Friday, April 11, 2014

Pete Santilli’s Violent Rant about a ‘Fight to the Death’ in Nevada

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

The rhetoric from right-wing pundits concerning Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy’s showdown with federal authorities over cattle grazing rights has quickly grown overheated. But talk show host Pete Santilli – who has a notable history of extremist statements – has reached an entirely new level of hysteria.

Santilli devoted more than an hour of his Internet radio broadcast on Monday to interviewing Bundy. As the interview progressed, Santilli became increasingly incendiary, calling on members of militias in the region to show up and defend the ranchers. At the end of the exchange, Santilli concluded with a rant that veered close to suggesting that federal law enforcement officers at the scene should be treated like enemy terrorists waging “jihad” against ordinary Americans:

We talk of, ladies and gentlemen, the American Dream. We talk of it. We talk of the pride that we have in what our Founding Fathers put forth for us, our U.S. Constitution. The flag – all the men and women that have given their lives to defend what this man is standing and defending. Right now. And it’s now a matter of determining: Are our domestic enemies, right now, more of a detriment to the survival of our nation than these foreign enemies that we get so energized to go and kill?

Do we need to dress these federal agents up as a bunch of brown people and say that they came from the desert and they want to wage jihad against us, or are we going to call it jihad, just about, against the American people at this point?

The federal government, ladies and gentlemen, has become so out of control, so tyrannical, to the point where they do it swiftly, silently, to the point where the American people don’t even recognize what tyranny is.

As he wrapped up the rant, Santilli became even more explicitly violent, characterizing the Nevada showdown as a “fight to the death”:

Is it time now, at this point in time – if this is not THE issue, right now! Where we stand and fight to the absolute, and I say, death! There is no other option! The federal government must get out of the state of Nevada, with respect to that 600,000-acre ranch – they must leave. We want that to be done peacefully. If they don’t want it to happen peacefully, it is gonna be by their choice.

Santilli’s solution: Militiamen and “patriots” need to bring their guns:

Ladies and gentlemen, when I say, I’m calling upon every single American anywhere in the vicinity of Clark County, pool your money together, fill up your gas cans, get your cameras. If you’re in Nevada and you can legally carry, get weapons out there, OK? We’re going to stand and fight in Clark County, Nevada! They will leave or else!

Of course, if gunfire actually does break out, one can rest assured that he will almost certainly be nowhere in the vicinity himself.

Right-Wing Media Eagerly Promote Cliven Bundy and His Anti-Federal Faceoff

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

Mainstream media coverage of the showdown in southern Nevada over Cliven Bundy’s cattle has so far been scrupulously balanced. Most outlets – including local TV stations from nearby Las Vegas, as well as cable news outlets CNN and MSNBC – have presented Bundy’s belief that the U.S. government has no jurisdiction over the land on which he grazes his cows as well as the government’s explanation of how it is enforcing land use rules fairly for everyone.

The same cannot be said for right-wing media outlets, led by Fox News, which have steadily characterized the Bundy family as heroic patriots standing up to a tyrannical government. A number of far-right pundits have even been urging people to go to the scene in Clark County to make their presence known.

Fox’s Sean Hannity led the parade of Bundy boosters on Fox, featuring a segment on Tuesday night that included an interview with Bundy and a narrative that presented his claims at face value. Indeed, Hannity himself repeated Bundy’s favorite question: “Why do they own all that land?” (Hannity reportedly plans to devote an entire show to the situation on Monday.)

Fox’s Greta Van Susteren also featured an interview on Thursday with Cliven Bundy and his adult son, Ammon Bundy, who was hit with a Taser during a ruckus on Wednesday. Again, it was a sympathetic report, featuring no countervailing information, and it included an interesting explanation from the father and son regarding their attitudes towards the courts:

VAN SUSTEREN: There’s a court order that says that the federal government can do this. So what’s your response to that.

CLIVEN BUNDY: My response is it’s the wrong court. I’ve never had my due process in a Nevada state court, a court of competent jurisdiction.

AMMON BUNDY: Hey, uh – I like my Dad’s little story he uses to explain the situation. If someone came in and busted into my house and abused my children, and I call the cops, they don’t respond. And then I take them to court, I show up in the courtroom, look on the stand, and it’s the very person that abused my children looking down at me in a black robe. How in the world are we going to get justice in that court?

The Bundys have been receiving support from other right-wing sources, including the Koch-sponsored Americans For Prosperity, which has acted as public boosters for the family’s activities. AFP’s Nevada chapters have been actively promoting anti-Bureau of Land Management stories through social media.

The further to the right the outlet reporting the case, the more extreme the coverage has been. Over at the Drudge Report, the front page’s upper-left hand corner has featured string of updates from the scene with headlines such as:

County Commissioner Says Bundy Supporters ‘Better Have Funeral Plans’…
Lawmaker: Cattle Roundup ‘Reminded Me Of Tiananmen Square’…
Family: ‘Wake up America…they are taking everything from us’…
Militia Members Arrive: We’re not ‘afraid to shoot’…

At conspiracy-minded Alex Jones’ Infowars, there has been a steady flow of antigovernt “Patriot”-oriented stories, including one in which Bundy called on the local sheriff to begin arresting federal agents.

And at right-wing, headlines proclaimed that “up to 5,000” militia members were to begin arriving at the scene in Nevada today. “We may well be on the cusp of a serious stand-off involving thousands of people,” the website warned. “Keep in mind that most of them will be armed. Given the circumstances, things could turn very bloody very quickly.”

Indeed, a large number of additional protesters did arrive at the scene today, but fortunately things remained peaceful.

Nevada Rancher’s Interview With Volatile Talk Show Host Reveals His ‘Patriot’ Movement Leanings

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

 If it wasn’t clear from the pronouncements that Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy made in TV interviews this past week – most notably his assertion that “I don’t recognize the United States government as even existing” – the confrontation in the Nevada desert that has drawn a horde of antigovernment ‘Patriot’ movement supporters and militiamen out of the woodwork is a classic example of the conflict between so-called Patriots and the real world in which bureaucracies like the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) operate.

That’s especially clear after a review of remarks Bundy made previously in the media, including threats to start a “range war” and “do whatever it takes” to keep his cattle grazing freely on public land. The most notable of these was an appearance at a cattle owners convention in South Carolina in 2012 at which he trumpeted his refusal to recognize the legitimacy of the government; speaking at the same gathering was noted Patriot movement leader Richard Mack.

Bundy has been outspoken in promoting his antigovernment beliefs, including during an interview with far-right radio host Pete Santilli earlier this week. Santilli has a colorful and sordid record of saying extreme things on the air, most infamously his wish that someone would shoot Hillary Clinton in the vagina. In recent weeks he has explicitly aligned himself with the Patriot movement.

Much of the interview revolved around Bundy’s belief that the U.S. government can’t possibly own the open public lands of the interior West:
Who owns this land? Who has title to this land? Is it the state of Nevada? Or is it the federal government? And if it’s the federal government, then I want to understand, I know I’ve asked this question: How does the federal government own 90 percent of the state of Nevada? How does that happen?” […] The other question I bring forth, according to our Constitution, how could this possibly be? We claim the Constitution is the law of the land, and so how could this happen here in America? How could this happen that the United States could own this vast amount of land – not only in Nevada, but in the Western United States? So this is an issue that I bring forth.

Santilli chimed in enthusiastically, claiming: “They don’t own it!” (In reality, of course, the U.S. government owns full title to public lands, which were usually acquired by treaty with other nations, and manages them through the BLM.) Bundy claimed that he, not the government, was “the manager of this land, at least because of my rights.” If anyone is trespassing, he said, it is the BLM.

The upshot of the interview was striking: Santilli wound up calling on militia members to make their way to the scene of the confrontation in Clark County. Bundy himself said that “now it’s time to get on our boots and I guess make our stand.” Santilli urged “anyone in the general vicinity” to make their way to the protest site so they could “stand in the face of tyranny”. He also vowed to call Sheriff Mack and ask him to speak to the Clark County sheriff so he would do the “constitutional” thing.

“We need a show of force,” Santilli said, comparing the confrontation to standoffs with federal authorities that occurred in the 1990s and are credited with inflaming the militia movement – namely, at Waco, Texas, and Ruby Ridge, Idaho.

Santilli then called for militias from around the West to come out and defend the Bundys, saying there needed to be “a constitutional defense against a tyrannical government,” by which he meant “an organized militia” and “a Second Amendment.”

Bundy agreed. “You know, the things like militias, you know, I haven’t called no militia out or anything like that, but hey, it looks like that’s about where we’re at,” he told Santilli. “We’ve got a strong army here we have to fight, they are bound and bent and not gonna back off, we don’t have our state officials not stepping up and saying no. So until the state officials step up and say no, or the county sheriff says no, it’s going to keep escalating to the point where we’re going to have to take our land back and take our rights back.”

“And maybe it’s the time we’re at in life,” Bundy said. “It just seems like we’ve worked our way all the way to this point, now are we gonna back off, or take it to – somebody’s going to have to back off. If they’re not, We The People are gonna put our boots down and we’re going to walk over these people.”

Bundy vowed not to back down: “They’re up against a man who will do whatever it takes,” he told Santilli.
Santilli agreed: “This is what our Founding Fathers, Mr. Bundy, would want us to do – to protect ourselves from a tyrannical government. This is not a conspiracy theory, is it?”

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Antigovernment ‘Patriots’ Gather Near Scene of Nevada Rancher’s Dispute Over Cattle Grazing Rights

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

A Nevada rancher appears to have backed down after threatening to open up a “range war” with the federal government if they rounded up the cattle he had illegally grazing on public lands. Authorities responded to the rancher’s threat with a show of force – an estimated 200 federal agents who descended on the scene – and rounded up the cattle. However, a large contingent of about a hundred antigovernment “Patriots” is now gathering near the site of the roundup as a form of protest and making their presence known.

On Wednesday, the confrontation escalated into a brief dustup between federal law enforcement officers and the protesters, including the son of the rancher at the center of dispute, Cliven Bundy. During the ruckus, caught on video, Bundy’s adult son, Ammon Bundy, was shot with a stun gun that bloodied his shoulder. Eventually the officers retreated, amid much celebration by the protesters.

The core of the dispute is Cliven Bundy’s ongoing claim to the right to graze his cattle on a sensitive piece of southern Nevada’s Mojave Desert known as Gold Butte. Bundy’s family had grazed cattle in the area for generations, but in 1993 Cliven Bundy stopped paying his fees on the land, claiming that the United States government was not the legitimate landlord.

In 2013, a federal judge enjoined him from continuing to graze his cattle on the federal lands, an order he has studiously ignored. So this week, federal authorities moved into the area and began sweeping up Bundy’s trespassing cattle.

Bundy threatened a “range war” if Bureau of Land Management agents took custody of his stock, calling them “cattle thieves.” But, initially at least, the threats appeared to fizzle as the roundup of Bundy’s cattle proceeded apace, accompanied by a heavy law enforcement presence at the scene, while Bundy sputtered helplessly on the sideline. On Sunday, another adult son, 37-year-old David Bundy, was arrested after getting into a confrontation with the federal officers; afterwards, Bundy and his compatriots described for reporters their alleged ordeal the hands of federal officers.

BLM officials, meanwhile, defend the crackdown on Bundy’s activities by noting that he is the only rancher in the region who refuses to acknowledge or heed the federal permit system for grazing rights. “Cattle have been in trespass on public lands in southern Nevada for more than two decades. This is unfair to the thousands of other ranchers who graze livestock in compliance with federal laws and regulations throughout the West,” the BLM website noted.

Several interviews that Bundy has given over the years makes clear that he subscribes to Patriot movement theories about the legitimacy of the federal government, or the lack thereof, and to Posse Comitatus theories about the enshrinement of the powers of the county sheriff.  He also has taken to comparing his confrontation with federal authorities to ill-fated clashes at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and Waco, Texas, in the 1990s, that were infamous for inspiring militia organizing the fueled the Patriot movement then.

Bundy’s campaign to ignore federal grazing laws has support among his fellow Patriots, who are now coming to his defense in far-right media outlets. This notably includes Alex Jones’ Infowars, which is avidly promoting the Bundy ranch story, as well as Pete Santelli’s Internet radio show. All of these outlets depict Bundy’s “range war” as a last gasp fight for American freedom against looming federal tyranny. A “We Support Cliven Bundy” Facebook page has a similar tone.

Even the Drudge Report is adopting the Bundy story, leading the site’s front page with updates from the “Standoff At Nevada Ranch” (though in fact no standoff is taking place). So is Glenn Beck’s The Blaze, which has been headlining it on their website’s front page.

As a result, the scene of the roundup has attracted an encampment of about a hundred “Patriots” and Bundy supporters who have parked along the roadside and harassed the roundup vehicles. They are keeping their anger over the presence of federal law enforcement officers and their firepower burning.

“Right now it looks like the movie Red Dawn,” another of Bundy’s sons, Ryan, told the crowd. “Right now we’ve got 200 plus federal agents up there in a military compound that they have put together and they’ve got snipers….everybody’s armed, and they’ve been monitoring our ranch with high-tech surveillance equipment….it was never about the grazing fees, it’s about control.”

Santelli, in his interview with Cliven Bundy on Monday, called for militias to turn out and protect Bundy and his family. And that appears in fact to be happening. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported on Wednesday that two militiamen from Montana had joined the scene; one of them posed with a high-caliber long-range rifle, saying he and his cohort were there to protect the Bundys from “tyranny”.

The scuffle on Wednesday appeared to follow efforts by the protesters to prevent vehicles involved in the roundup work from leaving the scene. At one point, officers began bringing in guard dogs and demanding that people get away from a truck whose exit had been blocked. At that point, some shoving and scuffling occurred, officers pulled out their tasers and Ammon Bundy was hit in the chest.

Eventually the truck moved on and the law enforcement officers all got into their vehicles and followed the roundup vehicles away from the scene. The protesters were jubilant.

A BLM statement noted that peaceful protests have “crossed into illegal activity” in recent days, with people “blocking vehicles associated with the gather, impeding cattle movement, and making direct and overt threats to government employees. These isolated actions that have jeopardized the safety of individuals have been responded to with appropriate law enforcement actions.”

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

League of the South Looks to Street Theater to Increase Visibility

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

You will know the League of the South’s street demonstrators by their flags – a variety of Confederate flags, yellow “Don’t Tread on Me” Gadsden flags and stark, black-and-white so-called Southern Nationalist flags. If the league’s organizers see their hopes realized, such demonstrators will be a common sight on city streets and plazas in the South.

The league’s leaders have developed a street demonstration strategy they hope will increase their public profile in the coming months. At a state conference in Alabama last month, they unveiled some of the details of that program, including a protest of the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery in May.

The Alabama gathering, held at the league’s meeting hall in Wetumpka, near Montgomery, featured speeches by president Michael Hill, Georgia chapter chairman Ed Wolfe, South Carolina chapter chairman Michael Cushman and Brad Griffin, editor of the Occidental Dissent blog, who writes under the nom de plume “Hunter Wallace”. Griffin recently wrote about the league’s strategic shift in a post titled, “The Logic of Street Demonstrations.”

The shift appears to be primarily Hill’s idea, as he made clear in his opening remarks, and seems to be connected to the increasingly belligerent and radical positions he has staked out in recent years –symbolized by his exchange with a black reporter in Tallahassee earlier this year. Upon being asked if he minded if the league was depicted as a “bunch of racists”, Hill responded: “So what? I’m standing up for my people – white Southern people – no one else.”

Several of the conference speakers celebrated Hill’s response, including Griffin, who added: “We’re standing up for our people. It is the right thing to do, it is what we ought to do. We should have started doing it a long time ago. The fear of sticking our necks out has long been one of our worst enemies, and that more than anything has to be overcome before we can gather the numbers to move forth.”

Griffin and the other speakers argued that street demonstrations will provide people with a clearer view of their choices. They presented a disparaging view of counter-protesters, typically describing them, as Griffin did in a recent post, as “a bunch of queers and lesbians gyrating on a sidewalk with tambourine.”

Cushman celebrated the shift toward unapologetic racism by observing that the league was “smashing that taboo”: “We’re supposed to be embarrassed to talk about race. We’re supposed to turn red in the face and kind of turn away and whisper if we say anything at all about race. We’re smashing that taboo as well.”

Wolfe, meanwhile, demonstrated that the league is in the thrall of Posse Comitatus/sovereign citizen theories of government, describing at length how the United States is “not a nation, but a corporation.” Wolfe then argued that the Southern states more naturally made a true “nation” since the white people in it were “bound by blood”.

Hill, in a video made at the gathering, elucidated Wolfe’s point even farther, explaining that while people mistakenly believe “nationalism” relates to political borders, it actually relates to “borders that distinguish a people, a blood people.” He then went on a rant about those borders:

And who are our people? Our people are white European Southerners. Now, we’re mainly from the British Isles, but we’re also from other parts of northern and western Europe, and even parts of central Europe. But we are a distinctive people, based on blood. And from that blood comes culture. And from that culture comes our political institutions, and from the political institutions come our borders, and our nations – our nation-states, as we call them.

Germany, France, England, Ireland, Scotland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden – Dixie. They’re all the same. We are a people. We are a nation. We are a blood, with the land.
Predictably, Hill’s remarks at the gathering were all about whipping up ethnic fears, warning that the white majority population of the United States was on the verge of becoming a minority, which “will mean the end of our civilization.” He went on: “There comes a time when you got to get just pure mad-dog mean. If your civilization is worth fighting for, that’s what you will – you will let nothing deter you from it.”