Throughline The past is never past. Every headline has a history. Join us every week as we go back in time to understand the present. These are stories you can feel and sounds you can see from the moments that shaped our world.

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The past is never past. Every headline has a history. Join us every week as we go back in time to understand the present. These are stories you can feel and sounds you can see from the moments that shaped our world.

Subscribe to Throughline+. You'll be supporting the history-reframing, perspective-shifting, time-warping stories you can't get enough of - and you'll unlock access to our sponsor-free feed of the show. Learn more at plus.npr.org/throughline

Most Recent Episodes

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Editing Reality

We live in divided times, when the answer to the question 'what is reality?' depends on who you ask. Almost all the information we take in is to some extent edited and curated, and the line between entertainment and reality has become increasingly blurred. Nowhere is that more obvious than the world of reality television. The genre feeds off our most potent feelings – love, hope, anxiety, loneliness – and turns them into profit... and presidents. So in this episode, we're going to filter three themes of our modern world through the lens of reality TV: dating, the American dream, and the rage machine.

Editing Reality

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This photo taken on June 2, 2019 shows a facility believed to be a re-education camp where mostly Muslim ethnic minorities are detained, in Artux, north of Kashgar in China's western Xinjiang region. GREG BAKER/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

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GREG BAKER/AFP via Getty Images

Five Fingers Crush the Land (2021)

Over one million Uyghur people have been detained in camps in China, according to estimates, subjected to torture, forced labor, religious restrictions, and even forced sterilization. Last month, the United Nations released a report saying that China's treatment of Uyghurs could be considered "crimes against humanity." The vast majority of this minority ethnic group is Muslim, living for centuries at a crossroads of culture and empire along what was once the Silk Road. This week, we explore who the Uyghur people are, their land, their customs, their music and why they've become the target of what many are calling a genocide.

Five Fingers Crush the Land (2021)

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'Sesame Street' hosts Matt Robinson (Gordon), Will Lee (Mr. Hooper) Loretta Long (Susan) and Bob McGrath (Bob) stand with Big Bird on set, circa 1969. Hulton Archive/Children's Television Workshop/Getty Images hide caption

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Hulton Archive/Children's Television Workshop/Getty Images

Getting to Sesame Street

In American history, schools have not just been places to learn the ABCs – they're places where socialization happens and cultural norms are developed. Arguments over how and what those norms are and how they're communicated tend to flare up during moments of cultural anxiety. Sesame Street was part of a larger movement in the late 1960s to reach lower income, less privileged and more "urban" audiences. It was part of LBJ's Great Society agenda. But Sesame Street is a TV show - not a classroom. And it was funded in part by taxpayer dollars. This story is about how a television show made to represent New York City neighborhoods – like Harlem and the Bronx – has sustained its mark in educating children in a divided country.

Getting to Sesame Street

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Kwak Sin-ae, Bong Joon-ho, cast and crew of Parasite at the 92nd Oscars in February, 2020. Eric McCandless/Eric McCandless via Getty Images hide caption

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Eric McCandless/Eric McCandless via Getty Images

How Korean Culture Went Global

From BTS to Squid Game to high-end beauty standards, South Korea reigns as a global exporter of pop culture and entertainment. How does a country go from a war-decimated state just 70 years ago, to a major driver of global soft power? Through war, occupation, economic crisis, and national strategy, comes a global phenomenon - the Korean wave.

How Korean Culture Went Global

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Library of Congress

American Socialist (2020)

It's been over a century since a self-described socialist was a viable candidate for president of the United States. And that first socialist candidate, Eugene V. Debs, didn't just capture significant votes, he created a new and enduring populist politics deep in the American grain. This week, the story of Eugene V. Debs and the creation of American socialism.

American Socialist (2020)

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Hokyoung Kim

Drone Wars (2021)

Unseen, they stalk their targets from thousands of feet in the air. Operators are piloting them from military bases halfway across the world. At any moment, they could launch a strike that comes without warning. The attack drone was supposed to be a symbol of the era of precision warfare — a way to wage wars with fewer casualties on both sides. It's a technology that's been honed since it was first dreamed up during World War 1. But are drones actually precise enough? Do drones desensitize us to the casualties of civilians caught between us and our enemies? In this episode, we will explore the past, present and future of drone warfare.

Drone Wars (2021)

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Isabel Seliger

Afghanistan: The Rise of the Taliban (2021)

How did a small group of Islamic students go from local vigilantes to one of the most infamous and enigmatic forces in the world? The Taliban is a name that has haunted the American imagination since 2001. The scenes of the group's brutality repeatedly played in the Western media, while true, perhaps obscure our ability to see the complex origins of the Taliban and how they impact the lives of Afghans. It's a shadow that reaches across the vast ancient Afghan homeland, the reputation of the modern state, and throughout global politics. At the end of the US war in Afghanistan we go back to the end of the Soviet Occupation and the start of the Afghan civil war to look at the rise of the Taliban.

Afghanistan: The Rise of the Taliban (2021)

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Isabel Seliger for NPR Isabel Seliger/Isabel Seliger for NPR hide caption

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Isabel Seliger/Isabel Seliger for NPR

Afghanistan: The Center of the World (2021)

Afghanistan has, for centuries, been at the center of the world. Long before the U.S. invasion — before the U.S. was even a nation — countless civilizations intersected there, weaving together a colorful tapestry of foods, languages, ethnicities and visions of what Afghanistan was and could be. The story of Afghanistan is too often told from the perspective of outsiders who tried to invade it (and always failed) earning it the nickname "Graveyard of Empires." In this episode, we're shifting the perspective. We'll journey through the centuries alongside Afghan mystical poets. We'll turn the radio dial to hear songs of love and liberation. We'll meet the queen who built the first primary school for girls in the country. And we'll take a closer look at Afghanistan's centuries-long experiment to create a unified nation.

Afghanistan: The Center of the World (2021)

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The Mystery of Inflation

Gas. Meat. Flights. Houses. The price of things have gone up by as much as nine percent since last year. The same amount of money gets you less stuff. It's inflation: a concept that's easy to feel but hard to understand. Its causes are complex, but it isn't some kind of naturally-occurring phenomenon — and neither are the ways in which governments try to fight it.

The Mystery of Inflation

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A painting by artist Sidney King depicting a Dutch ship with 20 enslaved African people arriving at Point Comfort, VA in 1619, marking the beginning of slavery in America. ASSOCIATED PRESS hide caption

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

Nikole Hannah-Jones and the Country We Have (2021)

Is history always political? Who gets to decide? What happens when you challenge common narratives? In this episode, Throughline's Rund Abdelfatah and Ramtin Arablouei explore these questions with Nikole Hannah-Jones, an investigative journalist at the New York Times and the creator of the 1619 Project.

Nikole Hannah-Jones and the Country We Have (2021)

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