This weekend a scofflaw gathered some gunmen and drove off some federal agents who were trying to confiscate his property.
Rightbloggers approved for several reasons. For one, the scofflaw is a rancher, just like Ronald Reagan; for another, there is an environmental angle, which always makes them mad, and a Harry Reid angle, which makes them apoplectic; and perhaps most importantly, the scofflaw refuses to acknowledge the authority of the federal government, which puts him right in the emerging mainstream of conservative doctrine.
Cliven Bundy has a cattle ranch in Nevada, which has been in his family since the 19th Century. His cattle graze on government land, for which ranchers traditionally pay government fees. But Bundy hasn’t paid his fees since 1993, after the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) took over collection from Clark County, with Bundy “arguing in court,” per the Los Angeles Times, “that his Mormon ancestors worked the land long before the BLM was formed, giving him rights that predate federal involvement.” (Supporters argue in a widely-circulated pic that “Bundy doesn’t object to the fees, but does object to giving it to the Federal Government… he, therefore, has offered to pay the state, but they have continuously refused to take his money.”)
The situation escalated in recent days when the feds, armed with a court order, took a more aggressive approach to collecting. In one incident Bundy’s son was tasered, and the government set up “First Amendment Areas” to pen off protesters. (This elicited much complaint from the brethren, whose civil liberties concerns back in the days of “Don’t Tase Me Bro” jokes and the free speech zones of the 2004 Democratic and Republican Conventions we somehow missed.)
Bundy then gathered a posse of supporters, including armed members of militia groups, to prevent agents from seizing his cattle. On Saturday the BLM agents left the area, pleading public safety. So Bundy, who had compared the standoff to Waco and Ruby Ridge, lives to wage war on the United States Government another day.
It seems unlikely that the feds will just let this go, but until the (hopefully less dramatic) resolution of the case, many rightbloggers are celebrating the capitulation as a blow against their new idea of an Evil Empire, namely their own country.
Some explained that Bundy’s cause was just because the government was doing the bidding of corrupt actors such as Harry Reid and environmentalists.
The environmentalists came in for abuse because BLM curtailed Bundy’s grazing rights in 1993 to protect the desert tortoise. After 20 years you’d think the statute of outrage limitations would have run out on this, but if you’ve ever heard a rightblogger grumble about snail darters, you can imagine what they made of it.
“Why is the government trying to get him to quit the land?” cried Warner Todd Huston at Wizbang. “Because the government claims that with his cattle Bundy is harming the environment for the purportedly ‘endangered’ desert tortoise.” “Who in the world threatens people with violence and takes their property for a tortoise? Liberals,” riddled Prairie Pundit. “Using Snipers To Protect A Tortoise,” sneered David Blackmon at Forbes. “…the obvious conclusion is that BLM rendered its absurd decision with the clear expectation of running the Bundys off the land entirely.”
“For those who want to stop by and tell me that it’s not about the desert tortoise, it’s about unpaid fees by the Bundy’s, I will respond that Nevada land is considered government land because the desert tortoise resides there,” said Maggie’s Notebook. Now, who can argue with that?
Worse than the tortoises was Harry Reid. In 2012, the Nevada Senator’s influence apparently helped his son Rory, who was doing business with a Chinese solar energy company, score Nevada land at rock-bottom prices. That land happens to be in Clark County, and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones found a document allegedly “pulled by the feds from BLM.gov” that listed, among the “examples of restoration funding and visibility impacted” by Bundy’s cattle, the Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone, a government project which would presumably be helpful to any solar energy developer in the region, including Reid.
That’s all the brethren needed. “ALLEGATIONS SURFACE THAT SENATOR HARRY REID (D-NV) IS BEHIND THE BLM LAND GRAB OF BUNDY RANCH TO HELP CHINESE COMPANY,” cried Kit Daniels at Liberty News Online. “Shocking Allegations,” clarified B. Christopher Agee of Western Journalism, “Show Harry Reid, Chinese Company Behind Nevada Ranch Standoff.” “Reid smelling anything but rosy in ranch fight,” headlined R. Jerome Corsi at WorldNetDaily. “Desert showdown blows lid off long-standing plans with the Chinese.”
“It isn’t about grazing fees the BLM says Bundy owes,” claimed The Oakdale Leader. “It’s about Sen. Harry Reid using the BLM to illegally seize property and destroy a family’s business so his son can do a deal with the Chinese… Not only would Reid commit these heinous acts of treason, but he would take jobs from American workers and American companies and give them them to the Communist Chinese,” who should instead be making our clothes like the Founders intended.
But, you might respond, actually it is about the fees; even if these complaints are legit, doesn’t Bundy still owe the government (that is, us) the money?
Rightbloggers could give you still more explanations, if they were in a patient mood. Radio host Dana Loesch, for example, said it wasn’t true that Bundy hadn’t been paying, despite what the courts said: “Bundy has in fact paid fees to Clark County, Nevada in an arrangement pre-dating the BLM,” she explained. “The BLM arrived much later, changed the details of the setup without consulting with Bundy — or any other rancher — and then began systematically driving out cattle and ranchers.” Why shouldn’t he stop paying when he doesn’t like the title holder on his debt? That’s what the rest of us do when the banks holding our loans sell them to other banks, right?
Anyway, said Loesch, “Many bad things are done in the name of unjust laws. Just look at Obamacare.” And that’s really the hook here: If the U.S. Government is doing something you don’t like, and you’re the right sort of person, you don’t have to comply, because freedom.
“Americans have been surrounded, deliberately corralled, by an increasing code of regulations,” heart-wrung Monica Morrill at The American Thinker. “Americans have regulations pointed at their health care in the form of ObamaCare, their finances by the mercurial IRS, their communications by the NSA, the future education of young Americans by the newly launched Common Core. When will Americans reach the tipping point? It might all begin in Senator Reid’s home state – the Nevadan Wild West.”
This barely-concealed insurrectionism was taken up and taken further by other rightbloggers.
“I think the sleeping giant is being awakened,” fervored Adrienne’s Corner. “The people of this country – well, okay, the half that is sentient, are fed up. I pray for the safety of all involved.”
Among the “10 Things We’ve Learned from the Bundy Ranch Standoff So Far,” Survival Joe (“Helping the ‘average Joe’ prepare for the coming crisis”) listed, “The federal government has absolutely no respect for state rights… Force is the only language the BLM knows how to speak. This bureau is just as bad as any other power-tripping government agency, of which there are many: CIA, FBI, NSA, NEA, EPA, ATF, FDA, etc…”
“Is it time to lock and load? YES,” hollered Laurie Roth at Renew America. “Obama and his bought-and-paid-for thugs in all branches of government continue to set America on fire. They create false flag events… If the Bundy ranch standoff, set up, and attack by BLM doesn’t make you scream with rage and alarm, then you are dead and no American…”
After talking about impeachment awhile, perhaps to shore up her credentials as a moderate, Roth advised her readers to “Buy as many guns as you can and tons of ammo… Obama and his BLM are bringing it, AND AMERICA IS GIVING IT BACK.”
After raving interminably in the vein of “we are now fully at a time when no government official is given legitimacy by any citizen. The ‘law’ is not respected by the average American” etc., Warner Todd Huston finally got to the blood-of-tyrants bit: “Who can’t imagine that it will soon be open season on anyone who works in government? If they have no regard for us, our property, even our very lives, why should we have regard for them?”
And that goes double for the cowboys at III Percent Patriots: “We Patriots have seen this before,” said somebody calling himself Kerodin III. “We saw this shaping up to end with the murder of the Bundy’s. This time, Patriots were ready, and they acted… The war is begun. There will be more events that earn our attention, and will earn our presence. This is a goodness thing… when SHTF every Patriot should go into his AO and occupy relevant Regime assets. For instance, you could support the Patriots in Nevada by keeping the BLM assets in YOUR AO occupied… Make sure that when the request for additional manpower crosses the wire that the BLM in your AO must respond ‘We’re too busy, Nevada – can’t send anyone.'” Kerodin III has spoken!
This is not to speak of the Twitter patriots who backslapped each other with messages like “what you are witnessing is the 1st salvo of THE REVOLUTION!” “They came for our guns in 1775. They’re coming for our cattle in 2014.” “You limp-wristed, commie transgenders better quit biting the hands that feed your fetus murdering extra chromosome 21 butts,” etc.
What did the more sober-sided, high-end rightbloggers do in this instance? Some of them just ducked and covered — at this writing neither the National Review nor Instapundit, for example, has offered much of anything substantial on the subject. (“The feds were violent, but they didn’t win,” said Instapundit’s Glenn Reynolds; “Nevada Ranch Standoff Escalates, Questions about Reid Arise” wrote NR‘s Andrew Johnson on Friday.) Those big-timers who did wade in tried to clean up the confederate sentiments with some mush-mouthery for export purposes.
Claiming “before I had quite figured out what to make of the Bundy Ranch standoff, it appears to have been resolved,” Power Line’s John Hinderaker nonetheless reveled in the insurrection (“20 Cowboys Break Fed Blockade in Nevada, Retrieve Cattle. Sure, it’s Infowars, but it’s still a great headline”), then reiterated “it still isn’t clear what the crisis was all about,” then got to his lawyerly version of a money shot: “the root of the problem is the fact that the federal government owns most of the Western states… I don’t understand why there isn’t a stronger movement to turn most of that land over to local management.” Don’t you boys do nothin’ illegal now!
Brian Doherty at libertarian redoubt Reason wrote, “Bundy has the kind of attitude toward the federal government–he thinks it doesn’t have legitimate authority over him even where state or local government might–that resonates with those who still hold fealty to the old ‘militia movement,’ so rumors fly of allegedly hundreds of citizen ‘militiamen’ coming to his aid.” Haha, hyper-reactive big gummint — it wasn’t hundreds of militiamen, just… oops. (Though some folks were reporting it in the thousands.) Anyway, the real crime was “Nevada County Commissioner Implies a Death Threat Against Out-of-Staters Who Might Come to Support Cattle Rancher in His Fight with the Feds.” Apparently this fascist threatened criminals with armed force, like Hitler did.
“The feds have stolen 352 head of cattle… recompense must be made,” claimed Kevin McCullough at TownHall. “And to be candid, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see if a few ambitious law firms don’t try to convince the Bundy family of the validity of litigation.” Wait, since when are patriots still accepting the authority of so-called “courts of law”?
“This is actually a complicated situation, as much as Bundy is clearly the sympathetic favorite here,” said Jazz Shaw of Hot Air. While admitting that the government “has more than a feeble leg to stand on in terms of unpaid grazing fees,” and that this “could have been handled better on Bundy’s end,” Shaw still gave his readers the happy ending: “But this rancher is once again raising awareness of vital questions of federal vs state vs private property rights,” Shaw said, and also that thanks to the militiamen and other nuts who’d backed Bundy up, “he and his family may actually get a fair hearing and a chance to keep what they have worked so long and so hard for,” i.e. the right to choose which laws he’ll obey.
Now some patriots are calling out the militia to pursue ancient grudges in other territories (“Tommy Henderson lost a lawsuit thirty years ago and with it 140 acres of his ranchland… the BLM is back for more”; “BLM trying to steal again in TX too! Get your guns!“). Among rightbloggers, the belief that the U.S. Government is too big to serve its citizens is rapidly metastasizing into the belief that the U.S. Government should be resisted with weapons. Time will tell how popular this notion is with their fellow Americans — assuming, perhaps unfairly, that they still consider themselves part of this country.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 13, 2014