Podcast Review: The Trojan Horse Affair

Last week, I listened to Serial Productions’ latest podcast, The Trojan Horse Affair. If you’re not familiar with the incident or the podcast, the Trojan Horse Affair, also known as Operation Trojan Horse, occurred in Birmingham, England in 2013/2014 when a mysterious letter showed up detailing an alleged Islamic extremist plot to take over the British school system.  The letter didn’t initially go viral until a chain of events make it gain notoriety and since it’s the Brexit Era, everyone flips out. The school at the center of it was Park View, which over the course of 15 years had been revitalized from a pitiful 4% to a whopping 70+% graduation rate. The “problem?” That school that had been left to die and brought back to life was 98% Muslim with a new Muslim principal who brought in Muslim teachers. When the dust settled, lives were ruined, new laws were enacted, and everything the community worked to gain was lost.

The Trojan Horse Affair podcast doesn’t attempt to prove the letter to be a fake; in fact, it’s universally acknowledged that the letter is a hoax. Podcast hosts Brian Reed and Hamza Syed set out to determine who wrote the letter and why. And while they *spoiler* don’t definitively solve their Whodunit, they make a pretty compelling case piecing together evidence and witness statements about the Who and the Why.

As with any good mystery without a hard conclusion, The Trojan Horse Affair is largely about the journey. For doctor turned journalism student Hamza Syed (a treasure), it’s about setting the record straight while learning to remain objective despite being a person of color and emotionally involved in the story. For veteran journalist Brian Reed (the guy who hosted another fantastic Serial Productions podcast, S-Town), it’s an endeavor in walking the fine line between mentoring newbie Syed while also learning firsthand the racism and Islamophobia that Muslims like Syed deal with on a daily basis. It’s an interesting, compelling dichotomy that you can hear both men figuring out in real-time.

But back to the mystery, which brings forth its own wild journey. Brian and Hamza discover conspiracies on top of conspiracies. They meet with government officials, corrupt town council members, and a weird neighborhood busybody who is clearly an early 2010s Karen prototype without them ever having to say it lolz. And speaking of prototypes, there’s even your classic white lady feminist who doesn’t know when her opinion isn’t f*cking welcome. At one point, the hosts are threatened and have to flee the country and destroy documents. The entire story is somewhat nuts because, at the end of the day, if the person that they conclude was behind writing the letter is in fact who wrote it and their reasoning is correct, then…why is there such a multi-level cover-up going on even though everyone acknowledges the letter was a hoax? (I’m sure you can figure this one out but the number of people involved…yikes.)

The Trojan Horse Affair is 8 episodes, all out now. Each episode is under an hour and you can easily listen to it in a day if you had the time. I definitely recommend checking it out after you’ve caught up on the latest episode of The Broadcast, of course. 😉

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