Listened to Hurtling Toward Catastrophe from On the Media | WNYC Studios

A vehicle burns at Baghdad International Airport following an airstrike in Baghdad on Friday. The Pentagon said the U.S. operation killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran's elite Quds Force.

After the US military assassinated an Iranian military general, war propaganda kicked into overdrive. On this week’s On the Media, how news consumers can cut through the misleading claims and dangerous frames. Plus, how Generation Z is interpreting the geopolitical crisis through memes. And, how apocalyptic thinking is a near-constant through history. 

1. Nathan Robinson [@NathanJRobinson], editor of Current Affairs, on the most suspect tropes in war coverage. Listen.

2. Lee Fang [@lhfang], investigative journalist at The Intercept, on the pundits with unacknowledged conflicts of interest. Listen.

3. Ian Bogost [@ibogost], contributing writer at The Atlantic, on memes. Listen.

4. Dan Carlin [@HardcoreHistory], host of "Hardcore History," on apocalyptic moments throughout human history. Listen.

Brooke Gladstone speaking with Ian Bogost [@ibogost], contributing writer at The Atlantic, on #​WorldWar3 memes:

34:29 IB: That’s the pattern that we will see recur. Not necessarily with respect to warfare.  But whatever the next thing is. And there certainly will be a next thing.
34:37 BG: You wrote that the end of the world could be a “dark but deviously appealing fantasy”, and you were talking about your own experience as a GenX-er during the cold war. What seems soothing about the apocalypse back then?
34:54 IB: The idea that you live at the end of history is incredibly comforting. Even if you don’t know everything that happened in the past. There will be none who follow you. You’ve seen it all either personally or historically. You haven’t missed anything in the project that is human kind.
35:12 BG: That’s FOMO taken to the n-degree, isn’t it?
35:15 IB: Right, I mean the fear of annihilation is a particularly piquant version of the fear of death. It’s about not seeing what comes next for your progeny–for humanity at large. It makes sense to me that there would be some comfort even if it’s a perverse comfort in everyone being together at the end.

Sounds exactly like the same sort of historical apocalyptic “Repent now for the end is at hand” sort of philosophy that a 30 year old Jesus was espousing two millennia ago. And look what happened to that idea. 

Makes me wonder who the Paul of Tarses TikTok is going to be for the next two millennia?

Listened to The Weinstein Trial Begins from On the Media | WNYC Studios

As Harvey Weinstein faces trial, we discuss the essential role of gossip and whisper networks in protecting the vulnerable and spreading news that threaten the powerful.

In New York this week, jury selection began in the trial of former Hollywood titan Harvey Weinstein. News of his alleged sexual predations launched the movement in October 2017, through investigative reporting from both The New York Times and The New Yorker. Even as he prepares to stand trial in New York, sexual assault charges were filed against him in Los Angeles. To date, over eighty women in the film industry have accused him of rape and sexual assault and abuse. Weinstein claims they were all consensual acts. 

The reporting has been groundbreaking in its detail, laying out the allegations for the public. But in Hollywood, Weinstein’s abuses already were an open secret. In 2017, Brooke spoke with Buzzfeed senior culture writer Anne Helen Petersen about the essential role of gossip and whisper networks in protecting the vulnerable and spreading news that threatens the powerful.

Listened to Holiday Message 2019: On Publishing Books by Sean Carroll from preposterousuniverse.com

Welcome to the second annual Mindscape Holiday Message! No substantive content or deep ideas, just me talking a bit about the state of the podcast and what’s on my mind. Since the big event for me in 2019 was the publication of Something Deeply Hidden, I thought it would be fun to talk about the process of writing and selling a popular book. Might be of interest to some of you out there!

Cover art for Sean Carroll's Mindscape

Sean, an intriguing episode. It’s great to hear the interesting directions you’d like to move and the sorts of non-physics topics you’re planning on covering. Given some of the areas relating to communication and democracy that you’d like to cover, I might recommend taking a look at a few of the following potential guests:

George Lakoff, a retired Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley, has some solid ideas about how we communicate as well as how Donald J. Trump’s speech is  influencing our current politics and changing the way that journalism operates in our democracy.

Alan Alda, a science communicator and podcast host of Clear+Vivid and, yes, the well known actor from stage and screen (including M.A.S.H.), who has a long running podcast on the topic of communication and how we communicate. If you’re not listening to it already, it has many of the communication related ideas around who we are, how democracy works through communication, how our tribal tendencies effect the world, etc. (You’ll likely appreciate his podcast in general and may want to mine some of it for guests for your own show.) If you’re able, perhaps do it as a pair of crossover episodes in which you interview him and another in which he interviews you? I think both of your audiences will appreciate such a set of interviews, and you’ll have a chance to do a more extended exploration of both your separate as well as common areas of interests. (There’s also an odd similarity to the theme music for both of your shows…) 

Listened to Mindscape 74 | Stephen Greenblatt on Stories, History, and Cultural Poetics by Sean Carroll from preposterousuniverse.com

Stephen Greenblatt headshotAn infinite number of things happen; we bring structure and meaning to the world by making art and telling stories about it. Every work of literature created by human beings comes out of an historical and cultural context, and drawing connections between art and its context can be illuminating for both. Today’s guest, Stephen Greenblatt, is one of the world’s most celebrated literary scholars, famous for helping to establish the New Historicism school of criticism, which he also refers to as “cultural poetics.” We talk about how art becomes entangled with the politics of its day, and how we can learn about ourselves and other cultures by engaging with stories and their milieu.

Cover art for Sean Carroll's Mindscape

How could you not love this?
Listened to The Hidden Truths of Hanukkah from On the Media | WNYC Studios

A special history lesson in time for the holidays.

Today is Christmas, but it's also Hanukkah — the Jewish festival of lights. With its emphasis on present-giving, dreidel games and sweet treats, the holiday seems to be oriented towards kids. Even the story of Hanukkah has had its edges shaved down over time. Ostensibly, the holiday is a celebration of a victory against an oppressive Greek regime in Palestine over two thousand years ago, the miracle of oil that lit Jerusalem's holy temple for 8 days and nights, and the perseverance of the Jewish faith against all odds.

According to Rabbi James Ponet, Emeritus Howard M. Holtzmann Jewish Chaplain at Yale University, the kid-friendly Hanukkah mythology has obscured the thorny historical details that offer deeper truths about what it means to be a Jew. In his 2005 Slate piece, "Hanukkah as Jewish Civil War," Ponet looked at the often-overlooked Jew-on-Jew violence that under-girds the Hanukkah story. In 2018, he and Brooke discussed how this civil war lives on in Jewish views on Israel, and how the tension between assimilation and tradition came to define the Jewish people. We're re-releasing it today in time for the holidays.

Listened to Can Restorative Justice Save The Internet? from On the Media | WNYC Studios

How theories of criminal justice reform can help us detoxify the web.

As prison populations soar, advocates on both side of the spectrum agree that the law-and-order approach to criminal justice is not making us safer. On this week's On the Media, we look at restorative justice, an alternative to prison that can provide meaningful resolution and rehabilitation. Meanwhile, harassment and bullying are plaguing our online lives, but social media companies seem fresh out of solutions. OTM brings you the story of a reporter and a researcher who teamed up to test whether restorative justice can be used to help detoxify the web.

1. Danielle Sered [@daniellesered], author of Until We Reckon: Violence, Mass Incarceration, and a Road to Repair, on her promising foray into restorative justice. Listen.

2. Lindsay Blackwell [@linguangst], UX researcher at Facebook, and OTM reporter Micah Loewinger [@micahloewinger] share the story of their online restorative justice experiment. Plus, Jack Dorsey [@jack], CEO of Twitter, and Ashley Feinberg [@ashleyfeinberg], a senior writer at Slate, on the toxic state of Twitter. Listen.

Listened to Ken Kesey's Acid Quest from On the Media | WNYC Studios

We have never-before-heard tapes from Ken Kesey, the man who taught the hippies how to be hippies and inspired the psychedelic 60's.

Happy New Year! In this pod extra, we're celebrating what might be your first hangover of 2020 — whether it's fueled by alcohol or just the thought of the year ahead. So, we thought we'd bring you the story of an odd holiday known as Bicycle Day, April 19: the day in 1943, when Swiss scientist Albert Hofmann rode his bike home from work after dosing himself with his lab concoction, lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD. The first acid trip.

Hofmann’s wobbly ride is what launches us into an exploration of a moment, when Ken Kesey, an evangelist of acid would emerge from a Menlo Park hospital lab, and plow through the nation’s gray flannel culture in a candy colored bus. Some know Kesey as the enigmatic author behind One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest — others, as the driving force in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid TestTom Wolfe’s seminal work in New Journalism. In honor of the 50th anniversary of the release of Acid Test, Brooke spoke in 2018 with Wolfe (since deceased) and writer River Donaghey about how acid shaped Kesey, spawned the book and de-normalized American conformity.

This segment is from our April 20, 2018 show, Moving Beyond the Norm.

Listened to Hindsight Is 2019 from On the Media | WNYC Studios
We take a walk down memory lane, and ask ourselves some existential questions.

2019 started on a note of fakery, as we made sense of the conspiracies and simulacra that distort our information field. It's ending with a similar air of surreality, with impeachment proceedings bringing the dynamics of the Trump presidency into stark relief. Along the way, we've examined forces, deconstructed narratives, and found the racist core at the heart of so much of the American project. And as we've come to look differently at the world, we've come to look differently at ourselves.

With excerpts from:

  1. When The Internet is Mostly Fake, January 11th, 2019
  2. United States of Conspiracy, May 17th, 2019
  3. Trump Sees Conspiracies Everywhere, October 4th, 2019
  4. Understanding the White Power Movement, March 22nd, 2019
  5. Why "Send Her Back" Reverberated So Loudly, July 19th, 2019
  6. The Scarlet E, Part II: 40 Acres, June 14th, 2019
  7. Part 1: The Myth Of The Frontier, March 29th, 2019
  8. Empire State of Mind, April 5th, 2019
  9. The Perils of Laundering Hot Takes Through History, March 1st, 2019
Listened to Lecture 13: The Return of English as a Standard from The History of the English Language, 2nd Edition by Seth LererSeth Lerer from The Great Courses

This lecture surveys the history of English from the late 14th to the early 16th centuries to illustrate the ways in which political and social attitudes returned English to the status of the prestige vernacular (over French). In addition, you'll look at institutions influential in this shift, examine attitudes toward the status of English in relationship to French, and more.

cover of The History of the English Language by Seth Lerer

Listened to Lecture 12: Medieval Attitudes toward Language from The History of the English Language, 2nd Edition by Seth LererSeth Lerer from The Great Courses

Here, unpack some attitudes toward language change and variation during the Middle Ages in an effort to understand how writers of the past confronted many of the problems regarding social status and language. Many of these problems, you'll discover, are similar to those we still deal with today.

cover of The History of the English Language by Seth Lerer

Listened to Lecture 11: Dialect Representations in Middle English from The History of the English Language, 2nd Edition by Seth LererSeth Lerer from The Great Courses

Learn about some of the major differences in Middle English speech and writing. The goals of this lecture are threefold: to look at some of the linguistic features of the dialects themselves; to illustrate some of the recent methodologies of dialect study; and to appreciate the literary presentation of dialects in Middle English poetry and drama.

cover of The History of the English Language by Seth Lerer

Listened to Lectures 9 and 10 from The History of the English Language, 2nd Edition by Seth LererSeth Lerer from The Great Courses

Lecture 9: In this fascinating lecture, Professor Lerer looks closely at the changes wrought by the French in English during the 11th to the 14th centuries. In the process, he raises questions about what we might call the "sociology" of language change and contact.
Lecture 10: This lecture presents the central features of Chaucer's English. Its goal is not only to address a particular period in the history of the language (or even in the history of literature) but to allow you to recognize and appreciate the force of Chaucer's poetry and its indelible impact on English linguistic and literary history.

cover of The History of the English Language by Seth Lerer

Lecture 9: What did the Normans do to English?

Words borrowed for two reasons

  • prestige
  • vacant slots with no native words

English words for animals in the countryside, but the words for cooked meats are French

  • cow/beef
  • deer/venison
  • sheep/mutton

Trilingualism: English, French, Latin

Lecture 10 Chaucer’s English

This lecture presents the central features of Chaucer’s English. Its goal is not only to address a particular period in the history of the language (or even in the history of literature) but to allow you to recognize and appreciate the force of Chaucer’s poetry and its indelible impact on English linguistic and literary history.

Listened to Sons of the Soil from On the Media | WNYC Studios

How Hindu nationalists are rewriting the story of India.

Last week, India’s ruling party (the BJP) passed the Citizenship Amendment Act. The legislation grants a clear path to Indian citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Opponents pointed out flaws in the law almost as soon as it was introduced. The law fails to mention Muslim minorities who face persecution in their own countries, such as the Rohingyas in Myanmar. Critics see it as the latest step in the Hindu nationalist government’s steady march toward a Hindu nation-state. The move follows the revocation of Kashmir’s autonomy this summer, and two million people losing statehood in Northeast India after being left off of a national register of citizens. The list requires citizens to provide documents to prove Indian ancestry. Many Muslims fear that the National Register of Citizens will be enacted across India, leaving religious minorities in the world’s largest democracy in danger of losing their home.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah twisted history to provide justification for the Citizenship Amendment Act, shouting to his colleagues in Parliament that decades ago it was the now opposition, Congress Party, that divided India and Pakistan along religious lines. As Indian historian Romila Thapar wrote in The New York Times earlier this year, “extreme nationalists require their own particular version of the past to legitimize their actions in the present.” This week, we go back to a piece reported by OTM Producer Asthaa Chaturvedi. She examines how Hindu nationalists are rewriting Indian history in the world’s largest democracy, with journalist Shoaib Daniyal, political scientist Christophe Jaffrelot, and sociology professor Nandini Sundar.

Listened to PURPLE EPISODE 4: Media to the Rescue? from On the Media | WNYC Studios

On the press's role to educate the public about participating in democracy.

As part of a month-long campaign called the Purple Project for Democracy, (a strictly non-partisan, apolitical effort that a number of other large news organizations have also contributed to) we are featuring a series of conversations about an alarming loss of trust, faith and devotion by Americans for American democracy — and what to do about it. Bob is one of the Purple Project organizers. In episode four, Bob examines the media’s responsibility for instilling devotion, or at least perspective, for our democracy.

A 2014 National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, showed only 23 percent of eighth graders in the United States attained “proficient” status in civics. A 2011 Newsweek survey found that 70 percent of Americans didn’t even know that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land. And only 26% of those surveyed in 2017 by the University of Pennsylvania could name all three branches of government. And no wonder: with STEM curriculum and standardized testing squeezing the school day, civics has become the snow leopard of the social studies curriculum. 

So if the knowledge vacuum is otherwise filled by misinformation and disinformation, and the result is a loss of faith and trust in democracy itself, who is left to intervene? Jan Schaffer — ombudsman for the Corporation of Public Broadcasting, Pulitzer Prize–winning former journalist and founder of The Institute for Interactive Journalism — talks to Bob about what responsibility the media have to become educators, and maybe even re-assurers, of last resort.

Listened to PURPLE EPISODE 3: Let’s Not Discount Reality from On the Media | WNYC Studios

How a propaganda war by the private sector led to a decline of trust in government.

As part of a month-long campaign called the Purple Project for Democracy, OTM is using its podcast feed for a series of conversations about an alarming loss of trust, faith and devotion by Americans for American democracy — and what to do about it. Bob himself is one of the Purple Project organizers. We recommend that you listen to this four-part mini-series in order. In this third episode he explores some of the causes for disaffection.

One of the reasons so many Americans have lost trust and faith is democratic institutions is simple misunderstanding about how the system is designed to work.  Another, however, is familiarity with how the system does work— which isn’t exactly of, by and for the People. Anand Giridharadas is author of Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World. He says the founders also didn’t plan on politicians constantly trash-talking government itself and that a decline in trust in government is the result of a concerted, private sector propaganda war waged over the last four decades.