Following Hurricane Maria's landfall on Wednesday morning, we have only scarce images and reports from which to comprehend the scale of devastation in Puerto Rico right now. Perhaps due to disaster fatigue, perhaps due to the territory's second-class status, the media coverage has been perfunctory. While the coverage to date has focused on the flooding and widespread power outages on the ravaged island, Rutgers professor Yarimar Bonilla says there's an important context to the problems with the electric grid. She and Bob discuss how the damage from Maria is related to the debt crisis, and how it may provide an excuse to justify another wave of privatization on the island.
"Free Speech Week" Puts Berkeley Back in the Crosshairs
Alt-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos recently released a list of speakers for his upcoming "Free Speech Week" at University of California Berkeley, a four-day event featuring Steve Bannon, Ann Coulter, and a host of other conservative voices. Yet, according to Berkeley officials, the Berkeley Patriot, the on-campus student publication that invited Yiannopoulos in the first place, has flubbed basic logistical planning and put "Free Speech Week" in jeopardy. And if it falls apart, says historian Angus Johnston, then it will look like Berkeley had planned to censor the event all along. He and Brooke speak about why news consumers should focus less on the issue of campus free speech and more on Yiannopoulos's PR strategy.
"Free Speech Week" Puts Berkeley Back in the Crosshairs
A week after President Trump cut a surprise deal with Democrats, and 100 years after it was created, is the debt ceiling still serving its intended purpose? Plus, inside the alt-right idolization of Taylor Swift and medieval history and how some are trying to fight back. Finally, a new book argues that we may need less technology, even--or especially--if it means we become more bored. 1. Zachary Karabell, author of "The Leading Indicators: A Short History of the Numbers that Rule Our World," discusses the debt ceiling's history and frequent use as political football. 2. Mitchell Sunderland, Senior Staff Writer at Vice, on Taylor Swift's fascist following. 2. Historian David M. Perry on how medieval historians should respond to white supremacist affection for their field. 4. Manoush Zomorodi, host of the WNYC's Note to Self, on her new book, "Bored and Brilliant," and the dire need to disengage from technology.
The Counter-Jihad Movement & the Making of a President
President George W. Bush, speaking at a mosque on Sept. 17, 2001: "The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That's not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace." Donald Trump, campaigning for president on March 9, 2016: "I think Islam hates us." David Yerushalmi was living in an Israeli settlement near Jerusalem speaking on the phone with his father when the planes hit the towers on Sept. 11, 2001. "We got it wrong," Yerushalmi remembers telling his father. Before Sept. 11th, Yerushalmi thought terrorism was about nationalism, a fight over land. Afterward, he decided terrorism committed by Muslim extremists was driven by Islam itself — and underpinned by Islamic Shariah law. Pamela Geller and David Yerulshami (Pamela Geller) So he packed up his family and moved to New York to become part of a fledgling community of conservatives who would come to be known as counter-jihadists. They had an uphill battle to fight: In the aftermath of Sept. 11, President Bush and most Americans, according to polls, did not equate Islam with terrorism. But 16 years later, even though there hasn't been another large-scale terrorist attack on American soil committed by a Muslim, America's perspective on Islam has changed — evidenced most notably by the election of a president who believes the religion itself hates the country. Yerushalmi is a big reason for this change of heart. He's a behind-the-scenes leader of the counter-jihad movement, filing lawsuits pushing back against the encroachment of Islam in the public sphere and crafting a series of anti-Sharia laws that Muslims and civil rights groups decry as Islamophobic. "Do I think that the United States is weak enough to collapse either from a kinetic Jihad, meaning war, or even a civilizational Jihad that the Muslim Brotherhood talks about? No. At least not in my lifetime. But do I think it's an existential threat that allows for sleeper cells and the Internet-grown Jihadist that we see day in and day out wreaking so much havoc here and in Europe? Yes. Do I see it as a threat to our freedoms and liberties incrementally through their so-called civilizational Jihad where they use our laws and our freedoms to undermine our laws and our freedoms? Absolutely." WNYC reporter Matt Katz speaks to Yerulshami about what he thinks is the creeping threat of Sharia law for the podcast "The United States of Anxiety" produced by New York Public Radio.
The Counter-Jihad Movement & the Making of a President
The Trump administration has announced the end of the DACA program. We examine the rhetoric used to justify the decision. Plus: the Southern Poverty Law Center faces questions from across the political spectrum about its messaging and fundraising; and the surprising history of FEMA's Cold War origins and what it means for emergency response today. 1. Mark Joseph Stern [@mjs_DC] of Slate dissects the rhetoric used by the Trump administration to justify ending the DACA program. 2. Peter Beinart [@PeterBeinart] of The Atlantic on how Democrats frame immigration and what gets ignored in the discussion. 3. The Southern Poverty Law Center has faced criticism from the left and the right. Ben Schreckinger [@SchreckReports] of Politico breaks down concerns surrounding the group's messaging and fundraising. Then, SPLC President Richard Cohen [@splcenter] responds to the criticism and rebuts recent, dubious accusations from right-leaning media outlets. 4. Garrett Graff [@vermontgmg] wrote about "The Secret History of FEMA" for Wired this week. He explains FEMA's origins as a Cold War civil defense agency and how its mission has evolved.
Hurricane Harvey makes landfall, bringing with it a familiar set of reporting tropes. We unpack the language of storm reporting and why it falls short, and why these disasters expose a society's priorities. Plus: why there's no such thing as a "natural" disaster; and a conservative commentator on what would really bring a "breaking point" to Trump's relationship with Republicans. 1. Neena Satija of The Texas Tribune and Reveal discusses last year's investigative report, "Boomtown, Flood Town," about Houston's risk for flooding. 2. The American Storm Edition of the Breaking News Consumer's Handbook, with: Robert Holmes, national flood hazard specialist and coordinator for the U.S.G.S.; risk communication consultant Gina Eosco; and disaster historian Scott Knowles. 3. One of the most widely misreported stories of Hurricane Katrina involved deaths at St. Rita's nursing home in a New Orleans suburb. James Cobb, their lawyer, talked to Brooke about media scapegoating in disasters. 4. Noah Rothman of Commentary Magazine on why the Republican party isn't distancing itself more from President Trump.
For the month of August, we've been running a series of interviews Bob has done with documentary filmmakers. We've been calling it "Bob's Docs," and each we've week we've gone through some of the themes of documentary filmmaking — from the personal journey to the gift of extraordinary access. We have one more bonus episode of "Bob's Docs," and this one is about what happens when documentaries dig into conflicting narratives. In 1977, a former beauty queen with a 168 IQ named Joyce McKinney became British tabloid fodder when she supposedly kidnapped her Mormon boyfriend at gunpoint and, for four days, kept him as her sex slave. Documentary filmmaker Errol Morris' 2011 documentary Tabloid looked into the claims and the tabloid coverage. Brooke spoke with Morris six years ago about what he learned about sensational reporting and the trouble of getting to the bottom of a he-said, she-said.
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.
This episode features two interviews, and the first is actually a guest spot from Brooke Gladstone. Last year, Brooke spoke with James Solomon about his documentary, "The Witness", about the story of Kitty Genovese — a young woman who was famously murdered on a New York City street in 1964. Her murder came to symbolize urban apathy and the "bystander effect". Solomon documents Kitty's brother Bill Genovese's lengthy pursuit to discover the truth behind her life and murder.
In the 1960s, pollution was a visible, visceral problem, and public pressure led a Republican president to create the Environmental Protection Agency. Now, the GOP wants to slash the agency's budget and roll back "burdensome" environmental regulations. The story of how the environment went from bipartisan issue to political battleground. Also, journalists and politicians have long avoided drawing a straight line between natural disasters and climate change. How that's changing, thanks to new "extreme weather attribution" science. And, the myth of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a useful — yet misleading — container for our collective anxieties about the planet. 1. Sinclair Broadcasting is poised to expand to more households. Felix Gillette of Bloomberg discusses the company's frugal — and right-wing — approach to local news. 2. Richard Andrews, Professor Emeritus of Environmental Policy at UNC Chapel Hill, and William Ruckelshaus, former EPA administrator, help us understand the history of the EPA and how the environment became a political battleground. 3. Heidi Cullen, chief scientist at Climate Central, explains how climate attribution science can help us better describe global warming's role in extreme weather events. 4. Slate columnist Dan Engber explores how the idea of a great garbage patch in the Pacific has helped us make sense of a changing climate that can be hard to visualize.