If you've been paying any attention to the news since January 2, you're probably aware that an armed militia group has taken over the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Oregon. And after two weeks of living out a gritty reboot of Full House that's only slightly bleaker than the one soon airing on Netflix, the militants claim they're planning to leave, possibly because some unknown good Samaritan sent them a great big dildo in the mail.
"Everybody clear out! THIS BABY DEMANDS ROOM!"
But before this insurrection peters out because militants were too overzealous to buy groceries (and too lazy to drive away and get some) and the news cycle moves on to a pinball-playing llama -- "PINBALLAMA!" the New York Post will yowl -- it's important to understand that this isn't an isolated incident. 2012 saw a record number of gun-enamored anti-government "patriot" groups, such as the Oath Keepers (who claim to have over 30,000 members in the U.S.) and the Sovereign Citizen Movement (which is an estimated 300,000 strong). Why the sudden rash of rebel groups obsessed with tyranny? There's a lot to unpack here -- and even more that's being ignored by most of the media. So let's get started.
4 Their Political Beliefs Involve Cherry-Picking What Laws They Want To Obey
Now, it seems flat-out baffling that a bunch of ranchers would go bananas and take over a wildlife refuge just because two guys were found guilty of starting a series of uncontrolled fires on Federal land. (Even more confusing, the convicted men want fuck all to do with the militia who formed in their defense.) But when you think of the takeover as a tipping point, their motives becomes somewhat more cognizable.
In the same way that randomly coldclocking a co-worker makes sense after years of slow, soul-leeching microaggressions.
What's happening here is actually a long battle over farmland that's been repurposed as federally-managed space. Throughout the 20th century, the act of using government land for cattle grazing and farming became the bureaucratic equivalent of a Nickelodeon GUTS event -- complete with an ever-changing Aggro Crag of policies and restrictions. In short, Uncle Sam yoinked the land from under these ranchers' feet and made them tap dance to get it back.
See, the reason the Oregon militiamen feel ownership over this land is because it was first given to ranchers by the U.S. government back when we were still expanding into the totally up-for-grabs West. This absolutely uninhabited area was then distributed to farmers to drum up economic growth. Everybody was a winner! But by the end of the 1800s, the attention shifted and the land was taken back, which is what the Bundy family behind the Oregon standoff is still ultra-miffed about.
If you think it's silly that I'm making fun of the militia like this, then prepare to bust a nut over the Sovereign Citizen movement, which practices the disobedience of federal and sometimes local laws under the vague belief that the United States exists like a corporation we can choose to ignore. This was the argument rancher Cliven Bundy used back when he didn't want to pay $1,000,000 in accumulated fines, and a common tactic for crazy people trying to get out of various crimes.
To get a sense of what the Sovereign Citizen movement is all about, take a look at the quote below. You can reread it a couple of times if you want, but it still won't make any sense.
That quote isn't from some robe-wearing Grand Minister of The Bunker, but from Stewart Rhodes, the founder of a collection of retired law enforcement and military personnel called the Oath Keepers. According to their website, their mission is to uphold the U.S. Constitution by any means necessary, including war with the federal government. And while there's nothing wrong with questioning and challenging the law, their bias leans less on the side of a constitutional "checks and balances" and more on commie paranoia and misplaced nostalgia for '50s America. A quick scroll through their site reveals everything from an essay about the good ol' days, when "we weren't taught about The Planet [sic]" to carefully chosen news stories designed to incite fear of refugees and Muslims.
Let's look at a two-part Oath Keeper essay titled "Are You Ready To Join The Resistance?" which warns people of the upcoming economic collapse and martial law. Their solution, of course, is to arm yourself, learn to survive away from cities, and prepare for "hungry gang members" knocking at your bunker. But hey, but at least this stealth Fallout fanfiction is free to read, right?
Sovereign Family Network
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If you can't trust-click a repurposed Grateful Dead skull logo, who can you trust?
If you think I'm being even a little sarcastic, go check out this goddamn website for yourself. Its "non-violent" solution reads like a Billy Mays spree shooting manifesto. And yes, there's a reason I'm putting "non-violent" in quotations ...
3 Historically Speaking, Militias Have Been Both Violent And Incompetent
For anyone looking to put a name to the sovereign movement, I'm sorry to say that the handbook author goes by "J.M. Sovereign: Godsent" because of course he does. Back in 2007, his wife made the news for attempting to beat a driving violation by redefining her vehicle as a "vessel on a religious mission." Despite this not working, the Sovereign Handbook YouTube account considers this a big win. I bring this up because it tends to be the popular dipshittery we associate so-called "Sovereign Citizens" with. If you never thought you'd laugh at police brutality, go ahead and watch this video of such a citizen getting tazed in a courtroom:
I know violence is wrong and junk, but that knowledge didn't stop me from macing my computer the first time I heard that guy argue that he "isn't a person" and doesn't wish to "create joinder" with the courthouse guards blocking his "freedom of movement." He sounds like a stoned teenager who watched Fight Club for the first time. And while a lot of his fellow believers are no more than crusties trying to avoid parking tickets, the FBI considers them a domestic terrorist threat, on account of how many cops they totally fucking kill.
After all, anyone seduced by a voodoo get-out-of-jail handbook probably has a police record. This is why the majority of encounters concerning these groups start with tax collection or driving violations, and can escalate to full-on shootouts. These meatballs truly believe that they don't answer to the government or pay taxes because of some loophole, and by God, they will use violence to get their knucklehead way. And despite claiming to be "patriots," the heavily-armed folk in Oregon and the Oath Keepers are just as bad. Only instead of some harebrained handbook, they worship their constitutional right to arm themselves against tyranny. While that sounds more noble, historically speaking, militias made to fight the government have been formed by murderous criminals and not eagle-riding patriots.
That's an illustration of "protesters" carrying a tarred and feathered tax collector during the Whiskey Rebellion, a hostile revolt ten years after the American Revolution. See ... except for that one time, the majority of militias formed to fight unfair taxes ended in mob violence instead of annual barbecues. And just like the people in Oregon, this uprising was invoked by Western farmers believing that they didn't need to answer to the federal government. Nearly a hundred years later, Kansas would become the battleground for a series of violent clashes between pro- and anti-slavery militias dragging each other's members out of their homes and stabbing them to death in front of their families.
The white-hot patriot in you probably wants to argue that, terrorists or not, the militias during the Revolutionary War were a ragtag means justified by the ends of sweet victory. So even if these new militia folk go out in a blaze of glory, they will surely be given super-macho founding father ass slaps at the gates of Heaven ...
*cough*: Part II
Actually, no. It turns out that the majority of militiamen formed during the Revolutionary War were a bunch of disorganized drunks who often got bored and caused disruptions when they weren't retreating from battle. For this reason, George Washington repeatedly referred to militiamen as arrogant, cowardly, and endangering to the actual army they fought alongside. At the battle of Kip's Bay, untrained militiamen fled at the sight of the British army, causing an enraged Washington to chase his own people whilst whipping at them with a cane. In Charleston, militia riflemen nearly mutinied after only 60 days of being constantly punished for firing their guns out of boredom.
So when the armed group in Oregon tells the media that they will stay there forever before immediately asking people to send snacks, that is historically completely in line with the behavior of a militia. Because militias are made of fucking idiots.