as a surprise to a lot of people, we are actually really the news.