Rank #1: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on the 2020 Presidential Race and Why We Should Break up Homeland Security
It’s hard to recall a newly elected freshman representative to Congress who has made a bigger impact than Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Her primary victory for New York’s Fourteenth District seat—as a young woman of color beating out a long-established white male incumbent—was big news, and Ocasio-Cortez has been generating headlines almost daily ever since. Practically the day she took her seat in Congress, Ocasio-Cortez became the hero of the left wing of the Democrats and a favored villain of Fox News and the right. She battled Nancy Pelosi to make the Green New Deal a priority, and has been involved with a movement to launch primary challenges against centrist or right-leaning Democrats. Like Bernie Sanders, she embraces the label of democratic socialism and supports free college education for all Americans. She has called for the abolition of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. She joined David Remnick in the New Yorker Radio Hour studio on July 5th, just after her trip to the border to examine migrant-detention facilities. Remnick and Ocasio-Cortez spoke about why she courted controversy by referring to some facilities as “concentration camps”; why she thinks the Department of Homeland Security is irredeemable; and whether Joe Biden is qualified to be President, given his comments about colleagues who supported forms of segregation. “Issues of race and gender are not extra-credit points in being a good Democrat,” she says. “They are a core part of the ... competencies that a President needs. . . . Where are you on understanding the people that live in this country?”
Jul 09 2019
Rank #2: What Would a World Without Prisons Be Like?
Mass incarceration is now widely regarded as a prejudiced and deeply harmful set of policies. Bipartisan support exists for some degree of criminal-justice reform, and, in some circles, the idea of prison abolition is also gaining traction. Kai Wright, the host of the WNYC podcast “The United States of Anxiety,” spoke about the movement with Paul Butler, a law professor and former federal prosecutor who saw firsthand the damage that prosecution causes; and sujatha baliga, a MacArthur Foundation fellow who leads the Restorative Justice Project at the nonprofit Impact Justice and a survivor of sexual violence. “Prison abolition doesn’t mean that everybody who’s locked up gets to come home tomorrow,” Butler explains. Instead, activists envision a gradual process of “decarceration,” and the creation of alternative forms of justice and harm reduction. “Abolition, to my mind, isn’t just about ending the prisons,” baliga adds. “It’s about ending binary processes which pit us as ‘us, them,’ ‘right, wrong’; somebody has to be lying, somebody’s telling the truth. That is not the way that we get to healing.”
Jan 24 2020
Rank #3: Samantha’s Journey into the Alt-Right, and Back
Since 2016, Andrew Marantz has been reporting on how the extremist right has harnessed the Internet and social media to gain a startling prominence in American politics. One day, he was contacted by a woman named Samantha, who was in the leadership of the white-nationalist group Identity Evropa. (She asked to be identified only by her first name.) “When I joined, I really thought that it was just going to be a pro-white community, where we could talk to each other about being who we are, and gain confidence, and build a community,” Samantha told him. “I went in because I was insecure and it made me feel good about myself.” Samantha says she wasn’t a racist, but soon after joining the group she found herself rubbing shoulders with the neo-Nazi organizer Richard Spencer, at a party that culminated in a furious chant of “seig heil.” Marantz and the Radio Hour producer Rhiannon Corby dove into Samantha’s story to understand how and why a “normal” person abandoned her values, her friends, and her family for an ideology of racial segregation and eugenics—and then came out again. They found her to be a cautionary tale for a time when facts and truth are under daily attack. “I thought I knew it all,” she told them. “I think it's extremely naive and foolish to think that you are impervious to it. No one is impervious to this.”
Samantha appears in Andrew Marantz’s new book, “Antisocial: Online Extremists, Techno-Utopians, and the Hijacking of the American Conversation.”
Nov 22 2019
Rank #4: Philip Roth’s American Portraits and American Prophecy
The novelist and short-story writer Philip Roth died in May at the age of eighty-five. In novels like “Portnoy’s Complaint,” “The Human Stain,” and “American Pastoral,” Roth anatomized postwar American life—particularly the lives of Jewish people in the Northeast. And in works like “The Ghost Writer” and “The Plot Against America,” he speculated on how the shadow of authoritarianism might fall over the United States. The breadth and depth of Roth’s work kept him a vital literary figure throughout the second half of the twentieth century, and established him among the most respected writers of fiction in American history. David Remnick speaks with Roth’s official biographer, Blake Bailey, about Roth’s life and career. Judith Thurman, Claudia Roth Pierpont, and Lisa Halliday discuss the portrayals of women in Roth’s work and the accusations of misogyny that he has faced. And, finally, we hear an interview with the author, from 2003, when he sat down with David Remnick for the BBC. Plus: the actor Liev Schreiber reads excerpts from Roth’s fiction.
This episode originally aired on July 20, 2018.
Dec 28 2018
Rank #5: Toni Morrison Talks with Hilton Als
Toni Morrison read The New York Times with pencil in hand. An editor by trade, Morrison never stopped noting errors in the paper. In 2015, during a conversation with The New Yorker’s Hilton Als, Morrison noted that the stories she cared about were once absent from the news. Now they’re present, but distorted. “The language is manipulated and strangled in such a way that you get the message,” she noted wryly. “I know there is a difference between the received story… and what is actually going on.” Morrison, who died on Monday, was the first black woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature and one of the most beloved writers of the 21st century. In a wide-ranging interview with Als, Morrison discusses her last novel, God Help The Child, writing in a modern setting, and her relationship to her father, whom she says was complicated man and bluntly calls a “racist.” When she was older, she learned that he had wittnessed the lynching of two of his neighbors. “I think that’s why he thought white people… were incorrigible,” she explains to Als. “They were doomed.”
Language Advisory: At around 34 minutes into the interview, Hilton Als quotes a line from Toni Morrison’s book “Jazz” that contains the n-word. We feel it is important to leave the word uncensored as it is an accurate depiction of the language Morrison used in her description of black life in America. However, it may not be suitable for younger listeners.
Aug 06 2019
Rank #6: Dexter Filkins on the Air Strike that Killed Qassem Suleimani
Qassem Suleimani was Iran’s most powerful military and intelligence leader, and his killing, in a U.S. air strike in Baghdad on Thursday night, will likely be taken as an act of war by Tehran. Dexter Filkins, who wrote the definitive profile of Suleimani, in 2013, spoke with David Remnick about the commander’s central role within the Iranian regime. Reprisals against the U.S., he says, might be carried out anywhere in the world, either by Iran’s Quds Force or by affiliates such as Hezbollah. The Trump Administration experiences tension between a desire for regime change and the President’s desire to avoid foreign wars; Filkins notes that embattled Presidents, like Bill Clinton during his impeachment, often have itchy trigger fingers.
Jan 03 2020
Rank #7: Greta Gerwig’s “Little Women,” and Damon Lindelof’s “Watchmen”
Greta Gerwig tells David Remnick that her adaptation of the novel “Little Women” didn’t need much updating for 2019: the world hasn’t changed as much as we might think, she says. Isaac Chotiner talks with Jack Goldsmith, the conservative legal scholar whose new book is a surprising and personal account of a man who was regarded as a suspect in the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa. And the creator of HBO’s “Watchmen” tells Emily Nussbaum about the uncomfortable process of learning to write about race.
Dec 13 2019
Rank #8: How OxyContin Was Sold to the Masses
Patrick Radden Keefe has reported on the Sackler family and their control of Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin. Among the sources for his article “Empire of Pain” was a whistle-blower named Steven May, a former sales rep who joined Purdue during the heyday of OxyContin. In an interview for the New Yorker Radio Hour, May details how the company flooded the market with a powerful painkiller that it deceptively touted as being nearly as safe as Tylenol. Plus, two beloved cartoonists—Roz Chast and Liana Finck—talk shop.
Apr 02 2019
Rank #9: Thomas Mallon on Impeachment, and Philip Pullman on “His Dark Materials”
As he opened public impeachment proceedings last week, Representative Adam Schiff invoked Watergate—which, after all, ended well for Democrats. To understand how that history applies, or doesn’t, to the current proceedings, The New Yorker’s Dorothy Wickenden spoke with Thomas Mallon, the author of the deeply researched “Watergate: A Novel,” and of historical fictions about Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. How would Mallon write the story of the Trump impeachment as a novel? “I would go right inside the heads of Lindsey Graham, Ben Sasse, and Mitt Romney,” he tells Wickenden. “A guilty conscience is one of the best springboards for fiction.” Plus, a conversation with Philip Pullman, whose beloved trilogy, “His Dark Materials,” has been adapted for a new HBO series. But he’s already onto a second trilogy about its heroine, Lyra, because he has more to learn about her universe.
Nov 15 2019
Rank #10: How “The Apprentice” Made Donald Trump, and a Boondoggle in Wisconsin
The staff writer Patrick Radden Keefe has reported on “The Apprentice” and its impact on Donald Trump—on how America saw Trump, and how Trump saw himself. Keefe spoke with Jonathon Braun, who was a supervising producer on “The Apprentice,” about how the show’s team reshaped Trump’s image, and how the news media are doing that same work for him now that he is President. Dan Kaufman, the author of “The Fall of Wisconsin,” explains how a deal to bring manufacturing jobs to an industrial town in Wisconsin became a boondoggle of national proportions. And Terrance Hayes, the author of “American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin,” reads a poem for the New Year.
Jan 11 2019
Rank #11: The Mueller Investigation: What We Know So Far
Washington is abuzz with rumors that the Mueller report is coming soon, and both sides are trying to strategize their next move. The reporter Adam Davidson summarizes the broad strokes of what we know so far, and Susan B. Glasser and Jeffrey Toobin debate what impact it will have on the partisan war in Washington.
Feb 01 2019
Rank #12: Jim Carrey Doesn’t Exist (According to Jim Carrey)
As a young boy, Jim Carrey got in trouble for staring in the mirror. He didn’t do it because he was vain; he was practicing the comic skills that made him one of the great impressionists of our time, a man whose face seems to be made of some pliable alien material. Yet that malleable face is as capable of portraying deep and complex emotion as it is of making us laugh. As a result, Carrey’s career has been one reinvention after another. These days, he’s been lighting up Twitter as a political cartoonist—his way of drawing Donald Trump is particularly grotesque—and starring in the television series “Kidding.” He plays a children’s entertainer, in the mold of Mr. Rogers, who is struggling with the death of his own son. Carrey sat down with Colin Stokes at the New Yorker Festival in October, 2018. He spoke about his reverence for Fred Rogers and the inspiration he takes from Eastern philosophy. “I don’t exist,” Carrey says. “There’s no separation between you and me at all . . . I know I’m sounding really crazy right now, but it’s really true.”
Nov 23 2018
Rank #13: The Long-Distance Con, Part 1
On the day that Maggie Robinson Katz learned that her father had only a few days to live, she also found out that her wealthy family couldn’t pay his hospital bills: his fortune had disappeared. Katz didn’t learn how until several years later, when she began listening to a box of cassette tapes given to her by her stepmother. The tapes record her father, Terry Robinson, speaking on the phone with a man named Jim Stuckey, a West Virginian based in Manila, about a kind of business proposition. Hidden in jungles and caves in the Philippines, Stuckey said, were huge caches of gold bullion, uncut U.S. currency, and Treasury bonds; if Robinson put up the money to pay the right people, Stuckey could get the treasures out. It seemed absurd to people around Robinson, and the Treasury Department warns of scams that sound just like this. But Robinson, a successful retired executive, fell for it hook, line, and sinker. His daughter Maggie struggles to understand why and how, talking with The New Yorker’s Maria Konnikova and others.
This is part one of a two-part series.
Sep 28 2018
Rank #14: Rachel Carson Dreams of the Sea
Before she published “Silent Spring,” one of the most influential books of the last century, Rachel Carson was a young aspiring poet and then a doctoral candidate in marine biology. Although she couldn’t swim and disliked boats, says historian Jill Lepore, Carson fell in love with the ocean. Gazing into tide pools, she pioneered a new kind of nature writing. Plus: David Attenborough, the reigning master of the nature documentary, shares lessons from a life spent observing life in every corner of the world; and the cartoonist Julia Wertz, who loves the obscure nooks, crannies, and histories of New York, takes us garbage picking on a neglected bit of shoreline where the trash of decades past keeps washing ashore.
Sep 18 2018
Rank #15: Illeana Douglas Steps Forward
The day after The New Yorker published Ronan Farrow’s exposé about Harvey Weinstein, Farrow got a phone call from the actress and screenwriter Illeana Douglas. She wanted to talk about Leslie Moonves, who was then the head of CBS and one of the most powerful men in the media industry. Douglas went on the record in a story by Farrow, describing an assault by Moonves in the nineteen-nineties and the repercussions to her career after she refused him. “I got warnings about the casting couch, but I didn’t perceive this as the casting couch,” Douglas tells David Remnick. Moonves “was a man who I admired, and respected, and who had gained my trust. And now he was on top of me.” On September 9th, The New Yorker published a follow-up story by Farrow, describing new accusations. Three hours later, Moonves stepped down from his position at CBS. He has not, however, admitted any wrongdoing and has denied engaging in any non-consensual sex or any form of retaliation.
Sep 14 2018
Rank #16: Terry Gross Talks with David Remnick
David Remnick has appeared as the guest of Terry Gross on “Fresh Air” a number of times over the years, talking about Russia, Muhammad Ali, and other subjects. Hosting “Fresh Air” for nearly forty-five years, Gross is a defining voice of NPR, and is perhaps the most celebrated interviewer of our time. In October, 2019, the tables turned, and Gross joined Remnick as his guest for a live interview at The New Yorker Festival. They spoke about how she first found her way to the microphone, the role of feminism in establishing NPR, the limits of her expertise, and what she has had to give up to prepare for serious conversations day after day.
Jan 03 2020
Rank #17: What Are We Talking About When We Talk about Socialism?
With the election to the House of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib, following up on the surprising Presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders, socialism is on the rise, after a long decline in America. But the Harvard historian and New Yorker staff writer Jill Lepore says there is a great deal of ambiguity about what socialism even means. Americans have always danced around the term, and the actual policies advanced under the banner of socialism may look very similar to liberalism, or social democracy, or even the historical movement known as “good government.” Sanders declared that the hero of his brand of socialism is Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who insisted that he was not a socialist. Lepore tells David Remnick, “The way our politics works is to discredit not the idea or the policy but the label.” Plus, the actor Richard E. Grant has just been nominated for his first Oscar, for “Can You Ever Forgive Me,” after thirty-plus years in the movies. And, as an Oscar nominee, he finally got Barbra Streisand, his all-time idol, to reply to a fan letter he sent her nearly fifty years ago.
Feb 19 2019
Rank #18: Can Mayor Pete Be a Democratic Front-Runner?
Six months ago, David Remnick interviewed a politician named Pete Buttigieg, who was just beginning his campaign for the Democratic nomination for President. Buttigieg was an unlikely candidate: the youngest person to run in decades, he was a small-town mayor with no national exposure, and had a difficult last name to boot. But a smart campaign has made Buttigieg a contender, and a recent Iowa poll put him in second place, behind Elizabeth Warren. Gay, Christian, and a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, Buttigieg is running as a kind of centrist outsider. “If you really do want the candidate with most years of Washington experience,” he told Remnick, “you’ve got your choice”—meaning Joe Biden. Furthermore, “if you want the most ideologically, conventionally left candidate you can get, then you’ve got your choice”—between Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. But, he claims, “most Democrats I talk to are looking for something else. That’s where I come in.” Buttigieg spoke with Remnick in October, at the New Yorker Festival. They discussed whether he can overcome one notable weakness in his campaign: a lack of support among black voters, which would injure him in the South Carolina primaries. Plus, the New Yorker food correspondent Helen Rosner shares three current food-world favorites with David Remnick, including an ingenious cheat that blows the lid off of lasagna.
Nov 01 2019
Rank #19: Kwame Anthony Appiah on the Complications of Identity
Kwame Anthony Appiah is one of leading thinkers on identity. A professor of philosophy and law at New York University, Appiah also writes the New York Times Magazine’s Ethicist column, answering readers’ questions on a wide range of common but thorny problems of modern life. He came to his interest in identity early, as his parents—an Englishwoman from a politically prominent family and an anti-colonial agitator descended from Ghanaian royalty—became notorious in Britain for their interracial marriage. While his own identity may be seen as complicated, he thinks that each of our identities is also more complicated than our current way of thinking allows us to acknowledge. In his new book, “The Lies that Bind: Rethinking Identity,” Appiah takes a position that is somewhat contrary to the identity politics of the left. He tells David Remnick that a focus on individual identities—whether addressed through race, gender, culture, or country—can work against human solidarity, and sometimes get in the way of solving our problems. “I’m a creature of the Enlightenment,” he says.
Sep 11 2018
Rank #20: The Presidential Candidate Pete Buttigieg on Coming Out: “I Realized I Couldn’t Go On Like That Forever”
During an exit interview with President Barack Obama in November, 2016, just weeks after the election, David Remnick asked who would be the leaders of the Democratic Party and the contenders to oppose Trump in 2020. Obama mentioned people like Kamala Harris, of California, and Tim Kaine, of Virginia, along with a very surprising figure: Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who was only thirty-five at the time. In recent weeks, Buttigieg has been raising his profile dramatically, and raising money at a surprising clip, considering that he lacks the national profile of a senator or a governor. In a huge field of candidates, the mayor stands out. He’s a Navy veteran, and was born and raised in South Bend, so he brings heartland credibility to his campaign. But he’s also the youngest candidate in the field, and the first openly gay person with a real shot at the nomination. Buttigieg had not yet come out when he took office and when he joined the Navy Reserves, but deployment in Afghanistan changed his perspective. “I realized I couldn’t go on like that forever. . . . Something about that really clarified my awareness of the extent to which you only get to live one life and be one person,” Buttigieg tells Remnick. “Part of it was the exposure to danger,” he notes, but there was more to it: “I began to feel a little bit humiliated about the idea that my life could come to an end and I could be a visible public official and a grown man and a homeowner and have no idea what it was like to be in love.”
Apr 05 2019