In Review

July podcast picks: online rage, taboos and obesity

Featuring Blocked and Reported, You're Wrong About, Taboo and A Thorough Examination

I’ve spent much less time on Twitter of late, and am happier as a result, said James Marriott in The Times. The problem is that I have “an odd sensation of having lost a sixth sense for what’s going on in the world”: who has been cancelled, what is now deemed immoral, what we’re all arguing about.

The nifty solution is Blocked and Reported, which offers “good-humoured, common-sense and often entertainingly exasperated” dispatches from the online culture wars.

Presented by two “liberal but woke-sceptic” US journalists, Jesse Singal and Katie Herzog, the podcast has recently covered topics such as the “hounding” of the novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for her views on trans rights; a Pride event in Seattle that charged its white guests a “reparations fee” for attendance; and an “internet pile-on” that destroyed the business of a Palestinian-American entrepreneur whose daughter posted racist tweets.

“To clamber through all this thorny territory with confidence and good humour is, I think, pretty remarkable.” And it makes me “very relieved I don’t spend so much time on Twitter nowadays”.

Cancel culture is the subject of my favourite recent episode of You’re Wrong About, said Ella Mumby in The Guardian. This terrific US podcast is educational but entertaining – each episode explores an event, phenomenon or person that the hosts, Michael Hobbes and Sarah Marshall, believe has been miscast or misunderstood in the popular imagination.

Other recent topics include the “Satanic Panic” of the 1980s and 1990s, the saga of Koko the Gorilla, and the anti-vaccine movement. The hosts are “warm and engaging”, and thorough without getting bogged down by detail. Listening to them is “like sitting in on a conversation with your smartest friends. You might not get everything, but you’ll definitely learn a lot.”

Culture wars and comedy were the subject of Taboo, an outstanding recent Radio 4 programme that’s well worth seeking out on BBC Sounds, said Charlotte Runcie in The Daily Telegraph. The smart and “fearless” presenter Kate Copstick joined a very diverse group of comedians to discuss all aspects of offence-giving and taking. The result was “one of the most thought-provoking radio comedy” shows I’ve heard for years.

Finally, I’d strongly recommend the new podcast from the TV doctors the Van Tulleken brothers, said Hannah Verdier in The GuardianA Thorough Examination with Drs Chris + Xand explores why Xand is obese but Chris isn’t, even though they’re identical twins.

It’s a question that the pair decided to confront after they both caught Covid, and Xand developed a heart condition; the twins delved back into their childhood eating patterns and more recent life stresses. The Van Tullekens tackle a complex issue sensitively, with insight and “much myth-busting”.

The Week Unwrapped: Health data, green banking and flawed maps

How will we deal with knowing so much more about our health? Should central banks seek to fight climate change? And is Google Maps leading us astray? The Week team delve behind the headlines and debate what really matters from the past seven days.

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