Cliven Bundy and his supporters are crazed hypocrites, not freedom fighters

Cliven Bundy has officially declared victory over a federal government whose existence he refuses to acknowledge. Bundy drew a huge amount of media attention, along with hundreds of rabid followers, to his ranch in Nevada after the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) began the process of seizing his cattle two weeks ago. An armed standoff between Bundy’s supporters and the BLM resulted in the closure of Interstate 15, and federal law enforcers eventually backed down and released the confiscated cows, presumably hruboping to avoid cries of “Ruby Ridge” and “Waco.” Bundy, his followers and the conservative media have hailed the outcome of the standoff as a victory for freedom, individualism and the triumph of the ordinary American over the oppressive federal government. In actuality, we have witnessed the legitimization of the hypocritical right-wing insanity that has crippled American politics and threatens to derail anything resembling truth or justice in this country.

It is nothing short of lunacy to suggest that Cliven Bundy has a legitimate greivance against the government. For 21 years, Bundy has been grazing his cattle on federally owned land that is mandated for the protection of the endangered desert tortoise. Cattle grazing on this land is not illegal, but ranchers are required to pay for use of the land, and to keep their herds down to 150 cows or fewer. Bundy has consistently refused to do either. The size of his herd has ranged from 550 to 900 since 1993, and he has regularly used more land than the law allows. He has also neglected to pay for the right to graze on federal land during this time, justifying his behavior with a complete refusal to acknowledge the authority of the federal government. The BLM says he currently owes more than a million dollars.

Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with challenging the authority of the federal government. The federal government often acts in unjust and morally reprehensible ways, and U.S. citizens do have a responsibility to correct the wrongs of those in power. The problem with Cliven Bundy is not the fact that he is challenging the government; the problem is why.

Like many conservatives, Bundy seems to have bought into the narrative of a government whose unmitigated tyranny demands armed revolution. Imposing environmental regulations and usage costs on federal land, for example; what legitimate government would condone such dictatorial actions? We’re particularly susceptible to this narrative here in Arizona, as demonstrated by the bills that get voted down every election cycle; bills for ignoring federal laws, or delegitimizing federal authorities, or seceding from the United States. It’s no coincidence that several Arizona lawmakers made their way out to Bundy Ranch in support of anti-government action. Flagstaff’s own Bob Thorpe was there, along with Representative Paul Gosar of the United States Congress and former Arizona sheriff Richard Mack. Mack is the one who told Fox News that Bundy’s militia was considering sending women to the front to be shot. “If they are going to start shooting,” he said, “it’s going to be women that are going to be televised all across the world getting shot by these rogue federal officers.”

An hour or two northeast of Flagstaff, at Black Mesa, Navajo people are fighting against forced relocation from their ancestral land – to which they have a significantly better claim than Bundy has to his – at the behest of the United States government and Peabody Coal. Here is a legitimate greivance; here is a government that has overstepped its bounds and trampled on the rights of proud, desperate people. Their story doesn’t make the news. No militia groups have flocked to their side. Bob Thorpe and the other Arizona legislators went to Nevada, but somehow couldn’t make it to Page. Cliven Bundy’s struggle is a study in entitled hypocrisy, based on a false worldview that he and his ilk cling to like a religion. The BLM, by backing down from Bundy, has demonstrated that in America, anyone can get their way if they shout their crazy from the mountaintop loud enough. And, you know, if they’re white.

Originally published in The Lumberjack (


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