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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
477 Episodes
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Sorry Not Sorry

Sorry Not Sorry

2020-07-1528:16

Fox Primetime host Tucker Carlson has already had quite the July. On the plus side, the latest ratings for his show have made him officially the most watched cable news host. On the other side of the ledger, advertisers are fleeing his show on the grounds of not wishing to be associated with lies and hate speech. Oh, also, his head writer Blake Neff, was forced out after his explicitly racist and misogynist social media posts were unmasked online. And now Tucker is off the show for two weeks, as he put it “on a long-planned vacation.”  The last time Carlson was in the headlines — with the March 2019 resurrection of his very own hate speech — we spoke to writer Lyz Lenz, who wrote a profile of Carlson for CJR. 
40 Acres

40 Acres

2020-07-1050:067

Home is in your heart and in your head, but mostly home is on land — acreage parceled out, clawed at, stolen, denied for decades and decades. First, there was Field Order No. 15, the Union Army’s plan to distribute 40-acre plots to the newly emancipated. That was a promise broken almost immediately. Later, there was the Great Migration, in which millions of African Americans fled north, where governments, lenders, and white neighbors would never let them own their land and build their own wealth. And now a system, purpose-built, extracts what it can, turning black and brown renters into debtors and evictees.  In this excerpt from our series, The Scarlet E: Unmasking America’s Eviction Crisis, we catalog the thefts and the schemes — most of which were perfectly legal — and we ask how long this debt will fester. Matthew Desmond, founder of The Eviction Lab and our partner in this series, and Marty Wegbreit, director of litigation for the Central Virginia Legal Aid Society, point us toward the legal and historical developments that evolved into the present crisis. And WBEZ’s Natalie Moore, whose grandparents moved to Chicago during the Great Migration, shows us around a high-eviction area on Chicago’s South Side.  
The Statue of Liberty is nearly 140 years old, but she's enjoying renewed relevance in the Trump era. In announcing hostile immigration policies, Trump administration officials have been questioned about Emma Lazarus' famous poem "The New Colossus" and its message about the monument in New York Harbor. Last year, Acting Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Ken Cuccinelli said on NPR’s Morning Edition, "Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and will not become a public charge. That plaque was put on the Statue of Liberty at almost the same time as the first public charge law was passed." That's a common nativist response to both the statue and poem, and it reveals some of the different ways the Statue of Liberty has reflected different attitudes towards migrants since 1886. Paul Kramer is a professor of history at Vanderbilt University who has written about the symbolism of the Statue of Liberty and how it intersects with views of immigration in US history. Last year, he and Brooke visited Liberty Island and reflected on her different meanings and portrayals in American history. For this week's podcast extra, we're re-airing that segment. You can read Professor Kramer's piece in Slate on President Reagan and the Statue of Liberty here. You can watch his presentation on the history of the three statues (The Guardian Statue, the Exile Statue, and the Imperial Statue) here.
After World War II, Germany and the Allied powers took pains to make sure that its citizens would never forget the country’s dark history. But in America, much of our past remains hidden or rewritten. This week, Brooke visits Montgomery, Alabama, home to The Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, a new museum and memorial created by the Equal Justice Initiative that aim to bring America’s history of segregation and racial terror to the forefront. 1. Brooke talks to the Equal Justice Initiative's [@eji_org] Bryan Stevenson about what inspired him to create The Legacy Museum and memorial and to historian Sir Richard Evans [@RichardEvans36] about the denazification process in Germany after World War II. Listen. 2. Brooke visits The Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and Justice. Listen. 3. Brooke speaks again with Bryan Stevenson about his own history and America's ongoing struggle to confront our racist past and present. Listen. This episode originally aired on June 1st, 2018. It was re-broadcast on July 3rd, 2020.
For much of the past month, a new addition has joined the audioscape of cities across the country: fireworks. Loud ones. Keep-you-up-all-night-ones. And during those sleepless hours in the dark of night, the brain can do some remarkable dot-connecting. One Twitter thread went mega-viral, conjecturing: “My neighbors and I believe that this is part of a coordinated attack on Black and Brown communities by government forces. [...] It’s meant to sound like a war zone because a war zone is what it’s about to become.” That the fireworks were being supplied by the NYPD to cause chaos and provide pretext for a violent police crackdown sounds unlikely. And people reporting out the story have found little evidence to back it up, finding instead that vendors in neighboring states were selling the fireworks in bulk, at a discount, to young people looking to blow off steam.  But those drawing connections between fireworks and law enforcement should perhaps be given a pass. After all, some of the most outlandish-sounding conspiracy theories in American history have, after a time, proven to be true. For this week's podcast extra, we're revisiting a conversation from last year between Bob and journalist Anna Merlan, author of Republic of Lies, who explained that conjuring up conspiracies is a pastime as old as history.    
Your Lying Eyes

Your Lying Eyes

2020-06-2651:554

In recent weeks, the Trump administration has removed multiple people from key watchdog roles. On the week’s On the Media: how the president keeps weakening the tools meant to hold him accountable. Plus, looking for truth when police keep lying. 1. Liz Hempowicz [@lizhempowicz] of the Project on Government Oversight on the breakdown of the accountability state under President Trump. Listen. 2. Eric Boehlert [@EricBoehlert] on what stories that frame cops as victims teach us about the relationship between police and the press. Listen. 3. Kevin Riley [@ajceditor], Atlanta Journal Constitution editor, on what happens when reporters demand more skeptical coverage of law enforcement. Listen. 4. Dan Taberski [@dtaberski] on his podcast series “Running From Cops,” which interrogated how the newly-cancelled series COPS made the world seem like a more crime-ridden place. Listen.
When the US entered the early stages of the pandemic, federal and municipal leaders maintained that the best way to prevent the spread of the pandemic was for as many people as possible to "Stay Home." Technically, that advice was sound: the only surefire way to prevent illness is to eliminate contact with all possible vectors. Still, that advice was impossible to heed perfectly and indefinitely, and people almost immediately began taking risks to fulfill their basic wants and needs. Unfortunately, as a public health strategy, "Stay Home" offered no guidance for how to most safely take particular risks — as a consequence making already high-risk behaviors even less safe. For public health professionals whose work involves sex safety, drug and alcohol use, and HIV/AIDS prevention, the discourse surrounding coronavirus — the absolutism, the moralism, the shaming and the open hostility towards public health recommendations — is familiar. As epidemiologist Julia Marcus wrote in a recent piece for The Atlantic, the "Stay Home" edict bears striking resemblance to that famous mantra preached by abstinence advocates: "Just Say No." In this podcast extra, Marcus and Brooke consider the shortcomings of an abstinence-only response to the pandemic, and how harm-reduction approaches could better serve the public.
The Undertow

The Undertow

2020-06-1952:344

We visualize the coronavirus pandemic as coming in waves, but the national picture of new cases shows no sign of abating. This week, On the Media examines the lack of urgency around upwards of 20,000 confirmed daily cases. And, making sense of how the current social uprisings fit into a cycle of social movements. Then, how the messiness of protests can be easily forgotten. Plus, efforts to remember one of the single worst incidents of racist violence in American history. 1. Caitlin Rivers [@cmyeaton], researcher at Johns Hopkins University, on the messaging surrounding the "second wave" of the pandemic. Listen. 2. Allen Kwabena Frimpong [@a_kwabena], co-founder of the AdAstra Collective, on how to situate the current uprisings for racial justice in the cycle of social movements. Listen. 3. Maggie Astor [@MaggieAstor], reporter at the New York Times, on how protest movements can be sanitized by history. Listen. 4. Russell Cobb [@scissortail74], author of The Great Oklahoma Swindle, on remembering the Tulsa Massacre. Listen.   Music from this week's show: Let Yourself Go- Fred Hersch Auf Einer Burg - Don Byron Transparence - Charlie Haden & Gonzalo Rubalcaba Love Theme from Spartacus - Fred Hersch Middlesex Times - Michael Andrews... Young at Heart - Brad Mehldau
It began with the President’s notorious bible photo-op, preceded by a military crackdown north of the White House clearing protesters from Lafayette Square. Several days later, General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, publicly renounced his role in enabling the June 1st incident. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper also spoke out, undercutting the president's apparent desire to use the Insurrection Act to quell protests across the country. And just days before Trump’s commencement speech at West Point, several hundred alumni of the military academy signed an open letter urging new West Point graduates to approach future orders from the president, especially those concerning military force against civilians, with caution. According to Slate writer Fred Kaplan (full disclosure: he's married to Brooke), author of The Bomb: Presidents, Generals, and the Secret History of Nuclear War, such public insubordination from the general class down to the rank and file, is highly unusual. He and Bob discuss what these unprecedented events might tell us about Trump's standing. 
There’s this old internet fable about a duck who liked milkshakes. Everyone loved the Milkshake Duck, until it turned out to be racist. The moral of the story is that everything online either turns to caca, or we learn it always was. The latest example, we submit, is the so-called Food Media — or at least its most prominent avatar, Bon Appetit. Adam Rapoport resigned last Monday after weeks of furious attention to systemic racial inequality nation-wide, and after a month of similar scrutiny within food media, beginning last month with the tumble of viral-recipe-author Alison Roman. It was around then that technology and culture writer Navneet Alang wrote an essay for Eater titled “Stewed Awakening: Alison Roman, Bon Appetit, and the Global Pantry Problem.” In this podcast extra, Brooke and Navneet discuss the faulty editorial decisions and disastrous, un-inspected assumptions that led to food media's recent failings. 
It's Going Down

It's Going Down

2020-06-1250:338

As public opinion catches up to the Black Lives Matter movement, some activists are calling to “defund the police.” On this week’s On the Media, the debate over whether to take that slogan literally. Plus, what investigative reporting tells us about how police departments protect abusive cops. And, the case for canceling movies and TV shows with police protagonists. Then, the story of a small town that prepared to go to war with imaginary Antifa hordes.  1. Amna Akbar [orangebegum], law professor at The Ohio State University, on the origins of the police abolition movement. Listen. 2. George Joseph [@georgejoseph94], investigative reporter for WNYC and Gothamist, on how police departments skirt accountability. Listen. 3. Alyssa Rosenberg [@AlyssaRosenberg], Washington Post culture columnist, on why Hollywood should rethink cop-focused entertainment. Listen. 4. Brandy Zadrozny [@BrandyZadrozny], NBC News reporter, on how Antifa became the right's boogeyman du jour. Listen.
Two years ago, Vox's David Roberts wrote a piece arguing that The New York Times opinion section is not honest about the state of American conservatism. The animating force behind conservative politics in this country, he wrote, is Trumpism. Therefore, to invite conservative writers who truly articulated Trump's views to readers would mean inviting a strain of authoritarianism and illiberalism that would never actually be welcome in its opinion pages. Instead, they invite relatively palatable conservatives who make irrelevant arguments about politics. It's a losing game. Last week, however, the paper invited Senator Tom Cotton, R-Ark., to write an opinion piece arguing for the military to be sent to American streets to "restore order." Former Times opinion editor James Bennet (who has since resigned) also admitted that he had not read it before it was published. So, what does this latest episode tell us about the media's role in upholding America's values? This week, David Roberts once again wrote about the Times opinion section for Vox, in a post arguing that the Cotton op-ed "revealed a pathology on the editorial side... an insistence on extending the presumption of good faith to the GOP, even in the face of its rising authoritarianism."
No Justice, No Peace

No Justice, No Peace

2020-06-0550:455

In the midst of a historic week of protests, the national conversation about police is quickly transforming. This week, On the Media looks at the language used here and abroad to describe the "civil unrest" in America. Then, we explore how decades of criminal justice policy decisions brought us to this boiling point. Plus, are human beings, against all odds, actually pretty decent?  1. Karen Attiah [@KarenAttiah], The Washington Post Global Opinions Editor, on how our media would cover American police brutality protests if they were happening abroad. Listen. 2. Elizabeth Hinton [@elizabhinton], historian at Yale University, on the historical roots of American law enforcement. Listen. 3. Rutger Bregman [@rcbregman], author of Humankind: A Hopeful History, on what our policies would like if we believed in the decency of people. Listen.
On Monday, President Trump stood outside St. John's Episcopal Church, which had caught fire the day prior in protests for racial justice. When he brandished a Bible before photographers, Trump knew exactly what message he was sending: Christianity is under siege and the president is the defender of the faith. Never mind the fact that peaceful protesters, clergy among them, were driven from the area minutes before with tear gas to make way for the photoshoot. The narrative of Christianity under attack is a familiar one. Just a few weeks ago, Trump declared that houses of worship should open amid the pandemic on the grounds of religious liberty — despite the public health risk. But it turns out, the myth of Christian persecution can be traced far further back than the Culture Wars. In fact, according to Candida Moss, Christian historians coined the idea that to be persecuted was to be righteous in the 4th Century and they exaggerated claims that Christians were persecuted in the first place. Moss is a professor of theology and religion at Birmingham University in the U.K., and author of The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom. Moss spoke to Bob just after Trump has announced his call for churches to open. In this week's Pod Extra she explains how Christian history has been revised for political means, from the early church to present day.
Boiling Point

Boiling Point

2020-05-2950:406

Protestors are expressing outrage over police brutality while the president is threatening violence against them on Twitter. We follow how this latest chapter of unrest follows generations of pain, and how the Karen meme is shedding light on racism and entitlement during the pandemic. Plus: how do we get to a better place? And, Bob examines Twitter's efforts to address Trump's use of the platform. 1. Apryl Williams [@AprylW] of the University of Michigan examines the Karen meme and what it tells us about criticism of privilege in the pandemic. Listen here.  2. Jessie Daniels [@JessieNYC] of the CUNY Graduate Center on the history of white women in racial dynamics. Listen here.  3. Kara Swisher [@karaswisher] of Record Decode discusses Twitter's efforts this week, and attorney Bradley Moss [@BradMossEsq] on why Trump can't be sued for his tweets. Listen here.  **NOTE: In this episode, Bob refers to Jack Dorsey as "interim" CEO of Twitter. He is co-founder and CEO. Bob also refers to "common carriers" in a description of threatened changes to Section 230. "Common carriers" are not relevant to the subject at hand and we regret the errors. The sentence should have read: "Publishers, like the New York Times or Star magazine, can be sued over the content they print, but online platforms from Reddit to Pinterest to Wikipedia have immunity from that through Section 230. Without that protection, Twitter, Facebook and so on would have to either delete much of their content for fear of being sued, or simply stop policing it altogether." For more information on Section 230 can be found in this handy explainer from Verge. Please see the transcript tab for precise locations about about where those mistakes are in the show.
As an On the Media listener, you follow the news - probably more so during this pandemic. And you will have noted articles filled with compassion for the families of those who have died, perhaps cynicism in the coverage of politicians’ motives and a ton of data analysis to interpret the numbers we’re bombarded with.  Chase Woodruff, a journalist who was recently laid off from his alt-weekly job in Denver, Colorado thinks that’s all fine...but not enough. What’s missing from the media’s content checklist, he says, is anger. In an essay on the place of righteous indignation as a staple of the alt-weekly world he once inhabited, he wrote about his fears that as the so-called "rude press" die off at an even more rapid pace than dailies, vital outlets for resistance and emotion will be lost too. 
Mourning in America

Mourning in America

2020-05-2250:422

As the Covid-19 death toll continues to climb, many Americans are struggling to mourn in the middle of an ongoing tragedy. This week, On the Media examines how ambitious obituary campaigns may allow our fractured country to grieve together, and help future generations tell the story of our chaotic moment. Plus, why stifled press coverage may have erased the 1918 flu from our collective memory.  1. Terry Parris Jr. [@terryparrisjr], engagement editor at THE CITY, on the importance and challenge of building a citywide obituary archive for New York. Listen. 2. Janice Hume, author of Obituaries in American Culture, on the how obituaries will help historians make sense of our pandemic. Listen. 3. Colin Dickey [@colindickey], author of Ghostland & The Unidentified, on national grieving in a time of hyper-partisanship. Listen. 4. John Barry [@johnmbarry], author of The Great Influenza, on how the 1918 pandemic vanished from our collective memory. Listen.
"Mrs. America," now streaming on Hulu, depicts the near-passage of the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s and portrays the preeminent voice of the opposition, Phyllis Schlafly. Brooke spoke with the show's creator and executive producer, Dahvi Waller, about what drew her to the era and what lessons she takes from that contentious decade.     
Communication Breakdown

Communication Breakdown

2020-05-1550:534

In this episode, a tale of two cities. It turns out there’s a literal playbook for communications during an epidemic. Seattle followed it. New York didn’t. And, how incomplete information from leaders has created room for conspiracies to flourish — and what we can do about them.  1. Phil McCausland [@PhilMcCausland], NBC News reporter, on how, absent federal data and directives about coronavirus, civilians in the American heartland are being left largely in the dark about the severity of their circumstances. Listen. 2. Charles Duhigg [@cduhigg], host of How To! With Charles Duhigg, on how Seattle and NYC's communications strategies following their Covid-19 outbreaks differed so widely — and what we can learn from the results. Listen. 3. Daily Beast reporter Kelly Weill [@KELLYWEILL] on how Covid-19 disinformation may be leading some Americans to other dangerous conspiracy theories like QAnon. And, Atlantic staff writer Joe Pinsker [@jpinsk] on how to cautiously confront friends and family who may be in the early stages of a conspiracy theory kick. Listen. Music from this week's show:Zoe Keating - The Last BirdFour Tet - Two thousand and SeventeenJohn Renbourne - Passing TimeThe Bad Plus - Time After Time
The pandemic has forced even the most technophobic online. After refusing for years, the Supreme Court is now hearing oral arguments over the phone and live streaming them, an initiative that — aside from the awkwardness that comes with conference calls — seems to be going well. On May 12, the public was able to tune in to hear arguments about whether or not the president's tax returns should be released. Advocates for online courts cite low costs and efficiency. But in some cases, online courts can prove less fair than the courthouses people have historically visited in person. Public defenders say that they can't do their jobs online, and not all of their clients even have internet access, let alone a smartphone. Some research suggests that at hearings conducted by video, asylum applicants are twice as likely to be denied asylum and defendants are more likely to be deported. Douglas Keith is counsel in the Democracy Program at The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School. Keith says that if online courts are the future of justice, we need to set better guidelines to make sure they're fair.  
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Comments (48)

Joe Weyek

330 million people in the USA. 3 million of them watch Tucker Carlson on a given night. That's all.

Jul 15th
Reply

Shari Lynn

Slavery will forever be a stain on the US. I just hope that we honestly deal with this horrible legacy by not forgetting about the wrongs committed. Bryan Stevenson is a courageous voice and advocate in our fight for racial justice.

Jul 3rd
Reply

sirenasd

OTM does it again, the best guests! The very best analysis. So many shows have had lazy commentators (what's new?) on this call to defund the police, but this is the best I have heard anywhere. They get people who are notable not for their opinion or bc they are one of the few well known black academics, they give you experts who have researched or investigated the issue at hand. It's called journalism. =)

Jun 15th
Reply

Frank Butler

Actually christianity is under physical attack in Africa where they are being killed every day. The media refuse to report it except in 10 second blurbs.

Jun 6th
Reply (1)

Tom Strouse

I think Dr. Joshi would have been a great guest. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/48815962-white-christian-privilege

Jun 3rd
Reply

Sarah

This podcast is essential. I always look forward to the next episode!

Apr 18th
Reply

Joe Diaz-Romero

holy crap, as an avid Joe Rogan listener, the guy that Brooke interviewed for the Joe Rogan bit is complete crap. he completely missed the point of his podcast

Feb 3rd
Reply (2)

Bill Petkanas

oh, that song! Thank you.

Dec 28th
Reply

Anthony

160K US lives lost since 2001?!? No words.

Dec 16th
Reply (1)

sirenasd

It's like OTM reads my mind!! I'm so over feeling like I am trying to unplug my mother from the matrix. But she does not want to be unplugged. She refuses to acknowledge she is living in an alternate reality because her trusted media sources validate it. Pizza gate, hoax, fake news, etc etc. But I am reassured, she is in the minority. Even though they have a megaphone in the president, we must work to wake up the 50% who are persuadable. The *reality* is the majority are sleeping, let us not waste time on the fanatical zombie minority.

Nov 30th
Reply

sirenasd

The best discussion on free speech I have ever heard. I ❤️ Brooke and OTM is my favorite!!

Nov 7th
Reply (1)

Ted Zuschlag

In 1970 I wrote a computer program. When it finally compiled 'correctly ' I felt the pleasure of job well done. With hindsight, I was feeling a dopamine hit. This simple pleasure preceded analysis by behavioral experts. I'm saying, the beginning of my dopamine hits began innocently enough.

Sep 6th
Reply

sirenasd

As a gen-xer I am rarely on YouTube, but very concerned about the spread of fascism racism and misogyny online, so this story was fascinating. Thank you for educating me again OTM! And thank goodness for the gen-zers who are leading this country to solutions to the toxic alt-right surge in this country and the world.

Jul 27th
Reply

sirenasd

I love this episode. Instead of covering the Mueller testimony (like every outlet) they use it as an opportunity to talk about a critical shift in public opinion behind the role of prosecutors in society. Especially with a prominent candidate for president framing herself in this context. Analysis I have been waiting to hear!! Yay! I can always count on Brooke to read my mind!!

Jul 27th
Reply

Go Billers

the Republican party is backing themselves into a weird corner

Jul 17th
Reply (1)

David Brotsky

up l

Jul 9th
Reply

David Brotsky

ok m l

Jul 9th
Reply

Jean Smolen

u

Jun 30th
Reply

Go Billers

a tough one to hear

Jun 7th
Reply

Elizabeth Mendel

pop lololol

May 11th
Reply
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