Armed whites occupy a national park building. Neither the police nor the media get in a frenzy. Unlike protests by blacks.
The cowboy hat makes the difference. It stands for American values, for patriotism, for the “last frontier” – the endless borders in the endless vastness of the U.S.
When presumably 150 armed white men occupy a building in a national park, one can safely write about “protest” and “concerned citizens,” due to the density of cowboy hats and boots. If they were wearing hoodies and were African-Americans or even Muslims, the situation would be overrun by the 24-hour-news insanity.
The members of a radical militia and other “concerned citizens,” as they call themselves, are protesting the government’s abuse of power. Oregon consists largely of farmland; the income of the people is in many cases based upon animal husbandry and lumbering. Yet most of the land belongs to the state; many ranchers must buy grazing rights.
Recently, two ranchers were convicted of arson on public land. In their name, armed men, led by Ammon Bundy, occupied the administration building of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. And that [was] already [two days ago].
Fox News Is at the Forefront
Yet, the otherwise not squeamish police are still not intervening. Initially, a crisis team was to be established on Monday. Not that rash intervention would be the solution, but in far cloudier situations the police have all too often shown themselves to be “more decisive.” A 14-year-old Muslim boy who brings a self-constructed clock to school is arrested under suspicion of terrorism and detained for hours. And again and again it results in deadly police violence against unarmed African-Americans.
U.S. news network Fox News is – hardly surprising – at the forefront, with the headline: “'Putting Lives at Risk’: Armed Protesters Vow Long Stay, Warn Gov't against Using Force.” Naturally. An armed militia occupies a building, but the government would be risking violence and possibly lives. The New York Times writes more neutrally about an “armed group,” Gawker speaks of “domestic terrorism,” and social media creatively spins it further, inventing the lovely name “YallQaeda” for the militia and its members: Qaeda as a reference to al-Qaida and “yall” for “you all.”
It is absurd how the U.S. media, otherwise greedy for ratings through on-site reporting, is holding back in the case of Oregon. However, to perceive this as new seriousness would not be serious, because it is improbable. The proximity of the conservative media to the radical action of the occupiers in Oregon is of little surprise. The argument Bundy seizes upon – with questionable means – is a widespread idea in conservative circles: the redundancy of the government. Vigilante groups, militias and other groups believe it [the government] should not be involved in anything at all. A return to the “last frontier,” that is to say, to the law of the jungle.
Neither state-owned pastures, taxes nor gun control laws fit into this world view. According to this logic, it is only common-sense to entrench oneself with weapons. And as this step is by no means supported everywhere, catchphrases like “individual freedoms” and “smaller government” are met with appeal in conservative circles.
It is a complete idealization of American history.
But, it is also a part of American history that the U.S. state of Oregon stipulated, by law, that no African-American could work, live or own land there, and that whites were not permitted to marry anyone who was a quarter or more black. The racism against African-Americans, by constitutional law, continued until 1926. But that is kept silent under the cowboy hat.