|Malcolm Gladwell: writer, podcaster, Mars Volta stunt double. (H/T The Huffington Post)|
If you're not listening to Malcolm Gladwell's new podcast Revisionist History, you're seriously missing out.
The long time New Yorker contributor and five-time New York Times bestseller-listed author's program has an interesting premise: to take seeming inconsequential or uncontroversial moments in history and put them under the microscope in order to demonstrate their consequence, or expose their controversy. Debuting last year with an episode called "The Lady Vanishes," which explored concepts of tokenism, moral licensing, and discrimination in the final moments before the 2016 presidential election through the story of a 19th century painting, Revisionist History has gone on to cover all manner of fascinating subjects, from Wilt Chamberlain's granny shot to the question of, as the website puts it, "whether laughter and social protest are friends or foes." Equal parts funny, achingly poignant, and incredulous, Revisionist History is not a show to be missed, especially now that the second season is well underway.
Gladwell has chosen with this season to focus on race, and the various mythological constructs - both historical and otherwise - that inform American views on the subject today. The first two episodes in this arc examine some pretty spectacular political jiujitsu in the history of the Civil Rights Movement: Brown v. Board Of Education, the landmark legislation that marked the end of segregation, and a famous New York Times photo of racial violence during a protest in Birmingham, Alabama that took the Civil Rights Movement to the national stage.
In "Miss Buchanan's Period Of Adjustment," the language of the Brown is examined and revealed to be based entirely upon false pretext: that segregation was not just unethical, but harmful to the mental development of black children, of which only the former is true. The long-term damage this wrought upon not just upon the education system amongst communities of color, but the nation's perception of black life writ large, has to be heard to be believed.
"The Foot Soldier of Birmingham" examines the story of the iconic photo of a police officer and his dog assaulting a young black man during a protest outside the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, that made international headlines and brought the eyes of the world upon the American South, and how it, too, had its own false pretext: not only was the cop not assaulting that young man, that young man bore a much closer resemblance to Uncle Rufus than Fred Shuttlesworth, if you know what I mean.
Whatever Malcolm Gladwell has up his sleeve next, I guarantee it'll be a total mindfuck. I know I'll be listening.