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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How Far Has the F.B.I. Gone to Protect White Supremacy?
Today, Martin Luther King, Jr.,’s work on civil rights is celebrated as bringing about one of the turning points of the twentieth century in America. But, in his own time, King was a divisive figure, unloved by millions of Americans—many members of government among them. The F.B.I. surveilled him constantly. President Lyndon Johnson worked with King to shape benchmark civil-rights legislation, but, after King spoke out against the Vietnam War, he was effectively alienated by the Administration. Meanwhile, J. Edgar Hoover’s agents at the F.B.I. began active measures to destroy King’s reputation and end his public influence, threatening to expose an extramarital affair. The documentary “MLK/FBI,” directed by Sam Pollard, examines this low point in the federal government’s abuse of power. Pollard tells Jelani Cobb that Hoover must have wondered, “ ‘How dare a Black man try to change the America I grew up in?’ The America he knew and loved was on a road to change. And he was totally against it.” Even today, as a leaked document shows, some within the F.B.I. see Black activists’ calls for justice and recognition as potential dangers to be watched carefully.
Donald Trump’s American Carnage Comes to Washington
Luke Mogelson and Susan B. Glasser report on the convulsions of Donald Trump’s final days in office, an unprecedented second impeachment of a President, and the threat of insurrectionary violence hovering over the entire nation. And a game designer offers insights on how the fantastical, wholly fictional narrative of QAnon has captivated so many people—to such dangerous effect.
Questions about the Variant Virus, and Posthumous Albums by Pop Smoke and others
A new variant of SARS-CoV-2 is making its way around the world; in the U.S., it has been found in at least three states: California, Colorado, and New York. Joe Osmundson, an assistant professor of biology at New York University, speaks with the New Yorker staff writer Carolyn Kormann about why this new strain is particularly concerning. It has twenty-three mutations—far more than scientists would expect an RNA virus to have—which makes it at least fifty per cent more contagious than the original virus. The response, Osmundson says, should be to double down on reducing transmission by encouraging a culture of caution. Mask wearing, he warns, might be with us for a long time. Osmundson came of age as a gay man during the AIDS crisis, and he compares our pressing need for social distancing to the cultural change that took place during that era. “It was not a joy, growing up, to worry about H.I.V. every time I had sex, and to feel like if I don’t wear a condom, I might die,” he tells Kormann. “And yet that was part of how we cared for each other. It is a way to care.” Plus, a music editor and writer picks some favorites from a very specific genre: posthumous rap albums.
Democrats Take the Senate, and a Mob Storms the Capitol
On January 6th, pro-Trump fanatics stormed the Capitol, galvanized by the President’s claims that the 2020 election had been stolen. That day, Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff were declared the victors of their respective Senate runoff races against Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, two champions of Trump’s incendiary theories. Charles Bethea, a New Yorker staff writer based in Atlanta, joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss whether this is the end of an era or just the beginning.
Bruce Springsteen Talks with David Remnick
Bruce Springsteen, an American music legend for more than four decades, published his autobiography, “Born to Run,” in 2016. David Remnick called it “as vivid as his songs, with that same pedal-to-the-floor quality, and just as honest about the struggles in his own life.” In October of that year, Springsteen appeared at the New Yorker Festival for an intimate conversation with the editor. (The event sold out in six seconds.) This entire episode is dedicated to that conversation. Springsteen tells Remnick how, as a young musician gigging around New Jersey, he decided to up his game: “I’m going to have to write some songs that are fireworks . . . I needed to do something that was more original.” They talked for more than an hour about Springsteen’s tortured relationship with his father, his triumphant audition for the legendary producer John Hammond, and his struggles with depression. As Springsteen explains it, his tremendously exuberant concert performances were a form of catharsis: “I had had enough of myself by that time to want to lose myself. So I went onstage every night to do exactly that.”
This episode originally aired in 2016.
Atul Gawande and Andrew Bird Discuss the Art and Science of Cancer
Atul Gawande is a New Yorker staff writer, a practicing surgeon, and an indie-music fan, and he loves the work of the songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and whistling virtuoso Andrew Bird; Gawande has included Bird’s songs in playlists he uses in the operating room. In 2016, at the New Yorker Festival, Gawande spoke with Bird about songwriting, confronting illness, the nature of cancer, and whistling. Andrew Bird performed “Capsized,” in which he played all of the parts with the help of looping devices.
Bird’s latest record is “Hark!” a Christmas-themed album. Atul Gawande was recently appointed to the incoming Biden Administration’s COVID-19 task force.