Imagine if Fox News had traction during the Ruby Ridge and Waco standoff days. If you thought they were bad then, just picture Sean Hannity interviewing Randy Weaver, or David Koresh.
Then watch Sean Hannity lionize Cliven Bundy, the rancher who has called for a 'range war' with the Bureau of Land Management after losing a 20-year court battle over grazing rights on federal land.
It's not just Hannity, either. The entire right wing echo chamber has climbed on the bandwagon, from Tea Party Nation to Glenn Beck's The Blaze. As Media Matters says, they're tossing gasoline on an already-incendiary situation.
Conservative media have held the confiscation out as a big government invasion of private property rights and have repeatedly hyped the rancher and his family as victims being intimidated by a heavily armed force of federal agents who are escalating the situation into the realm of notorious and deadly standoffs like Ruby Ridge and Waco.
Fox News hosted the rancher on the April 9 edition of Hannity, where Sean Hannity sympathized with Bundy's claims against the government and argued that allowing Bundy's cattle to graze on public lands "keeps the price of meat down for every American consumer."
I don't eat much meat these days, so I wouldn't know. But what I do know is that Bundy has lost this court battle and chooses to selectively ignore the United States Constitution in favor of his feeling that the federal government is illegitimate.
Fox may be leading the charge, but the echo chamber is rapidly climbing onboard.
Fox & Friends highlighted the situation and complained about the protections for the desert tortoise. Co-host Brian Kilmeade said, "We're not anti-turtle, but we are pro-logic and tradition."
Meanwhile, Glenn Beck's TheBlaze.com played up the fact that the federal agents confiscating Bundy's cattle were armed. Alex Jones' Infowars.com posited that the government was attempting to "enslave us in an [United Nations] Agenda 21 future where we have no property and no rights." During an April 9 edition of Jones' conspiracy theory radio show, Jones said of Bundy, "So your bottom line, like Paul Revere, you're making your stand, you're telling folks we're being overrun by an out of control tyranny."↓ Story continues below ↓
National Review Online's Kevin Williamson called the presence of armed agents "inflammatory" and described the government's actions as a "siege." The conservative American Thinker accused Attorney Gen. Eric Holder of enforcing the law against Bundy for racial reasons.
But if anyone is waging a campaign of intimidation, it's Bundy and his family, who have repeatedly threatened violence, invoked revolutionary rhetoric, and issued public statements making known that they own firearms and appear willing to use them.
Dave Neiwert has more of the backstory and contribution of right-wing sites like The Drudge Report and others over on the Hatewatch blog.
This isn't about principles. It's about greed and hate, two emotions Fox and conservatives at large are happy to propagate.
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