*** DEBUG START ***
*** DEBUG END ***

Radio review: Disaster Trolls, The Coming Storm, and Free Thinking

11 November 2022

BBC/Tom Traies

The BBC’s “disinformation correspondent” Marianna Spring presents Disaster Trolls (Radio 4 FM, weekdays)

The BBC’s “disinformation correspondent” Marianna Spring presents Disaster Trolls (Radio 4 FM, weekdays)

THERE was a moment Disaster Trolls (Radio 4 FM, weekdays), on Thursday of last week, reminiscent of the climactic scene in the film The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. A reporter holds a microphone to a man, who in turn points a video camera at her and the television crew, which is filming the whole stand-off. Culture wars, spaghetti-western style. Fortunately, it ended less bloodily. All parties backed off, taking with them their own digital version of the event.

Disaster Trolls is the latest series from the BBC’s “disinformation correspondent” Marianna Spring, and investigates a disturbing campaign of harassment directed at victims of the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing. Co-ordinated by one Richard D. Hall, the campaign presents an alternative account of the atrocity, saying that it was staged by a troupe of “crisis actors”. Motivated by outrage on behalf of those bereaved or left disfigured by Salman Abedi, Spring has been on the hunt for Mr Hall and his followers.

The programmes adopt the stylistic tropes now familiar from the True Crime genre of podcasts. It is slick and compelling, even when the incontestably serious subject matter occasionally sounds absurd. My favourite character from the first week’s episodes was Neil Sanders: an amiable if low-level UFO and alien-abduction specialist, who was flattered into contributing to Mr Hall’s online presentations, but baulked at his wackier claims about staged terrorist attacks. How, Mr Sanders sensibly asked, could you disguise all those actors?

Like the True Crime genre, our fascination with conspiracy is an import from the United States, where they do conspiracy so much bigger and better. In time for the mid-term elections, there appeared the latest series of The Coming Storm (Radio 4, Sunday, first of two).

The story here is about QAnon, and how people can believe the craziest stuff. The reporter Gabriel Gatehouse is now a doyen of conspiracy porn — although his excitement can sometimes get the better of him. The Twitter account Libs of TikTok is, in Gatehouse’s livid prose, “the large hadron collider of social media, smashing the liberal filter bubble into the conservative information eco-system”. I’m no atomic physicist; but nor, I suspect, is Gatehouse.

In Free Thinking (Radio 3, Thursday of last week), Matthew Sweet invited his guests to imagine the great Scottish Reformer John Knox as the subject of a mega-budget Netflix series. More pertinently, how would he have fared on Twitter? With the tongue of a viper and the hide of a rhino, quite well, you would imagine — except that titles such as The First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women would use up those precious characters fast. On the other hand, in this, the 450th year since his death, one doesn’t get a sense that Knox’s views are set for a sympathetic re-evaluation.

Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

Church Times Bookshop

Save money on books reviewed or featured in the Church Times. To get your reader discount:

> Click on the “Church Times Bookshop” link at the end of the review.

> Call 0845 017 6965 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5pm).

The reader discount is valid for two months after the review publication date. E&OE

Forthcoming Events

 

Church Times/RSCM:

Festival of Faith and Music

26 - 28 April 2024

See the full programme on the festival website. 

Early bird tickets available

 

Intercultural Church for a Multicultural World

28 May 2024

A Church Times/Church House Publishing webinar

Tickets are FREE

 

Church Times/Modern Church:

A Political Faith?

Monday 3 June 2024

This panel will explore where Christians have come to in terms of political power and ask, where should we go next?

Online tickets available

 

Church Times/Modern Church:

Participating in Democracy

Monday 10 June 2024

This panel will explore the power of voting, and power beyond voting.

Online tickets available

 

Green Church Awards

Closing date: 30 June 2024

Read more details about the awards

 

The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times

 

To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)