I listen to many podcasts across various subject matter- true crime, science, mental health, self-help, political, etc. So, before I blather on about one specific podcast (spoiler alert: it is The Alarmist, of which I have no official affiliation, FYI), I want to tell you briefly about the podcast medium in general. Yes, very exciting (lol).
Podcasts are a funky topic to talk about, I have noticed. This is because I have found that they are a medium that you are either “into” or you are just… not. You have a 25 podcast rotation/week (me), or you do not know what a podcast is- there is no in-between. (I kid, I kid).
I personally began listening to podcasts around 2014 or so, when my daughter was a toddler. I lived in the Southern California desert, and I was living the American dream – I had a bachelor’s degree but could not find a job (this was a pre-master’s degree). So, while I stayed home with my daughter, I listened to them while she napped in the stroller during long-distance runs, while cleaning, and she toddled around, etc. Depending on what podcast you are listening to, it really can be a source of comfort on different levels, and most are appropriate to play openly around your children. There are even podcasts that are geared specifically FOR children, which is great for obvious reasons, but also wonderful for those that are alone with newborn/infants in the early days and cannot talk to themselves anymore (but you know the importance of babies’ hearing voices— and yes I know this is not the same, do not come at me. lol).
(Also, with podcasts, your “response effort” is very low. If you have ever dreamed of being around people but having no obligation of responding to anyone, then podcasts might be for you ;). Furthermore, hearing regular people may help further with mental health issues, not to mention that many podcasts are specifically geared towards mental health. This article talks about a few of those.
Above all else, at this point, I think they are particularly vital to discuss during the coronavirus pandemic age. This is because they are an incredibly accessible form of media and easy/cheap to produce. (I should say, I do not have one. Furthermore, I was on ONE a few years ago.)
Additionally, with that thought in mind, it is also essential to note that it (can) cost almost nothing to make a podcast, which means few barriers restrict anyone from even making their own. In terms of success, it is the same as any other form of media: you sink or swim based on viewership. So sure, you could put out 45 minutes of hate, but how big will your viewership be? Exactly.
However, these ”accessibility podcast attributes” (I just made that up) have seemed even more glaringly obvious as more and more podcasts have emerged during the coronavirus pandemic age. This increase in podcast production is undoubtedly a result of this collectively strange pandemic experience, we can say. (I say “strange” as it is simultaneously the hardest and the easiest time to talk and ”hear” each other at the same time. Literally and figuratively: We have all the technological and logistical methods in the world to get in touch with each other right now, but even more, reasons why we are not… “up to talking,” you know? No questions asked. We all have this collective, universal “pandemic excuse”- no baby or throwing up child needed. A weird time).
So, with that long-winded explanation behind us, it is now time to note that The Alarmist podcast is in a league of its own.
The Alarmist podcast (on Earios Network) is hosted by charming and talented Rebecca Delgado Smith (@SmithRebe) and is joined by the aptly named “Fact Checker” Chris Smith (@SmithChris). There is also wonderfully witty (producer) Amanda Lund (@amandafunbuns). Most episodes have another comedian, actor/writer, etc., on them, which further adds to the delightful quality by adding a new voice each week.
Substantively, each episode of The Alarmist ends up being about an hour of a few friends breaking down what happened before, during, and after important events throughout the history of time and blaming that event on… whoever or whatever deserves it, of course. It is an anxiety-ridden person’s dream, particularly for those who have a penchant for revenge.
You get oddly invested as you listen to these pals place blame on both specific people AND vague concepts (like… the fashion industry- yes, the entire thing.) for the most significant “disasters” ever occurred on this cursed planet earth. It is a weird brand of Nancy-Drew-style-nostalgia that works.
The official description on the Earios website reads as follows:
“They say history repeats itself… not on The Alarmist’s watch. The Plague. The sinking of The Titanic. The Donner Party disaster. The break-up of the Beatles. Writer/performer Rebecca Delgado-Smith (The Good Place) and guests scrutinize history’s greatest disasters to figure out what went wrong, and, most importantly, who’s to blame.”
However, what is important to note is that this show really “works” because it is built around a shared, pervasive sense of anxiety that most of us seem to have. I would argue that this is because, if the motivation (shoutout to motivating operations) is there, one can control a LOT of our own life, right? We can plan and strategize and and and…
Of course, there are many things that we cannot control, though. Moreover, this show gets to the heart of that fact and the spirit of that anxiety. It pokes fun at the thing that keeps us all up at night- the things that we cannot control (usually).
However, as a behavior analyst, I cannot help but point out– there are ways of preventing or (at the very least) reducing the odds that disaster occurs. There really is.
Enter Organizational Behavior Management (or, just generally, behaviorism).
Organizational Behavior Management (OBM) could, theoretically, prevent many of the discussed disasters on ”The Alarmist” from occurring. Indeed, not all of them (I do not think the Dodo Bird could have done much with OBM, they had pretty specific problems…), but the number of disasters that occur due to:
1.) gross negligence/incompetence/etc
2.) a lack of scientific decision making at the procedural level
3.) terrible ”shift change procedures”/”changing of the guards,” etc., etc., etc…
…now, that is the type of administrative disaster planning that could be combated with OBM.
Now, to be clear, OBM is not necessarily a way to prevent something disastrous from happening 100% of the time- nothing can provide that type of guarantee, unfortunately. However, there is a definite utility in acknowledging that there is scientific evidence for controlling various environmental variables. That acknowledgment, accompanied with actual action, can truly lead to the reduction of horrific events throughout history and, obviously, far less suffering. We have scientific knowledge that we can use as a “security blanket” that can reduce the chances of all disasters from occurring. We cannot prevent all tragedies, but we can make educated, pre-emptive decisions to reduce their chances of occurring.
I had the pleasure of speaking directly with Rebecca a couple of weeks back. In Part Two, I will be discussing that conversation and how it only further makes a case for the importance of science within work/administrative functions/etc. And why Organizational Behavior Management is a science-based tool that should not be seen as a luxury but a necessity within all organizations.
In the meantime, I urge you all to check out The Alarmist. This episode on Chernobyl represents what I am specifically talking about regarding OBM and how the “everyday” aspects of a workplace can lead to literal disaster.
Science really does matter.
*Please know I do not reinforce maladaptive behavior, though. 😉