Picks of the week
The Improvement Association
On first impressions, the latest podcast from the makers of Serial looks set to be a riveting, slow burn tale of US election fraud, in the same way that their recent hit Nice White Parents was a riveting, slow burn tale of continued segregation in the US schools system. In Bladen County, North Carolina, absentee ballots lead to the election of the first black sheriff in 2010. But what, if anything, did this have to do with the congressional race in Bladen in 2018, voided due to fraud? Zoe Chace investigates. Hannah J Davies
How’s Work? with Esther Perel
The new series of this podcast hosted by couples therapist Esther Perel offers a peak in to an “unscripted one time counselling service” about work. Her first case is a doctor whose wife who works for the government, and both halves of the marriage are burnt out after a year of Covid. As their stories unravel, there’s frustration, family pressure and more issues that Perel expertly draws out. She’s not the sort of therapist to sit on the fence, unleashing her analysis throughout, so by far the most fascinating bit is her advice for the “two people who have reached the limit”. Hannah Verdier
Chosen by Charlie Phillips
Conspirituality is a timely podcast that investigates where the “wellness” industry and other seemingly-progressive groups cross over with conspiracy theories about shadowy powers. Think of people like the QAnon Shaman, but more insidious, charismatic, and profit-driven.
It’s hosted by three affable hosts who all have experience in the yoga/new age/spirituality worlds, and noted early in the pandemic that the isolation brought about by Covid-19 could transform eccentric alternative health practitioners and fans in to more dangerous threats to global public health. Across nearly 50 long, discursive episodes, they update listeners on the latest outbursts of ‘disaster spirituality’ – a great term – and interview guests who have either been part of, or are experts on, online cult-like communities where a desire to live more naturally has become a form of paranoia.
Each episode is dense with information but also accessible to the newcomer to this strange world. You soon come to recognise a revolving cast of a small number of subjects, some of whom were recently labeled the “disinformation dozen”, and who are responsible for a large amount of all online Covid conspiracy theories.
A particular highlight was their post-Capitol episode which featured some of those they had been warning about. But the real usefulness of this podcast isn’t understanding who might storm government buildings, but rather why your hippy uncle is spreading misinformation on Facebook – and where he got it from.