The next generation of the Cliven Bundy brood has staked its claim to a federal site in Oregon, while being cheered on by so-called militias and overt white supremacist groups.
They have taken over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge as “protest” for the brothers’ mandatory sentence of 5 years in Federal prison over their arson of federal property. Bundy, Part Un, involving the patriarch of the clan, was over large sums, in the form of unpaid fines for grazing rights granted by the federal government.
The media, for its part, is treating the event with the same obsessive cycle of non-stop coverage it grants the other major events of our day: police brutality. The difference, however, is what these seditious thugs are being called.
CNN and NBC are calling the Bundy brothers “militia.” The New York Times is calling the Bundys “protesters” and describes their action as “occupation.” The Washington Post is calling the Bundys “armed militia,” “anti-government activists” and “occupiers.” CBS News started out by characterizing the Bundys using some or all of the names above but, at least, after summarizing the events that led up to the take-over, has moved on to exploring the meaning of the word “terrorist” in connection to this event:
So far, police are keeping their distance from the militia, reports the Oregonian. Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward said in a statement late Saturday: “A collective effort from multiple agencies is currently working on a solution.”
The situation has led to a debate online, with many making the assertion that the situation would be handled differently if the occupiers were not white. The hashtag #oregonunderattack has sparked a debate about the role of race in official reactions to the situation.
But these white supremacist thugs are none of those things and Esquire Magazine’s Charles P. Pierce, in his inimitably straightforward fashion, tells it like it truly is, but not before reminding us of some needed historical facts:
There is no actual tyranny in this country against which to take up arms. There is bureaucratic inertia. There is pigheaded bureaucracy. There even is political chicanery. But there is no actual tyranny in the Endangered Species Act, or in the Bureau of Land Management, or in the Environmental Protection Agency, or in the Affordable Care Act, or in IRS dumbassery, or even in whatever it is that the president plans to say about guns in the next week or so. Anyone who argues that actual tyranny exists is a dangerous charlatan who should be mocked from the public square. Anyone who argues that there is out of political ambition, or for their own personal profit, should be shunned by decent people until they regain whatever moral compass they once had.
The Bundys aren’t really oppressed, angry farmers, as we’ve seen in France, for example. Over the years, French farmers have gotten angry enough to take it to the streets in rather spectacular fashion over grievances they had against government overreach. Leave it to the French farmer to find creative and memorable ways of protesting the government tyranny of over-regulation and high taxes:
When French farmers protest prices that are too low:
These are real issues, ones that the French government has had to answer for whenever it has pushed farmers and other classes of its citizens too far. The French have a well-established tradition of protesting. Notice how there isn’t a single gun involved? And these were rather angry protests!
Now, to a real grievance real protesters and real-life activists have in this matter… So, who is it, really, that is behind these actions and who are they affiliated with? Let’s go back to Charles P. Pierce’ re-counting of the historical progression of these white armed movements for a moment:
“In a small place in Oregon, the essential compact of the United States of America has come apart.
“The Bundy family of Nevada joined with hard-core militiamen Saturday to take over the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, vowing to occupy the remote federal outpost 30 miles southeast of Burns for years. The occupation came shortly after an estimated 300 marchers—militia and local citizens both—paraded through Burns to protest the prosecution of two Harney County ranchers, Dwight Hammond Jr. and Steven Hammond, who are to report to prison on Monday. Among the occupiers is Ammon Bundy, son of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, and two of his brothers. Militia members at the refuge claimed they had as many as 100 supporters with them. The refuge, federal property managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, was closed and unoccupied for the holiday weekend.”
It did not begin in Burns. It did not begin on the Bundy Ranch, either. In its most modern form, and in the form most relevant to recent events, it began, as so many noxious elements of our politics did, with the Reagan Administration. It began with a man named Ron Arnold, and a Secretary of the Interior named James Watt, and in something called the Wise Use movement with which the Republican party (and the conservative movement that became its fundamental life force) allied itself for its political advantage in the western part of the country.”
If Charles P. Pierce can bother to take a little time to refresh his memory of the last thirty years’ worth of event, why can’t the rest of the press? If Charles P. Pierce is able to see the huge differences between these thugs and legitimate groups who have been protesting for legitimate reasons – what is more legitimate than the loss of hundreds of lives a year to police brutality? – then why can’t the mainstream media exercise, at the very least, a modicum of judiciousness as it begins to apply adjectives to people who are committing acts that can only be termed as illegal? Is there any set of circumstances in which the armed takeover of federal property is proper and legal? I think not. Which brings me to this exchange on CNN morning television, reported on by Raw Story, in which, journalist Brian Stelter, whom I’ve always considered to be bright, knowledgeable, and thoughtful, allowed racist cop masquerading-as-pundit, Art Roderick, to get away with the vilest, most racist pronouncement, without so much as an objection. In fact, Stelter’s lack of objection or correction appears as tacit agreement:
At first, Stelter asks what Roderick thinks authorities will do. Roderick answers that they should just wait it out and then “those folks will go home.” Home? Isn’t this armed invasion of a federal property a crime for which there should be arrests and trials?
Then, as Stelter brings up the valid points that, had these been Black Lives Matter protesters or Muslim Americans, their treatment at the hands of the authorities would have been different, Roderick had this to say:
“This is a very rural area. It is out in the middle of nowhere. What are they actually doing? They’re not destroying property, they’re not looting anything. There’s a whole separate situation going on as to why they’re there and that’ll be worked out through the legal process…”
Stelter was seen nodding and hemming, but didn’t cut in to register any kind of protest over the outrageous statement his guest just made. Shame on Brian Stelter. Shame on CNN for having allowed itself to get to a point where it is so eager to Foxify itself that it has lost any semblance of propriety, with many of its shows regularly inviting law enforcement consultants, specifically to make outrageously racist comments such as these.
Early last year, when we witnessed the Waco biking gang incident and its handling, CNN invited another one of these racist cops, Harry Houck, to weigh in. In his commentary, New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow, rightly, commented on the double standard applied by the media in the way it portrays actions taken by Black communities in the northern US, to the way a sizable incident, such as the Waco biker incident, with 9 dead and 170 arrests. Houck responded with:
“I don’t know how you can make a comparison between Waco and Baltimore,” “Are these guys thugs? Yeah, they’re thugs… I use the word thug and I mean ‘bad guy’ when I use the word.” “I think the word was owned by rappers and the Black community and the young men calling themselves thugs…”
A year later, we are seeing the repetition of the same racist behaviors by media personalities who should know better. Stelter has conducted more than one interview on any given protest by Black Lives Matter over the last year. Those who write articles for the various broadcast media outlets are no less accountable, when it comes to the final copy they put out on their stories. The same accountability holds for the scripts they write on behalf of network hosts and, especially, whichever executive happens to be in charge as news break and decisions are made on naming conventions.
This is one huge way in which racism is perpetuated. This isn’t just about single or even multiple utterances by one guest, but the cementing of racist perceptions in the public psyche – perceptions that are absorbed through the constant repetition of visual memes and racially-loaded terms that become normalized and internalized.
On January 3rd, 2016, we are no further than we were the year before. Armed white supremacists taking over federal property in the boonies is portrayed as a harmless and respectable protest, since they’re not looting or destroying property, when they’re “protesting” in Oregon *because* they committed arson on government property and don’t want to serve their court-ordered time in jail.
Sedition comes with much heavier penalties than arson on federal property. It is high time the Feds got serious and prosecuted these thugs for the crimes they’re actively committing. Armed insurrection against one’s government is treason. Treason is what the Bundy brothers and their posse should be prosecuted for. The mainstream media needs to stop abetting illegitimate groups such as Bundy by calling them names that give them a respectability they are not entitled to, while perpetuating racist notions that are not founded in distant history or the current day.
Cover photo credit: Overpass Light Brigade