Reflections on the Oregon Standoff


My sympathies are with the ranchers against the federal government, of course. My sympathies are with just about anybody against this regime. While the #OregonStandoff episode isn’t entirely over, I believe we can go ahead and conclude that it was a failure by any reasonable metric. A life has been lost. The leader of the project–who is in custody–is begging the holdouts to call off the standoff and go home, and there’s no indication that the government’s going to budge on the initial issue of the Oregon ranchers being subjected to double jeopardy and egregious “terrorism” charges.

What went wrong?

Scope Creep

When pursuing a political objective, it’s imperative to clearly define one’s objectives and explicitly lay out a proposed roadmap to achieving those objectives. If there were achievable and concrete demands, I haven’t seen them. I saw a flurry of disjointed social media with no central theme, complaining vaguely about tyranny, constitutionalism, the overarching tension between land management and ranching interests, anti-Islam, and from time to time, the proximate issue; the ranchers imprisoned for lighting fires on their leased property.

It costs little money and requires little time and effort to create a centralized web presence for an activist objective which can help define political goals. While the supporters can be motivated by and talking about a broad range of issues, it’s imperative that the stunt itself maintain a laser-like focus. The closest Ammon Bundy ever got to formulating something like a demand was for the family being prosecuted to be straight-up released and for more land to be freed up. With framing like this, it was just a matter of how the project would fail, not if it would fail.

The federal government’s not going to just stop on a dime to appease a handful of angry protesters, …at least not White ones. A more thoughtful approach would have been a demand for specific elected officials to meet with them to address the sentencing of the ranchers. A band of embattled ranchers who just want to have their grievances heard is more effective than a band of militia types crowing about “tyranny” to the general public. And after that demand, you make another incremental demand.

With the proper media hustling and a persuasive delivery of their case, they could have put the government on the spot for the unfair sentencing. The affected family had (wisely) chosen not to support this project, but that can be rhetorically skirted. But the Bundy family were fighting in the way that they’re familiar with rather than in the way that’s likely to win. The American government is militarily invincible yet profoundly vulnerable to the right kind of public moral pressure.

Framing

You’ve got to make the best of the human resources you’ve got to work with. To some extent, it was a foregone conclusion that the hostile media framing would be of a dangerous gun-wielding militia of angry White men who want to overthrow the federal government. While the media wasn’t going to do them any favors, they did themselves no favors either in consistently and repeatedly confirming that narrative in their interviews and social media outreach. They spoke in the imagery and lexicon of the militia movement to the outside world, which was alienating to the general public whose fate they depended on.

This mirrors an internal debate within our own movement over how to manage framing and presentation. To insist that everybody refrain from developing a subcultural mythos and affect chokes off the subculture. For a subculture to become a movement, it must dynamically and organically learn to code switch between ingroup and outgroup interaction. It’s not about deception or even what’s said, but how it’s said. It’s about taking a step back to analyze the interaction and arrive at a lexicon and framing that communicates what needs to be communicated with minimal alienation and triggering.

Whether or not Lavoy Finicum was reaching for a weapon, Finicum and his associates assisted in creating a frame which allowed the federal government to shoot him without the general public being offended or surprised. It’s not as if the FBI wouldn’t have already been concerned that these men were not to be presumed to be unarmed. Had they insisted that they were engaging in a nonviolent demonstration and explained that their firearms on their person were just part of their Country Western lifestyle, they would’ve created space for a counter-narrative to be produced in opposition to the media’s narrative that a gang of anti-government radicals were itching for a gunfight.

Popular Support

When an Islamic jihadi blows something up, tens of millions of his allies around the world cheer for him. When a White Advocate or Militia Patriot deign to do even mild-mannered occupation stuff, the sort of project the #BlackLivesMatter folks routinely engage in, there is little if any popular support. Insurgencies and rebellions against the prevailing order require sympathizers with the vanguard among the general population in order to achieve political relevance.

Whether or not the Oregon Standoff could have been a good idea, the failure to persuasively build and present their case to the American public doomed the project from the start. This sort of magical thinking prevails in right-wing circles. Every political activist would like to think that the general public is just itching to boil over into revolt over whatever their issue is, if only there were a flashpoint of some kind. Unless there’s been a wealth of effort already invested, and the timing and framing are just right, the general public will shrug.

Public sympathy is a bit like a bank account, and the Bundy Family overdrafted their account.

Conclusion

My aim here is to learn from the incident so both my own movement and the Patriot movement can be more effective in the future. I’m not anti-Bundy, though I’m not part of that movement. I’m sympathetic to them. There’s definitely an overlap of concerns. But my struggle’s against the displacement and disenfranchisement of my ethnic folk, not against “big government.” I had hoped to be actively supportive of the project, but refrained from publicly discussing it after it became clear to me that the government was playing it smart and the Bundy Family was not.

A potential opportunity to rally the American public against the outrageous abuse of “anti-terrorism” legislation has been lost, and the national conversation’s now about how to deal with the threat of gun-toting anti-government radicals. To the credit of the Patriot movement, several of its leading voices have been consistently critical of the project, and even predicted that it would most likely prove disastrous in exactly the way that it’s proven disastrous.

My prayers are with Mr. Finicum’s family, with the men remaining in the government building, and with the Bundy brothers. We owe it to them all to think long and hard about the incident to ensure that future right-wing activist efforts can achieve the security and success which eluded this one.

Update 2016-01-29:

Friend of the site John Friend notes that there were indeed attempts to instigate civic dialogue…

For the record, Bundy and his crew did submit a detailed Redress of Grievance to Harney County and State of Oregon officials back in December. They were entirely ignored, which is why they began the occupation of the Wildlife Refuge.

There was also a blog site set up which attempted to serve as a central clearinghouse for public relations.


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  • Ezra Pound

    Really excellent, important article. The Oregon stand-off is definitely an opportunity to learn proper messaging and framing. When the US staged those truly lame and abortive color revolutions in Iran and Russia the planners knew that they would not work, but they were basically perimeter-probing actions and “live fire” training exercises to learn the vulnerabilities of the target as well as those of the insurgent group; seeing what would work and what would not. We should treat Oregon just like that.

    • Much to learn.

      I think the Patriot Movement may have drank its own kool-aid, believing the government would go with a nineties-style overreaction and escalation that could play into their framing. That’s not how they work now. They’re more surgical, methodical, patient, and image-conscious.

      They used to be action-oriented. Now their preferred strategy is to “camp,” as the gamers say, and wait for you to make a misstep.

  • Fr. John+

    “When an Islamic jihadi blows something up, tens of millions of his allies around the world cheer for him. When a White Advocate or Militia Patriot deign to do even mild-mannered occupation stuff, the sort of project the #BlackLivesMatter folks routinely engage in, there is little if any popular support. Insurgencies and rebellions against the prevailing order require sympathizers with the vanguard among the general population in order to achieve political relevance.”

    Succint, to the point, and scathingly brilliant, as usual. Until White men- ALL WHITE MEN- see themselves as the OBJECT of their own Genocide, we will constantly fail. Trump appears to be awakening the Saxon. Now if only we can awaken his righteous Wrath… that would be SOMETHING.

  • JMoore

    I don’t know anything about Mr. Finicum, and am unsure how to judge this Oregon stand off, but have to say it is stunning and awesome to give ones life in direct battle with ZOG. We are not only fighting against corrupt, soulless men with no regard for truth, honor, or human life, but against “the principalities, powers, the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places”. Therefore self-sacrifice is an essential weapon against the darkness of zog.

    • I agree.

      Some are saying he was trying to surrender when he went down. I don’t know for sure, but the side saying he was resisting sounds more credible, and I think it’s a more fitting end for a courageous man who stood by his principles to the very end.

  • Yerg Gantor

    The battle was lost the moment they were White. They need to wait until the government is fighting WW3 and then try again.

  • RealistReport

    You argue:

    “A more thoughtful approach would have been a demand for specific elected officials to meet with them to address the sentencing of the ranchers. A band of embattled ranchers who just want to have their grievances heard is more effective than a band of militia types crowing about “tyranny” to the general public.”

    For the record, Bundy and his crew did submit a detailed Redress of Grievance to Harney County and State of Oregon officials back in December. They were entirely ignored, which is why they began the occupation of the Wildlife Refuge.

    http://bundyranch.blogspot.com/2015/12/notice-redress-of-grievance-action.html

    This was the main message I heard when I was there, especially from Finicum – none of the officials responsible for this situation will respond to the legitimate grievances of the people. Now, you can argue that Bundy, Finicum, etc. are “outsiders” and are not of “the people” of Harney County, but in my view, the grievances they brought forth to the proper county and state officials were entirely valid and legitimate. And you can make a good case that Bundy, Finicum, etc. submitted the Redress of Grievance on behalf of the people of Harney County – there definitely were a lot of people in the area that supported what was going on at the Refuge.

    • I’ve added an update to the article to indicate that there were some efforts to more effectively define and communicate their agenda.

      I reject the whole “they don’t speak for me” line of critique of the ranchers. Of course the media can find a wall-eyed local who insists that they’re not speaking for them. If I took a stand on behalf of my hometown, they’d find some dork eager to explain that I’m from the Eastern side of Paoli and categorically do not speak for the folks on the Western side of Paoli where the incident is taking place.

  • Andrew

    Great commentary. This group could have been more effective, but most importantly they acted, taking risks standing up to Gemorrah. Europeans should support them and learn from this incident.

  • ryu238

    It didn’t help that the cause they were fighting for was bullshit. https://popehat.com/2016/01/04/what-happened-in-the-hammond-sentencing-in-oregon-a-lawsplainer/
    Or how it was an ARMED TAKEOVER at that.

    • wotan237 .

      The Hammond’s and Ammon Bundy agreed that the issue was much larger than the sentencing. It was about endemic government corruption and bullying, the frequent abuse of the citizenry, the trampling of our rights.

      This objection to the “armed” stuff is not a real issue, as it is a right to be armed, whether one is at home or in the street protesting, or eating lunch out, etc.
      The occupation of the Refuge was similar to the lunch counter sit in or the action of Rosa Parks- they are all designed to bring about justice. In the case of the Hammond’s, they should never have even been charged, and were not, initially- the charges happened many years after the fact. Additionally, the use of the 1996 anti terrorism law was meant to sink them deeper into the pit, to later enable the govt to seize their land, which will probably happen this year, if the family fails to finish paying their fine; part of the deal is that the BLM has first right of refusal, meaning that the Hammond’s will be forced to sell their ranch to the BLM- mission accomplished.

    • AnAnon

      it was an armed walk into an empty and unlocked building.

oregon-standoff

By: Matt Parrott


Matt is a founding member of TradYouth and is currently the project's Chief Information Officer. He's been active in the White Identity cause for years, primarily as a blogger but also as a street activist and regional organizer.
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