Podcasts, Society

Podcast Picks 2018

Another year of great podcasts!

Below are a dozen new podcasts I’ve enjoyed in 2018, split equally into three common themes. Some podcasts have an open-ended structure, while others take on a single issue. I found that each podcast helped me to understand our complex world a bit better.

For more suggestions, check out my podcasts lists for 2016 and 2017.

Power Corrupts

These four podcasts show how corruption across political, economic and cultural spheres of society and, mostly, in the hands of powerful men can have tremendously bad outcomes for the rest of us.

  • Swindled from “A Concerned Citizen”
    • A true-crime podcast (and my favourite of the year) about white-collar criminals, con artists, and corporate evil. Dow Chemical, McDonald’s and Nestlé each have their part to play. From costly to deadly, Swindled puts these culprits on notice.
  • Bikram from Julia Lowrie Henderson of ESPN’s 30 for 30 Podcasts
    • This five-part series explores Bikram Choudhury’s fitness revolution, how it brought a yoga boom to America and how his guru status enabled increasingly dark behavior. No one should have all that power!
  • Slow Burn from Leon Neyfakh of Slate
    • A historic podcast that focuses on the neglected aspects of well known events. Nobody knew how Watergate was going to end. The first season of Slow Burn tells the story of what it felt like to watch a president fall.
  • Trump, Inc. from WNYC and ProPublica
    • Who’s profiting from the Trump administration and at what cost? This is the question at the heart of this ongoing investigative series, which looks at Trump’s business connections and the grey areas that his family deals in.

 

(Y)our Fanatics

These four podcasts—each a single series—look at two aspects of religious extremists: Middle Eastern and American. Together, they make us question the propaganda receive and the framing of Us vs Them.

  • Caliphate from Rukmini Callimachi of The New York Times
    • From recruiting fighters to paying the bills to when the fighting stops, each of the ten episodes helps explain the rise of the Islamic State and the challenges that lay ahead for the fighters coming from around the globe. Stunning investigative journalism!
  • The Assassination from Owen Bennett Jones of the BBC
    • A ten-part investigation into the death of Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. This series asks: what role did Pakistan’s government and intelligence service have in Bhutto’s death at the hand of a suicide bomber?
  • Bundyville from Leah Sottile of Oregon Public Broadcasting
    • A seven-part series chronicling the rise, fall and resurgence of the Bundy family, who took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon in 2016 to assert their belief that the federal government shouldn’t control any land, undergirded by radical Mormon mythology.
  • Standoff from Ruth Graham of Slate
    • Graham explores the tragedy of Ruby Ridge—when hundreds of armed federal agents surrounded a family of white separatists in 1992, leaving three people dead—that’s become a foundational myth for the modern right, and finds some frightening lessons about power and paranoia.

 

Regular Reflections

These final four podcasts try to understand modern society and current events by examining how we got us to this point.

  • Deconstructed with Mehdi Hasan of The Intercept
    • Hasan unpacks the most consequential news event of the week, while challenging the mainstream media’s tired takes. Focusing largely on American and global politics, Hasan challenges narratives from both the Left and the Right.
  • Anthropocene Reviewed with Josh Green from WNYC Studios
    • Eleven episodes and counting! Each month, Green rates two facets of the human-centered planet on a five-star scale. Cholera rates low (★) while Halley’s Comet rates high (★★★★★). Canada Geese are a bit more complicated and rate somewhere in between.
  • The Foreign Desk with ​Andrew Mueller of Monocle 24
    • The Foreign Desk is a global-affairs show, featuring​ guests ​and in-depth analysis of the big issues of the week, such as the ongoing war in Yemen and the recent election in Brazil. Their 5-minute Explainers are also a great way to get caught up on global news.
  • Alberta Advantage
    • Finally, something closer to home—a podcast about the past and present situation in Alberta, Canada. From Alberta’s farms to its big cities, Alberta Advantage provides commentary and analysis on local and provincial politics from a left perspective.
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