Update: The Stakes Behind the Malheur Occupation
I had a lot to say during the militia’s occupation of a Oregonian bird sanctuary. Much of it was affected and veering purposefully into the ridiculous, but I occasionally tried to explain the larger history and issues involved in the control of public lands in the US West.
I came across this piece tonight, and am sharing here because it gives a more thorough and detailed account of the whole scenario, with a level of care and detail that I could only scratch at. This line, perhaps, summarizes why I decided to post it.
The Bundys and the militants who follow and support them are the agents of their own destruction.
As much digital ink as we spilled worrying about and mocking Malheur, I feel it’s important we stop and deeply consider the full picture, which is tragic and complicated and demonstrates how we all drag the past with us towards the future. I frequently harp about how people think, and that it matters more than what…well, there’s another layer to observation, which is it matters how the individual learns to think from sources available. I stand by my criticism, and even mockery, of the militia, but feel that it’s important that we understand the bigger structure—of history, of ideas, of men with notions—that helped maneuver them into place.
[Image: Hand-painted slide of an American white pelican taken at Malheur Lake in 1908. Found on Wikipedia]
I’ve added this article because it describes the interested political parties, and how they act as a valve between the Bundys and similar 3%, “patriot” groups and a larger movement to take over federal lands. Where the first article alludes to the value of this land—which is emphatically not in grazing or any other romantic, pastoral activity—here we can see the coordination between a political wing and a radical movement, in which the latter services the needs of the former.
The explicit purpose of the Coalition of Western States, according to the group’s website, is to “restore management of public lands to the States where it Constitutionally belongs.” While the organization claims to have more than “50 legislators and grass roots leaders predominately in the Western United States,” leaders would not release a roster of members, meeting agendas, meeting notes or tax filing status.
To wed the two articles together, though—the ramifications of turning over federal land to “state management” (and then, in turn, to private ownership, if COWS members like Fiore, or their militia allies are taken at their word) would not result in some kind of boon for small ranchers. The structure of the international beef market, the marginal grazing value of the land in question, and the simple economics of having capital enough to buy and hold large tracks of land would not favor small operators such as Bundy: the land would instantly, or eventually, be snatched up by far larger entities with the capital to invest…and the means to fully exploit the mineral and water resources.
But then again, this entire phenomenon is shot through with such a level of cynicism that I can’t say whether the above is intentional.
The Bundys themselves are elaborate frauds. Letting cattle go feral and un-vaccinated until you trap them is not ranching. The 3% and “patriots” pushing these ideas are ultimately self-serving in their ideals, since their understanding of law and nation bend such that they always get precedence: as most plainly embodied in their attempt to overthrow the local government of Burns, and station their people as unchecked arbiters of re-distributing Malheur. Michelle Fiore—who facilitated and cheered the Malheur occupants until it became inconvenient, but has once again taken up their “cause”—is a kook about things medical, but not so earnest that her healthcare business isn’t riddled with fraud accusations and tax avoidance. COWS as a whole is an enclosed organization. And, frankly, the GOP platform is built upon romanticizing the notion of “freedom” while implementing policy that is effective giveaways for cronies.