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“This Is What White Supremacy Looks Like”: A Party At The Bundy Ranch, A Funeral In North Charleston

This weekend, the Bundy ranch in Nevada will host a reunion to celebrate owner Cliven Bundy’s continued lawlessness. Bundy became a hero of the far-right a year ago when his refusal to pay 20 years’ worth of federal grazing fees for his cattle—totalling $1.1 million—brought federal agents to collect, which Bundy and several hundred armed right-wing militia members repelled with a show of force. Fox News and other right-wing news outlets raced to the ranch to report on what Bundy supporters called the “Second American Revolution” and the “American Spring,” the moment when the rhetoric of “tyranny” and “totalitarianism” under President Obama would materialize into actual armed conflict against the loathsome federal government.

For anyone confused about whether a political movement which celebrates the Second Amendment and rallies around an iconography of war and rebellion is interested in actual combat against the “liberal” federal government, the Bundy affair answered any remaining questions: Yes, the prospect excites many far right-wing conservatives like nothing else. Fox News’ Sean Hannity was giddy in his initial introduction of Bundy as someone threatening a “range war” against the federal government. Fox News covered the ranch saga daily, with Bundy presented as a hero, and Hannity alone would feature Bundy on his show numerous times over the several weeks of the standoff, at times giving the rebel rancher a primetime microphone multiple times a week to rally right wingers to his cause.

Two extremists, Jerad and Amanda Miller, who traveled to Bundy’s ranch, only to be turned out, would go on to execute two Nevada police officers in June, draping the familiar Gadsden “Don’t Tread on Me” flag over the corpses and pinning a note to their government victims saying, “This is the start of the revolution.” Jerad and Amanda heard the call for a “range war” and took it upon themselves to be the vanguard of the Bundy rebellion.

In the end, the two officers were the only casualties and Bundy’s boys went home with not so much as a band-aid, as federal agents were backed down by a veritable army of militiamen. The government blinked, and Bundy was allowed to continue to flout a law he’d decided didn’t apply to him.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is white power.

And this is black vulnerability: In the intervening year since the Nevada showdown, much of America has become outraged by a series of cases of unarmed black men killed by police. The epidemic of police violence against black men has been ongoing for decades, of course, but a confluence of a new public attentiveness and video evidence in some cases has pushed the crisis into the mainstream discourse.

The latest case, the shocking murder of Walter Scott in North Charleston, SC, should be held up for comparison with the Bundy standoff. Before the video surfaced and contradicted his report, Scott’s killer, Officer Michael Slager, justified his use of deadly force by claiming that Scott gained control of Slager’s taser, thus making him a threat worthy of fatal elimination.

So the threat of a 50-year-old black man with a taser is so great that 8 shots into the back can be justified — but line up hundreds of white men on horseback and armed to the hilt with military-grade weapons, and agents of the government are powerless.

A single unarmed black man in Staten Island selling loosies is considered enough of a threat to be choked to death in broad daylight. Yet armed ex-military men protecting a criminal with high-powered rifles trained on federal agents are not enough of a threat to law and order to similarly merit the use of force.

Is that what we learn when we look at the cases? Does the specter of some imagined violent nature of black men exceed the fear stoked by white men with actual guns, actually pointed at state agents, fingers on triggers?

Or is it that the Bundy army was too much of a threat? The simmering anger on the American right since President Obama’s election has seethed just at the precipice of violence, and for Obama’s troops — as they would be viewed — to rightly fire on white people angry about taxes would have no doubt enraged extremists to a degree unseen since perhaps the 19th century. These weren’t the creepy cultists of the Waco standoff; Bundy was a hero headlining Fox News, the Drudge Report, and the other leading conservative news outlets. He would have been a martyr to Tea Partiers and the far right.

The militia and “Patriot” movements have seen “stunning growth” during the Obama years, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a group that tracks violent extremism. Bloodshed at the Bundy ranch could have very well sparked violence elsewhere, just as the federal sieges at Ruby Ridge and Waco during the 1990s animated the nascent militia and Patriot movements.

What lesson then have we learned from Cliven Bundy? What lesson do we learn from Walter Scott? Or Eric Garner. Or Michael Brown? Sean Bell?Oscar Grant? Amadou Diallo? Ramarley Graham? Maybe the Huey P. Newton Gun Club in Texas has the right idea. Named after Black Panther Party co-founder Huey Newton, the group takes advantage of open carry laws in the Lone Star State to patrol their neighborhoods in squads of men and women armed with assault rifles, what Newton and the Panthers did in Oakland in 1966.

But while Panther-style armed resistance might protect some victims from police violence, it’s hard to imagine it remedying the underlying problem: white supremacy and the assumption of black men as almost supernaturally dangerous. That’s why Slager’s initial story about Walter Scott would have probably sufficed, were it not for the video; the perceived threat posed by black men is that great. And it’s why Bundy’s men were permitted to point sniper rifles at state officials and still not be considered a threat worthy of elimination.

Saturday will be a day of celebration in Nevada; the day brings a funeral to North Charleston.

 

By: Matthew Pulver, Salon, April 10, 2015

April 14, 2015 Posted by | Cliven Bundy, Walter Scott, White Supremacy | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Good And Evil Are Interchangeable”: How Fox News Created A Monster And Made Two Others Disappear

Anyone who read 1984 in high school should know that the target of propaganda can turn on a dime. But we tend to forget this lesson whenever the media’s real-life Big Bros crank out their version of “We’ve always been at war with Eastasia,” as they’ve being doing of late.

It’s worth quickly revisiting Orwell. “On the sixth day of Hate Week,” he wrote,

when the great orgasm was quivering to its climax and the general hatred of Eurasia had boiled up into such delirium that if the crowd could have got their hands on the 2,000 Eurasian war-criminals who were to be publicly hanged on the last day of the proceedings, they would unquestionably have torn them to pieces—at just this moment it had been announced that Oceania was not after all at war with Eurasia. Oceania was at war with Eastasia. Eurasia was an ally.

There was, of course, no admission that any change had taken place…. The Hate continued exactly as before, except that the target had been changed.

We’ve recently gone through a Hate Week or two ourselves. Only months ago, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the last POW in Afghanistan, had been valorized by the right. Senators McCain, Ayotte and Inhofe, Sarah Palin and Allen West and right-wing websites wanted Bergdahl freed at all costs, and blamed Obama for leaving him behind.

Then, of course, Obama did free Bergdahl. You can argue that the deal struck was mishandled, but there’s no excuse—none—for the rightwing pillorying of Bergdahl into a one-man Eastasia. With no evidence and “no admission that any change had taken place,” they’ve recast him, variously, as a deserter, a traitor, a jihadist or, as Fox News reporter James Rosen bizarrely put it, “a kind of modern-day Lee Harvey Oswald.” Death threats were made against his parents; his hometown of Hailey, Idaho, canceled a celebration of his return for fears of public safety. Fox News’s Kimberly Guilfoyle declared that he was “lucky” US forces didn’t find him earlier because “he would have come home either in a body bag or come home and gone straight to jail.”

Bergdahl is back now in the United States, being treated at the San Antonio Military Medical Center, and God help him when, weeks or months or years from now, he meets the media. (This cartoon puts it succinctly.)

Then, faster than you can switch a long beard from signifying good ol’, homo-hatin’ Duck Dynasty boys to signifying that you look like a Muslim (as Bill O’Reilly said of Bergdahl’s father)—quicker than that, you can make a pair of right-wing cop killers cease to exist.

The same Fox News that usually torches not only cop killers but lawyers who defend them and singers who rap about them had almost nothing to say about Jerad and Amanda Miller, the couple who executed two police officers as they were eating at a Las Vegas pizzeria. The Millers had attended rallies at the Cliven Bundy ranch and thus hated law enforcement in the right way, in the way Fox had helped to foment. As Eric Boehlert wrote last week:

Primetime hosts Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity both ignored the shocking cop-killer story [the day after the killings], while Megyn Kelly devoted four sentences to it. (By contrast, the story covered extensively during CNN and MSNBC’s primetime.) Fox talkers on Monday were still far more interested in debating the prisoner swap of Bowe Bergdahl than they were examining the political ambush in Las Vegas….

In the 36 hours after the shooting, Fox News tread lightly around the Las Vegas story, producing regular news updates about the crime spree. But Fox provided almost no commentary, no context, and certainly no collective blame for the executions.

And that’s how Fox News deals with right-wing domestic terrorism in America, when it even bothers to acknowledge the killings and the crimes…. on Fox the perpetrators are always portrayed as lone gunmen (and women) who do not represent any cultural or political movement.

This sort of media-manufactured amnesia goes beyond a mere “flip-flop.” In a well-oiled propaganda machine, who’s lone and who’s representative, who’s a hero and who’s a heel, even good and evil themselves, are interchangeable. Anything can be instantly reframed as circumstances dictate.

As we’re already hearing from some quarters: “We have always been right to go to war in Iraq.”

 

By: Leslie Savan, The Nation, June 16, 2014

June 18, 2014 Posted by | Bowe Bergdahl, Domestic Terrorism, Fox News | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Paralyzed By A Crazed Gun Lobby”: Gun Advocacy Has Now Become Parody

When I was growing up in the Cold War era, teachers instructed their pupils in the fine art of ducking under the desk as a shield against a strike from an atom bomb. That was a futile exercise, of course: A desktop provides no protection from the powerful destructive capacity of a nuclear weapon.

But it allowed teachers and their charges to pretend to have a defense against a frightening communist enemy whose might nearly equaled our own. It created a psychological barrier against helplessness.

These days, teachers train to protect their students from armed madmen who shoot up schools. They are taught to recognize not just the sound of gunfire in the hallway but also to hear the bone-chilling thump of an empty clip hitting the floor. They learn to hide their students; they memorize escape routes; they practice throwing ordinary classroom tools, like staplers, at an armed assailant.

As schools search for solutions, a manufacturer’s spokesman said sales of a product called the “Bodyguard Blanket,” a bulletproof covering that might offer a bit of protection from a school shooter, have been surprisingly strong. Why wouldn’t it sell quickly? Since the December 2012 Newtown massacre, there has been, on average, a similar incident every five weeks, according to CNN.

However, there’s a huge difference between the dangerous enemy we confronted in my youth and the current menace: Average citizens could defeat the lunacy now threatening our children. We are not helpless. Instead, for reasons that I simply cannot fathom, we are paralyzed by a crazed gun lobby.

It’s difficult to adequately describe our sense of defeatism in the face of the firearms fanatics. We don’t fight back when they insist on laws allowing guns in schools, in bars, in churches. We throw up our hands when they resist background checks. We shrug when another child is gunned down at school.

Oh, polls show our support for common-sense measures that would curb the death rate. After Newtown — when 20 small children and six adults were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School — 91 percent of Americans supported background checks for firearms purchases at gun shows and private sales. Yet the Senate could not manage to pass a bill that closed the “gun show loophole.”

It’s unlikely that any of the senators who voted against the measure will be called to account in the only way that matters — with defeat. While 41 Republicans (and five Democrats) voted against the bill, the GOP is expected to gain seats in November’s elections. What kind of message does that send to the gun fanatics?

Meanwhile, the gun lobby’s favorite arguments for its positions have been, well, gunned down. Gun advocates claim that widespread firearms ownership by responsible law-abiding citizens would help to stop the carnage. They insist that a would-be school shooter, for example, would be killed before he could hurt anyone if only teachers were armed.

Experience shows it rarely works that way. Earlier this month, anti-government extremists, husband-and-wife team Jerad and Amanda Miller, killed two police officers in Las Vegas, ambushing the officers as they ate lunch. The couple then went to a nearby Walmart, where they encountered an armed citizen, Joseph Wilcox, who spotted Jerad and tried to stop him. Wilcox, too, was shot dead.

Facts, however, don’t faze the National Rifle Association and its allies, who have long since descended into a lunacy that rivals parody. Consider this: Recently, gun fetishists in Texas have begun demonstrating their support for “open carry” laws by carrying their heavy-duty weapons into restaurants. They’ve posted pictures of themselves with their assault-style weapons — civilian versions of rifles such as the AK-47 — strapped to their backs as stunned diners look on.

The NRA posted an opinion piece on its website discouraging those antics: “It makes folks who might normally be perfectly open-minded about firearms feel uncomfortable and question the motives of pro-gun advocates,” the writer said. Guess what? Within a few days, a backlash ensued from the gun cult, and the NRA disowned the commentary.

This is Alice-down-the-rabbit-hole madness. What does it say about the rest of us that we allow it to rule?

 

By: Cynthia Tucker, Visiting Professor at The University of Georgia; The National Memo, June 14, 2014

June 15, 2014 Posted by | Gun Lobby, Gun Violence, National Rifle Association | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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