March 3, 2023

694: House on FIRE- America's Dark Future & The Power of Narrative

House on Fire: @mattjbatt's Cautionary Tale for America's Dark Future

Are you ready for a thought-provoking conversation about the current state of America? Then you need to check out The Brian Nichols Show! In this episode, Brian is joined by Matt Battaglia, master storyteller from Free the People, to discuss his new book House on Fire.

This isn't your ordinary political discussion. Matt's new book House on Fire is a cautionary tale, taking elements of the past three years and fictionalizing them to make it into a story. It is emotionally driven and explores the darkest parts of society and the cycle of destruction that could occur if it continues. It's like a dystopian novel come to life, and you won't be able to look away.

During their conversation, Matt and Brian discuss how stories have the power to change the world. They believe that it is important for people to tell stories to set narratives and respond to errors in order to preserve truth. They also delve into the current pandemic and the supply chain issues that have arisen, such as the increase in beef prices and difficulty in finding eggs. They suggest that Matt's new book can be read into in different ways, making it perfect for those who love a good debate.

But this isn't just a discussion about politics and society. It's about the power of storytelling and how it can make a difference in the world. Matt has been working for Free the People for some time, producing documentaries and the show Kibbe on Liberty, and has been drawing comics for many years. His experience in storytelling shines through in this episode, and you won't want to miss a second of it.

So, if you're looking for a unique and engaging discussion about the current state of America and the power of storytelling, then The Brian Nichols Show is for you. Tune in to learn how to use sales and marketing to win conversations about political issues and hear from a master storyteller about his new book House on Fire. Get ready for a discussion that will leave you thinking long after it's over!


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Brian Nichols  0:19  
Is America a house on fire? Yeah, let's talk about that. Instead of focusing on winning arguments, we're teaching the basic fundamentals of sales and marketing and how we can use them to win in the world of politics, teaching you how to meet people where they're at on the issues they care about. Welcome to The Brian Nichols Show. Hey there, Brian, here on The Brian Nichols Show. And thank you for joining us on afford another fun filled episode. I am as always your humble host. Joining us live Mark Stratus ip Studios here in the lovely Mr. Khanna don't let cyber attacks or outdated Business Technology put your company at risk. Schedule your one on one consultation with yours truly the Brian Nichols, forward slash Stratus ip? Well, the past three years have really put Americans at each other's throats. And we've really seen the tensions increase and increase and increase to the point in this post pandemic society. You go talk to the Biden administration, they'll tell you, No, we're not past a post pandemic society. Please give us the emergency powers still. But that's a conversation for a different day. But you look at where we are today as a society. And yes, we are absolutely divided trust is at an all time low. We are in fact the house on fire and talking about that brand new book that he's just authored joining us on The Brian Nichols Show from free the people Matt Battaglia, welcome to The Brian Nichols Show.

Matt Battaglia  1:40  
Thank you for having me on. Yep, right here. I got my copies in this past week from a printer. Very exciting. So glad to be here. Thanks. That's a great intro.

Brian Nichols  1:52  
Thank you. And God, glad to have you here. And we're looking forward to digging into Yes, your brand new book house on fire. I'm excited to hear about it. But before we get there, do us a favor, Matt, introduce yourself to The Brian Nichols Show audience and what brought you all the way from talking? I guess I guess we now we have to go back, folks. You were recording me apparently back when I was over on that kid. He's free. The people. We don't remember that though. Because it was pre pre COVID. But you know, it was right in the thick of COVID. Time excuse. Memories are all shot. But now you're here reading a brand new book. What's got you from here to here?

Matt Battaglia  2:23  
Well, this this, the graphic novel is how I processed those past three years. And it's been basically my I put all my thoughts in on what was going on into into this comic. So yeah, I've been working at free the people for I guess, since we started for the people. And I produce a bunch of documentaries there. And I produce Kibby show Kibby on liberty, which you can find on Blaze TV and our YouTube for the people. But I've been drawing comics for forever. And house on fire is my first solo graphic novel. And yeah, it was, it was really, it's, it's what I did under COVID.

Brian Nichols  3:10  
Some folks gained 40 pounds. The other folks like got divorce other folks just like had complete mental breakdowns, you wrote a book pretty darn cool, and not just a book a graphic novel. And before we get into the actual book itself, let's kind of go back to free to people. I want to take a second and talk about the great stuff. The free to people does, because I mean, I was on that show, as I mentioned Kibby on liberty back in it was aired January 6 2021. You can guess that my episode got usurped by something. But with that being said, you'll look at all the great things that Matt and the organization are doing from telling phenomenal stories like the story of our awesome Congressman Thomas Massie and him going off the grid, to stories of black persecution and criminal justice in we have to tell these stories, right? If you look at how people connect to issues, it's through stories. It's not through facts. It's not through figures. It's not through good ideas in them to death. And that's why I'm so so excited for what you guys do it for the people because this is stuff that actually gets people to pay attention.

Matt Battaglia  4:14  
Yeah, I mean, I would I'm thanks for mentioning off the grid. That was the first project that I like long project that I directed and edited. And it still I think people still look at it today. Massey still always tweets it out. And I think it holds up. There's a lot of stuff we learned since then. But I recommend people check that out. I also did a documentary about a restaurant slash bar in New York under COVID called all we have, and I view house on fire as sort of it's very much spiritually in line with that. The schnitzel house which is a restaurant in New York in Brooklyn. We just kind of profiled all of the troubles that they were going through at that time. And I think a lot of people are trying to memory hold that. And so I think it was really important to have a visual record of, of what went on. And some recommend people watch that. I think it goes well with house on fire.

Brian Nichols  5:15  
Well, we tell this to the folks here in The Brian Nichols Show audience all the time and say it with me. Now, folks, if you don't set narratives somebody else is going to do so we don't respond and errors with narratives we set them right. So when we look at why it is so important for us to tell the story, you're 100%, right, it is because there are so many folks out there who are memory holding this, we're just trying to rewrite history entirely. So it's not on us to go out and actually speak the truth of what actually happened, who's the ones that are going to do it. So that's why we're doing what we're doing here the show and thankfully, that's what you guys are doing over at free the people. So let's go ahead and talk about this brand new book house on fire. So Matt, give us the context of the book, you said that it is basically your experience as you've gone through these three years of insanity, which we've all unfortunately had to experience along the way with you talk to us, though, about the book itself. Give us some groundwork and and obviously, you know, the the energy that you put into it, I'm sure it speaks to what a lot of us have felt over the past three years as well.

Matt Battaglia  6:12  
I wish I could say I could describe the book better than you already have. But it you know, plot wise, it's a simple, it's a simple book, it's a man trying to get medicine for his wife in a post apocalyptic kind of world. There's a lot of things that I think people who were awake at all during the past three years probably will recognize, and I kind of tweak things to maybe crank everything up to 11. But hopefully it's a cautionary tale. It's it it I think does what most good sci fi should do, which is that it takes something that we're living through and you know, fictionalized it's fictionalized Is it enough to make it at least to make it a story, but hopefully contains some lessons for folks.

Brian Nichols  7:08  
So let's start off the story. Now, we don't have to spoil too much. Because we want people to still obviously buy the book, which will give links to the book in the show notes, folks. So make sure you head over there. But do us a favor. Give us the context. It's in a post COVID World husband's trying to get medicine for the wife. So are we in this dystopian future where society is collapsing? Allah almost feeling like The Last of Us? Are the Walking Dead? Or is it even worse? No, I

Matt Battaglia  7:33  
think we're maybe 10 years off in this book from from The Last of Us or the Walking Dead? Like we were not there yet. This is the intermediate step maybe

Brian Nichols  7:42  
even worse, because there's more people around that can cause more mayhem.

Matt Battaglia  7:45  
Yeah, unfortunately, government and house on fire is still exists. So there's, there's, you know, I think, to me, it's it's the book is it's a emotionally driven book. It's, you know, there's, there's the world building exists, but I'm not getting caught up on all the technicalities of what's going on, you said COVID. I didn't say COVID. You know, if you can read it, and if you would like to think it's smallpox, go right ahead. The disease itself doesn't matter. The thing that I was sort of the thing that I was working out for myself, while making this book is well, what are the things that I'm most afraid of that are gonna stick around after, after this, you know, after sort of government lock downs, and the the really the response to COVID. And so, so that's really what I was kind of working out in my mind was, you know, how much worse can this get? And, you know, are we going to be stuck on this cycle forever. And so I tried to run the cycle down a few more times and tried to fictionalize it. The thing that always was difficult for me was, every time I'd sort of start working on the book, something new would happen, that would then make whatever I was putting in the book, just completely true. And that's always difficult.

Brian Nichols  9:13  
You're like, I don't want to write in a biography, right? Or, like, you know, history book, that's not even the history yet. You're just you're at this point, you're Nostradamus, more or less man, we're gonna we're gonna be as blunt as we can there. But I mean, talk to us about the book, you know, where we are in the context or context of society you mentioned 10 years or so before the end of society so what what does government look like? What does society look like? How do you interactions between Are we a free people I guess I was gonna say between free people but are we a free people 10 years before the collapse of society? What does that look like?

Matt Battaglia  9:48  
So you to me, you know, it's what's what's funny, and the thing that that I was teasing out and now having over the course of the past few years, we I lived in the city and now we He just recently moved out of the city into the suburbs. And so one of the main themes in the book is sort of the guy going from, he's, you know, leaving his rural house and heading into the city in order to acquire a drug of some kind. And the sort of the, none of this is this is all background that was in my head, so people can read into the book, whatever they'd like. But the thing that I was playing out in my head is that it always feels to me like the cities are, you know, will hoard certain certain kinds of supplies. But in the book, he's making a drug exchange, and I won't spoil what he is, is using, but my thought is, is that cities can only grow certain kinds of things, and they can't grow other things. So there's playing off of these economies of, you know, as we're seeing today, with with all the supply chain issues and things like that, one of the things that we interviewed Massie a bunch of times during the sort of the thick of the pandemic, and he was always worried about food supply stuff. And it took a while for his concerns to finally hit, but they did finally hit, you know, beef prices went up and everything, you can't find eggs right now, or you're spending a lot of money for eggs. So, again, I was just basically taking a lot of what I was seeing and playing it out further, there's a whole segment and encounter that's based around sort of the show your papers to get in, you know, so so to me, I think that the conflicts that we're seeing today are between rural and urban settings. And, you know, the book spawned out of I did a road trip from where I was living in Philly, to Texas, where my dad's family is, and my dad and I drove our V down to Texas in the sort of myths of 2020. And the stark difference between how Philadelphia handled things. And then as the further and further you got away from city centers and seeing how different life was that's where the book really started taking shape in my head,

Brian Nichols  12:12  
who man that's hitting home here. That now the audience has heard me rant and rave for three years because I too, lived in Philadelphia. They're mad I was it. Oh, yes. I was in West Philadelphia. Okay, and who mad? Yeah, you're right. The city was just completely ass backwards compared to what your like a functioning society should be. And then as soon as you go into more rural areas, I visited New Castle, Indiana, when we had our we're libertarians pool party out here. And all of a sudden, I'm like, wait, people are acting normal. There's no masks everywhere. People aren't afraid of everybody. People aren't making everybody stand six feet apart and screaming at each other or making each other where plexiglass face shields like, Oh, you mean you can drive down the Ben Franklin Parkway and you are going to see people there and Philadelphia completely masked up even though they're outside. It drove me crazy. And then you couple that with the businesses closing the rise in violent crime and especially this was the part that scared me and why frankly, ended up moving out of Philadelphia was because it was completely random violent crime. It's like little kid leaving McDonald's gets hit with stray bullet or waiting sitting on the front porch with family gets hit with stray bullet, like there was no rhyme or reason for it.

Matt Battaglia  13:32  
Or you get out of your car and someone you know, smacks you upside the head and jumps in your car and steals it,

Brian Nichols  13:37  
which is your personal experience. Correct? Yeah. Tell us about that really quick, just because like, I don't think some folks understand truly now this is to our more, I'd say our country rural friends who they did not understand the context of what life not only was like during COVID, but also how bad things have gotten since COVID. So please just help give some more context. So people aren't just thinking it's Brian ranting and raving about Well,

Matt Battaglia  14:02  
it's funny because so like, so since he lived in Philly. The the, the sort of main location that's in the book that he goes to is there's that abandoned not It's not abandoned anymore powerplant outside of Fishtown.

Brian Nichols  14:18  
Oh my god. Yeah, I know what you're talking about.

Matt Battaglia  14:19  
It's no, it's now it's condos. But, but, you know, at the time, it was still abandoned. And so that's a location the book and so the book is very much, you know, set in Philly, but it's never named and, and so, yeah, I mean, one of the reasons why we got out is that people are just randomly carjacking people like and I you know, it happened to me, they didn't take my car. I didn't, you know, they couldn't get it. I locked it because whatever, and I just was I was on the phone with my 95 year old grandpa who won't, you know, takes hours and hours to get them off the phone and so I wasn't paying attention because he's yapping and yapping away. And so then, you know, so they You know, I got, I got a hit and then I turned around and they run away because it couldn't get in the car. But, you know, now they're doing it at gunpoint in the neighborhood. And you know, and this isn't a nice neighborhood technically like it's not, you know, people are, it's pretty you know, gentrified I guess is the honest way to put it. And so I guess that makes it obvious, an easy target, I suppose. But it

Brian Nichols  15:31  
was a gentrified, but it's also some of the most progressive elitist amongst the Philadelphia class of folks there because I had, you know, in laws who lived in that area, and they were very progressively left, but even they were after, originally, when you got your COVID vaccine that was like your green card to go back into functioning society. And they're like, Oh, well, we were good people. We got our shots. So now we can go out into society and walk our dog without masks on. And they just got the dirtiest looks in there, like, but we got vaccinated, and people were like, well, you're not virtue signaling hard enough. And oh, yeah, like that's, that is absolutely that type of person. So I mean, I'm sorry, I don't mean to say like, it could happen to a better person in the area. But I mean, you vote what you get for, I guess,

Matt Battaglia  16:16  
I guess. It's just, it's crazy. I mean, my sister still lives in the neighborhood. And like one of her friends got her you know, because they can now have like a certain like, I guess couple to certain models of kids like you can hack without a key and someone she knows had their card stolen, it was found, you know, just littered with needles and everything and completely torn apart. So it just but I, you know, you talk to anyone living in any, almost any city in America right now. They're, they're experiencing the same things. Yep. So, again, I hate to say it, I was initially going to take out like, there's a violent altercation that sort of is the linchpin of house on fire. And I was I was initially thinking I wasn't gonna have it in there. And then what happened to me happen? And I was like, well, I already chinks. I like, like, if it already had, like, I can't meet drying it, it already happened. So if I was worried I was taking it out, because I was worried things were coming true too much. And then it was like, Well, okay, I didn't commit it to paper yet. And it happened. So now I can commit it to paper, and it's not gonna happen a second time. I guess.

Brian Nichols  17:28  
I have a second. Oh, my God. Well, it here's a scary question. Right, Matt? And let's make it really real like that. Now, for folks who are hearing that they're like, this sounds like a dystopian, like third world country? It is that is this awful place in Philadelphia. Just how bad is it, folks? By the way, they use pictures of Philadelphia specifically, I think it was fair amount I could be wrong. I think it was, I think was fair amount was a fair amount. I got double check. Anyways, they have a bunch of people who were all just drugged out on the side of the street. And Mexico is using that as a like a Don't do drugs ad, right. That's how bad things are in Philly. But I digress. Talking about where things can be though, right? Like folks are hearing this. And they're like, this is worst case scenario. I can imagine. No, let's talk about house on fire. How far is Philadelphia or you know, just in that example, where you know, we're showing where things are, to where you are in, in house on fire, how many years? How much social decay? How much civil unrest? are we away from? Where you end up in the book?

Matt Battaglia  18:34  
So are you saying that 10 years is too optimistic?

Brian Nichols  18:38  
That's a good question. I guess we'll reconvene after 2020 election.

Matt Battaglia  18:42  
That's the I guess that's the, that's why I had to make it is because it you know, one of the things that I think about as sort of might get a little sound a little, it's gonna sound pretentious, but whatever we're going to come and go here is that the responsibility of artists is to is to kind of take in the times that you're living in and an attempt to hold them to account or to reckon with them in some way. You know, thinking back to even post 911 Think about how much art was made, grappling with 911 Grappling them with the war on terror, grappling with the sort of the Patriot Act, things like that. There was a ton of stuff being made that was dealing with it, commenting on it and in creative ways in different ways. And I haven't seen any of that, about COVID. I haven't seen enough of it, at least, I mean, so to me, I had to make something dealing with this, because it's affected everything in a way that I don't know that people have Appreciate, I mean, I would assume listeners of this show do but I and people in our world do. However, you know, I thought that with house on fire, it's I think it's a very accessible graphic novel. I'm not telling you what to think, or anything in it. I, this is just a story about what could happen, I guess. And I hope, you know, the way that I formed it is I want people to be able to read it and reflect maybe on their, what the past few years have been for them, and, and hopefully come to some conclusions of their own. You know, I obviously have my thoughts about it, you know, but I just, I just want to give people some sort of space to think about it about what happened. And I don't see a lot of art doing that. I remember. I'm a huge Bruce Springsteen fan, I'm originally from New Jersey, so whatever. But the rising and magic were great records, his magic record, dealt with and commented on, you know, the horrors of the endless war that just ended? What was when did we pull out of our EC was that last year was that this year? I don't remember anymore. The timelines messed up. But like, how there has been nothing said about these things for so long. And that's how the people in power and government gets away with murder. I mean, it's literally murder. That's what they do. So if you if we're not creating, creating art, and creating pieces that will outlive us a little bit to say, like, Hey, this is a warning. I think we're kind of derelict in our duty. So.

Brian Nichols  21:54  
Amen. Well, and that goes towards exactly where I was going to start things off as we wrap things up for our final thoughts. And that is, you know, we all went through this over the past three years, right? This isn't one thing that's it's isolated to a specific country, specific state, spec specific county, right. This is literally everybody in the world, experienced COVID in some way, shape, or form. And I think it's indicative on us exactly, as you said, we have to match enter into these conversations that people have been having, whether it's internally with their friends, or their families, or their their political groups that they're a part of, but to then tell the story of not just what happened, and but what could happen, right, where this road that we've been on together, could lead us if we continue down this path, we don't want your book to become a history book. We want your book to stay fiction. So how do we do that? Well, I think we do that by making sure people are aware, right? A lot of folks. I mean, one thing I love about I've been doing over on YouTube with the YouTube shorts is that I've been trying to take things that are sometimes hard to understand or things that people just don't want, like they don't know, and present it in a quick, easy way that somebody can go, Oh, really? And makes you think, right. That's what this book I'm hoping will do is get people to stop and think even the folks that would be, I would say on the opposite side of the COVID conversation. And I know you don't mention COVID I'll mention COVID. Because I think it's that important to talk about. But like we I think we have to bring everybody to the table. And at the very least try and encourage the conversation now will the conversation happen? I don't know. I'm trying to make it happen. I've had a lot of friends who have given me many hand signals, one finger in particular, because of that, however, I'm still trying, I'm still trying to get people to wake up. But I know that when I do that there are folks who are going to shut down. But there are folks who are paying attention. There are folks who are consistently watching and are starting to have that chink in the armor cracked more and more and more as they start to say, Wait, this doesn't make sense. And they're seeing how bad things are getting. So that's my final thoughts. Matt, what do you have for us for your final thoughts? And also, where can folks go ahead, continue the conversation, and also go ahead and grab their own copy of world on fire.

Matt Battaglia  24:15  
So Okay,

Brian Nichols  24:17  
how's that fire? Sorry, it's okay. Well, he's on fire, just so we're on the same page level

Matt Battaglia  24:20  
book. I guess, to just add on to what you were just saying. That is, it's also what's really important about what we do it for the people is, you know, again, trying to make these ideas of liberty accessible to people in new ways. You know, again, I highly recommend watching all we have it's, I think it's a really powerful documentary. And it's it's one of those pieces that reminds people of what occurred and check out the rest of our stuff because it's, you know, we're we're trying to make Ideas accessible to people house on fire is available. I think it's out in comic book shops March 18. And then it is on sale in bookstores everywhere. March 28. I want to say however you can preorder it right now, run to your Barnes Noble, you can go to Amazon, you can honestly, if you Google house on fire Batavia comic book, a billion options will pop up to two as places to order the book, you can get it at Target. So, you know, if you're like me, and you are constantly running out to buy diapers, you can just add it to your target cart. And so when you go and get other household things, you can pick up a great comic book. So yeah, you can get in anywhere check us check, check my other workout, obviously, I'm free the people for the our YouTube channel, and my website is Matt J I think that's also pretty easy to remember. But please buy the book. It's really important to me. And I think that it's I hope it's important to you it's it's short so you can read it pretty quickly, I think but I put a lot of effort into it and I hope it's a rewarding experience.

Brian Nichols  26:28  
So Amen. Now well thank you for doing that. Right and we talked about this many a time here in the show in recent weeks in recent months we have to have these cultural conversations because everybody else is and if we're not then who are we to think that we can just change the game by doing it differently? Oh, we libertarians goodness, we can be so silly sometimes but yes, no Matt It is so important for folks be doing what you're doing. So thank you and folks, please do me a favor if you got some value from today's episode. Well two things obviously go ahead and share today's episode blah, blah, blah. But number two, this is the most important thing please go buy a house on fire not world on fire, though that does some good good sequel to house on fire. So I'll get my royalties hopefully create ending Yes, title collapse. We wish I'll see that. But otherwise, folks, yes, please house on fire link will be in the show notes. Now. I know 99% of you are listening to the program here on the audio version of the show. Do me a favor, click the artwork in your podcast catcher, it'll bring you over to today's episode over on the Brian Nichols where you can find all those Affer mentioned links. Plus, you can find the transcript of today's episode, the video version of today's episode, which can be found over on rumble on Odyssey and over on YouTube. But all I ask is when you're there, do me a favor hit that little subscribe button and notification bell so you don't miss a single time we go live and with that being said the conversation if you're joining us here on YouTube is not over it will continue right here as I will be stopping by the Kibby on liberty studios there over in Washington DC way back in 2021. You can check out our conversation I say our conversation it was yours truly sitting down with Matt Kibby where we discussed how we can use storytelling to help sell Liberty You all go ahead and learn how to do that. Click the episode right here. I will see you over there. But if you're hearing the podcast version, please thank you. I don't know that's I really appreciate you for doing all you do, folks. You guys are the what keeps the lights on. So just thank you for everything you guys do. That being said Brian Nichols signing off. You're on The Brian Nichols Show for Matt Battaglia. We'll see you tomorrow.

Transcribed by

Matt Battaglia


Matt Battaglia is the executive producer at Free the People where he has directed such award-winning documentaries as “Off the Grid”, “All We Have”, and “The Free Life”. His artwork and design work can be found across Free the People’s offerings. He also works in comics where he started by coloring comics for BOOM! Studios and Roche Limit at Image Comics. He collaborated with author Michael Moreci for their book Indoctrination at Z2 Comics. He’s now creating solo work, his graphic novella Ghosts of the Carousel was published by Dauntless Stories and his new graphic novel, House on Fire, published by Living the Line Books, is available in bookstores everywhere starting March 2023.