30 episodes

Each week, we tell the story of what happens when individual people confront deeply held American ideals in their own lives. We're interested in the cultural and political contradictions that reveal who we are.

The Experiment WNYC

    • Society & Culture
    • 4.2 • 2.1K Ratings

Each week, we tell the story of what happens when individual people confront deeply held American ideals in their own lives. We're interested in the cultural and political contradictions that reveal who we are.

    The Original Anti-Vaxxer

    The Original Anti-Vaxxer

    This week, President Joe Biden rolled out a large-scale federal mandate requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for two-thirds of the American workforce, impacting more than 100 million people across the public and private sectors. Some lawmakers have already called the mandate unconstitutional, and Arizona is the first state to sue to block it. This week on The Experiment: As the struggle between individual liberty and public safety rages, we revisit the story of the first Supreme Court battle over vaccines, waged more than 100 years ago.

    This episode of The Experiment originally ran on March 25, 2021.

    A transcript of this episode is available.

    Further reading: “Why Biden Bet It All on Mandates,” “Not Getting Vaccinated to Own Your Fellow Libs,” “‘Post-Vax COVID’ Is a New Disease”


    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. Transcript by Caleb Codding.

    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”). 

    • 37 min
    The Unwritten Rules of Black TV

    The Unwritten Rules of Black TV

    The Atlantic staff writer Hannah Giorgis grew up in the ’90s, watching dozens of Black characters on TV. Living Single, Sister, Sister, Moesha, and Smart Guy were just a few of the shows led by Black casts. But at some point in the 2000s, those story lines and some of the Black writers behind them seemed to disappear. In a cover story for The Atlantic, Giorgis traces the cyclical, uneven history of Black representation on television.

    One writer whose career encompasses much of that history is Susan Fales-Hill. She got her start as an apprentice on The Cosby Show, wrote for A Different World, and now is an executive producer of BET’s Twenties. This week on The Experiment, Fales-Hill and Giorgis talk about  how power dynamics behind the scenes have shaped what we watch, what we talk about, and how we understand ourselves.

    A transcript of this episode is available. 

    Further reading: “Most Hollywood Writers’ Rooms Look Nothing Like America”


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

    This episode was produced by Meg Cramer. Reporting by Hannah Giorgis. Editing by Katherine Wells. Fact-check by Jack Segelstein. Sound design by David Herman, with additional engineering by Joe Plourde. Transcript by Caleb Codding.  

    • 35 min
    What 9/11 Did to One Family

    What 9/11 Did to One Family

    On September 11, 2001, Bobby McIlvaine was killed, along with nearly 3,000 other Americans. In the 20 years since, his parents and brother have searched for ways to live through, and with, their grief.

    The writer Jennifer Senior’s brother was Bobby’s roommate when he died, and in the cover story for The Atlantic’s September issue, she visited with each member of the family to understand their personal journey through the aftermath of national tragedy.

    “The McIlvaines very early on saw a grief counselor,” Senior tells The Experiment’s host, Julia Longoria, “who said to them: ‘Here’s how you have to think about this. You are all at the top of a mountain, and you all have a broken leg, and you all have to get down to the bottom of the mountain. But because you all have broken legs, you just have to take care of your own self and figure out how to get down.’” In this story, Senior explores how each family member dealt with their grief in very different ways. “But there might be a flaw in that metaphor too,” she says, “because, you know, some people never get down the mountain.” 

    This episode’s guests include the Atlantic staff writer Jennifer Senior and Helen McIlvaine, Bob McIlvaine Sr., and Jeff McIlvaine, the family of Bobby McIlvaine Jr. 

    Further reading: “What Bobby McIlvaine Left Behind,” “Everything My Husband Wasn’t There For”

    A transcript of this episode is available. 


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

    This episode was produced by Alyssa Edes and Julia Longoria, with editing by Katherine Wells and Scott Stossel. Reporting by Jennifer Senior. Sound design by David Herman, with additional engineering by Joe Plourde.

    Music by Water Feature (“Double Blessing I” and “Richard III (Duke of Gloucester)”), Naran Ratan (“Forevertime Journeys”), Keyboard (“Being There,” “Small Island,” and “Staying In”), Parish Council (“Heatherside Stores), Alecs Pierce (“Harbour Music, Parts I & II”), and H Hunt (“Journeys”), provided by Tasty Morsels. Additional music by Joe Plourde. Additional audio from C-SPAN.

    • 44 min
    A Uyghur Teen’s Life After Escaping Genocide

    A Uyghur Teen’s Life After Escaping Genocide

    Here in the United States, 19-year-old Aséna Tahir Izgil feels as though she’s a “grandma.” Aséna is Uyghur, an ethnic minority being imprisoned in labor camps by the Chinese government. The pain she witnessed before escaping in 2017 has aged her beyond her years, she says, making it hard to relate to American teenagers.

    “They talk about … TikToks … clothing, malls, games, movies, and stuff,” she says. “And then the things I think about [are] genocide, Uyghurs, international policies … all the annoying adult facts.”

    For years, the Chinese government has been persecuting her people, but few have escaped to bear witness. This week on The Experiment: Aséna shares her family’s story of fleeing to the U.S. to escape genocide, adjusting to newfound freedom, and trying to deal with the grief and guilt of being a refugee.  

    This episode’s guests include Aséna Tahir Izgil and her father, Tahir Hamut Izgil, a Uyghur poet and author.

    Further reading: One by One, My Friends Were Sent to the Camps, Saving Uighur Culture From Genocide, ‘I Never Thought China Could Ever Be This Dark,’ China’s Xinjiang Policy: Less About Births, More About Control

    A transcript of this episode is available. 


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

    This episode was produced by Julia Longoria, with help from Gabrielle Berbey and editing by Katherine Wells and Emily Botein. Fact-check by Yvonne Rolzhausen. Sound design by David Herman, with additional engineering by Joe Plourde. Translations by Joshua L. Freeman.


     A translation of Tahir Hamut Izgil’s poem “Aséna” is presented below.

    Aséna

    By Tahir Hamut Izgil

    Translation by Joshua L. Freeman

     

    A piece of my flesh

    torn away.

    A piece of my bone

    broken off.

    A piece of my soul

    remade.

    A piece of my thought

    set free.

     

    In her thin hands

    the lines of time grow long.

    In her black eyes

    float the truths of stone tablets.

    Round her slender neck

    a dusky hair lies knotted.

    On her dark skin

    the map of fruit is drawn.

     

    She

    is a raindrop on my cheek, translucent

    as the future I can’t see.

     

    She

    is a knot that need not to be untied

    like the formula my blood traced from the sky,

    an omen trickling from history.

     

    She

    kisses the stone on my grave

    that holds down my corpse

    and entrusts me to it.

     

    She

    is a luckless spell

    who made me a creator

    and carried on my creation.

     

    She is my daughter.

    • 47 min
    Can America See Gymnasts for More Than Their Medals?

    Can America See Gymnasts for More Than Their Medals?

    Ever since Kerri Strug and the Magnificent Seven won Olympic gold in 1996, the U.S. women’s gymnastics team has been a point of pride for many Americans. But over the past five years, athletes have been coming forward with allegations of widespread abuse in the sport. Former gymnasts say they were forced to train and compete with broken bones and that they were denied food. And dozens of women have testified that they were sexually assaulted by Larry Nassar, the former doctor who worked with the U.S. national team. 

    USA Gymnastics, the governing body for elite gymnastics in the United States, has said it’s working hard to change the sport’s culture, but many former gymnasts say it hasn’t done enough.

    “We have coaches and institutions and organizations and a country, frankly, that prioritize money and medals over the bodies and souls of people,” says Rachael Denhollander, a former gymnast who was the first woman to come forward publicly with accusations against Nassar. 

    Now that we know the truth about how damaging elite gymnastics can be for young women and girls, should we change how we think about the sport? Denhollander says Simone Biles’s decision to withdraw from several Olympic events might change how athletes see their own worth. 

    “That’s going to entail a lot of hard conversations,” Denhollander says. “Do you have value and identity and worth outside of your gymnastics ability? If we really, truly understand that the answer to that is yes, that lays the foundation to be able to say, ‘I can’t sacrifice my value, identity, the rest of my life for this one thing.’” 

    This week on The Experiment: When national glory comes at the expense of young women’s bodies, can we still find a way to love the Olympics?

    This episode’s guests include the Atlantic staff writer Emma Green and Rachael Denhollander, a lawyer and victims’ advocate.

    Further reading: “The Gymnast Who Won’t Let Her Daughters Do Gymnastics”

    A transcript of this episode is available. 


    Apply for The Experiment’s fall internship. Applications will be accepted through August 20, 2021. 

    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 reported by Emma Green. Editing by Katherine Wells and Jenny Lawton. Fact-check by William Brennan. Sound design by David Herman, with additional engineering by Joe Plourde.

    Music by Keyboard (“The World Eating,” “Staying In,” “Ojima,” “Contractions,” and “My Atelier”), Ob (“Waif” and “Ghyll”), and Laundry (“Films” and “Phthalo Blue”), provided by Tasty Morsels and Nelson Nance. Additional audio from NBC Sports, NBC Nightly News, IndyStar, the Today show, The Ben Maller Show, and Dominique Moceanu.

    • 31 min
    Why Can’t We Just Forget the Alamo?

    Why Can’t We Just Forget the Alamo?

    The epic, oft-told origin story of Texas centers on the Lone Star State’s most infamous battle: the Battle of the Alamo, where American heroes such as Davy Crockett fought to the death against the Mexican army to secure Texas’s independence. The only problem, according to the writer and journalist Bryan Burrough, is that this founding legend isn’t all true. In June, Burrough and two other Texan writers set out to debunk the myth of the Alamo, only to find themselves in an unexpected battle with Texans still trying to protect their state’s revered origin story.

    “The Anglo power structure here, which still dominates politics and the media,” Burrough says, “can clearly see that if the myth melts away, other things could begin to melt away as well.”

    This week on The Experiment: how a history book ignited a ferocious debate over Texas’s founding legend, and how this battle climbed the ranks all the way up to the Texas GOP. 

     This episode’s guest is Bryan Burrough, a co-author of Forget the Alamo: The Rise and Fall of an American Myth.

    A transcript of this episode is available. 


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

    This episode was produced by Gabrielle Berbey and Julia Longoria. Editing by Katherine Wells. Fact-check by William Brennan. Sound design by David Herman. 

    Music by Parish Council (“Marmalade Day,” “Leaving the TV on at Night,” and “Mopping”) and Keyboard (“The World Eating”), provided by Tasty Morsels. Additional music by Joe Plourde, Sam Spence (“Overland” and “River Crossing”), and Antonín Dvořák (“Symphony No. 8 in G Major, Op. 88, B. 163: I. Allegro con brio”). Additional audio from @ThisIsTexasFF; This Is Texas Freedom Force; KXAN; Walt Disney Productions, via Mabay Aleya and The Shadow; and Texas Public Policy Foundation.

    • 29 min

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5
2.1K Ratings

2.1K Ratings

Lemon-Lime! ,

Good- but stretching the “America” aspect

I’ve listened to about 8 episodes of this podcast and I’ve enjoyed them all, however about half of them really don’t seem to fit the premise of this show being about America and reforming it as a country. The topics really need to stretch to fit that description. I still like it, but I thought it would have more to do with government, policy, activism, etc.

kathryn00000 ,

Politics without the agenda

The thing I love most about this podcast is because although it is about politics and reforming America, it’s not coming out and saying “DRUGS IN AMERICA” “RACE IN AMERICA” it’s giving stories of certain people and different backgrounds on how those events have effected people. Maybe they have an agenda… but it seems more like they’re just amazing story tellers of how certain things have affected people. Politics without an agenda. Story telling with a meaning. Whatever you want to call it. 5/5.

BeckyLou1983 ,

Deep Dives

The creators of The Experiment take deep dives on interesting issues, and present the information in the very compelling way.

Top Podcasts In Society & Culture

Listeners Also Subscribed To

More by WNYC