Podcasts... joining Isis, and leaving The High Low

Podcasts... joining Isis, and leaving The High Low

 “I am not a bad person. I am not a monster.” These are the words of Sam Sally, as she tries to explain, from prison, how she and her family went from Indiana to the heart of the Islamic State caliphate. In the Syrian city of Raqqa, her husband, Moussa Elhassani, became an Isis sniper, while her ten-year-old son, Matthew, was used in a grotesque propaganda video that was seen around the world. 

Was Sally coerced, or was she a willing volunteer? Why did she protest her innocence, but agree to a plea bargain prison term in 2019? These are the questions explored in I’m Not a Monster, a superb collaboration between the BBC’s Panorama and Frontline PBS that has been four years in the making, said Fiona Sturges in the FT. Hosted by the journalist Joshua Baker, and written with Joe Kent, it makes for a tense and gripping story, “worthy of a dark Hollywood thriller”. If you listen to The Orgasm Cult, use headphones, said James Marriott in The Times. I made the mistake of blaring it out over Bluetooth speakers while making dinner, and having to explain to flatmates why I was listening to an intense Californian man saying things like “I’m going to press my thumb lightly against the opening of the vaginal canal... up and down... up and down”, and a woman going “mmm mmm mmm” and “ahhhh ahhhh ahhggg”. The subject of this compelling tale is the “creepily named” OneTaste, a Silicon Valley start-up that promoted the delights of group orgasmic meditation. It’s a “schaden-fraud” podcast, said Miranda Sawyer in The Observer. 

A smooth-talking CEO convinces people to stump up big sums for something that seems “fashionable, enlightened and empowering. Later, of course, the CEO is proved to be a cult leader/BS merchant, and everything comes tumbling down.” If you’ve never listened to The High Low, Dolly Alderton and Pandora Sykes’s cultural conversation podcast, you’ve been missing out, said Susannah Goldsbrough in The Daily Telegraph. Alas, the pair have now called it quits after four “enormously successful” years – which is a real blow to millions of “millennial fans” across the country who have grown up with their intelligent and good-humoured podcast. I suggest you mark the occasion by treating yourself to some old episodes. Marvel as guest Fatima Bhutto “excoriates the West’s complacency” in its own value systems. Chuckle as Marriage Story gets dissed as resembling a film “made by a man who still didn’t understand why his wife had left him”. Pandora is like “your serene older sister” and Dolly “your wacky aunt”. Together, their warm, witty and wise podcast has been a “weekly bowl of audible soul soup”. It will be much missed.

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