The extraordinary human stories behind America’s culture wars

Behind every seismic culture clash in American history, there are real human stories about how it all began. Acclaimed writer and podcaster Jon Ronson sets off to track down those extraordinary and unexpected tales, discovering the real people at the heart of America’s most vicious culture wars—from sex education and gay liberation to legal abortion and beyond. Hear about how these clashes started from the people who were on the front lines, and join Jon as he seeks to understand how we can learn from them. Listen to this Jon Ronson podcast with BBC Podcasts.

Written and presented by Jon Ronson
Produced by Sarah Shebbeare

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Episodes

Episode 1: 1,000 Dolls – Available for Free
It’s the early 1970s. Frank Schaeffer is an American kid living in the Swiss Alps – the son of an influential Christian art historian – who daydreams of one day making Hollywood films. But for that he needs a show-reel to prove himself. The ripples of Frank’s creative ambitions will help trigger one of America’s most violent culture wars – one that rages to this day.

Written and presented by Jon Ronson
Produced by Sarah Shebbeare

Episode 2: Dirty Books – Available for Free
1974. A church minister’s wife in West Virginia learns of a brand new curriculum being introduced into her children’s school. So she decides to read all 325 new textbooks herself. What she discovers horrifies her so much she instigates a State-wide insurrection. But were some of her concerns based on a misunderstanding?

Written and presented by Jon Ronson
Produced by Sarah Shebbeare

Episode 3: A Miracle
Tammy Faye Bakker, a massively popular televangelist, finds herself having a crisis of conscience in the early 1980s. She genuinely wants Christian evangelism to be less bigoted, despite the beliefs of her peers. And so, to the horror of the anti-LGBTQ evangelicals in her circle, she invites a very unexpected guest onto her TV show: AIDS activist Steve Pieters.

Written and presented by Jon Ronson
Produced by Sarah Shebbeare
Original music by Phil Channell

Episode 4: Believe the Children
In the mid-1980s, “Satanic Panic” has the nation firmly in its clutches. The new conspiracy theory proliferating across America, claiming that cabals of cannibalistic Satanists are secretly preying on children, is a madness with bizarre and dreadful consequences — as Kelly Michaels, an unsuspecting young woman working at a daycare center in New Jersey, is about to discover when she is falsely accused of sexually abusing her young charges.

This episode includes graphic description of sexual violence.

Written and presented by Jon Ronson
Produced by Sarah Shebbeare
Original music by Phil Channell