Rank #1: Fire With Fire
When it comes to fighting fire with fire, common knowledge would have us leave the pyrotechnics to the trained professionals. This week, though, we take a look at those taking matters into their own hands, no matter the heat. With far-right internet trolls publishing the phone numbers and addresses of their "antifa" enemies, leftists are weighing the merits of returning the favor. CNN gets caught up in the frenetic energy of the Twitter presidency and the Russia investigations — and completely misfires. Plus, how Detroit's "chief storyteller" plans to counter incomplete narratives with more genuine — and government-funded — stories of his own. 1. Brooke on Fox News's and congressional Republicans' recent attacks on the FBI and special counsel Robert Mueller. 2. Glenn Greenwald [@ggreenwald], editor at The Intercept, on CNN's mistaken reporting on Wikileaks and Donald Trump, Jr. last week, and the media's seeming frenzy to get the goods on President Trump. 3. Bob examines the ethics of doxxing with Decca Muldowney [@deccamuldowney], reporter at ProPublica, Elie Mystal [@ElieNYC], legal editor for WNYC's More Perfect, and Jessica Nocero, non-profit healthcare administrator and antifa militant. 4. Aaron Foley [@aaronkfoley], Detroit's Chief Storyteller, on his new responsibility to transform his city's narrative. 5. Sara Fishko [@FishkoFiles], host of WNYC's Fishko Files, looks back on a time in film history when lies and misdirection were a forgivable delight.
Rank #2: The Feelings Show
Father Time — his 2017 sash bloodied and muddied, no doubt — will soon hand off the baton to Baby New Year and, like the reluctant old fellow reaching the end of his tenure, we have some feelings about it. It's been a weird one, and we're obviously not holding our breaths hoping for a respite in the next calendar year. So in anticipation of emotions of all kinds, we present The Feelings Show: three interviews from that past that helped us deal with, you know — things. 1. Rebecca Solnit, writer and historian, on her impatience with despair and her insistence that the future is unknowable — and therefore full of potential. 2. Robert Wright [@robertwrighter], writer and theologian, on how adopting basic mindfulness techniques could improve our lives and help us avoid outrage fatigue. 3. Jad Abumrad [@JadAbumrad], host of WNYC's Radiolab, and Eugene Thacker, professor of media studies at The New School, on nihilism's powerful grip on our culture.
Rank #3: Blame It On The Alcohol
This week, we devote an entire hour to what one important scholar deemed “the cause of and solution to all of life’s problems.” From its earliest role as a source of nourishment to its depictions in ancient literature, we examine the roots of mankind’s everlasting drinking problems. Plus, how a bizarre 60 Minutes piece spread the idea that red wine has medicinal effects. Then, a look at how popular culture has incorrectly framed Alcoholics Anonymous as the best and only option for addiction recovery. And, a scientist cooks up a synthetic substitute for booze. 1. Iain Gately, author of Drink: A Cultural History of Alcohol, on the ancient origins of our core beliefs about booze. Listen. 2. Robert Taylor, assistant managing editor at Wine Spectator, on red wine's constantly changing reputation as a healthy substance. Listen. 3. Gabrielle Glaser [@GabrielleGlaser], author of Her Best-Kept Secret: Why Women Drink - And How They Can Regain Control, on the history and P.R. methods of Alcoholics Anonymous. Listen. 4. David Nutt [@ProfDavidNutt], psychologist at Imperial College London, on his new alcohol substitute, "alcosynth." Listen. Songs: When I Get Low I Get High by Ella Fitzgerald Tomorrow Never Knows by Quartetto D/Archi Dell'Orchestra Sinfonica Di Milano Il Casanova Di Federico Fellini by Solisti E Orchestre Del Cinema Italiano Option with Variations by Kronos Quartet/composer Rhiannon Giddens
Rank #4: Face the Racist Nation
For the past year, Lois Beckett [@loisbeckett], senior reporter at The Guardian US, has been showing up at white nationalist rallies, taking their pictures, writing down what they say. And she finds herself thinking: How did we get here? How did her beat as a political reporter come to include interviewing Nazis? And what are the consequences of giving these groups this much coverage? In this week's program — the culmination of a months-long collaboration between On the Media and The Guardian US — we take a deep dive into what the news media often get wrong about white supremacists, and what those errors expose about the broader challenge of confronting racism in America. 1. Elle Reeve [@elspethreeve], correspondent for VICE News, Anna Merlan [@annamerlan], reporter for Gizmodo Media’s special projects desk, Vegas Tenold [@Vegastenold], journalist and author of Everything You Love Will Burn, and Al Letson [@Al_Letson], host of Reveal, from The Center for Investigative Reporting, on the pitfalls and perils of covering white supremacist groups. 2. Felix Harcourt [@FelixHistory], professor of history at Austin College and author of "Ku Klux Kulture," on the history of the Ku Klux Klan in the press in the 1920s. 3. Anna Merlan, Elle Reeve, Al Letson, Gary Younge [@garyyounge], editor-at-large for The Guardian, and Josh Harkinson [@joshharkinson], former senior writer at Mother Jones, on how individual identity impacts reporting on discriminatory movements. 4. Ibram X. Kendi [@DrIbram], professor of history and international relations at American University and author of "Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America," on the enduring myths surrounding the perpetuation of racist ideas and whose interests these misconceptions serve. One crucial question during the Trump presidency has been whether racist rhetoric has influenced public policy. And so we put together a quiz! Is it just a germ of a garbage idea? Or is it wriggling its way into our laws? And if you're really hoping to lose faith in our historical figures, you're in luck — we made a second quiz! Who said it: An elder statesman? Or a reviled white supremacist?
Rank #5: The Worst Thing We've Ever Done
After World War II, Germany and the Allied powers took pains to make sure that its citizens would never forget the country’s dark history. But in America, much of our past remains hidden or rewritten. This week, Brooke visits Montgomery, Alabama, home to The Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, a new museum and memorial created by the Equal Justice Initiative that aim to bring America’s history of segregation and racial terror to the forefront. 1. Brooke talks to the Equal Justice Initiative's [@eji_org] Bryan Stevenson about what inspired him to create The Legacy Museum and memorial and to historian Sir Richard Evans [@RichardEvans36] about the denazification process in Germany after World War II. Listen. 2. Brooke visits The Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and Justice. Listen. 3. Brooke speaks again with Bryan Stevenson about his own history and America's ongoing struggle to confront our racist past and present. Listen. This episode originally aired on June 1st, 2018. It was re-broadcast on December 28, 2018.
Rank #6: Polite Oppression
Following a string of landmark Supreme Court rulings and a surprise retirement, this week On the Media examines the conservative culture on the bench and wonders what we can expect from the court going forward. Plus, is civility really dead or only sleeping? And what is the view from small-town America? 1. Adam Serwer [@AdamSerwer], senior editor at The Atlantic, on the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the Trump administration's travel ban decision. Listen. 2. Teresa Bejan [@tmbejan], professor of political theory at the University of Oxford, on the historical origins of our "crisis of civility." Listen. 3. Keith Bybee, professor of judiciary studies at Syracuse University, on the oft-repeated deaths of American civility — and how notions of civility can be a tool of oppression. Listen. 4. Deborah Fallows, author and linguist, and James Fallows [@JamesFallows], national correspondent at The Atlantic, on the societies thriving outside the media lens. Listen.
Rank #7: Power Trip
From Capitol Hill to the workplace to the darkest corners of the internet, it can feel like our world is increasingly being manipulated by threats and intimidation. This week we look at the role of bullies in our lives and how we should and shouldn’t respond. Plus, as the GOP tax bill moves through Congress, a look back at the historical struggle over taxation in America. And finally, the story of an MSNBC contributor fired and rehired within the past two weeks and the far-right troll who was responsible. 1. Brooke on WNYC's own revelations of sexual misconduct and bullying and Dahlia Lithwick [@Dahlialithwick], writer for Slate and host of the Amicus podcast, on the potential danger for Democrats when they take the "moral high ground" on sexual misconduct. 2. Molly Michelmore [@MollyMichelmore], historian at Washington & Lee University, on the history and evolution of political rhetoric surrounding American tax policy. 3. Sam Seder [@SamSeder], MSNBC contributor and host of the Majority Report podcast, on his temporary firing from the network, and Mike Cernovich, "mens-rights" activist and far-right conspiracy theorist, on his reasons for trolling MSNBC—that is, until he hung up on us. 4. Emily Bazelon [@emilybazelon], staff writer for the New York Times Magazine, on what schoolyard dynamics can teach us about adult bullies and how to confront them.
Rank #8: "Shmashmortion"
The surprising political history of abortion in America; how the language of the abortion debate impacts us all; state lawmakers are tightening the rules around how doctors communicate with their patients about abortion; and more. 1. Jill Lepore, staff writer at the New Yorker and professor of American history at Harvard, on how the American debate about abortion became so politicized. 2. Sherri Chessen, former star of the 1960s hit children's show Romper Room, on the story of her own abortion and the media firestorm that surrounded it. 3. WNYC's Mary Harris [@marysdesk] with Utah-based OB-GYN Dr. Leah Torres [@LeahNTorres] and others on the state rules that determine what medical professionals can and can't say to patients seeking abortions. 4. Sociologist Dorothy Roberts [@DorothyERoberts] on how the term "pro-choice" has limited the abortion rights movement and created problems for those looking to advance women's health.
Rank #9: More Human Than Human
The news has been awash in reports of the rising death tolls for the Las Vegas shooting and the ongoing devastation in Puerto Rico. This week, why the media's emphasis on the numbers distorts our understanding of tragedies. Also, a case for using the word "terrorism" more cautiously; what we get wrong when we make assumptions about country music; and a look what it means to be human in the context of Blade Runner. 1. Bob ruminates on the media's knee-jerk attempts to quantify a crisis. And Omaya Sosa Pascual, a journalist with the Center for Investigative Journalism in Puerto Rico, discusses the scale of devastation on the island. 2. New Yorker columnist Masha Gessen explains why the media should apply the term "terrorism" with care. 3. Buzzfeed News's world correspondent J. Lester Feder on how country music went conservative. 4. Historian Nadine Hubbs examines generic assumptions about country music, and how they betray an underlying discomfort with the working class in America. 5. Historian Alison Landsberg speaks with Brooke about Blade Runner and human memory.
Rank #10: Outrage Machine
The book that took D.C. by storm; evaluating our first year under President Trump; the story of the Pentagon Papers, from someone who helped write them; and the latest scholarly research on "fake news" — that is, using the original, vintage meaning of the term. Plus, a live report from the Fake News Awards. 1. Michael Wolff [@MichaelWolffNYC], columnist and author, on his latest book Fire & Fury and the dysfunctional Trump White House from whence it came. 2. Masha Gessen [@mashagessen], journalist and The New Yorker contributor, on her rules for surviving autocracies, one year into the Trump presidency. 3. Les Gelb, former columnist and former Defense Department official, on his experience leading the team that wrote the Pentagon Papers, subject of the new Hollywood drama, "The Post." 4. Brendan Nyhan [@BrendanNyhan], professor of government at Dartmouth College, on his latest research on fake news consumption in 2016. 5. Bob Garfield [@Bobosphere], OTM's glamour correspondent, reports live from the red carpet at the 2017 Fake News Awards and, folks, the stars are as stunning as the stories are shoddy.
Rank #11: This American War on Drugs
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has signaled that he'd like to revamp the war on drugs. We take a look at the history of the battle, and how sensational media depictions of crack, heroin, and meth have helped fuel it. Plus: our Breaking News Consumer’s Handbook: Drugs Edition. Then, a look at how America’s first drug czar used racist propaganda to outlaw marijuana. And why the debate between treatment and law enforcement is blurrier than you might think. 1. Our Breaking News Consumer's Handbook: Drugs Edition: a critical look at what the press gets wrong about drugs and drug addiction, featuring Dr. Debbie Dowell of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Carl Hart of Columbia University, and author Maia Szalavitz. 2. Historian Alexandra Chasin and author Johann Hari tell the story of Harry Anslinger, the man who set our seeming eternal drug war in motion, and his ruthless pursuit of jazz singer Billie Holiday. 3. University of California Santa Cruz's Dr. Craig Reinarman examines how American presidents encouraged and harnessed hysteria around drugs for political gain. 4. Journalist Sam Quinones argues for the importance of aggressive policing in the effort to end America's opioid crisis.
Rank #12: This Is America
Today, more than 45 million Americans live in poverty. The problem has been addressed countless times since the nation’s founding, but it persists, and for the poorest among us, it gets worse. America has not been able to find its way to a sustainable solution, because most of its citizens see the problem of poverty from a distance, through a distorted lens. So in 2016 we presented "Busted: America's Poverty Myths," a series exploring how our understanding of poverty is shaped not by facts, but by private presumptions, media narratives, and the tales of the American Dream. This week we're revisiting part of that series. 1. Matthew Desmond [@just_shelter], author of Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, on the myriad factors that perpetuate wealth inequality and Jack Frech [@FrechJack], former Athens County Ohio Welfare Director, on how the media's short attention span for inequality coverage stymies our discourse around poverty. Listen. 2. Jill Lepore, historian and staff writer for the New Yorker, on the long history of America's beloved "rag to riches" narrative and Natasha Boyer, a Ohio woman whose eviction was initially prevented thanks to a generous surprise from strangers, on the reality of living in poverty and the limitations of "random acts of kindness." Listen. 3. Brooke considers the myth of meritocracy and how it obscures the reality: that one's economic success is more due to luck than motivation. Listen. “Busted: America’s Poverty Myths” is produced by Meara Sharma and Eve Claxton, with special thanks to Nina Chaudry. This series is produced in collaboration with WNET in New York as part of “Chasing the Dream: Poverty and Opportunity in America.” Major funding for “Chasing the Dream” is provided by the JPB Foundation, with additional funding from the Ford Foundation.
Rank #13: Technical Foul
Rudy Giuliani has been warning the press that the president may not testify in the Russia investigation, but Trump has signaled otherwise. This week, we untangle the White House’s mixed-up messaging on the Russia investigation. Plus, after reports that companies like Amazon and Google are seeking, or have received, massive contracts with the Pentagon, we take a look at the internet’s forgotten military origins. And, a new book re-imagines major moments in athletics history. 1. Dahlia Lithwick [@Dahlialithwick], legal correspondent at Slate, on Giuliani's claim of a Mueller "perjury trap." Listen. 2. Kate Conger [@kateconger], senior reporter at Gizmodo, on partnerships between tech titans and the US military. Listen. 3. Yasha Levine [@yashalevine], investigative journalist, on the internet's forgotten military origins. Listen. 4. Mike Pesca [@pescami], host of Slate's The Gist, on his new book, Upon Further Review: The Greatest What-Ifs in Sports History. Listen.
Rank #14: Losing Power
The President is once again threatening the press, but it's unclear whether he will be able to follow through. A look at which threats to the First Amendment we should be taking seriously. Also, looking beyond the "adults in the room" trope; reporting on the worsening situation in Puerto Rico; the role of gossip and whisper networks in protecting women; and the story of one of the original godfathers of gossip. 1. David Snyder, executive director of the First Amendment Coalition, on threats to the First Amendment under the Trump Administration. 2. James Mann, author of "Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush's War Cabinet," on why we should be wary of the military personnel who are increasingly in charge of our government. 3. David Begnaud, CBS news correspondent, on the work of covering Puerto Rico and the deteriorating situation on the ground. 4. Anne Helen Petersen, Buzzfeed senior culture writer, on the history of gossip and its essential role in the saga of Harvey Weinstein. 5. Neal Gabler, author of "Winchell: Gossip, Power and the Culture of Celebrity" on the story of Walter Winchell, one of the godfathers of gossip journalism.
Rank #15: 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. 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. 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: Enrico Pieranunzi: Fellini's WaltzAngelo Badalamenti: Audrey's DanceJohn Zorn: The Hammer of LosStonemason’s MarchThe Kiboomers: German Lullaby
Rank #16: 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. 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 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. 3. Jad Abumrad [@JadAbumrad] of Radiolab and VP Gloves, a homeless Twitch streamer, on the murky ethics of Twitch's IRL (in real life) section. 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 #17: The Reckoning
As allegations of sexual misconduct continue to dominate the news, a look at how we are dealing with high-profile offenders and who is being ignored. Plus, a critical reexamination of Bill Clinton's reputation, the difficulty of processing good art made by bad people, and how to brace ourselves for the potential backlash. 1. Rebecca Traister [@rtraister], writer-at-large for New York Magazine, on how sexual harassment stories at the national level resonate with our own familiar relationships to power and gender. 2. Michelle Goldberg [@michelleinbklyn], columnist for The New York Times, on the claims of sexual misconduct made against Bill Clinton. 3. Sarah Smarsh [@Sarah_Smarsh], writer and reporter, on the sexual harassment accusations that won't make the news, especially those of the working poor. 4. Lily Loofbourow [@Millicentsomer], culture critic for The Week, on preparing for a public backlash against the post-Weinstein moment. 5. Kathryn VanArendonk [@kvanaren], TV critic for Vulture, on how to parse the fraught relationship between artists and their art, particularly when those artists are accused of violence or abuse.
Rank #18: Trump Inc.
Back in January last year, Donald Trump, newly elected, not yet sworn in, tried to quell concerns about his many conflicts of interest by declaring he would turn over the day-to-day running of his company to his sons. Did he follow through on that? Has he leveraged the presidency to enrich himself? Who are his partners? Who does he take money from? Trump has rejected the advice of ethics experts to divest himself from his enterprises. He’s also refused to release details about his finances (including, of course, his tax records). Our colleagues in the WNYC newsroom. Ilya Marritz and Andrea Bernstein together with Pro Publica’s Eric Umansky, experienced investigative journalists all, were researching these questions when they slammed into a wall: The documents with the answers were not available. Their solution? A new weekly podcast of course, called: Trump Inc. They’re calling it an “open investigation” because they’ll be laying out what they know and what they don’t. And they’re inviting everyone — fellow reports, experts, tipsters and listeners — to join them in the quest for answers. Check out the website...and listen to the podcast.
Rank #19: Blame It On The Alcohol
This week, we devote an entire hour to what one important scholar deemed “the cause of and solution to all of life’s problems.” From its earliest role as a source of nourishment to its depictions in ancient literature, we examine the roots of mankind’s everlasting drinking problems. Plus, how a bizarre 60 Minutes piece spread the idea that red wine has medicinal effects. Then, a look at how popular culture has incorrectly framed Alcoholics Anonymous as the best and only option for addiction recovery. And, a scientist cooks up a synthetic substitute for booze. 1. Iain Gately, author of Drink: A Cultural History of Alcohol, on the ancient origins of our core beliefs about booze. 2. Robert Taylor, assistant managing editor at Wine Spectator, on red wine's constantly changing reputation as a healthy substance. 3. Gabrielle Glaser [@GabrielleGlaser], author of Her Best-Kept Secret: Why Women Drink - And How They Can Regain Control, on the history and P.R. methods of Alcoholics Anonymous. 4. David Nutt [@ProfDavidNutt], psychologist at Imperial College London, on his new alcohol substitute, "alcosynth." Songs: When I Get Low I Get High by Ella Fitzgerald Tomorrow Never Knows by Quartetto D/Archi Dell'Orchestra Sinfonica Di Milano Il Casanova Di Federico Fellini by Solisti E Orchestre Del Cinema Italiano Option with Variations by Kronos Quartet/composer Rhiannon Giddens
Rank #20: Devil in the Details
This week, we dive headfirst into the uncomfortable and the untrue — on the international stage, in the White House, and in your local newspaper. How claims from Immigration and Customs Enforcement [ICE] press releases sometimes end up, almost verbatim, in local reporting on deportations; why a New York City immigration advocate's history muddies the waters around his advocacy; what Poland's new Holocaust law really means for the country; and how personal stakes can shape our understanding of the plight of the Rohingya in Myanmar. Featuring: 1. Bob, on the Trump White House getting caught up in lies once again. 2. Gaby Del Valle [@gabydvj], staff writer for The Outline, on how ICE press releases make their way into local news reporting. 3. Errol Louis [@errollouis], host of Inside City Hall on NY1, on the press's coverage of immigration advocate Ravi Ragbir. 4. Geneviève Zubrzycki, sociology professor at the University of Michigan, on Poland's new law regarding the Holocaust. 5. Hannah Beech [@hkbeech], Southeast Asia Bureau Chief for the New York Times, on her experience reporting on the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar. Songs: The Street by Elmer Bernstein Susan the Stage by Chico Hamilton III. White Man Sleeps by Kronos Quartet Totem Ancestor by Kronos Quartet Slow Pulse Conga by William Pasley The Glass House - Mitra's Sadness by David Bergeaud