Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The Bundys and the Vigilante Occupiers...

Rational Nation USA
Purveyor of Truth

In as much as this site does not support the actions of Cliven and Ammon Bundy or the other "patriots" in Oregon, there is, however, a thin logic thread supporting those on the rightwing cusp out west.

Ammon Bundy has explained the occupation this way: “The people cannot survive without their land and resources. All comfort, all wealth, everything that we have as a people, to live, to eat, comes from the earth. We cannot have the government restricting the use of that to the point where it puts us in poverty.” Asked how long the occupiers would stay, Bundy replied that they would be satisfied “when the people of Harney County can use these lands without fear: once they can use these lands as free men.”


... Bundy’s movement makes sense—a strange and parochial kind, but still sense—only in a more specifically American and Western context. In American politics, there are two traditions of laying claims by occupying a place. The more familiar kind, which belongs to the left and the civil-rights movement, makes private spaces more public and political. Strikes asserted workers’ role in their employers’ factories and mines. Sit-ins at lunch counters asserted a principle of equality against business owners’ traditional legal right to decide whom to admit to their places. The Occupy movement made the privately owned but publicly accessible Zuccotti Park into a pageant of participatory, consensual democracy and anarchist self-organization, at least for two months in 2011.

The other tradition turns public land into private property by occupying it. Historically, it has been anything but a protest technique. From Independence until the late nineteenth century, the major function of federal law was to convert public land, which had recently been indigenous land, into private property for white settlers. The usual trade was ownership for occupation. In the nineteenth century, it was possible to acquire land by clearing forest, planting trees on grassland, draining wetlands, irrigating dry land, mining precious minerals, and gathering stone. Until 1934, much of Harney County could be homesteaded in ranching tracts that were as large as six hundred and forty acres. Although President Franklin Roosevelt ended active homesteading in response to the Dust Bowl, he did so by executive action, and the laws permitting homesteading remained on the books, poised for possible revival, until Congress repealed them, in 1976.

The Bundys’ side of these fights is rooted in the radical idea that the federal government was never supposed to hold Western lands permanently, but instead should have ceded them to the states or granted them directly to private owners. It is possible to piece together this argument from the text of the Constitution, but courts have never accepted it. It is not really a legal theory but a political wish that history ended in 1891, when the federal government began to create national forests, or even back in 1872, when Congress made Yellowstone the country’s first national park.


American vigilantism is never racially innocent. Its two parents are self-mobilization on the frontier, usually against Native Americans at a time when homesteading was reserved to whites, and the racial terror of the Ku Klux Klan in the South during and after Reconstruction. It is too much to call the occupiers “domestic terrorists,” as the Oklahoma City Bomber Timothy McVeigh or the Klan were, but it is also obtuse to ignore the special comfort that certain white men have using guns as props in their acts of not-quite-civil disobedience. After all, guns were how they acquired their special sense of entitlement to public lands in the first place.


Wherever you find a group of individuals acting in the manner of the co called private militias in Oregon the true reasons for their actions will always be found in what constitutes their own self interests; almost always at the expense of the public's interest or general welfare.

What say you?


  1. What is this idiot talking about? This is about grazing. Cattle grazing. This is not about protesting tyranny. This is about sleazy morons who want to graze their cattle all they like, wherever they like. The BLM is not some oppressive owner of the West. It was created by and for cattle ranchers to maintain the viability of grazing lands, for everyone. All this talk of protests and occupation and the federal gov't is just all nonsense. This is about little scummy assholes demanding what was never theirs to start with.


  2. From the article linked to above:

    A turnover of public lands from the feds would transform the West. But scholars say the legal hook to turn them over doesn't exist. "The Constitution gives the federal government the authority to retain and manage that land", said John Ruple, a professor at the University of Utah's College of Law.

    Anyway, as far as father-and-son ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond are concerned, their situation (facing more prison time) isn't about grazing, but about arson committed to cover up illegal poaching. Also, according to the Hammonds, the "help" of the Bundy brothers isn't even wanted.

  3. I keep thinking it's Cliff Claven and Al Bundy.


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