The Peabody Award-winning On the Media podcast is your guide to examining how the media sausage is made. Hosts Brooke Gladstone and Bob Garfield examine threats to free speech and government transparency, cast a skeptical eye on media coverage of the week’s big stories and unravel hidden political narratives in everything we read, watch and hear.
WNYC Studios is a listener-supported producer of other leading podcasts including Radiolab, Snap Judgment, Death, Sex & Money, Nancy and Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin.
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No Ado About Much
With the an apparent second wave of COVID-19 in full force, the media are sounding the alarm on a deadly virus growing out of control. But during the Spanish Flu 100 years ago, the media downplayed the pandemic. On this week's show, a look at how the Spanish Flu vanished from our collective memory. Then, how Shakespeare, a British icon, became an American hero.
1. John Barry [@johnmbarry], author of The Great Influenza, on how America forgot about the pandemic of 1918. Listen.
2. James Shapiro, author of Shakespeare in a Divided America, on what the Brit's plays teach us about life in the US. Listen.
Music:Berceuse in D Flat Major, Op. 57 Chopin - Ivan MoravecCrows of Homer - Gerry O'BeirneThe Dancing Master: Maiden Lane (John Playford) - The Broadside Band & Jeremy Barlow John’s Book of Alleged Dances (John Adams) - Kronos QuartetFife Feature: Lowland’s Away (Roy Watrous) - Gregory S. Balvanz & The US Army Fife and Drum Corps Ballad No. 2 in F, Op. 38 (Chopin) - Ivan MoravecLittle Rose is Gone/Billy in the Lowground - Jim TaylorCollection Frail As a Breeze - Erik FriedlanderThe De Lesseps' Dance - Shakespeare in Love SoundtrackKiss Me Kate Overture - Kiss Me Kate Soundtrack Brush Up Your Shakespeare - Kiss Me Kate SoundtrackLove & the Rehearsal - Shakespeare in Love SoundtrackHarpsichord - Four Tet
Epidemics Show Societies Who They Really Are
Communicable disease has haunted humanity for all of history. As such, the responses to coronavirus in our midst have a grimly timeless quality. In fact, to one scholar, epidemics are a great lens for peering into the values, temperament, infrastructures and moral structures of the societies they attack. Frank M. Snowden is a professor emeritus of the history of medicine at Yale and author of Epidemics and Society: From the Black Death to the Present. An epidemic, he writes, “holds a mirror” to the civilization in which it occurs. In this podcast extra, he speaks to Bob about what we can learn about ourselves from the infectious diseases we've faced, from the bubonic plague in the 14th century to the Ebola outbreak in 2014 to COVID-19 today.
This interview originally aired as a segment in our March 6, 2020 program, Our Bodies, Ourselves.
EXTENDED VERSION The Ancient Heresy That Helps Us Understand QAnon
EXTENDED VERSION (includes content we had to leave on the cutting room floor to make the interview fit into the broadcast)
It’s been two weeks since Trump lost the election to Biden. But he and his followers are still claiming victory. Jeff Sharlet, who has been covering the election for Vanity Fair, credits two Christian-adjacent ideas for these claims. The first is the so-called “prosperity gospel”: the notion that, among other things, positive thinking can manifest positive consequences. Even electoral victory in the face of electoral loss. But the problem with prosperity gospel, like day-and-date rapture prophecies, is that when its bets don’t pay off, it’s glaringly obvious.
As prosperity thinking loses its edge for Trump, another strain of fringe Christianity — dating back nearly two millennia — is flourishing. Jeff Sharlet says an ancient heresy, Gnosticism, can help us understand the unifying force of pseudo-intellectualism on the right. Sharlet explains how a gnostic emphasis on "hidden" truths has animated QAnon conspiracies and Trump’s base.
This is the extended version of a segment from our November 20th, 2020 program, Believe It Or Not.
Believe It Or Not
As the pandemic spreads, officials are imposing new public health policies. On this week’s On the Media, why so many of the new rules contradict what science tells us about the virus. Plus, what a fringe early Christian movement can tell us about QAnon. And, a former White House photographer reflects on covering presidents in the pre-Trump era.
1. Roxanne Khamsi [@rkhamsi], science journalist, on how political leaders have failed to consistently explain the science behind their policies. Listen.
2. Jeff Sharlet [@jeffsharlet], professor of English at Dartmouth College and author of This Brilliant Darkness: A Book of Strangers, explains how an ancient heresy serves as a blueprint for right wing conspiracies. Listen.
3. Pete Souza [@petesouza] examines the role of the chief White House photographer. Listen.
Music from this week's show:
Chopin — Nocturne for piano in B flat minorGotan Project — Vuelvo al SurHans Zimmer/The Da Vinci Code soundtrack — There Has To Be MysteriesMichael W. Smith — Agnus DeiSentimental journey (instrumental)
Rewatching "Contagion" in a Pandemic
Back in February we spoke to Pulitzer Prize–winning science writer Laurie Garrett, author of The Coming Plague, in an episode we called "Black Swans". The coronavirus had yet to make landfall in the US but the anxiety was building. After the segment aired, New York Times critic Wesley Morris told us that after he heard the part where Garrett described her role as a consultant on the movie, "Contagion" he felt compelled to rewatch the 2011 thriller. In the film, competency — specifically, within federal government agencies — is the solution to a destructive crisis. This is comforting to watch, like a sort of public health "West Wing." It is also unnerving, and heavy, to watch the thrilling procedural un-spool as people, on- and off-screen, die. Brooke spoke to Morris in March about how for him, it was the pandemic film that most perfectly fit with the current moment — down to Kate Winslet, playing a dogged pathogenic detective, reminding her colleague to stop touching his face.
Another World Entirely
With President Trump refusing to accept the results of the election, analysts are asking if he’s trying to wage a coup. On this week’s On the Media, why so many Republicans support the president’s claims, despite the evidence. Don’t miss On the Media, from WNYC Studios.
1. Bob on the latest Trumpian Big Lie, concerning the very foundation of democracy. Listen.
2. Casey Newton [@CaseyNewton], author of the Platformer newsletter, on the surging post-election popularity of the social media platforms Parler and MeWe. Listen.
3. Matthew Sheffield [@mattsheffield], former conservative journalist and host of the Theory Of Change podcast, on why he hopes to "free people" from the very media ecosystem he helped build. Listen.
4. Samanth Subramanian [@Samanth_S], journalist, on the Trump administration's assault on public data. Listen.
Hidden Agenda - Kevin MacLeodSlow Pulse Conga - William PasleyAccentuate the Positive - Syd Dale Double Dozen and Alec GouldBlues: La dolce vita dei Nobili - Nino Rota
Customer ReviewsSee All
The only podcast that makes you want to dance
OTM has a vibe and unique mojo, and swings like Ellington and Armstrong (not words usually used to describe an NPR podcast) Maybe it’s there pacing or that Brook and Bob are so darn smart.
The writing and production is stunning, every week year after year. It would be impossible to compile a “Best of OTM “episode.
Posted Episode jumbled
As posted, the episode posted 11/20/2020 to Appl podcasts , “Believe It Or Not”, is jumbled. It starts correctly with the intro, moving into the first segment on pressing government officials for sources driving government edicts in response to COVID-19. But then, 3+ minutes in, it jumps to the last 3+ minutes of the closing portion of the Pete Souza interview, then the closing credits. I can jump past this premature closing, but it goes to the same last 3+ minutes of the Souza interviews at least twice. I didn’t take the time to jump past the same sequence repeatedly until the full 50:30 podcast completed, but I expect the “Groundhog Day” syndrome repeated to the end. In short: needs fixing!
For moralizing pseudo-intellectuals