Favoring right-wing militia

If I were the federal government, I don’t think this is the message I’d want getting out: “Three Obama administration officials said federal authorities had been told to avoid a violent confrontation, in line with official U.S. policy after the deadly clashes at Waco and in 1992 at Ruby Ridge, Idaho.”[1]

In the wake of an armed occupation of a wildlife refuge in Oregon,[2] questions have arisen about discrepancies in media and law enforcement treatment between white, right wing protagonists and non-Christian or Black protagonists. If Muslims had taken over a federal facility, they would surely be labeled ‘terrorists.’ If Blacks had taken it over, they would surely be dead.[3] Indeed, if anybody from the left had taken it over, we would surely have seen a massive law enforcement response, such as we have seen with Occupy Wall Street and other leftist uprisings.[4]

Another difference is that the whites in Oregon are armed. Protesters on the left have emphasized nonviolence. Which would seem to suggest that the law enforcement community is composed of a bunch of cowards who might not seem so mighty with a return of the Black Panthers. Occupy’s mistake, it might seem, was to have failed to have turned Zucotti Park into an armed fort.

But in a wildlife refuge in a remote area of southeastern Oregon,

Well, obviously there’s no immediate danger to anybody. There’s no hostages, for example.

So I think they need to have a more wait-them-out type of approach, which they’ve shown great restraint in past standoffs — the Montana Freedmen standoff in ’96, they waited the extremists out for 81 days and had a peaceful resolution.

So that’s what the government, I think, needs to do, because if you try to confront them or try to remove them forcibly, it plays into their extremist message, but it may also get someone hurt, which can only hurt the government’s perception.[5]

That’s hard to swallow. The only way we can rationalize the very heavy-handed response to Occupy Wall Street is if we understand the functionalist conservative elite to perceive non-violent protesters as a serious threat to their own position. Yet, somehow, armed occupiers do not constitute such a threat. Rather, “[a]s the standoff has dragged on, the federal government seems content to let the militants freeze in isolation — and tire of their make-believe revolution.”[6] And in the meantime, the discrepancy in treatment also hurts perception of the government, which is widely believed to have conceded the confrontation with Cliven Bundy in 2014.[7]

This is the second standoff that we’ve had involving these people, the other in 2014, and I think there’s a perception within these extremist movements that the government is kind of turning a blind eye and letting them get away with things.

It emboldens them and feeds into getting more recruits and radicalizing people. They think they can escalate the tactics.[8]

I’d say that the perception of a “blind eye” isn’t limited to the militia movement. Given functionalist conservative determination to preserve its position and that we currently have a Black president and a Black female attorney general, the discrepancy in treatment borders on collusion. It’s as if the elite—including its Black members—have decided these right wing militia are in fact the good guys.

There is another difference that should be addressed: The Oregon occupation and its predecessor in Nevada both confront federal authority in remote areas far from population centers. Black Lives Matter and leftist protesters confront local authority but have emphasized nonviolence. If the concern is about public safety, then authorities need to explain how the occupiers in Oregon, who have pledged to use their arms on public lands in self-defense,[9] are really less of a threat.

In the absence of that explanation, then I see little choice but to concur with those who suspect the government of favoring racist right-wing militia.

  1. [1]Andy Sullivan, “‘I wish to hell he hadn’t done this’: US militia groups slam anti-government Oregon occupiers,” Raw Story, January 5, 2016, http://www.rawstory.com/2016/01/i-wish-to-hell-he-hadnt-done-this-us-militia-groups-slam-anti-government-oregon-occupiers/
  2. [2]Kirk Johnson and Julie Turkewitz, “Armed Group Vows to Hold Federal Wildlife Office in Oregon ‘for Years,’” New York Times, January 3, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/04/us/armed-group-vows-to-hold-federal-wildlife-office-in-oregon-for-years.html; Jason Wilson, “Oregon militia threatens showdown with US agents at wildlife refuge,” Guardian, January 3, 2016, http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jan/03/oregon-militia-threatens-showdown-with-us-agents-at-wildlife-refuge; Holly Yan and Joe Sutton, “Armed protesters take over federal wildlife refuge in Oregon,” CNN, January 3, 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2016/01/03/us/oregon-wildlife-refuge-protest/index.html; Les Zaitz, “Militia takes over Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters,” Oregonian, January 3, 2016, http://www.oregonlive.com/pacificthwest-news/index.ssf/2016/01/drama_in_burns_ends_with_quiet.html
  3. [3]Chauncey DeVega, “They’d be killed if they were black: The racial double standard at the heart of the new Bundy family standoff,” Salon, January 4, 2016, http://www.salon.com/2016/01/04/theyd_be_killed_if_they_were_black_the_racial_double_standard_at_the_heart_of_the_new_bundy_family_standoff/; Deirdre Fulton, “Media Coverage of Oregon Militia Standoff Raises Eyebrows — and Ire,” Common Dreams, January 3, 2016, http://www.commondreams.org/news/2016/01/03/media-coverage-oregon-militia-standoff-raises-eyebrows-and-ire; Janell Ross, “Why aren’t we calling the Oregon occupiers ‘terrorists’?” Washington Post, January 3, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/01/03/why-arent-we-calling-the-oregon-militia-terrorists/
  4. [4]Democracy Now! “Report Finds Police Worldwide Criminalize Dissent, Assert New Powers in Crackdown on Protests,” October 10, 2013, http://www.democracynow.org/2013/10/10/report_finds_police_worldwide_criminalize_dissent
  5. [5]Daryl Johnson, quoted in Libby Nelson, “An expert on right-wing terrorism explains the militia movement behind the Oregon takeover,” Vox, January 5, 2016, http://www.vox.com/2016/1/5/10712084/oregon-militia-history-experts
  6. [6]Tim Dickinson, “Armed, Pathetic and Hungry: How the Oregon Militants’ Revolutionary Plan Went Sideways,” Rolling Stone, January 5, 2016, http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/armed-pathetic-and-hungry-how-the-oregon-militants-revolutionary-plan-went-sideways-20160105
  7. [7]Timothy Cama, “Cliven Bundy will be held accountable, Interior secretary says,” Hill, June 25, 2015, http://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/246103-cliven-bundy-will-be-held-accountable-interior-secretary-says; Sandra Chereb, “Interior chief: Bundy will be held accountable,” Las Vegas Review-Journal, June 24, 2015, http://www.reviewjournal.com/news/bundy-blm/interior-chief-bundy-will-be-held-accountable; Martin Griffith, “BLM Still Working To Hold Bundy Accountable Through Legal System,” Talking Points Memo, July 6, 2014, http://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/blm-bundy-accountable; Ryan Lenz, “The federal government lost its war against Cliven Bundy,” Salon, October 19, 2014, http://www.salon.com/2014/10/19/the_federal_government_lost_its_war_against_cliven_bundy_partner/; Rick Perlstein, “Gun nuts are terrorizing America: The watershed moment everyone missed,” Salon, June 23, 2014, http://www.salon.com/2014/06/23/gun_nuts_are_terrorizing_america_the_watershed_moment_everyone_missed/; Tierney Sneed, “Why Did The Feds Let Cliven Bundy Get Away With His 2014 Showdown?” Talking Points Memo, January 5, 2016, http://talkingpointsmemo.com/dc/bundy-oregon-showdown; Southern Poverty Law Center, “SPLC report: Bundy ranch standoff was highly coordinated, reflecting threat of larger far-right militia movement,” July 10, 2014, http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/news/splc-report-bundy-ranch-standoff-was-highly-coordinated-reflecting-threat-of-large
  8. [8]Daryl Johnson, quoted in Libby Nelson, “An expert on right-wing terrorism explains the militia movement behind the Oregon takeover,” Vox, January 5, 2016, http://www.vox.com/2016/1/5/10712084/oregon-militia-history-experts
  9. [9]Nigel Duara, “Armed activists in Oregon: ‘We’re not looking for bloodshed,'” Los Angeles Times, January 4, 2016, http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-ff-militia-oregon-20160103-story.html; Jason Wilson, “Oregon militia threatens showdown with US agents at wildlife refuge,” Guardian, January 3, 2016, http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jan/03/oregon-militia-threatens-showdown-with-us-agents-at-wildlife-refuge

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