[Review] Revisionist History, the other side of stories

Unlike other podcasts, Revisionist History uplifts this medium of communication to a whole new level, discovers Pooja Ramakrishnan.

The world’s finest fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes, once remarked, “The Press, Watson, is a most valuable institution, if you only know how to use it.” Holmes’ reflection delivers both a warning, and a reminder of the possibilities of the fourth estate. Yet, in our scroll-scroll-tap world, we largely encounter the misuse of social media journalism. With reports on fake news and privacy scandals defining our small talk, we are cynical, jaded and distrustful of most news reports and articles. In between this frenzy of news, satire and/or both, arrives, Revisionist History: a podcast with an admirable raison d’etre: sometimes our past deserves a second chance.

Unlike other podcasts, Revisionist History uplifts this medium of communication to a whole new level. On one hand, it devotes itself to convince you of ‘the other side’ of a seemingly well-established story, idea or even a song in under 45 minutes. And on the other, this painstaking collection of facts and corroboration of sources to provide us with a structured and wholesome argument reminds us of the bar that journalism must set for itself. Whether it is the story of the disappearance of the only female artist who had gained entry into the prestigious Royal Academy’s Art Exhibition or the explanation of the ‘weak link’ strategy in soccer to understand societal disparity, the podcast takes us on a journey of retrospective analysis and re-evaluation of the things we often pass along unquestioned. To paraphrase Sarah Larson of The New Yorker, podcasts are but a homage to the power of the traditional public-radio’s ability to educate us. To this definition, Revisionist History fits to a t.

The creator, Malcolm Gladwell of Blink and Outliers, is no stranger to storytelling. Yet, it is this medium that truly enables him to exercise his prowess. Consequently, it remains no longer just a podcast for history buffs, sociology enthusiasts or plain, curious minds. It becomes a performance relevant to all of us.

Yet the most remarkable aspect of the podcast is neither its professional finish nor Gladwell’s silvery tones. It is that the podcast is freely accessible online. Furthermore, it is even supplemented with readings, notes, references and pictures. If I understand correctly, Revisionist History is truly investigative journalism for its own sake. Irrespective of whether it changes your mind or not, I assure you, this is a production worth your while.

Pooja Ramakrishnan is studying MSc Environmental Engineering and has recently joined the Delta team as their book and podcast pundit. A science student during the day and a poet by night, she balances the two with her curiosity and fascination for the world we live in.

Pooja Ramakrishnan / Freelance journalist

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