Democracy in Danger

University of Virginia Media Lab

A show that puts the illiberal turn in context. Each week Will and Siva, both University of Virginia professors, are joined by leading thinkers to discuss serious threats to government by the people: from the dark web and media disinformation, to climate change, economic inequality and violent extremism.

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Democracy in Danger

All over the world, liberal democracy is getting turned upside-down. Autocratic leaders are using populist appeals, the partisan media and the power of their offices to short-circuit thoughtful deliberation and political consensus. They flout the rule of law, unleash the police on their own people, suppress dissent and attack voting rights. So what can you do about it? Join hosts Will Hitchcock and Siva Vaidhyanathan on Democracy in Danger — a show that puts the illiberal turn in context. Each week Will and Siva, both University of Virginia professors, are joined by leading thinkers to discuss serious threats to government by the people: from the dark web and media disinformation, to climate change, economic inequality and violent extremism. Help them save democracy, and make it work better.

Featured Guests

Where To Start

Disinformation Wars

Internet giants like Facebook, Google and Twitter aren’t just part of the disinformation problem — they are the problem, according to author Nina Jankowicz. Her new book, “How to Lose the Information War,” details Russia’s efforts to meddle in the affairs of other countries by turning the tools of free speech against democracy itself. In this interview, Jankowicz makes clear the stakes are high, but the solutions — regulation and education — are within our grasp.

Join Will and Siva as they explore, with Jankowicz’s help, how the Kremlin has refined a concerted program of disinformation and cyber warfare to divide citizens in Estonia, Ukraine, the Czech Republic and other former Soviet satellites. Is this stuff really any different from age-old propaganda campaigns used by many governments? She thinks so.

Insurrection [Special Episode]

The Confederate flag flew inside the U.S. Capitol this week, a feat not even Robert E. Lee achieved. Egged on by President Trump, a violent mob laid siege to the building, bringing death and mayhem, and temporarily halting the work of Congress to certify Joe Biden’s victory. Siva and Will — together with their University of Virginia students — reflect on what happened. Much as the nation was stunned, these acts were not unprecedented or unpredictable.

Xenophobia

Donald Trump has called Mexican migrants criminals and rapists, vowed to build a “beautiful” wall along the southern border, and presided over traumatic family separations among asylum seekers. But nativist ideology in U.S. politics — and policy — is nothing new. Immigration scholar Erika Lee walks Will and Siva through America's spotty record as a nation of immigrants, from the Naturalization Act of 1790, which barred nonwhite people from becoming citizens, to the Trump administration's Muslim ban in 2017.

Meet The Hosts

Will Hitchcock

Co-Host, William W. Corcoran Professor of History

William I. Hitchcock is the William W. Corcoran Professor of History at the University of Virginia. His work and teaching focus on the global history of the 20th Century, in particular the era of the two world wars and the cold war. His most recent book is The Age of Eisenhower: America and the World in the 1950s (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2018), which was a New York Times bestseller. For more information, click here. He is now writing "FDR and the Dictators: Fascism, Democracy and the Awakening of America," which explores reactions in the United States to the rise of fascism in Europe from the 1920s to 1941.

Siva Vaidhyanathan

Co-Host, Robertson Professor of Media Studies

Siva Vaidhyanathan is the Robertson Professor of Media Studies and director of the Center for Media and Citizenship at the University of Virginia. He is the author of Intellectual Property: A Very Short Introduction from Oxford University Press, published in 2017, and The Googlization of Everything -- and Why We Should Worry from the University of California Press, published in 2011.

Robert Armengol

Multimedia Producer

Robert Armengol is an anthropologist and journalist with two decades of experience in immersive fieldwork, print and radio documentary, and teaching in higher education. Before joining UVA's Deliberative Media Lab, he produced an audio show on legal scholarship called Common Law; advised the student-run podcast Independent Study; and helped manage BackStory, which brought U.S. history to public radio audiences across the country. His reporting has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Bloomberg News, and various local newspapers and magazines.

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