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This week's audio highlights include reviews of "The Gatekeepers," "Million Dollar Lover," "Radical Empathy and the Devil," and "Barry Humphries: Gloriously Uncut."
Culture TV and Radio

This week’s audio highlights include reviews of “The Gatekeepers,” “Million Dollar Lover,” “Radical Empathy and the Devil,” and “Barry Humphries: Gloriously Uncut.”

The program “The Gatekeepers” on Radio 4 can be found on BBC Sounds.

Title: Million Dollar Lover: A Story of Intrigue on BBC Sounds

The BBC Sounds program titled “Heart and Soul” explores the concept of radical empathy and its connection to the devil.
Archive on 4: Barry Humphries: Gloriously Uncut (Radio 4) | BBC Sounds

logo of the show the gatekeepers

The Gatekeepers is a new series on Radio 4 that explores the current state of the internet. Initially, I was hesitant to listen to it after recently reviewing two similar series, Jon Ronson’s Things Fell Apart and Marianna Spring’s Why Do You Hate Me? These types of shows tend to have a negative effect on me. They are well-researched, thoughtfully written, impartial, and captivating, but ultimately all revolve around the same topic: how the online world fuels and encourages conflicts. This is often done for the sake of profit, disregarding the real-life consequences of virtual hate.

After some self-reflection, I decided to watch The Gatekeepers and I am happy that I did. The show is hosted and researched by Jamie Bartlett, known for his work on The Missing Cryptoqueen. The first episode takes place on January 6, 2021, during the attack on the US Capitol. We follow Twitter employees who end up suspending then President Trump’s account due to concerns about spreading false information and inciting violence. Bartlett asks who made the decision to suspend the account, but Yoel Roth, former head of trust and safety at Twitter, declines to answer.

Why was Trump allowed to spread false information online? Was Twitter correct in allowing him to do so? Should he have been stopped? Bartlett looks back at the origins of the internet, specifically the early days of the World Wide Web, for insight. The initial culture of the internet was influenced by a book called The Whole Earth Catalog, which promoted a liberal and countercultural perspective. Bartlett argues that this influence shaped the desire for the internet to be a virtual version of the book, promoting a “global consciousness”. However, as time went on, figures like Mark Zuckerberg were mentored by individuals like Peter Thiel, who believed in creating monopolies rather than competing. This shift in perspective led to a change in Zuckerberg’s approach.

We are only a few episodes into the show, but there have been some interesting moments that could have changed the outcome if different decisions were made. Some of these moments have been discussed before, like the passing of section 230 in the 1996 Telecommunications Act, which states that platform providers are not responsible for the content their users post. Despite this, Bartlett is a great presenter and The Gatekeepers is entertaining, although it does not offer any new insights. Overall, I am not feeling discouraged by the show so far.

logo of the show million dollar lover

If you’re looking for something a little less serious and more scandalous, be sure to check out Sue Mitchell’s Million Dollar Lover on BBC Sounds’ Intrigue strand. I didn’t catch this 10-part series when it was first released a few months ago, but I’ve now binge-watched it in two large sittings. Mitchell shares the true story of a love affair between two of her neighbors in California (Mitchell is British but has an American partner with a home there). The couple, Carolyn and Dave, have quite the age difference – Carolyn is 80 and still youthful, while Dave is 57 and a former homeless drug addict and convict who ends up moving in with Carolyn just two weeks after doing some gardening for her. This raises concerns, especially for Carolyn’s daughters, and a tumultuous emotional battle between them and Dave ensues.

Mitchell’s unique selling point for this show is her unrestricted access and impressive talent for conducting impartial interviews with all parties involved. We are able to hear from Carolyn and Dave as their relationship unfolds, as well as the perspectives of Carolyn’s daughters and Dave’s daughter. This gripping and intimate story is told in a compact manner, often eliciting emotional reactions from listeners. I highly recommend giving it a listen.

Psychiatrist Gwen Adshead seated, a gentle half smile on her faceView image in fullscreen

Yesterday’s episode of Heart and Soul on the World Service featured a discussion about Radical Empathy and the Devil with forensic psychiatrist Gwen Adshead. Adshead, known for her gentle demeanor, shared her fascination with understanding why individuals engage in harmful behaviors. She specializes in working with the UK’s most violent criminals and has a specific focus on women who have committed acts of violence against or mistreatment towards their children.

She has a conversation with Erwin James, the journalist who was once a murderer and passed away last month. She shares her preference for working with individuals like him, in an environment that allows for open discussion and reflection on their actions in a humane manner. Her approach, which she calls “radical empathy,” is influenced by her Christian beliefs. The program is both touching and thought-provoking for the audience. It raises the question: Can I truly engage with a murderer without imposing my moral judgment?

Barry Humphries in 2018.

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Barry Humphries: Gloriously Uncut on Archive on 4 on Saturday night was a delightful and entertaining event, hosted by Rob Brydon. It included appearances from many of Humphries’ friends and colleagues, such as the infamous Sir Les Patterson and the iconic Dame Edna Everage. Brydon, a devoted fan of Humphries, did an excellent job as host.

The critic John Lahr, insightful as ever, told of how he spent a long time on tour with Humphries when he was playing Dame Edna. Lahr had just suffered the most appalling loss: two of his children had died. Everyone mocked the idea that Dame Edna could heal people. “It’s just a funny idea that this buffoon is a healer because she’s so mean-spirited,” said Lahr, “but I can only tell you that she did.” Laughter, and Edna, can cure almost everything.

Steve Wright.

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Finally, what a shock to hear of Steve Wright’s death. An absolute radio giant, obsessed with the medium and with that old-fashioned job, DJing. His very particular take on zoo radio – upbeat “crew”, clever callbacks, cheery listener interaction, excellent star interviews – became a gold standard and travelled easily with him from Radio 1 to Radio 2 in the 1990s, because no one else could do it like him. Genuinely loved by colleagues and his listeners, he really will be missed.

Source: theguardian.com