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GamingWe are Haemimont Games, Developers of Tropico and Surviving Mars. Ask us Anything!

Mar 14th 2018 by candyalien • 7 Questions • 6171 Points

Hi Reddit! I’m Shefali Luthra, a journalist at Kaiser Health News. We’re a non-profit news service (no relationship to Kaiser Permanente), and we cover health care with constant attention to how it affects patient pocketbooks. Our stories are published news outlets nationwide, including The Washington Post, CNN and The New York Times. I just did a story on hospitals partnering with financial institutions, and encouraging patients to take out on-the-spot loans to pay off their medical bills. Here’s the story (inspired by Redditors!) as it ran in The Washington Post, and here’s a longer version from our website. Our newsroom does a “bill of the month” feature in partnership with NPR, taking reader medical bills and putting them under a microscope. I’m excited to take all of your questions, but I’m especially excited to discuss how the high costs of health care affect patients. Thanks for having me! • Here’s my proof • Here’s Kaiser Health News’ website, which features our most recent stories • Here’s our bill-of-the-month club landing page.

EDIT: It's been so much fun doing this -- and I know there is much more we could discuss! -- but I've got to get back to reporting and writing. Thanks all of you for your thoughtful questions, and we'll definitely be planning more AMAs from KHN in the future. Until next time!

Q:

How did everything start?

A:

Which companies? I don't think you named them in your post.


Q:

For people who know the story of Gawker and Thiel, what additional value does the book provide? What was the most interesting thing you learned about the case when writing the book?

A:

Do you have any friends left with the Amish? If so, what is your relationship with them? I was raised in the hutterites, and had to abandon my friends and family when I left. What is the Amish church's position towards people like yourself who escape?


Q:

What's a common misconception about the ocean that annoys you?

A:

I work in healthcare as a FF/EMT and have worked in hospitals. I have noticed the industry uses a blanket type coverage to bill patients. Even I have been to the emergency room and later received a bill which included medication I did not accept at the time of the service. I also know if a patient goes into the ER for cardiac related problems and the “crash cart” is needed, even if they only use one medication from a drawer it could end up costing the pt tens of thousands of dollars. How has the effect of outrageous medical costs caused people/organizations/government to rethink the structure of billing? What would be the most common sense approach to make this a reality today?


Q:

It all started for me when I moved to Chamonix, France at 23 years old. I've skied my entire life but didn't start climbing until I was 19. In Chamonix I learned how to put all of it together, the glaciers, ice climbing, rock climbing, route-finding skiing etc. I lived there for 6 years. It was like a second university.

A:

German companies : TUI , Karl Kolb , heberger french companies : Groupe Protec and de dietrich dutch companies ; melspring , hansmelchers and frans van anraat , Luxembourg general Mediterranean holding and its owner Nadhmi Auchi ( Saddam's Bag Man )


Q:

To me, this story is not just the story of a ten year revenge plot, it's really the story of all conspiracies. You know we live in this world of conspiracy theories (I happen to live in Austin, the hometown of Alex Jones) but few actual conspiracies. But any student of history knows that the world often pivots on something a few people cooked up in secret. So to me, this book was a chance to tell that larger story. The fact that Thiel was willing to go on the record and explain his process was, in my view as an author, an unprecedented chance to lay out how power really works in a way that few have been able to before. It's ironic, Gawker's informal motto was that they showed "How Things Work"--the story behind the story. But in this case, they missed what was actually happening. So did everyone in the media. What I tried to do here was step back, take judgment out of the picture, and show what went down and why. I think the book captures that, but ultimately that will be for the readers to decide.

A:

Pretty much like your situation. I am shunned and have no contact with anyone except my sister who still Amish. She is married and has three children. We write a few times a year but we do not really know each other anymore. I have not seen her for 12 years. I hope to go visit this fall. I am allowed to stay for the day but am not allowed to eat at the same table with her or any other church member. She is not allowed to touch me or take anything that I hand I hand her. Probably the same among the Hutterites.


Q:

Its indestructible and bottomless resources… it’s quite the opposite and we are finding out the hard way

A:

Two thoughts on this, mostly on the front of how people can and are rethinking billing structure:

1) This is where we come back to being a sharp consumer. Even after an ER visit, you patients can – and probably should! – try to negotiate, see what was actually provided, what other health plans pay for this care, etc. You can probably end up paying less than appears on the billing statement.

2) KHN is actually diving into the very question of medical billing. We’ve been partnering with NPR to crowdsource patients’ medical bills and then try to investigate what actually happened, why they cost so much, and what sort of weird charges and such get added on. It’s a fascinating project – our first story is the one about the $17,850 urine test, and the next will come out later this month. If you want to help us answer this very question, please send us your crazy bills! https://khn.org/send-us-your-medical-bills/


Q:

Was there a point you ever just wanted to give up?

A:

What did you immediately do, when the gas reached you?


Q:

Do you think that Thiel chose Hogan precisely because he knew that the whole "isn't this hogan sex tape gawker court room scene just hilarious" aspect would overshadow his involvement to an extend? I mean, if it was just some random dude who sued gawker over something much less spicey maybe the public story would've been all about "how things work" when it comes to the incredibly powerful

A:

Wow it's not quite that bad for me. I can visit, but can't stay overnight. Definitely take small gifts, even though I only visit once every 3 or 4 years (bottle of wine or chocolate or something). The worst part for me is having to listen to the speil from my parents about how disappointed they are, and how sad they are that I'm going to hell. Makes visiting really stressful so I almost never do.


Q:

Do you think in our lifetime we will see a permanent settlement underwater? Not a base or research facility, but a place where the average person could live?

A:

I'm a little confused by this. A lot of the discussion around inflated medical bills has demonized hospitals and healthcare providers, but a lot of cause of this seems to be based on historical negotiating practices by managed care plans, and gross charges aren't relevant to most of the population (true self-pay may be the exception, but in my experience there is a sliding scale or self-pay discount policy already in place for most facilities).

If the hypothetical ER visit statement was for charges, then almost everyone is by default paying less than that because your insurer has already negotiated that for you, and if you are true self-pay then there is almost universally a discount or sliding-scale policy already in place by the facility. Are you suggesting that patients should try to negotiate further?


Q:

Wow- yes! Many times in my life I have wanted to give up. It's a lot to juggle a family and a career involving so much travel and risk. The hardest time for me was after a Nat Geo expedition to Myanmar where I experienced a lot of difficulty with our team dynamics and incredibly difficult climbing. I came home feeling inadequate and frustrated. I missed my kids terribly. Ironically, it was their influence, and my own passion for the mountains that brought me back.

A:

i was a child at the time and i don't remember well i was with my family in a basement- Mardin i had to hold my breath and covered my mouth then i ran into my neighbor's basement - Aras


Q:

Thiel began looking for cases as early as 2011, but had trouble finding either cases that were viable or plaintiffs willing to publicly go against Gawker. But it's also important to see that from the second the rumors of the tape began to spread--in early 2012--Hogan was very public about his intention to go after anyone who published it. This was well-before Hogan and Thiel were connected. So Gawker's decision to run the tape--and we know they knew of Hogan's comments--was really the unforced error of the century. It's what put Hogan on Thiel's radar and gave him the opportunity he was looking for. There were then subsequent other cases that Thiel either explored backing or did back, in part because early on it was not so obvious that Hogan's case had legs to go all the way or that the verdict would be what it was (much of that came from more unforced errors Gawker made during depositions and the discovery process).

A:

The Amish probably have the strictest form of shunning. Glad you can visit. I have not been back and dread it but I want to see my sister.


Q:

It is technically possible. Even more so than a colony on Mars… Hence why my grandfather experimented with this premise in the early 1960s with Conshelf habitats

A:

This is an important point to consider. Hospitals have what's called the Chargemaster rate – which is the list price. This is a far higher price than what insurers pay or what Medicare pays. If someone is simply paying for a service out of pocket and a) doesn’t ask a question and b) doesn’t get financial assistance, that person could easily be billed the full Chargemaster rate. (Hospitals are required to offer financial assistance for lower-income patients, but many don’t discuss it until the patient asks.)

My editor, Elisabeth Rosenthal, wrote a series on this when she worked for The New York Times. It’s great. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/health/paying-till-it-hurts.html


Q:

On this International Women's Day can you talk about how you've been influenced by female mountaineers like Stacy Allison (first US woman to summit Everest)?

A:

What exactly did the companies do and do you think they knew that their stuff would be used in an attack?


Q:

Did it ever come out who leaked Bubba’s video? I live in Florida and used to listen and it was heavily implied that the video originally came from one of his cohosts.

A:

Former Jehovah's Witnesses waving from that dark corner: many of us aren't even allowed to visit. Phone calls won't be answered. Some aren't even invited to the burial of their own parents....

God I hate abusive cults like the ones you and I left...


Q:

Could you take that shape of water guy in a fight? What would be your strategy against a man-fish?

A:

For as long as I can remember, we've been talking about the outrageous costs of health care. As far as I can tell, there's near universal agreement that health care costs are ruining lives, holding back companies from growth, and crippling state government. Yet nothing ever seems to get done.

From your research, are there a few relatively simple changes we can make to the system that would give us meaningful improvements? Or is the only solution to scrap the whole thing and start over with some form of single payer or nationalized health insurance?


Q:

I must say that I was not influenced by Stacy Allison. I think her career in climbing has been amazing but I was just never familiar with her story. My roots were in skiing and I was originally influenced by the likes of Kristen Ulmer and Wendy Fisher. As I got into climbing, I greatly admired Lynn Hill, Catherine Destival and Arlene Blum.

A:

during the 8 year of war between Iran and Iraq companies were trying to sell weapon specially chemical weapon to Saddam to use it in war and since then Saddam was using it so the companies knew that he was using it - Aras


Q:

The police reports, which you can pull out from the trial documents off the website of the Pinellas County Courthouse, suspected that the tapes were leaked by a rival radio DJ Matt 'Spiceboy' Loyd. He was never charged with the crime so we should be careful about pointing fingers, but as far as a best guess goes from both the FBI and the Tampa Police, that's it. Even weirder--weirder than this entire dispute being put into motion by a fight between two shock jocks--is that the lawyer who represented the brokering of the sales of the tape was a man named Keith M. Davidson, who later came to represent Stormy Daniels after her alleged affair with the man who is now the President of the United States of America...

Edit: article here about that insane set of circumstances.

A:

Yes, I have many former JW's who email me. A lot in common with the Amish when it comes to shunning, maybe even a little more severe in some aspects. Really sad and tears apart a lot of families. I was not allowed to attend my sister's wedding. Seemed so unnatural:(


Q:

Did you see me change into my aquaman suit?

A:

Great question. Health care costs are a big, big public policy concern, and they have been for quite a while! But alas, in health care, nothing is ever simple. (The ACA was more than 900 pages!)

A lot of wonks have studied this: The big issue is that, compared to other countries, we simply pay a lot more for hospitals, for outpatient care, for prescription drugs, etc. Some people say single-payer, or an expanded public option is a good way to address this.

The ACA also pushed some experiments to try to pay hospitals for better outcomes, or to penalize them if people kept coming back sick. It also built an “innovation center,” whose whole job was to experiment with new ways to pay more efficiently for health care – moving away from the so-called “fee for service” model and instead “paying for performance.” We have seen some results start to trickle in, but nothing revolutionary yet. This week, though, officials from the Trump administration signaled they’re interested in trying to continue those experiments. So that could be something.

Drug costs are also of course a big concern – but so far, no one really knows WHY drugs cost as much as they do. (This is why states are pushing “drug price transparency” laws.) Other nations, like Canada, have cost controls, but those also come with their own tradeoffs.

Tl;dr: there are no “simple” changes to fixing the cost of health care. It’s a big issue, and one that lawmakers could tackle, but it requires lots of serious thought, effort, and time!


Q:

How even? did you have a team?

A:

Are these American companies or do they work in America? Is there anything Americans can do to help? So sad to read about this attack, I never knew it happened.


Q:

In what way did Peter Thiel surprise you the most?

A:

I don't go because I like it lol. I go out of duty. Both parties hate it but it's a game we must play.


Q:

How was your diet down there? What kind of food were you eating for that time?

A:

Do you believe there could be merit in eliminating medicine from being advertised, through media or through doctors, making it illegal for doctors to take money to recommend a certain pill?

I cannot see how it possible contributes to the state of health of people in a country, while pharmaceuticals spend gigantic amounts of money on this. Then they feel justified to recoup that money by hiking prices to unrealistic amounts, screwing the people in need over some more..


Q:

In regards to Papsura, it took me nearly two decades from when I first saw the mountain to actually successfully climbing the peak and skiing the west face. I had years of gathering experience and the skillset to undertake that expedition. I tried in 2013 with a larger team and we were not able to get far on the mountain. In 2017, I was able to learn from the earlier failed attempt and went with a smaller team, a different time of year and climbed via a different approach.

A:

these companies were not american and american companies refused to cooperate they were german , french, dutch and Luxembourg companies , and what you can do is supporting us in the courts and lawsuit


Q:

I thought he would seem much more angry than he ended up seeming. I spent enough time with him that if that had been the primary motivation, I think the mask would have slipped--if only for a second. Instead, he seemed very calm, very detached, very strategic about the whole thing.

The other interesting part of Thiel's personality is that he uses the steel man technique when arguing or explaining a complicated issue. This surprised me given that he had taken to calling Gawker terrorists and such. But really, he was always very open-minded when it came to discussing things. For instance, if you ask Thiel a question—about Gawker or Trump or whatever—he doesn't just pull up some half-formed opinion. Instead, he begins with, “One view of these things is that . . . ,” and then proceeds to explain the exact opposite of what he happens to personally believe. Only after he has finished, with complete sincerity and deference, describing how most people think about the issue, will he then give you his opinion, which almost always happens to be something radically unorthodox—all of it punctuated with liberal pauses to consider what he is saying as he is saying it. Even when he does describe his opinion, he prefaces it with “I tend to think . . .” or “It’s always this question of . . . ,” as if what he is about to tell you is simply capturing where his opinion falls the majority of the time when running a thought exercise on the topic, as if he is always in the process of deciding what he thinks. I found that to be very impressive and unusual. It was hard to be a lazy thinker around him.

A:

I totally understand :(


Q:

Really Really AWFUL!!!!! We ate freeze dried “astronaut” food morning noon and eve… 3 times as many calories yet lost over 18lbs after 31 days

A:

Direct-to-consumer advertising is such a controversial issue, especially when it comes to pharmaceuticals.

We’ve seen drug companies use this to market drugs when they aren’t universally recommended or needed. Meningitis B is one example I’ve written about – it’s an uncommon disease that can be deadly (but is also treatable!). The vaccine is not universally recommended, because it’s such a rare disease (and such an expensive vaccine!). So its manufacturers (Pfizer and GSK) have pumped up advertising. It’s made doctors and some industry watchers pretty uneasy, and some experts argue that this kind of approach bolsters sales of health care that maybe isn’t necessary.

Many pharmaceutical companies and doctors would argue that money / donations don’t influence prescribing decisions. But it’s controversial, and there have been steps toward addressing it. The ACA created an Open Payments database that requires drugmakers to report what they give to doctors and hospitals, and it publishes them online.

There’s also been some really good journalism on this. ProPublica, another nonprofit news outlet, did a fantastic project called Dollars for Docs: If you want to see whether your doctor has gotten money from a drug company, I recommend their database! https://projects.propublica.org/docdollars/

I’m also linking to two stories KHN did on direct-to-consumer advertising – my meningitis B story and another by my colleague, Julie Appleby: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/07/business/meningitis-b-vaccines.html https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/12/business/media/pseudobulbar-affect-drug-advertising-sales.html


Q:

When, if ever, did you feel like you were in the most danger, and how did you handle it?

A:

Mardin - the building behind you in your proof picture is very interesting. What is it?


Q:

And it comes from a gawker media site. Nice.

A:

Why are there photographs of you? Where I’m from, the Amish do not allow you to take their photo. I’m assuming this varies by sect but all of the ones near us do not allow this


Q:

What was the coolest thing and the hardest thing about living underwater? Would you do it again??

A:

The money they steal from the tax purse in loss deductions is enough for taxpayers to pay for those who can’t afford healthcare, that’s how it works in every other developed country.


Q:

Most recently would be on the ski descent of Papsura in India. Our ascent took much longer than we'd hoped, the weather was a terrible white-out and we were exhausted. I handled it by trusting my teammates, behaving an internal focus to stay in the moment. I chose not to look down whenever possible to quell the fear of the exposure, and I forced my mind to compartmentalize and break up the descent into small pieces so as not to be overwhelmed. Breathing helps a lot as well. I find it keeps the panic at bay.

A:

its the halabja massacre memorial musum -Mardin


Q:

That's some irony.

A:

The photographs are from when I was living with my mother before I joined the Amish. We did not take photographs but the state was coming to check on us and my mother had given them a fake address, she was also afraid that if they found us we would be questioned and they would be in trouble. So they decided to take the photographs and give them to the caseworker. It worked, they never discovered that my mother had been giving them a fake address. She told them that it was against our religion to have government officials in our house. Whenever you inject religion into the equation it is easy to get away with things.


Q:

Coolest thing was the being given the luxury of time underwater by becoming an aquanaut. It is the biggest obstacle and limitation coming from the surface. We broke the time barrier! The reverse is true too- we had a ceiling from which we could not rise above. To do so would create major DCS issues including potential death...

A:

So I don’t know a lot about this specific case, and I would be hesitant to weigh in on particulars. But this latter idea has always been the argument advocates use to tout expanding health insurance – the idea is that if more people are covered, then there’s less uncompensated care, and the cost burden is more evenly shared.


Q:

Hi Hilaree. Congrats on being named a Nat Geo Adventurer of the Year! You have done some amazing expeditions, but what mountain is still left on your bucket list?

A:

Wow really thanks for the A2A. Most of the survivors often lose hope of any revival in their lives. How do you motivate people out there to continue with their lives?


Q:

How much money do you estimate Peter Thiel spent backing Hogan?

A:

Congratulations on your success! What do you think goes into the mentality of not-reporting-to-the-police? Outside of the failure to report such actions, were other members of your family/church/society/etc supportive of you speaking out?


Q:

I'm totally jealous, it had to be such an amazing experience! Were you ever afraid of the potential death factor? Metal groans in the middle of the night hard to get used to kind of thing... What kind of sea life did you get to see??

A:

Thank you for doing this! Do you feel that the insurance industry, as a whole, contributes to the rising cost of healthcare through the process of re-insurers, malpractice insurance (which could also be blamed on our litigious society), and the such? Meaning, do you believe that there are significant factors outside of the primary service of healthcare (a nurse or doctor treating a patient) that contributes to the overall cost and if that cost has escalated at a faster rate than say the cost of the primary business of healthcare?


Q:

I would really love to still go to the antarctic. For me to ski on the peninsula and to climb and ski around the vinson massif has been a dream of mine for years.

A:

we are asking people to have hope and continue their lives , we hope that we can hold those companies like TUI who did this to us accountable so this is somehow my motivation - mardin i want to live to be alive proof of what chemical weapon can do -Aras


Q:

Between $10-$20 million is the estimate.

A:

Hello:) Thank you for this very important question. There is so much more to my story but it was not possible to put it all in that AMA. A little background. My step-grandmother and my mentally challenged aunt were also living at home with my mother and stepfather. They were severely abused. I went to the police first to try and get them removed from my mother's custody but the police were so hesitant to do anything because of the religious aspect. I asked the policeman to pull up my aunt's dress and look at the bruises on her legs but he told me that he could not because it would violate religious freedom (my mother dressed her in Amish clothes). I then asked for a female officer to be brought in to do it but they never did it. I was exasperated and went to the police 3 times. I could not get them to do anything. My grandmother died not long after and my aunt died about three years ago, about the same time my memoir was published.

It is too easy to hide behind religion. When I reported the Amish bishop I was met with much of the same attitude "We have to be careful not to infringe on religious freedoms" until he escaped into Canada. At that point, I believe they realized something was very wrong. I really love that our country has religious freedom but I think we need to be careful that religious freedom does not trap victims and make it impossible for them to get help.

By the time I had left the Amish I was numb and felt I had failed my aunt, my step-grandmother, and the bishop's children. I could not save any of them. I got pushback from every angle, the Amish, the police, adult protective services and of course my mother and step-father. I was the only one trying to help any of them. The only one helping me was a non-Amish lady. It was devastating. Nine years later I wrote my memoir in a last ditch effort to raise awareness. I barely expected anything to come of it but something was set in motion and now three years later the bishop is in prison, people from my hometown have read my book, I have found my long lost brother and I am helping people from all over the world through email.

I think our culture's mentality of "mind your own business" plays a big part into why child abuse cases are not reported. They think it is not their business and may even fear other people will remind them of that fact if they start to meddle. Also many believe that CPS will not do anything even if they call. There definitely needs to be a big overhauling of the CPS system.

I know in my case, the people who apologized to me and told me that they had known are truly some of the kindest people you could ever meet. It is not that they were bad people, today they are really good friends of mine :) I think they truly just did not know how to help. I hope that answered your question :)


Q:

Anything worth doing has some risk. Explorers mitigate what they can, plan for any contingency and “go for it” knowing to expect the unexpected. Death is an inevitable part of life. Living life is what we must never avoid.

A:

That’s a really great and interesting question. And we know that we spend more on overhead than do other countries with less complex health insurance systems. (I went on a reporting trip to Canada last fall, and that was a point that came up again and again – their billing and admin just costs a lot less than ours, because they need fewer people.)

BUT the issue economists point to again and again is the price per unit of medical care. It’s just higher here than it is in other countries. And if we’re interested in addressing health care costs in the United States, that’s the key area to emphasize.

A lot of health care journalists point to this famous paper, by a bunch of rock star health economists: It’s called “It’s The Prices, Stupid,” and I think it still very much applies today. https://www.healthaffairs.org/doi/full/10.1377/hlthaff.22.3.89


Q:

The attack happened 30 years ago. Chances are the people at those companies aren’t even working there any more. Have you had any progress in this lawsuit?

A:

How did you convince both Peter Thiel and Nick Denton to talk to you for this book?


Q:

That sounds like a very compassionate view on your part of those people who knew. Have you always been able to see you at that way or were you angry at them for a while?

A:

Have you seen the floating patches of trash while out at sea?


Q:

I had an MRI a week ago, with insurance it was going to cost$2000 without and out of pocket it was $850. Why such a huge discrepancy for something like that?

A:

we filed the lawsuit only two days ago and we suied both manager and directors who were personally involved and also the companies themselves , the companies made many millions in profits which helped them, grow to be the huge companies that they are today the victims lives were destroyed hundred of survivors died early death hundred of children have birth defects caused by the chemicals so the companies should pay this profits in fair compensation to the victims and their families even if the director and manager are old or maybe have already died


Q:

I'm not sure I convinced them, so much as the fates aligned. I happened to get an unsolicited email from Thiel in late 2016--he had read some of my Gawker columns and suggested we get dinner sometime. I got an email from Denton not long after saying he'd read some of my philosophical writing and wanted to know if I wanted to get together. That I was talking to both of them I think was intriguing to them both, and also meant the other would want to keep talking for fear that the project might be too heavily weighted by one side. I also kept the project's direction really open for a long time--was it a book about media or technology or these two characters or was it about revenge? I really didn't know, but that allowed me to ask about a wide range of things so it never felt super invasive or "gotcha"-y. Denton preferred to do his interviews over chat, so our process was also much less of an imposition. Meanwhile, I think Thiel is quite proud of what he had accomplished and was tired of the very biased reporting around it.

A:

I was angry for at least the first 10 minutes. I cried. But I could see the pain and guilt in their eyes and just could not be mad at them. Being mad at them would not accomplish anything.


Q:

Yes- in every ocean. There is an average of 34,000 pieces of plastic per square mile of ocean… A testament to our complete disconnect with the impact we are having on our ocean

A:

So I can’t tell you about your specific insurance / hospital. BUT this is a pattern the Wall Street Journal has looked into, and their report is very much worth reading. It seems that some hospitals and health care providers are discounting services if patients pay cash upfront, rather than waiting for insurance to pay. One reason that I find particularly interesting: It cuts down on the administrative work of processing an insurance payment or collecting money later on.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-to-cut-your-health-care-bill-pay-cash-1455592277


Q:

I hope it goes well, hopefully your legal team has experience suing companies who are engaged in this type of behavior.

A:

Hi Ryan. Do you think it's better for a marketer to be a generalist with a broad knowledge across a number of disciplines, or be highly specialized in one?

And do you ever think you'll turn your hand to fiction writing?


Q:

My great grandmother left the Amish community when she was 16. I wasn’t old enough to understand what that meant, and I wish I would have asked her about her experience coming into a non Amish society. I’m sure you’re experience is drastically different than hers was because we live in a completely different world. With that being said, I have a few questions I wish I could have asked her before she passed.

  1. What was it like to come into a modern world?
  2. Was it overwhelming to transition to this way of life?
  3. Are there any things that carried over from your Amish life to your non Amish life?
  4. Is it hard to break any biases that were ingrained in you when you were growing up?
  5. Do you ever fear that you made the wrong decision when you left the Amish community?
  6. How hard was it to leave everything including family, friends, and belongings?
  7. And finally, how hard was the decision?

Sorry for asking so many questions! These are questions I always wanted to ask, but never got the chance to.

A:

What kind of equipment did you live/travel in during project 31? How long did descent/ascent take at the beginning/end?


Q:

Hey everyone! Thank you for being such gracious hosts to our AMA participants. They tried to answer as many questions as possible. We know you have lots more questions, so if you will, please visit the site https://www.halabjavictimssociety.org/ to learn more about the attacks and the lawsuit. Many of your questions can be answered there. Don't forget about this attack and some of the victims experiences you've heard here today. Their stories deserve to be heard.

Have a good day, Reddit!

A:

I suppose that depends on who you want to be and what kind of career you want to have. Personally, I think it's best to be really good at 3-4 distinct things. This was you have different competencies you can expand or contract based on need, the market, interest, etc. But that's still small enough to develop a solid reputation for excellence in. If you're good at 500 things (if that's even possible) it's hard for people to understand what you do.

Basically, I'd rather be Bo Jackson than Ashton Eaton.


Q:

I often describe leaving the Amish to being teleported from the 1600s to 2000s, it was very overwhelming for about 6 months. Things I carried over are cooking, doing crafts, I do not use swear words:) I am not sure if I have biases or what they are but most likely. I do not regret leaving the Amish, but like most Amish who leave I have had the recurring nightmare that I died and went to hell a few times.

It was extremely hard to leave the Amish. I did it once, but always say that if I had to do it a second time I could not do it. Some people leave and go back and leave and go back several times.

The decision to leave was extremely difficult. In fact, I did not decide to leave until after I had been to the police and the bishop told me to call off the investigation. In that moment I removed my head covering and stomped on it. This was the bishop of my church, he had assaulted me and now was telling me what to do for the sake of my soul? Something just clicked in that moment and I realized something was very wrong.

A:

Watch the Mission 31 videos and all will be revealed: https://www.youtube.com/user/Mission31channel


Q:

For both of you, how was your treatment by Iran during this time, as both of you said that you were treated for several months at least in Iran for healthcare.

For Aras, did you have the choice to stay in Iran (and presumably didn't because your life was back in Iraq? Or did you have no choice in the matter? And if so, what about in the parts of Kurdistan within Iran?

My utmost sympathy goes out to you. I had several family members who died in combat the Iran-Iraq war, before I was born. One of them died due to chemical attack by Saddam. I do not know any more about it than that unfortunately. The thought that people can act in such systematic acts of genocide such as that which happened against kurds in Saddam's Iraq is horrific and terrifying. And that any nation would sponser this... beyond words. I wish you luck in bringing these enablers to justice.

A:

Did anyone at Gawker ever address the hypocrisy of posting the Hogan tape while Jezebel made a huge deal over the celebrity nude leaks?


Q:

It sounds like you and your mom were not Amish until she married him? How did an English woman end up marrying an Amish man? How old were you at the time? Was it a major culture shock to live the Amish way when they first got married?

A:

did you miss the stars? and how was your sleeping schedule... did night remain night?


Q:

received basic treatments ,they washed our bodies , used oxygen for our breathing, pomades for our burns , and i took an injection called atropine / and i didnt want to stay in iran beause i never liked iran -Aras i lost my sight at the time and they were using pomades and injections , staying in Iran was not on my own choice i was adopted by an Iranian family and i didn't know they are not my own family -Mardin

A:

I address it in the book.

“Gawker is not in the business of holding back information,” Gawker’s managing editor, Emma Carmichael, would later say in her deposition. If they got it, they ran it. A Gawker writer would defend a similar story a few years later by saying, “Stories don’t need an upside. Not everyone has to feel good about the truth. If it’s true, you publish.” These people had come to believe that “truth” was the governing criterion, and that the right to publish these stories was absolute. As far as their experience was concerned, they were correct: There had never been serious consequences. They had called every bluff. They had published what every other media outlet would have deemed unpublishable and not only walked away from it—the audience loved them for it.

Of course they knew that running stolen footage of a naked person was not exactly right. Jezebel, a Gawker site, had made a name for itself defending women against every kind of slight, defending their rights to privacy, defending them against men who tried to victimize or bully them online. Jezebel would define its views more clearly in outrage over a rival blog that published a controversial story about someone’s sexuality: “Don’t out someone who doesn’t want to be out. The end. Everyone has a right to privacy. . . .” Except Peter Thiel, and now Terry Bollea, apparently.

Less than two months before the Hogan piece, a Gawker writer who would later become the site’s editor writes a piece condemning the rise of “fusking”—the practice of stealing photos from online accounts and posting them. In it, he rejects any attempt to blame the victim, or any excuses made for the “behavior of thieves and creeps” when they steal people’s private things. Gawker had seen the anger and outrage about Hunter Moore when it had written about him and his media site built around so-called revenge porn. Commenters even cheered when Gawker reported that the FBI was investigating Moore. Yet when that tape arrived to its SoHo offices, Gawker would twiddle it down to a highlight reel and run that naked video of Hulk Hogan in front of an audience that numbers in the millions—a video not just of Hogan, but also of the woman he was filmed having sex with, who also had not consented to its publication. Gawker would promote it to their Facebook fans: “It’s probably time you watched this snippet from the Hulk Hogan sex tape with a woman some claim is Bubba the Love Sponge’s wife. Work’s over. You’re fine.”


Q:

So, my story is complicated and very unusual. I was 4 years old when my mother met my step-father. Neither were Amish. When I was six years old my step-father decided we should start dressing like the Amish. It was a gradual transition. I think my stepfather thought that if we started dressing religiously no one would ask why my sister I were not in school, why we had no friends or why we were rarely seen in public etc. It worked. My stepfather was in his late 40s and had been wanted for child molestation about 15 years before my mother met him. He escaped arrest by fleeing to Alaska and working on the fishing boats for a few years. After that, he was a gold miner in Northern Arizona and that is where my mother met him.

By the time I was 9 years old we looked fully Amish. We had learned to sew the clothes and traveled around in a motorhome selling crafts that we made. My sister and I worked long hours. When I was 11 we moved to the ranch in Northern WA, my sister and I were only let off the mountain to help sell things or bring supplies back to the ranch. It was a nightmare that would not end until I was 19. When I finally did go to the Amish community It was not that hard for me to adjust because I had dressed Amish for most of my life and was badly abused. For the first month, it seemed like a breath of fresh air. My sister and I were accepted into the Amish because of our obedient natures. It would be very hard for the average person to join the Amish, very few have ever joined the Amish from the outside world.

A:

I didn’t because the stars were everywhere on the sea floor.

Considering we dove 10-12 hours per day sleep was surprisingly not a problem. The Clayton Sleep Center was disappointed I’m sure ;-)


Q:

I wish I had a better question.... but I wanted to let you know that this was one of the primary reasons I joined the US Army Medical Service in 1988. I knew we would be fighting Sadaam after this. I was of course called up for Desert Storm when the time came. Our hospital was prepared to treat massive chemical attack victims which fortunately, for all involved in Desert Storm, never came.

What are the companies named in the suit?

A:

One of the narratives about the Hogan/Gawker/Thiel saga has been, in its distilled form: Since Peter Thiel's financial resources far outpaced Gawker's, he shut down the company (personally, I see it as more nuanced, but fair enough). Then the narrative goes on to talk about how dangerous this is for journalism. What's your take? Is Thiel's involvement in this case an inauspicious omen for journalism? Does Thiel himself reveal any kind of dislike for the free press? Any predictions for how this case will be impacting the media ecosystem 5-10 years from now?


Q:

How accurate is Weird Al's Ahmish Paradise?

A:

Do you believe in sea monsters?


Q:

German companies : TUI , Karl Kolb , heberger french companies : Groupe Protec and de dietrich dutch companies ; melspring , hansmelchers and frans van anraat , Luxembourg general Mediterranean holding and its owner Nadhmi Auchi ( Saddam's Bag Man ) some companies industrial like karl kolb and heberger , some companies for personal products for example TUI used to have sub companies that produce chemical and building materials , today they are the largest tourism country in the world but they have the biggest hand in building and supplying chemical weapon factories , hundreds of German engineers worked at the chemical weapon sites during the conspiracy even a gas chamber was built to test chemical weapons on dogs and donkeys and even allegedly on Iranian POWs , Auchi is one of the biggest real estate owners in England and owns dozens of companies including hotels , the bank in Luxembourg was secretly funded by saddam hussein and held accounts for numerous dictators and terrorists https://www.halabjavictimssociety.org/

A:

The central question of this story to me is, who was the bully? Was Thiel the bully or was it Gawker? Was Peter the billionaire who destroyed a millionaire? Or was he a righteous man who attempted to use his money to solve a problem that only power and money could solve? Was it the media outlet that thoughtlessly outed a then-mostly unknown tech investor? Or was it the billionaire who spent millions plotting against him for it? Was it the website who loved to out gay men or was it the team who would back Trump in the 2016 election, and in the case of Charles Harder, write an 11 page letter threatening to sue Michael Wolff for his book about Trump? Was it Denton who never apologized, who ignored judicial orders or was it Thiel, who never showed his face until after his revenge was complete?

It depends on where you sit, but one thing that has been lost in the coverage since the verdict: Gawker thought they were winning until suddenly, they lost. It was Gawker who had filed endless motions and appeals, who had fought Hulk Hogan with scorched earth tactics, and never apologized for obtaining an illegally recorded sextape and publishing it for more than seven million people to gawk at (and then spent $10M+ vigorously insisting it was right to do so). There was a moment in mid-2014, when Gawker’s lawyers threatened Hulk Hogan, telling him that it was his last chance to drop the case before they went after him for attorney’s fees. More than anything, what the jury and the judge reacted to had been their arrogance. The verdict reflected that.

Nick Denton told me, “The idea that Thiel was terrified of the next Gawker piece is still absurd to me—and given how things turned out, we had much more to fear from him than the other way around." But it wasn’t that absurd at the time, when they were a website with hundreds of millions of readers, when Gawker was the site that had never been challenged in court and published whatever it wanted, Thiel believed that Gawker’s power was partly in pretending that it was more powerful than it was. Now that they're gone...it looks different.

As for who is the bully now? As I said, backing Trump and some of the clients Charles Harder has taken on since give me pause...but that doesn't have the power to rewrite where things were in 2007.


Q:

That is funny. I actually watch that video quite often. I think it is pretty accurate. Of course, it is silly and the costumes are ridiculous but the overall message is quite real. Many Amish are in competition over who can be the most humble, this leads to a lot of bickering and a lot of discontent.

A:

Yes- people underwater qualify


Q:

I thought there was a weapons ban on chemicals, was that just paper to be walked through with no punishment?

A:

Ryan, how did you personally feel about Gawker?

The site elicits are a lot of strong reactions around the web (especially here on Reddit) with people being strongly in favour of the work they did or despising it.

Where do you stand? Do you think it was a particularly vile institution or was it no different than any internet blog/'news' site - just a lot bigger?


Q:

First off, thanks for doing this AMA!

Did you ever hear or learn to speak "Pennsylvania Dutch" or "Mennonite German"?

A:

Hi, what’s the hardest thing about conveying your experience under or at the sea via film? Thanks! You have the most incredible job.


Q:

yes no company has ever been punished and what the comopany say they wouldnht do the chemical weapon activity is not what they do , they know they are selling chemical weapons and they know that the weapons are killing people - aras and mardin

A:

I started out with very strong opinions (I'd written about Gawker in my first book, Trust Me I'm Lying and also in my Observer column). I'd also been attacked by Gawker several times and the subject of some preposterously inaccurate stories. So I actually went into the book with a bit of a bias, but I found myself considerably softened talking to Nick, talking to A.J, reading what many of the writers wrote in their eulogies of the site. What I tried to do in the book ultimately was remove judgement as much as possible and just show what happened. I think that's a more important lesson.

Whether Gawker deserved what happened to it doesn't change what actually happened and to me that's where there is something to learn. How did Thiel do this? What were his motivations? How did no one suspect it as it was happening? Why was Gawker unable to fend him off? How did Gawker actually work as a company? What were its motivations for publishing the story? Why has the coverage since been so slanted in their favor since losing? Those were the questions I tried to answer.


Q:

Yes, I am/was fluent in the language. That was my main hurdle when I went to the community. My sister and I were told right from the start that we would have to be fairly fluent in the language before we could be baptized and start dating. Being teenagers our very lives depended on learning the language. If an Amish girl does not have a steady boyfriend by the time she is 20 she is pretty much destined to be an old maid. It took me about 9 months to learn the language. I did it by writing down 20 words a day and had the school aged children teach them to me. The children were amazing tutors and loved feeling important.

A:

Ocean is such an alien world, alien concept, alien sensory input, that conveying to someone who hasn’t pierced the blue veneer the beauty, fragility and importance of our life support system is very difficult. It’s like trying to explain the properties of a super nova to someone who never took astronomy


Q:

how has growing up during your lifetime been? have you been treated differently since you have been marked survivors

A:

What do you make of Gawker's arrogance during the whole thing? I recall the child porn comment. It seemed insane.


Q:

What is dating like in the Amish community? Also, how was sexual education brought up and usually at what age? Thanks for this AMA!

A:

While you were underwater, what where your experiences with Noise Pollution; how does your research intersects with Noise Pollution?


Q:

no because our community understands well our problems since the most of the people are victims - Aras i was lost and living away from my own family , i was adopted by another family , i didn't know that i'm adopted until i was 10 years old -Mardin

A:

I would say their hubris was immense, and a large reason for their downfall. Whether they should have run the tape is one discussion, but how I think for many years they did not take the case seriously--assuming that Hogan would settle, that he was an idiot, that people were on Gawker's side. Their decision in 2013 to ignore the judge's order to remove the article (though it was later overturned) was probably the height of that hubris, along with the comments made during the depositions in late 2013, which you referenced. Part of that aggressive exterior may have been motivated by internal insecurity. If you apologize, admit weakness, even admit wrong doing and you're an outlet that publishes first and verifies second, that puts a big target on your back.


Q:

I am from the very strict Amish. In my community, the only sex education that was given was by the mother or older sister on the day before a girls wedding. This I was told because they figured my sister and I were more accustomed to hearing conversations about sex. It is taboo unless you are married. Unmarried people are not even allowed to talk about pregnancies or acknowledge that someone is pregnant. Of course, at a certain age, you start figuring things out but you are not allowed to talk about any of it until you are married.

A:

Boat noise, machinery noise, living in a sort of echo chamber makes these things even more evident. Imagine what that does to sea life, especially those animals much more sensitive to noise than we are, such as cetaceans ...


Q:

What is your favorite sandwich?

A:

What inspired you to move from marketing into journalism?


Q:

[removed]

A:

When people say the majority of the earth’s oceans are unexplored, what does this actually mean and do you think there are as to yet undiscovered creatures that will shock and amaze the world? I’m thinking dinosaur level here.


Q:

Hamburger-Aras Pizza -Mardin

A:

I'm not sure I did. I see myself as an author or a writer, who also has expertise as a marketing and strategist. I don't see myself as a journalist.


Q:

When they become teenagers they do. Somehow they know not to talk about it though. If someone does say something they are talked to by the mother or father. In my community, it was common for unmarried girls to avert their eyes so they were not looking at the pregnant lady's belly.

A:

Less than 5% of our ocean world has been explored to date. Perspective: the ocean represents over 99% of our planet’s living space, some 3.4BILLION cu2 of volume… even if you take the entire scuba diving layer into account as well as all the bottom exploration in modern history including my grandfather’s pioneering exploits, thats >5%


Q:

What's your opinion on the chemical attack in the UK? Hold any strong values, opinions or beliefs?

A:

What's the weirdest thing you've read in a book by the likes of Seneca or Marcus Aurelius? Those dudes came from different cultures.


Q:

How often did you use Pennsylvania German vs English? Was there anyone in the community that didn't speak English at all?

A:

What is your favourite memory of your grandfather?


Q:

this proofs that everyone of us in danger of chemical weapons and their production must stop in every county.

A:

I mean a few pages into Marcus's Meditations he congratulates himself for never laying a hand on his female slaves (that is rape them) so that's a pretty good reminder that these guys lived in a different culture. Rome was a dark, violent, twisted place. We can't forget that while some aspects of their lives were shockingly identical to ours--almost as if no time has passed--others are just insanely incomprehensible. I believe the punishment for parricide in Rome (killing your parents) was they would put you in a thick leather sack with a dog, a cat, a snake and a monkey and then throw you in a river to drown and be clawed to death.


Q:

Children learn English in school, most finish school at 13 or 14. After school, you are only allowed to speak English when you are talking to an outsider. English is considered worldly. I do not know of any community where they do not learn English, but it is not the main language.

A:

Away from the cameras, the crowds, the events… when we spent time alone as a family or on expedition. Taking time over lunch in the carre of Calypso during lunch to have a laugh and chat about philosophy or non expedition related topics


Q:

From which court are you seeking relief? Will you need sanctions?

A:

Hey Ryan, how do you think Gawker's hypocrisy at the time possibly influenced the court case? An example I have is Gawker media sites condemning sites for hosting J-Law nude photos, yet posting on their site that they were defying the judge order to take down Hogan's tape. You researched all the legal docs and did interviews, did that ever come up?


Q:

What type of nursing are you interested in?

A:

I'll ask several questions, it'd be awesome if you could answer them all, if that's not the case, I'd be satisfied with getting one responded at least 😅

I. What's the rarest encounter that you've had with an animal?

II. What's something that should be common knowledge about the sea?

III. Which one's your favorite mythological underwater beast and why is that your choice?

P.s: You have an amazing life and it sounds like you enjoy what you do, that makes me happy for you 😄


Q:

first to national court i halabja and then we have a case also in paris and we intend to bring additional cases in london , holland and germany


Q:

I am doing the bachelor's program right now and have a year left. After that, I plan to go on and get my Masters to become a Nurse Practitioner. Right now my favorite fields are ER and Psychiatric.

A:

I. Nose to nose with 2 orcas in PNG(Papua New Guinea) playing with and eventually feeding on a 7 foot shark.

II. The ocean is life. No blue no green. Without it we do not exist. If the ocean isn't healthy neither can we , neither can our economy… simple. … The ONLY thing that makes our planet special is the water on it

III. The kraken of course! Because the thought still scares the living cr-p out of people even today… LOL

P.s: TKU! I do. It's one of the most difficult jobs out there but the experiences are priceless and I cherish each moment!


Q:

I see that at least one of the German companies responsible for this (not sure which) is now in the German Tourism industry?

Why is Germany allowing a known exporter of chemical weapons, in direct contravention of the Geneva Protocol, to still exist and function as a German company? As far as I know, Germany had ratified the Geneva Protocols, right?

What legal or governmental hurdles are preventing Germany from dealing with the organization themselves? Did German Investigators determine there wasn't enough evidence or something?

Thanks for doing this AMA! Chemical weapons, especially mustard gas, are not only horrific, it takes a special kind of soulless monster to sell that gas for use against humans or to deploy it against humans.

A:

Why was Thiel's funding even necessary for Hogan to seek justice? To me, that's an even bigger question.

From what i remember, Gawker refused a takedown order, bragged about doing so, all on a hidden-cam porn of a person taken without their knowledge. What Gawker did was screwed up, no way around it.

So why was a Billionaire needed to fund this?


Q:

Good luck in whatever you choose!!

A:

What does undergoing decompression feel like?


Q:

the German prosecuted these companies including TUI and found them guilty of illegally selling chemical weapons to saddam , the managers were sentences of between 3 and 12 month in jail but non of them went to jail for even one day , under german law corporations cannot be prosecuted for the crimes of genocide or crimes against humanity , only the managers and as you can see the manager got off with no punishment

A:

As Thiel said—and perhaps only Thiel could have said with a straight face—Hogan ‘was only a single digit millionaire.’ This case took roughly four years and cost more than $10 million to litigate. Three years in Hogan lost his endorsement deals and was kicked out of wrestling when his racist comments were leaked. There was no way he could have taken this to a jury on his own. Maybe without Thiel’s help there could have been a low six figure settlement (as Gawker had done in another case) but no jury verdict in my opinion.


Q:

Thank you!

A:

A lot of waiting… in the case of M31 it was 24 hours of it...


Q:

Hey Ryan, since Machiavelli said that conspiracies are weapons of the people, why do you think there are so few of them today?

How are you so prolific? What systems/routines had the most impact on your life?

I'm halfway through the book and loving it!

A:

I am curious, what do the Amish think of jews?


Q:

AS an avid scuba diver myself, I used to love just sitting on a patch of sand at 80-100 feet and just watch quietly the reef for an hour. I imagine living underwater that long you had quite a bit of this enjoyment?

A:

One of the things I explored in the book was why we seem to have this aversion these days to secrecy. A lot of people have said, "Why didn't Peter go public with what he was doing?" The other way to think about that is why the fuck should he have to? This idea that you have to tweet about every thought you have, or write a press release about every opinion or place is not only a ridiculous feature of our social media age, but it's bad strategy! Gawker wanted Thiel to have to expose himself so they could have been better prepared to fight him in court about it. The line from Napoleon is "Never do what your enemy wants you to do for the reason they want you to do it." If you were plotting to get Trump impeached, should you have to give him a heads up?

The other reason is I think we see few conspiracies is related to the first point. People are afraid to get their hands dirty. They like signing petitions, walking in marches, changing their Facebook profile picture in solidarity...but real change is often brought about by nasty means. Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Acts...but he was a corrupt asshole. He also knew how power worked and how to wield it. Part of the reason I wanted to write the book was to show how conspiracies work, and how they can be used for good and for bad.


Q:

So, this is a hard question to answer because the Amish are not well versed on other cultures. I never heard anyone talking about Jews other than in the context of the bible and I do not remember ever seeing any Jews in our area. Sorry I cannot be more helpful in this area.

A:

Its home. I imagine you might feel the same. Sitting at the bottom watching the soap opera unfold in front of you is such a joy every time. Always different, always new characters, always surprising and wonderous.


Q:

If you could meet Marcus Aurelius what would you do and what would you ask him?

A:

what else can we do in order to raise awareness?


Q:

What was the set up in order to accomplish that?

A:

"Wait, I thought you died?"


Q:

The best way to raise awareness is to talk about it and write about it on social media. Most change starts with people talking, forming groups and eventually making their voices so loud they cannot be ignored. Hopefully, that will happen one day. I am on the front lines trying to make that happen. For now, talking about it will start pulling back the veil of secrecy. Thank you for caring :)

A:

Top secret and extremely difficult. Think NASA training and living in the Space Station… just underwater...


Q:

Hi Ryan, I'm a huge fan of your work and just finished up Conspiracy last week. I had two questions for you if you'll excuse my greed:

1) What tenet of Stoicism do you find most difficult to practice in your own life?

2) Given that Conspiracy is a departure from your previous works, what unique challenges did you face while writing it?

A:

Hey Ms. Griffin, I can't imagine the strength you hold in your soul--its amazing! I am curious about a ton of things, and will be looking into your memoir, but am interested in what kind of PTSD you have experienced and how you've dealt with it? You said before faith is still a big part of it which, to me, is amazing that you've separated the predators from what they claimed to represent. Anyways, what has the mental health aspect of your recovery be like?

Also, as a social worker, what can be done at a societal (however micro the Amish society is) to encourage reporting of these incidents? I feel like that will end up being rhetorical, but is there any angle that's missing?

Thanks in advance!


Q:

What was the biggest surprise inconvenience that you didn't expect, when spending SO much time underwater?

A:

The truth is all of Stoicism is easy to say, difficult to practice. I think one of the harder ones for me is just not letting my temper or my impulse to react drive my behavior. To me, the Stoic is someone who is deliberate about what they do and say, just part of my personality is to be intense and always do, do, doing. Someone says something, I want to respond. There's an opportunity, I want to take it. There's something that needs to be fixed, I want to fix it. Someone makes an argument, I want to argue back. The problem there is that I'd be better off if I paused and really thought about the best response or whether a response was necessary or not. I would save myself trouble, heartache, frustration, etc if I could do this better. When I look at my journal entries, I tend to find this issue--or something related to it--is central to most of what I am struggling with or having problems with.


Q:

For me, my faith has been my saving grace, literally. As a child, I always believed in God and always felt he had a purpose for me. No matter how bad things got there was always that little spark that kept me going.

As far as PTSD, at one point it was very severe. For about 2 years after I left the Amish I had a recurring nightmare almost every other night. I dreamt that I had not left the Amish, that it had only been a dream and I was still at the bishops house. I would scream and cry and wake up in terror. The nightmare was so real I had a hard time knowing which one was real. I would get up and walk around and touch things until I was convinced that I was in the reality. After about two years they came less often and now maybe only once a month or so. I also would jump and scream at loud noises or when people reached out to touch or hug me. I have gotten better and rarely have these reactions anymore.

As far as what we can do to encourage reporting..... I wish I knew. I think raising awareness is the only way. The Amish know that outside people do not know how the church works. Church members are told not to talk about church matters to outsiders. Only by shedding light on the darkness can we hope to change things.

A:

People- ie visits from surface dwellers. Funny how one gets used to and defensive of home. We started getting bothered by the drop ins even if they were for our benefit.


Q:

You're not a journalist, yet you wrote in this investigative report in your typical style drawing from history/prior works. Did you ever feel you were stretching to craft a narrative, for example seeing the book on ancient strategy on Theil's desk? Or were their things said in the interviews that lent themselves to the way you crafted the "story?'

A:

10 years in prison for molesting almost 11 children? What a joke.


Q:

Did your sleep patterns remain the same while living underwater? I've heard that people devoid of normal stimuli will eventually settle into a different pattern than most of us are used to.

Also - what's it sound like down there?!

A:

It really was insane to see Discourses on Livy on Thiel's shelf in his apartment (not his desk), given that I had just read it as research for the book. And for him to be able to reference the section from memory was just one of those things that made this feel somewhat meant to be. The other funny anecdote is that he gave me a copy of The Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World thinking it was this obscure text that would make me realize what he had tried to do...and it happened that I'd already read it a few years before and had recently pulled my notes from it to see where there might be some insights for this book.

As for stretching to craft a narrative, I would say that the weird thing about the book was that there was actually too much material so instead of stretching the difficulty (or the shaping) came more from what not to include. A question above asked about who leaked the tapes, my decision to make this book about a conspiracies meant that the leakers identity was a lot less important, so it was left on the cutting room floor.

Your question is good though. Authors, journalists, lawyers--we're all telling stories and stories require choices and as a result certain things are obscured or emphasized to the reader. But I think this is better than say me dumping all the legal documents on you and saying: You figure it out. I mean, that's what I'm being paid to do.


Q:

Yes, we fear he will get out early for good behavior :(

A:

Sleep? What sleep? (See above)... Mission 31 was run just like any extreme environment mission ie NASA… Military training and preparation and precise schedule are essential for everything to work. We had sleep schedules so we could keep up the grueling pace.

Sound- it’s not the silent world at all! Between the echo of machinery, the snapping shrimp on the hull, the booming and clicking of fish and other sea life, it was a cacophony of underwater symphonies


Q:

When do you take notes about a book? While reading it or afterwards? Is that part of your daily journaling activity?

A:

What were the best memories from you childhood?


Q:

Please tell me you got your career inspiration from my favorite childhood movie

Edit: ah, I see you are Jacques Cousteau's grandson! Cool! Yeah, that probably had more to do with it than the movie...

A:

I take notes while I am reading (in the book) and then usually 3-4 weeks after I finish (unless it's urgent), I got back through and transfer the notes to notecards. Here's my process: https://ryanholiday.net/the-notecard-system-the-key-for-remembering-organizing-and-using-everything-you-read/


Q:

Unfortunately, remembering my childhood makes me shudder, but, there are a few things that were positive. I think the best memories are being surrounded by the animals on the farm, my sister and I gave each one a name and we loved them all dearly.

Other good memories would be the times when I was able to sneak around and talk to my younger sister. For most of our lives, my sister and I were not allowed to talk to each other. If we were caught talking we were beaten. A lot of the times we had to raise our hands to talk. But sometimes we took chances when we thought my mom and stepdad were not around. I did not really learn to carry a conversation until I was 19 years old.

Probably the absolute most positive memory from my childhood is when I picked up a National Geographic in the late 1980s. I was around 8 years old. My stepdad was getting our car fixed and my sister and I were sitting in the waiting room. I picked up a National Geographic and it fell open to an article about some missionary doctors who were in Africa helping fight the AIDS epidemic. I did not understand what AIDS was at that time but it stayed with me for the rest of my life and it's why I am in nursing school today and why I joined YWAM ( Youth With A Mission) after I left the Amish. My entire childhood I dreamed of traveling to other countries helping sick people. I wish I could find a copy of that National Geographic.

A:

Life Aquatic was cool too ;-)


Q:

I know you apprenticed under Robert Greene, who wrote 48 Laws of Power.

It almost feels like this book is a modern case study for 48 Laws; would you agree?

A:

Do you think this sort of thing happens with any frequency in other Amish communities? And is the normal reaction to not involve any outside authorities and just resort to shunning? Is there any other procedure abuse victims can resort to? Also thank you for exposing this stuff, as depressing as it is, I think it's better to get it out in the open.


Q:

I grew up watching and adoring your grandfather. I know he invented the SCUBA system, were there any other inventions?

A:

Yes.


Q:

It is prelevant in most all Amish communities. The more liberal the community the more resources there are for victims but those resources are very limited and usually consist of some form of counseling for the victim and predator. In very rare cases, maybe less than a handful are the police ever called in by someone who is still a member of the church.

I know victims from the very most liberal to the very most strict and the same basic techniques run throughout. The mother usually reports that her husband or brother or someone is molesting her children or teenage daughters. She is told that the ministers will handle it. The predator is brought before the church and shunned for a few weeks. After he is brought back into the church no one is allowed to talk about his crime ever again because he has been forgiven. The predator may be reported 5 - 7 times. Eventually the victim or the mother of the victim will stop saying anything. It usually does not do any good and it often brings shame on the victim.

In my community, the bishops wife and her 7 sisters had been molested by her father. He had been reported to the ministers 5 times by their mother. Then, the bishops wife's mother and her eight sisters had been molested by her father. Almost all of the bishop's wife's 11 children were molested by her husband, the bishop. A heartbreaking tragedy. Approx 24 out of 32 people were molested, 75%.

A:

Thank you! He and Emile Gagnan (his engineer friend from Air Liquide) co-invented the aqualung(SCUBA). My grandfather also had to invent the tools necessary to explore since none were available: underwater camera housings, the first underwater habitat, the first submersible for science research, helped develop modern side scan sonar, underwater lights, and more… It was by necessity that he did this.


Q:

This sounds like a good read. When does the movie come out?

A:

How much of the book is true? because memoir.


Q:

What is the best way for someone to make a career out of ocean conservation? Is it something you need to get into from the beginning or is it possible to transition mid career?


Q:

I have changed names, identifying characteristics, and some locations. Many of the worst abuse cases were left out. I concealed some identities to protect the innocent.

A:

Although there are opportunities, it is still a difficult journey due to our continued neglect of the value our ocean brings. Hybrid carriers are often innovative, solution focussed, and you can make a living at it ;-) . We can always use more marine experts and conservationists, just giving you the heads up.


Q:

Ryan - I enjoyed two of your other books (Obstacle and Ego). One piece of constructive criticism I would have is that when you create the audio book, could you consider getting a professional book reader? I don't want to sound like a dick or anything, but the hardest part of the Audiobooks for me was that your voice was kind of... monotone-ish.

Thanks!

A:

Do you think your experience will make you a different parent than you expected to be?


Q:

Did being underwater for that long take a toll on your body? Did you notice yourself more reactive to sunlight afterwards?

A:

Look, I wouldn't want to listen to me talk for that long either, but the vast majority of listeners have said they prefer it when I read. So I got with that.


Q:

I do not have children yet but I hope to. I think my experience makes me a little terrified of being mean to children and whenever I have babysat or taken care of children in the past I have a very hard time being firm when I should be. When I do become a parent I know this will be one my greatest challenges. I truly hate to see a child's sad face.

A:

Reactive to sunlight not so much. We had full spectrum light in the habitat which helped… I lost weight despite the additional calories. Lost sense of taste during and a few days after. Air was thicker to breath down below so coming back up seemed like air was thin. Took time to get back to normal sleep patterns and food. I personally didn't see any permanent effects so far except for wanting to go back ;-)


Q:

What’s your next book?

A:

I've been to a Golden Corral restaurant at 5 different times in my life. Each time, there is at least two to three tables of about 8 to 10 Amish people eating. Every other restaurant I've ever been to in my life, I have never seen an Amish person eating. Why do is this? Also, is it appropriate to engage in conversation with them in public?


Q:

did anything feel different or alien to you after coming back to the surface?

A:

A secret.


Q:

I am not sure why they were at Golden Corral. Maybe it was near a Greyhound bus stop? A lot of Amish travel to weddings etc. by bus. Amish generally do not eat in sit down restaurants.

I remember outsiders coming up to talk to us. It depends what you want to talk about. A lot of Amish people find the outside world fascinating, even if they would not admit it. The only times we really got annoyed was when people would start pestering us with questions or would try and take our pictures. I remember it made me feel like I was less of a human or unequal to them. I really hated when people would take pictures of me. I would be walking down the road with the children or walking to church with the young people and you could see people taking pictures as they drove by.

A:

My sinuses seem to feel a little different. I also think I grew gills behind my ears (joke)


Q:

Wait are you the same Ryan Holiday that had that email list thing? I think I'm subscribed lol

A:

Do you have any Amish recipes you would share with us?


Q:

What's the first thing you eat when you get back on land? I always crave Mexican food when I dive or surf for some reason...

A:

I am. That little list started with 50 people and now is about 90,000. It's my favorite thing to do.


Q:

Well, trying to think. I cannot think of particular full recipes at the moment but can tell you things I enjoyed eating and making :)

I really liked the cheese spread we made to put on bread, I liked Jello with cottage cheese on the top, homemade ice cream, homemade pickles, fried chicken, haystack suppers, fried potatoes with tomato gravy and apple pies..there are more things but I cannot think of them at the moment :)

A:

We all wanted a good fresh organic burger and fries… was very disappointed as I still couldn't taste much that day


Q:

Hi Ryan - been following your great work since 'Trust me - I'm lying' ..

Apple was no fan of Gawker - especially after the whole iPhone 4 leaking affair ..

Do you think they had anything to do with this case? Or were they just cheering from the sidelines (like many others) .. ?

A:

Wow. This is absolutely incredible. I just wanted to ask, what are your religious beliefs now?


Q:

Describe your aquanaut suit. How was it? How did allow you to brush your teeth, eat, drink, sleep, and expel feces? You know, everyday stuff.

A:

Well when rumors began to fly that someone was back Hogan, there were a few candidates. I don't know if Apple was one of them, but Denton briefly considered the possibility that the Church of Scientology was responsible.


Q:

Thank you for the question :) I am still a devoted Christian but I am non-denominational. I will never agree to exclusively join any church ever again. I dress normally, I think :)

A:

An aquanaut suit is no different than commercial or scuba depending on needs of the task at hand… Once done with the particular dive, you take the suits and helmets or full face masks etc, take a shower, and put on team clothes ie tshirt shorts etc… it's like coming home after work, just in a habitat 20 meters under water. The Mission 31 videos on YouTube can best illustrate this


Q:

Do you think it’s possible to have gender equality in an Amish family or is the culture to skewed towards patriarchy for that to be possible?

A:

A lot of my questions have been answered, did you wear a dive watch? Which kind? What piece of equipment do you think people here would find interesting?


Q:

I do not think there is a way to have gender equality in a society where the wife is expected to do what she is told. Where unmarried girls are sexually assaulted and then blamed for it. Many sexual assault victims are blamed, they are told they wore their dress too tight, did not cover enough hair with their head coverings or were too friendly. This is why it took me so long to come forward and report the bishop. The only thing that gave me the strength to report him was the fear that he was molesting his children.

A culture where you have to accept the ruling of the bishop and can be shunned if you argue or do not agree to your punishment will never be able to have gender equality or even basic human rights.

This is not to talk bad about the Amish. There are so many Amish who want to change things but they are trapped. If they speak out they could be shunned and could lose everything. The Amish are brainwashed to believe that if they leave the Amish they will go to hell. Many feel helpless and feel they have no choice but to go along with the flow of things.

A:

I always wear a mechanical dive watch. In this case for saturation diving it was my go to since most computers aren't build for saturation diving, much less long stays… Lots of interesting tech- The PAM (pulse amplitude modulated florometer) was an interesting piece of kit (see youtube video) as well as the Ditson hand held acoustic imaging device.


Q:

Thanks for speaking out. The Amish are so romanticized, you never hear about the dark stuff.

A:

What is the status on the rebuild of the Calypso?


Q:

There are so many people who do not want to hear the dark stuff. Not many news outlets want to report on it and when it does make the news it seems to get buried :(

A:

Sadly none as far as I know, but the original Cousteau family is not in control of this


Q:

Hey there! If you had to recommend two books [one fiction; one nonfiction] that you love, or had some impact on your life, what would they be and why?

Also, what did you do to keep from getting bored down there?

A:

Jules Vernes- 20000 leagues under the sea

Erik Seedhouse- Ocean Outpost

Never had a chance to get bored… its the sea after all! 10-12 hours of diving and research, 1-3 hours of interviews and SITC a day, dry lab research, managing a aquanaut team as well as a film team …. No boredom here… no sleep either


Q:

First of all, I must say I am incredibly jealous. I am enamored with undersea life, aquanautics, and the unknown, and it would be my dream to do what you get to do.

My question is, after spending a long period of time underwater, are there any roadblocks now to increase that number to a longer period of time. If so, what are they? If not, when can we see a mission for a longer period of time?

A:

Yes, human physiology, human psychological limits, accidents, economic, technology, supplies, support, etc are just a few of the obstacles. I believe it is possible depending on addressing those and other issues...


Q:

Have you ever read the Rifters trilogy by Peter Watts?

A:

Unfortunately not. I’ll add it to the pile of over 135 books I’ve accumulated and promised myself I’d read ;-)