I’ve never reviewed a podcast here before, but the more I find myself needing interesting and engaging information about in-depth topics, the more I turn to podcasts to get it. I simultaneously need to feel connected with what’s going on in the world without being inundated with opinion pieces, social media blather, and obnoxious punditry.
I was not following the major news outlets on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Instead, I had been getting bite-sized analysis notifications about once daily, but I needed more.
Plain English is a podcast on the Ringer where host Derek Thompson deep-dives into interesting topics. I had never listened to his podcast before, but after hearing about it from other Ringer shows (of which I listen to several) I noticed that he had done more than one episode on the ongoing war.
As it turns out, Thompson has done seven episodes on the war in Ukraine since its outbreak on Feb 25, speaking with military analysts, financial analysts, and even local Ukrainians about the war, its immediate impact, and its wider and longer-term implications.
I have listened to all seven episodes over the last four days, and I’m eager for more. Thompson takes a very complex subject that is destined to be shredded into a thousand opinions by a thousand talking heads on every network, and asks basic yet direct questions in his interviews with experts.
In the March 1 episode, for instance, Thompson speaks with two different financial analysts about the sanctions that the US and EU have slammed upon Russia, what they are really aimed to accomplish, and what the medium- to long-term impact could be.
What I particularly appreciate about Thompson’s concise narrative style is that he never loses sight of the very human tragedy that is unfolding in this conflict. Ukrainian citizens being targeted and killed in the action. And yes, Russian citizens’ outcries of protest being stamped out by their government, and the potential ruin that Russia’s economic crash could wreak upon people all over the world. (Listen to that March 1 episode).
This is not a case of “both sides”. Putin and the Russian government and military are obviously in the wrong, but their war, and the world’s sanctions against Russia will have real consequences for real people.
Thompson explains these points and much more without talking down to his audience, and with the goal of understanding above anything else. His discussions have made me feel like I can contextualize this conflict in more tangible terms without having to sift through the noise of an online news search or broadcast news clips.
Whether you are already well-informed on this conflict or not, I highly recommend this series of episodes on the Plain English podcast.