Earbud Weltschmerz: 13 excellent podcasts to help you understand our troubled times

It’d be nice to live on a non-ruined planet, in peace. If your line of thinking also includes a scientific worldview and questions on how to balance labor cost with wealth redistribution in a globalized world, you’re probably one of us forward thinking people. And we want to stay informed.

Newsflash: powerful people want turn back the clock on social issues, ignore the limits of our natural resources and, at their worst, create closed, authoritarian oligarchies. In the Anglosphere, Brexit and that historically unstable clown in the White House make the news intolareble.

Apple podcasts on different devices

Apple devices come with the quite decent Podcasts app (or iTunes on Mac). You can find all our recommendations there.

Luckily, there’s an alternative to click-baity websites and videos: podcasts. Text and video require staring at a screen, but podcasts don’t even force you to sit, to get both depth and breadth.

So, we’ve collected some of the best socially and politically significant podcasts. Try them out while doing chores, walking the dog, commuting or working out. This writer wants to personally recommend podcasts to dyslectics and fellow ADHD folks, or for anyone else who might have trouble reading as much as they’d like.

The best way to listen is with a good app on your smartphone. Even the worst earbuds you have in a drawer somewhere work for spoken word. Our recommendations can be found in any good podcast app. And if you need tips on how to listen, we’ve left some at the end of this article.

 

 

Before we begin, a content warning. Some of our recommendations refer to themes such as sexual violence, religious cults and executions. Some are guaranteed to contain racist, sexist and other slurs.

 

BBC Breaking news what now

1. BBC Global News Podcast

Updated twice a day and once during weekends, British public service provides news from all over the planet. This newscast allows you, to an extcent, escape the anglocentric newsscape. At the same time, it offers quick looks into the topics of the day in both the US and UK.

BBC Global News Podcast on Apple Podcasts

 

2. FT Politics

Some might consider Financial Times, their free-market stance and core readership as parts of the big problems. However, if you live on, or your heart belongs to one of those post-colonial islands in the north Atlantic Ocean, you’d be hard pressed to find a more articulate source for quick discussions that sum up current politics from different perspectives. The FT Politics show is that good.

FT Politics on Apple Podcasts

 

3. Trumpcast

This is one the original shows that caught on to the then emerging shitshow of Trump’s presidential candidacy. Slate’s generally moderately left-of-center perspective allows for a multitude of guests to discuss topics crucial for understanding the deranged attempt at a long con, taking place in Washington DC.

Trumpcast on Apple Podcasts

 

 

4. Chapo Trap House

Annoyed by centrist liberals? If so, meet Chapo Trap House. This rag-tag collective of the self-described US “dirtbag left”, berated Hillary Clinton’s self-importance and technocracy, long before it was cool. Their occasional coverage of fringe left groups, like “tankies”, is equally sardonic and gonzoesque.

Vulgar? Hilarious? Male dominated? Sure. But these guys manage to roast pundit culture, be a bit out there at times, while remaining on-point and analytical. For the most part, they end up with the “radical” perspective along the lines that the Nordic welfare state shouldn’t be impossible in the Anglosphere.

If you hear people talk shit about Chapo, just look for their episodes on US healthcare reform or their interview with a dude fighting ISIS in Syria. This fun and valuable show is one of our favorites.

Chapo Trap House on Apple Podcasts

 

 

5. Big Time Dicks

If the above seems like a bit of a sausage fest so far, Big Time Dicks might be what you’re looking for. Regardless of your age or gender, we highly suggest that you tune in to this show, for your dose of women discussing American politics from their own perspective. Civil, reproductive and LGBTQ rights just scratch the surface.

This is the kind of quality you’d expect from the shows publisher, Jezebel, a renowned feminist online publication

Big Time Dicks on Apple Podcasts

 

 

 

 

6. Intercepted

Intercepted offers a clear, leftist lens to study both Anglo politics and the world at large. Intercepted is the online publication started by Glenn Greenwald of Snowden-leaks fame. They offer, also in podcast form, highly critical perspectives outside the hysteria of US liberals that has become more focused on Trump and Russia than many other atrocities taking place. The interviews here are stellar.

Intercepted on Apple Podcasts

 

 

7. Wrongful Conviction

Ever wondered how bad the American criminal justice system really is? Like true crime podcasts?  Well now, here’s some sour candy for you. On Wrongful Conviction, The Innocence Project features some of the most absurd stories you’ll ever hear.

The Innocence Project is a non-profit that takes on awful cases of judicial miscarriage, people who’ve been locked up wrongfully convicted for years. While there’s the equally disturbing Amanda Knox case, which can be blamed on an reckless Italian prosecutor, the Innocence Project focuses on the atrocity that is American justice. They’ve literally saved people from death row.

Wrongful Conviction on Apple Podcasts

 

8. Another Round

What’s wrong with our selection so far? Well, most of our show selection take a rather white perspective. The melanin challenged among us living in the West, sometimes forget that the world, in reality, is far from color blind. We’ve picked Another Round, with its charismatic hosts, as an excellent way to get the gist of issues you might otherwise miss.

Podcasts that aren’t necessarily meant for you, still let you listen in on conversations you’d otherwise miss. Which in this case is chatter between people of color. Getting clued up while occupying absolutely no space in the discourse helps you be a good ally in tough times.

Another Round on Apple Podcasts

 

 

9. Conversations With People Who Hate Me

What would the world be without people you don’t agreed with? Paradise? That’s anyone’s guess, but in this reality, we must try to face and understand people who very much don’t agree with us. At all.

Turns out: Most people spewing vitriol on the inteweb are, well, just people. One brave netizen has taken up the task of having eye-opening, heartfelt conversations with people who have quite different values. Oh, and the interview subjects are the people who’ve sent the worst hate messages to the host.

Conversations With People Who Hate Me on Apple Podcasts

 

 

10. Jezebel’s Dirtcast

Is celebrity gossip your thing? It seems to be for many people, and with Dirtcast, it doesn’t have to be a guilty pleasure. Jezebel, an online publication known for their feminist stance, shakes up the genre by providing a lot of smart and socially conscious commentary on celeb-related things.

Some particularly interesting episodes grapple with the bloodthirsty cult of Scientology, R. Kelly’s ugly history of sexual violence, and how scenes involving violence and rape in well-known movies have been handled extremely irresponsibly by shithead maestros in classic cinema.

Jezebel’s dirtcast on Apple Podcasts

 

11. BBC’s From Our Own Correspondent

All of the above offer a variety of sweet, salty crunchy and delicious snacks. Healthy, organic artisanal snacks. But snacks nonetheless. It’s time to get to the vegetables. And From Our Own Correspondent puts the British taxpayer’s money to hard work.

In this long-running radio series (est. 1955), BBC’s international correspondents describe, in deep essay writing, phenomena around the world you might never hear of elsewhere. This is stuff that you cut our from your information diet at your own peril.

From Our Own Correspondent on Apple Podcasts

 

 

 

 

12. Rookie

The murderous, deranged and cynical main character of “American Psycho”, the always relevant novel and movie, is 27 years old. You may not live in a fancy Manhattan apartment in an age when “important” men still had secretaries. However, if you’re older than, say, 25, you better get into a habit of understanding people younger than you, or you’ll find yourself on the wrong side of a generational divide, way sooner than you think.

’96-born Tavi Genvinson’s smart online magazine Rookie, nominally aimed at teenage girls, offers a multitude of voices you don’t want to isolate yourself from. The podcast is as good as the rest. Again, about listening in on stuff that’s not necessarily meant for you? Well, it’s good for you.

Rookie on Apple Podcasts

 

13. Pod Save America / Pod Save The World / Pod Save The People

This combo recommendation is for a couple of shows with former Obama aides that manage to sum up and explain US politics, both foreign and domestic, with detail you generally don’t get elsewhere. While Obama’s presidency was a mixed bag, it’s clearly not because of a lack of competent people.

Pod Save The People is a later addition to the podcast network hosting the aforementioned two shows. With a focus on social justice issues, this show has featured plenty of good interviews, among them Edward Snowden.

Pod Save America on Apple Podcasts
Pod Save The World on Apple Podcasts
Pod Save The People on Apple Podcasts

 

Ready to listen?

There are free, ok podcasts apps on Android. Pocket Casts costs a couple of moneys, but it’s the best. It also perfect if you want to sync up your listening on both Android and iOS.

If you’re new to podcasts, we have one final recommendation: please listen with a good podcast app. You’ll thank us later. A good app will allow you to manage subscriptions, choose whether to download or stream episodes. Also, speed adjustments come in real handy if you want to cram in more listening.

Protip: if your data plan is limited or your commute involves poor cell coverage, set your app to download new shows overnight over your home Wi-Fi.

 

 

Good podcast apps allow you to add any show with RSS feeds. One such app is Apple Podcasts (iOS, free). You don’t need to know what RSS feeds are, because Apple also offers a library of podcasts, which other good podcast apps can search from, too. Anyone who creates a podcast could (and should) add their show to Apple’s directory.

Other good apps include Overcast (iOS, free), Pocket Casts (iOS and arguably best app for Android), BeyondPod (Android, free) or Podcast and Radio Addict (Android, free).

Notice that some big, well knows streaming apps are missing from our recommendations. That’s because some of them suck, for podcast listening.  Some of them are also bad for podcast publishers in different ways. At Ink Tank we happen to care, because we like podcasts. We also produce our own show, Very Finnish Problems, which obviously is good.

Don’t miss out. Get started with podcasts today. If you’re already a believer, you’re welcome to share your favorites in the comments section below.

 

 

Very Finnish Problems on Apple Podcasts

Title image by Randy

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