Last night, Bill O’Reilly had Oklahoma volunteer militia leader Scott Shaw on his program to talk about the Bundy Ranch fiasco. O’Reilly asked, “what is the difference between what you’re doing and what the Occupy movement was doing?” He said both were dissenting against a system that they believe was oppressive.
There’s a huge difference, Bill. I’d like to think that you’re just trying to figure out if Shaw does, but I don’t know.
Let’s talk first about the Occupy Wall Street movement. First of all, they were protesting not the system, but a set of ideas – mainly perceived social and economic inequality. “I am the 99%” memes popped up all over the place, with uber-liberal fanatics posting pictures of themselves holding up signs bemoaning their minimum-wage jobs, lack of benefits, crappy apartments, and college degrees that cost too much money and gave little in return. More dramatic protesters set up tents and camped out in public parks and in front of high-powered businesses. Even more defacated on police cars and vandalized the parks and businesses they were protesting. Some went so far as to riot, smashing bank windows and even looting on a couple of occasions. It was not a peaceful protest by any means. When rampant crime was reported in Occupy camps, protest leaders warned their people not to go to the police about it. They added that they were angry about corporate influence on the political process somewhere in the mix. The so-called 99% began as a rabble and rapidly devolved into a modern-day attempt at a French Revolution. The bonus? It wasn’t started by Americans. It was started by a Canadian socialist group called Adbusters who said, “America needs its own Tahrir” (referencing the 1977 bread riots in Egypt).
The Occupy movement demanded a change in the very fabric of American society, not just its corporate structure. They demanded all student loans be forgiven, home foreclosures cease, a raise in minimum wage, better jobs, government income distribution – basically they were insisting that nobody should be wealthier than anyone else and they were going to terrorize the public until they got what they wanted. They referred to themselves as slaves to the system (oh, please). They were out to push the idea that the government should take care of its citizens.
Cliven Bundy is the antithesis to the OWS movement. His family arrived in the area sometime in the 1870’s and has been raising cattle there ever since. The government has argued that they have owned that land since the 1848 purchase from Mexico; unfortunately, the federal government can’t really stand on that alone. They may have owned it, but it was open for cattle driving and grazing for a very long time. In 1933 the Grazing Bureau was started; in 1934 the Taylor Grazing Act was passed, meant to regulate cattle grazing on public lands. The Act provided a system of permits for grazing on public lands, but that system was given the ability to revoke any permit at any time for any or no reason and gave no rights or claim to lands by ranchers. In 1954, Cliven and his father began actively grazing their cattle in Bunkerville. In 1973, suddenly the Bureau of Land Management (which is what the Grazing Bureau became in 1946) decided to start requiring Cliven’s father to start paying for the right to graze cattle there. In 1993, the rules changed due to the status of the desert tortoise; the animal was placed on the endangered species list. That meant that large swaths of Bunkerville were no longer usable for grazing.
Cliven refused to stop grazing, claiming that the cattle were no threat to the desert tortoise. The BLM began fining him for grazing his cattle there and he refused to pay the fines because there was no evidence that the tortoise was threatened by his cattle. He also provided some evidence (although the courts dismissed it) that his family had been grazing cattle on the land since 1877. Then the government began telling Cliven that he had to reduce his 908-head herd drastically. While it is true that Cliven was technically breaking the law, that law was unjust. After 20 years of legal wrangling the BLM decided to stop arguing and get serious. They sent a small army to the Bundy ranch to begin rounding up cattle. Some cattle were shot and buried in mass graves. The Bundys called for help, and several militias showed up to stand up to federal agents who were killing animals in the name of…saving animals.
To be fair, some of the militiamen were complete morons. I’d love to slap Richard Mack silly for admitting to having strategized putting women at the front of the protest so the shock factor would be high if the feds got violent (dude, you don’t even think of that kind of thing – and if you do, you don’t friggin’ say it out loud!). Scott Shaw wasn’t able to articulate the differences between OWS and the Bundy Standoff very well at all. Either way, the differences are both simple and complex at the same time. OWS was a bunch of slackers who wanted to take from innocent, hardworking people to make their own lives more comfortable when they weren’t willing to work for it. Cliven Bundy has centered his entire life around hard work and earning every single thing he has.
(Of course, none of this is to mention the fact that Nevada Senator Harry Reid has his grubby fingers all over this. His son, Rory, has been trying to secure the Bunkerville land at an unbelievably low price in order to secure a deal with a Chinese company to build a solar plant there. Reid pushed to have a former aide installed as the head of the BLM to rush the process of getting Bundy kicked off of the Bunkerville property to make sure the deal moves forward. But, you know, it’s really the Republicans who are infringing on people’s rights.)
By the way…it’s worth mentioning that the BLM agents destroyed at least one desert tortoise den (that we know of) while enforcing the protection of the animal. The BLM’s Desert Tortoise Conservation Center is also about to close, and in the process will euthanize half of the over 1,400 animals currently in its care. Yeah, I can see how important the conservation effort is that it required a heavily armed response.