Hating In Plain Sight


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In the aftermath of white supremacist attacks in New Zealand, there's a tension between reporting on the shooter's motivations and not amplifying his message. This week, On the Media examines how the press can navigate that persistent dilemma. Plus, the debate over whether online archives of jihadi terrorist propaganda should be open to the public. 
  1. Joan Donovan [@BostonJoan] describes the way the press has evolved in its responses to far-right terrorism, and argues for continued caution in coverage of white supremacists. Listen.
  2. Kathleen Belew [@kathleen_belew] describes the White Power roots of the Christchurch attack, and argues that to effectively fight this hate, we must understand the movement in which it grows. Listen.

  3. Dan Feidt [@HongPong] of Unicorn Riot [@UR_Ninja] on what alt-right groups are discussing in their secret online chatrooms, and what we learn by reading them. Listen.

  4. Charlie Winter Continue reading "Hating In Plain Sight"

No Notoriety


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The details are different but the story is the same. A mass shooting, scores of people dead, another nation traumatized. Although in the aftermath of the events in New Zealand last week there is a wrinkle. In her first speech to parliament since the attacks, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern declared that she will never speak the killer's name and she asked the press and others to follow suit. Ardern said the shooter would not get notoriety, perhaps a nod to the group “No Notoriety” started by Tom Teves and his wife Caren. The Teves lost their son in the 2012 shooting rampage in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater and later formed the group to beseech news outlets not to turn mass killers into media icons. Bob spoke to Tom back in 2015 as jury selection was beginning for the trial of his son’s killer.

The Myth of Meritocracy


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A college admissions scandal has highlighted what people refer to as "the myth of meritocracy." But actually, meritocracy itself is a myth. This week, On the Media looks at the satirical origins of the word and what they tell us about why the US embraces it. Plus, the messaging for and against Medicare for All, as well as a historical look at why we don't have universal healthcare. And economic historian and Tucker Carlson antagonist Rutger Bregman.
  1. John Patrick Leary [@JohnPatLeary], professor at Wayne State University, on the history of the satirical origins of the word "meritocracy". Listen.
2.  Paul Waldman [@paulwaldman1] of The Washington Post on the messaging war over Medicare for All and what the media is getting wrong about the proposal. Listen.
  1. Jill Quadagno of [@floridastate] on the history of why the U.S. has shunned universal healthcare. Continue reading "The Myth of Meritocracy"

Tucker Was Tucker All Along


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To suggest that Tucker Carlson has a tendency to hint at deeply discriminatory tropes would be cliché — but also dead-on. Just this week, thanks to newly unearthed audio released by Media Matters, the Fox News darling ditches his signature dog whistle in exchange for unmistakable and unapologetic hate speech. Who is Tucker Carlson, really? In this week's pod extra, Bob delves into the origins of the now-notorious commentator with Lyz Lenz, a writer for Columbia Journalism Review who profiled Carlson in September.

Crossing the Line


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Mexican officials and U.S. Customs and Border Protection are using a secret database to target journalists and advocates at the southern border. This week, On the Media speaks with a reporter on the list who was detained for questioning by Mexican authorities. Plus, what the Obama Library’s unique arrangement with the National Archives means for the future of presidential history. And, the grotesque origins of segregation. 
  1. Mari Payton [@MariNBCSD], reporter at NBC 7 in San Diego, and Kitra Cahana, freelance photojournalist, on the secret government database of immigration reporters and advocates. Listen.
  2. Tim Naftali [@TimNaftali], historian at New York University and former director of the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, and Louise Bernard, director of the museum at the Obama Presidential Center, on the Obama Foundation's decision to curate its own presidential museum. Listen.

  3. Steve Luxenberg [@SLuxenberg], Continue reading "Crossing the Line"

The Myth That Fuels the Anti-Vaxx Agenda


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This Tuesday, lawmakers in Washington heard from an 18-year-old who, against all odds, got his shots. Ethan Lindenberger, who fought with his own mother to get vaccinated, told senators, "for my mother, her love, affection, and care as a parent was used to push an agenda to create a false distress." That "anti-vaxx" agenda, the dangerous legacy of a thoroughly debunked 1998 study in the British medical journal Lancet, was dealt yet another devastating — though not mortal — blow this week, courtesy of epidemiologists from Denmark’s Staten Serum Institute. Their new study, which included more than 650,000 children, found that the MMR vaccine did not raise the risk of developing autism.  And yet, even in the face of study after study, and even as websites like Pinterest have moved to stamp out the spread of anti-vaxx materials on their websites, the debunked vaccine-autism link and its impact Continue reading "The Myth That Fuels the Anti-Vaxx Agenda"

Look Back in Anger


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When President Trump’s former personal lawyer testified in front of Congress this week, it was both captivating and oddly familiar. This week, On the Media looks at the tropes that ran through the hearings, and offers a guide to news consumers trying to understand the tangled threads of the Mueller investigation. Plus, a sideways glance at historical hot takes and a second look at an infamous Nazi rally in the heart of New York City. 
  1. Bob and Brooke on Michael Cohen's enthralling testimony this week. Listen.
  2. Eric Umansky [@ericuman], co-host of Trump, Inc. from WNYC Studios and ProPublica, on how news consumers can best understand Mueller-related news. Listen.

  3. Corey Robin [@CoreyRobin], political theorist, on the tendency for journalists to launder their hot takes through history. Listen.

  4. Marshall Curry [@marshallcurry], documentary filmmaker, on his Oscar-nominated short, A Night At The Garden. Continue reading "Look Back in Anger"

Longing for Wakanda


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On Sunday night, Marvel’s Black Panther film won the Oscar for three of its six Academy Award nominations: Ludwig Göransson for Best Original Score, Ruth E. Carter for Best Costume Design and Hannah Beachler and Jay R. Hart for Best Production design — just a few of the artists who helped bring Wakanda, the Black Panther’s mythical homeland, to life. A persistent site for utopian longing, Wakanda has once more captured the public imagination: endowed with unlimited access to the most precious natural resource in the world, unsullied by the ravages of colonialism, Wakanda has reignited conversations about what black liberation can and should look like. According to Johns Hopkins University history professor Nathan Connolly, this latest chapter is part of a much longer tradition of imagining and reimagining black utopias. Connolly speaks with Brooke about how Wakanda arises from a 500-year history — from Maroon communities to Haiti to the actual Black Panther Continue reading "Longing for Wakanda"

Twitch and Shout


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Twitch.tv is a video streaming platform where millions of people broadcast their lives and video game action in real-time. It's like unedited, real, reality TV. This week, On the Media digs into why so many people want to share so much on Twitch, and what it tells us about the future of entertainment. First, a look at a couple of the biggest streamers of the platform, Ninja and Dr. Disrespect, who command devoted audiences and giant paychecks. Then, Bob dives into the inaugural season of the Overwatch League, the most expensive and highly produced pro gaming venture to date. Finally, Brooke speaks with Radiolab's Jad Abumrad about the life of a homeless streamer who's life was saved by Twitch.
  1. Julia Alexander [@loudmouthjulia] and Allegra Frank [@LegsFrank], two writers with Polygon, on the pitfalls and para-social allure of Twitch. Listen.
2. Cecilia D'Anastasio [@cecianasta] a Continue reading "Twitch and Shout"

When 20,000 Nazis Gathered in New York


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Founded in 1936, the German-American Bund had approximately 25,000 members and 70 chapters around the country. While the Nazis were building concentration camps, the Bund held pro-Hitler retreats and summer camps. February 20th marks the 80th anniversary of the Bund’s most notorious event when 20,000 of its members gathered at Madison Square Garden for a "Pro-American Rally" featuring speeches and performances, staged in front of a 30-foot-high portrait of George Washington. The rally is the subject of the Oscar-nominated documentary short "A Night at The Garden" by filmmaker Marshall Curry. In this On the Media podcast extra, Brooke talks with Curry about how the film's themes resonate today and how a 30-second broadcast spot has had a media moment of its own.  

Bad Reputation


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The 2020 Democratic field is the most diverse ever, and five women are running to be the party’s presidential nominee. This week, we look at the sexist coverage of female candidates with a new Breaking News Consumer's Handbook: Gender and Politics Edition. Then, a re-examination of a 90's tabloid spectacle, Lorena Gallo (Lorena Bobbitt), arrested for cutting her husband's penis off after he raped her. Plus, how Black History Month undermines black history. 
  1. Lili Loofbourow [@Millicentsomer], staff writer at Slate, on the sexist coverage of women in politics. Listen.
  2. Joshua Rofé [@joshua_rofe], filmmaker, and Lorena Gallo (FKA Lorena Bobbitt) on the new documentary "Lorena." Listen.

  3. Doreen St. Félix [@dstfelix], staff writer at The New Yorker, on the commercialization of Black History Month. Listen.

Songs: The Crave by Jelly Roll Morton Juliet of Spirits by Nino Rota and Eugene Walter Okami by Nicola Continue reading "Bad Reputation"

A Century of Free Speech


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For this week's pod extra, we feature a conversation from WNYC'S Brian Lehrer Show. Brian talked with Columbia University President Lee Bollinger and University of Chicago Law Professor Geoffrey Stone, editors of The Free Speech Century, a collection of essays by leading scholars, marking 100 years since the Supreme Court issued the three decisions that established the modern notion of free speech. Whether it’s fake news or money in politics, we’re still arguing over the First Amendment, and their book lays out the origins of the argument just after the first World War.  

The World’s Biggest Problem


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At Tuesday's State of the Union, President Trump continued to call for a wall at the southern border. Meanwhile, some Democrats point to the real crisis: climate change. A look at the messaging of urgency and hope around the Green New Deal. And, a former mentor to Mark Zuckerberg lays out his deep criticisms of Facebook. Then, a Facebook employee makes the case for one potential solution. Plus, a new documentary about Pete Hamill and Jimmy Breslin, two New York City reporters, who helped turn column writing into an art form. 1. Kate Aronoff [@KateAronoff], contributing writer with The Intercept, on how Democrats are selling the urgent need to address climate change. Listen. 2. Roger McNamee [@Moonalice], author of Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe, on the damage that Facebook has done. Listen.
  1. Andy O'Connell [@facebook], manager of content distribution and algorithm policy at Facebook, Continue reading "The World’s Biggest Problem"

The Too-Good-To-Be-True Cancer Cure


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Despite steadily declining rates of cancer deaths over the past two decades, cancer remains responsible for 1 in every 6 deaths worldwide. It’s a scourge. So when, this week, an Israeli company called Accelerated Evolution Biotechnologies captured the news cycle with promises of a complete cure for cancer within the year, the story caught fire. The company’s technology is called “MuTaTo” — that's multi-target toxin. And, to judge from the news media this week, it seems vetted, verified and veering us all toward a cancer-free future. Reports began in the Jerusalem Post, but quickly took off, making their way into various Murdoch-owned publications like FOX and the New York Post and landing in local news outlets around the country and the globe. A couple days into the fanfare, the skeptics started coming out: for one thing, as oncologist David Gorski points out in his blog “Respectful Insolence,” Continue reading "The Too-Good-To-Be-True Cancer Cure"

Misery in the Name of Liberty


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The Venezuelan press has been facing repression for years. This week, On the Media explores how journalists in the country are struggling to cover the standoff between two men who claim to be president. Also, how both the history of American interventionism and the legacy of Simón Bolívar color coverage of Venezuela. Plus, a critical look at the images coming out of Chinese internment camps. 1. Mariana Zuñiga [@marazuniga], freelance reporter based in Caracas, on her experience covering Venezuela's presidential standoff. Listen
  1. Miguel Tinker Salas [@mtinkersalas], professor of history at Pomona College, on the legacy of Simón Bolívar. Listen.
  2. Stephen Kinzer [@stephenkinzer], professor of international relations at Brown University, on the history of American intervention in Latin America. Listen

  3. Rian Thum [@RianThum], senior research fellow at the University of Nottingham, on the internment of Uighurs by Continue reading "Misery in the Name of Liberty"

A Tell-All Memoir And An NDA


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This week, the latest tell-all memoir from a former White House staffer hit bookstores. Team of Vipers: My 500 Extraordinary Days in the Trump White House is by Cliff Sims — who was, depending on who you ask, either key player as Director of Message Strategy or, as Trump tweeted this week, “nothing more than a gofer.” The book, of course, is a landfill of trash and dirt on his former colleagues. And even as Sims toured the morning shows, the late shows and the everything-else shows to hawk his book, Trump Campaign COO Michael Glassner was threatening to sue him for violating the campaign's non disclosure agreement. Sims says he remembers signing some paperwork, but doesn’t remember if there was an NDA in there and, as other lawyers have since chimed in, there is established precedent that would make it very hard for the campaign to silence a former Continue reading "A Tell-All Memoir And An NDA"

Close Encounters


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The Lincoln Memorial debacle showed how vulnerable the press are to a myriad of social and political forces. This week, we examine how the outrage unfolded and what role MAGA hat symbolism might have played. And, a graphic photo in the New York Times spurs criticism. Plus, a reality show that attempts to bridge the gap between indigenous people and white Canadians. 
  1. Bob's thoughts on where the Lincoln Memorial episode has left us. Listen.

  2. Charlie Warzel [@cwarzel], tech writer, on the zig-zagging meta-narratives emerging from the Lincoln Memorial episode, and the role played by right-wing operatives. Listen.

  3. Jeannine Bell [@jeanninelbell], professor at Indiana University's Maurer School of Law, on MAGA hat symbology. Listen.

  4. Kainaz Amaria [@kainazamaria], visuals editor at Vox, on the Times' controversial decision to publish a bloody photo following the January 15 attack in Nairobi, Kenya. Listen.

  5. Vanessa Continue reading "Close Encounters"

Rethinking MLK Day


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When he was still in his twenties, Martin Luther King Jr. was, among other things, an advice columnist for Ebony magazine. Writer Mychal Denzel Smith studied those columns for an article this week in The Atlanticand he found that readers asked the civil rights leader about everything from race relations to marriage problems. In some instances Dr. King was surprisingly unorthodox — the preacher's thoughts on birth control are particularly eloquent — and in others, his advice was less than sage. When one reader complained about her philandering husband, he told her to self-reflect: "Are you careful with your grooming? Do you nag? Do you make him feel important?" When another described her husband as a "complete tyrant," self-reflection on the part of the woman was, again, the answer.  Denzel Smith joins Brooke to discuss Dr. King's mid-century masculinity, how it is still wielded as a Continue reading "Rethinking MLK Day"

The Giant Referendum On Everything


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For the past month, journalists have been reporting on the anxieties of furloughed federal workers. This week, On the Media learns that many reporters face a new threat to their own job security. Plus, an on-screen dramatization of Brexit, and a likely sea-change in Youtube's rankings. 
  1. Dave Krieger [@DaveKrieger], former editorial page director of the Boulder Daily Camera, on the latest newspaper target of vulture capitalism. Listen.

  2. James Graham [@mrJamesGraham], screenwriter of "Brexit," on his star-studded depiction of an urgent, present-day dispute. Listen.

  3. Matthew Goodwin [@GoodwinMJ], professor of politics and international relations at the University of Kent, on why so many people got the Brexit narrative wrong. Listen.

  4. Clay Shirky [@cshirky], Ajey Nagar [@CarryMinati], Sarah Moore [@sarahlynn_1995] and others on the global culture war over PewDiePie and T-Series. Listen.

That time Brooke met Rosanne Cash


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Rosanne's Cash's new album features 10 new songs, all written and co-written by Cash, that find her "speaking out and looking inward" (The Boston Globe) from a uniquely female perspective. It features contributions from Elvis Costello, Kris Kristofferson, Colin Meloy and Sam Phillips, plus three extra tracks that appear on the deluxe edition of the record. The album's title track was just named one of the Top 5 songs of 2018 by The New York Times.  She sat down with Brooke for an evening of talk and music at WNYC's very own theater, The Greene Space.