I 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.
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.”