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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Astrid Holleeder’s Crime Family
All her life, Astrid Holleeder knew that her older brother Willem was involved in crime. But she was stunned when, in 1983, Willem and his best friend, Cornelius van Hout, were revealed to be the masterminds behind the audacious kidnapping of the beer magnate Alfred Heineken. It was the beginning of a successful career for Willem, known as Wim. After a stay in prison, he became a celebrity criminal; he had a newspaper column, appeared on talk shows, and took selfies with admirers in Amsterdam. He got rich off of his investments in the sex trade and other businesses, but kept them well hidden. But when van Hout was assassinated and other associates started turning up dead, Astrid suspected that her brother had committed the murders. She decided to wear a wire and gather the evidence to put him away. If that didn't work, Astrid tells staff writer Patrick Radden Keefe, she would have to kill Willem herself. After Astrid testified against him, Willem was convicted of multiple murders. Living in hiding, and travelling in disguise, she tells Keefe the story of her complicity and its consequences.
Keefe’s New Yorker story about Astrid Holleeder appears in his new collection, “Rogues: True Stories of Grifters, Killers, Rebels, and Crooks.”
This segment originally aired August 3, 2018.
Jia Tolentino and Stephania Taladrid on the End of Roe v. Wade
The Supreme Court’s ruling in the Dobbs case was not a surprise; given the draft opinion that was leaked in May, its decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey was nearly a certainty. But the effects of the ruling have been rapid and chaotic. In some states, abortions stopped overnight; in others, there’s profound confusion over what qualifies as a legally acceptable reason for having an abortion. Far from settling the legal issue of abortion—by sending it back to the states—the Dobbs ruling opens an uncharted legal dimension where the health of a pregnant person is being pitted against the life of a fetus, with potentially fatal consequences. “Flat out, women will die in the course of ordinary pregnancy,” Jia Tolentino says, “because of physician fears about anything that might make them liable for felony changes of performing an abortion. It will make pregnancy significantly more dangerous for many, many people.” Tolentino and Stephania Taladrid have both reported extensively on abortion access, and they spoke this week with the New Yorker editor Tyler Foggatt.
A longer version of this conversation appears on The New Yorker’s Politics and More podcast.
Why Do Conservatives Love Hungary’s Viktor Orbán?
When the New Yorker staff writer Andrew Marantz first heard that the Conservative Political Action Conference, the flagship event of the American conservative movement, was holding a meeting in Hungary, he thought it might be a joke. “A lot of people have worried for a few years now that the Republican Party is becoming more ambivalent about certain bedrock norms of American democracy,” Marantz told David Remnick. “To openly state, ‘We’re going to this semi-authoritarian country’ . . . I thought it was maybe a troll.” But C.P.A.C. Hungary was very real, and the event demonstrated an increasingly close relationship between American conservatives and authoritarians abroad. Viktor Orbán wins elections and claims a democratic mandate, but his legislative maneuvers and rewrites to the constitution have rendered political opposition increasingly powerless. Marantz finds the admiration for him by many in America unsettling. “I couldn’t really imagine a Putin-style takeover” of power in America, Marantz says; but “this kind of technical, legalistic Orbán model” seems all too plausible.
Alan Alda, Podcaster
Alan Alda spent his early years in the burlesque theatres where his father, the actor Robert Alda, would perform. Those early years opened his eyes in more ways than one: “I was very aware of the naked women,” he told The New Yorker’s Michael Schulman, “but I was also aware of the comics.” Watching from the wings, Alda grew an appreciation for being funny, being creative, and being present. He put those skills to use for eleven years on “M*A*S*H” and in dozens of other performances on stage and screen—recently, as a divorce lawyer for Adam Driver’s character in “Marriage Story.” But it was only later in life that Alda realized his skills might be useful in another arena: science. Alda made it his crusade to help scientists communicate their ideas to a broad audience. “What occurred to me,” Alda told Schulman, “was that if we trained scientists starting from actually improvising, they would be able to relate to the audience the way they were relating to me.” He hosted a series of science programs and founded the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University. He also started a podcast. On “Clear+Vivid with Alan Alda,” Alda interviews luminaries from the fields of science, politics, and entertainment, drawing on his training to make their specialist knowledge accessible to listeners. Interviewing, he thinks, isn’t unlike performing with a scene partner: “You have to relate to the other person,” says Alda. “You have to observe the other person. You have to be watching their face, their body and language” to determine what it is the guest “really means.” Plus, if you’re still looking for something for the kids to do this summer, have you considered Horse Camp? A comedy sketch by Emily Flake and Sarah Hutto.
Forget Dating Apps—the “Marriage Pact” Goes for the Long Haul
A survey that started as a student project at Stanford University has become a popular dating and relationship tool on campuses across the country. Its goal is to delve deeper than the superficial information found on a typical dating-app profile, connecting people based on deeply held values rather than looks or sports teams. Most apps, says Liam MacGregor, who created the Marriage Pact with a fellow-student, “were designed to solve really specific problems … if you want a short-term relationship. But because they’re the only tools out there, people have tried to use them to solve these other problems.” The Marriage Pact “set out to solve this very specific problem at the beginning: If you need a backup plan for a 50-year-long relationship, who’s right for that?” Would you put an elderly relative in a nursing home? Do you keep people as friends because they might be useful to you later? Would you keep a gun in the house? More than 250,000 students across more than 75 campuses have taken the survey. The Radio Hour’s producer KalaLea talked to students at Princeton University, where the survey was being conducted, to find out what it was all about.
Plus, perched high above the ice at Madison Square Garden, the organist Ray Castoldi has conducted the soundtrack of Rangers games and more for thirty years.
Dexter Filkins on the Rise of Ron DeSantis
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has shown himself uniquely skilled at attracting attention beyond the borders of his home state. Just this month, DeSantis blocked state funds for the Tampa Bay Rays stadium after players voiced support for gun control in the wake of the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas. He’s also continuing a fight to punish the Disney Corporation for criticizing Florida’s so-called Don’t Say Gay law. An Ivy League-educated anti-élitist firebrand, he is willing to pick a fight with anyone—reporters, health officials, teachers, Mickey Mouse—to grab a headline. DeSantis “practically radiates ambition,” the staff writer Dexter Filkins tells David Remnick. “He sounds like Trump, except that he speaks in complete sentences. … He’s very good at staking out a position and pounding the table and saying, I’m not giving in to the liberals in the Northeast.” Yet despite having been anointed by Donald Trump in his primary election, DeSantis has refused to “kiss the ring,” and many see DeSantis as a possible opponent to Trump in a 2024 Republican primary.
Showcases exceptional journalism
I need to say little more than it lives up to the magazine’s world-class standards. It also has mercifully high technical production values (as a radio co-production it would be shocking if it din’t) which make it easier to listen to than a lot of its technically poor rivals.
One thing baffles me: the show’s vast number of producers. I’ve checked back over ten episodes and, on average, between ten and eleven producers are mentioned in the end credits (with three to five more people assisting). It is an absurd and embarrassingly high number. In comparison, similar BBC radio shows somehow struggle to get on air every week with just one producer and (sometimes) one assistant. Do these people realize should they defame (even accidentally) someone vengeful like, say, Peter Thiel, that they will all be liable? It is the main reason why the producer job is so important. If you take the credit, you have to shoulder the legal burden too.
Thought provoking and challenging
This episode on faith and politics in the USA was both thought provoking and challenging.
Giving a perspective from both (what one might call) the ‘Evangelical Left’ and Catholicism, the discussions frankly and openly discuss both the changing nature of this faith interaction with politics and contemporary issues and questions. Great podcast.
Losing it’s edge.
I used to love reading the New Yorker because it provided a window on so many worlds I knew nothing about. Increasingly this podcast seems to seek subjects to assist it in reiterating an increasingly predictable view of our time. I can’t stand journalism that seeks to create conflict for the sake of it, nevertheless, there are rarely any difficult questions asked here, and I think the content suffers as a result.