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The Gray Area with Sean Illing

The Gray Area with Sean Illing

Author: Vox

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The Gray Area with Sean Illing takes a philosophy-minded look at culture, technology, politics, and the world of ideas. Each week, we invite a guest to explore a question or topic that matters. From the the state of democracy, to the struggle with depression and anxiety, to the nature of identity in the digital age, each episode looks for nuance and honesty in the most important conversations of our time. New episodes drop every Monday.

664 Episodes
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Authoritarian tendencies have been on the rise globally and the liberal world order is on the decline. One hotspot of this tension lies in India, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi employs autocratic language and tactics to maintain power. But a recent election may indicate that voters are losing interest in this style of rule. Guest host Zack Beauchamp talks with scholar Pratap Bhanu Mehta about the past of the Indian liberal tradition and what the current politics of the world’s largest democracy say about the state of global politics.  Host: Sean Illing (@seanilling), host, The Gray Area Guest: Pratap Bhanu Mehta Enjoyed this episode? Rate The Gray Area ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ and leave a review on Apple Podcasts. Be the first to hear new episodes of The Gray Area by following us in your favorite podcast app. Links here: https://www.vox.com/the-gray-area Support The Gray Area by making a financial contribution to Vox! bit.ly/givepodcasts This episode was made by:  Producer: Jon Ehrens  Engineer: Patrick Boyd Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
We’re living in an era of extreme partisan politics, rising resentment, and fractured news media. Writer John Ganz believes that we can trace the dysfunction to the 1990s, when right-wing populists like Pat Buchanan and white supremacist David Duke transformed Republican politics. He joins Sean to talk about the 1990s and how it laid the groundwork for Trump. His book is When the Clock Broke: Con Men, Conspiracists, and How America Cracked Up in the Early 1990s. Host: Sean Illing (@seanilling), host, The Gray Area Guest: John Ganz (@lionel_trolling). His book is When the Clock Broke.  Enjoyed this episode? Rate The Gray Area ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ and leave a review on Apple Podcasts. Be the first to hear new episodes of The Gray Area by following us in your favorite podcast app. Links here: https://www.vox.com/the-gray-area Support The Gray Area by making a financial contribution to Vox! bit.ly/givepodcasts This episode was made by:  Producer: Jon Ehrens  Engineer: Patrick Boyd Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Nathalie Etoke joins The Gray Area to talk about existentialism, the Black experience, and the legacy of dehumanization.  Host: Sean Illing (@seanilling), host, The Gray Area Guest: Nathalie Etoke. Her book is Black Existential Freedom. Enjoyed this episode? Rate The Gray Area ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ and leave a review on Apple Podcasts. Be the first to hear new episodes of The Gray Area by following us in your favorite podcast app. Links here: https://www.vox.com/the-gray-area Support The Gray Area by making a financial contribution to Vox! bit.ly/givepodcasts This episode was made by:  Producer: Jon Ehrens  Engineer: Patrick Boyd Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
The world after nuclear war

The world after nuclear war

2024-06-1701:00:415

A mile of pure fire. A flash that melts everything — titanium, steel, lead, people. A blast that mows down every structure in its path, 3 miles out in every direction. Journalist Annie Jacobsen spent years interviewing scientists, high-ranking military officials, politicians, and other experts to find out how a nuclear attack would be triggered, the devastation it would cause, the ruptures it would create in the social fabric, and how likely it is to happen today. She wrote about all of this in her new book Nuclear War: A Scenario. Jacobsen spends the hour clearly laying out the horrifying yet captivating specifics for Sean, and the prospects for avoiding catastrophe.  Host: Sean Illing (@seanilling), host, The Gray Area Guest: Annie Jacobsen. Her book is Nuclear War: A Scenario Enjoyed this episode? Rate The Gray Area ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ and leave a review on Apple Podcasts. Be the first to hear new episodes of The Gray Area by following us in your favorite podcast app. Links here: https://www.vox.com/the-gray-area Support The Gray Area by making a financial contribution to Vox! bit.ly/givepodcasts Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Albert Camus was a Nobel-winning French writer and public intellectual. During Algeria’s bloody war for independence in the 1950s, Camus took a measured stance, calling for an end to the atrocities on each side. He was criticized widely for his so-called “moderation.” Philosophy professor Robert Zaretsky joins Sean to discuss Camus’s thoughts on that conflict and the parallels with the present moment. Host: Sean Illing (@seanilling), host, The Gray Area Guest: Robert Zaretsky Enjoyed this episode? Rate The Gray Area ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ and leave a review on Apple Podcasts. Be the first to hear new episodes of The Gray Area by following us in your favorite podcast app. Links here: https://www.vox.com/the-gray-area Support The Gray Area by making a financial contribution to Vox! bit.ly/givepodcasts This episode was made by:  Producer: Jon Ehrens  Engineer: Patrick Boyd Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Old people have always worried about young people. But psychologist Jonathan Haidt believes something genuinely different and troubling is happening right now. He argues that smartphones and social media have had disastrous effects on the mental health of young people, and derailed childhood from real world play to touchscreens. He joins Sean to talk about his research and some of the criticisms of it. Host: Sean Illing (@seanilling), host, The Gray Area Guest: Jonathan Haidt (@jonhaidt). His book is The Anxious Generation. Enjoyed this episode? Rate The Gray Area ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ and leave a review on Apple Podcasts. Be the first to hear new episodes of The Gray Area by following us in your favorite podcast app. Links here: https://www.vox.com/the-gray-area Support The Gray Area by making a financial contribution to Vox! bit.ly/givepodcasts This episode was made by:  Producer: Jon Ehrens  Engineer: Patrick Boyd Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Life after death?

Life after death?

2024-05-2056:185

Sebastian Junger came as close as you possibly can to dying. While his doctors struggled to revive him, the veteran reporter and avowed rationalist experienced things that shocked and shook him, leaving him with profound questions and unexpected revelations. In his new book, In My Time of Dying, Junger explores the mysteries and commonalities of people’s near death experiences. He joins Sean to talk about what it’s like to die and what quantum physics can tell us about living that countless religions can’t. Host: Sean Illing (@seanilling), host, The Gray Area Guest: Sebastian Junger. His new book is In My Time of Dying. Enjoyed this episode? Rate The Gray Area ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ and leave a review on Apple Podcasts. Be the first to hear new episodes of The Gray Area by following us in your favorite podcast app. Links here: https://www.vox.com/the-gray-area Support The Gray Area by making a financial contribution to Vox! bit.ly/givepodcasts This episode was made by:  Producer: Jon Ehrens  Engineer: Patrick Boyd Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
The world after Ozempic

The world after Ozempic

2024-05-1355:268

Ozempic and other new weight loss drugs are being touted as potential miracle cures for diabetes and obesity. Journalist Johann Hari experimented with the drug and dropped 40 pounds. In his new book, Magic Pill, Hari discusses his experience with Ozempic and speaks to many of the leading scientists to better understand how the drug works. He joins Sean to talk about what he’s learned and the complicated trade-offs involved in the decision to take these drugs. Host: Sean Illing (@seanilling), host, The Gray Area Guest: Johann Hari (@johannhari101). His new book is Magic Pill. Enjoyed this episode? Rate The Gray Area ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ and leave a review on Apple Podcasts. Be the first to hear new episodes of The Gray Area by following us in your favorite podcast app. Links here: https://www.vox.com/the-gray-area Support The Gray Area by making a financial contribution to Vox! bit.ly/givepodcasts This episode was made by:  Producer: Jon Ehrens  Engineer: Cristian Ayala Please take a second to help us learn more about you! vox.com/podcastsurvey Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Religious studies professor Diana Pasulka was a total nonbeliever in alien life, but she began to question this after speaking with many people who claim to have had otherworldly encounters. She also noticed how these accounts parallel the foundational texts of many religions. She has since written two books on the topic, the most recent of which is Encounters: Experiences with Nonhuman Intelligences. She joins Sean to talk about extraterrestrial life, God, angels, and the renewed interest in UFOs.  Host: Sean Illing (@seanilling), host, The Gray Area Guest: Diana Pasulka (@dwpasulka). Her new book is Encounters: Experiences with Nonhuman Intelligences. Enjoyed this episode? Rate The Gray Area ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ and leave a review on Apple Podcasts. Be the first to hear new episodes of The Gray Area by following us in your favorite podcast app. Links here: https://www.vox.com/the-gray-area Support The Gray Area by making a financial contribution to Vox! bit.ly/givepodcasts This episode was made by:  Producer: Jon Ehrens  Engineer: Patrick Boyd Please take a second to help us learn more about you! vox.com/podcastsurvey Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
How to listen

How to listen

2024-04-2957:468

Most of us don’t know how to truly listen, and it’s causing all sorts of problems. Sean Illing is joined by journalist Kate Murphy, the author of You’re Not Listening: What You’re Missing and Why It Matters, to discuss what it means to be a good listener, the problems that are caused when we don’t listen to each other, and the positive impacts on our health when we do. Host: Sean Illing (@seanilling), host, The Gray Area Guest: Kate Murphy, author of You’re Not Listening: What You’re Missing and Why It Matters Enjoyed this episode? Rate The Gray Area ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ and leave a review on Apple Podcasts. Subscribe for free. Be the first to hear the next episode of The Gray Area. Subscribe in your favorite podcast app. Support The Gray Area by making a financial contribution to Vox! bit.ly/givepodcasts Please take a second to help us learn more about you! vox.com/podcastsurvey This episode was made by:  Engineer: Patrick Boyd Editorial Director, Vox Talk: A.M. Hall Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Everything's a cult now

Everything's a cult now

2024-04-2256:428

The internet has fractured our world into a million little subcultures catering to the specific identities and habits of everyone online. Writer Derek Thompson believes this has led to a widespread cult-like mentality that has crept into all facets of modern life — pop culture, media, politics, and religion itself. He joins Sean to explain this theory, and why it’s maybe not such a bad thing. Host: Sean Illing (@seanilling), host, The Gray Area Guest: Derek Thompson (@dkthomp). His podcast is Plain English, and he writes for The Atlantic. Enjoyed this episode? Rate The Gray Area ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ and leave a review on Apple Podcasts. Be the first to hear new episodes of The Gray Area by following us in your favorite podcast app. Links here: https://www.vox.com/the-gray-area Support The Gray Area by making a financial contribution to Vox! bit.ly/givepodcasts Please take a second to help us learn more about you! vox.com/podcastsurvey This episode was made by:  Producer: Jon Ehrens  Engineer: Patrick Boyd Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Is it possible that we are living through one of the most revolutionary periods in human history? CNN’s Fareed Zakaria believes that we are and argues that the convergence of AI and the global backlash against liberal democracy are upending political orders around the world. He joins Sean to talk about how this period relates to history’s most impactful revolutions, both political and technological.  Click here to take the Vox podcast survey Host: Sean Illing (@seanilling), host, The Gray Area Guest: Fareed Zakaria (@fareedzakaria). His new book is Age of Revolutions. Enjoyed this episode? Rate The Gray Area ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ and leave a review on Apple Podcasts. Be the first to hear new episodes of The Gray Area by following us in your favorite podcast app. Links here: https://www.vox.com/the-gray-area Support The Gray Area by making a financial contribution to Vox! bit.ly/givepodcasts Please take a second to help us learn more about you! vox.com/podcastsurvey This episode was made by:  Producer: Jon Ehrens  Engineer: Patrick Boyd Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Philosophy may seem like a theoretical or abstract discipline in which unanswerable questions are debated to the point of tedium. But MIT professor Kieran Setiya believes that philosophical inquiry has a very practical and applicable purpose outside of the classroom — to help guide us through life’s most challenging circumstances. He joins Sean to talk about self-help, FOMO, and midlife crises.  Host: Sean Illing (@seanilling), host, The Gray Area Guest: Kieran Setiya. His book is called Life is Hard. Enjoyed this episode? Rate The Gray Area ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ and leave a review on Apple Podcasts. Be the first to hear new episodes of The Gray Area by following us in your favorite podcast app. Links here: https://www.vox.com/the-gray-area Support The Gray Area by making a financial contribution to Vox! bit.ly/givepodcasts This episode was made by:  Producer: Jon Ehrens  Engineer: Patrick Boyd Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Jane Marie is an expert in American bullshit. Her podcast The Dream explores life coaching, wellness, marketing, and other fraudulent industries and exposes their exploitative practices. Her book, Selling the Dream, takes an even closer look at multilevel marketing schemes like Amway and Herbalife and gives historical context to this multibillion-dollar — and distinctly American — enterprise.  Host: Sean Illing (@seanilling), host, The Gray Area Guest: Jane Marie. Her podcast is The Dream and her book is Selling the Dream. Enjoyed this episode? Rate The Gray Area ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ and leave a review on Apple Podcasts. Be the first to hear new episodes of The Gray Area by following us in your favorite podcast app. Links here: https://www.vox.com/the-gray-area Support The Gray Area by making a financial contribution to Vox! bit.ly/givepodcasts This episode was made by:  Producer: Jon Ehrens  Engineer: Patrick Boyd Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
As a non-believer, Devin Moss never thought he would become a chaplain or a spiritual adviser, much less one who counsels hospital patients with terminal illnesses and inmates on death row. Devin joins Sean to talk about his improbable journey, the death penalty, and the role of religion in an increasingly secular society. Host: Sean Illing (@seanilling), host, The Gray Area Guest: Devin Moss. His podcast is The Adventures of Memento Mori.  Enjoyed this episode? Rate The Gray Area ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ and leave a review on Apple Podcasts. Be the first to hear new episodes of The Gray Area by following us in your favorite podcast app. Links here: https://www.vox.com/the-gray-area Support The Gray Area by making a financial contribution to Vox! bit.ly/givepodcasts This episode was made by:  Producer: Jon Ehrens  Engineer: Patrick Boyd Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Journalist Rhaina Cohen believes that modern culture undervalues friendships and discusses the ways in which deep friendships are distinct from but no less meaningful than romantic partnerships.  Guest host: Sigal Samuel (@sigalsamuel) Guest: Rhaina Cohen (@rhainacohen). Her book is The Other Significant Others.  Enjoyed this episode? Rate The Gray Area ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ and leave a review on Apple Podcasts. Be the first to hear new episodes of The Gray Area by following us in your favorite podcast app. Links here: https://www.vox.com/the-gray-area Support The Gray Area by making a financial contribution to Vox! bit.ly/givepodcasts This episode was made by:  Producer: Jon Ehrens  Engineer: Patrick Boyd Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Stephen Markley’s novel, “The Deluge,” is an ambitious and terrifyingly realistic look at our collective future on a warming planet. He joins Sean to talk about the 10-year process of writing the book, the current political struggle over climate action, and how we can confront and mitigate the worst effects of climate change.   Host: Sean Illing (@seanilling), host, The Gray Area Guest: Stephen Markley. His book is “The Deluge.” Enjoyed this episode? Rate The Gray Area ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ and leave a review on Apple Podcasts. Be the first to hear new episodes of The Gray Area by following us in your favorite podcast app. Links here: https://www.vox.com/the-gray-area Support The Gray Area by making a financial contribution to Vox! bit.ly/givepodcasts This episode was made by:  Producer: Jon Ehrens  Engineer: Patrick Boyd Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
The denial of death

The denial of death

2024-03-0448:436

It’s been 50 years since Ernest Becker’s breakthrough book The Denial of Death was first published, and its thesis has become more relevant than ever. Filmmaker Jef Sewell is the co-creator of a new documentary about Becker called All Illusions Must Be Broken. It features never-before-heard audio of the enigmatic anthropologist and puts his theories in a modern context.  Host: Sean Illing (@seanilling), host, The Gray Area Guest: Jef Sewell. Find out more about the film at www.twobirdsfilm.com  Enjoyed this episode? Rate The Gray Area ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ and leave a review on Apple Podcasts. Be the first to hear new episodes of The Gray Area by following us in your favorite podcast app. Links here: https://www.vox.com/the-gray-area Support The Gray Area by making a financial contribution to Vox! bit.ly/givepodcasts This episode was made by:  Producer: Jon Ehrens  Engineer: Patrick Boyd Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Silicon Valley is in the middle of an AI frenzy, and many of its leaders believe this technology could eventually result in human extinction. Tyler Austin Harper breaks down the most outlandish predictions, some of the more plausible problems AI poses, and how this moment reminds him of earlier extinction panics. Host: Sean Illing (@seanilling), host, The Gray Area Guest: Tyler Austin Harper (@Tyler_A_Harper). Read his piece in the New York Times here.  Enjoyed this episode? Rate The Gray Area ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ and leave a review on Apple Podcasts. Be the first to hear new episodes of The Gray Area by following us in your favorite podcast app. Links here: https://www.vox.com/the-gray-area Support The Gray Area by making a financial contribution to Vox! bit.ly/givepodcasts This episode was made by:  Producer: Jon Ehrens  Engineer: Patrick Boyd Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
The new(ish) world order

The new(ish) world order

2024-02-1944:271

America solidified its dominant posture in the international order following World War II and largely held that position for the following half-century. But as problems have accumulated at home and abroad, Americans are reconsidering their country’s role in the world, and so are its leaders. Alex Ward, author of The Internationalists: The Fight to Restore American Foreign Policy After Trump, joins us.  Host: Sean Illing (@seanilling), host, The Gray Area Guest: Alex Ward (@alexbward). His book is The Internationalists: The Fight to Restore American Foreign Policy After Trump. Enjoyed this episode? Rate The Gray Area ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ and leave a review on Apple Podcasts. Be the first to hear new episodes of The Gray Area by following us in your favorite podcast app. Links here: https://www.vox.com/the-gray-area Support The Gray Area by making a financial contribution to Vox! bit.ly/givepodcasts This episode was made by:  Producer: Jon Ehrens  Engineer: Patrick Boyd Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
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Comments (262)

MaPepa

The typical American's fixation on the last meal (in the context of a government-condoned execution) is perplexing. Does anyone really think such ritual will erase all the indignities that our society, in general, and our criminal "justice" system, in particular, imposes on those not afluent enough to get a free pass?

Mar 29th
Reply (1)

Constance Moylan

excellent podcast. really enjoyed Elizabeth Anderson on America and it's work ethic

Feb 7th
Reply (1)

franco taylor

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Jan 23rd
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huzefa sayyed

Nice episode https://tocabocamods.com/

Dec 10th
Reply

franco taylor

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Dec 5th
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Shelley Belle

oh my god, such biased bullshit. haven't even gotten 3 minutes in am im done. #bidencartel

Aug 29th
Reply

Andi-Roo Libecap

Very scary stuff! But good to know. Stay alert, not alarmed. If you found this episode informative, you might complement it with S1 of It Could Happen Here, by Robert Evans. Fascinating, terrifying, and prescient.

May 5th
Reply

All Ceh Bru

Wow, way to predict the death of harry belafonte!

Apr 27th
Reply

JL443

She seems to be talking about a cultural change to reduce violence, poverty, and the need for policing. This is achieved by personal responsibility in the following... 1. Finish high school. 2. Get a job. 3. Don't have babies outside of marriage.

Feb 11th
Reply (1)

JL443

@28:07 ... I would extend the feminism problem to be more in the denigrating of boys it has caused.

Dec 26th
Reply

JL443

@7:00 ...that the education systems were biased towards girls has been known for decades...this is not some new discovery. Schools are geared towards the way girls learn. The difficulty of the structured classrooms has always been known for boys. While the roadblocks to girls education removed are being discussed, hopefully they will explain why boys have declined. My hypothesis for boys decline is due to more fatherless homes for boys.

Dec 26th
Reply (8)

Chrys Woodyard

I loved the nuance and feeling in this. The discussion we need to have.

Nov 2nd
Reply

Golden boy

What a dumb take on a decent program.

Oct 26th
Reply

Carl Davidson

This is a fantastic conversation and interview with Peniel Joseph. Incredibly informative and salient in understanding our current struggle and discourse of politics, race, and class in America.

Oct 24th
Reply

Mark Saltiel

Reza asserts that religious folks do not claim that morality derives from scripture. This is the exact opposite of the truth: religious people are always saying that without God there can be no morality. Of course, it's not true. It's just what they say.

Oct 23rd
Reply

Marlo Lemieux

FFS Vox, stop inviting relugious people to talk about religion. They don't know the first thing about it. Reza Aslan is no more interesting than any 2bit evangelical preacher.

Oct 21st
Reply

Mark Saltiel

Existentialism started after WWII? Not really. Kirkegaard?

Aug 22nd
Reply

Michael Meenan

Eat Borscht and drop some lb's. The fat epidemic is not confined to race. Processed foods in the USA are largely responsible and should be examined for addictive properties. I live in Syracuse, NY and Kyiv. Flat out - not a lot of fat people in Ukraine. They eat natural foods. Fat people in the 'Cuse come in all races and sizes... XXXL & XXXXL. Eat Borscht and drop some lbs.

Jun 22nd
Reply

NoahArkwright

This was a very informative interview and I'm grateful Vox dedicated the time to this emergent issue. The only thing worse than fascism is Gilbert Gottfried explain-screaming about fascism! So when is anyone going to acknowledge that a significant percentage of the right can't wait for the opportunity to kill Americans? I'd kinda like to think that somebody is paying attention.

Apr 16th
Reply (1)

Lindsey Helfrey Scott

the philosopher who resisited despair was one of the best of episodes.

Apr 5th
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