International bestselling author and podcaster Jon Ronson is hosting a new series where he hears stories from people involved in some of the defining battles that have raged across cultural lines in recent decades.
The incidents that Jon explores span more than 50 years of history, from the arrival in America of the 60s counter-culture, through the moral panics of the 80s and 90s; from the days of the early internet to the forces unleashed by ‘post-truth’ politics.
Every story is rooted in the experiences of the people involved: individuals compelled for different reasons into behaving in extreme, sometimes lethal ways, in service of causes that they deeply believe in.
The series will explore, among other stories:
How did a kid growing up in the alps in the 1970s, dreaming of making Fellini-like movies in Hollywood, inadvertently kickstart a campaign of murders in the 1990s?
How did a poem by Liverpool poet Roger McGough, misinterpreted by a West Virginian church minister’s wife, contribute to events that led to the bombing of a school in 1974?
Who was the very first person to be publicly shamed because of something they did online? And how did the incident shape the internet we all live with today?
And how might a prank played by a Hollywood actor on his friend have helped to inspire the Capitol insurrection of January 2021?
Jon Ronson says: “If you’ve ever argued with someone on social media about, say, cancel culture or mask wearing, then you are a soldier in the culture wars. These wars can obsess us, tear families apart.
“I wanted to find the origin stories, the people whose choices led us to where we are today. And I think I’ve uncovered some extraordinary tales – nuanced and surprising and full of twists and turns. These are human stories that really shed light on how we got here.”
Daniel Clarke, Commissioning Editor for Factual at BBC Radio 4, says: “Jon Ronson has made a timely and fascinating series that, through a set of extraordinary individual stories, illuminates some of the pivotal moments in the history of the culture wars, the detailed history of which is often little understood.
“I’m absolutely thrilled to have Jon back on Radio 4, so our listeners can enjoy his unique approach to storytelling and his great curiosity. As well as being brilliantly gripping, Things Fell Apart is a really important piece of journalism which sheds light on the world we live in today.”
The eight-part series of Things Fell Apart will be broadcast every Tuesday at 9am on Radio 4 from Tuesday 9 November, and available as a podcast only on BBC Sounds.