With the election underway, both camps are pushing their “get out the vote” messages. This week, On the Media looks at the origins of the modern presidential campaign, and how livestream technology is transforming the look and feel of voter outreach. Plus, how a mysterious network of fake news sites duped real journalists into creating propaganda. And, the empty, recurring trope of Republicans "distancing" themselves from Trump.
1. Makena Kelly [@kellymakena] explains the rising role of fandom in politics, and how Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's event on Twitch this week was a landmark in online organizing. Listen.
2. Greg Mitchell [@GregMitch] and Jill Lepore on how modern methods of seeding lies and hysteria into a campaign can be traced back to a single race in 1934. Listen.
3. Priyanjana Bengani [@acookiecrumbles] on the emergence of "pink slime" news outlets, which take legitimate journalism and use it as a cover for more nefarious goals at home and abroad. Also featuring Pat Morris and Laura Walters [@walterslaura]. Listen.
4. Bob [@Bobosphere] explains why outlets need to stop saying Republicans like Ben Sasse are "breaking" with Trump. Listen.
For this week's podcast extra, we're once more highlighting the work of our colleague Jim O'Grady and his brilliant podcast "Blindspot: The Road to 9/11." This is episode 5: The Idea.
The World Trade Center was built with soaring expectations. Completed in 1973, its architect, Minoru Yamasaki, hoped the towers would stand as “a representation of man’s belief in humanity” and “world peace.” He even took inspiration from the Great Mosque in the holy city of Mecca with its tall minarets looking down on a sprawling plaza. What he did not expect was that the buildings would become a symbol to some of American imperialism and the strangling grip of global capitalism.
Our story picks up in Manila — January 6th, 1995 — where police respond to an apartment fire and uncover a plot to assassinate the Pope. A suspect gives up his boss in the scheme: Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Yousef has been on the run for two years and has disappeared again. Port Authority Detective Matthew Besheer and FBI Special Agent Frank Pellegrino fly to Manila to follow his trail. They learn that Yousef has a horrifying attack in the works involving bombs on a dozen airplanes, rigged to explode simultaneously. President Bill Clinton grounds all U.S. flights from the Pacific as the era of enhanced airline security begins. Yousef’s plot is foiled. But what it reveals about his intentions is chilling.
Premonitions of Election Day violence abound, especially with the growing visibility of extremist militia groups. This week, On The Media looks at a little-known app fueling those groups’ recruitment and organizing. Plus, why skepticism of election forecasts might be a good thing. And, how election coverage has changed (and stagnated) since 2016.
1. Jay Rosen [@jayrosen_nyu], media critic and author of the blog PressThink, on how political journalism needs to switch to an "emergency" setting. Listen.
2. Nate Silver [@NateSilver538], founder and editor-in-chief at FiveThirtyEight, on how his election forecast model has changed (and remained the same) since 2016. Listen.
3. Sam Jackson [@sjacks26], professor at University of Albany, on the debate over "militia member" vs. "domestic terrorist." Listen.
4. OTM reporter Micah Loewinger [@MicahLoewinger] investigates how a walkie-talkie app called Zello is enabling armed white supremacist groups to gather and recruit. Listen.
Music from this week's show: Mysterioso — Kronos Quartet Full Tense — Clint Mansell and Kronos Quartet I Saw The Light — Hank Williams I Saw The Light — Hank Williams (reprise)
Earlier this month, Stanford University announced it would rename Jordan Hall, named for David Starr Jordan, noted natural historian, ichthyologist, and Stanford's founding president back in 1891. Jordan's name is also coming off of several sites at Indiana University, where he also served as president. So who is this long-heralded, lately-demoted David Starr Jordan? He was, among many other things, a great obsession of Lulu Miller, co-host of Radiolab and author of the book, Why Fish Don't Exist: A Story of Loss, Love, and the Hidden Order of Life. In this podcast extra, Brooke and Lulu discuss Jordan's history, as well as the author's obsession with him, as a supreme taxonomist who sought determinedly to order the natural world — at least, in part, by finding and naming its fish and later, notoriously, by ranking its people.
GOP Senator Mike Lee tweeted this week that “we are not a democracy.” On this week’s On the Media, why the Republican party’s political future may depend upon anti-democratic — small-’d’ — ideas. Plus, how the good luck of the so-called “silent” generation has shaped the politics of Joe Biden. And, how the bad luck of the millennial generation might shape our collective future.
1. Nicole Hemmer [@pastpunditry], Columbia University research scholar and author of Messengers of the Right: Conservative Media and the Transformation of American Politics, on the origins and evolution of the "republic, not a democracy" slogan. Listen.
2. Matthew Sitman [@MatthewSitman], associate editor at the Catholic journal Commonweal and co-host of the Know Your Enemy podcast, on the anti-democratic state of the Republican party. Listen.
3. Elwood Carlson, sociology professor at Florida State University, on the "silent generation," members of which comprise much of the governing elite. Listen.
4. Anne Helen Petersen [@annehelen], author of Can’t Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation, on the downwardly mobile millennial generation. Listen.
Music from this week's show:Prelude of Light — John Zorn Invitation to a Suicide — John ZornThe Glass House - Curtains — David Bergeaud
The Trump administration issued executive orders last month that ban federal workers from participating in anti-racism trainings. Under the orders, such phrases as “critical race theory” and “white privilege” are verboten during executive branch on-boardings. The White House has previously issued guidance meant to stifle the teaching of negative aspects of American history — spurred, at least in part, by the overwhelmingly racist backlash to the New York Times' 1619 project. In this podcast extra, Bob talks with Georgetown law professor Paul Butler about how the president is using executive authority to curate a culture of white ignorance.
President Trump has once more tried to cast himself as an ally of the Christian right — this time, by nominating Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. This week, On the Media explains how the religious right goes beyond white evangelicals and the persistent allure of persecution narratives in Christianity. Plus, we examine the overlooked religious left. And, we explore how the image of Jesus as a white man was popularized in the 20th century, and why it matters.
1. Andrew Whitehead [@ndrewwhitehead], professor of sociology at Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis, explains how Christian nationalism holds the religious right together. Listen.
2. Candida Moss [@candidamoss], professor of theology and religion at the University of Birmingham in the U.K., on how false claims of persecution date back centuries, to the early Christian church. Listen.
3. Jack Jenkins [@jackmjenkins], national reporter at Religion News Service, explains why the religious left is harder to define, and its influence more difficult to measure, than its right-wing counterpart. Listen.
4. OTM reporter Eloise Blondiau [@eloiseblondiau] examines how "White Jesus" came to America, how the image became ubiquitous, and why it matters. Listen.
Music from this week's show:
Ave Maria — Pascal Jean and Jean BrendersAmazing Grace — Robert D. Sands, Jr.I Got a Right to Sing the Blues — Billy KyleWhat’s That Sound? — Michael AndrewsWade in the Water — Charlie Haden and Hank JonesFor the Creator — Hildegard von B
At the debate between Joe Biden and President Trump in Cleveland this Tuesday, moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News gave the president an explicit opportunity to condemn white supremacy and white supremacist organizations. Trump deflected, but when Wallace and Biden prompted him to denounce the Proud Boys — a far-right fraternal organization known for enacting political violence — the president instructed the group members to "stand back and stand by."
The fiasco raises a question the press has been grappling with for the better part of four years: how does one report on a moment like that responsibly? Bob speaks with Dr. Joan Donovan, Research Director of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University, about how the press can cover the president's remarks without amplifying far-right ideologies.
Federal investigations seldom begin with an uproar. Internal rules keep fledgling probes on the down-low, lest evidence — or reputations — be destroyed. Before elections the Justice Department is (historically) especially mum, so as not to influence voters on the basis of mere suspicion. Not lately, however. In this pod extra, Bob talks with writer and former federal prosecutor Ankush Khardori about the transformation of a historically circumspect Justice Department press office into a Trump propaganda machine.
Conspiracy theories are spreading like wildfire on YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. This week, On the Media examines the role their slicker sister site Instagram plays in spreading disinformation online. Plus, a look at the "real" Paris Hilton in a new documentary. And, what the world of reality dating shows can teach us about America’s tenuous grasp on the truth.
1. OTM Reporter Leah Feder [@leahfeder] investigates how QAnon has infiltrated and donned the Instagram aesthetic, contributing to a toxic stew known as "conspirituality." Listen.
2. Director Alexandra Dean [@alexhaggiagdean] explains the process of making a new Youtube documentary called This is Paris, which paints a wholly unrecognizable portrait of the mogul. Listen.
3. OTM Producer Xandra Ellin [@xandraellin], tells us what watching reality dating shows has taught her about the truth. Listen.
As Republicans rush to nominate a judge to fill the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg's seat, Amy Coney Barrett has emerged as a frontrunner. Democrats have plenty to fear about her appointment. But instead of poring over her judicial record, many of Barrett’s critics are making assumptions about how she might preside on the court based on her faith. Newsweek published a piece — now corrected — that claimed Barrett's faith community, called People of Praise, inspired Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. Others inferred that when Barrett used the Christian phrase "Kingdom of God" she meant that she favored a theocracy. It’s a replay of sorts of her confirmation hearing for her appeals court seat in 2017. Whether or not Barrett is revealed to be Trump's pick, she will be remembered for inspiring some bad takes on religion.
So what assumptions about religion are distracting journalists? And what better questions should be put to Barrett about her faith and its role in her judicial decision making? In this podcast extra, Brooke speaks to Michael O'Loughlin, national correspondent at America Media, a Catholic news organization, and host of the podcast Plague: Untold Stories of AIDS and the Catholic Church.
As wildfires blaze across the United States, some right-wing politicians and pundits are blaming racial justice protesters. On this week’s On the Media, how to stay focused on the realities of climate change when everything is politicized. Plus, the mistakes we make when we talk about human trafficking. And, the Gamergate playbook is the template for a coordinated attack on Netflix and an indie film on its platform.
1. Dave Karpf [@davekarpf], professor at George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs, on the tension between business-as-usual campaign coverage and serious concerns about election integrity. Listen.
2. Kate Knibbs [@Knibbs], senior writer at Wired, on the Cuties controversy. Listen.
3. Michael Hobbes [@RottenInDenmark], senior enterprise reporter at Huffington Post, on the disastrous effects of misreporting on child trafficking. Listen.
4. Amy Westervelt [@amywestervelt], climate journalist and host of the podcast "Drilled," on wildfire misinformation. Listen.
Earlier this year we aired a profile of Joe Rogan. The unbelievably popular podcast host was in the headlines because then-presidential candidate Bernie Sanders had gone on his show — resulting in a kerfuffle in the progressive camp, because of Rogans misogyny and racism. He's back in the headlines again this week after Trump tweeted that he would gladly participate in a debate hosted by Rogan.
The fact that Joe Rogan wields so much influence is itself a kind of a head-scratcher for many coastal media observers. “Why Is Joe Rogan So Popular?” is the title of a profile in The Atlantic by Devin Gordon, a writer who immersed himself in Joe Rogan's podcast and lifestyle to understand his enormous popularity. In this segment, first aired in January, he and Brooke discuss Rogan's complicated appeal.
Voters looking for a quick resolution this November might have to wait longer than usual to learn who won the presidency. On this week’s On the Media, a look at what we might expect as election night approaches. Plus, lessons on electoral chaos from presidential contests past. And, how QAnon is moving from the web to the streets.
1. Walter Shapiro [@MrWalterShapiro], fellow at the Brennan Center, on why TV news outlets need to be more comfortable with uncertainty on election night. Listen.
2. Renee DiResta [@noUpside], Stanford Internet Observatory research manager, on how social media chaos sown by domestic actors could have disastrous consequences on election night. Listen.
3. Ed Kilgore [@Ed_Kilgore], political columnist at New York Magazine, on the what we can learn from the contentious election of 1876. Listen.
4. Brandy Zadrozny [@BrandyZadrozny], NBC News investigative reporter, on how QAnon falsehoods are motivating seemingly innocuous protests to "save our children" nationwide. Listen.
Music from this week's show:
Sneaky Snitch — Kevin MacLeodThe Builder — Kevin MacLeodIn the Hall of the Mountain King — Kevin MacLeodHidden Agenda — Kevin MacLeodDance of the Sugar Plum Fairies — Kevin MacLeod
Every now and then we like to feature the work of our colleagues here at our producing station, WNYC. This week we want to introduce you to a new podcast a co-production of HISTORY and WNYC hosted by reporter, Jim O'Grady. Blindspot: Road to 9/11 is an eight part series that uses the voices of U.S. government and intelligence officials, national security experts, reporters, informants, and associates of the terrorists to tell the little-known story of the lead up to the events of September 11th 2001.
This is episode one: The Bullet. The 9/11 attacks were so much more than a bolt from the blue on a crisp September morning. They were more than a decade in the making. The story starts in a Midtown Manhattan hotel ballroom in 1990. Shots ring out and the extremist rabbi, Meir Kahane, lies mortally wounded. His assassin, El-Sayyid Nosair, is connected to members of a Brooklyn mosque who are training to fight with Islamic freedom fighters in Afghanistan. NYPD Detective Louis Napoli and FBI Special Agent John Anticev catch the case, and start unraveling a conspiracy that is taking place in plain sight by blending into the tumult of the city. It is animated by an emerging ideology: violent jihad.
Listen wherever you get your podcasts.
Armed right-wingers are stoking violence in cities across the country. On this week’s On the Media, a look at the origins of the American militia movement. Plus, as things heat up, Facebook is fanning the flames. And, in the face of an incendiary headline from the Kenosha News, a digital editor resigns.
1. John Temple [@johntemplebooks], author of Up in Arms: How the Bundy Family Hijacked Public Lands, Outfoxed the Federal Government, and Ignited America’s Patriot Movement, on the evolution of right-wing militias in the United States. Listen.
2. Julia Carrie Wong [@juliacarriew], senior technology reporter for The Guardian, on how Facebook is creating the conditions for violence on the streets. Listen.
3. Daniel Thompson [@olfashionednews], former digital editor for the Kenosha News, on his decision to resign over an editorial stand-off. Listen.
As the president continues his verbal assault on America's urban centers, presenting nightmare scenarios of what will happen to the suburbs absent his protection, the story of a pandemic-induced mass migration from cities has proliferated in the media: families fleeing increasingly hellish virus-infested urban wastelands, making their way into the safe, idyllic suburbs where bluebirds sing, kids roam free and there’s a Mattress Firm in every strip mall.
It all makes so much sense. But it's not true.
Jeff Andrews wrote about this media myth in a recent Curbed article called No, the Pandemic Is Not Emptying Out America’s Cities. In this podcast extra, Andrews joined Bob to dissect the tale of the urban flight that wasn't.
At the Republican National Convention, Trump advisor Larry Kudlow said the pandemic “was awful.” On this week’s On the Media, why some politicians and educators are using the past tense to describe an active threat. Plus, how COVID could prompt long-term changes to American higher ed.
1. James Fallows [@JamesFallows] on the contrasting spectacles of this year's virtual Democratic and Republican National Conventions. Listen.
2. Scott Galloway [@profgalloway], professor of marketing at NYU and host of Pivot Podcast, on why so many colleges and universities decided to reopen despite the pandemic, and what it tells us about the future of higher education. Listen.
3. OTM producer/reporter Micah Loewinger [@MicahLoewinger] tells the story of how remote learning saved his friend’s life. Listen.
On Saturday, more than 200 cities from Spokane to Scranton saw modest rallies for a cause so pure, so unifying, that who in their right mind wouldn’t want to join in? "Save the children" was the chant and child trafficking the scourge. But lately it is a movement being hijacked from within, which is just the latest instance of the QAnon conspiracy theory spilling out of its online domain. This we know from reporting by NBC News investigative reporter Brandy Zadrozny, along with reporter Ben Collins. In this podcast extra, Zadrozny explains how these rallies function as "information laundering," and how local journalists have inadvertantly taken part in QAnon's recruitment strategy.
Recently, the president threatened the post office — and with it, the November elections. On this week's On The Media, a look at how decades of cuts to the mail system led to this emergency. Plus, the “birther” lie reared its ugly head once more — but this time, journalists were ready for it. And, the so-called "rising stars" of the Republican Party.
1. Alex Shephard [@alex_shephard], staff writer at the New Republic, on the conservative tropes often employed by journalists covering the public sector — including the USPS. Listen.
2. Charlie Warzel [@cwarzel], opinion writer-at-large at the New York Times, on the deluge of information and misinformation unleashed by the post office scandal. Listen.
3. Mark Joseph Stern [@mjs_DC], staff writer at Slate, on the “think tank” behind the Kamala Harris "birther" lie. Listen.
4. Eugene Scott [@Eugene_Scott], political reporter at the Washington Post, on how journalists have covered the latest unfounded “birther” conspiracy, compared with the original one nearly a decade ago. Listen.
5. Alex Pareene [@pareene], staff writer at the New Republic, on far-right fringe candidates finding a serious foothold in the Republican Party. Listen.
Music from this week's show:
Passing Time - John Renbourn
Cellar Door - Michael Andrews
Turnaround - Ornette Colema
Shoot the Piano Player Player - Georges Delarue
Sleep Talking - Ornette Coleman
Mysterioso - Thelonius Monk/Kronos Quartet
Middlesex Times - Michael Andrews