Gene Lyons: Violence, hysteria and the far-right
So the Bonnie and Clyde of the great Bundy ranch standoff thought they could start a national uprising by murdering two cops in a Las Vegas pizza joint. After executing officers Alyn Beck and Igor Soldo in the most cowardly way possible, would-be freedom fighters Jerad and Amanda Miller draped the officers’ bodies with a Nazi pin and the “Don’t Tread on Me” banner flown at tea party rallies, and left a note proclaiming a new American Revolution.
The duo then proceeded to Walmart, where they died in what initially appeared to be a murder-suicide, but was later proved to be gunfire from a police rifle.
Along the way the pair encountered the proverbial “good guy with a gun,” Joseph Robert Wilcox. They killed him too. Wilcox’s mistake was to pull his own concealed handgun without firing. It’s something combat instructors say one should never do, although it’s a decent human being’s first instinct — one good reason ordinary citizens shouldn’t carry.
You can’t learn combat shooting skills in a few hours with a retired deputy. It’s a potentially fatal mistake to try.
But I digress. Can anybody say they didn’t see this coming? The day before the Las Vegas tragedy, I’d told a friend that between now and Labor Day, I expect to see a large scale firefight between crackpot right-wing militia types and police and/or federal authorities somewhere in America — Ruby Ridge, Waco, possibly even Oklahoma City all over again.
We’d been talking about those “open-carry” geeks parading around in Fort Worth restaurants; also the self-appointed Texas posse that vowed to forcibly prevent Bowe Bergdahl’s Idaho hometown from throwing a welcome home celebration for the recently released POW.
Whatever the truth behind the murky circumstances of Bergdahl’s capture by the Taliban, nobody really knows. However, Fox News and CNN succeeded in raising an electronic lynch mob.
In essence, these jokers pronounced themselves willing to kill or die to prevent President Obama from getting a bump in opinion polls —the proximate cause of the sickening right-wing media freakout over Bergdahl’s release.
But back to Bonnie and Clyde. Supposedly, the Millers were asked to leave the Bundy ranch because of his criminal record.
But definitely not because the duo was any crazier than the “Mountain Men” and other armed zealots eager to fight it out with the Bureau of Land Management over Cliven Bundy’s God-given constitutional right to graze free government grass.
“I was out there but they told me and my wife to leave because I am a felon,” Miller wrote on his Facebook page. “They don’t seem to understand that they are all felons now for intimidating law enforcement with deadly weapons. We sold everything we had to buy supplies and quit our jobs to be there 24/7. How dare you ask for help and shun us dedicated patriots!”
Posing as a rancher, Miller did a TV interview sounding no crazier than Bundy. “I feel sorry for any federal agents that want to come in here and try to push us around or anything like that,” he said. “I really don’t want violence toward them, but if they’re gonna come bring violence to us, if that’s the language they want to speak, we’ll learn it.”
Sounds like something Kevin Costner might say in a movie, right?
Miller was right about the law, though. Pointing a gun at a federal agent is a serious felony, and you wouldn’t want to live in a country where it’s not. No doubt the BLM was right not to risk a firefight over a couple of hundred scrawny cows. But it definitely emboldened the mob.
Of course there are also deeper long-term issues at play.
“In our recent history,” writes Paul Waldman in the Washington Post, “every election of a Democratic president is followed by a rise in conspiracy-obsessed right-wing populism. In the 1960s it was the John Birch Society; in the 1990s it was the militia movement shouting about black U.N. helicopters; and during the Obama presidency it was the Tea Party.”
It’s also clear that President Obama’s race has a lot to do with far-right hysteria. Indeed, the most striking thing about Miller’s Facebook page is its sheer banality: Benghazi, Hillary, Nancy Pelosi, the global warming conspiracy, the tyranny of Obamacare, Agenda 21, fluoridated water, gun confiscation, etc.
I get chain emails about this nonsense every day. Along with veiled, and sometimes not so veiled, threats.
To the nutball right, ordinary Democratic voters have become the main enemy. Their apocalyptic theology requires a Satanic enemy, and it’s the majority. Some won’t rest until they get the violent confrontation they think they want. Then look for the professionals to take down the amateurs, with prejudice.
It’s the American way.
Gene Lyons, Arkansas Times columnist, is at email@example.com.