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Father K

Thursday, October 12, 2017 - 10:59 PM

Today, while the divisions between different groups in this country feel more and more insurmountable, we zero in on a particular neighborhood to see if one man can draw people together in a potentially history-making election. 

Khader El-Yateem is a Palestinian American running for office in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, one of the most divided, and most conservative neighborhoods in New York City. To win, he'll need to convince a wildly diverse population that he can speak for all of them, and he'll need to pull one particular group of people, Arab American Muslims, out of the shadows and into the political process. And to make things just a bit more interesting, El-Yateem is a Lutheran minister.

This story was reported and produced by Simon Adler, with help from Bethel Habte, Annie McEwen, and Sarah Qari.

 Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.

Guests:

Matt Apuzzo, Reverend Khader El-Yateem, Kayla Santosuosso and Linda Sarsour

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Comments [78]

Chris from New York

You guys have completely lost me lately with your political and human-interest stories. You used to have me spamming the refresh button daily for new stories when you covered science and psychology, but this new content is garbage.

Dec. 13 2017 03:25 PM
LeslieC from Pacific NW

So many here are commenting on either side of the arguments without, it seems, having really *heard* the whole episode, which seems pretty representative of the country generally, right now.

I came here to make the same comment I see from many others, and I still feel the need to add my voice to theirs. As a white woman over 50, and a progressive, I cringed when the interviewer asked how Father K thought he could walk that "fine line" of representing both the Arab community and the rest of the community. Would that even have been asked of a white candidate? ALL of us represent our own "group," and yet try to represent the whole community at the same time, if we are trying to do democracy right. What "fine line" is this?

Yet, I also cringed when I heard that at the final moments, his campaign chose to go with the familiar and not towards the non-Arab voters they knew they needed in order to win.

I did NOT hear you promoting Father K as some have charged, or blaming his loss on anything in particular (though the speculations on that did not truly seem as balanced as your usual reporting). And, unlike some, I do not feel you shouldn't have done this episode, I found it extremely interesting and something I didn't know I wanted to hear about until I heard it - much like some of your more usual topics.

Thank you for doing this episode. Next time, perhaps you could get someone from the group you are highlighting to go over the interview questions ahead of time, to learn how they might sound to ears used to having to hear prejudice everywhere so as not to unintentionally offend? I know from my own experience that I don't know some of the more covert racist phrases that can be used in the hearing of whites and not known for their intent except by the non-whites present; it's not a matter of your own intent, so much as how you can be interpreted so that the question you mean to ask is not necessarily what will be heard.

Nov. 26 2017 11:51 AM
Maria

I’ve been enjoying Radio Lab for a couple of years now, I have learn lots of new things during this time. But they have been focusing too much on politics and that’s just a big turn off.

Nov. 21 2017 11:42 AM
Daniel from Oakland, CA

Simon Adler is right about one thing. His status as a white man from Wisconsin appears to have blinded him to the obvious. It it perfectly compatible to 1) run for office because you want to make sure your historically silenced community has a voice, and also 2) rum because you want to hear and represent all groups in the way your community has not been heard and represented. I assume that if a white candidate says he wants to represent the whole community Adler isn't going to think he's facing an irreconcilable conflict if his constituents don't all want the same thing. Well, the same is true for candidates of color, even if there are also specific injustices they want to address while hearing and representing the entire community.

Nov. 15 2017 06:49 PM
Erik from Sweden

Wow, Just wow, great episode, had me at the edge of my seat and made my stomach drop towards the end. I love science content, but really good (true) stories like this one is why I enjoy radiolab. And for the record, what goes on in israel is horrific. On both sides for sure but the israel goverment act from a state of power and wealth, what the israel soldiers are doing to kids there is just as bad as what the nazis did to the jews. If you dont see that you are clearly a very sick or deluded person.

Nov. 15 2017 09:41 AM
Josh from New England

Linda Sarsour!?!?!? REALLY???? You guys jumped the shark when I realized you were giving her airtime, whats next, Richard Spencer for the other end of the spectrum? I have really enjoyed radio lab over the years. But recently, more and more, shows are focusing on political issues, and clearly leaning heavily left. As someone who is a Jewish, libertarian American. I find your portrayal of this pit viper, to be at the very least least naive, and at most intentionally using my trust in your judgement to color such a person and her efforts as reasonable, and just. To say that the allegations of her being extreme are "just unfounded" (paraphrased from the episode), is proof of that, as any 5 minutes spent searching for interviews with her can demonstrate.

Unsubscribed

Stick to science guys

Nov. 10 2017 11:02 PM
Sarah from Brooklyn

Can you provide citation for the statement that turning away campaign-provided translators is illegal?

I ask because I'm a poll worker in NYC, and I would have turned them away as well out of concern that translators working for a candidate's campaign have inappropriate amount of influence over the voter. We have BOE-trained translators for specific (not enough!) languages, and if they are not available, other poll workers can provide translating services only if there is a Dem and Rep who both speak the same language. This prevents the voter from being told to vote a certain way, for instance.

In fact, city BOE specifically ruled that de Blasio's administration (not campaign) had to keep translators 100 ft away from the polls (which is the electioneering buffer) for this very reason, though I realize this was after the episode came out. http://nypost.com/2017/11/06/de-blasios-translators-ordered-to-stay-100-feet-from-polling-places/

Disenfranchising voters with limited English is obviously not acceptable. We need more BOE-trained translators in more languages. Voters can bring anyone into the voting booth with them (family, friend, etc.), but how can you not see that campaign-appointed translators is obviously problematic?

Also, SUPER weird that you claimed lack of census data for why there aren't BOE Arabic interpreters at the polls, because the Census asks about race and primary language spoken at home separately. There is very clearly a strong pocket of Arabic speakers in South Brooklyn, so the Census data are there. Political will is perhaps not. https://www.census.gov/hhes/socdemo/language/data/language_map.html

Nov. 10 2017 04:39 PM
Ido from Vancouver, BC

Thanks for a fantastic show.
Science is more than E-MC². Science is about trying to explain the world we live in. Your show today made a contribution to that endeavour.
Made me cry, laugh, think.

Nov. 09 2017 01:20 AM
Jackson from Jackson

This was a very curious piece. I was surprised that Simon Adler missed the nuances of the opposing campaign slogan, "Our neighborhood, our guy" as a potentially racially divisive, especially when the piece had developed the background that there was already anti-asian and anti-arab sentiment in the community.

To see how context defines the meaning of slogans, let's consider the one from Charlottesville, "Jews will not replace us." Who do you suppose "us" means? It's a matter of context, and best understood by who is doing the sloganing and where and how. obviously in Charlottesville, the Neonazis meant whites. So, what is "our neighborhood" and who is "our guy"? Isn't it almost certainly the white majority in the community? Mr. Adler didn't consider this at all. So perhaps, yes, Mr. Adler, you are a bit blind.

And it was disappointing the way Mr. Adler went out of his way to suggest that the candidate was putting on a Brooklyn accent and accentuating parts of himself in some contexts and other parts in other contexts. It's hard to believe that Mr. Adler has somehow missed that any political candidate tries to connect with many especially local constituencies--putting on a Stetson hat or harking back to some slender connection to the locals. So it seemed like Adler was pressing the point that by arabs Yateem couldn't possibly represent others.

Honest and objective journalism is more important than ever. The sly shading of issues is distasteful and undercuts journalistic credibility.

Nov. 06 2017 11:02 PM
Jackson from Jackson

This was a very curious piece. I was surprised that Simon Adler missed the nuances of the opposing campaign slogan, "Our neighborhood, our guy" as a potentially racially divisive, especially when the piece had developed the background that there was already anti-asian and anti-arab sentiment in the community.

To see how context defines the meaning of slogans, let's consider the one from Charlottesville, "Jews will not replace us." Who do you suppose "us" means? It's a matter of context, and best understood by who is doing the sloganing and where and how. obviously in Charlottesville, the Neonazis meant whites. So, what is "our neighborhood" and who is "our guy"? Isn't it almost certainly the white majority in the community? Mr. Adler didn't consider this at all. So perhaps, yes, Mr. Adler, you are a bit blind.

And it was disappointing the way Mr. Adler went out of his way to suggest that the candidate was putting on a Brooklyn accent and accentuating parts of himself in some contexts and other parts in other contexts. It's hard to believe that Mr. Adler has somehow missed that any political candidate tries to connect with many especially local constituencies--putting on a Stetson hat or harking back to some slender connection to the locals. So it seemed like Adler was pressing the point that by arabs Yateem couldn't possibly represent others.

Honest and objective journalism is more important than ever. The sly shading of issues is distasteful and undercuts journalistic credibility.

Nov. 06 2017 07:16 PM
Shlomi from Haifa

I would not complain about treating a non-scientific subject as many comments that I read here. You can do a show on whatever subject you fancy and make it great, but you have to be strict about the facts. Especially when you are dealing with politicians.
Although it is more appealing to present oneself as a carpenter's son from Bethlehem, he was actually born and raised in Beit Jala, which is a different town. It's in Wikipedia, not hard to find.
He presents his story of being kidnapped from home while a sleep without doing anything wrong and after that being tortured by Israeli soldiers. Israel is not Somalia or some 3rd world country. It has not the will nor the capacity in prison to kidnap youngsters without doing anything wrong and torture them. I don't know what he did but he knows and doesn't want to share, and his story is so lucidly unreliable that you shouldn't have aired it as is.
I'm not saying that he was prisoned after bringing his case to court, but terrorism prevention is really complicated thing to do and you had explicitly presented one side as the villain and the other as the victim without any fact checking, just based on your gut feeling.
i had to lay it out because I was angry while hearing this part of the show. Besides that, keep up the good work.

Oct. 31 2017 05:25 PM
Kim

I am the biggest fan of Radiolab in the world. I love you Jad and Robert. But today, I just lost a little respect for you. You take the identity bullshit politics of Linda Sarsour and present it as a crusade against bigotry/racism. I realize you're on WNYC, a completely left/liberal leaning organization. But seriously, you could have left out a white feminist posing as a Muslim to garner empathy. Additionally, I would like to see a video of that white guy (I assume) who stands up and proclaims "what are you gonna do about the Arabs and Asians in our neighborhood?" I call bullshit on this one.

Oct. 29 2017 02:11 PM
Ghaleb from CA

Thank you!

Oct. 28 2017 11:34 PM
JP from Memphis, TN

Let me offer a word of dissent to the kinda prevailing attitude in the comment sections - please, please, please keep doing stories like this. I love the science and tech-based stories as much as anyone, but you guys are also awesome at bringing out the humanity in that which is so often seen as dehumanizing - politics included. Great story!

Oct. 27 2017 09:01 PM
Jacques Olivier from Portland OR

Linda Sarsour is Trump-level crazy.....just for Islamism instead of Corporatism and Nationalism.

https://www.snopes.com/2017/01/25/womens-march-organizer-linda-sarsour/

Oct. 25 2017 10:01 PM
Cinthya from Oakland

I am grateful there is a story on this important campaign and feel annoyed by the box at times Simon forced father K into of “well you say you want to speak for all but now you’re only speaking for the Arab American community isn’t it just the same as the opposition...” something like that. No, Simon it is not the same, the opposition benefits from a legacy of white supremacy and racism against the Arab American and Muslim community so it is unfair and ignorant to pose these as two faces of the same coin and also honestly irresponsible reporting.

Oct. 25 2017 08:48 PM
Alexander

@Lynnette from Bradenton, FL: I thought that, too, but apparently some Lutheran divisions and/or congregations refer to their pastor as "Father": http://lutheranreformission.blogspot.com/2013/10/should-pastors-be-called-father.html

I assume Radio Lab got the desired form of address from Pastor El-Yateem himself.

Pastor El-Yateem himself is a delight to listen to (his bit about being raised in Bethlehem, the son of a carpenter, 'no relation', cracked me up for instance). I may have some policy disagreements with him (I don't know, they didn't delve much into those), but he seems a nice guy that, in political parlance, I'd like to have a beer with. Well, tea in my case, and I don't know what the Reverand's drinking policy/history is, but you get the idea. I could have done with hearing how he would narrate for the whole hour.

Incidentally, when questioned whether both sides were doing the same thing, I feel like there was probably a weird editing decision. Just from what we heard, I expected him to answer "But I never accused my opponent of only meaning white people," but he didn't, suggesting something was cut on one side or the other.

From comments from those in the area, though, it sounds like his main opponent was at least as personable and had better name/facial recognition. This episode barely mentioned said opponent, and so I must concur with other commentators who feel that there was a distinct bias to this episode that was severe enough that it impedes enjoyment of the episode. I still derived some enjoyment, and I wouldn't say I'm offended exactly, but it felt like this was half an episode stretched to a full one, where the other half (covering the opposition and other dissenting views) was missing.

It's also on the edge of science (I suppose there's some political science involved in this), and the science was why I started listening, but that's somewhat secondary.

Oct. 25 2017 06:15 PM
H from Seattle

I've heard that the Voters Rights Act protect language access at the poles for as many identities as possible. Yet actively excludes Arab language and people.

Oct. 25 2017 04:22 PM
don Cheese from Springfield

Wow. RL has gone down hill so much since "More Perfect" came out. That show must be getting the lions share or resources and then some. Too bad the show has moved so into politics that the science stuff gets short changed. Wonder if fund raising has taken a hit when such a huge shift in focus. I know I didn't pitch in this time round.

Oct. 25 2017 01:48 PM
Jim from Omaha

Many people have been asking wth happened to radio lab. Used to be so great and now its garbage.

Oct. 25 2017 01:32 PM
Mark from UK

I've just been looking through thc Radiolab archive pages, at all the wonderful science-based episodes of the past. What has happened?

Oct. 24 2017 04:44 PM
Sarah from Wyoming

Hi I live in Wyoming, and I am only using my first name because I am probably only one of perhaps three people in my town who knows that a dear friend is Muslim, and this community is small enough that many people would figure out of whom I am talking. By the end of your program I was crying, because I truly I do believe that the struggle going on in Father K’s district is a microcosm of what is going on all over this country... all over the world. Fear is sinking it’s septic teeth into the hearts of so many people, and it seems like those who choose tolerance seem powerless in these times to stem the tide. I send father K And his staff my blessing and support from afar.

Oct. 24 2017 12:13 PM
kate deciccio from CA


paraphrasing Simon Adler, "You want to represent the whole community, but at the same time you want to give voice to this group that doesn't have a voice. How can you represent the Arab community and tell the whole community - I'm still you too?"

Wow. You would never ask a white candidate this question. Why is it that an Arab candidate who speaks openly about a lack of representation & prioritizes the perspective of their community couldn't also care about the needs of other groups who live in their neighborhood?

Oct. 23 2017 09:01 PM
Giorgi from Missouri

Jad and Robert, please return to science stories. There's countless other things you could talk about, please stop poisoning one of the few remaining sources of entertainment and food for thought.

Let me reiterate: PLEASE GET OUT OF POLITICS.
This topic was not only covered very superficially, but also with blatantly obvious bias and presumptions. Linda Sarsour portrayed as a blameless angel, my goodness.

Oct. 22 2017 06:53 PM
René Goldsobel from Floral Park

I can't say i see it as the pastor losing due to racial tensions or divisions in the neighborhood. I believe the pastor is losing because the other candidate was more popular than him. We like to overcomplicate things when democracy is so often incomplex and uncomplicated. Then again a simple succession of events wouldn't make for a provocative episode and therefor the narrator Simon Adler injected his own drama into the production for stimulation and the expectated "N.P.R." affect and perhaps to hide Simon Adler's embarrassingly fawning portrayal of the pastor himself. The pastor's unconventional campaign was aided and abetted by journalists who looked the other way and left the pastor's policy positions unscrutinised and so it does not surprise this commenter that this brand of sycophantic groveling continues long after the pastor has lost the election

Oct. 22 2017 06:20 PM
Bobby from Boston, MA

I concur with what Justin from Florida and others have pointed out: There's absolutely no contradiction here. The RadioLab crew's line of questioning is tantamount to someone chanting "All Lives Matter" in response to someone insisting "Black Lives Matter". The Arab constituents in this district were being outright ignored by their representative, so the campaign absolutely needed to assure them, in particular, that Father K would be their voice, *too*.

Let me also remind the crew of RadioLab that Father K is now a private citizen, and not an elected official. As such, he does not have a mandate to divide his time and energy among all the issues important to all the constituents of that district. The only way to see his current advocacy efforts as contradictory is to assume he's somehow hurting the rest of the district by enfranchising its Arab constituents. That's absurd. He isn't focusing on the Arab community because he believes "Only Arab Constituents Matter". He's focusing on the Arab community because "Arab Constituents Matter Too".

Oct. 22 2017 05:47 PM
Dahri from CA

If Linda Sarsour is engineering his campaign you can imagine what the outcome is going to be. I am so happy that he lost.

Oct. 21 2017 02:03 PM
Justin from Florida

I'm paraphrasing Simon Adler, "You want to represent the whole community, but at the same time you want to give voice to this group that doesn't have a voice. How can you represent the Arab community and tell the whole community - I'm still you too?" Did anyone ask Hillary Clinton this question when she was going to break the glass ceiling? How can you represent women and tell the country - I'm still you? It sounds like Adler sees it as impossible to be an example and voice for an underrepresented section of society and still make rational decisions as an adult. This same tactic could have easily been turned on Obama as well - I don't see how he, nor the people at RadioLab don't see the contradiction.

Oct. 21 2017 09:38 AM
Eaksoy from Nyc

This was a great episode, about a neighborhood that I frankly never think about as a New Yorker, and a man and fight that I support. I'm not surprised that he lost of course, sure race, but also from what I know Bay Ridge is a very community driven neighborhood despite the division noted in this podcast and someone the community knows will be stronger that makes sense.

Oct. 20 2017 06:11 PM
Jim from Omaha

SJW Lab

Oct. 20 2017 01:17 PM
Dean Nandana

I cannot believe Radiolab stooped to the level of giving that reprehensible Jew-hating charlatan Linda Sarsour air time. HEY JAD & ROBERT: GET OUT OF POLITICS.

If you want to find out how good Radiolab used to be, (and, alas, what a steaming pile of crap it has turned into), I found a podcast repository of the old content: https://www.blugs.com/rss/rl.xml

Animal Minds, War of the Worlds, Colors, Stochasticity, The Ring & I, Stress, etc. The halcyon days before Radiolab jumped the shark and turned into an MSNBC clone.

I miss Lulu :-)

Oct. 19 2017 10:50 PM
Geoff from Oxford England

I loved this podcast episode. Rang so many bells with our campaigning for democratic socialist Labour Party candidates here in the UK. It was so inspiring to hear how the Bernie Sanders supporters came out in their hundreds and gave support across the country with phone-banking, like the Corbyn-for-leader grassroots movement that grew into the people's Momentum movement here over the last couple of years. Thank you and power to the left!

Oct. 19 2017 12:26 PM
leslie from pittsburgh, PA

I didn't really like Simon Adler's ignorance (possibly feigned?) of Father K's stance of: i want to give voice to the Arabs but also represent all the people of this neighborhood. it felt very "all lives matter" to me! like he is acting like if you give voice to oppressed people you can't also hear what the other people are saying?

Oct. 19 2017 11:43 AM
Nick from US of A

Rick from NYC from New York:
From your comment:

“What is troubling to me is this sense that consumers can force content providers to lose their creative control of what they wish to convey out of fear of offending their base. That sort of listener pressure engenders an ever narrowing content format. Yes, you have the right to voice your opinions, but in doing so in such a condemning and threatening tone you're actually stifling free expression”

I wrote a straightforward critique, which was neither a “condemnation,” a “threat,” nor a “boycott.”
Criticism doesn’t merely stifle free expression, it IS free expression. Should I feel that your response to my critique is stifling my own free expression?

I, too, am worried about content creators being “forced” to change their content for fear of offending their base, as opposed to in response to legitimate criticism. In my comment I referenced an example of exactly that. Here is a link: http://www.radiolab.org/story/truth-trolls/

Oct. 19 2017 11:38 AM
R R from shore rd, Bay ridge, BK

I work in Bay Ridge and there is a divide between communities and ethnicity. I also do not think that is why he lost. He did not have the name recognition or do the leg work for what is needed to gain this seat. I think there were a lot of decent political issues that could have been elaborated on in this piece, particularly whether or not the politicians in this area do speak for everyone in the community, and the issue of illegal home conversion. In regards to comments on this thread about L. Sarsour, i think describing her as a provocateur is accurate, for all the things she has said that i disagree with, her actions to help people should be just as notable.

This article has no legs if not for the political climate that has been ushered in with the new federal administration. The meat and potatoes of this broadcast is the fear that immigrant communities feel, and how that fear may have increased in the past year. The quotes you hear in the piece aren't made up, and for those associated with the region, know that it may even be incorrect to call these sentiments outliers.

Oct. 19 2017 07:42 AM
Rick from NYC from New York

Nick from the US of A, and Sol from Victoria, and other assorted malcontents:

I'm a long time listener of RadioLab (RL). I have a science background and I do enjoy stories about science. However, I don't need RL to inform my knowledge of science. Why do I listen? Because RL connect science to humanistic issues. I'd say I'm more inclined to listen to podcasts like RL and TAL because of the way they convey a story rather than any particular tack or content.

But as a listener, I don't get to dictate the content. I will either listen or I will not. And if in reading the description I can estimate whether or not I'm interested in listening, I will make the decision ad hoc based on my preferences. What is troubling to me is this sense that consumers can force content providers to lose their creative control of what they wish to convey out of fear of offending their base. That sort of listener pressure engenders an ever narrowing content format. Yes, you have the right to voice your opinions, but in doing so in such a condemning and threatening tone you're actually stifling free expression. What appears to be lacking in your comments is the very thing this story is attempting to convey, which is tolerance and an open exchange of ideas.

When listeners don't like a discussion of climate change, they complain. If the listeners don't like a critical discussion of the gutting of the EPA, they complain. When listeners don't intellectual discussion about how the USA budgets it's economic resources, they complain.

There is an easy solution to all that discontent... just don't listen. They are not jumping the shark, but whatever content decisions they make it's in their editorial control. Not yours. Not mine.

Please, there is room for all types of discussion here. These concepts serve their purpose by enlightening us, by broadening our understanding of humans endeavors, and adding a humanistic approach to scientific phenomenon.

If you seek something more academically more rigorous, there are plenty of other podcasts and academic and professional journals, where this content is available, support them.

[File under failed boycotts]

Oct. 19 2017 05:23 AM
Sol from Victoria

Nick from US of A
Some of the more obvious problems with this episode:

1. The implication that any resistance to "outsiders" is regressive and must be motivated by racism/xenophobia. (Did the DNC stifle Bernie in the primaries because he's a Jew?)

2. The implication that voters who don't vote for Father K are likely racist/xenophobic. Two other possible reasons were addressed, but I don't need a degree in Media Studies to know which on the audience is supposed to remember.

3. Dismissing the resistance of Arab Christians to El-Yateem's candidacy. Yet another straw-man. We heard from the rabidly xenophobic aging white population, and we heard a lot from [heroine] Linda Sarsour. This seemed like a very interesting part of the story, and the "they're all Republicans and don't like Muslims" explanation seems undercooked, if not disingenuous.

4. A positive portrayal of Linda Sarsour? Really? Contrasted with need to remove the "Truth Trolls" episode, this seems to reveal a double standard.

5. This is more like a This American Life episode than a Radiolab episode.

Radiolab is easily one of my favorite podcasts. It is the podcast I am most likely to suggest to other people. In the past I have thought of Radiolab as a breath of fresh air from NPR's usual politically biased content. I would like to continue listening to it without being wary of ideological slant.

This is a step in the wrong direction, and it is becoming a trend. Please don't jump the shark, Radiolab.

Oct. 19 2017 02:04 AM
Aaron from MN

I'd like to echo the comments from Sophie, D from Denton, Danny, and others: Simon Adler, your White Dude is showing in some really off-putting ways (and I say this as a White Dude from MN).

It's cringe-worthy to suggest there's a "contradiction" in Pastor El-Yateem wanting to use his personal experiences in the Arab community to inform the way he represents the whole community--but desiring to represent the whole community nonetheless. Would anyone ever ask a white politician, "How can you claim to both be a Democratic-socialist AND seek to represent white people?"

To paraphrase Jon Stewart, apparently you can't care about broader issues and have a political ideology unless you're a Normal.

Oct. 18 2017 07:25 PM
Nick from US of A

Some of the more obvious problems with this episode:

1. The implication that any resistance to "outsiders" is regressive and must be motivated by racism/xenophobia. (Did the DNC stifle Bernie in the primaries because he's a Jew?)

2. The implication that voters who don't vote for Father K are likely racist/xenophobic. Two other possible reasons were addressed, but I don't need a degree in Media Studies to know which on the audience is supposed to remember.

3. Dismissing the resistance of Arab Christians to El-Yateem's candidacy. Yet another straw-man. We heard from the rabidly xenophobic aging white population, and we heard a lot from [heroine] Linda Sarsour. This seemed like a very interesting part of the story, and the "they're all Republicans and don't like Muslims" explanation seems undercooked, if not disingenuous.

4. A positive portrayal of Linda Sarsour? Really? Contrasted with need to remove the "Truth Trolls" episode, this seems to reveal a double standard.

5. This is more like a This American Life episode than a Radiolab episode.

Radiolab is easily one of my favorite podcasts. It is the podcast I am most likely to suggest to other people. In the past I have thought of Radiolab as a breath of fresh air from NPR's usual politically biased content. I would like to continue listening to it without being wary of ideological slant.

This is a step in the wrong direction, and it is becoming a trend. Please don't jump the shark, Radiolab.

Oct. 18 2017 03:40 PM
Mary from Brooklyn, NY

I was born/raised in Flatbush, lived in Bay Ridge for over 20 years, and I am a democrat. WOW- talk about irresponsible journalism (if you can call it that!) Is Bay Ridge diverse, yes. Divided? Hardly. Maybe if you did more than take a bike ride through (or talk to older people in the afternoon), you would be better prepared for this piece. When I tell people about this neighborhood, I proudly talk about the real, true mix of cultures- coming together in the parks, restaurants and many festivals held throughout the year. And do you know who we see at these places? Justin Brannan, standing there laughing, talking and helping people- for YEARS. Showing up to people's homes when they have a problem. THAT'S why Father K didn't win. Where was he before the election? I never heard of him! The first time I laid eyes on this man was walking into my apartment building- in "North" Bay Ridge (ridiculous.) I said hi! with a smile. He pet my dog, and didn't acknowledge me- a week before the election! When I saw the postcards he left in the lobby and I realized he was a politician, I said to myself, how could that man expect to win- he doesn't even say hello?! WHO exactly was he reaching out to? Maybe it's because you weren't recording him at the time? To insinuate he didn't win because he was an arab man is soooo short sighted (and quite frankly, racist.) Guess where I saw Justin Brannan at 7am the DAY after the election? Standing in front of the Bay Ridge train station shaking hands and thanking ALL people (not just arabs.)

Oct. 18 2017 03:07 PM
Sam Levin from Newark, NJ

Richard from Brisbane hit the nail right on it's flat head. The hero worship and obsequious flattery displayed by the narrator (Lulu Miller?) was a bit "over the top" for my liking. I'd never heard political reporting like this that is so biased nearly to the point of a "fan fiction" quality. This episode was not interesting like the others I've enjoyed in the past like "Cities" or "Loneliness of the Goalkeeper" because every episode of Radiolab used to feel like an objective adventure into the unknown but this episode missed the mark and only helped to further foment the country's misguided racial divisions

Oct. 18 2017 01:36 PM
SamDawes

Guys your podcast is known for presenting science and cool stories in a well edited digestible little package. Like TED, before it got sh*t
Please stop listening to your higher ups and allowing these lame political tibits to tarnish your name.
Can hear you don't enjoy these, bet your views and donations plummet too.

Oct. 18 2017 12:55 PM
Richard from Brisbane

I agree with most of the sentiment here. This was a reasonably interesting story and still a good listen. There were definitely some points her that were worth a story I think. But the conclusions were nowhere near as well thought through and interesting as Radiolab usually offers.
I don't get how an Arab guy not getting elected is necessarily about anything other than him not being the best candidate. Why the conclusion that his problem had anything to do with race? Maybe it did, but at least discuss that this isn't the whole story. I also think there is a really interesting story on whether this 'us vs them' mentality from the Arab community is really a good thing for anyone.. wouldn't the ideal situation be for communities to get excited and mobilised around a candidate that represents the policies these people want instead of a candidate that comes from the Middle East like they did?
Also the fact that some translators got turned away was presented as some kind of conspiracy smoking gun.. but I can imagine nervousness about letting a random person claiming to be a translator bringing people in to vote.. how do you guarantee they aren't applying pressure to the voter.. anyway, just seemed a little less rigorous than normal.
Hopefully back to the normal very high standard next episode!

Oct. 18 2017 03:14 AM
George from Bay Ridge

I voted for Brannan because he helped my family whenever I emailed Councilman Gentile and knew Justin for three years. While I liked El Yateem and was visited by a canvasser, I never thought El Yateem would win due to his lack of traditional institutional support from labor unions, district leaders, etc.

Oct. 17 2017 11:02 PM
skleeve from Portland, OR

Please bring back the science (Yes, I'm an "old guard" RadioLab fan). I do enjoy these topics that you seem to have gravitated toward and have dominated the show for the past several years, but there are other podcasts that cover these too and frankly do it better. But there aren't that many that did science/natural world/tech/ AND humanity's relationship to these - that's where the old show really shined! It feels like you have permanently shifted from what made the old RadioLab so good into what is probably more "popular" or "newsy-relevant". But why? Those venues are already out there and you had something special! Science is still happening and relevant. Tech! Space! Medicine! Environmental issues! Social change! Climate change! Mantis Shrimp! It's still all out there! I guess some suits or higher ups (ie "design by committee types) thought this is the direction the show should go, because of some social media-demographics-graphs-ratings flavor of the month stuff or something, or maybe Jad is spending time on other projects or being a dad (which is a good thing) and is letting this one die. Please read the other comments here and on other episodes and you'll see that a good number of the fan-base share these sentiments.

Oct. 17 2017 05:47 PM
Lynnette from Bradenton, FL

Small point of fact regarding the title of this episode... Lutheran pastors are not called "Father." They are simply called Pastor. Father is a designation for priests.

Oct. 17 2017 04:09 PM
Doug

I'm amazed that RadioLab didn't dig into Linda Sarsour a little more. She is someone who said of anti-female genital mutilation activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, "I wish I could take her vagina away - She doesn't deserve to be a woman."

That's a pretty harsh thing to say to a victim of FGM.

It isn't hard to find this information, either. Why didn't radiolab do the most minor digging on her?

With someone like that featuring prominently in El-Yateem's campaign, how could he expect to win a primary, let alone a general election?

To dismiss the Arab Christian community as "Republican" for their concern over El-Yateem's candidacy was irresponsible. That's like saying, here's a campaign manager who is an Arab Muslim, but only Christian's will vote for him? Why did he alienate his own community? They should have been quoted extensively so that listeners could hear for themselves what his community said about him.

Radiolab has let its standards slip considerably since the recent election season. Their bias is showing, and it's very disappointing. What happened to journalistic excellence? Is there anyplace we can go that where biased political coverage isn't on display?

Oct. 17 2017 12:33 PM
Nicole from Miami, FL

I used to love tuning into RadioLab for the science stories and amazing sounds. Now it's no different than tuning into "More Perfect" or NPR. I thought "More Perfect" was supposed to be more political while Radiolab stays it's fascinating science-self. Now it's blurred the lines so much that both shows are the same.

Oh well. Guess I have to find another podcast that sticks to science and medicine.

Oct. 17 2017 09:57 AM
George

You guys have a good thing going with this podcast. And your gonna f—k it up.

Oct. 17 2017 01:58 AM
Frederick Joseph from Raleigh, North Carolina

Why Radiolab is covering raw politics ? Particularly when the other day we had two superdense neutron stars crash into each other - an occurrence which brought with it a virtual cornucopia of insights, each occurrence on its own would be a major scientific advance ? ? Why not talk about how politics based solely on a tribe and ethnicity is politics doomed to tear our country in half ? To a certain extent, in some measure, that's scientific at least

Oct. 17 2017 12:35 AM
Keith from Dallas, TX

I'm a long time listener and a big fan of RadioLab. One thing I like about this show is that Jad, and particularly Robert, normally do a very good job of putting on the breaks when conclusions are being drawn and saying, "wait, but what about this viewpoint". Yet since the 2016 presidential race began the show seems to have gone totally myopic when discussing politics.

Is it not possible that Mr. El-Yateem didn't win the election because of his political views? Is it possible that NY native Justin Brannan might just have a message that people think is better for the community? Mr. El-Yateem sounds like a nice guy, personally I was rooting for him most of the way through your story, but he's a Socialist. Are you guys aware of how Socialism is working out in Venezuela? Yet the only conclusion you can draw is that he lost because he's Palestinian born? Really? That's embarrassing, you can do better than that.

What about Nancy Tong? She seems like a fine lady, yet she only received half the votes of El-Yateem. So are all of the people that voted for Mr. El-Yateem being sexest and racist by not voting for an Asian woman?

Look guys, I know you have a narrative you're trying to promote, but seriously, get back to the old RadioLab that had deep thinking stories and stop using the show as a political tool.

Signed, Keith who what's to stay a listener, but is growing doubtful.

Here's an excerpt from Justin Brannan campaign sight to make the point that he actually had a pretty good message:

"I grew up in the shadow of the Verrazzano Bridge, and have always called our community
home. My wife, Leigh, and I own a small business here, and my mom, Mary, has been an educator here for over 30 years. Helping others is my passion...

To me, representing our community means making sure everyone has a fair shot at opportunity no matter who they are, or where they come from. It means making sure that our government functions at its most basic level — providing good schools, safe neighborhoods, reliable mass transit, senior services, and yes, smooth streets that we can walk, bike, and drive on.

Now more than ever, we need to elect people with guts — people who aren’t afraid to stand up for what’s right. I was raised to have a strong work ethic, and an equally strong backbone, and I know how to cut through the red tape to get the job done."

Oct. 17 2017 12:01 AM
Brian Beyer from New York

Bring back the old Radio lab.

Oct. 16 2017 10:21 PM
Chase from Woodbridge NJ

Jewish supremacist xenophobes aplenty in the comment section. Not a good look.

Oct. 16 2017 06:36 PM
Trans-Ann

There is only so much naiveté a girl can handle ! I would say this segment should have been entitled "White Guy From Wisconsin Goes To Ungentrified Brooklyn And Lives To Tell About It." I found it interesting to hear your slamming the white candidate for using 'our neighbors' tagline but not the Middle Eastern candidate for doing the exact same thing with his 'my community' shtick. Please Radiolab don't become a parody of your own selves because you are really breaking this girl's heart

Oct. 16 2017 05:01 PM
Daniel T. A. from California/Michigan

Can we get some science again?

We've recently used gravitational waves to detect two stars colliding over the past 11 billion years and used the gravitational reading to locate the galaxy with visual telescopes!

Politics isn't fun to listen to anymore...

Oct. 16 2017 03:27 PM
Tony

Radiolab quality is like the dexter tv series.. This season, and especially this episode.. is very disappointing. Someone needs to be fired. How can i donate now, especially if you are spending so much on this crap. Islam ironically is a right wing ideology just like the conservatives who vote against them. Simple: right wing is always fighting right wing, each claiming superiority over the others. But when it comes to core ideology: homosexuality, abortions, the existence of green house gasses, god in schools and public spaces, etc... there is much in common. So who cares. I learned nothing from this episode.

Oct. 16 2017 10:19 AM
Alan

Not enough "White" people could vote for an Arab? Have you ever heard of John Sununu, or he's clearly not ethnic enough for your preferred narrative.

Oct. 16 2017 10:01 AM
Mike from Brooklyn from Brooklyn

Every time you create a podcast based on Race your journalistic integrity crashes through the floor.

Oct. 16 2017 09:15 AM
Lilian from London, UK

Guys, you're forgetting ONE THING. Father K is not being 'contradictory'. What every intelligent empathetic person would realise is that, issues that matter the most to one community, would apply to all community, regardless of gender, race, religion or 'identity politics'. Education standards, housing affordability, all these things, impact us all and they are much more pressing and urgent if we want to be better, happier, healthier people, than what the colour of our skin or our heritage is. That's what is essentially at the heart of a public servant who runs for office.

And Jad is right, you can't escape identity politics. it's unfortunate that most people can't wrap their heads around the idea that a person's identity is a mosaic, he is obviously all those things, he's got Arabic heritage, he's a pastor, he's just like any ordinary average 'American' (Whatever that means), where he has to worry about his kids education, supporting his family, and all that. But it's getting more and more common now that a person has intersectional, quilt-like, tapestry-like structure to who they really are, and our insistence to pigeon hole and classify people 'neatly' has to gradually disappear.

And as the story clearly illustrates, the more we follow him, the more he seems to only represent his community, because it's a numbers game! And in the end people will vote for those that they subconsciously (or consciously) feel is the most similar to them. This is what Father K had to contend with....I disagree with the tone that Simon take when he said this line, as if his campaign promise to represent everyone is nothing but a front. It seems like as a white dude from Wisconsin, he is really missing the point.

Oct. 16 2017 06:23 AM
Janis from Riga

I just wanted to come here and thank Radiolab for making this story :)
For me personally, Radiolab is one of the incredibly rare podcasts that continues to consistently make great stories on monthly basis.
Thanks for that :)

Oct. 16 2017 02:05 AM
Laurel from Spokane, WA

I appreciate Sophie and Jason Burke Murphy's comments. The piece focuses a lot of energy on walking the "fine line" of being an Arab-American candidate speaking to multiple constituencies. This focus misses the point for me. If you draw attention to Father K's focus on the Arab-American community/concerns/voter turnout, why isn't it fair to say the other candidate is focusing on white concerns/voter turnout? My guess is the other candidate targeted their election night outreach in the predominately white areas of the district where they had more IDs, but the producer doesn't seem to think that's worthy of mentioning, while Father K's focus on the areas where he has more IDs (a very normal strategy in elections), is taken as "proof" that he was always on one "side" to begin with. Please do better Radiolab.

Oct. 16 2017 01:39 AM
Murray

Heya Radiolab hear me out: what if Father Kay lost simply because he wasn't the best candidate in the race ? Did you ever consider that far-out scenario or would you rather accuse every person who did not vote for Father Kay to be a racist ? This story was irresponsible journalism. Let's make Radiolab great again ! This wasa a far cry from Patient Zero and From Tree to Shining Tree two of my favorite Radiolab episodes

Oct. 15 2017 11:36 PM
Relocated from Park Slope from Bay Ridge

There are a number of assertions about Bay Ridge that get delivered as fact seemingly without any actual research - for example, this idea that immigrants are driving house prices up because they bid high and then illegally subdivide the buildings into many apartments. Show me the numbers - because what I see is a lot of people moving here from Park Slope, Carroll Gardens, and Boerum Hill because you can still aspire to a single family house at prices that would get you a one-bedroom coop in other neighbrohoods. These folks are coming here specifically because the neighborhood is diverse - not only communally but also economically (note Bay Ridge Median imcome is almost exactly NYC median whereas Park slope is about double the NYC median). Secondly, Hillary voters (i.e. "regular" Democrats as opposed to Democratic Socialists) perhaps were not thrilled with a message that sounded like "if you voted Bernie, you should vote for me" so soon after a really painful defeat (speaking of which, has El Yateem endorsed he Dem candidate at this point?). third, the Brannan campaign's "Our Guy" thing was clearly intended to mean that he is the guy people ALREADY call for constituent services - literally every Facebook complaint about missed DSNY pick ups, traffic lights, or even "what the heck was that noise" gets tagged to him to track down. The people who thought it was a dog whistle just don't know enough about the guy and his supporters. Finally, I think not describing the "fontrunner" at all while showcasing some deplorables was a low blow to the neighborhood. Radiolab, I love you - please do better.

Oct. 15 2017 08:45 PM
Samira Jubran from rochester,mn

Thank you for this great work!
Would love to see a tackle of the census issue with Professer/comedian Amer Zahr
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUWtg4cEYq8

"We're not white"

Oct. 15 2017 12:07 PM
Danny

Khader el yateem is an Arab american lutheran pastor and father of two girls attending college. His concerns lie in his arab heritage, his Christianity and as a father paying bills. Thats who he is and that's the platform he ran. Yet you say he ran two campaigns which was the reason he lost. He is arab and he is american. Those are not contradictory.

Oct. 15 2017 10:42 AM
Ashley from Queensbury, NY

Can you please bleep the swears or offer a bleeped version? During this episode, one time the f word was bleeped, but in another instance, it wasn't.

Oct. 14 2017 11:18 PM
Brooks

Did anyone on the staff notice that they were reporting on a candidate for elected office who campaigned at places of worship DURING religious services by speaking to the assembled congregation (just after the opening prayers) and asking for their support, all while dressed in the garb of a clergyman?

Oct. 14 2017 09:14 PM
Jason Burke Murphy from Belchertown, MA

I enjoyed this podcast and am glad you made it.

I would like to correct a couple of points. Simon Adler left listeners with the impression that this was a very unusual race. Abumrad and Krulwich and Adler were shocked that a district with 20,000 Arab residents would be a difficult place to get 4,000 votes. I did election work in Arkansas and Missouri and was trained by people who worked all over the country. The numbers in this campaign were very similar to numbers we used. I was only surprised that he did as well as he did with only 5,500 people committed to vote for him right before the election. That usually gets you half that number.

In other words, this election was not nearly as unusual as it was presented. There is very, very, low turn-out in US local elections. People who have not voted are very hard to get out. I organized rides to the polls. I got people to sign forms that said "You can count on me." And I was very far away from Brooklyn.

El-Yateem's supporters did very well. I have seen white voters do very similar things when campaigning against challengers, especially ones who are Black or have Black support. There are a lot of whispers and a lot of direct race-baiting.

There were also some moments where I thought that Adler was bemused or was finding irony when there is no need. There is no conflict between representing Arab residents and the "whole neighborhood". El-Yateem offers hope in easing a lot of the tensions in that neighborhood. He also proved he can talk to a very high percentage of people there.

I hope these comments are taken in the spirit in which I am giving them. I really appreciated the coverage of this campaign. Most election coverage is not this good. Thank you, Radiolab, again.

Oct. 14 2017 06:40 PM
Sarsour Fraud

Why is RadioLab hiding the truth? See for yourself the real Linda Sarsour in her own words. Total bigot

http://www.camera.org/index.asp?x_context=8&x_nameinnews=466&x_article=3624

Who is Linda Sarsour?

She is a woman who has two sets of standards.

She poses as a universal activist who embraces all marginalized people, but she excludes anyone whose views do not completely align with hers.

She is a white woman who poses as a woman of color, but she denies other white women the stage she seizes for herself.

She poses as a black feminist, but she refuses to fight for women's rights in Muslim societies and tries to silence other black and Muslim feminists who expose oppression against women.

She poses as an opponent of anti-Semitism and a proponent of racial justice who fights for Palestinian national self-determination, but she denies Jews the same right.

She demands free speech for herself and for her BDS campaign, but shuts down the free speech of anyone who disagrees with her.

In summary, Linda Sarsour is a poseur who uses others to promote herself.

Anti semitism always reveals itself because truth is stronger than lies. Sarsour is a bigot and anti semite and it's a great day for America that a cause she supported did not succeed.

Oct. 14 2017 11:49 AM
Ahmed A from WA

I did enjoy listening to this episode, i have only the following comment to made about the reason why Egyptian Christians not supporting him, the reasons mentioned are partly correct, the not so correct part is not because they don't trust Muslims, which maybe true to a certain degree in certain circles, but mainly because they don't trust Muslim brotherhood candidates. It can be argued that there is no relationship between the brotherhood and this candidate, but i believe in general the Coptic public associate this kind of activism with the brotherhood, and maybe because Linda was part of it they got this feeling. I have no proof that Linda has any thing to do with the brotherhood, but from the media coverage one get this impression.

Oct. 13 2017 10:38 PM
Pizza Wagon from Brooklyn, NY

Re: Sam's comment. I've lived in Bay Ridge for the past 20 years, and I would definitely agree that it is a neighborhood with some tensions, especially between Arab-Americans and the older, white, conservative-leaning folks who view them with suspicion. It ain't as dramatically divided as, say, Crown Heights, but it is certainly not a unified community.

Oct. 13 2017 05:51 PM
Isaac Hopkins from VA

What are you doing, Radiolab? You all have fallen from my favorite podcast of all time to... just another This American Life. Where's the science? Where's the profundity. This is just a crash-course in crass identity politics, as though someone's interests could only be represented by someone of the same race or religion (tough luck for us atheists, then). Even though this discussion is important, Radiolab is not the correct forum for this kind of story. Everyone else is having this argument, and I'm tired of it. It's all noise on a pale blue dot, noise that Radiolab used to be able to cut through.

Oct. 13 2017 03:54 PM
D from Denton, TX.

I agree with Sophie and Shauna. Father K's response to Radiolab's ignorance in this regard was handled patiently and respectfully. My respects to him, for pressing on despite everything.

However, I'm disappointed with Radiolab for their lack of nuance and understanding in their questioning... The rest of the episode was fine. This was an important story to cover.

Oct. 13 2017 03:38 PM
Troy O. from North Idaho

Any reason there was not a warning about profane language on this piece? I really appreciate when you take a few seconds to do that.

Oct. 13 2017 03:19 PM
Sophie

It feels like you missed something really essential in the conversation about whether he was a candidate for Arab people or everyone. You would never put that dichotomy on a liberal white candidate. Liberal white candidates often campaign on the platform of being for everyone regardless of race/ethnicity, using policies that specifically support black folks, Arab people, etc. A white candidates focus on these race/ethnicity-specific policies would not be considered to take away from or be in conflict with the message that they are a candidate for everyone. Father K repeatedly cites his own identity as shaping his political identity. This episode's point of view centers the white experience as the norm -white candidates can support non-white people without being questioned, but Father K is not afforded the same understanding. It also centers the white experience as the norm by not allowing Father K's experiences of discrimination to be a valid motivation to run. We would never question a white candidates biases in this way.

Oct. 13 2017 01:43 PM
Sam from Bay Ridge

Most divided neighborhood in NYC? Are you kidding? Have you ever been to Bay Ridge? Give me a break.

Oct. 13 2017 11:59 AM
Shauna

I couldn't disagree more. I felt, as a white American married to an Arab naturalized American citizen that the story of Father El Yateem's struggles as a candidate captured where we are as a nation. We married in 2001, just months before 9/11 and it feels like there has been a steady increase in identity politics and Islamophobia. Thank you for sharing this story.

Oct. 13 2017 11:10 AM
Identity Politics

Why would Radiolab be promoting identity politics and attributing this guy's loss purely to his ethnicity? I wouldn't vote for him for 1 reason and 1 reason alone-- he is a Democratic socialist. Are you not allowed to vote against someone because of their ideas anymore? Is ethnicity the only consideration that could possibly be attributed to your motivation? I go to Radiolab for actual journalism, and you guys do a great job. This report was disappointing.

Oct. 13 2017 10:43 AM

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