“Uncivil,” the latest podcast from Gimlet Media, premiered on Oct. 4 and is a wholly original idea for a radio show. The pod opens with the protests in Charlottesville this August and aims to dispel the “Where did this come from?” sentiment that followed the event.
For “Uncivil,” this notion is false because racism and hatred has always existed but it has been clouded by poor historical knowledge and purposeful ignorance. To give the full picture of our current racial divide, the creators turn their lense backward, to the Civil War specifically, and it makes “Uncivil” an interesting blend of the current and past in a very necessary conversation.
Like the Malcolm Gladwell podcast “Revisionist History,” “Uncivil” attempts to find stories skipped over by historians but, unlike the Gladwell podcast, it actually accomplishes these goals.
While “Revisionist History” often ventures into topics that would never make it into a history book (i.e. free throw form), “Uncivil” manages to find a story in its first episode that was absolutely fascinating and deserves a spot in any history paragraph regarding the freeing of slaves.
Obviously that is not a fair comparison. Gladwell’s podcast is more about sociology and this is a history podcast, but “Uncivil” absolutely achieves its goal of finding “sleeper” history stories.
Gimlet Media, the provider for the podcast, focuses on narrative media, which carries into the production style of “Uncivil.” The pod is structured like a story. It is not two historians telling a brief anecdote, then giving a finely-worded response on how it applies to today’s society. The final result is much more engaging and exciting to listen to. Another wrinkle the creators added was speaking with relatives of the Civil War-era people to tell their ancestors’ stories. This gives the history a weight that would not be there otherwise.
From a broader perspective, the approach of this podcast is very practical and innovative. From the jump, it sets out to be a show taking on the racial divide in present-day America, which involves every aspect of our society and would take a thousand podcasts to cover completely.
“Uncivil” switched it up and chose to cherry pick specific stories of the most racially-divided time in our history, the Civil War, and connect those to current day problems. This decision allows the show to cover a lot of ground and also accomplish its own mission statement.
It is also fascinating to see Mark Twain’s expression, “history doesn’t repeat itself but it does rhyme” in action. The creators are not suggesting a civil war is about to break out, but to see how racism has changed shapes over the years is a goldmine for current day historians.
Just look at how successful Ava DuVernay’s “13th” has been. That film equated the industry of slavery to the “industry” of mass incarceration in America today and that form of thinking is seen here with “Uncivil.” It is very exciting to think of the possible places this podcast can go in the future.
Teddy Craven is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.