The Trojan Horse Affair

Audio Sample

Publisher:
Serial, The New York Times

The Trojan Horse Affair

4.5/5

Critic Rating

4.1/5

Listener Rating

A strange letter appears on a city councillor’s desk in Birmingham, England, laying out an elaborate plot by Islamic extremists to infiltrate the city’s schools. The plot has a code name: Operation Trojan Horse. The story soon explodes in the news and kicks off a national panic. By the time it all dies down, the government has launched multiple investigations, beefed up the country’s counterterrorism policy, revamped schools and banned people from education for the rest of their lives. To Hamza Syed, who is watching the scandal unfold in his city, the whole thing seemed … off. Because through...


Critic Reviews

Score: 5

Zarah Sultana • Novara Media Apr 19, 2022

"Hamza’s determination has revealed to millions of people the lies and vindictiveness that sustain rotten establishment politics, leading to widespread disquiet among ordinary people at the events of 2014. As we organise to push back against servile journalists and political elites, the Trojan Horse Affair podcast is a powerful lesson."

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Score: 4.8

Sarah Larson • New Yorker Mar 20, 2022

"...is in many ways a study in perspectives. Their different backgrounds, motivations, and personalities animate the narrative, and help ground it in gently amiable scenes.The story of how Muslim staff helped Birmingham schools is a vivid, fascinating narrative...as in the first season of “Serial,” the series ends in lightly poetic writing and investigative frustration. It leaves listeners with a very thoroughly implied idea of what happened with the letter, to combine with hours’ worth of scrutiny of what happened in the schools—and plenty of room for our own perspective to fill in the rest."

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Score: 4.5

Brian Benton • Discover Pods Mar 9, 2022

"...is not as innovative or groundbreaking as the original season of Serial or 2017’s S-Town, it still remains a masterclass in deep, investigative radio journalism and captivating storytelling. Instead, much like the twists of S-Town, The Trojan Horse Affair takes listeners on a journey into the intricacies of central England’s local government and education system. In many ways, The Trojan Horse is a good podcast, not a great one. But when so many big podcast releases are celebrities hosting unscripted discussions, something with a bit of time put into it can be a real treat."

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Score: 4.7

Jake Greenberg • PodcastReview.org Mar 3, 2022

"The series does not reach the emotional heights of S-Town, nor does it aim for any version of the character portrait that sets S-Town apart from every acclaimed narrative podcast since. Reed and Syed’s series is furiously compelling nonetheless, even as I often found myself losing track of the relevance of a particular interview or thread to the big-picture politics of an anti-Muslim panic. The podcast’s momentum comes from the investigation’s expansiveness, the notion that the story is getting perpetually bigger one interview at a time. Without delivering any grand revelations, The Trojan Horse Affair pulls off its caper premise."

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Score: 4

Will Yates • Schools Week Feb 27, 2022

"On one level, it reveals something that will be familiar to all who work in schools: how alarmingly easy it is for teachers and the professionals who support them to fall prey to indecision, equivocation and self-preserving instincts. But there is another, more frightening message: that fallibility is parsed as commendable caution if you’re white, but conspiratorial extremism if you’re a Muslim. Syed and Reed’s reflections on their own biases are a powerful reminder of the similarities between journalists and teachers: no matter how well-intentioned we are, the lens through which we view our work is never neutral. It is this message that makes The Trojan Horse Affair such a powerful listen for all who work in education."

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Score: 4

Eoghan O'Sullivan • Irish Examiner Feb 22, 2022

"...a dense journalistic investigation...Reed and Syed are dogged and their work is admirable. But for the lay listener, the one who hung on Sarah Koenig’s every word in the first series from Serial, is it entertaining? We’re inundated with names, grades, teaching boards, council members - it can all feel a bit heady."

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Score: 2

James Marriot • The Times UK Feb 18, 2022

"It is with considerable shame that I confess myself defeated by The Trojan Horse Affair...the narrative keeps getting bogged down in cancelled interviews, rearranged meetings and digressions...I am left feeling that I have rather let down the pipe-sucking, sweater-vested folk at The New York Times. …"

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Score: 4

Michael Walsh • Yonkers Public Library Feb 17, 2022

"This podcast is a brilliant blend between a thriller and mystery that will make you eager to find out what happens next. This podcast is a brilliant blend between a thriller and mystery that will make you eager to find out what happens next."

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Score: 4.5

Mariya Bint Rehan • MuslimMatters.org Feb 17, 2022

"That The Trojan Horse Affair podcast was made is a testament to the absurdity of the situation. That it takes an American production to point out the blatant legal injustice and structural racism involved in this case is indicative of the magnitude of this miscarriage of justice–the very America with its flawed legal system and own endemic issues of Islamophobia. The Trojan Horse Affair‘s narrative is encouraging . As the two journalists, Brian Reed and Hamza Syed, progress through this journey of unearthing the truth...Indeed, the fingerprints left on the Muslim community show us that those political elite have sculpted the perfect image of themselves in their fiction. What The Trojan Horse Affair makes most apparent to me is perhaps the danger doesn’t lie within Muslim communities. …"

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Score: 5

Noel Ceballos • GQ (Spain) Feb 14, 2022

"The Trojan Horse Affair demuestra cómo un libelo islamófobo puede llegar a calar con tanta facilidad entre unas instituciones que parecen estar deseando (o, glups, buscando de forma activa) una oportunidad así para llevar a cabo políticas de mano dura que la opinión pública no les permitiría en otras circunstancias. Uno de los trabajos reporterísticos más importantes de esta recién nacida década."

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Score: 4.8

Chris Allen • The Conversation Feb 11, 2022

"As someone who has lived in Birmingham for more than two decades and has undertaken extensive research into the city’s Muslim communities for most of that, I was conflicted. While it was interesting to investigate who was behind the allegations, I was concerned that this could deflect attention away from the very real way the scandal has had a negative impact on the lives of many ordinary people."

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Score: 5

Hassan Bahara • DeMorgen (Dutch) Feb 11, 2022

"De podcast verscheen vorige week vrijdag in zijn geheel online. Het is een verbijsterend en geregeld woestmakend exposé over individuen en instituten – media en politiek – die zonder een flintertje bewijs een hele gemeenschap brandmerkten als staatsgevaarlijk.De podcast is soms deprimerend, maar bovenal een ode aan de journalistiek. Hetzelfde vak dat soms zoveel kwaad kan doen, kan – mits integer ingezet, zoals in The Trojan Horse Affair – ook alle leugens en verdraaiingen wegkappen die het zicht op de waarheid blokkeren."

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Score: 5

Francesca Turauskis • Pod Bible Feb 7, 2022

"This is a big one...As [one] might be expected from this production team, this is a gripping and fascinating listen."

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Score: 5

Stephen O. • Podcast Delivery Feb 6, 2022

"The in-depth, high-quality, bold reporting you've come to expect from the New York Times' Serial Productions are only a few reasons you should listen to The Trojan Horse Affair. Need a stand-out reason to listen? It's the closest thing to the original Serial we've heard in a while...the intro/outro music brings a little nostalgia for everything you experienced listening to Serial for the first time."

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Score: 4.5

Patricia Nicol • The Times UK Feb 6, 2022

"It is intriguing to think what Americans will make of the twists and turns of Brum bureaucracy. This is a knotty, Kafkaesque tale steeped in ugly accusations of bullying, corruption, sexism and racial prejudice. Lives and reputations have been ruined. From their outsider-insider perspective, Reed and Syed set out to offer a definitive account of a story that polarised Britain. Small spoiler alert: they fail. Where they do succeed, however, is in creating the most thought-provoking podcast since Sweet Bobby."

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Score: 3.9

Fiona Sturges • Financial Times Feb 6, 2022

"With such top-flight credentials, The Trojan Horse Affair should, by rights, be a masterpiece. In fact, it just feels like hard work...in narrative terms, it is slow-moving and bogged down in bureaucratic detail, while the mystery of who wrote the letter feels less important as the show progresses. While you can understand why the creators of Serial would want to move on from the murder-mystery format that made their name, the absence of tension here is the series’ undoing."

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Score: 4.3

Miranda Sawyer • The Guardian Feb 5, 2022

"...surely Serial Productions, the non plus ultra of podcast brands, will deliver a revelatory, gripping listen. Well yes, sort of. Here are the positives. Novice Syed – emotional, funny, articulate – is an immensely charismatic presenter and brilliant on what the Trojan Horse affair has meant to Muslims who want to succeed in the UK without disavowing their cultural backgrounds. Reed, great as usual, balances precise, truthful reporting with personal, funny asides. But. This series is loooong, about eight hours over eight episodes. It’s also frustrating. Perhaps this isn’t a surprise. Anyone who has tried to deal with local councils...I hope that something concrete will come from this dogged podcast, but I won’t be holding my breath."

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Score: 5

Kate Hooker • Brooklyn Based Feb 5, 2022

"...an engrossing true story that I’ve never heard before...the ensuing investigation takes enough mysterious and dramatic turns to make a stroll through the same damn streets I see every day significantly more exciting. …"

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Score: 4.9

Nicholas Quah • Vulture Feb 4, 2022

"It’s been said that a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes. In The Trojan Horse Affair...that quote manifests itself in almost literal fashion. As with all three seasons of Serial, The Trojan Horse Affair excels in making you feel as if you’re inside the investigation. You experience the jolt of excavating a new document, a new lead, a new name. The ride isn’t all smooth. As details and revelations stack up, they become impenetrably dense, particularly in the second half of the series. But let’s be real: These people can tell a damn story. Both Reed’s and Syed’s philosophies are challenged and changed, mostly for the better. This is a story with no easy conclusions..."

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Score: 5

Dustin Rowles • Pajiba Feb 4, 2022

"I didn’t set out to listen to all eight episodes of Serial’s latest podcast The Trojan Horse Affair in under 24 hours, but I couldn’t bring myself to turn it off. The Trojan Horse Affair, however, is the first season since the first — the true-crime investigation of Hae Min Lee’s murder — that stuck its claws in me, and that enraged and enlightened me in equal measure. Indeed, for a podcast about a goddamn letter, it is a surprisingly gripping, tense, and suspenseful podcast that is almost impossible to turn off."

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Score: 4.8

Laura Miller • Slate Feb 3, 2022

"The Trojan Horse Affair is both a return to the whodunnit and an entirely different beast. The newest podcast from Serial Productions, The Trojan Horse Affair, comes the closest yet to that first season’s appeal. The best crime stories have always resided at the intersection of personal disputes and public concerns, and it would be hard to find a case that more perfectly captures this paradox. One minute, you’re gasping at the audacity of a culprit, and the next, you’re shaking your head over how handily she was able to mobilize the ambient prejudices of the moment to her advantage."

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Listener Reviews

Score: 5

Cara L. Mar 24, 2022

"I heard the first episode of this on This American Life. I wasn't totally enamoured by it but Ira Glass sold it well so I downloaded and listened to the whole thing. It was really, really good. I wasn't convinced by the very school-focused subject matter of the first episode but it broadened out as the series went on. As well as focusing on the Trojan Horse Affair itself, the podcast followed the journey of a journalist, just starting out on his career. It was really entertaining and I highly recommend it!"


Score: 5

Amanda C. Feb 17, 2022

"I usually never write reviews unless something is really great. This podcast reminded me of those books you end up reading late into the night till you realize you've read the same sentence three times and can no longer keep your eyes open. Then it's the first thing you want to touch when you wake up. I too didn't think I was going to finish The Trojan Horse Affair in such a short amount of time, but here I am 3 days later. The work they put into this story is unbelievable; the details surrounding one letter are almost nauseating. I also found Hamza and Brian to be a well balanced duo. I really appreciated how personal the interviews were especially the interviews between one another. While I don't understand all the intricacies of UK politics, I was riveted the entire time. Would definitely recommend a listen."


Score: 1.5

Victor R Feb 15, 2022

"I wasn't expecting an investigative journalism masterpiece, I have listened to S-Town and Serial and knew that it's about entertainment, but The Trojan Horse Affair is at times unlistenable. Brian Reed keeps the podcast from becoming total madness, while his junior partner spends most of the episodes angry, behaving unprofessionally, and in a way justifying the views of those who still believe there is something behind a hoax (his letter to a brother of a witness clearing delineating his reasoning and motives was possible a new low in journalism."


Score: 4.7

Imran A. Feb 12, 2022

"There are several layers to this podcast that I took away. Frustrating. Enjoyable. Not so shocked on treatment of minorities. Political nonsense. Conspiracy taken as real. Lastly, growth from the new reporter. The podcast had me feeling all those things and for that, I highly recommend it. "


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