What a Nevada rancher can teach us about Ferguson.

For those who might have forgotten about the Cliven Bundy story, back in April there was a standoff at his ranch when his story was popularized by Fox News and some people who wanted to support him showed up with guns and threated to shoot law enforcement officials, and in one particularly slimy case, to use unarmed women and children as a human shields. Of course in the aftermath Bundy gave an interview in which he said things so obviously racist that even Fox News eventually distanced themselves from him. Yet before they distanced themselves they worked hard to make Cliven Bundy out to be a conservative hero. Even some conservatives admitted that this happened.

I won’t always comment on news stories like this unless I think I have something new to add. In this case, one of the things I have noted as the events in Ferguson have unfolded is that there are some important similarities, and differences of course, between these two stories that make it clear that Fox News, and other conservative news agencies, are severely inconsistent, and inaccurate, in the way they report on issues. So let’s compare a few things in these stories.

Both Cliven Bundy and Michael Brown were accused of theft, but that is where the similarities end. In Cliven Bundy’s case he was accused of defrauding the federal government of over a million dollars, he had is day in court and was found guilty multiple times, yet continued to refused to make restitution for his theft. Michael Brown was accused of stealing about 50 dollars worth of cigars from a convenience store, and never got a day in court due to being gunned down by a police officer who, at that point, only suspected he might be the thief.

Both events caused protests, but again the similarities end there. In the case of Cliven Bundy Fox News’ reports on the events brought down a group of protesters who were essentially an armed militia. Ferguson’s protesters are neither organized, nor are they largely armed. In Cliven Bundy’s case the law enforcement backed off despite being directly threatened with violence. In Ferguson police have continued their trend by injuring unarmed protesters.

Meanwhile, Fox News has criticized liberal media outlets for stirring up the protests even though they did the exact same thing in the case of Cliven Bundy. Yes everything ended peacefully in Nevada, but this was only because the government essentially backed down rather than create a situation on par with Waco over grazing cows and back taxes. If the government had not backed down the results would have likely been quite a bit more bloody than the protests in Ferguson, which has been filled with overzealous actions by police.

Yet if Ferguson’s protesters were well armed enough to force the police to back down I very much doubt Fox News would have framed the event, as they did with Bundy, as people protecting themselves from a tyrannical government. This, despite the fact that, Ferguson’s protesters have much better justification for their anger than those who protected Bundy.

Fox News has also accused liberals of forgetting that Brown was a thief, but that isn’t what is going on at all. What is being said is that the alleged theft is irrelevant because being shot to death is not a reasonable punishment for petty theft, . Yet they took the side of a man who has stolen over a million dollars, but in that case no one was suggesting Bundy be shot, only that he paid what multiple courts had determined he owed.

So why the inconsistency? Well race almost certainly plays into it. You can see this playing out over an over again, a white guy carries a rifle into restaurant and he is lauded as a bravely defending open carry laws and the 2nd amendment, yet a black person carries a BB-Gun through a Wal-Mart and gets murdered by police. And surprise, surprise, they didn’t indict the police in that instance either. Am I saying that everyone at Fox News is racist? No, though I certainly think some are. I’m looking at you Bill O’Reilly. It goes deeper than racism though. They constantly complain about how tyrannical the government is and when they finally have a valid example of government corruption and tyrannical behavior they tell everyone we should trust the government, because most conservatives seem to have a blind spot when it comes to the police and military. The two groups in the government we should work hardest to ensure accountability in, are the two groups that are, for the most part, beyond criticism. That needs to change.

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  • gimpi1

    I followed your link from Neil Carter’s blog on Patheos. Well said.

    This is exactly what I see right now, white people carrying semi-automatic rifles into a Subway Sandwich as “open carry” without raising an official eyebrow, but a black person dies for considering the purchase of a BB-Gun. Why people aren’t willing to see the overt racism here baffles me.

    I’m trying to imagine the conservative response if a militia formed out of the outrage over one of these shootings, and cordoned off a section of a town, threatening any official response with gunfire. Somehow, I don’t think that movement would be lauded by Fox as patriotic or heroic.