This American Life -180 Degrees

carter little tree before and after

A before and after shot of Carter

In a recent episode of Pete Holmes’s You Made it Weird, Holmes dismissed many NPR programs as not being podcasts. I disagree. Despite its growing popularity, the podcast delivery platform is relatively fringe. Holmes implied the podcast realm belonged solely to DIY endeavors, but that’s poppy cock. Johnny Ramone was never dismissive about established rock-n-roll archetypes. Nor should podcasters dismiss professionally produced programming. In fact, there are a lot of outfits out there that could learn a thing or two from public radio. That being said, I still consider This American Life a podcast, hence this week’s review:

Episode 527 is about philosophical seachanges, changes of heart that redefine people, and the complexities therein. Everyone knows someone who took a 180-degree turn on something they once saw as divine edict, basically turned their backs on what they once believed to be indisputable truth. In fact, I’m one of those people. But there was a segment in this episode that really makes you question the authenticity of these ‘about faces’. Anyone read the book “The Education of Little Tree”?

Published  in 1976, “The Education of Little Tree” was purported to be the real-life story of an orphan raised by Cherokee grandparents. It was initially promoted as an authentic autobiography recounting author Forrest Carter’s early years. It’s a beloved book and has been championed by many a civil rights advocates. But…

The author’s real name was  Asa Earl Carter, a white political activist from Alabama heavily involved in white supremacist causes before he launched his career as a novelist. Dude was a speechwriter and close friend of the infamous segregationist Alabama Governor George Wallace. In fact, he wrote Wallace’s most acerbic, some say evil, speech. Get a load of this thing:

The episodes delves into the man behind the beloved and then maligned book. Were his motives just? Had he really changed as he’d said he had? Or was this a big PR hoax concocted and executed by a hateful but adept political strategist? (Carter got a deep tan, grew a moustache, and lost about 30 pounds before promoting the book.)

Really a bizarre story here. There have been many scholarly articles written about it, but TAL really cracks it open. Great episode.

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