Remember earlier this year, when a bunch of buffoons, who thought playacting at committing terrorism would be cool, ignorantly and proudly stumbled into the real thing? That would be Ammon Bundy, the well-coiffed sentient Stetson hat, and his band of religious extremists known as the “Patriot” movement, a label so ironic it would do Williamsburg trust-funders proud. They were arrested (and one killed) after an armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, a ham-fisted sequel to his father’s 2014 armed standoff with federal officers near the Bundy Ranch in Nevada. Now, as befitting the seriousness of their ideas, their movement will be subjected to the same analysis as that which wondered aloud if consuming nothing but McDonald’s would be healthy for you. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Morgan Spurlock is producing a documentary about Bundy and his supporters, composed on footage shot by director David Byars during the 2016 standoff.
The content itself sounds promising: Byars went inside the refuge during the 40-day ordeal, and was granted apparent unfettered access to the entire misguided militia and their nonstop bloviating about Jesus and freedom, which is to enlightened thought as VitaminWater is to actual nutrition. The footage “gives audiences an unprecedented first-hand look into the occupiers’ beliefs by living amongst them and giving them a voice,” because lord knows, if someone in this country needs a voice, it’s well-to-do, far-right antigovernment zealots. Much like Going Clear, Jesus Camp, and other docs that delve into the humanity behind seemingly insane movements, it will likely be really compelling, as absurd people often are.
There’s been a lot of coverage of this movement—especially recently, as the trials of the leaders get underway and their lawyers launch hilarious attempts to insist their clients be allowed boots and belts—and the seriousness of the movement’s fanaticism and violence is counterbalanced with the laughable nature of the participants. Things can be both serious and ridiculous at once, as Bundy et al demonstrate. Or, as Rolling Stone contributor Matt Taibbi puts its, “this is true of groups like the actual al-Qaeda, too, led as they are by men in beards and Rick-Perry-style ‘smart glasses’ who play at being religious scholars and intellectuals when in fact they are the kind of people who are afraid of cartoons and lie awake at night wondering if it’s permissible to play chess with a menstruating woman. Just because a person is dangerous does not mean he’s not also absurd.” Hence, Spurlock actually seems like a good fit for the project, being a slightly ridiculous figure who nonetheless tackles very serious subjects.
For those looking for a primer on all this idiocy prior to the film’s release (and there’s no release date yet), you could do worse than to follow our own Podmass advice and check out freelance journalist Scott Carrier’s interview with a member of the ”Patriot” movement. He, too, captured the mentality of one of Bundy’s religious extremists in the midst of the armed siege, and his podcast Home Of The Brave nicely summarizes the gist of the groupthink: “Absolutely, God Told Us To Do This.”