84. Ted Lasso’s Dylan Marron Wants to Redeem Jar Jar Binks

photo of dylan marron next to graphic for his podcast "the redemption of jar jar binks"
Dylan Marron (left, credit to Evan Perkins)
Reimagining the Internet
Reimagining the Internet
84. Ted Lasso's Dylan Marron Wants to Redeem Jar Jar Binks

Jar Jar Binks, the human side of online harassment, restorative justice, the Friends writers room, solidarity with UPS, what life looks like in the creative gig economy after your show has won an Emmy. Dylan Marron (Ted Lasso, Welcome to Nightvale) joins us for a sprawling, poignant conversation about how social media has effected our empathy, how tech companies have changed our labor, and how shitty first drafts are a writer’s lifeblood.

Dylan Marron just released a fantastic podcast called The Redemption of Jar Jar Binks about the Internet’s first main character, Jar Jar Binks. Ethan appears in episode 3. Dylan also made the acclaimed podcast series Conversations with People Who Hate Me where he interviews people who have harassed him online. On top of all of that, Dylan is a writer on the Emmy-winning show Ted Lasso and appears as Carlos on the long-running podcast Welcome to Nightvale.

He published the book adaptation of Conversations with People Who Hate Me last year.


Ethan Zuckerman:
Hey everybody, welcome back to reimagining the internet I’m Ethan Zuckerman your host I am thrilled to be here with my friend Dylan Marron. Dylan has an amazing number of roles, and I’m going to tell you about just a few of my favorites. I know Dylan from his work on Welcome to Nightvale, a podcast that I think is also a little bit of a cult. He plays Carlos, one of the main characters who has of the most recent episode is now dean of the University of What It Is, the leading educational institution in Nightvale. 

But Dylan is also a writer on the wonderful final season of Ted Lasso. We’re not actually going to ask about whether there’s another season coming. But he’s also the host of some incredible podcasts that we’ll talk about, notably Conversations with People Who Hate Me; the brand new podcast, The Redemption of Jar Jar Binks, out now, wherever you get your pods. Dylan, it is so nice to have this chance to talk with you.  

Dylan Marron:
It is such an honor to be here. You know that I have long in mind here to you. I am honored that you call me a friend because I have just looked up to you for so long. So look at that, we’re friends now.  

Ethan Zuckerman:
Well, we are friends now. You just get to be one of my favorite people in my life. I’m actually borrowing my ex-wife’s house and she’s a huge Dylan Marron fan that we just did that introduction before we got in there. 

Dylan Marron:
And it’s now mutual fandom just to be clear.  

Ethan Zuckerman:
She’s remarkable. Ultimately, what I want to talk to you about is the writer strike, but I felt like I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about this beautiful podcast you’ve just put together and sort of how you’ve gotten there.  

Dylan, you are this remarkable figure in the sort of activist media world. You had a series of videos called “Shutting Down Bullshit,” sort of a video series that corrected myths about marginalized groups. You had this amazing project called “Sitting in Bathrooms with Trans People.” And then you did the project, I suspect many people know you for, which is Conversations with People Who Hate Me, which literally started as you getting on Skype with people who’d said horrible things to you.  

What initially got you interested in sort of using this medium for normative and cultural social change?  

Dylan Marron:
Well, what a beautiful question. I had been making videos that were essentially trying to use digital tools to get messaging across, you know, the first video series I made was “Every Single Word.” and I edited down popular films to only the words spoken by people of color. It’s essentially a supercut series, right? I’m trying to take this bite-sized digital confection and kind of get a message across in it.  

And I found that “Every Single Word” was this very potent way to do that because it was these devastatingly short, which means shareable videos where you watch it, it goes down like sugar and then the medicine comes out, right? It’s like, oh, that’s really troubling that the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy is just still down to 47 seconds. That’s bad. 

Ethan Zuckerman:
And it is sort of the perfect thing to be able to toss around on Twitter, on Facebook, on Instagram. It’s such a great use of the medium.  

Dylan Marron:
Thank you. And I think I was always like super aware of how the message was being transmitted through the medium. And you know and then I had this whole year at a company called Seriously.tv which was a short lived wonderful experience which was you know a digital video digital television network and we were putting on short videos and I was making videos and many of them were you know from my progressive perspective. And these videos got wildly popular and of course we know that with a popularity comes hate online.  

I was getting a lot of hate because this was in that year that Facebook video was the thing. This isn’t YouTube where it’s anonymized. This is Facebook. So the hate I’m getting, I can click on the profile picture of the person who sent it, and I’m taken to a page that has hundreds of photos they’ve been tagged in, memes they’ve shared. You can kind of understand who this is. It’s not anonymous. And I felt like I wanted to communicate with people.  

With the videos I was making, I was aware that they were wildly popular, but they were being shared by people who really agreed with the messages of the video. And I think I really, I really, really, really believed that by talking about transphobia, I was eradicating transphobia.  

And I think what my videos becoming wildly popular taught me. It’s like, that’s actually not necessarily true. It’s more like the people who already believe this appreciate the new creative presentation of the ideas. But to actually do something about it, I think it involves actual communication and communication that punctures echo chambers.  

And so this was 2016, 2017, which is to say a hyper-polarized time, you know, a time when we were encouraged to block people we disagreed with. We were encouraged to block our haters. And I just wanted to say everyone needs to do what makes them feel safe, you know.  

And I did block some people, especially the people who kind of sent physical threats my way. But there were some people who I didn’t feel physically threatened by, who didn’t make me feel unsafe. Again, that’s a personal boundary that everyone has to determine for themselves. But there were people who were like, “Wait a second, I might be able to talk to you.” You know, like, I think there is a different thing.  

And so the first conversation I had was with an 18-year-old who has decided throughout the video I made with him, and later the podcast, to be known as Josh. And it was the success of that first conversation that tipped me off to be like, I think we’ve found like a bridge that isn’t on any of these digital maps. And this bridge feels really great to walk on. And it feels like I was finally achieving my, the goal I had with all of my videos, which was to connect with people, right? Like it doesn’t do a great deal to talk about homophobia with people who already believe homophobia is bad, right? Like it’s so much more interesting to talk about these ideas with people who haven’t considered the ideas that you’re trying to put forward into the world.  

Ethan Zuckerman:
Those podcasts are such an incredible balancing act. I have to tell you I’ve listened to most of them, but I cannot binge them. Like I actually have to listen to them and give a lot of space between them because what you’re doing is so nuanced and so complicated. You’re not making fun of these people. You’re taking them very very seriously as people. You’re not cutting them slack, but you’re showing them enormous amounts of kindness and forgiveness. And you are making them wrestle with the words they’ve used and the things that they’ve said and you’re not letting them off easy I mean, there’s so much in there.  

They’re not easy but they’re really incredible, they’re really intense. You then went from confronting the people who had been abusive to you to bringing other situations where people were treating each other really badly online. Dylan, what have you learned about why we treat each other badly online?  

Dylan Marron:
You know, the big findings I share feel so obvious and yet they are so obvious, but they bear repeating because it feels like we haven’t internalized any of them. Anonymity is a big thing. I think that the lack of consequence we feel when we can hurl something at someone who we think we’re never going to see and most importantly that we think is never going to see what we write. And that gets at this conundrum of like, well, why write it? And so we all deal with this thing of like, well, are we speaking to an audience of two people or an audience of two million people? We really never know. 

Every time we say something online we never quite know how big our audience is. I think that like This lack of awareness of scale that we have online effects, you know this thinking we have that like, oh “the person who I wrote it to this is just me letting the exhaust pipe out. It’s just me getting my frustration out. They’re never going to see it.” Well, they do see it. 

These social media platforms that were on—and I’m hesitant to paint with a broad brushstroke, but this one is one of those times that maybe merits the broad brushstroke—social media platforms are very well designed for simple conversations that can attract a mob of people to target someone. Now sometimes these mobs are kind of started by, triggered by really noble intentions. But no matter how noble the intentions are of the mob, the target never experiences those noble intentions. 

Oftentimes I think that like, you know, people will tweet something at someone thinking that they are doing something righteous by doing so or thinking that they are quote unquote, heavy quotes here “just joking” by doing so, not realizing that a thousand other people are making that same quote unquote joke or a thousand other people are saying that quote unquote, noble thing. And to be the recipient of that never feels good. And the results can be disastrous.  

Ethan Zuckerman:
So that experience of people not realizing that they’re talking to a real human being, people not realizing that that human being is listening. All of this takes us to a story that you’ve recently told. Who is Ahmed Best? 

Dylan Marron:
So Ahmed Best is the actor who played Jar Jar Binks. And you probably know Jar Jar Binks as a very contentious figure in cinema. He’s a side character from the first prequel movie of Star Wars from 1999, The Phantom Menace. And this character launched what I believe, and Ethan, I know you’ve heard this already, but I believe that Jar Jar Binks might have been the internet’s first main character.  The character, the person, the entity that is so hated, but then it becomes a game to hate them. It becomes a kind of badge of honor that you are taking part of the hate of this person.  

Of course, I need to say, I think a lot of people love Jar Jar Binks. I think a lot of those people were also part of a younger generation who weren’t necessarily online, so they weren’t expressing these ideas. But it very much became a thing, a trend, to hate Jar Jar Binks. And Jar Jar Binks is a fictional character, Jar Jar Binks is pixels.  So the person who felt that hate the most was the actor who played him, who was a then completely unknown, up-and-coming, wildly artistic, wildly talented 20-something named Ahmed Best 

Ethan Zuckerman:
Who actually is responsible for creating the Jar Jar voice. It’s a voice that he used to entertain his niece and nephews. Is not someone who feels exploited by his experience with George Lucas really felt like he was a full creative partner in all of this.  

And in what’s just so amazing in the series is someone who comes out of a sort of strong Afro pride, a family of people who are making film and music and dance with very, very strong African cultural roots, who not only found himself in this sort of critical crosshair of “you ruined Star Wars,” but a lot of academics sort of coming and saying, “oh, and you’re playing with Blackface and you’re playing with”—oh my god.  

I mean, so Dylan, it’s, I understand entirely why you decided you wanted to tell the story. How did you find this story? How did you find yourself thinking about the real human being behind Jar Jar Binks?  

Dylan Marron:
Well, I think, you know, in producing Conversations with People who Hate Me, it kind of trained me very closely on the internet, right? I was kind of scouring for stories that I thought would make good episodes. And Jar Jar Binks was always this figure in my mind that I knew was like part of this widespread internet hate campaign. And then in 2018, on July 3rd of 2018, Ahmed, the actor, he shared a tweet and it was a picture of him and his son on the Brooklyn Bridge and he shared, I both don’t want to give anything away and I’m cautious of content warnings, but he shared a big peek into an incredibly challenging period he had with mental health and how the backlash he received as Jar Jar Binks led to that.  

Ethan, you know, I’ve talked to you a lot about this privately, but like I collect those articles with the headlines, “We owe an apology to blank.” We do. Often those headlines are correct. It’s just that they’re 20 years too late. I think it’s so sad that this is the time it takes because as I try to lay out in the redemption of Jar Jar Binks, it has disastrous effects on people.  

And these things that like, and individually, it is just jokes, right? Like no one necessarily intends such great harm, but these jokes add up to something. And they add up to something so sinister that I don’t even think that we’re comfortable owning what they add up to.  

You know, how do we rectify this? There is no restorative model yet for this kind of thing.  

And similarly, and this is a much finer line to walk and one that I try to be careful with even as I talk about it after making the show, now that the show is out. Constructive criticism and highlighting offensiveness, I very much believe we all need to express, like it needs to be expressed. It’s important to listen to the people we’re expressing it because a lot of times the stuff we don’t necessarily see, it’s helpful to hear that someone else sees it.  

It’s just critiques, and then a lot of people join those critiques. And then the person who received those critiques completely understandably doesn’t know what to do with it because it just feels like a barrage. And it’s easy to lump in constructive criticism in with the hate. And you just call it all quote unquote hate.  

Ethan Zuckerman:
It’s so interesting that you just use the word restorative, because restorative justice is something that I spent quite a bit of time studying mostly because I come from a family of criminal defense attorneys. And so the whole notion that taking justice out of the criminal justice system out of the carceral system and thinking about community healing is something that very strongly appeals to me. 

Our friends, Tom Tyler and Tracy Meares, who’ve been on the show, have talked about how restorative justice, procedural justice might help us fix some of these problems of social media if we are trying to figure out, you know, how we don’t just ban you or sort of say, “We’re throwing you out of the community.” But hey, this is why we have this rule. This is how people sort of get hurt by it.  

But it is really interesting to think about, you know, what is restorative justice when someone does transgress, even if it’s inadvertent, when someone ends up expressing something and there are the legitimate responses to it, the critiques to it. 

Dylan Marron:
I certainly think that I am working in a space that we can label digital restorative justice. I do believe in blocking people when it feels unsafe. I also believe that these tools that get a lot of criticism and they should get a lot of criticism, but they also are connection devices.  

And just like I said, with what started conversations with people who hate me, it’s like speaking to an 18-year-old who sent me a homophobic message and getting to talk to him about how that message felt, that was like, I am so glad I didn’t block him. And I think also that we learn—we, as humans, learn, I have certainly learned when people have called me in—rather than—I think shame is a tool that feels incredible for the shamers. And I don’t know how much change it actually brings about. I worry about that. 

Ethan Zuckerman:
So let I’m going to put a pin in that for a moment because I’m going to make the most awkward pivot I’m not even going to try to make this pivot make sense But really the reason we wanted to bring you on was another one of your careers It’s a career that you’ve taken on recently. You’ve been writing for some show Lasso something. 

Dylan Marron:
No one’s heard of it. It’s a YouTube show. 

Ethan Zuckerman:
And I have to say I am someone who you know, I have a Richmond Football Club I’ve got a Sam Obisanya shirt.  

But the reason I am saying this is not just to get everyone to watch all the previous seasons of Ted Lasso, which they absolutely should. My ex and my son are about to watch the last episode. They made it all the way through. My wife and I watched it in real time.  

But you’re now on strike. So you’ve gone from writing for the most critically acclaimed show of the last few years to being on the picket line. You’re now in day 69 of the strike. 

I think from my perspective as a complete outsider of this, although a proud union member, let’s be clear, I’m at a school where our faculty all the way down, you know, through the grad students, the janitorial staff, we are all union and very proud of it.  

Dylan Marron:
Union strong. 

Ethan Zuckerman:
Union strong. It strikes me that the two key issues that I’ve heard are the way that streaming has been changing what it means to be a writer and to be in a writer’s room. And AI, before we get to AI, which can just swallow every conversation whole, what is it that’s different about writing for the streaming services than writing for the networks, you know, 10, 15 years in the past?  

Dylan Marron:
Well, so the biggest change is time. I think a standard network show when you think of your Friends, you think of your Will and Grace, you think of your Seinfeld, right? That’s like a job that is a long job. It’s many, many weeks. The majority of the weeks of the year, you’re writing. And what also comes with that is more episodes and a very standard or now standardized residual structure to break that down.  

And I have a really hard time with business term so it’s like these are things I have learned over and over again. But the quickest way to say it is that the way residuals work is that when you are when you are a writer in the in the broadcast model in the network model you would write an episode and then every time that episode re-aired you would be paid you know a residual check. 

And this residual check would sustain a lot of writers through the periods of not working, so they really only had to keep one job. If they were writers on a network show, they’ll be writers on network show the residuals would carry them through to summer and they would have not just a healthy living but they would it felt like a fair place at the pie.  

The difference with streaming and I also want to say that like with the advent of streaming we’ve gotten a lot more TV shows and the good thing about that is that that means a lot more opportunities.  

I am someone who has a career because of my digital work and so I want to acknowledge that like, new technology can often be a blessing to all sorts of people, and it can shake up the status quo. It can have people bypass the gatekeepers. Streaming has given us a lot more shows and a lot more opportunities to be hired.  

Now, with a lot more shows, that also means we’re also getting shorter seasons. There are TV shows you love that have eight, ten, twelve episodes a year. That’s a far cry from the twenty-two and twenty-four of the network shows of yesterday—and some network shows of today—but the big behemoths are the streaming shows these days, you know? And with shorter seasons comes lower pay.  

Now, there are also these things called mini rooms. And mini rooms are these kind of flash rooms set up to really crank on an idea, really break out a story super fast, and it’s all to help the showrunner. And then when mini rooms that last around 10 weeks, when those disband… One, all of those writers are now out of a job and they have to then hustle to find a new job. And the showrunner is left without their brain trust of people in a room who were helping them write it. 

Ethan Zuckerman:
Right, because when you’re writing these traditional network shows, you can have the writers on set. And if something isn’t working, someone can come back and rewrite it. I’m rewatching Fringe right now, which is an underrated and absolutely brilliant show. And you can tell that the writers were involved with every stage of it. And we’re likely there on set, a good chunk of the time, so they could come in and rewrite that dialogue as things were going on. 

Dylan Marron:
No, and it feels alive. I mean, I was just remembering that when I was a kid, I watched Friends would put out these best of DVD compilations, and sometimes there were these special features. And there was this basically behind the scenes documentary of how they made a Friends episode. And I was in love with that documentary. And it felt like, you know, the writing always fed into the production, which always fed into the writing, which always fed into the production. It was this really healthy symbiosis and like this ecosystem that was in place.  

Just to quickly talk about what streaming has done to residuals is that if residuals are based on reruns, we know what a rerun looks like on network, right? It means that the Friends episode that you watched at 8pm is going to rerun at 11:30pm, right? Or those are made up times. But Friends episodes will rerun, and they’re sent into syndication. So instead of watching Friends on NBC, the moment it comes out, you’re watching it a few seasons later on the WB, which is now the CW.  

What does a rerun look like on streaming when it is just there digitally for you to click on whenever you want it? When is it a rerun? What is syndication? Can syndication even exist in that model? And so there’s no clear, there isn’t enough structure in place for what residual pay looks like for writers. And that’s one of the big things we’re striking for.  

Ethan Zuckerman:
In many ways, it sounds like what’s happening to screenwriters is what’s happening in a lot of other professions, which is it’s getting much more contingent. It’s gig work rather than guaranteed work. The pay structures, I mean, this is not terribly different from a conversation we could be having about being a taxi driver and going from actually having a good deal of security instead of a sense of what’s going to happen, or particularly being like a higher livery driver or something like that and now finding yourself with something like Uber. 

How does that particularly come into play in the creative professions? Because that feels like, I think a lot of us have sort of looked at this and said, “Yep, work is not as good as it was in our parents or our grandparents generation. We’re in a gig economy, everyone’s hustling all the time. Why should it be any different for you guys? But there have to be some real implications in the creative fields for what this means. 

Dylan Marron:
Yeah, well, what that looks like is, yes, there are a ton of jobs, but there are also shorter jobs with a huge application field, like a lot of applicants. And with shorter jobs, you have to be piecing together a lot of jobs. And I’ll just say personally that like, you know, I jump around a lot of mediums, right?  

Like I just spent a year, but really like six full months working on a podcast. And that’s such a blessing to be able to do that as a job. But, you know, that means that now for the next six months, I have to figure out what, how I’m going to pay the bills after that. And sometimes I give speeches on college campuses or to companies. Last year I published a book. But it’s like only because I have completely exhausted myself in multiple forms of media, which is not a sustainable model for also being a master at anything.  

I mean, not that we need to make this a therapy session, but I think something I like battle with a lot is like, what I call myself, professionally, what that one word is. I’ve settled on writer and producer because this is all true, but it feels like I’ve jumped around so much. And what I think I long to be—you’re getting the exclusive—I think I long to be a real pro at something. You know, to really, really be just excellent at one specific thing. Now, I think I have a voice. I know the beating heart of why I’m doing a lot of the work I do. You know, like the soul of it, for me at least, is there. But in some cases, I’m not a person of a specific craft. I look to people I admire who have that, and I’m like, I’ve jumped around so much that I don’t have that.  

Now, just to take this from the therapy session and back to this terrific conversation and I are having, I think that is maybe a product of my generation. It’s also a product of me personally, although I will say that there are many friends of mine in my generation who are really getting a mastery of certain things by just devoting focused energy on one thing.  

All to say, I am surviving in this economy because I am jumping around all the time. The jumping around all the time is not sustainable. Like I had a really, I was lucky to have a run of the last season of conversations with people who hate me coming out, my book being published, being hired on Ted Lasso, working a little more on Ted Lasso, and then working on a podcast.  

That run, I don’t know that I’ll ever see a run like that again. And it doesn’t feel, it feels too fleeting. And I feel so challenged by that. And I think the more stability that you can give artists, and I’ll speak for writers because that’s a union I’m part of, the more stability you can give writers, the more you can grow people who can really make a home in that artistic medium. And that is going to benefit the work and it’s going to benefit the worker.  

Ethan Zuckerman:
So first on the therapy session, I want to say I actually do think you’ve become absolutely masterful in working on a very specific form of norms-based social change. So my last book was about this idea that many of the ways that we try to change society don’t work anymore. It’s really hard to pass legislation. It’s really hard to kind of do civics the way that I was taught on TV from “I’m just a bill, I’m only a bill.” 

But one of the ways that people younger than I am are doing is trying to figure out how to change hearts and minds and then sort of seeing where the change comes from there. And I think if you actually do that as a through line through the work that you’ve done, I actually think it’s a beautiful way to think about your career.  

I would also note that Ted Lasso has a wonderful continuation on that. I don’t think anyone’s done a better job of re-scripting masculinity than that show for cishet men, right? And I say that as a cishet man, it’s just been a beautiful way of essentially… 

First of all, I do think you’re achieving mastery. Second of all, I think you’re likely to have another wonderful run, but it is interesting to think about that run and sort of think about, yeah, those are short gigs. It may get shorter because we now have this black bear looming on the horizon, which is this idea, which I think may be bullshit, but it’s certainly an idea that people are playing with that rather than having a mini writer’s room what we could really have is Chat GPT and then maybe we’ll hire Dylan to come punch it up a little bit but you know the heart of it can just be done algorithmically because how hard can writing be anyway? 

Dylan Marron:
Right, right. I mean this is something that is candidly really scary and I think it’s something that I had actually minimized and I think that was a self-protective measure and this is also true of other writers. I won’t name names but you know, I’ve been talking to friends on the picket line especially at the beginning people weren’t really that worried about AI. Again, I’m talking about the specific people who I had conversations with. I don’t speak for all writers.  

But I remember telling one friend who is just, she is a truly, truly brilliant and gifted writer with a unique voice. And she said to me, “I’m not worried about AI, because you know, AI is not going to write like I can write.” And it’s like, I think that’s true. Like she is a uniquely gifted person. But I’m aware of how fast technological advancements accelerate and how it’s on an exponential curve.  

And yes, it is so heartening to hear how someone tried to use AI to write a script and they didn’t use it. Charlie Brooker, the showrunner, the creator of Black Mirror, the writer of Black Mirror, he tried to use AI to co-writer script and it just wasn’t good. Nothing came out good. And we say, “Ha ha, we are better than the machine.” And it’s like, today. Today we are. 

And I think it has to be said, too, that AI also is inherently plagiarism because it is trained on pre-existing writing. what a blessing that we’re having this conversation today, but I’m sure you saw this. Sarah Silverman joined a lawsuit against Meta OpenAI. And I want to get this right. So I’ll keep it general just so I’m not saying something factually incorrect. Sarah Silverman is suing makers of artificial intelligence for training their software on her book, The Bedwetter. And it’s like, well, this could be a class action lawsuit, and this could have huge implications on what AI can and can’t do. I’m getting so off topic here because you’re so right that this is actually such a huge issue that it is the black hole that sucks you in and suddenly you’re talking about everything. 

Ethan Zuckerman:
My fear in all of this is that you guys are on strike. Some clever Hollywood exec is going to say, they’re going to be so desperate for TV, we’re going to crank it out of chat GPT, we’ll use actors who are willing to cross the picket line, and people will just be glad because it’s new TV. Are you worried about that happening?  

Dylan Marron:
I’m worried about it happening just because I’m a generally anxious person who always thinks about the worst case scenario. So yes, I am worried about it happening. I also think. And this gets to a bit of more emotional view of what writing is. But I think writing is emotional, so I’m going to permit myself to go here. But like, the magic that comes out of writers rooms is really impossible to train a machine on, right? It’s like sharing stories, it’s sharing traumatic events, it’s sharing funny things that happened to people. It’s sharing funny things that happened to each of us.  

And it’s then with our collective brain trust using that to weave it into a story we’re telling. I think because AI currently, as we record this, is a mostly derivative model that is just going to remix things that already exist. It’s not yet going to have that beating heart, that beating soul that happens when you read something that just rocks you. Like, it may have this structure. And yes, I am very scared of AI writing a shitty first draft that then one person is hired for a week to punch up. and it’s not great, but it’s passable, right? But I do think there is a magic in the writing process.  

And this term has come up a good amount of times when talking about AI, which is the shitty first draft. And the term shitty first draft comes with Anne Lamont. And I just want to say a few things about the shitty first draft, which is like, one, the shitty first draft, it’s like underlined, bold, and italicized shitty. Like you just don’t know how shitty a shitty first draft is for a writer, a writer working alone.  

And I’m going to use myself. I’m going to use myself. I’m going to use my book. I spent three months just pouring these ideas out onto pages and what came out was a shitty first draft. Now, when I say shitty, I mean, shitty. Like, just like writing so bad that I was sure that I was going to be banned from writing ever again. 

It took so long to get that out of me and I could see that as a map that I could use to write a much better second draft, which then becomes an amazing third draft or a much better third draft.  

Ethan Zuckerman:
I think what people don’t understand is the extent to which writing isn’t necessarily about like, sort of then we carve and then we sand and then we polish.  

Dylan Marron:
No, no, no, no, no.  

Ethan Zuckerman:
Often that first draft teaches you what you’re going to need to do on a second draft, which is starting completely from scratch. And so my guess is that the AI shitty first draft probably, well, it doesn’t teach you anything, right? Like it doesn’t necessarily give you, here’s the idea that has to be created differently. What it gives you is something that maybe you could polish, but if you’re polishing a turd, what you end up with is a shiny turd. And it’s a real possibility of all of this.  

What would be amazing to me is if what comes out of the writer’s strike is not just a fair contract for the riders that recognizes the need for predictability, the need to have that ability to recharge creatively, but also solidarity with the truck drivers who are waiting to see whether long-distance trucking disappears and whether that job turns into hopping into a truck half an hour out of Milwaukee and bringing it in through city traffic into the terminal, but no longer having the rest of that job, having only the stressful part of it, none of the rest of it, because that really are some of the questions that we have to face at this moment in time.  

Dylan Marron:
You’re so right. Something I’ll share from the picket lines is one of my favorite moments is when we’re picketing and then a passing truck or a passing bus will honk in solidarity. And today, and sometimes you make eye contact with the hunker and it’s this really lovely moment of like we’re seeing each other. And today there was a UPS driver and it was like semi-parked, you know, when it’s like about to make deliveries. And he looked at us and, you know, we looked at him and we were all reminding ourselves that UPS is, you know, correct me if I’m wrong, maybe about to strike, right?   

Ethan Zuckerman:
Yeah, talking very seriously about a strike, yes.  

Dylan Marron:
Seeing the solidarity by being out there on the picket lines has been amazing. And I think it makes me really want to be super aware, to continue my awareness of how everything is interconnected as we go forward.  

Ethan Zuckerman:
I think that notion of interconnection is a lovely place to end. He’s Dylan Marron. He is someone I just admire endlessly. And I just love the work that you’re doing. And I love watching where you’re going next. And I’m serious, I do think bringing you into a conversation about restorative justice online needs to be on both of our to do this. Dylan, what a joy.  

Dylan Marron:
Thank you so much. Ethan, I am not going to say my goodbye for too long. you know, I’m a huge, huge fan of yours. And I’ve admired you for a really long time. And yeah, I just think you’re amazing. And I’m honored to be here. So thanks for having me on.