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The New Yorker Radio Hour


Profiles, storytelling and insightful conversations, hosted by David Remnick.


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Profiles, storytelling and insightful conversations, hosted by David Remnick.



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Love Is Blind, and Allegedly Toxic

On the reality-TV dating show “Love Is Blind,” the most watched original series in Netflix history, contestants are alone in windowless, octagonal pods with no access to their phones or the Internet. They talk to each other through the walls. There’s intrigue, romance, heartbreak, and, in some cases, sight-unseen engagements. According to several lawsuits, there’s also lack of sleep, lack of food and water, twenty-hour work days, and alleged physical and emotional abuse. New Yorker staff writer Emily Nussbaum has been reporting on what these lawsuits reveal about the culture on the set of “Love Is Blind,” and a push for a new union to give reality-TV stars employee protections and rights. “The people who are on reality shows are a vulnerable class of people who are mistreated by the industry in ways that are made invisible to people, including to fans who love the shows,” Nussbaum tells David Remnick. Nussbaum’s forthcoming book is “Cue the Sun! The Invention of Reality TV.”


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Miranda July’s New Novel Takes on Marriage, Desire, and Perimenopause

Some time in her forties, something shifted in Miranda July. She started having “this new, grim feeling about the future, which was weird, because I’m, like, a very excited, hopeful person,” she tells New Yorker staff writer Alexandra Schwartz, who recently profiled July for the magazine. July attributes some of that “feeling” to the disparity between all the information there was about her reproductive years, and how little there was about middle age and perimenopause. “If it’s stories that we need, you know, dibs. Dibs on menopause,” she tells Schwartz. July’s explorations and conversations with other women made their way into her new novel, “All Fours,” about a woman who upends her life and her marriage, and her sense of who she is and who she’ll be in the second half of her life. Miranda July is fifty now, and she is taking some pages from her own book.


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Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Isn’t Going Away

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., who has never held elected office but is related to many people who have, is emerging as a potential threat to Democrats and Republicans in the 2024 Presidential race. “There’s nothing in the United States Constitution that says that you have to go to Congress first and, then, Senate second, or be a governor before you’re elected to the Presidency,” he told David Remnick, in July, when he was running as a Democrat. Now, as a third-party Presidential candidate, his numbers have grown in the polls—enough to push votes away from both Biden and Trump in November, especially, it seems, among younger voters. Besides his name, the seventy-year-old environmental lawyer is known as an anti-vaccine activist and a proponent of conspiracy theories. This election season, we’re eager to hear from you. What questions do you have? Let us know at: This interview originally aired on July 7, 2023.


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How a Tech Executive Lobbied Lawmakers for the TikTok Ban

David Remnick talks with a proponent of the TikTok ban that just passed in Washington. Jacob Helberg, an executive with the data giant Palantir who serves in a government agency called the United States–China Economic and Security Review Commission, was all over Capitol Hill in the run-up to the vote on TikTok, convincing legislators that it was an urgent matter of national security. The bill will remove TikTok from distribution in U.S. app stores unless its owner, ByteDance, sells it to some other entity—or unless TikTok prevails in its lawsuit against the U.S. government. With a China-based company, Helberg asserts, attempts to safeguard Americans’ data from the Communist Party are futile: “The Chinese government has a master backdoor into everything,” he says. “TikTok is a vehicle for Chinese propaganda, and it’s also a vehicle for Chinese surveillance, which is a major national-security threat to this country.” For another perspective on the TIkTok ban, listen to David Remnick’s conversation with the journalist Katie Drummond, the global editorial director of Wired magazine.


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Wired’s Katie Drummond: The TikTok Ban Is “Rooted in Hypocrisy”; Plus, Hannah Goldfield on Culinary TikTok

David Remnick talks with Katie Drummond, the global editorial director of Wired magazine, about the TikTok ban that just passed with bipartisan support in Washington. The app will be removed from distribution in U.S. app stores unless ByteDance, the Chinese company that owns TikTok, sells it to an approved buyer. TikTok is suing to block that law. Is this a battle among tech giants for dominance, or a real issue of national security? Drummond sees the ban as a corporate crusade by Silicon Valley to suppress a foreign competitor with a superior product. The claim that TikTok is a national-security threat she finds “a vast overreach that is rooted in hypotheticals and that is rooted in hypocrisy, and in … a fundamental refusal to look across the broad spectrum of social media platforms, and treat all of them from a regulatory point of view with the same level of care and precision.” Plus, the food writer Hannah Goldfield on salmon cooked in the dishwasher, and other highlights of culinary TikTok videos.


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Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Could Swing the Election. Who Should Be More Worried—Biden or Trump?

When Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., appeared on this show back in July, it was early in his run for President, and he was considered a fringe candidate. He had the name recognition, obviously, and not much else. Now the question seems to be not whether Kennedy is going to be a spoiler in the election but which side he’s more likely to spoil. On The Political Scene, the New Yorker podcast, Washington correspondents Jane Mayer, Evan Osnos, and Susan B. Glasser gather to talk about Kennedy’s candidacy and his potential impact. “He’s not a serious threat in terms of being able to win,” Mayer says, “but he is potentially a serious threat in being able to spoil this election for one side or the other.”


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Israel, Gaza, and the Turmoil at One American University

From Cambridge to Los Angeles and at dozens of schools in between, campuses are roiled by protest against American financial and military support for Israel’s war in Gaza—and by university actions, including mass arrests, to suppress the protesters. There hasn’t been a college protest movement as widespread since the Vietnam War. Apart from the violence in the Middle East, the protests also engage crucial issues of speech and academic freedom in the context of America’s culture war. David Remnick looks at the turmoil and its reverberations through the lens of one campus, Harvard University, where much of the furor began. He speaks with a protester whose statement justifying the October 7th Hamas attack became a political flashpoint; two student journalists who covered the resignation of the university’s president Claudine Gay; the law-school professor Randall Kennedy; and the former Harvard president Lawrence Summers.


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Georgia’s Brad Raffensperger, Who Refused to “Find” Votes for Donald Trump, Prepares for Another Election

Brad Raffensperger, who holds the usually low-profile office of secretary of state in Georgia, became famous after he recorded a phone call with Donald Trump. Shortly after the 2020 election, Trump demanded that Georgia officials “find 11,780 votes” so that he could win the state. The recorded phone conversation is a linchpin in the Fulton County racketeering case against Trump. Refusing that demand, Raffensperger—a lifelong Republican—received death threats from enraged Trumpists, and the state senate still wants to investigate him for it. But the politician tells David Remnick that he hasn’t lost faith in his party. He believes he can convince election deniers of the fairness of Georgia’s methods. And, by the way, that story line on “Curb Your Enthusiasm” about the Georgia crime of giving a person water while they wait in line to vote? Raffensperger has a suggestion for Larry David.


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Jerry Seinfeld on Making a Life in Comedy (and Also, Pop-Tarts)

Jerry Seinfeld used to have a comedy bit about the invention of the Pop-Tart, but when his friend Spike Feresten—who wrote the famous “Soup Nazi” episode of “Seinfeld”—suggested it as a topic for a movie, even Seinfeld said “There’s no movie here.” But they workshopped the story, turning the invention of the Pop-Tart into a nutty postwar epic. Seinfeld has written films before, including “Bee Movie,” but this time he’s making his début as a director with “Unfrosted.” (The production did not, he says, have permission from Kellogg’s.) The comic talks with David Remnick about making a life in comedy, and why he continued to work so hard on his craft after retiring his massively successful sitcom. “This is a writer’s game. If you can write, you succeed. If you can't, you will not make it. . . . Any comedian can be funny onstage, but the bullets are the writing.” And he offers thoughts on old age, as he turns seventy. “God is like, ‘I'm with you up to about thirty-eight,’ ” Seinfeld posits. After that, God says, “ ‘if you want to stay, you can stay. But I’m moving on.’ ”


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Judi Dench on Bond and Shakespeare

Probably far more people have now seen Judi Dench as M—the intelligence chief who’s the boss of James Bond—than anything she’s done in Shakespeare. With that unmistakably rich voice, she played royalty in “Mrs. Brown” and in “Shakespeare in Love.” But it is in Shakespeare’s plays, onstage, that Dench made her home as an actor, performing nearly all the major female roles in a stage career of some 60 years. It’s not just that the language is beautiful, she thinks; Shakespeare “understood about every single emotion that any of us might feel at any time.” Dench has distilled that body of knowledge into a book called “Shakespeare: The Man Who Pays the Rent,” a collaboration with the actor Brendan O’Hea that delves into each role in each production she performed in. Having trained as a stage designer, Dench decided to “have a go” at acting, and made her début at a young age as Ophelia at one of the most prestigious theatres in Britain. She talks with David Remnick about what’s hard—and not hard—in performing Shakespeare, and why she considers M in James Bond just as challenging.


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Jonathan Haidt on the Plague of Anxiety Affecting Young People

Both anecdotally and in research, anxiety and depression among young people—often associated with self-harm—have risen sharply over the last decade. There seems little doubt that Gen Z is suffering in real ways. But there is not a consensus on the cause or causes, nor how to address them. The social psychologist Jonathan Haidt believes that enough evidence has accumulated to convict a suspect. Smartphones and social media, Haidt says, have caused a “great rewiring” in those born after 1995. The argument has hit a nerve: his new book, “The Anxious Generation,” was No. 1 on the New York Times hardcover nonfiction best-seller list. Speaking with David Remnick, Haidt is quick to differentiate social-media apps—with their constant stream of notifications, and their emphasis on performance—from technology writ large; mental health was not affected, he says, for millennials, who grew up earlier in the evolution of the Internet. Haidt, who earlier wrote about an excessive emphasis on safety in the book “The Coddling of the American Mind,” feels that our priorities when it comes to child safety are exactly wrong. “We’re overprotecting in [the real world], and I’m saying, lighten up, let your kids out! And we’re underprotecting in another, and I’m saying, don’t let your kids spend nine hours a day on the Internet talking with strange men. It’s just not a good idea.” To social scientists who have asserted that the evidence Haidt marshals does not prove a causative link between social media and depression, “I keep asking for alternative theories,” he says. “You don’t think it’s the smartphones and social media—what is it? … You can give me whatever theory you want about trends in American society, but nobody can explain why it happened so suddenly in 2012 and 2013—not just here but in Canada, the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, Northern Europe. I’m waiting,” he adds sarcastically, “for someone to find a chemical.” The good news, Haidt says, is there are achievable ways to limit the harm. Note: In his conversation with David Remnick, Jonathan Haidt misstated some information about a working paper that studies unhappiness across nations. The authors are David G. Blanchflower, Alex Bryson, and Xiaowei Xu, and it includes data on thirty-four countries.


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Maya Hawke on the Fear of “Missing Out,” and Jen Silverman on “There’s Going to Be Trouble”

At a band rehearsal in Brooklyn, Rachel Syme talks to Maya Hawke about switching gears between acting and music. In “Stranger Things,” Hawke plays Robin Buckley, a band geek who cracks a Russian code in her spare time; she also recently appeared in films including “Asteroid City” and “Maestro.” “When I’m acting, I inhabit the character that I’m playing,” Hawke says, whereas when fronting a band, “I feel like I’m me… But sometimes I have to screw my courage to the sticking place, and that’s a bit of a character. It’s me, [but] willing to stand up onstage.” Hawke discusses the inspiration for her single “Missing Out”: a visit to her brother at college, where she came to terms with some of her own choices. Plus, the playwright and novelist Jen Silverman, whose new book “There’s Going to Be Trouble” deals with the excitement and uncertainty of getting caught up in a protest.


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How a Republican and a Democrat Carved out Exemptions to Texas’s Abortion Ban

Texas has multiple abortion laws, with both criminal and civil penalties for providers. They contain language that may allow for exceptions to save the life or “major bodily function” of a pregnant patient, but many doctors have been reluctant to even try interpreting these laws; at least one pregnant woman has been denied cancer treatment. The reporter Stephania Taladrid tells David Remnick about how two lawmakers worked together in a rare bipartisan effort to clarify the limited medical circumstances in which abortion is allowed. “If lawmakers created specific exemptions,” Taladrid explains, “then doctors who got sued could show that the treatment that they had offered their patients was compliant with the language of the law.” Taladrid spoke with the state representatives Ann Johnson, a Democrat, and Bryan Hughes, a conservative Republican, about their unlikely collaboration. Johnson told her that she put together a list of thirteen conditions that might qualify for a special exemption, but only two of them—premature ruptures and ectopic pregnancy—were cited in the final bill. Still, the unusual bipartisan action is cause for hope among reproductive-rights advocates that some of the extreme climate around abortion bans may be lessening.


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The Film Critic Justin Chang on What to See in 2024

The New Yorker’s newest staff member, Justin Chang, shares three films that he’s excited to see released in 2024: “Janet Planet,” the début feature film directed by the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Annie Baker; “Blitz,” a wartime drama by Steve McQueen, the director of “12 Years a Slave”; and “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga,” the widely anticipated new entry in George Miller’s Mad Max series—which, at forty-five years years old, predates Justin Chang.


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The Attack on Black History, with Nikole Hannah-Jones and Jelani Cobb

Across much of the country, Republican officials are reaching into K-12 classrooms and universities alike to exert control over what can be taught. In Florida, Texas, and many other states, laws now restrict teaching historical facts about race and racism. Book challenges and bans are surging. Public universities are seeing political meddling in the tenure process. Advocates of these measures say, in effect, that education must emphasize only the positive aspects of American history. Nikole Hannah-Jones, the New York Times Magazine reporter who developed the 1619 Project, and Jelani Cobb, the dean of the Columbia University School of Journalism, talk with David Remnick about the changing climate for intellectual freedom. “I just think it’s rich,” Hannah-Jones says, “that the people who say they are opposing indoctrination are in fact saying that curricula must be patriotic.” She adds, “You don’t ban books, you don’t ban curriculum, you don’t ban the teaching of ideas, just to do it. You do it to control what we are able to understand and think about and imagine for our society.”


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Rhiannon Giddens, Americana’s Queen, on Cultivating the Black Roots of Country Music

By the standards of any musician, Rhiannon Giddens has taken a twisting and complex path. She was trained as an operatic soprano at the prestigious Oberlin Conservatory of Music, and then fell almost by chance into the study of American folk music and took up the banjo. With like-minded musicians, she founded the influential Carolina Chocolate Drops, which focussed on reviving the repertoire of Black Southern string bands. Giddens plays on Beyoncé’s new country album, which boldly asserts the Black presence in country music. But her view of Black music is unbounded by genre: “There’s been Black people singing opera and writing classical music forever.” Giddens shared a Pulitzer Prize for the opera “Omar” in 2023, and as a solo artist, she has moved through the Black diaspora and beyond it. David Remnick talked with Giddens when her album “There Is No Other,” recorded in Dublin, had just come out, and she performed in the studio with her collaborator, Francesco Turrisi. This segment originally aired May 3, 2019.


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Alicia Keys Returns to Her Roots with Her New Musical, “Hell’s Kitchen”

Alicia Keys’ new musical is opening on Broadway about a ten-minute walk from where she grew up in Hell’s Kitchen. She describes the New York City neighborhood in the eighties as a “place where anyone who didn’t belong anywhere accumulated.” She tells David Remnick, “There was this unique balance between that grime and the potential of Broadway” just steps away. “Hell’s Kitchen” is the name of the musical that incorporates her songs to tell a story about a teen-ager named Ali who is growing up and finding her love of music, and it is even set in the apartment building where Keys was raised. Yet she is adamant that the show is not autobiographical, “because a lot of people think ‘autobiographical’ and they think quite literally.” Keys, who was offered a recording contract at 14, was called the top R&B artist of the millennium by a recording-industry group, and with Jay-Z, she’s responsible for the New York City anthem of our time: “Empire State of Mind.” In casting the role of Ali, a young woman very much like herself, Keys was looking for a “triple-threat” performer who also had “the energy of a true New Yorker … That’s the hardest part, because you can’t teach that.”


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Percival Everett and the Reinvention of Mark Twain’s Jim

In a new novel, Percival Everett offers a radically different perspective on the classic story “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” Everett tells the story of Jim, who is escaping slavery; he calls his book “James.” “My Jim—he’s not simple,” Everett tells Julian Lucas. “The Jim that’s represented in Huck Finn is simple.” Everett, whose 2001 novel “Erasure” was adapted as the Oscar-winning film “American Fiction,” restores Jim’s inner life as a father surviving enslavement, and forced to play along with the pranks of two white boys. But like other Black authors, including Toni Morrison and Ishmael Reed, Everett considers Twain’s original a central American text grappling with slavery. “I imagine myself in a conversation with Twain doing this. And one of the things I think he and I would both agree on is that he doesn’t write Jim’s story because he’s not capable of writing Jim’s story—any more than I’m capable of writing Huck’s story.”


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Trump’s Authoritarian Pronouncements Recall a Dark History

In 2016, before most people imagined that Donald Trump would become a serious contender for the Presidency, the New Yorker staff writer Adam Gopnik wrote about what he later called the “F-word”: fascism. He saw Trump’s authoritarian rhetoric not as a new force in America but as a throwback to a specific historical precedent in nineteen-thirties Europe. In the years since, Trump has called for “terminating” articles of the Constitution, has celebrated the January 6th insurrectionists as political martyrs, and has called his enemies animals, vermin, and “not people,” and demonstrated countless other examples of authoritarian behavior. In a new essay, Gopnik reviews a book by the historian Timothy W. Ryback, and considers Adolf Hitler’s unlikely ascent in the early nineteen-thirties. He finds alarming analogies with this moment in the U.S. In both Trump and Hitler, “The allegiance to the fascist leader is purely charismatic,” Gopnik says. In both men, he sees “someone whose power lies in his shamelessness,” and whose prime motivation is a sense of humiliation at the hands of those described as élites. “It wasn’t that the great majority of Germans were suddenly lit aflame by a nihilist appetite for apocalyptic transformation,” Gopnik notes. “They [were] voting to protect what they perceive as their interest from their enemies. Often those enemies are largely imaginary.”


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March Madness 2024: College Basketball at a Crossroads

As this year’s annual March Madness tournament kicks off, there’s a sense of malaise around men’s college basketball. The advent of the transfer portal is partly to blame, and the trend of top talents departing for the N.B.A. after just one year of college play. “There hasn’t been that kind of charismatic superstar like Zion Williamson at Duke,” Louisa Thomas tells David Remnick, “the big school and the big player, which is the perfect match.” But women’s college basketball is another story. Last year, superstars like Angel Reese and Caitlin Clark helped the sport reach its highest ratings ever for a final. Clark, in particular, with a penchant for nearly forty-foot throws that almost defies belief, has become such a source of fascination for fans that Remnick compares her to LeBron James. “The question is whether or not she can carry that attention with her” into the W.N.B.A. and to the league’s benefit, Thomas wonders, and if “she can leave some of that attention behind. To what extent is this a unique phenomenon around a unique player?”