The critically acclaimed WNYC program Radiolab found itself embroiled in a controversy for its recent podcast segment “Yellow Rain.” The intent of the segment was to indict the Reagan administration’s dubious pretenses for labeling yellow rain a chemical weapon. But Radiolab’s interview with survivor and historian Eng Yang took a harsh turn and concluded with one of Radiolab’s hosts, Robert Krulwich calling Yang’s experience hearsay. This essay uses the “Yellow Rain” controversy to highlight two important features of argumentation in the podcast context. First, podcasts feature what I call ‘the acoustics of strategic maneuvering,’ which describes the way sound itself acts as presentational force in the service of a standpoint. Second, podcasts ephemerality enables Radiolab to revise their arguments to incorporate audience expectations.
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