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The Coming Storm

Lesson plan

  1. Read the text below and listen to episode 1. The Dead Body.
  2. Practice taking notes while listening
  3. Compare notes with your shoulder partner
  4. Correct and rewrite your notes
  5. Write 3 questions from the episode
  6. Discuss in groups.

Thanks to Kieron Hunter for the heads up!

The Coming Storm is a journey into the dark undergrowth of modern America. From conspiracy-soaked bar-rooms in 1990s Arkansas, via spies in hotel rooms in the shadow of the Kremlin, to anarchic chatrooms on the early internet, to QAnon, this is a search for the origins of the story that drove the Capitol Insurrection in Washington DC in January 2021. It’s a search for the answer to one big question: did this just happen, or is somebody trying to break reality?

For reporter and presenter Gabriel Gatehouse, it starts with a chance encounter. On the night of Halloween 2020, Gabriel signs up for a witch-themed drawing class. In the class he learns about a book, a dark fantasy written in the 15th century about witches and a conspiracy with the devil. Thanks to the invention of the printing press, the book went viral, and sparked an orgy of misogynistic violence amid the social upheaval of the transition to the modern world.

A week after the drawing class, Gabriel travels to America to cover the 2020 presidential election. There he meets a man draped in furs with horns on his head and a sign saying: ‘Q sent me’. The man speaks of a coming storm, a battle against an evil cabal of satanic paedophiles led by Hillary Clinton, who are conspiring to steal democracy. He seems like an oddball on the fringes. But two months later, on 6 January 2021, as Gabriel watches the crowds storm the Capitol in Washington DC attempting to overturn the result of the election, there he is again: same furs, same horns, same story.

Hundreds are there with him, thousands more outside, and millions believe his conspiracy narrative. Five hundred years after the witch craze began, America is in the grip of a new dark fantasy, a story so implausible and yet so compelling it threatens the very foundations of American democracy. How has that happened? And where will it lead?

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