David Remnick is joined by The New Yorker’s award-winning writers, editors and artists to present a weekly mix of profiles, storytelling, and insightful conversations about the issues that matter — plus an occasional blast of comic genius from the magazine’s legendary Shouts and Murmurs page. The New Yorker has set a standard in journalism for generations and The New Yorker Radio Hour gives it a voice on public radio for the first time. Produced by The New Yorker and WNYC Studios.
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Living in the Shadow of Guantánamo
When Mohamedou Salahi arrived at the Guantánamo Bay detention camp, in August of 2002, he was hopeful. He knew why he had been detained: he had crossed paths with Al Qaeda operatives, and his cousin had once called him from Osama bin Laden’s phone. But Salahi was no terrorist—he held no extremist views—and had no information of any plots. He trusted the American system of justice and thought the authorities would realize their mistake before long.
He was wrong.
Salahi spent fifteen years at Guantánamo, where he was subjected to some of the worst excesses of America’s war on terror; Donald Rumsfeld personally signed off on the orders for his torture. And, under torture, Salahi confessed to everything—even though he had done nothing. “If they would have wanted him to confess to being on the grassy knoll for the J.F.K. assassination, I’m sure we could have got him to confess to that, too,” Mark Fallon, who led an investigation unit at Guantánamo, said.
Ben Taub reported Mohamedou Salahi’s story for The New Yorker and tried to understand what had gone wrong in the fight against Al Qaeda. Salahi met Ben in Mauritania, because, when the U.S. released him, it was under the condition that Mauritania would withhold his passport. He would like to go abroad—he needs medical treatment, and he hopes to live in a democracy. But, for an innocent victim of Guantánamo, being released isn’t the same as being free.
This episode originally aired August 2, 2019. Ben Taub’s reporting on Mohamedou Salahi won the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing in 2020.
Clubhouse Opens a Window for Free Expression in China
Clubhouse is an audio-only social-media platform offering chat rooms on any subject, allowing thousands of people to gather and listen to each other. Jiayang Fan, who often reports on China, tells David Remnick that the chance to talk in private and without a text trail has opened a window of free expression for Chinese users. (Recently, some questions have been raised about whether the app is as secure as its makers claim.) Suddenly, in chat rooms with names like “There is a concentration camp in Xinjiang?,” Chinese users are able to address politically taboo subjects out loud in large groups. A Clubhouse chat-room moderator explains to Fan that for Han Chinese, who are the beneficiaries of the government’s persecution of Uighurs and other ethnic minorities, the app offers a space for reckoning and protest comparable to America’s Black Lives Matter movement. The government has clamped down on Clubhouse, but tech-savvy young people are used to finding workarounds.
Anthony Hopkins on “The Father,” and Patricia Lockwood’s First Novel
At an age when many actors are slowing down or long retired, Anthony Hopkins has kept up a feverish pace, with recent roles including Pope Benedict XVI in “The Two Popes” and Odin in Marvel’s “Thor” movies. In his new film, “The Father,” Hopkins’s character, Antony, is beginning to suffer from dementia, but he doesn’t want to accept a caregiver when his daughter, played by Olivia Colman, can no longer live with him. The film brings the viewer into Antony’s experience, particularly his confusion about what’s happening around him. Hopkins tells Michael Schulman that he hasn’t dealt with dementia in his own family, thankfully, but that he wasn’t daunted by the role. “When you’re working with a superb script, it’s a road map, and you follow it,” he says. He advises younger actors, “Don’t act too much. Keep it simple.” Plus, the writer Patricia Lockwood, who’s just published her first novel, on how she created literature out of the fractured consciousness of an obsessive Twitter user.
Atul Gawande on the COVID Vaccine, and Daniel Kaluuya on “Judas and the Black Messiah”
Atul Gawande, the staff writer and public-health expert, talks with David Remnick about the progress of the vaccine rollout, the new strains of the coronavirus, and whether we will ever take our masks off. And the actor Daniel Kaluuya talks about playing a man many regard as a martyr, in the new film “Judas and the Black Messiah.” Kaluuya stars as Fred Hampton, a young leader in the Black Panther Party, who was shot in his bed by Chicago police in a predawn raid. The actor talked with Kai Wright, the host of WNYC’s “The United States of Anxiety,” about how the F.B.I. and many whites saw Hampton’s affirmation of Black people as tantamount to terrorism.
Congressman Jamie Raskin on Impeaching Donald Trump—Again
Tommy Raskin, a twenty-five-year-old law student, took his own life on New Year’s Eve, after a long battle against depression. His family laid him to rest on January 5th, and, the next day, his father went to the United States Capitol, where he serves in Congress. Representative Jamie Raskin, who represents Maryland’s Eighth District, had an enormous task ahead of him: he was mounting the defense of the Electoral College vote. When a violent mob incited by Donald Trump breached the building, Raskin’s life was in danger, along with the lives of his daughter and son-in-law, who had joined him that day for support. Just weeks later, when the House impeached Donald Trump for his role in inciting that insurrection, Raskin was the lead manager prosecuting the case. Raskin told David Remnick about the devastation of a suicide in the family, his condolence calls from President Biden and Vice-President Harris, and how he believed the entire Senate would unite to convict Donald Trump.
The People Who Will Decide Donald Trump's Fate on Facebook
Facebook created the Oversight Board to adjudicate high-level claims about what can and can’t be posted, independent of the company’s leadership. This is a big deal: when Donald Trump was displeased by one of the board’s appointees, he contacted Mark Zuckerberg directly, as Kate Klonick learned in her reporting. And then Trump himself became the new board’s biggest test case. Facebook asked the board to rule on whether the former President should be reinstated, after he was banned from the platform for his role in inciting the Capitol riot. Klonick, an assistant professor of law at St. John’s University, had an unusual degree of access to Facebook to document the creation of the board. She talked with David Remnick about how independent the Oversight Board can be, how it may rule on Donald Trump, and why it’s so hard to get Jewish space lasers off Facebook.