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The Queen of Cuba| Revisionist History podcast with Malcolm Gladwell E11/S4 (Transcript)

The Queen of Cuba

Episode 11| Season 4| Revisionist History
Length: 62 mins | Released: August 29, 2019

To see the full transcript, go here.

NOTE: Episodes 3 -11 are contained in one interactive project. Click the down arrow to the right of the episode name to select it.

This episode contains explicit language

Malcolm Gladwell: Revisionist History listeners, Malcolm Gladwell here. I’ve written a new book called Talking to Strangers and it’s about the mistakes we make in our interactions with people we don’t know. Talking to Strangers features con artists and sociopaths and spies. It talks about how drinking affects the way we make sense of others. I spend time with the psychologists who ran the CIA’s interrogation program and the man who spotted Bernie Madoff before anyone else and I try to get to the bottom of a heartbreaking encounter between a police officer and a civilian which resulted in the death of a young woman named Sandra Bland in Texas. I think it’s a book that will prompt a lot of conversations and arguments, which as you know from Revisionist History, is what I like to do. I’m very proud of it.

Malcolm Gladwell: And there’s something else I’m proud of with Talking to Strangers. After making four seasons of Revisionist History, I’ve fallen in love with the kind of storytelling that can be done through a podcast and I decided that I wanted to bring that same approach to the audiobook of Talking to Strangers.

Malcolm Gladwell: Normally, an audiobook is just the author or someone the author hires reading into a microphone. I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to make this audiobook of Talking to Strangers as compelling as an episode of Revisionist History. So if you listen to the audiobook, you’ll hear the voices of the people I interview and if I’m describing some historical event, you’ll hear archival tape. For courtroom scenes, we have actors reimagining what happened. There is music, an extraordinary song by Janelle Monae, scoring, we even have excerpts from other audiobooks and podcasts like the fantastic Believed from NPR and Michigan Radio.

Malcolm Gladwell: I think the result is a completely different kind of audiobook experience, much more powerful, moving, engrossing. Anyway, rather than describe it, I thought I would give you a special preview so here it is: Chapter 3 of Talking to Strangers done the new way.

Malcolm Gladwell: Let’s take a look at another Cuban spy story.

Malcolm Gladwell: In the early 1990s, thousands of Cubans began to flee the regime of Fidel Castro. They cobbled together crude boats, made of inner tubes and metal drums and wooden doors and any number of other stray parts, and set out on a desperate voyage across the 90 miles of the Florida Straits to the United States. By one estimate, as many as 24,000 people died attempting the journey. It was a human rights disaster.

Malcolm Gladwell: In response, a group of Cuban emigres in Miami founded Hermanos al Rescate, Brothers to the Rescue. They put together a makeshift air force of single-engine Cessna Sky Masters and took to the skies over the Florida Straits, searching for refugees from the air and radioing their coordinates to the Coast Guard. Hermanos al Rescate saved thousands of lives. They became heroes.

Malcolm Gladwell: As time passed, the emigres grew more ambitious. They began flying into Cuban airspace, dropping leaflets on Havana urging the Cuban people to rise up against Castro’s regime. The Cuban government, already embarrassed by the flight of refugees, was outraged. Tensions rose, coming to a head on February 24th, 1996. That afternoon, three Hermanos al Rescate planes took off for the Florida straits. As they neared the Cuban coastline, two Cuban air force MiG fighter jets shot down two of the planes out of the sky, killing all four people aboard.

Malcolm Gladwell: The response to the attack was immediate. The United States Security Council passed a resolution denouncing the Cuban government. A grave President Clinton held a press conference.

President Clinton: Ladies and gentlemen, I have just been briefed by the National Security Advisor on the shooting down, today, in broad daylight, of two American civilian airplanes by a Cuban military aircraft.

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Transcripts for the entire Season 1–4 podcasts of Revisionist History are available here.

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