Ross Blanchard reveals how he trolled the Bundy militia using Twitter with his satirical “Malheur Diary” about a fictitious, unwitting character inside the Malheur Refuge.
After a group of militants led by Ammon Bundy took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Eastern Oregon in early January, Twitter spawned a handful of accounts skewering the occupiers there. There was The Decemberists frontman @ColinMeloy’s erotic fiction that inspired #bundyeroticfanfic; the @BundyDogMilitia, which was fighting for the right to shit wherever they pleased; @Ammo_Bundy, an absurd extrapolation of the already absurd militant leader; and there was my little project: @MalheurDiary, a farcical account of an unnamed narrator shanghaied into the Bundy militia and secretly reporting events from the inside.
We were all having fun with this until the shooting death of LaVoy Finicum on Tuesday by authorities. I had just posted several tweets about the militants sitting around, drinking hazelnut coffee creamer for dinner, and swapping stories when the news came out that someone had actually died as a result of the takeover. Suddenly, the characters I had conjured in my head—the dimwitted Ammon Bundy slowly being bled of his funds by clever locals; Zeke, the mountain man and live-in nanny for a family of black bears; the paramilitary guys who started as an off-off-Broadway dance troupe—turned dark. Their suffering went from the humorously banal, occasionally slapstick, to tragic. They were all grieving the loss of their comrade.
Breaking character, I tweeted once more.
And that’s where the story sits at the moment.
“Oh, Lord, make my enemies ridiculous.” —Voltaire
When these right-wing zealots occupied the refuge, I thought, What are they going to be doing in that refuge for weeks? In between the few moments of media interviews and interactions with officials, there are vast stretches of time. How do they do their laundry? Where do they sleep? Do they argue over whose turn it is to do the dishes? What happened to the package of candy penises someone sent them? The dildos?
So, I set about telling a story of a bunch of bumbling buffoons, oblivious to the fact that they are in over their heads and who are prey for the locals who, while quietly tolerating the invaders’ foolishness, pick their bones clean.
Will I continue the story? That’s a tough one. Perhaps the characters will recover somehow and I’ll find the way to move forward, find the right tone considering the tragic turn.
This morning, I heard an interview with Finicum on the radio. In the interview, he explained that before he arrived he thought he was joining a brief protest, not a takeover of federal property. Would my narrator, who got drunk and thought he was going camping, resonate with that?