If you binged MSNBC’s “American Radical,” you aren’t alone. And if you’ve been searching for podcasts like it about radicalism, extremism, and how they reel people in, then look no further. These podcasts, some serialized, others releasing new, weekly episodes are all about radicalism of the past and present and what this means for the future.
Hear podcasts ranging from the “American Radical” story of Rosanne Boyland, the woman whose family thought she hated politics before she wound up crushed to death on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, to “Boys Like Me,” a CBC investigative podcast into the online “incel” movement that’s turning young men into violent misogynists. You’ll hear podcasts from Robert Evans, a journalist and host who has been walking the extremist beat for years, and from NPR on the rise in ultra-pro-gun groups.
These stories are poignant, important, and even disturbing as we listen to how people fall victim to extremist groups and beliefs. Check out these podcast about radicalism and extremism below.
On January 6, 2021, Rosanne Boyland was crushed to death on the steps of the U.S. Capitol by a crowd trying to force its way past a police line. But even more shocking was that her family had no idea how she had ended up in DC on that day at all.
Rosanne hated politics, so it was unlike her to feel so moved as to become involved in the insurrection. Grief stricken, they vowed to find out what happened to her, and her brother-in-law, Justin Cave, reached out to an old high school friend of his: MSNBC journalist Ayman Mohyeldin.
The story takes Ayman to their shared hometown of Kennesaw, Georgia, where he uncovers the final six months of Rosanne’s life, following her tracks that lead to childhood playgrounds, missing boyfriends, and down the shadowy internet rabbit holes that radicalized and led her to an untimely death.
Behind the Bastards
Not only is iHeartPodcasts’ and host Robert Evans’ “Behind the Bastards” a deep-dive into the lives of the worst humans to ever live, but it’s an expedition into the masters of extremism and radicalization. Evans covers a wide range of monstrous extremists, from Adolf Hitler and high-ranking Nazis, the military industrial complex, the inventor of the lobotomy, QAnon, and more.
Boys Like Me
In 2018, a Toronto man drove a van down a busy sidewalk, killing 11 people and injuring far more. The man was linked to a strange movement that has popped up in the internet age: the “incel” movement. It’s characterized by violent misogyny, extreme isolation, and perceived rejection from women, and it’s radicalizing young men like wildfire.
“Boys Like Me” is a five-part CBC series that examines how socially-isolated young men vanish into the online world of nihilism and despair that radicalizes them into angry, and potentially deadly, misogynists.
The Assault on America
Investigative journalist Robert Evans, also the host of shows such as “Behind the Bastards” and “Behind the Insurrections,” takes a deep dive into the January 6th insurrection. He goes back to its roots, a murky, nebulous online space where the Capitol insurrection was conceived and planned, to Donald Trump’s “Stop The Steal” campaign to the Big Lie and beaten Capitol police officers. “The Assault on America” is a documentary series from iHeartPodcasts about the attempt to subvert democracy.
White Hot Hate
When Winnipeg Free Press journalist Ryan Thorpe spotted recruitment posters for a group called “The Base” pop up in Manitoba in 2018, he decided to go undercover and infiltrate the hate group. The militant Neo-Nazi group was run by a Canadian Armed Forces reservist establishing a local neo-Nazi cell, and Ryan quickly discovers that this man is planning attacks abroad.
This six-part series follows Ryan’s infiltration of the cell and is narrated by host Michelle Shephard, a veteran national security journalist. “White Hot Hate” explores the spread of white supremacist ideology around the world, how it started, and how it grows. When it comes to podcasts about radicalism, there’s nothing quite like this one.
NPR’s “No Compromise” is the winner of the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Audio Reporting, hosted by reporters Lisa Hagen and Chris Haxel who have exposéed the far-right gun group called No Compromise. Along with WAMU’s Guns & America, they expose how the three Dorr brothers created a pro-gun group beyond the NRA, seeing them as too lax on gun control.
The movement spirals deep into ultra pro-gun Facebook, the Dorr family’s extreme religious beliefs (that has sought to eliminate public education, outlaw homosexuality, and replace all laws with Old Testament rules) and how they recruited so many into this uncompromising, extremist gun movement.
While radicalism and extremism have showed up throughout human history, there’s never been easier access nor easier spread of these beliefs than with the internet. “Rabbit Hole” is a New York Times podcast hosted by the Times technology columnist Kevin Roose as he digs into what the internet has been doing to us. It’s a deep dive into YouTube, an analysis of the influencer-above-all-influencers PewDiePie, and how QAnon is using a template that’s already been laid out to pull in more followers.
The title “Day X” comes from the term that a network of far-right extremists in the German military and police use to describe the day that they hope democracy will collapse. This podcast begins with a German soldier, a faked Syrian identity, and a gun in an airport bathroom, and it leads a German military officer facing trial on terrorism charges. Germany is facing a national reckoning that is not unlike a crisis they’ve seen before.
This far-right cell is just one in a country of 83 million people. The story is still unfolding, and more extremist groups are being discovered. It’s a story of long-outstanding murders in Germany, terrorism plots against targets who have overcome their Nazi past, and a look at the Defensive Democracy Germany has in place to prevent threats from the inside. “Day X” raises a question that democracies around the world are beginning to open their eyes to: What happens when the call is coming from inside the house?