Rebecca Shrader had always thought that abortion was morally wrong. As a devout Baptist Christian, she volunteered at a clinic designed to discourage women from getting abortions. And when she got pregnant for the first time, she knew she would carry the baby to term, no matter what.
But when Rebecca’s pregnancy didn’t go as planned, she started to question everything she had always believed about abortions, and about the people who choose to have them.
This episode of The Experiment was reported by Emma Green in collaboration with This American Life, and originally aired as a part of This American Life’s episode “But I Did Everything Right.”
Be part of The Experiment. Use the hashtag #TheExperimentPodcast, or write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This episode was produced by Miki Meek and Diane Wu with additional production by Peter Bresnan and Julia Longoria, and help from Alina Kulman. Reporting by Emma Green. Editing by Laura Starcheski. Fact-check by Jessica Suriano. Special thanks to Emily Patel and Aimee Baron.
Sound design by Joe Plourde. Transcription by Caleb Codding.
On January 6, 2021, William J. Walker was head of the D.C. National Guard. He had buses full of guardsmen in riot gear ready to deploy in case Donald Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally turned dangerous. But when rioters violently stormed the Capitol building, the Guard was nowhere to be found. Walker says he was forced to wait for three hours before his superiors allowed him to send in his troops. “My soldiers were asking me, ‘Sir, what the hell is going on?’” Walker says. “‘Are they watching the news? Are they watching what’s going on at the Capitol?’ And I had no answer. I don’t recall ever being in that position, where I did not have an answer for my soldiers.”
Now, almost one year later, Walker is the sergeant-at-arms of the U.S. House of Representatives—the first Black man to ever hold that office. The Experiment’s correspondent Tracie Hunte and producer Peter Bresnan visit Walker in his new office at the Capitol to ask him about what happened on January 6, and what he’s doing to make sure it never happens again.
Be part of The Experiment. Use the hashtag #TheExperimentPodcast, or write to us at email@example.com.
This episode was produced by Tracie Hunte and Peter Bresnan with help from Alina Kulman. Editing by Emily Botein and Jenny Lawton with help from Julia Longoria. Fact-check by William Brennan. Sound design by David Herman with additional engineering by Joe Plourde. Transcription by Caleb Codding.
Music by Keyboard (“Over the Moon,” “Water Decanter,” “Mu,” and “Small Island”), Arabian Prince in a UK World (“The Feeling of Being on a Diet”), Water Feature (“Ancient Morsel”), Laundry (“Laundry”), and Column (“Aerolove”) provided by Tasty Morsels. Additional audio from C-SPAN, The Untouchables, the FBI, and Forbes.
This week, The Experiment takes a look at the charge that sent Anissa Jordan to prison for a crime she didn’t even know had been committed. We consider how the felony-murder rule disproportionately punishes youth of color and women, and the debate over whether the same rule is key to holding police officers responsible in the killings of civilians.
Further reading: “What Makes a Murderer?”
This episode is part of The Atlantic’s project “The Cycle,” which is supported by a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge.
Be part of The Experiment. Use the hashtag #TheExperimentPodcast, or write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This episode was produced by Alvin Melathe and Julia Longoria, with editing by Katherine Wells. Fact-check by Will Gordon. Sound design by David Herman. Special thanks to Adam Harris and John Swansburg.
Music by Water Feature (“With Flowers,” “Richard III (Duke of Gloucester),” and “A Paradise”), Keyboard (“Being There” and “My Atelier”), H Hunt (“C U Soon” and “Having a Bath”), and R McCarthy (“Home/Home”), provided by Tasty Morsels. Additional music by Bruce Wiley McKinnon Jr. (“Are You a Freak”) and Tyler O. Sterrett and Jason Trotta (“The Hamlet”). Additional audio from KQED and MPR News.
As the Vietnam War dragged on, the U.S. military began desperately searching for any vulnerability in its North Vietnamese enemy. In 1964, it found one: an old Vietnamese folktale about a ghost, eternal damnation, and fear—a myth that the U.S. could weaponize. And so, armed with tape recorders and microphones, American forces set out to win the war by bringing a ghost story to life. Today, The Experiment examines those efforts and the ghosts that still haunt us.
Hollywood has a long history of “passing movies”—films in which Black characters pass for white—usually starring white actors. Even as these films have attempted to depict the devastating effect of racism in America, they have trafficked in tired tropes about Blackness. But a new movie from actor-writer-director Rebecca Hall takes the problematic conventions of this uniquely American genre and turns them on their head. Hall tells the story of how her movie came to life, and how making the film helped her grapple with her own family’s secrets around race and identity.
Further reading: “Netflix’s ‘Passing’ Is an Unusually Gentle Movie About a Brutal Subject”
Apply for The Experiment’s spring internship. Applications will be accepted through November 29, 2021.
This episode was produced by Tracie Hunte and Peter Bresnan with help from Alina Kulman. Editing by Emily Botein, Julia Longoria, and Jenny Lawton. Special thanks to B.A. Parker. Fact-check by Will Gordon. Sound design by David Herman with additional engineering by Joe Plourde. Transcription by Caleb Codding.
Was anybody willing to be a spiritual adviser to a Muslim man on death row? That’s the question that went out by email to a local group of interfaith leaders in Indiana. Nobody answered.
After a week without responses, the management professor Yusuf Ahmed Nur stepped forward. A Somali immigrant who volunteered at his local mosque, Nur would counsel Orlando Hall in the weeks leading up to his execution. But Nur didn’t expect he’d end up standing beside Hall in the execution chamber as he was put to death.
“That’s when it hit me,” Nur says. “You feel like you’re complicit, that you are cooperating with the system. They assign you a role to play in this execution.”
This week on The Experiment: One man finds himself at the center of our legal system, and witnesses what gets sacrificed in the pursuit of justice.
Further reading: “Trump Is Putting the Machinery of Death Into Overdrive”
This episode was produced by Alvin Melathe, Gabrielle Berbey, and Julia Longoria, with editing by Matt Collette and Katherine Wells. Fact-check by William Brennan. Sound design by David Herman. Special thanks to Katie Bishop and Najib Aminy.
Just as the Navajo researcher Rene Begay started to fall in love with the field of genetics, she learned that the Navajo Nation had banned all genetic testing on tribal land. Now she is struggling to figure out what the future of genetics might look like, and whether the Navajo and other Indigenous communities should be a part of it.
This episode was produced by Peter Bresnan and Julia Longoria, with help from Tracie Hunte and Alina Kulman. Editing by Jenny Lawton and Emily Botein. Fact-check by Michelle Ciarrocca. Sound design by David Herman, with additional engineering by Joe Plourde. Transcription by Caleb Codding. Special thanks to Pauly Denetclaw.
Music by Keyboard (“Ojima,” “Staying In,” and “Being There”), Naran Ratan (“Jam for Bwengo”), Parish Council (“It’s Purple, Not Blue,” “Durdle Door,” and “Scented Letters”), R McCarthy (“Contemplation at Lon Lon”), and Column (“スキャン ｢Scan｣”), provided by Tasty Morsels. Additional audio from the National Institutes of Health’s All of Us Research Program.
Last week, Justice Sonia Sotomayor announced that the Supreme Court had broken with tradition and changed its rules for oral argument. This came after a study revealed that women are disproportionately interrupted by men in the highest court in America. This week, we’re re-airing a More Perfect episode about the Northwestern University research that inspired the Court’s changes.
The satire site The Babylon Bee, a conservative Christian answer to The Onion, stirred controversy when some readers mistook its headlines for misinformation. In this episode, The Atlantic’s religion reporter Emma Green sits down with the editor in chief, Kyle Mann, to talk about where he draws the line between making a joke and doing harm, and to understand what humor can reveal about American politics.
Further reading: “Who Would Jesus Mock?”
This episode was produced by Gabrielle Berbey and Julia Longoria, with editing by Emily Botein and Katherine Wells. Fact-check by Michelle Ciarrocca. Sound design by David Herman, with additional engineering by Joe Plourde. Transcription by Caleb Codding.
Ashley C. Ford was just a baby when her father was sentenced to 30 years behind bars. Prison phone calls—a $1.4 billion industry in the United States—were often prohibitively expensive for her family, so Ford maintained a fragmentary relationship with him through handwritten letters and short visits, while her loved ones tried to shield her from her father’s past. With limited contact and unanswered questions, Ford filled in the blanks with fantasies of her father as the perfect man. This week on The Experiment, the Atlantic staff writer Clint Smith speaks with Ford about what children lose when a parent is in prison—and what happened when she discovered the truth of her father’s crime.
This episode was produced by Gabrielle Berbey and Peter Bresnan, with reporting by Clint Smith. Editing by Katherine Wells, Jenny Lawton, and Julia Longoria. Fact-check by Michelle Ciarrocca. Sound design by David Herman, with additional engineering by Joe Plourde. Transcription by Caleb Codding.
Music by Nelson Bandela (“Auddi Sun 06 17952 5n4”), Ob (“Ere”), H Hunt (“C U Soon” and “11e”), Water Feature (“Double Blessing I”), Laundry (“Films”), and Keyboard (“My Atelier” and “More Shingles”), provided by Tasty Morsels and Nelson Nance. Additional audio from the Connecticut Network and the Connecticut General Assembly Judiciary Committee.
This week, President Joe Biden rolled out a large-scale federal mandate requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for two-thirds of the American workforce, impacting more than 100 million people across the public and private sectors. Some lawmakers have already called the mandate unconstitutional, and Arizona is the first state to sue to block it. This week on The Experiment: As the struggle between individual liberty and public safety rages, we revisit the story of the first Supreme Court battle over vaccines, waged more than 100 years ago.
This episode was produced by Julia Longoria and Gabrielle Berbey, with editing by Katherine Wells. Fact-check by Will Gordon. Sound design by David Herman. Transcript by Caleb Codding.
Music by Ob (“Wold”), Parish Council (“Leaving the TV on at Night,” “Museum Weather,” “P Lachaise”), Alecs Pierce (“Harbour Music, Parts I & II”), Laundry (“Lawn Feeling”), water feature (“richard iii (duke of gloucester)”), Keyboard (“Mu”), and naran ratan (“Forevertime Journeys”), provided by Tasty Morsels. Additional music by Dieterich Buxtehude (“Prelude and Fugue in D Major”), Johannes Brahms (“Quintet for Clarinet, Two Violins, Viola, and Cello in B Minor”), and Andrew Eric Halford and Aidan Mark Laverty (“Edge of a Dream”).
The Atlantic staff writer Hannah Giorgis grew up in the ’90s, watching dozens of Black characters on TV. Living Single, Sister, Sister, Moesha, and Smart Guy were just a few of the shows led by Black casts. But at some point in the 2000s, those story lines and some of the Black writers behind them seemed to disappear. In a cover story for The Atlantic, Giorgis traces the cyclical, uneven history of Black representation on television.
One writer whose career encompasses much of that history is Susan Fales-Hill. She got her start as an apprentice on The Cosby Show, wrote for A Different World, and now is an executive producer of BET’s Twenties. This week on The Experiment, Fales-Hill and Giorgis talk about how power dynamics behind the scenes have shaped what we watch, what we talk about, and how we understand ourselves.
This episode was produced by Meg Cramer. Reporting by Hannah Giorgis. Editing by Katherine Wells. Fact-check by Jack Segelstein. Sound design by David Herman, with additional engineering by Joe Plourde. Transcript by Caleb Codding.
On September 11, 2001, Bobby McIlvaine was killed, along with nearly 3,000 other Americans. In the 20 years since, his parents and brother have searched for ways to live through, and with, their grief.
The writer Jennifer Senior’s brother was Bobby’s roommate when he died, and in the cover story for The Atlantic’s September issue, she visited with each member of the family to understand their personal journey through the aftermath of national tragedy.
“The McIlvaines very early on saw a grief counselor,” Senior tells The Experiment’s host, Julia Longoria, “who said to them: ‘Here’s how you have to think about this. You are all at the top of a mountain, and you all have a broken leg, and you all have to get down to the bottom of the mountain. But because you all have broken legs, you just have to take care of your own self and figure out how to get down.’” In this story, Senior explores how each family member dealt with their grief in very different ways. “But there might be a flaw in that metaphor too,” she says, “because, you know, some people never get down the mountain.”
This episode’s guests include the Atlantic staff writer Jennifer Senior and Helen McIlvaine, Bob McIlvaine Sr., and Jeff McIlvaine, the family of Bobby McIlvaine Jr.
This episode was produced by Alyssa Edes and Julia Longoria, with editing by Katherine Wells and Scott Stossel. Reporting by Jennifer Senior. Sound design by David Herman, with additional engineering by Joe Plourde.
Music by Water Feature (“Double Blessing I” and “Richard III (Duke of Gloucester)”), Naran Ratan (“Forevertime Journeys”), Keyboard (“Being There,” “Small Island,” and “Staying In”), Parish Council (“Heatherside Stores), Alecs Pierce (“Harbour Music, Parts I & II”), and H Hunt (“Journeys”), provided by Tasty Morsels. Additional music by Joe Plourde. Additional audio from C-SPAN.
Here in the United States, 19-year-old Aséna Tahir Izgil feels as though she’s a “grandma.” Aséna is Uyghur, an ethnic minority being imprisoned in labor camps by the Chinese government. The pain she witnessed before escaping in 2017 has aged her beyond her years, she says, making it hard to relate to American teenagers.
“They talk about … TikToks … clothing, malls, games, movies, and stuff,” she says. “And then the things I think about [are] genocide, Uyghurs, international policies … all the annoying adult facts.”
For years, the Chinese government has been persecuting her people, but few have escaped to bear witness. This week on The Experiment: Aséna shares her family’s story of fleeing to the U.S. to escape genocide, adjusting to newfound freedom, and trying to deal with the grief and guilt of being a refugee.
This episode’s guests include Aséna Tahir Izgil and her father, Tahir Hamut Izgil, a Uyghur poet and author.
Further reading: One by One, My Friends Were Sent to the Camps, Saving Uighur Culture From Genocide, ‘I Never Thought China Could Ever Be This Dark,’ China’s Xinjiang Policy: Less About Births, More About Control
This episode was produced by Julia Longoria, with help from Gabrielle Berbey and editing by Katherine Wells and Emily Botein. Fact-check by Yvonne Rolzhausen. Sound design by David Herman, with additional engineering by Joe Plourde. Translations by Joshua L. Freeman.
A translation of Tahir Hamut Izgil’s poem “Aséna” is presented below.
By Tahir Hamut Izgil
Translation by Joshua L. Freeman
A piece of my flesh
A piece of my bone
A piece of my soul
A piece of my thought
In her thin hands
the lines of time grow long.
In her black eyes
float the truths of stone tablets.
Round her slender neck
a dusky hair lies knotted.
On her dark skin
the map of fruit is drawn.
is a raindrop on my cheek, translucent
as the future I can’t see.
is a knot that need not to be untied
like the formula my blood traced from the sky,
an omen trickling from history.
kisses the stone on my grave
that holds down my corpse
and entrusts me to it.
is a luckless spell
who made me a creator
and carried on my creation.
She is my daughter.
Ever since Kerri Strug and the Magnificent Seven won Olympic gold in 1996, the U.S. women’s gymnastics team has been a point of pride for many Americans. But over the past five years, athletes have been coming forward with allegations of widespread abuse in the sport. Former gymnasts say they were forced to train and compete with broken bones and that they were denied food. And dozens of women have testified that they were sexually assaulted by Larry Nassar, the former doctor who worked with the U.S. national team.
USA Gymnastics, the governing body for elite gymnastics in the United States, has said it’s working hard to change the sport’s culture, but many former gymnasts say it hasn’t done enough.
“We have coaches and institutions and organizations and a country, frankly, that prioritize money and medals over the bodies and souls of people,” says Rachael Denhollander, a former gymnast who was the first woman to come forward publicly with accusations against Nassar.
Now that we know the truth about how damaging elite gymnastics can be for young women and girls, should we change how we think about the sport? Denhollander says Simone Biles’s decision to withdraw from several Olympic events might change how athletes see their own worth.
“That’s going to entail a lot of hard conversations,” Denhollander says. “Do you have value and identity and worth outside of your gymnastics ability? If we really, truly understand that the answer to that is yes, that lays the foundation to be able to say, ‘I can’t sacrifice my value, identity, the rest of my life for this one thing.’”
This week on The Experiment: When national glory comes at the expense of young women’s bodies, can we still find a way to love the Olympics?
This episode’s guests include the Atlantic staff writer Emma Green and Rachael Denhollander, a lawyer and victims’ advocate.
Further reading: “The Gymnast Who Won’t Let Her Daughters Do Gymnastics”
Apply for The Experiment’s fall internship. Applications will be accepted through August 20, 2021.
This episode was produced by Tracie Hunte and reported by Emma Green. Editing by Katherine Wells and Jenny Lawton. Fact-check by William Brennan. Sound design by David Herman, with additional engineering by Joe Plourde.
Music by Keyboard (“The World Eating,” “Staying In,” “Ojima,” “Contractions,” and “My Atelier”), Ob (“Waif” and “Ghyll”), and Laundry (“Films” and “Phthalo Blue”), provided by Tasty Morsels and Nelson Nance. Additional audio from NBC Sports, NBC Nightly News, IndyStar, the Today show, The Ben Maller Show, and Dominique Moceanu.
The epic, oft-told origin story of Texas centers on the Lone Star State’s most infamous battle: the Battle of the Alamo, where American heroes such as Davy Crockett fought to the death against the Mexican army to secure Texas’s independence. The only problem, according to the writer and journalist Bryan Burrough, is that this founding legend isn’t all true. In June, Burrough and two other Texan writers set out to debunk the myth of the Alamo, only to find themselves in an unexpected battle with Texans still trying to protect their state’s revered origin story.
“The Anglo power structure here, which still dominates politics and the media,” Burrough says, “can clearly see that if the myth melts away, other things could begin to melt away as well.”
This week on The Experiment: how a history book ignited a ferocious debate over Texas’s founding legend, and how this battle climbed the ranks all the way up to the Texas GOP.
This episode’s guest is Bryan Burrough, a co-author of Forget the Alamo: The Rise and Fall of an American Myth.
This episode was produced by Gabrielle Berbey and Julia Longoria. Editing by Katherine Wells. Fact-check by William Brennan. Sound design by David Herman.
Music by Parish Council (“Marmalade Day,” “Leaving the TV on at Night,” and “Mopping”) and Keyboard (“The World Eating”), provided by Tasty Morsels. Additional music by Joe Plourde, Sam Spence (“Overland” and “River Crossing”), and Antonín Dvořák (“Symphony No. 8 in G Major, Op. 88, B. 163: I. Allegro con brio”). Additional audio from @ThisIsTexasFF; This Is Texas Freedom Force; KXAN; Walt Disney Productions, via Mabay Aleya and The Shadow; and Texas Public Policy Foundation.
In June, the Supreme Court issued a narrow ruling on college sports: Student athletes will now be able to receive educational benefits such as free laptops and paid internships. The decision may have seemed relatively small, but in this episode of the Experiment podcast, the Atlantic staff writer Adam Harris explains how it could change the way we think about college athletes.
College sports rake in billions of dollars a year for schools. But athletes themselves have historically been barred from making money by the NCAA in order to preserve their amateur status. “Amateurism” has long been a central idea of college athletics: Student athletes play for the love of the game and an education, never for compensation. The myth (and marketing) of the “student athlete” have grown over the past century, but starting in 2010, a scandal gradually shifted how the country saw college sports.
This week on The Experiment: The Atlantic staff writer and former college-basketball player Adam Harris explains how the myth of the amateur athlete was created, and why it may finally be on its way out.
This episode’s guests include Adam Harris, a staff writer at The Atlantic; Andy Thomason, an assistant managing editor at The Chronicle of Higher Education and the author of Discredited; Ramogi Huma, a former UCLA football player and the executive director of the National College Players Association; Mary Willingham, a former student-athlete academic adviser and whistleblower at the University of North Carolina.
Further reading: “The Shame of College Sports,” by Taylor Branch
This episode was produced by Kevin Townsend and Julia Longoria. Editing by Katherine Wells. Reporting by Adam Harris. Fact-check by William Brennan. Sound design by David Herman.
Music by Laurie Bird (“Jussa Trip”), Parish Council (“Durdle Door” and “Walled Garden 1”), Keyboard (“Freedom of Movement,” “Mu,” and “World View”), R McCarthy (“Cold” and “Big Game”), and Column (“Sensuela”), provided by Tasty Morsels. Additional music by David Robidoux (“Rivals (B)”), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (“Milan String Quartet No. 4 in E-flat Major”), and Claude Debussy (“String Quartet in G Minor”). Additional audio from MSNBC (clip 1 and clip 2); Fox News; CNN; Kennedy; CNN (clip 1, clip 2, and clip 3); NBC, via AirTexas; NCAA (clip 1, clip 2, clip 3, and clip 4); ESPN (via vslice02 and JD71andOnly); March Madness; WRAL; ACC Digital Network; Fox8; NPR; and Oyez.
Hate crimes in the United States have reached their highest levels in more than a decade, prompting bipartisan support for legislation to combat them and increased resources for law enforcement. But the recent COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act has spurred resistance from an unexpected source: activist groups that represent the people these laws are meant to protect.
This week on The Experiment, our correspondent, Tracie Hunte, investigates the 150-year history of legislating against racist violence in the U.S. and asks: Have we been policing hate all wrong?
This episode’s guests include Jami Floyd, WNYC’s senior editor for race and justice; Saida Grundy, an assistant professor of sociology and African American studies at Boston University; Jason Wu, a co-chair of the LGBTQ advocacy group GAPIMNY; Jeannine Bell, a professor of law at Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law; and Sunayana Dumala, the founder of Forever Welcome.
As The Experiment podcast keeps growing, we’re looking for new ways to tell stories and better serve our listeners. We invite you to visit theatlantic.com/experimentsurvey to share your thoughts with The Atlantic and WNYC Studios.
Further reading: “Calling the Atlanta Shootings a Hate Crime Isn’t Nearly Enough”
Editing by Katherine Wells, Emily Botein, and Jami Floyd. Special thanks to Kai Wright. Fact-check by William Brennan. Sound design by David Herman and Hannis Brown.
Music by Arabian Prince in a UK World (“The Feeling of Being on a Diet”), Keyboard (“Ojima”), Water Feature (“In a Semicircle or a Half-Moon”), and Nelson Bandela (“311 Howard Ave 25 5740”), provided by Tasty Morsels and Nelson Nance. Additional music by Joe Plourde and Hannis Brown. Additional audio from PBS, the Obama White House, CBS News, NPR, and CNN.
Last summer, an unexplained phenomenon gripped nightly newscasts and Facebook groups across America: Unsolicited deliveries of obscurely labeled seed packages, seemingly from China, were being sent to Americans’ homes. Recipients reported the packages to local police, news stations, and agriculture departments; searched message boards for explanations; and theorized about conspiracies including election interference and biowarfare. Despite large-scale USDA testing of the packages, the mystery remained: Who sent the seeds and why?
This week on The Experiment podcast, the host Julia Longoria speaks with the writer Chris Heath about his investigation of mystery seeds for The Atlantic, the byzantine world of international e-commerce, and the dangers of both panic and reason.
Be part of The Experiment. As #TheExperimentPodcast keeps growing, we’re looking for new ways to tell stories and better serve our listeners. Please visit theatlantic.com/experimentsurvey to share your thoughts with The Atlantic and WNYC Studios.
Use the hashtag #TheExperimentPodcast, or write to us at email@example.com.
This episode was produced by Katherine Wells and Julia Longoria, with help from Honor Jones. Fact-check by William Gordon and Michelle Ciarrocca. Sound design by David Herman and Hannis Brown.
From the Pilgrims’ arrival at Plymouth Rock to the rise of the pandemic “quarantini,” alcohol has been a foundation of American society and culture. The Atlantic's Kate Julian explores how this tool for cohesion and cooperation eventually became a means of coping, and what history can teach us about improving our drinking habits.
This conversation originally ran on the podcast Today, Explained, hosted by Sean Rameswaram.
Further reading: America Has a Drinking Problem