This week’s audio highlights include reviews of “Why Do You Hate Me?”, “Patient 11”, and “Theory of Everything: Not All Propaganda Is Art”.
What is the reason for your dislike towards me? This question was posed on the Radio 4 show “Why Do You Hate Me?” available on BBC Sounds.
Eleventh Patient from Sky News and Independent media sources.
The concept of a unified theory: Not all forms of persuasion are considered artistic expression. Visit theoryofeverythingpodcast.com for more information.
Marianna Spring, the BBC’s specialist in disinformation and social media, could be described as a glutton for punishment. Despite the challenges, she remains polite, upbeat, and committed as she tirelessly pursues online troublemakers and conspiracy theorists. Her previous radio shows such as Death By Conspiracy?, Disaster Trolls, and Marianna in Conspiracyland have earned awards. Now, she returns to Radio 4 to continue her efforts in getting bizarre internet individuals to provide logical answers. Though it may not always be successful, she remains determined in her mission.
The latest installment of her series, “Why Do You Hate Me?”, explores the topic of internet hate, a subject she is familiar with as she constantly receives hateful messages in her inbox. She has gathered these stories from her inbox and chosen the most intriguing ones to delve into. Her goal is to potentially unite the online abusers and facilitate a resolution to their conflicts, fostering real-life empathy. She approaches this task with optimism.
This particular show is not as loud as the ones she usually does. The first episode is quite powerful, as it has a strange element to it. The main focus is on Spring meeting Julia, a young woman from Poland who had created an Instagram account under the name @iammadeleinemccann last year, believing that she could be the missing girl. (Spoiler alert: she is not.) This is the first interview Julia has given and Spring treats her with kindness, understanding her timid and confused nature. Julia had a difficult childhood and struggled to make sense of her past. “No one took me seriously,” she shares. “I didn’t feel like I was being heard.” Her Instagram account had over a million followers, but unfortunately, many of them were abusive, leading her to ultimately delete it.
It is evident that Spring intended to address Julia’s concerns and possibly have a direct conversation with Gerry and Kate McCann, the parents of missing Madeleine, now that Julia knows she is not the missing child. However, the McCanns do not respond in person, although a spokesperson states that they accept Julia’s apology. As Spring acknowledges, their actions are constantly scrutinized by the press, and there is an ongoing police investigation regarding their daughter’s disappearance.
In the second episode, Stuart, a Northern Irishman, had the misfortune of attending Jason Aldean’s 2017 concert in Las Vegas where a random shooter opened fire with over 1,000 automatic rounds, resulting in the death of 60 people and injuring hundreds. Understandably, Stuart struggled to come to terms with this traumatic experience and turned to social media to express his frustration. It was there that he met “Weg”, a man who had delved into police documents related to the shooting and offered his own theories, often involving the shooter being a government agent. After tracking him down, Spring discovers that Weg believed this was his purpose in life at the time.
Spring convinces Weg to have a discussion with Stuart. The conversation is reasonable and friendly, which is comforting because not all people who believe in conspiracy theories are crazy. However, the audio is not very engaging. “Why Do You Hate Me?” lacks the explosive energy and shocking revelations of Spring’s previous series; instead, it takes a more conciliatory approach. Nonetheless, her reporting remains top-notch, and the third episode, which delves into Sadiq Khan’s voice being used in an AI fake, sounds intriguing.
More great investigative journalism in the gripping but very shocking short podcast series Patient 11, from Sky. This tells the tale of Alexis Quinn, a former GB youth swimmer who was treated unbelievably appallingly within the UK’s mental health system. After a breakdown, Quinn voluntarily went into an NHS respite facility for three days, only to be sectioned for three and a half years. Not only was her autism missed (for years!), leading to her being restrained and put in solitary confinement; she was also put on mixed gender wards, and sexually attacked.
Finally, similar to a film, she manages to escape. Quinn shares her personal narrative, and remains honest and commendable throughout. Additionally, Sky, in partnership with the Independent, utilizes her situation to raise concerns about our mental health system as a whole. Through freedom of information requests, they have uncovered some shocking data: nearly 20,000 reports of sexual assault, abuse, and harassment within mental health facilities since 2019. This is a disgraceful issue on a national level. Every politician in the UK should take the time to listen to this podcast.
Further research has unearthed more information from the past. The podcast, Theory of Everything, hosted by Benjamen Walker, has always been intriguing as it showcases his method of connecting ideas through sound. While some may label him a conspiracy theorist, Walker’s focus is more on art and philosophy rather than politics and fear. However, in his latest miniseries, Not All Propaganda Is Art, he delves into both realms.
He redirects his inquisitive focus on the 1950s, during which the CIA attempted to shape the perspectives of ordinary individuals – not only Americans – on political systems. Following World War II, the agency aimed to promote pro-democracy and anti-communism beliefs among the masses. Their approach involved the use of soft power, enlisting artists, filmmakers, and writers to produce content that would convince people of the superiority of the American Way. Walker examines the roles of three writers – Richard Wright, Kenneth Tynan, and Dwight Macdonald – and uncovers their involvement in publications funded by the CIA.
I am familiar with Tynan, a highly influential British theatre critic for the Observer who was the first to utter the word “fuck” on British television. However, I had not heard of African American novelist Wright or US political writer Macdonald. Walker diligently demonstrates their connections and funding from the Congress for Cultural Freedom, a front organization funded by the CIA, and he does so effectively. Although I am uncertain of its relevance in 2024, these programs offer intriguing glimpses into a time when intellectual thinkers were considered significant enough to warrant government interest and financial support. It is indeed a peculiar time.