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It’s easy to forget that the United States started as an experiment: a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, with liberty and justice for all. That was the idea. On this weekly show, we check in on how that experiment is going. The Experiment: stories from an unfinished country. From The Atlantic and WNYC Studios. WNYC Studios is a listener-supported producer of other leading podcasts, including Radiolab, On the Media, and Death, Sex & Money. Since 1857, The Atlantic has been a magazine of ideas—a home to the best writers and boldest minds, who bring clarity and original thinking to the most important issues of our time.

The Experiment WNYC

    • Dokumentation

It’s easy to forget that the United States started as an experiment: a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, with liberty and justice for all. That was the idea. On this weekly show, we check in on how that experiment is going. The Experiment: stories from an unfinished country. From The Atlantic and WNYC Studios. WNYC Studios is a listener-supported producer of other leading podcasts, including Radiolab, On the Media, and Death, Sex & Money. Since 1857, The Atlantic has been a magazine of ideas—a home to the best writers and boldest minds, who bring clarity and original thinking to the most important issues of our time.

    The Problem With America’s National Parks

    The Problem With America’s National Parks

    The national-park system has been touted as “America’s best idea.” David Treuer, an Ojibwe author and historian, says we can make that idea even better—by giving national parks back to Native Americans.

    “By virtue of the parks returning to Native control, I would like people, when they’re standing at the foot of El Capitan, to look up knowing they’re on Native lands, to look up knowing that they’re standing on the graves of Native people,” says Treuer, who grew up on the Leech Lake Reservation in northern Minnesota as the nearby Voyageurs National Park was being established. “I would like, when people look up at vistas, like at Yosemite or at Yellowstone, that they’d look up as a way to look back at the history of this country.”

    Treuer, who wrote the book The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America From 1890 to the Present, says that Native Americans are too often precluded from using the land in culturally significant ways that go back millennia. In his essay for The Atlantic, he makes the case that the U.S. should return control of national parks to its Native people.

    Further reading: “Return the National Parks to the Tribes”


    Be part of The Experiment. Use the hashtag #TheExperimentPodcast, or write to us at theexperiment@theatlantic.com.

    This episode was produced by Tracie Hunte and Gabrielle Berbey, with editing by Matt Collette and Katherine Wells. Fact-check by Jack Segelstein. Sound design by David Herman.

    Music by Laundry (“Films”), Parish Council (“Socks Before Trousers” and “Heatherside Stores”), h hunt (“11e” and “Journeys”), and naran ratan (“Trees etc.), provided by Tasty Morsels. Additional music by John Charles Schroeder and Ross Taggart Garren (“Mournful Blues”) and Ken Anderson and Rebecca Ruth Hall (“Calliope - Underscore”). Additional audio from National Geographic, WNYC, PBS, and C-SPAN.

    • 23 Min.
    The ‘Rock Doc’ Who Prescribed 1.4 Million Pain Pills

    The ‘Rock Doc’ Who Prescribed 1.4 Million Pain Pills

    The patients of the nurse practitioner and aspiring reality star Jeffrey Young say he helped them like nobody else could. Federal prosecutors who charged him in a massive opioid bust say he overprescribed painkillers, often for “money, notoriety, and sexual favors.” 

    Young’s case provides a rare glimpse into the ways patients wind up addicted to the powerful painkillers fueling the national opioid epidemic.

    Branding himself “the Rock Doc” in a self-produced reality-TV pilot, Young would wear band T-shirts and blast music as he met with patients; he sometimes broadcast appointments and medical procedures on the live-streaming app Periscope. Off camera, Young allegedly prescribed 1.4 million addictive pills and had sex with female patients.

    Young was indicted on drug-trafficking charges in April 2019. He pleaded not guilty to the charges, and is currently in jail awaiting trial.

    “I had a lot of ‘Why on earth?’ questions,” the Atlantic reporter Olga Khazan says. “‘Why would he do this? Why would you go to this doctor? Why didn’t anyone try to put a stop to this?’ I just had a lot of questions about how could this happen.”

    Further reading: “The Hard-Partying, Rock-Obsessed Nurse at the Center of a Massive Opioid Bust”


    Be part of The Experiment. Use the hashtag #TheExperimentPodcast, or write to us at theexperiment@theatlantic.com.

    This episode was reported by Olga Khazan and produced by Alvin Melathe. Editing by Katherine Wells, Julia Longoria, and Denise Wills. Fact-check by Michelle Ciarrocca and Jack Segelstein. Sound design by David Herman.

    Music by Parish Council (“Dabbles”), water feature (“ariel”), Arabian Prince in a UK World (“The Feeling of Being on a Diet”), Keyboard (“Being There” and “My Atelier”), and Column (“「The Art of Fun」 (Raj)” and “Sensuela”), provided by Tasty Morsels. Additional music by Nelson Bandela (“04 HIDDEN FORCES” and “Auddi Sun 01 131”). Additional audio from Purdue Pharma, The Rock Doc TV Show, @JY2RocDoc, and Bat Pig Pictures. 

    • 30 Min.
    The Crime of Refusing Vaccination

    The Crime of Refusing Vaccination

    In 1902, a Swedish American pastor named Henning Jacobson refused to get the smallpox vaccine. This launched a chain of events that landed the Massachusetts pastor in a landmark 1905 Supreme Court case in which the Court considered the delicate balancing act between individual liberty over our bodies and our duty to one another.

    "We can be grateful for his work here [while] at the same time also saying the dude was terribly mistaken about this one thing for which, unfortunately, he's most famous now,” says Pastor Robin Lutjohann, who today leads the church that Jacobson founded, originally a haven for Swedish immigrants.

    The Jacobson v. Massachusetts decision made clear that the government could mandate vaccination, arguing that collective good sometimes outweighs individual rights. But the line between the two is blurry. More than two decades after Jacobson’s case, the Court used the same logic in another decision, one the historian Michael Willrich says is among the “scariest U.S. Supreme Court decisions of all time.”


    Be part of The Experiment. Use the hashtag #TheExperimentPodcast, or write to us at theexperiment@theatlantic.com.

    This episode was produced by Julia Longoria and Gabrielle Berbey, with editing by Katherine Wells. Fact-check by Will Gordon. Sound design by David Herman.

    Music by Ob (“Wold”), Parish Council (“Leaving the TV on at Night,” “Museum Weather,” “P Lachaise”), Alecs Pierce (“Harbour Music, Parts I & II”), Laundry (“Lawn Feeling”), water feature (“richard iii (duke of gloucester)”), Keyboard (“Mu”), and naran ratan (“Forevertime Journeys”), provided by Tasty Morsels. Additional music by Dieterich Buxtehude (“Prelude and Fugue in D Major”), Johannes Brahms (“Quintet for Clarinet, Two Violins, Viola, and Cello in B Minor”), and Andrew Eric Halford and Aidan Mark Laverty (“Edge of a Dream”).

    • 36 Min.
    The Volunteer

    The Volunteer

    Was anybody willing to be a spiritual adviser to Orlando Hall, a Muslim man on death row with a fast-approaching execution date? That’s the question that went out by email to a local group of interfaith leaders in Indiana. Nobody answered. 

    After a week without responses, the management professor Yusuf Ahmed Nur stepped forward. A Somali immigrant who volunteered at his local mosque, Nur would counsel Hall in the weeks leading up to his execution. But Nur never expected to stand beside Hall in the execution chamber as he was put to death.

    “That’s when it hit me,” Nur says. “You feel like you’re complicit, that you are cooperating with the system. They assign you a role to play in this execution.”

    This week on The Experiment: One man finds himself at the center of our legal system, and witnesses what gets sacrificed in the pursuit of justice.

    Further reading: “Trump Is Putting the Machinery of Death Into Overdrive”


    Be part of The Experiment. Use the hashtag #TheExperimentPodcast, or write to us at theexperiment@theatlantic.com.

    This episode was produced by Alvin Melathe, Gabrielle Berbey, and Julia Longoria, with editing by Matt Collette and Katherine Wells. Fact-check by William Brennan. Sound design by David Herman. Special thanks to Katie Bishop and Najib Aminy.


    Music by water feature (“double blessing ii”), Keyboard (“Being There,” “More Shingles,” “My Atelier,” “Small Island”), and Parish Council (“Heatherside Stores”) provided by Tasty Morsels.

    • 28 Min.
    Inventing ‘Hispanic’

    Inventing ‘Hispanic’

    Do Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, and Cubans share an identity? The answer wasn’t necessarily clear before 1980.

    That’s when the Census Bureau introduced a pair of new terms, Hispanic and Latino, to its decennial count. The addition was the result of years of advocacy and negotiation: Being counted on the census meant the potential for far more government action, yet the broad category oversimplified the identities of an immense and diverse group. 

    “The way that we define ourselves is consequential,” says G. Cristina Mora, a sociology professor at UC Berkeley. “The larger the category, the more statistical power it would have.”

    This week on The Experiment, the origin story of a core American identity—and what’s lost when such a broad category takes hold.


    Be part of The Experiment. Use the hashtag #TheExperimentPodcast, or write to us at theexperiment@theatlantic.com.

    This episode was produced by Julia Longoria and Gabrielle Berbey, with editing by Katherine Wells. Fact-check by William Brennan and Stephanie Hayes. Sound design by David Herman. Special thanks to Christian Paz and A.C. Valdez.

    Music by water feature (“a horse”), Ob (“Mog”), Parish Council (“Museum Weather”),  Column (“Shutt,” “Sensuela”), r mccarthy (“Contemplation at Lon Lon”), and infinite bisous (“Sole Mate”), provided by Tasty Morsels. Additional audio from the U.S. Census Bureau, CBS, Agence France-Presse, CNN, UCLA’s Chicano Studies Research Center, Tom Myrdahl, Third World Newsreel, Newsreel, Univision Communications, and El Show de Cristina.

    • 32 Min.
    Lost Cause

    Lost Cause

    The Confederate States seceded from the United States over slavery. But the “lost cause” myth—the idea that the Civil War was not about slavery but about northern aggression—still has a hold on countless Americans.

    The historian Ty Seidule doesn’t believe that anymore, though he only came to the realization well into his career as an Army officer and a history professor. His book Robert E. Lee and Me deconstructs the legacy of the top Confederate general and unpacks the enduring “lost cause” ideology. 

    On this week’s episode of The Experiment, the correspondent Tracie Hunte talked with Seidule about why unlearning the mythology surrounding Lee took him so long, and the host, Julia Longoria, considers what it might take for other white Americans to do the same.


    Be part of The Experiment. Use the hashtag #TheExperimentPodcast, or write to us at theexperiment@theatlantic.com. 

    This episode was produced by Tracie Hunte and Matt Collette, with editing by Katherine Wells, Julia Longoria, and Alvin Melathe. Fact-check by William Brennan. Sound design by David Herman. Special thanks to Adam Serwer, Vann R. Newkirk II, Veralyn Williams, and Jenisha Watts.

    Music by Keyboard (“Shingles,” “Contractions”), Parish Council (“St. Peter Port/Wiltshire/Cooking Leeks,” “Socks Before Trousers,” “Leaving the TV on at Night”), Ob (“Waif”), and infinite bisous (“Brain”); provided by Tasty Morsels. Additional audio from CBS, Military Videos, the Associated Press, Congressman Steve Womack, the U.S. Naval Academy, CBSN, and Senator Lindsey Graham.

    • 29 Min.

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