I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 25-31 January 2023

Background Briefing. Is is just my inattention, or is there less news about the protests in Iran recently? Under the Eye of Iran Part I explores the surveillance of Iranian people here in Australia. There are interviews with young women now resident in Australia, one who was happy to give her name, another who did not want to be named for fear of repercussions on her family back in Iran. It was chilling to hear of this young Iranian girl, out on a night on the tear with friends whose “F*** you” to a man who told her to behave more discreetly led to her sitting in court, facing charges that could have led to her execution. Also has an interview with Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who has spoken out since her release from prison. [Update- just in the last week (i.e. mid February) there is news of the protests beginning again]

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History Hit/Gone Medieval I’ve been reading Simon Sebag Montefiore’s gigantic The World which has made me aware of how much I don’t know, about anything, really. I listened to Mongol Empire where Matt Lewis talks to Dr. Nicholas Morton, author of The Mongol Storm: Making and Breaking Empires in the Medieval Near East. The Mongols emerged out of a confederation of nomadic tribes, led by Genghis Khan, and they rode wave after wave, integrating conquered societies into their empire. There were differing responses to conquered communities: if they submitted early, they were treated more humanely. In 1220s they invaded Armenia and Georgia, in 1230 the Near East and in 1260 Syria, but they were stopped by the Mamluks. In 1241 they defeated Hungary and Poland in a fleeting raid, but they did not return as planned because they broke down in a Civil war in the 1260s. The legacy of the Mongol Empire was the increase in scientific knowledge and the growth of trade.

Full Story There was plenty in the news about the death of George Pell, and I was interested to hear David Marr’s take on it. David Marr on the Life and Legacy of George Pell doesn’t hold back at all (as you might expect) declaring right up front that “George Pell was a danger to children”. The conservative Catholic Church of George Pell was a shame machine, generating over 4000 complaints between 1980 and 2015. Pell moved easily in political circles, and was able to leverage funding and the founding of the Catholic university system. The Ellis Defence that was put forward under his leadership relied on old rules. He did apologize on behalf of the Catholic Church, but not for his own personal role. Marr suggests that, with Pell’s death, it is going to be difficult to maintain scrutiny of the Church.

You’re Dead to Me. I would hate to be the historian on this show. Ivan the Terrible features Prof Peter Frankopan from the University of Oxford and Russian-born comedian Olga Koch. Ivan used violence as a form of political control, although he wasn’t alone in that- violence was ubiquitous throughout Europe. Much of his time was spent in a power struggle with the Boyars, and he ended up dividing Russia into two.

Axios I’ve never really got into Twitter, but Elon Musk did, and he bought the company. Although that wasn’t clear during this series, which was recorded while Musk was negotiating to buy it, and then withdrawing, and then buying it again. How It Happened: Elon Musk vs. Twitter discusses Musks’ moves throughout different industries and his tolerance for risk, best exemplified by his expansion into autonomous self-driving Teslas- an experiment that uses us. The most recent episode, which dropped in January this year after a three-month hiatus, examines his first few months as CEO of Twitter, and the challenges facing his other companies.

History Hit To mark The International Holocaust Remembrance Day on 27th January, Anne Frank’s Life After Her Arrest takes up her story after leaving the Secret Annexe and up to her death. Dan Snow is joined by Bas von Benda-Beckmann, historian and co-author of After the Annex: Anne Frank, Auschwitz and Beyond, to reconstruct Anne’s life after her arrest. We don’t really know whether the family was betrayed or not: Otto Frank believed that they were, but it is possible that the police discovered them as part of a search into forged food stamps. They were sent to Westerbork prison camp in the Netherlands, where the girls worked recycling batteries. This prison allowed families to stay together, and although there were rumours about the death camps, there was an effort not to panic the prisoners. They were sent on the last train from Westerbork to Auschwitz, arriving on 6 September 1944. Up until May 1944 only 20% of the passengers survived the selection process for the gas chambers, but the demand for slave labour meant that by this time, 65% went to work as slave labour. Much of this labour was senseless. In November 1944 Anne, Margot and Peter’s mother were sent to Bergen Belsen, while Anne’s mother died at Auschwitz. At Belsen, the system was breaking down and there was no food, although parts of the camp were better than others because ‘high value’ Jewish prisoners were kept there for prisoner swaps. Mrs Van Pels was sent on to another labour camp. It is now thought that Ann died in early February 1945, not March as previously thought.

The Philosophers Zone (ABC) Conspiracy Theories, anti-Semitism and fun is a repeat of a program originally broadcast in May 2022. In it, Charles Blattberg, Professor of Political Philosophy, University of Montreal discusses his essay ‘Anti-semitism and the aesthetic’ where he argues that conspiracy theories have an aesthetic dimension. He identifies four manifestations of this aesthetic: savouring details; playing for fun; putting on shows and fantasizing. There’s lots of labels and definitions here (in a very philosophical way) but he notes that conspiracy theorists tend to underestimate incompetence, and that it is not possible to reason with a conspiracy theorist – you can only mock them. Very theoretical, but interesting. There’s a link to Blattberg’s lengthy essay on the ABC site.

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