The protesters and militia members who showed up to support rancher Cliven Bundy this spring when the Federal government confiscated his livestock because of unpaid grazing fees and desert tortoises belong to a “much larger and more dangerous” network of “radical right-wing extremists,” according to a report out from the once-purposeful Southern Poverty Law Center.
The SPLC claims that its mission is to combat “hate, intolerance and discrimination through education and litigation.” But in recent years, the organization spends most of its time promoting radical political correctness and insisting that modern conservatism is innately driven by hate. In its July 2014 report “War In The West: The Bundy Ranch Standoff and the American Radical Right,” SPLC goes to great trouble to insist that the most radical individuals present at the Bundy ranch are representative of all Americans who are out of step with the prevailing attitudes of the left.
According to the organization, American citizens protesting the Bureau of Land Management’s tactics in dealing with Bundy “invigorated an extremist movement that exploded when President Obama was elected, going from some 150 groups in 2008 to more than 1,000 last year.”
The organization argues in its executive summary:
For those harboring deep hatred of the federal government, the BLM pullout was seen as a dramatic victory, one instance where the armed radicals of the right stared through their own gunsights at the gun barrels of law enforcement officials and won. Rather than being condemned, their actions garnered the support of numerous politicians, including the governor of Nevada and commentators like Fox News’ Sean Hannity — a truly repulsive spectacle. This pandering to the far right by both politicians and media figures ended in a hurry, however, when Bundy engaged in racist blather about “the Negro.” Racism was crossing a line, apparently, but the calls from the ranch for revolution and outright defiance of federal law enforcement seemed to be just fine with the Hannitys of the world.
Of course, conservatives who championed some of Bundy’s anti-government attitudes would dial down support when he demonstrated ignorance. However, arguing to the SPLC that conservatism, respect for the Constitution and supporting the right of the people to challenge government aren’t racist ideals would be a fruitless endeavor.
“[W]e’ve seen an explosive growth of radical-right groups, including armed militias, since Obama was elected, and repeated threats that violence is needed to ‘take our country back’ from the ‘tyranny’ of Obama,” SPLC founder Morris Dees writes in another article on the organization’s website. “This is part of a backlash to the growing diversity in our country, as symbolized by the presence of a black man in the White House.”
In addition to its usual attempts to equate small government ideas to racism, the SPLC has taken another approach in its Bundy reporting: insinuating that anti-government views lead to homicidal tendencies.
Without knowing where Bundy’s armed supporters actually had their weapons trained during the standoff, the SPLC insists that each firearm was pointed at a Federal officer.
And although the standoff ended peacefully when BLM officers backed down, SPLC argues that the Bundy standoff did eventually lead to bloodshed.
From the report:
Writing on his blog hours after the standoff, Mike Vanderboegh, an aging government-hating propagandist from Alabama who heads the III Percent Patriots, characterized the standoff in grandiose terms. “It is impossible to overstate the importance of the victory won in the desert today,” he gushed. “The feds were routed — routed. There is no word that applies. Courage is contagious, defiance is contagious, victory is contagious. Yet the war is not over.”
Within weeks, that rhetoric appeared predictive as two people who had spent time on the Bundy ranch before reportedly being asked to leave went on a shooting spree in Las Vegas. On June 8, Jerad Miller and his wife Amanda entered a restaurant and killed two Las Vegas police officers before running into a nearby Wal-Mart and killing an armed civilian who tried to stop them. Witnesses say the couple shouted, “This is a revolution!” and draped one of the slain officer’s bodies with a Gadsden flag, a militia favorite that reads, “Don’t tread on me.”
Later, the report continues:
The Millers were only two of the hundreds of militia members, conspiracy theorists and other angry antigovernment extremists who responded to Bundy’s call for a “range war.”
Of course, the SPLC fails to note that Jerad Miller was also a felon and reported advocate of crystal meth use. Therefore, it’s very likely that his personal problems had more to do with his later actions than his time at Bundy’s ranch.
The bottom line from the SPLC is that if the Federal government doesn’t start taking a closer look at Americans who dare criticize or protest its actions, there will be more, increasingly violent, Bundy-style standoffs and more shooting rampages akin to the Millers’.
“The Bundy ranch standoff wasn’t a spontaneous response to Cliven Bundy’s predicament but rather a well-organized, military-type action that reflects the potential for violence from a much larger and more dangerous movement,” said Mark Potok, senior fellow in the SPLC’s Intelligence Project and lead author of the report, in a statement. “This incident may have faded from public view, but if our government doesn’t pay attention, we will be caught off guard as much as the Bureau of Land Management was that day.”
So what’s SPLC’s answer?
The report argues that Federal officials should put into place more mechanisms for monitoring America’s “far-right”:
The recent announcement by Attorney General Eric Holder that the Justice Department is reviving its Domestic Terrorism Executive Committee is welcome news. The committee was established after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and was instrumental in bringing swift prosecutions that stemmed the tide of hardcore antigovernment activity; it should never have been allowed to become moribund after the 9/11 attacks. The militiamen and others who pointed their weapons at BLM and Las Vegas officers need to face criminal prosecution because the rule of law must be enforced or it will be challenged again.
But swift prosecutions are only part of the answer. The Justice Department is a law enforcement agency, not an intelligence-gathering one. To help law enforcement at all levels, the Department of Homeland Security must put more resources into assessing the threat of non-Islamic domestic terrorism. The unit with the primary responsibility for that task was allowed to wither in the face of conservative criticism following the leak of a 2009 report on the resurgent threat from the far right. That, too, should never have been allowed to happen.
In essence, the SPLC believes that the Federal government must always be protected from the people because of a populist threat to some of its policies. Oddly enough, all of the Nation’s founding documents suggest that things ought to be the other way around.