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Revisionist History

By Malcolm Gladwell / Pushkin

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Revisionist History is Malcolm Gladwell's journey through the overlooked and the misunderstood. Every episode re-examines something from the past—an event, a person, an idea, even a song—and asks whether we got it right the first time. From Pushkin Industries. Because sometimes the past deserves a second chance.

Customer Reviews

Great podcast, lots of historical mistakes

I've just listened to the first episode. This is a beautifully produced podcast, as flawless as Serial, and I'm sure I'll be listening to more. But wow - Malcolm Gladwell really isn't kidding about the 'revisionist' part of the title, is he? He completely rewrites the history of recent Australian politics over the course of half an hour.

I agree with his overall point about tokenism, but I think Australia's recent political history is a bad example. Here are some of the things he gets wrong:

- the pronunciation of Julia Gillard's name

- Julia Gillard is a poor example of tokenism, because she wasn't actually elected. She ousted an extremely popular Prime Minister of her own party, who was elected on a tidal wave of support and was still well-loved by the Australian electorate when he was forced out of office by his own party. Even though this is technically allowed in Australian politics, it had never been done before. It was historic. And it seemed illegitimate - that was the source of a lot of the resentment and sexism that followed, not the 'let's pat ourselves on the back because we've allowed a woman into office' feeling.

- In her second term, Gillard's party was unable to get a majority and had to form a minority government in coalition with another party. So to say that she was chosen, and then the door was slammed shut in her face, is just mischaracterising her time in office. There was always a feeling that she was only Prime Minister because other people were 'allowing' it, and that it went against 'the will of the people'.

- Gillard was not Australia's last Prime Minister. She was ousted by the same person who she ousted, Kevin Rudd. There have been three Prime Ministers since she was forced from office (Rudd, Abbott, and now Turnbull), but only one election (Rudd versus Abbott). Nobody actually liked Abbott, her sexist opponent depicted in this podcast - he had the lowest approval rating of any Prime Minister in Australian history - but there was a feeling that the Labor party, with its constant leadership changes, just wasn't up to the job.

- Peter Slipper, the speaker of the house, was not a member of Gillard's party. He was a member of Tony Abbott's party. Then he became an independent when he took the Speaker's job. It was seen as a betrayal by his former party, who turned on him. That's what makes the attack on Gillard for being sexist even more egregious - Abbott was attacking her for supporting a former member of *his* party, not hers!

Overall, I just think Gillard is a poor example of tokenism. I completely agree with Gladwell that she was the victim of sexism - absolutely outrageous sexism. She was hyper-competent in office and the way she was treated by the Australian media and people in general was appalling. But it wasn't about people patting themselves on the back, it was about people resenting the fact that she was there at all. I think Margaret Thatcher is a much better example of tokenism, but as her time in office was so long ago and she's passed away, I imagine the interview tape wouldn't have been so compelling.

Good start, engaging.

I enjoyed the narration and the narrative. I applaud an author who engages a subject such as gender equality from both a historical and modern perspective. Sadly a 50 minute podcast is a short time for such an expansive topic.
On Julia Gillard: being an Australian who voted Labor I was less than impressed with her manouvering to oust Kevin Rudd. However; on the topic of how she was treated by Tony Abbott and the vastly conservative media, it has to be said it was embarrassing. Devastatingly painful for Ms Gillard; biased and crude media and opposition taunts made many Australians cringe.
All the same, I look forward to the next episode!

Revisionist history indeed!

I admire Gladwell and his significant body of work, but the first episode of this series is sprinkled with factual inaccuracies, bias and gross characterizations. Apply salt liberally prior to consumption.