We wrote about the work of Patrick Radden Keefe a few weeks ago, mentioning the bingeworthy qualities of his podcast Wind of Change. The series has now reached its conclusion – and it feels like it’s time for a reckoning.
The premise, if you’ve missed it, is that a CIA source told Keefe that the agency had been responsible for writing the Scorpions hit Wind of Change, which was credited with galvanising anti-Soviet youth opinion in Eastern Europe before the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Keefe’s self-appointed task was to find out if it was true.
He certainly tried, over the course of several years and eight deeply reported episodes, with many fact-finding trips and lines of inquiry. In the course of the reporting, he did reveal some of the extents the CIA went to in pursuit of its goals, including using Nina Simone without her knowledge.
But he did not prove that the CIA wrote the song. He put the notion to the band’s songwriter Klaus Meine in the concluding episode, having marched his audience up the hill. The response was a soft “No…. No…”, a bit like Family Guy‘s Consuela. Meine was pretty believable.
Keefe concluded that although he hadn’t proved the rumour to be true, he hadn’t proved it wasn’t true either – and the evidence he collected certainly indicated the story could possibly have been true.
So does the lack of a conclusion matter?
Tom Rowley, a supporter of Well Told and the Britain correspondent for The Economist, tweeted that he was “slightly tired of podcasts that set out to investigate something tantalising and don’t really come to a conclusion”. Others voiced their support.
Interestingly it’s the opposite position to that taken by Jon Ronson’s for The Last Days of August where he was clear from the beginning that the apparent prime suspect was not actually a suspect (see here).
We love it when non-fiction feels like fiction, to have the same arcs, tidy endings and neat conclusions; clear goodies and intriguing baddies. But even when real life does turn out like fiction, proving it is another matter.
To Keefe’s credit, he had not promised any answers.
But he did rise above the fray after the series was released with this one word tweet: