The BBC’s ‘The Coming Storm’: QAnon and how to start a conspiracy theory

The BBC pod­cast The Com­ing Storm.

The Com­ing Storm, the lat­est pod­cast from the BBC, is a riv­et­ing explo­ration of the phe­nom­e­non that is QAnon

QAnon is in many ways the ulti­mate expres­sion of the cul­ture wars that rage today between the over-edu­cat­ed and anti-edu­cat­ed. In that it states, in a mat­ter of fact man­ner, that the Amer­i­ca they are liv­ing in is not the one described by the lib­er­al intel­li­gentsia, but one that is in fact run from with­in the depths of the deep state by a coven of pae­dophile cannibals. 

Incred­i­bly, indeed incom­pre­hen­si­bly, some 23% of Repub­li­can vot­ers in the US sub­scribe to this quote real­i­ty unquote.

How it all began. He came, he saw, he left a polite note.

Writ­ten and pre­sent­ed by Gabriel Gate­house, inter­na­tion­al edi­tor on BBC 2’s News­night, it is, for almost all of its 8 episodes, a gen­uine­ly scep­ti­cal enquiry. Giv­ing equal­ly short shrift both to its cen­tral claims, and to any­one who air­i­ly insists that only dim-wit­ted Amer­i­cans would be suf­fi­cient­ly cretinous to give cre­dence to that sort of guff. 

On the con­trary, as he goes on to calm­ly explore, peo­ple every­where have always believed that sort of nonsense.

This par­tic­u­lar man­i­fes­ta­tion seems to go back to that twin phe­nom­e­non of the 1990s. The ruth­less ambi­tion and cor­rup­tion of the Clin­tons and the resent­ment that that gen­er­at­ed, com­bined with the vast blank and unreg­u­lat­ed can­vass that the Inter­net sud­den­ly pre­sent­ed us with.

The Com­ing Storm is an exten­sive­ly researched, deep dive into how all of that got start­ed, and Gate­house is com­mand­ing, genial and mea­sured. Except that is for a cou­ple of brief min­utes, towards the end of episode 2, when he goes off script. 

It’s then that he intro­duces us to Juani­ta Broad­drick, who alleges that Bill Clin­ton raped her in 1978. An accu­sa­tion Clin­ton flat­ly and res­olute­ly denies. 

Broad­drick only made the accu­sa­tion dur­ing Clinton’s impeach­ment tri­al, some 20 years lat­er. And that was after she’d pre­vi­ous­ly denied it, only months earlier. 

Where it all began, the Comet ping pong pizzeria.

Nev­er­the­less, her detailed rec­ol­lec­tion of those events is all too cred­i­ble and it’s impos­si­ble not to con­clude she’s telling the truth. And Gate­house is demon­stra­bly of the same opin­ion. It’s what he does next that is, to use one of Alice’s words, curi­ous. Because he con­cludes the re-telling of her sto­ry with:

The media knew about her alle­ga­tions but they sat on it. It was too explo­sive. The stakes were too high.”

No it wasn’t, no they weren’t and no they didn’t.

The main­stream media hound­ed Clin­ton dur­ing those weeks, months and years. Espe­cial­ly over any­thing that had the whiff of sex. But they decid­ed that what­ev­er had hap­pened had tak­en place 20 years ago, and that all any of them had to go on now was her word ver­sus his.

More to the point, by this stage the Amer­i­can pub­lic was bored to tears with tales of Bill’s sex­u­al pec­ca­dil­los, which were doing lit­tle more than fur­ther deep­en­ing the abyss that divid­ed and divides the states there into red and blue ones.

What Gate­house does in this telling is to present us with one of those clas­sic exam­ples of an Aris­totelian syl­lo­gism that fails to func­tion. One of those How-not-to syl­lo­gisms. All bus­es are green, that vehi­cle is green, there­fore it’s a bus. 

Sent from below.

Assum­ing that her ver­sion of events is true, what we have here are two, inde­pen­dent, un-con­nect­ed events. Event one, she was raped. And Event two, the main­stream media decides against giv­ing her sto­ry the kind of exten­sive cov­er­age that some might have liked. 

There’s no causal­ly con­nect­ing because here, but Gate­house mag­ics one into exis­tence. Which is exact­ly how you con­struct a con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry, before send­ing it out and on its mer­ry way, into the uni­verse and the dig­i­tal aether beyond. 

You describe two, sep­a­rate and uncon­nect­ed events as if they were obvi­ous­ly linked. Indeed, as if that con­nec­tion were so obvi­ous, it’s sur­pris­ing to you that any­one should call that so say con­nec­tion into doubt. 

In oth­er words, and clear­ly inad­ver­tent­ly, Gate­house has erect­ed the scaf­fold­ing and is using the archi­tec­ture need­ed to con­struct the very phe­nom­e­non he was sup­posed to have been mere­ly report­ing on. 

Curi­ouser and curiouser. 

Still, it’s a crack­ing pod­cast. And that minor blip aside, Gate­house is thought­ful and mea­sured and is a won­der­ful­ly engag­ing host.

You can lis­ten to it here:

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