– by The Shitty Activist
Lots of activists across the country are pissed off by how long it took authorities to deal with the group of armed cattle ranchers occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge visitor center.
They point to a history of swift and often brutal force used by authorities against leftist movements such as Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street, and other campaigns too numerous to count over the decades.
Activists are outraged at the hypocrisy of the beating, tear-gassing, pepper-spraying, and rubber-bulleting of unarmed, peaceful protestors speaking out for causes that would benefit many, compared to the basically hands-off approach to those threatening actual violence against the U.S. government motivated by money-grubbing selfishness.
So what gives?
Some blame white privilege, calling out law enforcement’s seeming indifference to a gaggle of armed white men, compared to the almost routine fatal shootings of unarmed black men. And no doubt race is one reason for the discrepancy. But I don’t think it’s the only reason.
One also can’t help but wonder if the powers that be are secretly supportive of the ranchers’ demands. Some point to the government’s past violence against Native American and African American occupiers of public land.
Perhaps that’s also the case. However, the standoff appeared to be more of an embarrassment to the government, particularly the Department of Interior, which houses the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which administers the Refuge, and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
Recall, it was with the BLM that the senior Bundy and his armed supporters had a previous standoff in Nevada in 2014 over his refusal to pay grazing fees. Not only didn’t the BLM end up removing Bundy’s cows from public lands, he still hasn’t paid back the $1 million he owes the American people for the privilege (though they finally did arrest him on February 11).
Kudos to the government for not killing the elder Bundy and pals in another Waco or Ruby Ridge style massacre, but the Feds came out looking like chumps by not doing anything about the fragrant law breaking and degradation of public lands.
So the government really has no one to blame but itself for the current standoff in Oregon: The ranchers took the government’s previous decision not to enforce the law of the land as weakness, so they upped the ante by taking over the Wildlife Refuge.
Perhaps the biggest irony is that it’s the federal government that’s famous for the refusal to negotiate with terrorists for fear of setting a precedent. And that’s exactly what happened with the Bundys.
Speaking of terrorism, the FBI’s definition is an act that seeks to “affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion, or to retaliate against government conduct.”
Taking over a building isn’t terrorism. Neither is refusing to leave until one’s demands are met. Nor is practicing the Second Amendment. However, if threatening physical violence against government officials isn’t terrorism, then I don’t know what is.
So, not only did these ranchers flout the law, they may have been dabbling in domestic terrorism. Yes, the T-word, that scariest of all phenomena that our government can’t stop talking about, the fear of which has subverted so many of our civil liberties. Despite having a textbook example of it, the Feds still took almost a month to act. Instead, we had the Sheriff of Harney County posing for a photo op to shake Bundy’s hand [see above photo].
How in the world did this happen, you might be wondering. Well, my theory is simple: it’s about public relations. And more specifically, solidarity.
When Occupy protesters were abused and rounded up for taking over a New York City park, it made the news, and caused some outrage among those of the far left. But beyond that, it didn’t really rankle your average Democrat or liberal. Why not? Because, while they might’ve supported the message behind Occupy, they didn’t really consider the protestors as “one of them.”
Same thing with Black Lives Matter. Lots of folks—black, white, and other—have been generally supportive of the protest. And when police overreacted, a lot of the left were upset. Still, few of them felt the threat personally, assuming that the risk was reserved for those battling it out in the streets.
What was different about the Oregon standoff is that the “cause” is perceived as broader than simply ranching, public lands, or even taxation. Silly or not, many on the right see the standoff as representative of a much larger issue: personal freedom vs. government tyranny. While many leftists are quick to condemn any effort that doesn’t align 100% with their personal views, those on the right tend to unite over the whole citizen vs. government thing.
The Feds know that they can bust a bunch of Black Lives Matter protesters without any real blowback. However, if they went in and dispatched these ranchers, they would have a sizable portion of “middle America” outraged and perhaps literally up in arms.
Despite their differences, those identifying with the right wing have been known to stand in general solidarity with one another, and will take an attack on any of their rank personally. Something the government is well aware of.
Meanwhile, the left’s fragmentation makes any of their campaigns easy to divide and conquer. Our government knows this too and has exploited the weakness innumerable times over the years.
Some leftist activists are secretly jealous of the ranchers’ ability to make such a gutsy move and actually get away with it. Perhaps instead of hating the ranchers or blaming the authorities, the left should learn to strengthen its own ranks by seeking out the overlap between campaigns, supporting causes that might not 100% align with their personal preferences, and working to build movement solidarity.
This way, when a new leftist campaign emerges, it might not be disposed of so easily by authorities, and may eventually shift the national dialogue the way this group of self-serving cowpokes have done.