“Will the History Books Record How Neo-Nazis Made Eyes at the Bundy Militia?”

… As the Malheur occupation fades into history, there are many insights on the US social and political landscape to be distilled both from this episode and from the national conversations it has sparked. One underreported aspect of the affair is what it revealed about the nature of the partial but significant overlaps between neo-Nazis and anti-federal-government activists like the Bundys.

The occupiers had been demanding the abolition of the federal government as we know it, using a set of rationales that were originally derived from racist movements. Some of the occupiers were known to spout anti-Semitic or Islamophobic conspiracy theories, while another denied that slavery existed. And so it should not have surprised anyone that neo-Nazis and other organized racists have applauded the occupation.

read the full article at Truthout

“Dispatch from Oregon: Armed White Occupiers Are Enjoying Warm Food, Wi-Fi—and No Violence From Feds”

Just as they have been since January 2, an armed, mostly White, mostly male group of radical right-wing paramilitaries are still occupying the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. So far, local and federal authorities in nearby Burns, Oregon, have taken almost no action. At press time, the buildings are not surrounded by law enforcement. They have electricity, heat and Internet access. Members of the press, supporters and FedEx workers can drive right up to the occupied territory.

A nearby restaurant called The Narrows is still open, too. One can walk in and see a number people—mostly a mixture of media and armed occupiers—enjoying the warm food, Wi-Fi and bar. The atmosphere recalls the cantina scene from the first “Star Wars.”

Read the full article at Colorlines

“What the Oregon Standoff Is Really About”

For a town of fewer than 3,000 residents, Burns, Oregon, sees a lot of business. Travelers heading from Boise to Bend on I-20 stop by here, as do visitors to the nearby wildlife refuge and from other parts of Harney County. Some blocks look like a quaint old Oregon town, the rest is “Anywhere, USA.” The residents seem nice but also direct and unafraid to speak their minds.

When armed right-wing paramilitaries took over the headquarters of the nearby Malheur National Wildlife Refuge on January 2, this is the town they thrust into the national headlines. The armed group’s apparent leaders—Ammon Bundy, 40, and Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, 54—succeeded in drawing media coverage and pushing their talking points. But their occupation is starting to divide the community, turning neighbors against each other.

Read the full article at Yes! magazine.

“Where the Oregon Militias Came From”

Contrary to the impression you may get from recent media coverage, the occupation of the Oregon Malheur Wildlife Refuge is not led by ranchers who are tired of being pushed around by the federal government. Instead, the armed occupiers are self-selected militants from the Patriot movement’s paramilitary network—known for invading rural communities and staging armed protests that distract from local attempts to fix real economic problems.

These paramilitary groups work by latching onto local events and manipulating them to serve a general political ideology. The case of Dwight and Steven Hammond elicited widespread community support, but there was no local interest in staging an armed resistance to the court’s decision to return them to prison. Nonetheless, Patriot movement activists including the Bundys and members of the Three Percenters and the Oath Keepers held an armed march in Burns, Oregon. Then Ammon Bundy and a handful of allies drove to the Malheur Refuge buildings to make their political stand. They used the movement’s usual bait-and-switch strategy: a protest against an unpopular prison sentence turned into a call to privatize federal land.

Read the full article at The Progressive

Daniel Levitas: on militias and projection

I think this passage from Daniel Levitas’s The Terrorist Next Door (about Posse Comitatus) is deeply insightful about the mindset of the Patriot movement. Projection much?!

Convinced [after Ruby Ridge and Waco] the government  was at war with its own citizens by simultaneously trying to kill and disarm them, a broad spectrum of right-wing activists coalesced around the notion that it was time for paramilitary rebellion. Rather than declare themselves outlaw revolutionaries like Bob Matthews and the Order, militia organizers defined themselves according to the language of patriotic constitutional vigilantism that had been popularized by [Posse Comitatus founder] Bill Gale. Theirs was a lawful movement, grounded in centuries of divinely inspired jurisprudence; a defensive movement to protect American values and ideas; and a deliberative movement composed of men arranged in hierarchies governed by order and legitimacy.

In reality, the militias were nothing of the sort. Most were patently illegal or tutored their followers in a litany of crime. Rhetoric about “defending” America was nothing more than a smoke screen for offensive action against agents of the supposed New World Order and other perceived enemies of the Republic. And as for their obsession with order and discipline, the militias were just an anarchic as the Posse had ever been. The only difference was that the militia movement was much larger and involved many more would-be guerrilla warriors, some of whom were eager for violence.

from Daniel Levitas, The Terrorist Next Door: The Militia Movement and the Radical Right (New York: Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Griffin, 2002), pages 301-2.