47 episodes

From Syria to Staten Island, a new generation of journalists are reporting on the ground, documenting the most important stories of their time. Hosted by Charles Sennott, founder of The GroundTruth Project, in partnership with WGBH News.

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From Syria to Staten Island, a new generation of journalists are reporting on the ground, documenting the most important stories of their time. Hosted by Charles Sennott, founder of The GroundTruth Project, in partnership with WGBH News.

    The Authoritarian's Playbook: Bonus Episode - Guardrails of Democracy

    The Authoritarian's Playbook: Bonus Episode - Guardrails of Democracy

    As a thick morning fog was still lifting over the hills here above the San Francisco Bay, Ellsberg sat at his dining room table, sipping a cup of coffee and reading The New York Times. It was Friday, December 13th, the House Judiciary Committee had just sent the articles of impeachment for a full house floor vote.  It feels like deja vu, 50 years on. Dan Ellsberg was reflecting on then and now.

    To some, the whistleblower is a hero, to others, a traitor. But at their core, at least, whistleblowers are vested with secrets--it’s just part of their job. If the whistleblower protections are functioning, they are anonymous. These individuals have the highest security clearances, they’ve built careers around protecting their country from external threats. 

    But it is the internal threat that challenges civil servants to defend the fundamental tenets of the constitution, to risk everything they’ve worked for, and to blow the whistle on corruption, abuse of power, and criminal activity, carried out by their fellow citizens, even colleagues.

    For this epilogue to the Democracy Undone series, we reflect on the role of the whistleblower. Their proximity to the veiled, inner workings of government puts them in the unique position to monitor the integrity of our elected officials.  

     

    • 24 min
    The Authoritarian's Playbook: Eroding Truth in America

    The Authoritarian's Playbook: Eroding Truth in America

    As Donald Trump took the oath of office and became the 45th President of the United States, journalists’ role of covering the White House and the presidency was turned upside down. It started day one with the
    inauguration and the very first press conference. 

    Sean Spicer: “This was the largest audience to ever watch an inauguration, period. Both in
    person and around the globe.”

    The next day, on Meet the Press Kellyanne Conway stepped forward to defend the president’s exaggerations. She coined a phrase that would define the trump era.

    Kellyanne Conway: “You’re saying it’s a falsehood, and they’re giving, Sean Spicer, our Press Secretary, gave alternative facts to that.”

    Politicians lie, they always have. But it seems to be a go-to strategy for the trump administration. From
    dealing with an issue as serious as the president’s justification for firing FBI Chief James Comey, to something as trivial as the crowd size at his inauguration. 

    But spreading disinformation has consequences...long-term consequences, which will shape how united these United States of America will actually be. How do we, as a nation, decide which truths are self-evident?

    ABOUT THE SERIES
    In a six-month reporting project titled Democracy Undone: The Authoritarian’s Playbook, GroundTruth reporting fellows in India, Brazil, Colombia, Hungary, Poland, Italy and the United States chronicled how seven nationalist leaders in each of these countries seem to be working from the same playbook. It is a playbook that can be pieced together from the speeches and techniques in use by an interconnected web of populist leaders and their strategists as a way to gain power, impose their values and implement their agenda. Scholars on democracy say they seem eager to join China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and other leading authoritarian states in stamping out democratic protections and reshaping the global order.

    Democracy Undone: The Authoritarian’s Playbook, A GroundTruth Podcast/Atlantic Magazine Collaboration

    • 34 min
    The Authoritarian's Playbook: Dividing and Conquering in Poland

    The Authoritarian's Playbook: Dividing and Conquering in Poland

    LGBT communities face challenges in all parts of the world. But in Poland, the right-wing populist Law and Justice party spent the last year insisting that pro-LGBT stances were a western import meant to weaken Poland internally. 


    They claim that progressive social values have no place in polish identity, and refer to values pertaining to the LGBT community as “LGBT ideology.” Law and Justice leader Jarosław Kaczyński describes it as a battle. 


    “The LGBT ideology is an offensive. Look at the traveling circus going through our cities...First they provoke us, and when we react they cry and claim they are the victims. This must be unmasked and rejected. There must be order in our homeland.”


    For populist politicians, real or invented enemies are key to creating divisions in society. These divisions help win elections. They mobilize voters to conquer the enemy at the ballot box. 

    If the ruling Law and Justice party can convince the people that the so-called LGBT ideology is a threat to Polish identity, and by extension, Poland – it makes it easier for them to rule by the playbook tactic of divide and conquer.

    ABOUT THE SERIES
    In a six-month reporting project titled Democracy Undone: The Authoritarian’s Playbook, GroundTruth reporting fellows in India, Brazil, Colombia, Hungary, Poland, Italy and the United States chronicled how seven nationalist leaders in each of these countries seem to be working from the same playbook. It is a playbook that can be pieced together from the speeches and techniques in use by an interconnected web of populist leaders and their strategists as a way to gain power, impose their values and implement their agenda. Scholars on democracy say they seem eager to join China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and other leading authoritarian states in stamping out democratic protections and reshaping the global order.

    Democracy Undone: The Authoritarian’s Playbook, A GroundTruth Podcast/Atlantic Magazine Collaboration

    • 30 min
    The Authoritarian's Playbook: Exploiting Religion in India

    The Authoritarian's Playbook: Exploiting Religion in India

    In August, 1947, British colonial rule officially ended in India. Within 6 months, Mahatma Gandhi, the leader of India’s independence movement, was assassinated by a Hindu nationalist who rejected Gandhi’s
    openness to India’s Muslims. For more than 70 years, India more or less remained a constitutional democracy granting religious equality to all.

    In 2014, Narendra Modi was elected prime minister. In May of 2019, Modi and his BJP party swept the elections with an overwhelming majority. This mandate gave Modi the power to reforge India in the mold of a Hindu nationalist ideology. To many observers, Modi literally unleashed the forces of Hindu nationalism that Gandhi feared, and that motivated his assassin.


    Ever since 2013, candidate Modi has made three campaign promises:

    He would cancel a provision in the Indian constitution that granted the troubled region of Kashmir its autonomy. He would weed out “illegal immigrants” from the country through a process called the NRC or National Register of Citizens. And third, he would enable construction of a Hindu temple on the site of a mosque used by Muslims for centuries.

    GroundTruth Global Reporting Fellow Soumya Shankar tracked Modi’s progress on each of these campaign promises. She begins in Kashmir, where she witnesses the upheaval of Modi’s latest policy shift on the only Muslim majority state in the country.

    It’s early August. Day 5 of the lockdown in Kashmir…

    ABOUT THE SERIES
    In a six-month reporting project titled Democracy Undone: The Authoritarian’s Playbook, GroundTruth reporting fellows in India, Brazil, Colombia, Hungary, Poland, Italy and the United States chronicled how seven nationalist leaders in each of these countries seem to be working from the same playbook. It is a playbook that can be pieced together from the speeches and techniques in use by an interconnected web of populist leaders and their strategists as a way to gain power, impose their values and implement their agenda. Scholars on democracy say they seem eager to join China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and other leading authoritarian states in stamping out democratic protections and reshaping the global order.

    Democracy Undone: The Authoritarian’s Playbook, A GroundTruth Podcast/Atlantic Magazine Collaboration

    • 35 min
    The Authoritarian's Playbook: Rewriting History in Hungary

    The Authoritarian's Playbook: Rewriting History in Hungary

    It is often said that journalism is the first draft of history. Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s dominance of Hungarian media gives him the power to not only write the first draft, but to rewrite history, in step
    with his own nationalist narrative.

    Over the past 9 years, media outlets in Hungary have fallen victim to Orban’s campaign to expand government control or to shut down independent media. Critics say Orban’s goal is to create his own media machine to control the political climate, and to deliver his party’s nationalist
    narrative.

    So far, he has succeeded.

    In the last 4 years, the number of pro-government news outlets in Hungary has shot up from 30 to over 500. Giving Viktor Orban control of over half of the news organizations in the country.

    ABOUT THE SERIES
    In a six-month reporting project titled Democracy Undone: The Authoritarian’s Playbook, GroundTruth reporting fellows in India, Brazil, Colombia, Hungary, Poland, Italy and the United States chronicled how seven nationalist leaders in each of these countries seem to be working from the same playbook. It is a playbook that can be pieced together from the speeches and techniques in use by an interconnected web of populist leaders and their strategists as a way to gain power, impose their values and implement their agenda. Scholars on democracy say they seem eager to join China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and other leading authoritarian states in stamping out democratic protections and reshaping the global order.

    Democracy Undone: The Authoritarian’s Playbook, A GroundTruth Podcast/Atlantic Magazine Collaboration

    • 30 min
    The Authoritarian's Playbook: Undermining Institutions in Colombia

    The Authoritarian's Playbook: Undermining Institutions in Colombia

    In September, 2016, Juan Manuel Santos, the President of Colombia, and Timochenko Jimenez, the rebel leader of the FARC--the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia--signed a historic agreement that formally ended more than 50 years of conflict.

    It was a remarkable scene. Guests were dressed in white to symbolize peace, and a childrens’ choir sang Beethoven’s* Ode to Joy.*

    Timochenko spoke first. Near the end of his 30 minute speech, he made a plea to the entire country.

    “I would like to ask for forgiveness for all the pain that we have caused during this war.”

    Santos spoke next. With great anticipation, he said that the entire planet celebrates because there is one less war in the world. He also addressed FARC members directly, on their new role in Colombian society:

    “Today as you rejoin society, as you become a political party, without weapons, following the rules of justice, truth and reparation that are part of the agreement, as head of state of this country that we all love, I would like to welcome you to democracy.” 

    It seemed this historical event would unite the country. But today, Colombia has yet to enjoy the promises of this peace treaty. Opponents of the accord’s implementation are assassinating social activists across Colombia, and some members of FARC have rearmed. Colombia’s political leaders, whose actions, or non-actions, are hurting the very people this peace deal was supposed to help.

    ABOUT THE SERIES
    In a six-month reporting project titled Democracy Undone: The Authoritarian’s Playbook, GroundTruth reporting fellows in India, Brazil, Colombia, Hungary, Poland, Italy and the United States chronicled how seven nationalist leaders in each of these countries seem to be working from the same playbook. It is a playbook that can be pieced together from the speeches and techniques in use by an interconnected web of populist leaders and their strategists as a way to gain power, impose their values and implement their agenda. Scholars on democracy say they seem eager to join China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and other leading authoritarian states in stamping out democratic protections and reshaping the global order.

    Democracy Undone: The Authoritarian’s Playbook, A GroundTruth Podcast/Atlantic Magazine Collaboration

    • 31 min

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