Yes, Brian Beutler, the Bundy Bunch Are Terrorists

Brian BeutlerI am usually in agreement with Brian Beutler. But he was wrong yesterday, No, the Bundys Aren’t Terrorists. The crux of his argument is this, “The men took no hostages, and aren’t threatening to commit acts of violence against civilians.” That’s not actually true as a factual matter. This is not a sit-in where the men are chaining themselves to radiators. They are well armed and have been very clear that they will use violence against government officials if they try to dislodge them. These government officials are not military. There is no war going on. They are civilians.

What’s more, Beutler claimed, “Nobody is being terrorized by the Oregon occupiers.” Uh, yes they are. I am being terrorized — and for a very concrete reason. I used to hang out with a bunch libertarianish people who were just itching for revolution. I know just what these guys are thinking. Either everything ends peacefully and they get a bunch of attention and free snacks. Or they become martyrs hoping to set off angry white gun freaks all over the nation to return the country to its true owners: people like them. They imagine statues of themselves put up like they are the Nathan Hales of the Second Revolutionary War. Trust me: I know these people.

Would anyone have had a problem calling civil rights protesters terrorists if they had occupied lunch counters with shot guns?

It greatly concerns me that law enforcement has to worry that this will turn into another Waco siege and Ruby Ridge. This faction of the extreme right wing dates back to the white supremacist Posse Comitatus. These people have been spitting bile for decades. Where do you think Ted Nugent’s impotent threats against the president come from? These people represent a nationwide tinder box. And they are right to think that if the military comes in and starts killing white militia men, it could get very ugly very fast. And this does concern me — a lot. All of these weekend revolutionaries have their copies of The Anarchist Cookbook, and they are ready to thrust themselves into the imaginary world of Red Dawn.

Terrorism doesn’t have to include acts of violence. In fact, terrorism works mostly through the lack of violence — making people uncertain when it’s going to happen. If there is constant violence, it isn’t terrorism; it is war. One reason that Israel doesn’t crack down on illegal settlements is because of the as of yet non-violent terrorism of Israeli settlers. The fear is that if they are required to follow the law, they will start bombing. That’s terrorism.

Or think about it this way. Imagine your next door neighbor had a crack house and he told you that if you ever called the police, he and his friends were going to storm your house and kill your family. Okay, by Beutler’s definition, that would be terrorism because it was stated explicitly. But what if your next door neighbor just implied it. Isn’t this what the mob does? It isn’t, “I’m gonna burn down your house”; it’s, “It’d be a shame if your house burned down.” The Bundy bunch are very much using terrorist tactics; it’s implied in what they are doing.

What are we to call the Bundy Bunch if not terrorists? Aren’t the New Black Panthers called terrorists? Would anyone have had a problem calling civil rights protesters terrorists if they had occupied lunch counters with shot guns? I think that Beutler is doing what I too often do around here: grope for something contrary to say. The Bundy Bunch are terrorists. It may turn out that they are also a bunch of cowards who won’t live up to their rhetoric. But listen to these guys and what they and their predecessors have been saying for decades. They are either revolutionaries or terrorists. And given the amazing amount of freedom and democracy in this country, I don’t see much of a case for “revolutionaries.”

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

19 thoughts on “Yes, Brian Beutler, the Bundy Bunch Are Terrorists

  1. They are chicken terrorists or just the inspiration of a surprising amount of homo-erotic fiction.

    Eventually though the media will go chase some other issue and they will quietly surrender and spend too little time in prison. Nothing will change but maybe some of the people in that area will stop voting for Republicans. Who knows.

    • I doubt that last part. It’s always, “They’re outliers! Not like the respectable people like Ted Cruz!”

      • There will be a few people who put together the dots. Precious few but then that is how progress is made.

        • That IS how progress is made — you’re completely right — and we have so much work to do making that progress happen. Can’t agree more. It can happen, it’s happened in the past.

          In terms if how much work needs to be done, I submit this LA Times editorial about a water-rights deal on the Klamath River:

          Bullet points, the Klamath River is pretty far from Burns, where the Bundys (always a nice name in America, “Bundy”) are playing their game, but the issues and climate and sparse population are much the same (Burns is even more sparsely populated.)

          After years of cold war (the editorial doesn’t mention this, but local officials had their tires slashed, faced death threats, etc), an agreement was hammered out, door-to-door.

          And the Congressman (who also represents Burns) torpedoes the agreement to win favor with Tea Party lunatics. AFTER praising it.

          What this shit boils down to is people with guns who feel democracy is offensive, as it requires compromise, and God says (He did, in the Constitution, He wrote it, like the Bible) “Thou shalt never give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s. For thou are tasked by Me to Bring Forth Holy Perfection On The Earth, which is Thine To Rule, and if you Fuck It Up, I will make More Stuff, and Only The Godless shall suffer.” Look it up!

          Basically Bundy, Sr., didn’t want to pay for a grazing license. “How comes dat dadgum Federal Gummint gets to tell me I needs some falutin perr-mitt ta graze ma cattle?” You know — why do you need a fishing licnese, or pay for camping in a state park?

          Well, to be a Commie heathen, I would argue that the role of government in managing fragile lands involves balancing the concerns and interests of many different groups, weighing present benefits and future needs. Teddy Roosevelt was big into establishing wildlife refuges as places animals could breed and replenish populations, so they wouldn’t go extinct, so people like him could shoot them later. (TR was also instrumental in National Forests and Parks, which have different missions . . . and I’ve already mentioned how eugenicist racist rich creeps helped save the Redwoods.)

          This is not difficult stuff to grasp! Lots of different people have lots of different views on how land should be managed. I might make a killing opening a cathouse with a special new chemical which tests johns for creepiness, and dispose of the chemical (it turns deadly poison when it touches a wanna-be-rapist’s palm) by dumping it in the river. You need more than local control t0 prevent this kind of resource abuse.

          Will the government fuck up? Sure. (While national forests were and are a good idea, their approach to fire control has changed in the last century, as we now know too much fire suppression makes fires more harmful to humans and habitat later on.)

          These dingbats have given up on democracy. There’s only one use of land that should be allowed — theirs.

          There’s a lovely Eastern Oregon essayist, William Kittridge, who is his collection “Owning It All” wrote about this stuff. Alas, I think he’s either dead or too decrepit to write about this current nonsense.

            • Half a day off. An actual half-day off work! It’s been so long, I couldn’t even conceive of what to do. I lost 50 hours of vacation time this last year because on January 1st, the company eats everything over 200 hours you have accrued.

              Free time tends to make one upbeat. Until you get depressed about all the stuff you aren’t getting done . . .

              • I’m sure there’s cleaning around the house. I’ve got to do that. I was planning to tomorrow. But after a very frustrating day writing elsewhere, I come here and find 3 page fulls of comments and not a single article written for tomorrow. But you could just watch some movies.

        • Political conversion is like bankruptcy: slow and then suddenly. So I suppose it does help in that way.

          • That is essentially it-most of the time you don’t get the random white hot change to stick. You need careful prepping to get that one white hot change to stick.

  2. The Israeli settler comparison is apt, because they have the same attitude; I made something of this territory, before that it was just primitive olive trees.

    From what I understand, rural Western American ranchers feel the same way. Why is Gummint (“which never created anything”) telling me what I can’t do? I built my ranch! Gummint wants a big expanse of nothing!

    Because if the Gummint doesn’t, somebody will eventually find a way to make a killing by coming in and ruining the land for everyone, for generations to come.

    These things are very hard to perceive in any situation, much less in sparsely-populated regions where it’s hard to know how others from outside might judge your opening up landscape for abuse that might ruin it for many others now and far in the future.

    To take the Redwoods example I make below (and elsewhere); who cares if 2000 year old trees are preserved? There are jobs, here and now, which might be lost if I can’t cut down those trees.

    This stuff is always a balancing act, and if it’s performed correctly, nobody will be entirely happy with the solution.

    I’d ask supporters of the Bundys, “are you happy we preserved the redwoods? Aren’t they amazing?” But most would respond “well, that was before Gummint got crazy. It’s wrong, now.” (Most thought protection of fucking trees was silly when TR and John Muir and Ansel Adams and Gifford Pinchot and some serious rich dicks like Madison Grant proposed preserving public lands back in the day.)

    I’m different, though, as I’ve never loved anything America loves about itself. Everything I love about America involves dreams that may be ridiculous, like atoning for slavery and genocide. So when I visit a history museum that mentions human horrors, or a preserved space that saves some inches of inspirational, non-human beauty from destruction in a way that can possibly teach us some humility, I feel hugely patriotic. I hand over my entrance fee and feel proud to be an American at those moments.

    Because I’m wiiiiieeeeerrrdddd . . .

    • I don’t understand any of it. Whether my next door neighbor is Joe or the federal government, I don’t have a right to take that land. These guys are just making up stories about the government taking land. The government bought out distressed farmers decades ago. I don’t doubt that Bundy Sr bought out other distressed farmers. I’m very skeptical about the idea of private property in terms of land. But these people think private property comes from God. They should know better. But they are just spoiled rich kids. They remind me of the 9/11 hijackers. They weren’t from poor families. This is the sort of stuff that privileged people do. The rest of us are just struggling to get by. I don’t have the time or money to roam around the country looking for “adventures.” These people make me sick. I’m very much in favor of putting them in prison for the rest of their lives.

      • Well, they’re not entirely making up stories about the federal government taking the land. In many cases the feds did take it. And you know who they took it from. But that’s not what these maniacs are referring to.

        My understanding of Native dispossession in the West is very thin. I do believe that in more than a few instances, there weren’t even bogus “treaties” signed. Just people forcibly rounded up and marched away. The heathen dirt-worshippers. There’s gold in them thar hills! For a year or two, at least.

        • Yes. The movement of native peoples around America in the 19th century was very much like the movement of Jews around Europe in the 1940s. We just didn’t use trains and weren’t quite so systematic about murdering them.

      • Besides, adventuring is a young man’s game or a really old doesn’t have to work any more man’s game.

        • Yeah. Real Americans have to work. Funny that giving poor people food stamps will make them lazy. But allowing rich people to have so much money they never have to work again doesn’t make them lazy. Actually, the data we have on this is exactly the opposite. Rich people retire early. Poor people tend to work until they die.

          • And it never seems to bother the right wing when you point out this glaring flaw in their “logic.” They also always know a guy. Even if you point out that “one guy a generalization cannot be made” they still think that way because it would require them to actually change their mind and heaven forbid.

            Unless it is about the gays and their children coming out of the closet. Then they are okay with the gays.


            • I hear these stories all the time from people. Then I go look them up. And at best the situation is far more complicated. But usually, the examples they give don’t make their point at all. But by then, the argument is over.

            • It’s a strange fallacy, how one vivid example (experienced personally or not) outweighs more mundane examples. (10000 Hispanics who act normally in grocery-store lines are outweighed by the one who rudely cuts.)

              This made me think of what I’m doing (avoiding the stress I’ll have to deal with eventually, because right now it’s immobilizing me, so the Internet is preferable!)

              It makes me suspect this fallacy is all about regaining control. Loss of control over your circumstances is a demoralizing thing. So the comforting notion, if you feel powerless, is to imagine some Nebulous Force is f-ing you over. Be it the gummint, immigrant hordes, whatever. If it’s a Nebulous Force, it only takes sheeple waking up to The Truth for it to be changed. So merely by holding the viewpoint one does, one is taking control, fighting the good fight.

              As opposed to being f-ed by monetary power. Which is enormously hard to conceive of resisting — we’re all f-ed by it every day, so it seems inevitable as tides or moon phases. And has done a masterful PR job of presenting its power as some kind of natural law, like how ostriches can’t fly or something. It’s very antidemocratic! Gummint is useless because it involves idiot-public participation, businesses are the ideal because they don’t succeed or fail on any basis but The Market (TM).

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