A militia protesting against the Bureau of Land Management seized an unoccupied building in a remote Oregon wildlife refuge over the weekend, prompting massive social media backlash and panicky headlines alleging that the militia were terrorists.
Hashtags like #OregonUnderAttack and #yallqaeda sprung into life, drowning out more sober analysis. Details like BLM’s mismanagement of land and the long history of quarrels between ranchers and feds almost went unnoticed.
So we collated the top 7 crucial elements that the narrative overlooked.
1: Nobody Has Been Killed, Hurt, Or Harmed In Any Way
The protesters in Oregon occupied an empty building in a wildlife refuge that was closed for the holidays and far from any population center. Nobody has been killed or harmed in any way at this point.
2: If The Militia Are Terrorists, Eric Holder And Most Political Protesters Are Also Terrorists
The problem is that this incredibly low standard makes essentially all political protests terrorism.
By the standards the media seeks to apply, former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is a terrorist for participating in a 1970 armed takeover of former Columbia University Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) office. Both cases are examples of peaceful armed occupation for political ends of an unoccupied facility owned by the federal government.
Under the FBI’s definition, a domestic terror group participates in “acts dangerous to human life that violate federal or state law” that”Appear[s] intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping.”
This definition would make BlackLivesMatter, Greenpeace, and most student activist groups terrorists. BlackLivesMatter participated in “acts dangerous to human life” when they stopped traffic in Seattle. Greenpeace did the same when they hung off a bridge in Portland to stop an icebreaker from leaving the harbor. Student groups regularly occupy buildings.
3: The Federal Government Owns A Lot Of The West, Which Increases Tensions With Locals
Close to half of the western United States is owned by the federal government through agencies like the Bureau Of Land Management, causing tensions with local residents and state governments. Disputes over how this land is managed have been a major force in the politics of the Western states since at least 1900.
Calls to return federal land in the West to state government management are nearly constant, particularly from ranchers, and the legal case for doing so is strong. At the beginning of statehood, the federal government promised all states that it would give them public lands within their borders. The U.S. Supreme Court has called these promises “solemn compacts,” “bilateral (two-way) agreements,” and “solemn trusts” that must be performed “in a timely fashion.”
With vast portions of the American West in federal hands, private landowners often find themselves at the mercy of a government which frequently expands its holdings an power at their expense. When the federal government places turtles before people, it alienates its own citizenry.
4: The Bureau Of Land Management Is Horrible At Managing Land
The militia says they are protesting Bureau of Land Management (BLM) control over federal lands, which has pushed out people who use the land for work and recreation. The agency is generally agreed to do a very poor job of managing the land. The BLM puts severe restrictions on natural resource development, tends to be a very poor land steward, places strict limitations on access, and doesn’t make much money off the land it manages.
In fact, the BLM earns just $0.14 cents per every dollar spent on rangeland management, according to a 2015 study by the Property and Environment Research Center. Essentially, the agency spends over $91 million annually to earn a mere $13 million annually. The federal government has not turned a profit on public land management programs in decades.
To make matters worse, BLM agency officials often view the ranchers as freeloaders and their livestock as invasive species which damage the habitat for native fish and wildlife, according to the libertarian Cato Institute.
5: There’s No Evidence Race Has Anything To Do With The Federal Response
Left wing personalities and media outlets have stated that “if the Oregon militiamen were Muslim or black, they’d probably be dead by now.”
— Cenk Uygur (@cenkuygur) January 3, 2016
The federal government frequently ignores building occupations, even ones which generate media headlines.
For example, activists associated with BlackLivesMatter occupied a St. Louis police department in December of 2014. Native American activists occupied federal property on Alcatraz Island after the prison closed for nearly 19 months without a federal response. Student activists regularly occupy building at state schools.
The usual response by authorities, with relatively few exceptions, is to wait the occupiers out, regardless of their race.
6: The Militia Has Repeatedly Said They’re Not Going To Get Violent
“We have no intention on being the aggressor. That is not what we are about. That’s not what we are doing here. What we are doing here is making a stand. And we are going to begin to unwind these unconstitutional land transactions,” militia leader Ammon Bundy told the Daily Caller.
The same group engaged in a similar standoff with federal officials in 2014 over unpaid grazing fees, and the standoff ultimately ended non-violently.
7: Obama Is Using The Panic To Implement Gun Control By Executive Order
President Barack Obama is expected to unilaterally implement new gun control measures this week, requiring anyone who sells more than 50 guns a year to obtain a federal license and conduct background checks on potential buyers.
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