Last summer, on a 3,000-mile road trip around the Northwest, my best friend and I listened to an extraordinary podcast called Bundyville, from Longreads and Oregon Public Media.
Starting from the infamous standoff at the Bundy ranch, during which outlaw “patriots” took aim at federal law enforcement agents (who ultimately withdrew without shots fired on either side), and continuing through the subsequent standoff at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge and into the Bundy compound itself, writer/reporter Leah Sottile and producer Ryan Haas trace the roots and rise of a strand of antigovernment, white nationalist, and Christian-millenarian ideology that has spread through the West.
Apparently, a second season was not originally in the cards, but a barely-reported suicide bombing by a white nationalist sent the reporting team on another circuit of the West to track down a series of increasingly worrisome threads spreading out from the Bundys’ web.
The subject matter is concerning as hell, but I’ve rarely heard a more evenhanded or ethically sound treatment of a strand of American culture that most of us insist on ignoring or caricaturing, even as it creeps inward from the fringes and becomes ever more violent.
Both seasons are worth your time. And, as Leah urges at the end, they’re worth a conversation. You don’t need to be on a road trip through the inland Northwest for this to feel relevant.
You can find both seasons (and additional writing) here. Have a look and a listen.