(Sorry about this, guys — I had this cued up to publish shortly after midnight, or so I thought. So here ya go. Just imagine it’s 6 a.m., or whenever you usually read it.)
I’m about Flinted out at the moment, so let’s talk about another ongoing fiasco, eh? Let’s talk Bundyville.
I’ve been following it at something of a remove, via the social-media feeds of a friend who works at Oregon Public Broadcasting (but isn’t covering the standoff at the Malheur wildlife refuge). And I must admit, I’m …puzzled.
Let me say right up front I’m not one of those who consider this crowd of freedom lovers terrorists. I don’t want to go all Waco on they asses. Rather, I think the best strategy to handling this situation is to wait them out but in the meantime, not make it too easy for them. The feds could cut the power, but I’d rather they not. Just let them run out of food, starve them of attention strategically, and let nature take its course. But that’s not what appears to be happening.
They’re letting the mail through, for one, and even though this has led to amusing scenes like the boxes o’ dildos video, it’s also keeping them stocked with white cheddar goldfish crackers. They’re letting reporters in (of course I approve) and apparently young children, too (of course I disapprove). And they’re allowing them to fire up the bulldozer on site and cut new roads (and I totally disapprove of that one).
It’s hard to know what the strategy is for ending this thing. Apparently the FBI is giving no briefings whatsoever. It’s all a matter for conjecture:
As the Bundys will seemingly speak with anyone who will listen, law enforcement spokespeople won’t talk about the investigation. Requests for detailed comment on the situation are routinely denied.
However, federal sources familiar with the occupation, investigation and legal case did speak to OPB on the condition of anonymity.
Those sources tell OPB there is still hope among law enforcement leadership the occupation will end without violence. That’s why law enforcement doesn’t patrol the area, block travel to the refuge or take other actions that could lead to a confrontation.
There’s also a legal concern that a shootout, or raid, could make it harder to get jury convictions and prosecute material supporters.
For now, it seems as though the FBI is taking a chance: If the militants can’t get the standoff they want, they’ll get sick of standing around.
Part of me sees a plan in all this; see paragraph three. These guys are self-deluding little drama queens, and the best strategy with a drama queen is to deny them drama. On the other hand, this Missoula Independent piece on Ryan Payne, the occupiers’ security chief (if indeed they truck with titles, and I bet they do) suggests that if the drama won’t come to them, well then they’ll bring it themselves:
Payne came to believe …that the government uses regulations to deliberately undermine the average American, “that they are purposely destroying industry, they are purposely taking this land from people.” The more he looked, the more he saw a deliberate and nefarious plan being orchestrated by a small number of people wielding enormous power. He saw a pervasive conspiracy to control all aspects of the media, the financial system, the entertainment industry, the military and the government.
More specifically, he came to believe that slavery never really existed in the United States and that African Americans in the antebellum South “didn’t view themselves as slaves.” He came to believe in “an effort by some Jews to control the world.” He came to believe the founders of the United States intended for the states to act as sovereign countries. He came to believe taxes are a form of “legal plunder.” He came to believe names are spelled in all-caps on driver’s licenses because U.S. citizens are actually “corporate entities.” He came to believe U.S. courts are actually foreign admiralty courts. He came to believe that “in most states you have the lawful authority to kill a police officer that is unlawfully trying to arrest you.” He came to believe when a newborn child’s footprint is made on a birth certificate, that child is effectively entering a life of servitude to the U.S. government, which borrows money from China based on that child’s estimated lifetime earning potential.
He came to see all aspects of government, culture and society as mechanisms of control. “And they’ve set everything up so they can maintain that control,” Payne says, “because they believe they are God.”
Every person who’s done time in a newsroom meets these people from time to time; they write insane letters to the editor (or did, before the internet, when they all traded a typewriter on a card table under a single hanging bulb for a PC on the same card table), they self-publish books that they press into your hands, they stalk columnists and editors until one finally sits down with them in a conference room with a glass door, which is checked often by worried colleagues.
And we’re letting these people accept deliveries of food and ammo. Wonderful.
The weekend passed in a blur of sobriety and efficiency. Laundry, market, dry cleaner. Watched “Straight Outta Compton,” which mainly served to remind me why I dislike biopics, and why I shouldn’t watch them if there’s any alternative to be had. I watched my feeds and enjoyed the snow news from the east coast; we enjoyed high pressure, low-but-not-too-low temperatures and a rare blue sky. No snow, little ice and a good day to take the dog for a walk on Belle Isle:
But while you’re still thinking snow, thanks to Hank you can read this lovely piece by David Von Drehle, on the peculiar peace of shoveling. I feel exactly the same way — that a well-shoveled walk or cleared driveway speaks well of the person who did the work. (You may not, I understand.)
Monday! Bring it the hell ON.