Our Top Ten Death Panel Episodes of 2021
By popular demand
[Image description: Digital collage. Grid of twelve square images arranged with only the two center images fully visible. Each is a different cover image for an episode of Death Panel podcast. All feature the words: “Death Panel” in the center in white lettering.]
Hi everyone! We’ve gotten a lot of requests in the last few days to share some of our favorite Death Panel episodes of the year, both from listeners who want to revisit the highlights and from new listeners who want to catch up. With that in mind I’ve done an informal poll of myself, Artie, and Phil, and we’ve compiled the following list of our favorites, in no particular order.
Obligatory Mention — Covid Year Two (12/13/21)
This list would not be complete without our recent year in review show, a deep dive into the major mistakes made in U.S. covid policy all year, and how each decision helps explain why things are still so bad. We’ve received more love (and hate) from this episode than probably any other we’ve ever done, so as we said at the end of this recording: thanks to everyone for sticking with us and supporting us this year. It’s truly made everything we’ve done possible.
With that, our top ten (again, in no particular order):
1. Free Britney, Free Them All (06/28/21)
Britney Spears’ conservatorship may have ended this year, but the practice of conservatorship is still an ongoing issue. In June, while her conservatorship was the subject of much public debate, we walked through how the debate missed the obvious: conservatorships are inherently abusive, carceral practices. Britney deserved to be freed of hers just like everyone else does—not simply because she was an “exceptional” case, which is where much of the discussion stopped.
2. A Political History of Trans Children w/ Jules Gill-Peterson (04/01/21)
Not just one of the best episodes of the year, but one of our favorites we’ve ever done. Not much to say about this except for: listen to it, and read Jules’ book!
3. My Life with the Cost-Benefit Cult (06/24/21)
The definitive “Emily Oster episode,” covering not just the horrors of Emily’s influence on pandemic policy in schools and beyond, but also the major problems with adopting an economist’s perspective towards matters of public health.
4. One Million w/ Justin Feldman (12/02/21)
We try not to mention it too frequently, but we’re often dismayed by the broader American left’s seeming resistance to taking the pandemic seriously. Outside of Covid Year Two, this episode is probably the best starting point to give people an overview of why, precisely, the left needs a much more robust set of pandemic demands.
5. A Lost History of ACT UP (05/13/21)
To be honest—this episode came together at the very last minute, but you would never think it. Dead in the middle of writing Health Communism (Verso, 2022), we decided to take one of the case studies we’d been researching for a chapter and tell a version of the story we were piecing together on the show. An unusual episode, largely composed of clips direct from the ACT UP Oral History Project, with a single throughline showing a heartbreaking story of a movement split between either sticking to important, radical demands on one side, and earning ‘a seat at the table’ on the other.
6. SB8 or Die w/ Abby Cartus (11/09/21)
Our recent deep dive into the Texas abortion law, how Roe v. Wade is already functionally dead, and why the Supreme Court sucks (or in Phil’s words, how the U.S. has become a state of “cranks and judges”). Home of some of the best Abby rants this year, which is definitely saying something.
7. Sacred and Profane (09/17/21)
Our close read of the huge political liability that is the Congressional Budget Office, how they restrict the horizon of political possibility, and one CBO report in particular: a paper that claimed, hilariously, that a bill to lower drug prices would “stifle innovation” over a period of thirty years.
Phil adds: I think one of the things this episode shows is that if you spend too long down in the weeds you fail to see that it’s all astroturf.
8. Kathryn Paige Harden and the Spectre of Eugenics (10/12/21)
Our “Death Panel Review” of Kathryn Paige Harden’s new eugenics book, “The Genetic Lottery.” For us, as a Panel, recording this was the living embodiment of that scene in Dune with the pain box. I think there are as many an exasperated “are you fucking kidding” that I cut out as I left in. —Artie
9. A Death Panel History of Medicare (07/05/21)
One of two full-episode releases from this year that were historical deep dives on Medicare, the fight for socialized medicine, and industry collusion. (The other, “How Medicare was Privatized (10/26/21),” is on our Patreon). A history of Medicare unlike any you’ll hear elsewhere, full of weird stories about its passage, the groups lobbying on either side of it, and how we still have so, so much more to do.
10. Repro Utopia w/ Sophie Lewis (10/01/21)
I don’t want to hear a single one of you post what you think about “Family Abolition” as a concept until you’ve sat through this entire episode.
Honorable Mention — Hardest Episode
In February, Bea and I had to drop everything because the private insurer for her supplemental Medicare coverage decided they didn’t want to pay for one of her most important drugs anymore. I’m being overly vague, but the experience was a terrible one and very indicative of why private insurance companies have no place in society, which is why we decided to drop the fourth wall and do a full episode about it. To be very honest, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to listen to it again. But if you want to get very mad, you can. —Artie
Honorable Mention — Most Death Panel Non-Death Panel Episode
In June, I sat down with Citations Needed to explain why an article in the New York Times that instructed readers to cut ties with friends with stigmatized identities or traits was a textbook example of how the ideology of eugenics is pervasive throughout our society and culture.
Beatrice: “If we take social determinants of health… and we say, ‘No, no, no, this is not a problem of any sort of failure of the state, there’s no real responsibility here to act or do something, this is a problem of the individual.’ So it places the blame away from the institutions that are actually responsible for these health outcomes in the first place and … by taking this blame outside of racism, or poverty, or ableism, or classism, and saying, ‘No, no, no, no, this is a social problem. This is a very tiny little problem.’ What it does, is it also really, as you’re saying, it discourages solidarity. It’s creating divisions between people. It’s encouraging people to surveil their friends to do cost-benefit analysis on their friends.” (Full transcript here)
That’s it! Obviously there are many more that could, or should, be on this list, but we thought it best to be concise. Largely omitted from this list are shows we released reacting in real time to some of the events described in Covid Year Two; like our episode “A Pandemic of the Unvaccinated” from July, “Operation Enduring Virus” from September, or “Meaning Production at 500,000 Dead” from February. Suffice it to say it has been a terrible year.
We also owe a huge debt to our phenomenal guests this year, who helped make 2021 tolerable. While we’re only highlighting a few episodes here, we want to take a moment to thank Paul Bieniasz, Abby Cartus, Rachel Cohen, Justin Feldman, Adam Gaffney, Jules Gleeson, Jules Gill-Peterson, Da’Shaun L. Harrison, Nate Holdren, Adam Johnson, Sophie Lewis, Charlie Markbreiter, Yves Tong Nguyen, Vicky Osterweil, Frank Pasquale, Arrianna M. Planey, Alex Sammon, Charlotte Shane, Abdullah Shihipar, Dean Spade, Marshall Steinbaum, Nathan Tankus, Loretta Torrago, Harsha Walia, Libby Watson, and Alexander Zaitchik.
See you all in 2022. As always,
Medicare for All Now
Stay alive another week
It’s all brilliant. Thank you.