As you have no doubt heard on the shortwave radio set in your guard tower, anti-government militia members took over the visitor’s center at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon yesterday. Led by Ammon Bundy, son of patriot/delinquent grazing account Cliven Bundy, the group massed to protest the arson convictions of Dwight and Steve Hammond, who were sentenced to five years in prison last week for burning several acres of federal land. But that’s bullshit. Federal land does not belong to the federal government; it belongs to ranchers, who have a constitutional right to graze it/set it on fire/shoot does on it while the rest of us pay for its maintenance. Bundy and his supporters are just standing up for their rights. There’s nothing violent about marching through the streets with guns and then seizing a federal building, as the Missoulian reminds us with its headline, Peaceful protest followed by Oregon wildlife refuge action.
The “action” so described appears to be trying to provoke a shootout with the feds. Bundy says he hopes his hot, wildlife refuge action will encourage insurrections against the federal government across these formerly United States, but he says a lot of things. For example, he claimed to have 150 armed patriots in the Malheur building, but the Willamette Week reports their number at closer than 20. That article also includes a picture of their storeroom, which seems to refute his claim that they’re prepared to hold the building for “as long as it takes.” Sooner or later, the ice in both coolers is going to melt.
So it’s possible we are not seeing the last days of federal tyranny. We are seeing what happens when men who inherited everything they own become convinced life is unfair and argue their position by waving guns. They have not planned their seige, and I think the feds are right not to, for example, light the visitor center on fire and wait. This stunt can end without anyone dying.
Still, it’s hard to understand the Missoulian’s decision to call it “peaceful.” If you bring guns and occupy territory, you have overstepped the bounds of peace. The choice to present these hicks as peaceful protestors rather than armed burglars reflects a larger tendency in the media to call such people “anti-government activists” or “militia men” or “patriots,” when they might reasonably be called terrorists.
That’s certainly—and perhaps inevitably—been the most popular hot take in the lefty media. “Why aren’t we calling the Oregon occupiers terrorists?” Jannell Ross asks in the Washington Post. Her implication, echoed more crudely from Salon to Twitter, is that Bundy et al. are protestors, not terrorists, because they’re white and conservative.
There is surely some truth to that. When the American Indian Movement occupied Wounded Knee in 1973, snipers shot at them from helicopters. A brown kid can’t even bring a clock to school in Texas, but when armed white dudes invade a federal building in Oregon, it’s protest? I shudder to think how the FBI would react if, instead of demanding clemency for arsonists, Bundy called for the release of prisoners from Guantanamo Bay.
But the problem is hardly that we don’t call enough things terrorism. We throw that word around too much. Bundy and his followers are probably violent and definitely criminals, but they have not committed acts of terror. They haven’t killed anyone or blown anything up. They do not threaten further violence if their demands go unmet. Simply breaking the law and railing against the government is not terrorism. They problem is not that we fail to call white crime terror. It’s that we too liberally apply that label to everything else.
Certainly, this country has limited its respect for the revolutionary tradition to white people. If you want gun control, invent a pill that turns everyone in the NRA black. But if you want justice, don’t call on the media to distribute hysteria more broadly, and on the government to violently suppress dissent regardless of race and creed. Bundy and his men are too stupid to propagate terror. If we play our cards right, everyone can go home when they run out of chips.