I like depressing media, apparently.
Produced by Robert Evans and a bunch of other people I can’t immediately credit off the top of my head, Behind the Bastards is a podcast that releases about three episodes a week, with a standardised format of Robert, with research on hand, explaining a historical narrative about the worst goddamn people in history, both current and in the past, and the ways in which their ways of being have resulted in a suckier world. Evans’ particular style of journalism is extremely dry and sarcastic, but also seems to project just holding tight on a deeply white hot held rage about the world and the way it is.
And he podcasts about it, reading this story to a friend, who gets progressively more sad and upset over the course of the episode.
Because of the scope of Behind the Bastards, a podcast that releases something like three episodes every week, is so vast, I don’t recommend just grabbing a starting point and plowing through it. There are trends, subjects that the host, Robert Evans relies on, and they tend to be expressed in who he brings on board to talk to.
There’s a lot of general content warning stuff of course. I mean it’s a podcast about terrible people, so sexual assault, both of adults and children comes up. Genocide is pretty common, both in the big one everyone knows about (the Holocaust) but also all the other examples of it as executed in less holistic ways. Things like schools that sought to exterminate a language, that’s genocide. An attempt to sterilise a population based on racial lines? That’s a genocide too! And of course, all the talk about White Genocide is by people who want an excuse to kill all the nonwhite people which is also genocidal. Attempts to drive people out of the country they’re living in, like the ethnic cleansing in Syria? Oh that’s genocide too.
I guess what I’m saying is: You’re going to learn a lot about awful people.
There’s a real philosophy behind what constitutes being a bastard. What does it mean to be a completely arsehole? Some people in this podcast are thoughtless and stupid and make mistakes on minor scales, that nonetheless involve doing something really bastardly. Sometimes it’s people who are important in a massive, widespread way to a whole bunch of people you have no reason to think about in your day to day life. Like did you know the dictator of Turkmenistan built a golden statue of himself, but more handsome and jacked, and made it turn to always face the sun? Weird, huh? Bet you didn’t know Turkmenistan existed before now.
The result is a really interesting kind of mix of general world history, current events, journalistic ethics, deep dives into modern political figures, and sometimes, incredibly important things that the podcast can get you started on. It’s well-sourced, consistently thorough and open about its position on such things.
But if it’s a big dense podcast, with lots of threads to work from. Where to start?
First of all, I recommend checking out the early episodes that Evans made with Billy Wayne Davis, which centre on themes of quack medicine. Billy Wayne has a particularly drawling delivery that presents an incredible sarcasm in response to Evans’ overreach. This thread will involve talking about balls.
Then there’s the times Dr Mister Cody, former Cracked Alumnus, and Katy… not-Stoll? Oh it’s Katy Stoll? And I could go back and edit it at any time and not have this extra clause in it? But I’m not? Anyway, those two, who make the Youtube Channel Some More News. Thing is, that’s really funny, is that these three, together, made me swear off Behind the Bastards on my first impression because the first time they showed up was on an episode where they made a bunch of jokes about the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. It was in this episode that they called a ska band with multiple black members ‘the whitest band in the world,’ which I mean, look, like, Paramore? Brooks & Dunn? Most Yacht Rock? Reel Big Fish is right there.
I kidf you not, this opening of hearing them talking about Ska music as ‘the whitest thing’ just convinced me this was another group of people who huff their own farts and figure ‘if I haven’t heard of it, I can discard it as being inadequately leftist.’
Then Dicky Barrett came out as an anti-vaxxer and the Bosstones broke up over that, which, y’know, that sucks as well.
Eventually I needed some long form content and I saw there’s an early episode on King Leopold of Belgium, who sucked shit and I thought I’d check it out and give the show another chance. I’m really glad I did, I really enjoyed it!
Oh yeah anyway, point is, they get in these two in to talk about reasonably current events, or going over things like Ben Shapiro’s attempts to write dramatic fiction. That’s funny!
But there’s also some more serious stuff, like roundtables and discussions of what it was like protesting the police in Portland, or the ways that outside agitators at the Unite The Right tried to manipulate leftists into giving the police an excuse. And of those, there’s my favourite, which is a two parter on the history of the Black Panthers, which was cohosted by a guy who grew up with Black Panthers in his household:
If you like bastards, or more specifically if you hate bastards and want to confront the way that the world we live in is populated by and peopled by a tiny fraction of people who are complete shitheads. You get that right? Like, this isn’t ‘wow the world is fucked’ but rather ‘the ways the world are fucked are the result of people doing things, and those people are historically, underpunished and undercontrolled and maybe that doesn’t need to be permanent as a way to treat the world?
But you know, that’s just a thought.
Hey, do you own bolt cutters?