Tag Archives: rural radicals

The Bundy Bunch

I haven’t posted about the bizarre episode that Jon Stewart aptly dubbed “Apocalypse Cow,” because–to be candid–I’ve had a huge problem understanding why anyone would rush to the defense of a guy whose claim to fame is that he doesn’t pay his bills.

The facts aren’t really in dispute: when Bureau of Land Management rangers attempted to enforce a court order to confiscate cattle owned by Cliven Bundy, an assortment of militiamen, “patriots” and assorted kooks–all armed–came to his defense. The government, fearing another Waco, temporarily retreated. This bit of adult restraint was celebrated by Bundy’s ragtag army as a great victory.

Bundy has been illegally grazing his herd on public land since 1993. He never paid the very minimal grazing fees initially imposed by President Reagan, and several courts have confirmed that he currently owes taxpayers over a million dollars.

His “defense” is that he doesn’t recognize the existence of the federal government.

What I don’t get is the Right’s wholesale embrace of this “taker.” Fox News–especially Sean Hannity–rushed to defend a guy who proudly admits to ripping off government and the taxpayers. The network that routinely excoriates “welfare cheaters” evidently saw no irony in its defense of  a brazen moocher.

It turns out that rural radicalism is nothing new. In fact, Catherine McNicol Stock wrote a book documenting a long tradition of rural extremism in the U.S.

As Stock noted, the arrest of Timothy McVeigh for the Oklahoma City bombing gave homegrown terrorism a face, and that face turned out to be white-skinned, blue-eyed and clean-shaven. Networks of home-grown, small-town militiamen, conspiracists, survivalists, and white supremacists who had been there all along, suddenly became visible. They are heirs to “a tradition as old as the country itself, characteristically angry and frequently violent, rendering patriotism as intolerance.”

The recurring themes in rural radical movements are familiar:  anti-federalism, white supremacy, populism, and vigilantism.

Cliven Bundy has proved himself an heir to the entirety of that radical tradition, but ironically, when he shared his overtly racist views, it suddenly became “a bridge too far” even for Fox, which prefers its racism to be (slightly) more subtle.

What I still don’t get, however, is what attracted them to this moocher in the first place.