There are so many layers of ridiculousness in the Bundy Ranch story, it's difficult to know where to begin. Above all else, it ended up being a fantastic opportunity for a pack of ignorant states' rights cowboys to get intimate with their rebellion and secessionist fetishes, while figuratively pointing a rifle at the president's head.
In case you haven't been following along, a Mormon rancher named Cliven Bundy has been grazing his cattle on federally-owned land and hasn't paid a penny in grazing fees since 1993. Attempts to collect the estimated $1 million in fees have ranged from revoking Bundy's grazing rights, to numerous court orders requiring Bundy to pay what's owed. Then, last week, the Bureau of Land Management rounded up around 400 head of cattle owned by Bundy but which were grazing on public land.
The BLM blocked access to the cattle with corral fencing and, in response, pro-Bundy protesters began to assemble in haste -- some local, but many from out of state, responding to screeching from Alex Jones and the far-right media. Bundy's son David was arrested during the protest, inciting Cliven to threaten a "range war" against the government. Meanwhile, a video began to circulate the internet showing Bundy supporters attempting to intimidate and shout down officers from the county sheriff's department. At least one protester was tasered during the fracas.
It's not difficult to forecast what happened next.
Given the degree of eliminationist, anti-government rage brewing since the 2009 inauguration of President Obama, along with amplified pro-gun, states' rights rhetoric, events could've very easily slipped out of hand. And, indeed, armed conflict by the gaggle of Bundy supporters against federal authorities would've ended very badly for the Bundy people. Any bloodshed would've likely escalated into a counter-attack against the government and everything would've collapsed into chaos.
It's the latter scenario that prompted the BLM to release the cattle and to back off. The Bundys declared a very premature victory, while the protesters celebrated the misguided notion that they successfully intimidated the government to stand down. But in fact the opposite is true. The BLM didn't succumb to pressure, it simply decided to pursue the case using different methods that wouldn't involve potentially mowing down the gathering militia in a fire fight. This wasn't a retreat, it was a redeployment. The Bundys aren't by any means off the hook and the government has deep pockets with which to pursue scofflaws and deadbeats who don't pay what's owed.
And that's one of the primary aspects of this story. This wasn't about freedom or government overreach. This was about a rancher who's clearly leeching off the system, and then who subsequently got all pissy-pants when, after repeatedly ignoring numerous civil attempts at collection, gathered a posse of local hooples to fight the power: armed neo-Confederate cosplayers, Ron Paul cultists, weekend warriors and Alex Jones chemtrail-busters who literally formed a line of battle and foolishly advanced upon the government corral.
By the way, apologies to actual cosplayers who are way more connected to reality than the idea of a successful rebellion against the U.S.
When I originally watched that video, part of me was horrified, but another part of me laughed out loud at the parochial silliness of the whole thing. All we hear every day from the far-right is about how food stamp and welfare recipients are unfairly sucking from the government tit -- how the 49 percent of Americans who don't pay federal income taxes (you know: veterans, students, senior citizens, the unemployed, the disabled) are moochers and deadbeats. Oh, and be prepared for this zombie gripe to be resurrected in the days to come. And yet there they were, lined up with horses, guns and cowboy drag, marching toward armed BLM rangers in the name of defending an actual freeloader who's bilked American taxpayers out of millions.
Speaking of grifters, it's not breaking news to report that Alex Jones is easily the most irresponsible screecher on the radio. From his comfy post in Austin, Texas, Jones spent the latter portion of last week inciting fear and practically egging on the Bundy people to take the first shot.
The quote, reported on InfoWars, was second-hand from a pro-Bundy commissioner.
A yes, the false flag scenario.
And wouldn't that be excellent for ratings.
If you're craving some Alex Jones insanity, watch the YouTube video linked in that tweet.
So now that this appears to be over, the BLM intends to pursue Bundy both "administratively and judicially." But physically acquiescing in the face of these lunatics has sent a very dangerous message to countless other ranchers using land that rightfully belongs to the people, held in public trust by the government. Screw the grazing fees -- and if the big bad government tries any funny stuff, the usual suspects will run 'em off. What if any of these gomers similarly decide to stop paying taxes?
In the final analysis, this was just the latest example of the libertarian far-right indiscriminately lashing out against the government, chiefly due to who's currently in charge of the executive branch. The natural anti-government, anti-liberal tendencies of this crowd have been so thoroughly tweaked by the conservative entertainment complex over the last five years they've become enraged to the point of not really knowing what to do with themselves. So this week, it's this thing: a showdown in Bunkerville. What's next?
But yet again, if they were aware of history, they'd know that even though Reagan declared himself to be one of them, specifically during the Carter-era Sagebrush Rebellion, it was a Reagan executive order that established the grazing fees in the first place. Nope, it's not really about the cattle. It's about sticking it to the fascist/communist/Muslim in the White House.