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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Self, Society

My Political, Economic and Religious Self-Education

“The general population doesn’t know what’s happening. And it doesn’t even know that it doesn’t know.” -Noam Chomsky


Unknown Unknowns

My politicization began roughly a decade ago and has steadily developed since then. When I moved from rural Alberta to Edmonton, I knew little to nothing about the world and how it operated. I didn’t have a political affiliation and was clueless about the fundamental differences between the Conservative and Liberal parties, whether federal or provincial. To complicate the matter, Canadian politics consists of three levels of jurisdiction: Continue reading

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Books, Documentaries, Society

The Fight to Control Women

“Recent years have seen a panic over “online red-light districts,” which supposedly seduce vulnerable young women into a life of degradation, and New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof’s live tweeting of a Cambodian brothel raid. But rarely do these fearful, salacious dispatches come from sex workers themselves, and rarely do they deviate from the position that sex workers must be rescued from their condition, and the industry simply abolished — a position common among feminists and conservatives alike.

“In Playing the Whore, journalist Melissa Gira Grant turns these pieties on their head, arguing for an overhaul in the way we think about sex work. Based on ten years of writing and reporting on the sex trade, and grounded in her experience as an organizer, advocate, and former sex worker, Playing the Whore dismantles pervasive myths about sex work, criticizes both conditions within the sex industry and its criminalization, and argues that separating sex work from the ‘legitimate’ economy only harms those who perform sexual labor. In Playing the Whore, sex workers’ demands, too long relegated to the margins, take center stage: sex work is work, and sex workers’ rights are human rights.”

– Summary of Playing the Whore from goodreads.com

Debates about prostitution tend to cover many topics, ranging from informal economics to public health, but ultimately comes down to one central element: control. Control of women. Control over women. Continue reading

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Books, Documentaries, Society

Religion as Political Scapegoat

This is not about terrorism. Terrorism is the excuse. This is about economic and social control. And the only thing you’re really protecting is the supremacy of your government.

This reflection from the 2016 docu-drama Snowden illustrates the current world we live in. A world, we’re told, filled with terrorist threats. But, are we in danger?

In his book The Muslims are coming!: Islamophobia, extremism, and the domestic war on terror, Arun Kundnani thoroughly counters the narrative of Muslim extremism found in the United States and United Kingdom. Continue reading

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Books, Society

A Critique of Sport

“Sport is war minus the shooting,” wrote George Orwell.

For a long time, I have been thinking about sport and its role in society. It can be like simulated warfare, as Orwell notes, with teams commonly attacking each other, injuries abounding. It can also seem like a religious experience, with fans idolizing players and dogmatically watching every game available.

Foul Play: What's WRONG with Sport by Joe Humphreys Icon Books, 271 pp

Foul Play: What’s Wrong with Sport
by Joe Humphreys
Icon Books, 271 pp.

It seems to be a mixed bag of the best and worst in society. Sports are found nearly everywhere and played by nearly everyone at some point in their life.

These are some of the intersections that Joe Humphreys explores in his book Foul Play: What’s Wrong With Sport. Largely based on his football fandom, Humphreys describes in six chapters the virtue and vice of sport. I found the book to be a timeless expose of a world unable to face criticism. Recent news from the world of sport, like fighting between football fans at Euro 2016 or doping at the Rio Olympics, point to the continued challenges found in competitions around the world. I will explore some of the book’s topics below. Continue reading

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