The Cohen testimony, a new Breaking News Consumer's Handbook, the risks of laundering our hot takes through history, and the story of an infamous Nazi rally.
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.
CORRECTION: In the opening segment, we describe U.S. Representative Jim Cooper, of Tennessee, as belonging to the wrong political party. Rep. Cooper is a Democrat.
Our 2012 conversation with Seth Mnookin, author of The Panic Virus: A True Story of Medicine, Science and Fear.
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 on public health live on. In this 2012 interview, Brooke spoke with Seth Mnookin, author of The Panic Virus: A True Story of Medicine, Science and Fear, about why these myths persist.
No responsible journalist should be reporting on studies with N being so small. If they do, then they should be banned from any future science journalism.
How the utopian kingdom at the center of Black Panther falls into a long history of black liberation struggles.
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 movement — a journey that takes us from "dreams to art to life, and back again."
This segment originally aired on February 23rd, 2018.
Twitch is a video streaming platform where millions of people broadcast their lives in real-time. Like unedited, raw, reality TV.
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.
2. Cecilia D'Anastasio [@cecianasta] a reporter with Kotaku, Saebyeolbe [@saebyeolbe] and Pine [@tf2pine], two pro gamers, and Farzam Kamel, a venture capitalist with Sterling VC, on the inaugural season of the Overwatch League. Listen.
This hour was originally broadcast on August 18th, 2018.
Even a year ago, this would have been pretty behind the times…
A documentary film takes us back to the most notorious event of the German-American Bund.
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.
This interview was awesome. Also it’s a bit ironic that the interview is longer than the film they’re talking about.
Poor coverage of female candidates; re-examining Lorena Bobbitt's legacy; and the farce of Black History Month.
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.
It’s really stunning to look back at major media coverage of Lorena Bobbit, Anita Hill, and Monica Lewinsky and see how terribly wrong they all managed to botch it up. I’m glad that some of the record is beginning to be corrected.
Where do our modern notions of free speech come from? A new book goes back to 1919.
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 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.
I particularly liked the segment on the journalistic issue of photos seen in outlets which are supplied by the Chinese government and what they tell or don’t about the state of the journalism related to the Uighurs.
How the summary of the Mueller's findings has been spun; historical amnesia, from the frontier to Iraq to Trump.
With the Mueller investigation complete, talking heads have given the short public summary their usual spin. This week, On the Media looks at why the framing of the report produced so much misunderstanding. Plus, how historical amnesia and old ideas about limitless growth have influenced American psychology and foreign policy.
The last segment was particularly good here.
Recently, a member of the Trump administration called Puerto Rico “that country,” obscuring once more the relationship between the island colony and the American mainland. In a special hour this week, On the Media examines the history of US imperialism — and why the familiar US map hides the true story of our country. Brooke spends the hour with Northwestern University historian Daniel Immerwahr, author of How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States.
A stunning 50 minutes of American History here! Folks who enjoyed John Biewen and Scene on Radio’s Seeing White series are sure to love some additional layers and texture that this view on our history brings.
I’d read it in my youth and knew of it more generally, but I didn’t know that Rudyard Kipling’s “White Man’s Burden” was written as advice to the United States about what to do in the Philippines where there was a long and bloody US war. Then the episode has a gut-punch of a quote I’d never heard from Mark Twain, who was friends with Kipling:
‘there must be two Americas. One that sets the captive free and one that takes a once captive’s new freedom away from him, picks a quarrel with him with nothing founded on and then kills him to get his land. For that second America,’ he proposed adding a few words to the Declaration of Independence, ‘governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed White men.’
If asked before today what the bloodiest war fought on US soil was, I’d have said “The Civil War” as I suspect that most would. Interestingly it turns out that it was the Japanese conquest of the Philippines during World War II that claimed 1.5 million people–or the equivalent of two civil wars. Why don’t most students know this fact? Likely because 1 million of that number were not white. They were Filipinos who were also considered U.S. nationals at the time.
Another surprising thing I hadn’t considered before, and mentioned here, is that a large portion of the “British Invasion” of music in the 1960’s–including that of The Beatles–can be likely be put down to the fact that there’s a major U.S. military base put into Liverpool just after World War II. The increased trade and exposure of local youth to American rock-and-roll music as well as instruments sourced from the base had a tremendous influence on the city and the music that would result.
These are just of a few of my favorite portions of this incredible show.
This episode is Part 2 of their series, “On American Expansion.” I can’t wait to hear the rest.
California recently passed a law that eliminates some of the barriers to accessing records on egregious police misconduct and deadly use of force. With the floodgates open, journalists, like KPCC investigative reporter Annie Gilbertson, are elated and terrified. Just one police violation can come with hundreds of associated documents for journalists to comb through.
So, instead of fighting tooth and nail for the scoop, over 30 media organizations across the state are teaming up to share resources, bodies and insight as they begin the arduous task of combing through the newly-available records. The coalition is called the California Reporting Project. Bob Garfield talked with Gilbertson about what the project is uncovering.
A pattern of assassinations baffled Ukrainian authorities. Then an assassin came forward.
New York Times reporter Michael Schwirtz set out to investigate a series of assassinations in Ukraine with low expectations. Reporting on a homicide as a member of the foreign press is daunting enough to begin with. His assignment was formidable beacuse many of the murders were linked to Russia — a government hostile to the media at best and notorious for murdering foreign journalists at worst.
But when Schwirtz approached alleged Russian assassin Oleg Smorodinov to question him about a murder, the accused provided an unexpected bit of testimony: a confession. And on top of that, Smorodinov disclosed the specific role the Kremlin played in ordering and directing his crime.
Schwirtz published his findings in a New York Times feature last week. Bob spoke with Schwirtz about spies, state-facilitated assassination and the experience of following a true story that reads like a Russian mystery novel.
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,” the claims are based on experiments with mice: no human trials have yet started. For another, they haven’t been sufficiently peer reviewed. In fact, the company won’t share its research, claiming it can’t afford the expense. The too-good-to-be-true story appears to be just that, built on PR puffery. But who can resist a good cancer cure?
With Mutato in mind, for this week’s podcast extra, we revisit our Breaking News Consumer’s Handbook: Health News edition, with Gary Schwitzer, publisher & founder of HealthNewsReview.org.
This is a fantastic piece of reporting relating to improved journalism and media consumption with respect to the frequent health studies seen in the main stream media. For those interested, here’s a link to the original version from 2015.
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 federal employee.
The subject of NDAs comes up a lot for people in Trump’s orbit — which is why the team at Trump, Inc. (produced here at our station, WNYC) did a whole episode on the topic. We present that episode for you as our podcast extra this week. Enjoy!
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was arrested in London, and now faces prosecution. On this week’s On the Media, a look at what Assange’s arrest may mean for press freedom. Plus, what the new image of a black hole tell us about the power of science in the face of a conspiracy theory minefield. And, a look at a new documentary about former Trump strategist Steve Bannon.