Rank #1: Empire State of Mind
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.
This is Part 2 of our series "On American Expansion." This episode originally aired April 5th, 2019.
Bill Frisell - Lost Night
The O’Neil Brothers - Tribute to America
Eileen Alannah - Original recording from 1908
Ali Primera - Yankee Go Home
Michael Andrews - The Artifact and Living
Michael Andrews - Liquid Spear Waltz
Matt Farley - Bird Poop Song
Rank #2: Three Years for Michael Cohen
Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer, was sentenced Wednesday to three years in prison for financial crimes and for lying to Congress. In rendering the sentence, Judge William H. Pauley said Cohen’s crimes — among them, tax evasion and campaign finance violations — were “motivated by personal greed and ambition.”
The case has implications for Trump himself; Judge Pauley noted at the sentencing that Cohen's campaign finance crimes were designed to affect the outcome of the election. But court filings from this case and from the separate case against Paul Manafort offer many, many threads to follow. In this podcast extra, we turn to our colleagues at the Trump Inc. podcast, an open investigation from a team of ProPublica and WNYC journalists. This week, they unpacked what can be learned from the sentencing memos and what remains a mystery. Also, they just won a prestigious Dupont award!
Rank #3: Everything Is Fake
On Thursday, President Trump flew down to McAllen, Texas to push his pro-wall, anti-immigrant narrative. This week, On the Media examines how the community tells a more welcoming story about the border — and a dogged presidential fact-checker joins us to pick apart the Oval Office address. Plus, how some progressives used Russian election interference tactics against a right-wing senate campaign. Also, is everything online fake?
3. Scott Shane [@ScottShaneNYT], national security reporter for the New York Times, on the Russian interference social media tactics used by some progressives in the run-up to the 2017 Alabama special senate election. Listen.
Rank #4: Introducing: The Scarlet E
Millions of rent-burdened Americans face eviction filings and proceedings every year. On this week’s On the Media, what we think we know, and what we definitely don’t know, about America’s eviction crisis. Plus, how local journalists failed the Central Park Five.
1. Jim Dwyer [@jimdwyernyt], columnist for The New York Times, on his experience reporting on the Central Park Five trial.
2. We hear the story of Jeffrey, a security guard in Richmond, Virginia whose severe rent burden caused his family to be evicted.
Rank #5: Twitch And Shout
Twitch.tv is a video streaming platform where tens of thousands people broadcast their lives and video game game-play 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 why the site draws more than 15 million viewers. 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.
Correction: The original broadcast of this hour includes the statistic that Twitch draws more viewers than HBO and Netflix. Upon request for comment, Twitch did not offer sufficient information to confirm that figure.
Rank #6: Enemy of the People
At a rally in Tampa, Florida, Trump supporters attacked CNN reporter Jim Acosta, prompting the president to double down on his anti-press "Enemy of the People" rhetoric. A look at how and why the president incites his base — and where it all might lead. And, as the regulatory battle surrounding 3D gun blueprints rages on, we dive into the worldview of Cody Wilson, the man who started the controversy. Plus, why we’re still living in the aftermath of Trayvon Martin’s killing, six years later.
2. Andy Greenberg [@a_greenberg], reporter for Wired, on the regulatory battles surrounding 3D gun blueprints. And, Cody Wilson [@Radomysisky], founder of Defense Distributed, speaking on his vision for an open source library for gun schematics. Listen.
3. Benjamin Crump [@AttorneyCrump], civil rights attorney, and Jenner Furst, one of the filmmakers behind the docu-series "Rest in Power: The Trayvon Martin Story," on Trayvon Martin's legacy. Listen.
Sacred Oracle by John Zorn (feat. Bill Frisell)String Quartet No. 5 (II) by Kronos Quartet & Philip GlassFallen Leaves by Marcos CiscarCellar Door by Michael AndrewsWalking By Flashlight by Maria SchneiderMelancolia by Marcos Ciscar
Rank #7: Full Faith & Credit
Ten autumns ago came two watershed moments in the history of money. In September 2008, the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers triggered a financial meltdown from which the world has yet to fully recover. The following month, someone using the name Satoshi Nakamoto introduced BitCoin, the first cryptocurrency. Before our eyes, the very architecture of money was evolving — potentially changing the world in the process. In this hour, On the Media looks at the story of money, from its uncertain origins to its digital reinvention in the form of cryptocurrency.
3. How cryptocurrency could shape the future of money, with MIT's Neha Narula [@neha], New York Times' Nathaniel Popper [@nathanielpopper], Vinay Gupta [@leashless] of Mattereum, Brown University's Mark Blyth [@MkBlyth] and artist Kevin Abosch [@kevinabosch]. Listen.
Rank #8: A History of Persuasion: Part 1
Infinite scrolling. Push notifications. Autoplay. Our devices and apps were designed to keep us engaged and looking for as long as possible. Now, we’ve woken up from years on social media and our phones to discover we've been manipulated by unaccountable powers using persuasive psychological tricks. But this isn’t the first time.
In this three-part series from our colleagues at The Stakes, a look at the winding story of the science of persuasion — and our collective reaction to it. In part one, a once-famous psychologist who became embroiled in controversy, and how the Unabomber tried to kill him.
We hear from:
- Larry Stern, Professor of Sociology at Collin College
- Nicklaus Suino, writer, martial arts expert, attorney and business consultant
Rank #9: What Goes Around, Comes Around?
The Kavanaugh-Ford hearings this week felt like a watershed moment — but it’s not yet clear what long-term impact they’ll have. This week, we examine some of the policies that could be affected by the Supreme Court if Kavanaugh is confirmed, including dark money disclosure and voting rights. Plus, a moment of zen during trying times.
1. Brooke on this week's Kavanaugh-Ford hearings. Listen.
3. Michelle Ye Hee Lee [@myhlee], national reporter for the Washington Post, on the recent Supreme Court action regarding the disclosure of dark money donations. Listen.
Black Coffee by Galt MacDermotMelancholia by Marcos Ciscar
Rank #10: Look Back in Anger
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.
Music in this week's show:
Rank #11: O See, Can You Say
Between the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings on Capitol Hill and an anonymous op-ed from within the Trump White House, a wave of rule-bending and -breaking has crashed on Washington. This week, we explore how political decorum and popular dissent have evolved since the early days of our republic — and how the legal protections for those core freedoms could transform our future.
1. Brooke and Bob on how best to cover the anonymous op/ed written by a "senior official in the Trump administration." Listen.
2. Geoffrey Stone, professor of law at University of Chicago, on our evolving — and occasionally faulty — interpretations of the first amendment. And, Laura Weinrib, professor of law at University of Chicago, on how early-20th century labor struggles gave birth to our modern ideas about freedom of speech. Listen.
John Renbourn - Passing TimePuck - John ZornJoeira - KurupMulatu Astatke - Tezeta
Rank #12: A History of Persuasion: Part 2
Ted Kaczynski had been a boy genius. Then he became the Unabomber. After years of searching for him, the FBI finally caught him in his remote Montana cabin, along with thousands of pages of his writing. Those pages revealed Kaczynski's hatred towards a field of psychology called "behaviorism," the key to the link between him and James McConnell.
In this episode, we hear from:
- Philip Bradley, Harvard contemporary of Ted Kaczynski
- Alston Chase, author of A Mind for Murder: The Education of the Unabomber and the Origins of Modern Terrorism
- Donald Max Noel, former FBI agent and author of UNABOMBER: How the FBI Broke Its Own Rules to Capture the Terrorist Ted Kaczynski
- Dr. Charles Seigerman, former student of James McConnell and Certified Neuropsychologist
- Greg Stejskal, former FBI agent
- Larry Stern, Professor of Sociology at Collin College
Rank #13: Make Amends
Senators are weighing serious allegations of attempted rape as they consider Judge Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, McDonald's employees in ten cities went on strike to bring attention to sexual harassment at the fast food chain. This week, we look at the ripples from the #MeToo movement and how much further they have to go.
1. Dr. Christine Blasey Ford's expected testimony against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has echoes of Anita Hill's testimony against Clarence Thomas in 1991. Kai Wright [@kai_wright] of the podcast The United States of Anxiety revisits how that moment led to a "Year of the Woman" in 1992. Listen.
2. Disgraced former radio hosts Jian Ghomeshi and John Hockenberry recently wrote essays reflecting on their lost status after #MeToo allegations. Slate's Laura Miller [@magiciansbook] discusses the serious shortcomings of those essays. Listen.
Middlesex Times by Michael AndrewsBubble Wrap by Thomas NewmanLiquid Spear Waltz by Michael AndrewsJohn’s Book of Alleged Dances by Kronos QuartetHuman Nature by Steve Porcaro, John Bettis, Vijay IyerLove Theme from Spartacus by Yusef Lateef
Rank #14: Fallout
End-of-times narratives themselves are nothing new; only the means have changed. While once a few horsemen and a river of blood were enough to signal the dusk of man, apocalypse now requires the imaginations of entire atomic laboratories — or roving squads of special effects crews. This week we look through a few recent highlights from the genre: from a 1980's made-for-TV spectacle, to a new piece of speculative fiction documenting a hypothetical nuclear conflict with North Korea.
3. Anne Washburn, playwright, on "Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play," in which she imagines American cultural life after a devastating nuclear event. Listen.
Rank #15: The Myth of Meritocracy
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.
Rank #16: The Giant Referendum On Everything
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.
2. James Graham [@mrJamesGraham], screenwriter of "Brexit," on his star-studded depiction of an urgent, present-day dispute. Listen.
Rank #17: Bad Reputation
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.
The Crave by Jelly Roll Morton
Juliet of Spirits by Nino Rota and Eugene Walter
Okami by Nicola Cruz
River Man by Brad Mehldaw Trio
Mai Nozipo by Kronos Quartet
Rank #18: Impossible!
The political press has long used the vague notion of “electability” to drive horserace coverage of presidential candidates. This week, On the Media considers how the emphasis on electability takes the focus away from the issues and turns voters into pundits. Plus, the shady dealings of the tax preparation industry, and how FOIA has been weaponized. And, how Trump duped financial journalists about his net worth in the 1980s.
1. Investigative journalist Jonathan Greenberg [@JournalistJG] on how Trump obscured his finances to wind up on the Forbes list of richest Americans — and why it mattered so much to him.
2. Dennis Ventry, professor at UC Davis School of Law, on how the tax preparation industry united to shield themselves from a publicly-funded alternative.
3. OTM producer Alana Casanova-Burgess [@AlanaLlama] speaks with Dennis Ventry, Michael Halpern [@halpsci], Eric Lipton [@EricLiptonNYT] and Claudia Polsky about a bill in California that seeks to curb the weaponization of FOIA.
4. Alex Pareene [@pareene], staff writer at The New Republic, on how the idea of "electability" has metastasized among democratic voters.
Rank #19: 40 Acres
President Trump claims to have struck a deal with Mexico to settle a dispute of his own making. On this week’s On the Media, a look at the lives of the people who stand to suffer most. Plus, how the path to America’s eviction crisis begins, in part, with the Great Migration.
2. We continue our four-part series on eviction by charting the persistent line between racist housing policies, localized profiteering and the devastating plunder of generations of wealth. Guests include Matt Desmond [@just_shelter], founder of the Eviction Lab; Natalie Moore [@natalieymoore], reporter for WBEZ; and Marty Wegbreit, director of litigation for the Central Virginia Legal Aid Society. Listen.
Rank #20: A High State of Agitation
After accusations that he mischaracterized the Mueller investigation’s findings, Attorney General William Barr blames the media for muddling the story. This week, On the Media dissects Barr’s deflections. And, how a Jewish satirist uses grotesque caricatures to cut to the heart of the discourse on antisemitism and why effectively combating hate requires building coalitions. Plus, how ABC's The View became one of the biggest political stages on television.
1. Dahlia Lithwick [@Dahlialithwick], host of the Amicus podcast and writer at Slate, on Barr's mischaracterization of the Mueller report.
3. Eli Valley [@elivalley], comic artist and satirist, on feeling gaslit by the antisemitism debate.
4. Ramin Setoodah [@RaminSetoodeh], author of Ladies Who Punch: The Explosive Inside Story of The View and the New York bureau chief for Variety, on The View's surprising role in American politics.