Oregon Fail Reax, Part 1


This is the first of a two-part effort to gather up the reactions – both humored and serious – to the rebellion in Oregon from news sites and blogs. This first part is the serious stuff, and I’ll get to the funny in part two. If you have seen a post, a tweet, or an image that you’d like to see included in either post, please email it to me and I will likely include it.

Let’s start with the facts. Vox of course has several excellent posts that provide extensive background on this drama and its players:

Jennifer Williams explains the events of Saturday, who is involved, and what they want:

A militia protesting the “tyranny” of the federal government seized the headquarters of a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon on Saturday and, in a video posted to Facebook, called on “patriots” from all over the country to come to the refuge with their guns to join their fight.

German Lopez explains the Bundy family, who are behind the rebellion in Oregon:

So who’s behind this whole thing? It appears that a major culprit is the Bundy family, which gained notoriety after a similar standoff with law enforcement in 2014. Since the beginning, the Bundys have played up the events in Oregon actively on their blog and social media.

Brad Plumer explains that even though the local population does not support the rebels (who are from out of state), the issue of land rights is one that is important to them and many others in the region:

The Washington Post spoke with a number of locals around Burns. No one supported the militia’s nutty tactics, but many bristled at federal land management in this rural area. In recent decades, residents griped, new environmental rules around conservation and endangered species have limited ranching, grazing, and mining. “What people in Western states are dealing with is the destruction of their way of life,” said one.

Thank you Vox, for the excellent explainers. Continuing on with serious reactions, Conor Friedersdorf makes the (completely valid) point that civil libertarians and criminal justice reformers should agree with complaints about the (re)sentencing of the Hammonds:

In theory, those on the left who care about vanquishing mandatory minimums could have used the news story about the Hammonds to broaden awareness and opposition to the practice among members of the Red Tribe. Libertarian intellectuals oppose mandatory minimums. Why not the populist right, too? Some folks in rural areas who’ve never known about the laws, or think that they only affect people in cities, might change their minds if they were to find out that what happened to the Hammonds is routine; that many Americans have suffered far more egregious sentences; and that mandatory minimums affect all sorts of defendants.

Unfortunately, Friedersdorf then goes on to straw man what he calls “Team Blue” by citing a whacky Washington Monthly article, a CNN Opinion piece (!), and ya know, tweets that are belligerent toward the rebels – before acknowledging that, in fact, the online left actually has expressed support for the two men being harshly (re)sentenced and eschewed calls for an armed intervention by the feds. He also fails to explain why it should fall on Team Blue to explain to Team Red how to apply their espoused principles of limited, accountable government. Friedersdorf ends by asking:

Why is cooperating on those concerns so hard for so many who share them?

Well Conor, maybe it is so hard because even when “Team Blue” is trying to agree with “Team Red,” you can’t hear it? Also, assault rifles make dialogue difficult. Just sayin’!

And let’s take a moment to give credit to the Team Red players who have spoken out against the rebels in Oregon, since acknowledging when the other team is being reasonable is something that Team Blue is secure enough to do.

Rich Lowry writes in National Review that the Oregon rebellion is unlawful and only going to disrupt regional birders:

What brought the Bundys to Oregon is the case of the Hammonds, ranchers who were subjected to what appears to be a vindictive and unnecessary federal prosecution. The case deserves attention and protest, but the Bundys and their allies have brought discredit to the cause with their unlawful occupation of Malheur.

Then again, David French, also writing in National Review, sympathizes with the rebels in Oregon and believes that leftists and the media are the only reason why we aren’t taking them seriously:

While civil disobedience is justified, violence is not. So far, no one has been hurt, the “occupation” is occurring in a vacant federal building in the middle of nowhere, and there is no reported threat to innocent bystanders. It would be absurd for the federal government to treat the protesters like it treated the men and women at Waco or Ruby Ridge, and it would be absurd for the protesters to shoot police officers who are ordered to reasonably and properly enforce the law. The occupation is far less intrusive and disruptive than the Occupy Movement’s dirty and violent seizure of urban public parks, and authorities permitted that to go on for weeks. Now is the time for calm, not escalation.

It is hard not to marvel at someone who does not see the distinction between armed rebels protesting a situation that doesn’t involve them, and unarmed citizens gathering to protest the willful destruction of the world economy. I am thinking the answer to Conor’s questions about why Teams Red and Blue can’t work together may be, ya know, a little more red than blue.

But hey, there are still some opportunities for Team Red to look much saner than usual. Some GOP hopefuls for President have made entirely reasonable comments on the situation. Here is Ted Cruz speaking to reporters in Iowa on Monday:

“Every one of us has a constitutional right to protest, to speak our minds, but we don’t have a constitutional right to use force and violence and to threaten force and violence on others,” he said. “And so it is our hope that the protesters there will stand down peaceably, that there will not be a violent confrontation.”

Cruz said he is praying for everyone involved in the dispute, particularly law enforcement officials who “are risking their lives.”

Marco Rubio also gets some credit for, like Cruz, coming out early against the lawlessness of this rebellion:

“Let me just say, first of all, you’ve got to follow the law,” the Florida senator and Republican presidential candidate said on Iowa radio station KBUR Monday morning. “You can’t be lawless. We live in a republic. There are ways to change the laws of this country and the policies. If we get frustrated with it, that’s why we have elections. That’s why we have people we can hold accountable.”

No word yet on if Senator Rubio will remember this line of thinking the next time someone asks him about gun safety laws and/or the 2nd amendment.

Going back for a moment to Conor Friedersdorf’s claim that so-called Team Blue is using this as a chance to call Team Red folks terrorists and fail to notice the common ground, Elie Mystal provides an example of the (inaccurate) name calling:

Over the weekend, #YallQaeda attacked a federal wildlife reserve in Southeastern Oregon. The splinter group is being led by Ammon Bundy, son of known terrorist Cliven Bundy.

See the misuse of “attacked” and “known terrorist,” mmhmm. And then Mystal completely fails to find common ground with Team Red:

Should we blame all western ranchers for the actions of #vanilaISIS? Of course not. Should we drone strike maybe 12 citizens because their leader is a crazy person who agitates for the violent overthrow of the American government? Probably not! Mandatory minimums are a bad thing. Re-jailing people for the same offense that they’ve already been incarcerated for is a bad thing. The right thing to do here is to wait them out and attempt to resolve this issue in a peaceful, non-violent way. It’s a protest. Nobody needs to die.

Oh wait, Mystal totally found the common ground even while misusing the term “terrorist.” Once again, it isn’t about Team Red vs Team Blue, it is just about Team Red vs. Reality.

Jamelle Bouie at Slate has a great piece explaining both the land rights issue and the non-racial differences between the federal response to this rebellion and the local responses to protests in Cleveland, Baltimore, Ferguson, et al., which he concludes thusly:

Law enforcement has been willing to use lethal violence against armed white protesters and the results were catastrophic. It’s no surprise federal agents are cautious; they walk with the hard-learned lessons of the 1990s. Even if the Bundys are paper tigers, no one wants to relive the past. In that, law enforcement officials are correct.

In any case, why won’t they shoot at armed white fanatics isn’t just the wrong question; it’s a bad one. Not only does it hold lethal violence as a fair response to the Bundy militia, but it opens a path to legitimizing the same violence against more marginalized groups. As long as the government is an equal opportunity killer,goes the argument, violence is acceptable.

But that’s perverse. If there’s a question to ask on this score, it’s not why don’t they use violence, it’s why aren’t they more cautious with unarmed suspects and common criminals? If we’re outraged, it shouldn’t be because law enforcement isn’t rushing to violently confront Bundy and his group. We should be outraged because that restraint isn’t extended to all Americans.

Josh Marshall, whose TalkingPointsMemo website has covered this kind of thing since before it was popular to do so, is less willing to take the rebels’ espoused cause at face value:

As I said earlier, this really amounts to white privilege performance art. We always want to avoid violence and bloodshed whenever possible. But we are also a republic. We have a rule of law. People aren’t allowed to take over government buildings, threaten federal officials with violence or keep demanding free handouts from the government (which is the underlying issue here) on the threat of violence. This is a mix of violent outlawery and domestic insurrection. And I think, if we think about it, we all know that it doesn’t get a very tough response because the country just takes it for granted that white people in the interior West just act weird and do stuff like this.

He summarizes:

So like I said, it’s one part the mainstreaming of violent right wing extremism but also a major part comical nonsense by a bunch of losers who not only would be funny if weren’t so serious but also manage to be fairly funny even though it is serious.

Yes, thank you, it is both fairly funny and serious. So come back later today for Oregon Fail Reax, Part 2 – the funny stuff.

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