I’ve deliberately refrained from comment on the Nevada incident between the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and a rancher, his extended family and a few hundred (some say more than a thousand) supporters from around the country. I’ve been trying to find out more information than has been discussed on blog posts, partisan news sources and a few mainstream media outlets. There’s a lot more to this than meets the eye, and I suspect it’s a long way from over.
Here are a few points to ponder.
1. Most sources of information were/are completely unreliable.
There was an awful lot of wrong information, deliberate disinformation, and outright lying going on. Sources of ‘news’ such as Alex Jones’ Infowars site (no, I’m not going to link to it), a number of III Percent blogs, etc. were utterly irresponsible in peddling information without double-checking it, reporting rumor as fact, and generally whipping up emotion (even hysteria) over the issue. Anyone who trusts any of these sources for information is at best deluded (and that’s putting it mildly). They’re poisoning the debate by their very presence. I know we have freedom of expression, but if this is the way they’re abusing that right, they surely don’t deserve it.
The few thoughtful voices were almost drowned out by those clamoring to score political, philosophical and emotional points off the issue. I suspect some of the latter would actually have been pleased if the rancher and/or some of his family had been arrested (or even killed) by BLM agents or other officials. It would have become a rallying cry for them to whip up further emotion.
This is a very dangerous situation indeed for all those who love liberty and the rights recognized in our Constitution. Legitimate defense of those rights is one thing. Manipulation of issues to force confrontation, even armed conflict, by those who have taken a one-sided, highly partisan and emotional position about those rights is entirely another. We need to ask ourselves, very simply, “Is this issue worth dying for?” To do that, we have to be very clear about what the issue really is – something that wasn’t always evident in this situation. (I don’t propose to answer that question here – each of us will have to do that for ourselves.)
2. The problems with the BLM go back decades.
I’ve seen very few references to the fact that the BLM appears – I emphasize, appears – to have been trying to drive ranchers off public lands for several decades. The origins of Mr. Bundy’s conflict with the BLM are described in this very interesting contribution by a fellow rancher. I strongly recommend that you read it in full. If the information he provides is correct – I’ve been able to find other references that appear to support it, but not yet sufficient to say for sure that I’ve verified it – then it looks very much as if, two decades ago, the federal government and its agencies began arrogating to themselves powers, rights and privileges that they had never before elucidated or enforced. It’s apparently at that point that Mr. Bundy refused to pay further fees to the federal government, because he refused to recognize their ‘rights grab’. (I understand he continued to pay fees to his county government.) However, Mr. Bundy also appears to hold certain opinions that are simply not in accordance with the facts – something that makes it more difficult to defend him. He’s certainly not blameless in this matter.
3. There appears to be corruption and political influence-peddling behind this crisis.
Others have commented at length about the involvement in this crisis of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, his son Rory, his former aide, Chinese company ENN Energy, and other ‘interested parties’. Perhaps the most comprehensive overview of their alleged collusion has been provided by Newsmax. Again, I urge you to read that report in full. There’s also the very interesting question of how, during a lifetime of elected political office, Senator Reid has managed to amass so much wealth for himself. Some details may be found here. If you think it happened solely because he made wise investments or ‘got lucky’, there’s a bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell you . . .
If the allegations in those reports are correct, then I suggest the old proverb applies: “There’s no smoke without fire“. There’s been so much smoke generated by and from this crisis that there’s got to be a bloody great conflagration behind the scenes! Furthermore, Senator Reid doesn’t sound like he’s giving up:
“Well, it’s not over,” Reid, D-Nev., told KRNV-TV in Reno on Monday. “We can’t have an American people that violate the law and then just walk away from it. So it’s not over.”
4. There’s a serious risk of further escalation of this conflict.
If I were rancher Cliven Bundy, I’d be preparing for a raid on my farmhouse by armed federal agents, probably not just BLM but also including FBI, US Marshals, and possibly ATF and other agencies. Alternatively, the authorities may try to arrest him while he’s running errands in town, or on the road. They probably assume that if they can remove him from his property and get him out of the state within an hour or two, that will remove the focal point around which resistance can gather. I think they’re wrong in that assumption . . . but they’ve become accustomed to the arrogance of power.
I also think that some in the III Percent community are spoiling for a fight. They’d welcome any excuse to strike back at what they consider to be an overreaching federal government, hoping to use an incident to inspire further resistance – even an all-out rebellion. I think they’re wrong about that, but no-one can be sure.
The Nevada stand-off has become an ongoing flash-point. I hope and pray the authorities have the sense to realize that, and to let it de-escalate over time to where further developments can take place in the courtroom, where saner heads may yet prevail. If an arrogant politician like Senator Reid gets involved, or authoritarian bureaucrats in the BLM and/or other agencies try to insist on doing it their way, all bets are off. Bloodshed remains a very real possibility.
5. This incident has implications for all Americans everywhere.
This is utterly unacceptable. THE ENTIRE UNITED STATES IS A FIRST AMENDMENT AREA!!!
A city may designate areas for protesters in an effort to avoid conflict and/or confrontation between rival groups; that’s a legitimate method of ‘keeping the peace’. However, in the wide open spaces of Nevada, with only one group engaged in protest, that consideration doesn’t apply. This was nothing more or less than an attempt to silence protest and stifle dissent. It didn’t work – for which let’s all be duly grateful. However, I’m sure it won’t be the last time it’s tried. (Did you ever wonder how the BLM just ‘happened’ to have those signs all pre-printed and ready for use? I wonder how many more of them are waiting to be deployed during the next crisis?) I confidently predict that federal authorities will continue to try to override the constitutional rights of Americans. I fear that if they push too hard, or go too far, the answer will be bloodshed.
As a law enforcement officer I swore to ‘support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic’ and ‘that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same’. Although I’m now retired, that oath did not (and never will) retire. I continue to uphold it, and I will not stand by idly while other sworn officers deliberately and callously violate the very constitution they’ve sworn to support and defend. I know many feel as I do – perhaps many more than the authorities might wish to admit, both serving and retired personnel.
The Nevada standoff is a wake-up call to all of us that the time may come when we have to stand up and be counted . . . or surrender our rights forever to an unelected, arrogant bureaucracy that’s gotten too big for its collective boots.
I think a younger Ronald Reagan put it well.