On the MediaAuthor: WNYC Studios
03 Dec 2020

On the Media

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The Peabody Award-winning On the Media podcast is your guide to examining how the media sausage is made. Hosts Brooke Gladstone and Bob Garfield examine threats to free speech and government transparency, cast a skeptical eye on media coverage of the week’s big stories and unravel hidden political narratives in everything we read, watch and hear. WNYC Studios is a listener-supported producer of other leading podcasts including Radiolab, Snap Judgment, Death, Sex & Money, Nancy and Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin. © WNYC Studios

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    "Defund the Police" revisited

    On Wednesday morning, former president Barack Obama appeared on “Snap Original Good Luck America,” which is an interview program on Snapchat — and thus a proper setting to chasten the young. He warned young activists, "I guess you can use a snappy slogan like 'defund the police,' but you know you've lost a big audience the minute you say it, which makes it a lot less likely that you're actually going to get the changes you want done." 

    When the idea — not slogan — first became audible to the mainstream this summer, some politicians immediately sought to water it down, reinterpreting abolition as just another go at reform. Proponents, though, say that they mean exactly what they say. They also emphasize that the demand to remove money from police departments and redistribute it to improve the social conditions that drive criminality isn't new. In June, Bob spoke with Amna Akbar, law professor at The Ohio State University, about where the demand comes from, and what "abolition" really means.

    This interview originally aired as part of our June 12, 2020 program, It’s Going Down.


  • Posted on 03 Dec 2020

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    No Ado About Much

    With the an apparent second wave of COVID-19 in full force, the media are sounding the alarm on a deadly virus growing out of control. But during the Spanish Flu 100 years ago, the media downplayed the pandemic. On this week's show, a look at how the Spanish Flu vanished from our collective memory. Then, how Shakespeare, a British icon, became an American hero. 

    1. John Barry [@johnmbarry], author of The Great Influenza, on how America forgot about the pandemic of 1918. Listen.

    2. James Shapiro, author of Shakespeare in a Divided America, on what the Brit's plays teach us about life in the USListen.

    Music:
    Berceuse in D Flat Major, Op. 57 Chopin - Ivan Moravec
    Crows of Homer - Gerry O'Beirne
    The Dancing Master: Maiden Lane (John Playford) - The Broadside Band & Jeremy Barlow
    John’s Book of Alleged Dances (John Adams) - Kronos Quartet
    Fife Feature: Lowland’s Away (Roy Watrous) - Gregory S. Balvanz & The US Army Fife and Drum Corps    
    Ballad No. 2 in F, Op. 38 (Chopin) - Ivan Moravec
    Little Rose is Gone/Billy in the Lowground - Jim TaylorCollection
    Frail As a Breeze - Erik Friedlander
    The De Lesseps' Dance - Shakespeare in Love Soundtrack
    Kiss Me Kate Overture - Kiss Me Kate Soundtrack
    Brush Up Your Shakespeare - Kiss Me Kate Soundtrack
    Love & the Rehearsal - Shakespeare in Love Soundtrack
    Harpsichord - Four Tet


  • Posted on 27 Nov 2020

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    Epidemics Show Societies Who They Really Are

    Communicable disease has haunted humanity for all of history. As such, the responses to coronavirus in our midst have a grimly timeless quality. In fact, to one scholar, epidemics are a great lens for peering into the values, temperament, infrastructures and moral structures of the societies they attack. Frank M. Snowden is a professor emeritus of the history of medicine at Yale and author of Epidemics and Society: From the Black Death to the Present. An epidemic, he writes, “holds a mirror” to the civilization in which it occurs. In this podcast extra, he speaks to Bob about what we can learn about ourselves from the infectious diseases we've faced, from the bubonic plague in the 14th century to the Ebola outbreak in 2014 to COVID-19 today.

    This interview originally aired as a segment in our March 6, 2020 program, Our Bodies, Ourselves.


  • Posted on 25 Nov 2020

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    EXTENDED VERSION The Ancient Heresy That Helps Us Understand QAnon

    EXTENDED VERSION (includes content we had to leave on the cutting room floor to make the interview fit into the broadcast)

    It’s been two weeks since Trump lost the election to Biden. But he and his followers are still claiming victory. Jeff Sharlet, who has been covering the election for Vanity Fair, credits two Christian-adjacent ideas for these claims. The first is the so-called “prosperity gospel”: the notion that, among other things, positive thinking can manifest positive consequences. Even electoral victory in the face of electoral loss. But the problem with prosperity gospel, like day-and-date rapture prophecies, is that when its bets don’t pay off, it’s glaringly obvious.

    As prosperity thinking loses its edge for Trump, another strain of fringe Christianity — dating back nearly two millennia — is flourishing. Jeff Sharlet says an ancient heresy, Gnosticism, can help us understand the unifying force of pseudo-intellectualism on the right. Sharlet explains how a gnostic emphasis on "hidden" truths has animated QAnon conspiracies and Trump’s base.

    This is the extended version of a segment from our November 20th, 2020 program, Believe It Or Not.


  • Posted on 23 Nov 2020

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    Believe It Or Not

    As the pandemic spreads, officials are imposing new public health policies. On this week’s On the Media, why so many of the new rules contradict what science tells us about the virus. Plus, what a fringe early Christian movement can tell us about QAnon. And, a former White House photographer reflects on covering presidents in the pre-Trump era. 

    1. Roxanne Khamsi [@rkhamsi], science journalist, on how political leaders have failed to consistently explain the science behind their policies. Listen.

    2. Jeff Sharlet [@jeffsharlet], professor of English at Dartmouth College and author of This Brilliant Darkness: A Book of Strangers, explains how an ancient heresy serves as a blueprint for right wing conspiracies. Listen.

    3. Pete Souza [@petesouza] examines the role of the chief White House photographer. Listen.

    Music from this week's show:

    Chopin — Nocturne for piano in B flat minor
    Gotan Project — Vuelvo al Sur
    Hans Zimmer/The Da Vinci Code soundtrack — There Has To Be Mysteries
    Michael W. Smith — Agnus Dei
    Sentimental journey (instrumental)


  • Posted on 20 Nov 2020

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