Jillian Countey ’20 was first inspired to create a podcast on campus centered around politics over two years ago, in the midst of a passionate campuswide debate. The script of James Michael Playwright-in-Residence and Professor of Drama Wendy McLeod’s play, The Good Samaritan, left the entire Kenyon community feeling angry and in search of change. After finding the perfect partner in Kenyon Young Democratic Socialist co-founder Lucy Irwin ’20, the two have teamed up to put Countey’s initial vision into action: This semester, they started their new podcast, Pod Save Kokosing.
“We both thought that Kenyon needed a space where students [of all political ideologies] can talk about politics openly and feel safe, because we both feel nervous bringing up politics, even talking to [our] own friends. If you disagree with someone, you have this fear at Kenyon of feeling stupid, or like you’re in the minority,” Countey said.
With this in mind, they invited Nat Henry ’20, the founder of the newly revived Republicans at Kenyon, to come on their first episode to discuss the experience of being a conservative on a liberal campus like Kenyon’s. Since then, they have invited a number of students, all of whom support different candidates for the 2020 presidential election, onto the show, including Joe DeAngelo ’21, Meg Schimelpfenig ’20 and Cameron Austin ’20.
Both Countey and Irwin consider themselves very liberal, yet often feel hesitant to voice their opinions.
“[In some of these spaces,] people just write off other people, [and when] someone happen[s] to disagree, [the response is often,] ‘Oh, you’re uninformed, go read this and then come back to me’ instead of taking that up in the moment … I’m personally trying to put an end to that insider you know, knowledge club,” Irwin said. Noting the genderedness typical of such political discussion, she added, “It’s such a boys club.”
They believe that it is this combination of the fear of being in the minority and the fear of sounding uninformed that drives many Kenyon students—consciously or not—to avoid discussing politics. The duo is highly aware of this, and makes a point of being accessible to the layperson. This is evident in Countey’s editing practices.
“When I edit [the podcasts], I do have moments [when I consider cutting imperfect comments]. I’m like, ‘I could take this out’, [but I don’t, because] a) It’s kind of funny and b) I think it is good,” Countey said. “We’re not the authority and we don’t try to be the authority… We’re just two Kenyon students interested in politics and want to talk to people from different sides of politics.”
Countey and Irwin may be the hosts of Pod Save Kokosing, but in a way, they are also the listeners; they hope to gain knowledge simply by making this podcast and asking the questions others may hesitate to ask.
“There’s this predominating idea that you can’t be interested in politics if you don’t know as much as the next person about politics; you can’t get into politics and be like, ‘yeah, I’m just wondering what’s up’ without seeming ignorant … And [Countey and I] could change that by [asking these questions] ourselves,” Irwin said.
Countey also noted that steering clear of this elitist rhetoric could not only positively impact political discussions at Kenyon, but nationwide, and could help put an end to the perpetual systems of inequality.
“Talking in this high minded elitist way is not reaching [uneducated voters],” she said.
Likewise, they are careful not to preach to their audience; the duo is much more interested in hearing what different people have to say. “[Not all voters are] going to be able to list [a candidate’s] political history,” Irwin said. “That’s not to say that you shouldn’t pursue an in depth analysis [of a candidate’s history and platforms]… But [basing a voting decision on a candidate’s political history] is not at all how everyone votes.”
In addition to creating a space for students of all political backgrounds to discuss the issues, Countey and Irwin also seek to ensure that it is a space for people of a variety of races, gender identities, sexual orientations and socio-economic backgrounds. “We want to make sure that we actually [hear from] different voices [on our podcast],” Irwin said.
Though both will graduate from Kenyon this spring, Countey and Irwin do not foresee this being the end of their podcast. “I hope that [Pod Save Kokosing] continues on after us, [and that] the spirit of not making [politics] exclusive does, too,” Irwin said.
In creating Pod Save Kokosing, Countey and Irwin are not only working to ensure that many different opinions and perspectives are shared at Kenyon, but they are also creating a space where these voices can be heard.
You can listen to new episodes of Pod Save Kokosing weekly on SoundCloud at https://soundcloud.com/jillian-countey-894431878. Interested in going on the show? For more information, contact Jillian Countey ’20 and Lucy Irwin ’20 at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com, respectively.