“Domestic terrorists.” That is how U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid referred to the hundreds of supporters who had come to Bunkerville, Nevada, to stand with the besieged ranch family of Cliven and Carol Bundy against the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
While most critics of the Bundys and their supporters have veered short of the verbal excesses of Nevada’s senior senator, they have nonetheless showered the 67-year-old rancher and his adherents with venom and ridicule. “Welfare rancher,” “deadbeat,” “crackpot,” “redneck teabagger,” “fools,” “fanatics,” “wackos” — those are some of the more printable epithets. Elias Isquith at Salon.com delivers the typical “liberal” analysis, describing Bundy as “wingnut rancher” and his allies as “anti-government extremists.” Over at the Huffington Post, college student Brian Jecunas was given column space to pontificate that Bundy is a “dangerous knave” and a “selfish radical.” “Hopefully,” Jecunas wrote, “Bundy and his followers will end up where criminals belong — a cramped prison cell.”
Presumably, Harry Reid and others of his ilk would have been satisfied had the standoff gone beyond arrests and incarceration, ending with Cliven Bundy and the hundreds of ranchers, cowboys, cowgirls, clerks, truck drivers, Boy Scouts, grandmas, moms, dads, and children — the “domestic terrorists” — mowed down by the federal army of agents from the BLM and other agencies.
Most Americans, however, are likely struggling with a great deal of ambivalence about the whole episode — and the larger issues that frame it. The video images of 200 heavily armed federal myrmidons pointing weapons at civilians, using a taser against one of Bundy’s adult sons, throwing Bundy’s sister Margaret (a 57-year-old mother of 11 and a recovering cancer victim) to the ground as she was taking photographs, and siccing dogs on protesters — these and other images and reports have outraged viewers, confirming the charges of Cliven Bundy that the federal police state has spiraled out of control and is busily building tyranny.
But the Obama administration and its helpmates in the establishment media have been successful to a large degree in spinning what was becoming a PR nightmare into a narrative more favorable to their game. It is a deceptive narrative that depends on half-truths, lies, and a great deal of ignorance on the part of most Americans about legal doctrines and private property rights on the “public lands” of the Western states. It also depends on a great deal of ignorance (on the part of the public and public officials) concerning a long history of gross abuses — including criminal actions — by federal officials charged with overseeing the “public lands.”
The Obama/BLM public relations offensive has relentlessly drummed a message of alleged facts aimed at convincing the American public that Cliven Bundy: a) is a deadbeat tenant who refuses to pay his rent; b) is more than $1 million in arrears in fees and fines; c) has enjoyed the full benefit of due process in our courts and the leniency of the BLM for more than 20 years; d) is an environmental criminal whose cattle are threatening the “endangered” desert tortoise; and e) holds dangerous, “anti-government” crackpot ideas about “states rights” and federal authority.
Seen in the light of these alleged “facts,” the BLM actions, while heavy-handed, seem, well, more reasonable. The fedgov propaganda offensive against Cliven Bundy has worked, to a large extent, with most of the major media uncritically adopting the BLM talking points as their own narrative. Even many of the right-leaning commentators who initially supported Bundy — Fox News reporter and legal analyst Megyn Kelly, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, Glenn Beck, and Tucker Carlson, for instance — have backed off, or even reversed themselves and adopted a more critical position, regurgitating many of the BLM talking points.
In what follows, we will be unpacking and examining these talking points, and bringing in many relevant facts that have been almost completely ignored, underreported, or misrepresented.
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Photo at top: Josh Warburton, The Independent (southern Utah) | suindependent.com