Over the course of the last couple weeks, Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy’s fight with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has become a cause célèbre for the radical right-wing media and militias.
The Bundy Ranch dispute with goes back to 1993 when Bundy claimed he “fired the BLM” because the federal lands his cattle has been grazing on for several generations was modified to protect an endangered tortious. Fed-up with the Federal government, Bundy decided he had the right to fire his landlord and continue to graze his cattle on the restricted land without paying another dime in grazing fees. This in spite of the fact that by grazing on federal lands Bundy receives huge federal subsidies. Which makes Bundy nothing more than a dead-beat welfare cowboy.
Bundy took his case to the local, state and federal courts and each time he lost. Yet, he managed to prolong any consequences for his illegal actions until this past week. In the meantime, Bundy managed to run-up back taxes and legal fees of more than $1 million.
In August of 2013, a federal judge warned Bundy that the BLM would confiscate his cattle if he did not remove his cattle and start paying his land use fees. The local sheriff tried to work things out with Bundy and the BLM, but Bundy refused to move his cattle back onto the modified land.
Instead, Bundy went to the local paper to plead his case to the “court of public opinion”. Bundy and his wife shared their struggles with the federal government and talked about owning guns. They vowed to “do whatever it takes” to protect his cattle from seizure. Bundy pronounced, “I’ve got to protect my property…I abide by almost zero federal laws.”
Anti-Patriot/anti-government militias quickly found a kindred spirit in Bundy. Glenn Beck, Alex Jones, Breitbart.com, and even Fox News’ Sean Hannity began touting this guy as some kind of anti-hero fighting against a big government takeover. Apparently, they only care about welfare fraud when it’s committed by a poor person.
Blog sites and comment threads from my Libertarian friends filled with gushing support for their new found anti-hero. Hannity promoted Bundy’s violent anti-government rhetoric in an interview by stating, “I’m just afraid of what this government is capable of doing. I mean we saw what happened in Waco,” to which Bundy responded, “We have to have faith that America will stand. You know we would never won any of these wars from the Revolutionary War on up if we didn’t have faith and courage and fighting for something.”
Hannity continued, “This can spiral out of control. You get one wrong person out there, this can spiral out of control really fast,” and “If it keeps going, this is going to end very, very badly.” Hannity then demanded, “The government needs to stand down” because “this is only a symptom of how one person, standing up to the government, I’m telling you, [it is] my opinion that this crisis could come to a head, and lives could be lost.”
On Wednesday, April 9, 2014, a day of reckoning for the Bundy’s appeared. As employees from the BLM began rolling into the restricted land to seize Bundy’s cattle so did armed militia members arriving to help Bundy stand their ground against “tyranny”. Local, state and federal law enforcement quickly began beefed-up their presence in the interest of both protecting the BLM workers and deescalating the tensions coming from the Bundy family and a growing number of armed protesters. Patriot members lined-up and pointed their guns at federal rangers. Corporate militia thugs willing to intimidate and even kill their fellow Americans for just doing their jobs.
Last week, the Bundy’s invited the militia members to set-up camp on his sprawling 150 acre ranch, which they chooses not to graze their cattle on due to the personal cost. On Wendesday, Bundy family members and supports got into a scuffle with federal rangers as the agitated protested block vehicles and disrupted law enforcement officials. Bundy’s sister was thrown to the ground an officer and one of Bundy’s sons was Tasered, but the federal rangers decided not to press charges on the unruly mob.
As the week progressed, the size of the militia grew, as did the presence of law enforcement. On the one side, a mob of supporters number in the low hundreds with hand guns, assault weapons and snipers on embankments. On the other side, a few dozen federal rangers with hand guns, assault weapons, snipers on embankments, snipers in helicopters, and an Apache helicopter fly-over just for good measure.
I talked to several Bundy supporters before writing this article and asked them about the tyranny they were opposing. First they stated the federal government had no right to own the land, because it belonged to the state. They asserted the federal government was overstepping their authority.
I pointed to Article IV, Section 3, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution (otherwise known as the Property Clause) which clearly states, “The Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to Prejudice any Claims of the United States, or of any particular State.”
The U.S. Constitution gives Congress the authority to own and manage federal land. When presented with that fact, the so-called “patriots”, go to the argument of State’s rights and link to some right-wing propaganda sites about Utah bill HB 148, which attempts to claim all federal land within its borders as State land. What Utah’s land bills have to do with Bundy’s ranch in Nevada is anyone’s guess?
Nonetheless, Utah’s HB 148 bill is both a violation of both the U.S. Constitution and the State’s own Constitution. The Utah Constitution states that under no uncertain terms that the people of Utah “forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands lying within the boundaries hereof.” Likewise, Section 3 of Utah’s Enabling Act, the legislation which led to Utah’s birth as a state, contains this same disclaimer.” States can’t just go appropriating federal lands.
The right-wing’s next line of attack came after the BLM and federal law enforcement agent moved into the area. The new tyranny became the ever growing militarization of the police and federal government. Never mind the fact that Bundy and his supporters were amassing an armed militia a few hundred strong in order to protect a business owners imagined right to exploit and desecrate our common public lands.
This is one of several great ironies with the right-wing’s reasoning for supporting the Bundy family. As soon as the BLM employees showed-up with federal rangers to protect them, images of armed federal agents were all over the internet. As if this was some kind of proof we are living in a police state?
Think about it, an unruly mob of angry criminals and armed anti-government militia members come to protest the lawful seizer of cattle illegally grazing on our commons land. The entire mainstream right-wing media apparatus has rallied on the side of the violent ranchers with their armed militia, setting-up with snipers on the embankments, yet according to the Bundy supporters the federal agents are being tyrannical?
This is the new stage in the Koch brother oligarchical plan to turn America into a tyrannical fascist state. Essentially, the fascist right-wing wannabe oligarchs have been dumping hundreds of millions of dollars in fake belief tanks and astro-turf organizations, like Americans for Prosperity (AFP). This past week, two AFP affiliates placed social media adds in support of anti-Patriot Cliven Bundy and his growing militias.
This should come as no surprise to those that follow the Koch brothers would want to support homegrown anti-Patriot militias, given their financial support for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC is an organization where corporate oligarchs get together sold out members of congress. After wining and dining your congress, ALEC “provides model bills” for their puppet legislator.
When you look at a story, it is often said, “follow the money”. The Koch bothers clearly have a financial interest. According to the Associated Press, ALEC has been instrumental in shopping around in Western states their model bill called the “Sagebrush Rebellion Act,” which was “designed to establish a mechanism for the transfer of ownership of” non-state lands “from the federal government to the states.”
The Koch brothers know it is easier to buy-off politicians and grab public land on the state level rather than on the federal level. They, like most Libertarians I’ve talked to, wholeheartedly believe it is a corporation’s right to exploit and desecrate our common public lands. This is why Cliven Bundy Ranch fight and the thieving Koch brothers are a perfect fit.
The Bundy Ranch standoff is a serious escalation in right-wing/Libertarian oligarchical tyranny. Bundy, his anti-patriot militia, Sean Hannity, and the Koch brothers believe they have a right to threaten the lives of federal workers if they don’t win in court or at the ballet box. They have no concern over the morality in this issue, the rule of law or the U.S. Constitution (which they ironically claim they wrap themselves in)
This is a critical conflict in right-wing tyranny. Americans need to say no to the right-wings anti-patriots claim to the right to threaten the lives of federal workers if you lose their case in a court of law. No to the extremists that believe they have a right to incite violence at a protest. No to radicals amassing armed militias against the militarization of law enforcement. Their actions only give those that support the militarizing of police a powerful reason to further arm themselves with an even larger arsenal, thus counter-productive. And finally, we need to say no to these corporate criminals sending in armed thugs to protect the flawed belief in their imagined right to exploit and desecrate our common public lands for their own personal gain.