A contributing editor for Vice delivers on-the-scene, first-person accounts of the Western standoffs involving the Bundy family and their followers.
Pogue, a freelancer for the New York Times Magazine at the time, takes us with him inside the armed camp of those who were protesting the Bureau of Land Management—and the government in general—during the confrontations with the feds in Oregon early in 2016. He met and interviewed the Bundys, became close with a number of those encamped at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, and felt his emotions ebb and flow, darken and lighten. A young man from Cincinnati, the author does not ignore his own youthful passions and weaknesses, including accounts of his drinking, drug use, sexual adventures, lassitude, and wanderlust. But he is interested principally in understanding the players in the movement led by the charismatic Ammon Bundy. Some, says Pogue, considered Bundy a prophet (many involved were Mormons), and the author is deeply sympathetic to the notion of increasing public access to public lands. He describes one experience, walking around a New Mexico site, camping, drinking, and firing his gun. (He had bought a big truck and some firearms and confesses a long fondness for both.) Pogue does allow some of his stories to drift past the point of interest, and throughout, he criticizes liberals who, in his view, don’t get what’s going on in the West but nonetheless, in ignorance, disdain it all. He also blasts—again and again—what he sees as the blindness of many Westerners who do not recognize the white male power that lies quietly behind so many of these issues. If public lands are sold off and used for mining and other endeavors, who will benefit? And who will suffer?
Courageous on-site reporting underlies all, outweighing some excess and irrelevance.