Episodes
Pandemics are as old as human civilisation, but there's a lot you probably don't know about them. Why did "dancing plagues" erupt repeatedly in Medieval Europe as a result of "hot blood"? Why is calling it the "Spanish Flu" an egregious historical injustice? And how do mathematical modellers incorporate Italian vs. American culture into their forecasting and predictions? ---- Power Corrupts is written and narrated by Brian Klaas. The executive producer and sound editor is George McDonagh.
Published 03/26/20
What if your mistakes could cause an empire to fall, a war to start, or thirty million people to starve to death? Whether it's Mao's campaign to murder sparrows leading to a deadly famine; or an emperor who really, really should have bought a cannon, such mistakes define our past, present, and future. Don't make the mistake of not listening. ---- Power Corrupts is written and narrated by Brian Klaas. The executive producer and sound editor is George McDonagh.
Published 03/19/20
Corruption is usually hidden. But sometimes, it’s out in the open. In this episode, we explore some unexpected hotspots of corruption and kleptocracy. How does a fugitive Malaysian playboy who allegedly stole billions still legally own a mansion in London? Why did a small town Massachusetts mayor try to accept big wads of dirty cash in a shed behind his house? ---- Power Corrupts is written and narrated by Brian Klaas. The executive producer and sound editor is George McDonagh.
Published 03/12/20
Christopher Blair has been called the Godfather of Fake News. He's an American troll. And whether you realized it or not, you've probably unknowingly read a fake news article that he's written. So we traveled to meet him, to understand how one man makes a living by deceiving gullible people on Facebook — and the effect that his trolling has on democracy. ---- Power Corrupts is written and narrated by Brian Klaas. The executive producer and sound editor is George McDonagh.
Published 03/05/20
When a dictatorship collapses, there's a big problem: everyone who knows how to run the government is someone who helped the dictator. Do we need Saddam Hussein's henchmen to keep the electricity on? We'll speak to Ambassador Paul Bremer, who ran Iraq from 2003-2004. And we'll talk to a torture victim who extended an unthinkable olive branch to those who ordered his torture. ---- Power Corrupts is written and narrated by Brian Klaas. The executive producer and sound editor is George McDonagh.
Published 02/27/20
If you're trying to consolidate power as a dictator, what's the best way to go about it? We'll speak to Garry Kasparov, former world chess champion who now plots his moves against Vladimir Putin. And we'll travel to Thailand to speak to a journalist who got kidnapped by a military junta in a surreal attempt to give him Stockholm Syndrome for his dictatorial captors. ---- Power Corrupts is written and narrated by Brian Klaas. The executive producer and sound editor is George McDonagh.
Published 02/20/20
Mercenaries are sometimes described as "the world's second oldest profession." But how do they operate today? Can mercenary armies topple dictatorships? Should we pay ex-special forces soldiers to do our dirty work? We'll answer those questions as we speak to Simon Mann, a founding member of Executive Outcomes and a mercenary mastermind of the botched Wonga Coup plot. ---- Power Corrupts is written and narrated by Brian Klaas. The executive producer and sound editor is George McDonagh.
Published 02/13/20
Propaganda has been around for thousands of years. But what separates the pros from the amateur propagandists? Why are North Korean radios made without dials? Who is Sister Potato? Why did American soldiers fight—and die—to steal phone books and undelivered mail for a propaganda radio station? And how does Iran shut down the internet? ---- Power Corrupts is written and narrated by Brian Klaas. The executive producer and sound editor is George McDonagh.
Published 02/06/20
Come explore the dark side of power as we travel across the globe meeting the often unsavory characters who inhabit the hidden world of mercenaries, propaganda, biological weapons, information warfare and trolls, dirty money, psychopaths, corruption, dictators, and revolutions. Hosted by Dr. Brian Klaas, political scientist at University College London and weekly columnist for The Washington Post. -- The executive producer and sound editor is George McDonagh.
Published 01/23/20
What’s it like to be the son or daughter of a dictator? Why did one dictator’s son go from a high-flying life playing football in Italy to being shorn like a sheep in the hands of rebels? Why did the cannibal emperor of Bangui murder a woman who claimed to be his long-lost daughter? And in the cutthroat world of politics, is nepotism necessary to survive? Series 2 comes January 2020. ---- Power Corrupts is written and narrated by Brian Klaas. The executive producer and sound editor is...
Published 08/22/19
In this episode, we explore the morality of a scientist who gave life to billions--but also facilitated the murder of millions; a psychiatrist who studied the brains of Nazi war criminals; a Rwandan who lost most of her family in the 1994 genocide; and hear from two experts on how authoritarian leaders can convince seemingly kind people to murder their neighbors. -- Power Corrupts is written and narrated by Brian Klaas. The executive producer and sound editor is George McDonagh.
Published 08/15/19
When you think of heists, you probably think of masked men, bank robbers, and priceless art. But governments carry out heists, too. In this episode, we explore a billion dollar bank heist carried out by North Korean hackers; one carried out by a dictator who pledged to rule for a billion years; and a jewel heist that destroyed diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Thailand. --- Power Corrupts is written and narrated by Brian Klaas. The executive producer and sound editor is George...
Published 08/08/19
Why do dictators and despots create outlandish myths about themselves? In this episode, we examine some of the weirdest and most brutal dictators on the planet to understand the three step playbook for how despots across the globe try to transform themselves from flawed tyrants into seemingly flawless demigods with a cult of personality. ---- Power Corrupts is written and narrated by Brian Klaas. The executive producer and sound editor is George McDonagh.
Published 08/01/19
The UK has a new prime minister. On his first day, Boris Johnson will handwrite four identical letters to the captains of Britain's nuclear submarines. And those Letters of Last Resort will only be opened if London is wiped out by a nuclear blast. The letters must answer a straightforward but morally complex question: should the UK fire back with nuclear weapons? ----  Power Corrupts is written and narrated by Brian Klaas. The executive producer and sound editor is George McDonagh.
Published 07/25/19
How did 2 guys you've never heard of save the world from nuclear apocalypse? Can nuclear weapons be hacked? What's the most consequential honeymoon in human history? Why was a British nuclear weapon designed to contain live chickens in the bomb casing? And why are nuclear bombs useful for detecting art forgeries? ---- Power Corrupts is written and narrated by Brian Klaas. The executive producer and sound editor is George McDonagh.
Published 07/18/19
You’ve probably heard of money laundering, but how does it actually work? How did billions of dollars of dirty gold from South America become clean cash in Florida and Ohio? How do crooks launder money using video games? Why are journalists getting killed for exposing money laundering? And what in the world is “cuckoo smurfing”? ---- Power Corrupts is written and narrated by Brian Klaas. The executive producer and sound editor is George McDonagh.
Published 07/11/19
Why are countries that are rich in natural resources so often poor and war-torn? You’ve probably heard of blood diamonds, but what about blood vanilla, blood microchips, or blood chocolate? How are rebels and terrorists funding themselves with watermelons and wheat? We crisscross the globe from Papua New Guinea to Madagascar to find out. ---- Power Corrupts is written and narrated by Brian Klaas. The executive producer and sound editor is George McDonagh.
Published 07/04/19
Nick Yarris spent 22 years on death row. At one point, he even escaped. But then, right before he was slated to be executed, DNA evidence proved he was innocent. Is the death penalty justified? Can a just society execute people? Are you more likely to be executed if you kill a white person? And why do most death sentences come from a tiny number of American counties? ---- Power Corrupts is written and narrated by Brian Klaas. The executive producer and sound editor is George McDonagh.
Published 06/27/19
What's something that you do every 2 weeks? For Michelle Lyons, over a span of 12 years, she watched someone get executed every two weeks in Texas. What are inmates like on their last day alive? Did she have misgivings watching people take their last breath? And what do people who are strapped to the gurney actually say for their final statements?   ---- Power Corrupts is written and narrated by Brian Klaas. The executive producer and sound editor is George McDonagh.
Published 06/20/19
Why did the CIA try to kill an African political leader with poisoned toothpaste? Was a recent attempt to blow up Venezuela's dictator with a small consumer drone a genuine attack, or just a pretext to crack down on his political opponents? And which US president got shot in the chest by a would-be assassin but continued speaking for 90 minutes, even as he was bleeding? --- Power Corrupts is written and narrated by Brian Klaas. The executive producer and sound editor is George McDonagh.
Published 06/13/19
Why did the war in Afghanistan hinge on the ability of a teenager to help buy 100 million bullets for the US military? What are international arms dealers actually like? Is the US facilitating war crimes in Yemen while simultaneously transferring weapons to terrorists? And why is so much of the world's corruption wrapped up in gunrunning?  ---- Power Corrupts is written and narrated by Brian Klaas. The executive producer and sound editor is George McDonagh.
Published 06/06/19
What's the best way to smuggle a crocodile onto an airplane? What is the journey actually like for migrants getting smuggled from Afghanistan to Australia? Why is the European Union paying migrant smugglers in Niger to open bakeries? Will Trump's proposed border wall actually do anything to stop smuggling? And how should you go about smuggling your pet turtle onto an airplane? ---- Power Corrupts is written and narrated by Brian Klaas. The executive producer and sound editor is George...
Published 05/30/19
What's it like to be held by Somali pirates for 977 days? Or to meet your Dad for the first time after he's been held in a basement in Beirut for nearly 7 years? Are you more likely to be killed as a hostage if you're American than if you're French? And how does economic game theory help us answer the question: what is the price of your freedom? ---- Power Corrupts is written and narrated by Brian Klaas. The executive producer and sound editor is George McDonagh.
Published 05/23/19
Disinformation is a powerful weapon. It forces your enemy to inflict damage upon themselves based upon lies that you've deliberately spread. How did a homeless man's corpse help win World War II? How does reality television function in Russia, given that the media is so tightly controlled? And what happens when fake video gets so good that we can't tell the difference between fiction and reality?  ---- The executive producer and sound editor for Power Corrupts is George McDonagh.
Published 05/16/19
Why did a West African rebel leader send his troops into battle completely naked, protected only by talismans? How did threats of voodoo and invisible zombies stave off a US invasion of Haiti? And why was a journalist nearly killed when local villagers mistakenly thought he was a vampire? In this episode, we explore the wild and weird world of the politics of magic and witchcraft. ---- Power Corrupts is written and narrated by Brian Klaas. The executive producer and sound editor is George...
Published 05/09/19