The past is never past. Every headline has a history. Join us every week as we go back in time to understand the present. These are stories you can feel and sounds you can see from the moments that shaped our world.
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The Real Black Panthers (2021)
In 1968, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover said the Black Panther Party "without question, represents the greatest threat to the internal security of the country." And with that declaration he used United States federal law enforcement to wage war on the group. But why did Hoover's FBI target the Black Panther Party more severely than any other Black power organization? Historian Donna Murch says the answer lies in the Panthers' political agenda: not their brash, gun-toting public image, but in their capacity to organize across racial and class lines. It was a strategy that challenged the very foundations of American society. And it was working.
When Things Fall Apart
Climate change, political unrest, random violence - Western society can often feel like what the filmmaker Warner Herzog calls, "a thin layer of ice on top of an ocean of chaos and darkness." In the United States, polls indicate that many people believe that law and order is the only thing protecting us from the savagery of our neighbors, that the fundamental nature of humanity is competition and struggle. This idea is often called "veneer theory." But is this idea rooted in historical reality? Is this actually what happens when societies face disasters? Are we always on the cusp of brutality?
It's 2074 and a suicide bomber has killed the President of the United States. Months later Marines open fire on protesters killing dozens. The Second American Civil War has just begun and once again the North and South are pitted against each other. This is all according to the dystopian world chronicled in Omar El Akkad's novel, American War. El Akkad's imagined, yet familiar, world is reflective of today's deep political and societal fissures, but it also pushes us to understand the universal language of war and ruin, to what happens after the violence begins and why it's so hard to end.
In this episode of Throughline, we immerse ourselves in El Akkad's 'what could be' to understand larger questions about history, humanity, and American exceptionalism.
Do Not Pass Go (2022)
There's more to Monopoly than you might think. It's one of the best-selling board games in history — despite huge economic instability, sales actually went up during the pandemic — and it's been an iconic part of American life at other pivotal moments: a cheap pastime during the Great Depression; a reminder of home for soldiers during WWII; and an American export during its rise as a global superpower. It endured even as it reflected some of the ongoing inequities in American society, from segregation and redlining, to capitalism run rampant. That's because Monopoly is also built on powerful American lore – the idea that anyone, with just a little bit of cash, can rise from rags to riches. Writer Mary Pilon, the author of The Monopolists: Obsession, Fury, and the Scandal Behind the World's Favorite Board Game, describes Monopoly as "the Great American Dream in a board game – or, nightmare."This week: how a critique of capitalism grew from a seed of an idea in a rebellious young woman's mind into a game legendary for its celebration of wealth at all costs. And behind that legend — there's a lie.
Nancy Pelosi (2019)
Nancy Pelosi is the highest-ranking woman in American politics. She made her first run for public office at 47 years old and went on to become Speaker of the House twice. How has she had such an enduring career, and where does her power lie? As Pelosi steps down this week from her pivotal role, we look back on an episode that traces her rise.
The Monster of We (2021)
Are most modern problems caused by selfishness or a lack of it? Ayn Rand, a Russian American philosopher and writer, would say it's the latter — that selfishness is not a vice but a virtue — and that capitalism is the ideal system. Everyone from Donald Trump, to Alan Greenspan, to Brad Pitt have sung Ayn Rand's praises. The Library of Congress named her novel Atlas Shrugged the second most influential book in the U.S. after the Bible. Ayn Rand wasn't politically correct, she was belligerent and liked going against the grain. And although she lived by the doctrine of her own greatness, she was driven by the fear that she would never be good enough.
In this episode, historian Jennifer Burns will guide us through Rand's evolution and how she eventually reshaped American politics, becoming what Burns calls "a gateway drug to life on the right."
American health care system episode was great
This is one of the most amazing ones. It really shows how entrenched interests have derailed efforts to create a rational and affordable health care system at every opportunity, and how a temporary fix can become permanent.
Really like the Podcast. It is excellent. But the music is awful. Harsh and distracting.
Fails to Meet Its Potential
Often bites off more than it can chew. Early episodes were more targeted on discrete topics, allowing for a deeper and balanced understanding of the topics.
I’ve grown disenchanted with the show taking on grand and existential topics that are impossible to do justice to in short episodes.
Moreover, the show is reductionist often presenting topics as a binary - poor v elite - and always concluding with the romantic or Disney-esque perspective.