The ongoing saga of freeloading Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy is, on the surface, a perfect masterpiece of right-wing clown car stupidity. I’m sure you’re already familiar with the story: Bundy, who refuses to acknowledge the existence of the federal government, has been grazing his cattle on federal lands for the last twenty years while refusing to pay grazing fees, said fees amounting to about the cost of a can of Campbell’s tomato soup per cow. The feds ordered Bundy to pay the fees he owed, ordered him to get his cattle off publicly-owned property, and let him know when they would be coming to enforce these orders in person.
And that’s when the clown car burst open. Between the end of March and April 10th, Bundy supporters whipped each other into a frenzy on social media, grabbed their AR-15s and AK-47s, and swooped down on the Bundy ranch to defend their newest freeloading patriot hero from the federal usurpers of the Bureau of Land Management. Once they arrived at the ranch, they were asked to sign in under a large banner that read “MILITA SIGHN IN,” because of course that happened.
Fox News, and especially Sean Hannity, immediately began hyping the story all day and night, elevating Bundy to the status of instant Founding Father. How could they resist? Here was a guy who denies the existence of the US government while riding his horse on federal lands with an American flag strapped to his saddle. Cognitive dissonance is the meat and mead of Fox News, and the dissonance in that one image was weighty enough to bend the very light.
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It took about two weeks for everything to go sideways.
First, Mr. Bundy delivered his now-infamous rant about Black people being happier picking cotton as slaves, a statement he doubled down on later by comparing himself to Rosa Parks before saying that if Black people didn’t like his opinions, it’s because “Martin Luther King hasn’t gotten his job done yet.”
Skreeeeeeech went the needle off the record. Every right-wing media personality and politician who had rushed to publicly embrace Cliven Bundy immediately fled his presence as if he were covered in Goliath tarantulas. I think there still may be a Hannity-shaped hole in the studio wall at Fox News.
His ardent gun-toting supporters at the ranch stood their ground…until a few days ago, when there was a sudden falling-out between Bundy’s own ranch security – commanded by a man actually named Booda Bear – and a contingent of Oath Keepers who had come to the ranch because Jesus, or something. Their leader, one Stewart Rhodes, informed Booda Bear (God, I could type his name all day) that he had “intel” from a “source of intelligence of high value” that Eric Holder and the Justice Department were going to deploy a “hot drone strike” against the Bundy Ranch within the next 24 hours. Because of this, the fearless leader was forced to re-deploy his stalwart troops off the ranch and into hotels with room service back in town.
This did not sit well with Booda Bear, who told Radio Free Redoubt’s John Jacob Schmidt, “This is a battle front in some sense of the word and to remove them is kind of, ah, that’s some yellow curd, ya know, spineless backbone piece of shit maneuvering right there. He had pretty much said, ‘Well, I need to pull my guys back so they can allocate resources to the exterior of the area,’ meaning go into the next town and get hotel rooms, get showers, gamble, eat steak dinners, while we’re out here on the battle front…and just so everybody knows, as Booda, head of security for the Bundy family, I can swear on the white skin that covers my ass there will not be an Oath Keeper – there WILL NOT BE AN OATH KEEPER allowed to set foot on the internal ranch property.”
And so not with a bang, but with a Derp, solidarity at the Bundy ranch “battle front” fell to dust that swirled and eddied around the white skin of Booda Bear’s ass.
It is all too easy to lay waste to this whole barge of absurdity with an avalanche of mockery, to blow it off, laugh it off, and enjoy the sight of Bundy’s right-wing supporters heading for the hills after he went all jump-down-turn-around-pick-a-bale-of-cotton in a video that went viral in less time than it takes to misspell a banner.
But there’s some very serious and troubling stuff here, and it cannot be ignored or buried beneath the eruption of stupid we’ve witnessed to date. First of all, these armed yahoos actually managed to successfully fend off federal agents who were attempting to uphold and execute the law. That sets a terrible precedent, one that will almost certainly inspire more armed yahoos to point rifles at people somewhere down the line. They’re still on the Bundy ranch, they’ve started setting up “checkpoints” along the roads around the ranch, and the feds still have to execute those orders, so this thing is not over yet…
…and note you well: here in America, you can point a high-powered rifle at federal officers and get off scot-free with your gun still in your hand. Sit down at a peaceful Occupy protest on the campus of UC Davis in California, however, and you get a gushing face full of Mace for your trouble…while the cop who sprayed you gets $38,000 in compensation for “anxiety and depression.”
Far more insidious is the fact that, until he pulled his little “What, Me Racist?” number for all the world to see, Mr. Bundy’s most dedicated supporters were a couple of billionaire brothers named Charles and David Koch. The Koch Brothers, if truth be told, could not give less of a damn about Cliven Bundy and his band of merry men, but until Bundy blew out like an old, racist tire, they were intensely interested in using him as the avatar for a fight they’ve been waging for twenty years: placing control of publicly-owned federal lands back into the hands of the states, so the states can lease or sell those lands to companies like Koch Industries for cattle grazing, mining, drilling, fracking, and lumbering.
Right now, those lands are protected from such activities, but the Koch Brothers were hoping to ride Cliven Bundy’s cause to a massive land grab. The fact that Cliven Bundy upended the intentions of the Koch Brothers by being a racist idiot on television does not change their intentions one whit. They want to drill, to mine, to frack, and to profit off those lands that belong to us, for now.
So, as matters currently stand, Cliven Bundy can certainly be quantified as a human clown car. Do not, however, lose sight of the real story here: Mr. Bundy was also a Trojan Horse filled with Koch Industries drilling equipment until he blew it. Bundy may be gone from the news soon, but the Koch Brothers still want that land, because the world is not enough for guys like that, which is why, to no small degree, the rest of us can’t have nice things like clean air and water that doesn’t catch on fire coming out of the tap.