Boys Like Me: Outstanding podcast details how two men ended up on different paths
Boys Like Me
How do normal people end up doing terrible things?
In 2018, a Toronto man drove a van onto the pavement, killing 11 people and injuring many more. His motivations were linked to the “incel” movement, an online subculture of men describing themselves as “involuntarily celibate”, fuelled by alarmingly misogynist views and violent hatred.
Canadian podcast producer Evan Mead was alarmed to discover he recognised the driver from his high school; they were both outcasts at the time, existing outside of social acceptance.
Boys Like Me, from the CBC, is a five-part series chronicling how two men from the same place ended up on such different paths, digging into the violent, rage-fuelled world of incels and the role the internet plays in radicalising young men.
CBC journalist Ellen Chloe Bateman is a skilled and engaging presenter, approaching this dark subject with the right balance of scrutiny and sensitivity. It’s at its most compelling when it looks into how these young men end up in incel communities due to their social isolation, and where along the way intervention may prevent them going further down the rabbit hole. It’s a challenging but fascinating listen, and vital more than ever, as acts of violence by incels, such as the shooting in Plymouth last year, continue.
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Also focused on incels, this podcast, from the BBC, is a broader analysis of – as the title may suggest – bad people who do really bad things: murderers, cannibals, abusers, sociopaths and more.
It’s not quite a true-crime podcast, though it strays where many true crime podcasts have gone before. What sets Bad People aside from, other, more exploitative and sensational investigations into violent people, is the way it uses these stories as a window into what they may teach us about the human psyche.
With an unlikely, but lively hosting duo of criminal psychologist Dr Julia Shaw and comedian Sofie Hagan, the podcast is surprisingly funny, but also illuminating. In between their infectious banter, Shaw, in particular, has a bounty of fascinating facts about the human mind that help listeners understand just what drives people to do things we can’t make sense of. Their most recent episode coincidentally analyses the Toronto van driver, but my entry point to this podcast was through two companion episodes they just released to coincide new TV shows: The Tourist (available on TVNZ Ondemand) and A Very British Scandal. The former features an interview with actress Danielle MacDonald, who shares insights into playing a cop and body positivity, while the latter looks into the public slut-shaming of Margaret Campbell in 1963, and how much has (or hasn’t) changed since then.
The Coming Storm
It’s been a year since the shocking Capitol Insurrection in the US, and experts are still making sense of what exactly happened.
The BBC’s The Coming Storm is a brilliant investigation into the world of QAnon conspiracies and that community’s role in the January 6 riot, hosted by journalist Gabriel Gatehouse, whose entry into the story was through the realisation that he’d met Jake Angeli, aka the “QAnon Shaman” pictured at the riot with a viking horn hat and furs, months before January 6, but had failed to take him seriously.
There are countless great podcasts about QAnon, but this one succeeds for its wider contextual investigations; Gatehouse interviews people inside these communities such as Frederick Brennan, founder of 8chan, and attends a QAnon conference, and successfully links these silo-ed occurrences to the global online communities that buy into and devote themselves to them.
The production is excellent, leading to a gripping, and often, frightening, look at the ever-creeping threat of these communities. Gatehouse’s thesis is, as the title suggests, that January 6 may have only been the beginning of what’s to come.