(Updated below 9:45 AM 4/10/2014)
Less than 100 miles outside Las Vegas, the Bureau of Land Management is putting an end to a decades-long dispute with far-right wing cattle rancher Cliven Bundy, who has used federal lands to graze his cattle without paying fees and in defiance of court orders. Bundy insists he has the right to use the land because "he doesn't recognize federal authority on land that...belongs to Nevada."
After two decades of court cases, Bundy has exhausted all legal avenues, and the BLM is rounding up his cattle to remove them from the land.
Since then, he has lost two federal court rulings — and a judge last October prohibited him from physically interfering with any seizure or roundup operation.
“Wake up America,” Bailey Bundy Logue told KSL-TV. “Look what our ancestors fought for and we need to stand up for that. We need to realize what’s happening. They are taking everything away from us. This isn’t only about one family. This is about everyone’s family. This is martial law and it’s in America and so what are you going to do to have it stay out of America?”
Of course, it's not martial law at all when the case has been heard in court over the span of 20 years, and judge after judge has ruled in favor of the government. But like most militia types, Bundy and his family are not inclined to follow the law and pay the appropriate fees for grazing their cattle like other area ranchers do.
As the roundup continues, the BLM has designated an area away from the actual roundup activity as a "first amendment zone," something that has Nevada governor Brian Sandoval whining.
Nevada’s governor is criticizing a federal cattle roundup and what he calls “intimidation” in a dispute with a rancher who claims longstanding grazing rights on open range outside Las Vegas.
Federal Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service officials didn’t immediately respond Wednesday to Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval’s call for the BLM to “reconsider its approach.”
Sandoval says he’s most offended that federal officials have tried to corral people protesting the roundup into a “First Amendment area.”
Fire up the patriots
Actually, it's Sandoval who should reconsider his approach. His statement gives legitimacy to a group who is intentionally pot-stirring in order to recreate another Ruby Ridge and confirm their belief that the federal government is persecuting them. They are actively recruiting others from area Oathkeeper and militia groups to join their protest.
Local blog Let'sTalkNevada.com reports that on Sunday, Bundy "sent an email to the press and supporters announcing that the “Range War’ would begin Monday morning at 9:30 AM."
This isn't the first time Bundy has tried to set up a potentially violent situation to threaten federal agents acting in accordance with the law. In 2012, he reached out to the UTAZ Patriots, who sent out their own call to action, claiming Bundy was "being attacked by the federal government's agent through a contracted assailant company."
The UTAZ Patriots claim they are "not republican, not democrat, not libertarian, but Americans!" In 2009, they were engaged in typical tea party disruptions like the Tax Revolt Rally in Washington, DC. In 2012, they sent out a call for help with the claim that Bundy owned all grazing rights, water rights, mineral rights and range improvements. He doesn't, of course, but they claim he does because they do not recognize the federal government as legitimate.
Bundy's 2014 cause has been picked up by online radio host Peter Santilli. Santilli is the host who said he wanted to shoot Hillary Clinton in the vagina. He is a favorite of the far right gun nuts and militia types.
Gianluca Zanna has picked up Bundy's cause as well. Zanna is a survivalist gun nut as well as a classic conspiracy theorist, right down to his belief that we're all being poisoned by chemtrails. He is also a co-founder of the Mohave Valley Minutemen, a group which claims to be inspired by, but not affiliated, with the official Minutemen groups. Zanna is so extreme he was barred from distributing flyers in front of one of John McCain's town halls, which prompted a lawsuit alleging his First Amendment rights had been violated.
In 2010, he was arrested for trying to attend a town hall meeting with a pitchfork in hand.
Irresponsible public officials' statements and extremist rhetoric is toxic
Regular readers of Dave Neiwert's posts understand the incendiary nature of this kind of activity. Taken in isolation, it might be possible to shrug it off as one wingnut's last stand against the federal government. But it isn't just one wingnut, and it's not coincidence that the rhetoric is ramping up against the IRS, the President, and the federal government in general. It's orchestrated and well-funded in some instances. In Bundy's case, the funding isn't there but the network infrastructure is.
Dave's 2011 post on right-wing scapegoating is worth a review.
One of the early and most sustainable critiques of the Minutemen was that they were doomed to descend into violence because -- while adamantly and angrily denying that they were themselves racist, and "screened" out any such influences -- theirscapegoating rhetoric attracted serious numbers of people who were functionally sociopathic and violent. Shawna Forde -- a woman with an abusive upbringing, a former petty criminal and hooker who liked to tout herself as a music promoter -- was attracted to the Minutemen, and rose high within their ranks, precisely because she was attracted to dehumanizing rhetoric that scapegoated specific targets to blame for their own lousy lives. And she became the manifestation of that.
Right-wing movements attract people who are likely to act out violently because they indulge so overtly and, in recent years, remorselessly in the politics of fear and loathing: indulging in eliminationist rhetoric, depicting their opposition as less than human, and aggressively attacking efforts to blunt the toxic effects of their politics as "political correctness" -- or, in the case of both Anders Breivik and Andrew Breitbart,"Cultural Marxism".
For this reason alone, public officials like Gov. Sandoval should think twice before frowning on the BLM's reasonable efforts to keep irrational, violently inclined people at a safe distance as they undertake the task of enforcing the law.
Update: Bundy is ramping up the rhetoric this morning, sending another call for reinforcements out to Oathkeepers and militias.