The Berlin Wall seemed to define Cold War tension and opposition in stone. From 1961 to 1989 it divided East Berlin from West Berlin, and was the focal point of potential Soviet vs. US confrontation. But the history of why it was built and how the citizens of Berlin lived with it is rife with myth and misunderstanding. Professor Philip Nash joins us to explain it all. Listen and learn!
Harriet Tubman is one of the most famous and important figures in American history. Directly and indirectly responsible for freeing many slaves through the Underground Railroad in the 19th century, she also an armed scout and spy for the Union Army in the Civil War. Whether she ever said, “I freed thousands of slaves. I could have freed thousands more, if they had known they were slaves,” is more uncertain. And we examine the quote in this brief episode. Listen and learn.
Listen, oh Buzzkillers, and you shall hear,
the true story of the Ride of Paul Revere.
Silversmith, patriot, brave man and true,
but he wasn’t the only one to carry the news.
Did Gandhi say “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind”? If he didn’t, where did it come from? The Bible? The Canadian House of Commons? Movie script writers? And is there something more significant in how this phrase has come down to us as an essential Gandhi-ism? Listen and learn with your eyes open in this flashback episode, Buzzkillers!
Many things seemed phallic to Freud, the father of psychoanalysis. But did this include the humble cigar? Or did Freud just dismiss overanalysis by saying, “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar”? What that a genuine Freudian quip? Did Groucho Marx agree? Find out by listening to this brand new Quote or No Quote episode!
Professor Ryan Swanson explains the complex history of the relationship between President Theodore Roosevelt and the modernization of American sports culture. We learn about TR’s “tennis cabinet,” his fitness programs, and his role as the “invigorator in chief.” But we also learn about TR’s dislike of the rising professionalization of sports, and about the proper role of sports in American life.
The Cuban Missile Crisis! Kennedy, Castro, Khrushchev, missiles, submarines, cigars! It was the closest we’ve gotten to World War III and nuclear annihilation. Professor Philip Nash joins us in the Buzzkill Bunker as we sweat the details and the minute by minute tension of the standoff. Wear your diapers, Buzzkillers, it’s intense!
One of the most famous Churchill-isms is “an empty taxi pulled up and Clement Attlee stepped out of it.” It implies, of course, that Attlee was a political non-entity, weak and ineffective. But did Churchill ever say it? And what do skinny French actresses have to do with it? We explain all in this episode of Quote or No Quote!
Is it possible to determine who was the first woman to cast a ballot in a modern, democratic election? Not really. But, in this episode, we’re going to talk about three of the “first” women to vote. 2019-2020 is the centenary of the passage and ratification of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution. It prohibited states and the federal government from denying the right to vote to American citizens on the basis of gender. During this centenary year, we’re going to look at women’s voting in modern history in a number of pioneering countries, and this is the first of those episodes.
Did radio listeners really think that Nixon won the first 1960 presidential debate, while TV viewers thought the more telegenic Kennedy won? This story is the most repeated myth in the history of presidential debates. The Professor explains why. Make sure to listen and tell us what you think about the Professor’s “presentation.”
Impeachment? The 25th Amendment? Resignation? How do the American people remove a president from office? Why is it so complicated, and what's the history behind each way to get a dangerous, criminal, or just plain crazy chief executive out of the highest office in the land. Join Professor Buzzkill and Professor Nash as they work through all the possibilities, and illuminate all the history and politics behind the various processes. Listen and learn in this Throwback Thursday episode, Buzzkillers!
President Kennedy usually gets all the credit for inspiring American to reach for the moon. And President Nixon’s signature is on the ceremonial plaque laid there at the end of the Apollo 11 landing. But President Lyndon Johnson hardly ever gets credit for the American space program. The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Shesol joins us to explain LBJ’s pioneering efforts in the space race.
The Lost Cause is one of the most troubling aspects of American history. The ways in which the Confederacy and the pre-Civil War south has been romanticized and fictionalized has done immense damage to American historical consciousness and interpretation. Professor Philip Nash joins us to discuss how the Civil War, the period of Reconstruction, and the Jim Crow era were twisted into an ahistorical mythology that has plagued our national discourse for over a hundred years. Listen and learn.
We continue our discussion with Dr. Andrew Ramey from Carnegie Mellon University about the long history of climate change science. The study of climate change grew rapidly in the 20th century, almost as quickly as climate change itself started to affect the earth dramatically. By the 1970s, however, countervailing forces (including the fossil fuel industry) moved into the scientific debate and started well-funded political campaigns to stop any effective governmental action to reduce climate change. Just at the time when the scientific evidence was undeniable and compelling, politics got in the way.
Climate change is a much older subject than is commonly assumed. As early as 1750, Enlightenment thinkers such as David Hume and Thomas Jefferson analyzed and wrote about the role that human activity played in climate change. French scientist, Joseph Fourier discovered the greenhouse effect in the 1820s. So, the study of climate change did not come from a bunch of hippies in the 1970s! Dr. Andrew Ramey from Carnegie Mellon University joins us to explain the early history of climate change research, and we dispel a lot of climate change myths along the way!
Becoming a citizen by being born in a country is an topic that flares up whenever there are controversies about immigration and immigrants. This episode explains birthright citizenship and how it developed in the United States and the western hemisphere. And, of course, it explains the complicated history of the tradition, especially how it was applied to Native Americans and freed slaves. It wasn’t as simple as you might have thought. Listen and learn!
One of the most common Einstein No Quotes you see coursing around the internet is: “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” Sometimes the mis-quote-meisters add “so is a lot,” to this pithy quote saying about knowledge, and we end up with “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. So is a lot.” It’s probably the type of thing Einstein would say, but did he ever actually say it? Find out in this episode!
In this Flashback Friday Episode, journalist Mary Pilon joins the Professor to discuss the history of the game Monopoly and its wonderful twists, turns, complications, and lawsuits! It all starts during The Depression and doesn't stop until the 21st Century! Make sure to listen, and tell a playing partner about the show!!
When asked about being drafted for the Vietnam War, Muhammad Ali is often quoted as saying, “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong." This was immediately followed by the now-more-famous quote, “No Viet Cong ever called me n*****,” in a one-two punch of defiance. Ali's "quote" summarized in one glaring sentence the idea that oppression against African-Americans started at home, in the United States, and that, as he saw it, African-Americans were being drafted to fight the wrong fight, against the wrong people. It's one of the most famous sayings from the Vietnam war protest period, but did Ali actually say that phrase, or, more to the point, did Ali coin it? Listen and learn, Buzzkillers!
One of the Republic of India’s Founding Fathers, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel is not as well-known outside India as he should be. This Man Crush Monday is the brief story of his life and career, as perhaps the man most responsible for the unification of India between 1947 and 1950. And you’ll also learn why the tallest (that’s right, the tallest) statue in the world is of him.
Douglas MacArthur is one of the most famous and celebrated generals in American history. Along with Patton, however, he’s one of the most misunderstood and most mythologized. Born in the 19th century, MacArthur served in both World Wars, the Korean War, and other, less extensive US military actions. Yet he is also considered another attention hound (like Patton), sometimes overly-dramatic, and often letting his over-inflated view of his own abilities and destiny get in the way of sound judgement. In this Throwback Thursday episode, the Professors look at his career from the end of World War II to his dismissal by Truman in 1951, and try to determine who was the real Douglas MacArthur.
How did the National Rifle Association become one of the most controversial and divisive organizations in American history? It used to be a sportsmen’s group. Since the 1970s, however, it has taken a very strict view of the US Constitution’s Second Amendment and has gone to extremes in its defense of gun ownership. We explain how and why this happened, and dispel historical and cultural myths along the way.
There's a great quote and sentiment about sticking with a righteous movement for much-needed change, particularly when it's faced with a big, entrenched and powerful foe. That quote goes like this: "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." It's often attributed to Gandhi. That's not very surprising. But we here at the Buzzkill Institute don't call him the Mahatma of Misquotation for nothing, and as we'll see in a couple of minutes, if you were forced to boil down one of Gandhi's very lengthy and sophisticated arguments to a bumper sticker slogan, the "First they ignore you…" saying would fit, more or less. Find out the full story in this episode!
Douglas MacArthur is one of the most famous and celebrated generals in American history. Along with Patton, however, he’s one of the most misunderstood and most mythologized. Born in the 19th century, MacArthur served in both World Wars, the Korean War, and other, less extensive US military actions. Yet he is also considered another attention hound (like Patton), sometimes overly-dramatic, and often letting his over-inflated view of his own abilities and destiny get in the way of sound judgement. In this Throwback Thursday episode, the Professor looks at his early life and his career through World War II and tries to determine who was the real Douglas MacArthur.
Japan’s defensive perimeter kept shrinking during 1944 and 1945, yet the war dragged on. The battles for Iwo Jima and Okinawa were as bloody and horrific as any others during the Pacific war. Strategic bombing of Japan increased, both from the Asian mainland, and from the Pacific side. Japan eventually surrendered in 1945, but we discuss why that was so complicated and difficult. And we bust the many myths surrounding the “unconditional surrender” of Japan. Listen and learn!