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Things Fell Apart review

Production company – BBC

Rating – 5 Brains

I’m not sure where I heard of this podcast. I suspect it was one of the many shows that get thrown up by algorithms into the “suggested for you” section of my podcatcher. I also vaguely knew about Jon Ronson from somewhere, but wasn’t quite sure why or where. So I figured it would be worth a go. Now I’m out the other side of this, I can’t help but recommend it. Here’s why.

So what’s it about?

Things fell apart is Jon Ronson’s investigation of the culture wars in all its multifaceted insanity. Is insanity too strong a word here? I’ll leave you to decide that. Each episode deals with a different thread that has led to usually well meaning people to become extremist in one way or another. From Christian fundamentalist pro-lifers to Antivaxxers and BLM protests, Jon Ronson dives into it all.

Along the way, you will learn the real stories behind the hyperbolic headlines and viral social media posts that seem to fuel our daily doom scrolls. As is usually the case, what you think you know is only a tiny aspect of the real case. The media loves a grizzly story, and by promoting the final, awful event, it’s easy to gloss over the events that lead up to it. If you know the whole story, I guess knee-jerk reactions are harder to come by. And we all know knee-jerk reactions and ill thought out social media comments make the world go round nowadays.

Is it any good?

The closest podcast I can think to compare it to would be American Hysteria. It also bears comparison to shows like Revisionist History from Pushkin Industries, and the journalism team at Tortoise Media. The research that must go into each episode must be dizzying. As I said above, it’s all to easy to follow where others have gone before, but Jon really heads to the origins of not only how, but why people chose to do this. It’s also interesting that in a lot of these cases, that the original initention is far from what eventually happened once certain parts of the public get involved. There are many “pandora’s box” type events in this show, which makes each story all the more concerning.

I can usually go for a solid 8 hours daily on a good podcast. I can’t do that here though. It’s very hard going. Not because it’s a bad show, it really isn’t. It’s because I find it emotionally draining to listen to huge chunks of misplaced hatred and bigotry. Not from Mr. Ronson you understand, but the stories he tells are infuriating and heartbreaking in equal measure.

In this series, Jon Ronson shows what a great investigative journalist he is. As I mentioned earlier, it’s reminiscent of podcasts from companies such as Tortoise Media, but it comes across as more informal. That’s not to say that it isn’t as good as a Tortoise show. For my UK readers, I would compare it to the difference between a Panorama investigation and a Louis Theroux show. In fact Louis Theroux does make an appearance at the end of season one, actually interviewing Jon.

Final thoughts

This podcast is a hard listen. It should make anyone with an ounce of common sense very angry indeed. Not because of the “moral outrages” described, but because of how people are so easily convinced. Not only that, but the ease with which the moral outrages can destroy people’s lives so completely with little or no consequence to the instigator. The story goes away and life moves on. Provided you aren’t the one in jail. Or dead.

Since I started writing this review weeks ago (as is always the case with me), Jon cropped up as a guest on one of my other favourite shows, Some Dare Call It Conspiracy. To learn of his previous involvement with the perpetually sweaty, braying, foil hat enthusiast Alex Jones gives a new angle on why he’s working in these subjects. In fact, I would recommend you listen to that interview if you haven’t already.

When I first started this show, I was going to call this review “Fundies do the darndest things”, but I soon realised that was far too flippant a title for such serious subject matter. But that’s apropos of nothing really. Do yourself a favour and subscribe immediately.

You can get Things Fell Apart here:


For more podcast reviews, I recommend GreatPods.

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