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.
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