Jon Ronson Seeks the Clashes That Led to the Culture Wars

Politicians aren’t given much attention in the show. Does the omission appear to be deliberate?

For the most part, I’ve stayed away from traditional political parties and issues. When I come across a strange story about a person going about their daily routine and becoming entangled in high politics — decisions made at a higher level that trickle down and affect them in ways they may not be aware of — I find those stories incredibly interesting. There are many better political journalists than me who have been doing this for decades, and I haven’t, so it’s probably difficult to break through the politicians’ public relations efforts, especially when it comes to writing about them.

I was particularly moved by your episode on Tammy Faye Bakker, the televangelist who, in an interview with Rev. Steve Pieters, a pastor living with AIDS in 1985, expressed compassion for him. How do you want to leave your listeners feeling?

Everyone claims to be looking for a solution. Look back in time and you’ll see that in the past, human connection and listening worked better than people retreating to their corners and shouting at each other.

People have been emailing and messaging me to tell me that they were in tears while listening to the Tammy Faye episode. And I believe that means it touches something that is very important to us, but that we haven’t been able to access as much as we should have in the last six or seven years, namely human connection, empathy, and a sense of common humanity.

Do you plan to continue making works about the current cultural debates?

I’m not going to lie; it takes up a lot of my mental space. Our world right now is a very important place because of what’s going on in terms of the midterm elections, which Republicans are preparing to turn into a “culture war,” as they call it.

After all that, I think I’ve done my fair share of critiquing. Instead, I’d like to tell upbeat stories in the hopes of eliciting a range of positive reactions from listeners.