Culture

This New ABC Podcast Puts A Spotlight On Some Of Australia’s Most Controversial People

"It's a show about empathy."

Hope you like Podcasts About Dark Things That Make You Feel Very Conflicted! (Just kidding, we know you do). The ABC has just released a new podcast focussing on some of the most reviled people in the country, and you can binge on all of it right now.

Hosted by Sarah McVeigh from Triple J’s Hack program, How Do You Sleep At Night? delves into the lives and ethics of big game hunters, tobacco lobbyists, abortion protesters, and in a particularly startling case, a man convicted of manslaughter. Each 20-30 minute episode focusses on one area of controversy and follows McVeigh as she “gets to know some of the people [she] just [doesn’t] understand”.

“It’s a show about empathy,” McVeigh says in an introduction to the series. “I don’t know about you, but our worlds are getting smaller and smaller. Spend enough time on Facebook and you’d be forgiven thinking the whole world agrees with you. When you’re inside this bubble, it gets harder and harder to understand the world from other people’s points of view.”

“I wanted to test the limits of my empathy,” she goes on, in a statement. “Whether or not you agree with the actions of the people you’ll meet, I hope you enjoy seeing the world from someone else’s perspective!”

Straight off the bat, it’s not an easy listen. The aforementioned killer, for example, killed two gay men in the ’90s on a bar’s queer night. He repeatedly stabbed them after they supposedly came onto him, and seems unrepentant when asked about it — He’s more frustrated by the way it’s messed up his life. Charlie, who nicknamed himself after Charles Manson, also speaks openly about affiliations with white supremacy groups.

Both Hack and the ABC more broadly have come under fire in recent months for their treatment of issues like this. Last month Hack host Tom Tilley invited a white nationalist on air to discuss the fatal attack in Charlottesville; before that he hosted a debate on whether male privilege was “bullshit”. Just this week, ABC 774 Mornings made headlines for airing and publicising a talkback call in which a listener advocated Hitler’s mass murder of gay men.

There’s an ongoing debate about what kinds of discourse is helpful or hurtful on these kinds of subjects, and it will be interesting to see how McVeigh’s stories are received with this in mind.

If you’re a fan of considered, Louis Theroux-style interrogations of thorny people and topics, this will be right up your alley! If you’re feeling a bit burnt out or angry or frustrated by these kinds of people in other spheres of your life… hoo boy, sorry to pile on.

You can listen to How Do You Sleep At Night? in full via the ABC website or Listen app now, or subscribe for weekly instalments wherever you get your podcasts.