Tuesday, January 5, 2016

YallQaeda (and the power of labels)

Cautious Response to Oregon Standoff:

BURNS, Ore. — Clad in boots, cowboy hats and camouflage, a small band of antigovernment protesters stood in the snow and subfreezing cold on Monday at a federally owned wildlife sanctuary they have taken over, called themselves defenders of the Constitution, and declared that they were at the vanguard of a national movement to force Washington to release its hold on vast tracts of Western land.

For its part, the federal government appeared content, for now, to monitor the situation and wait out the protesters.

The armed group, which said it had adopted the name Citizens for Constitutional Freedom, has occupied a handful of buildings at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near here since Saturday and says it does not plan to budge until its conditions are met.

The group is small — an exact number is hard to pin down — but claims to have the backing of a long list of antigovernment groups. Its goals are ambitious: The protesters want “the federal government to give up its unconstitutional presence in this county,” said Ammon Bundy, one of the leaders, at a news conference on Monday.
It's interesting how the Feds have chosen to "wait out" the seizure of one of its (our) buildings and spreads of lands. On the one hand, as others have wondered since the siege started last weekend, why are they called "protesters" and not terrorists? If this had been a group of black or Muslim citizens, would the reaction be so passively "eh, let's see what happens"? Would we not have mobilized the national guard or sent in a few drone strikes by now if the protesters had been anything but a bunch of angry white middle aged men?
Heidi Beirich, the director of intelligence with the Southern Poverty Law Center, who oversees the center’s tracking of extremist groups, said that there was a danger to under-reaction, and that the last Bundy standoff had set a bad precedent.

“They were emboldened by their ability to run federal officials off at the point of a gun,” Ms. Beirich said. “Now, a year and half later, there have been no prosecutions whatsoever. Pointing a gun at a federal officer is a crime.”
On the other hand, maybe there really is no threat, and these "militiamen" are not worth another Waco style assault. Witness the fact that after the siege started, they were unable to keep a campfire going for warmth, and sent out for pizza and other supplies to be delivered.

The internet jumped in and (for once) probably got this one right, pointing out the hypocrisy of "taking back our land" that was never theirs to begin with, and wondering why all white people weren't being asked to "speak out and decry this radicalization," as one Muslim commentator put it.

Even more cutting were the labels affixed to the militiamen: VanillaISIS, YallQaeda, YeeHawdists, etc., and wondering where all the "stand your ground, open carry" gun enthusiasts were in response.

In some ways, the withering reaction to these dudes is push back to the expansion of "gun rights" that's been going on the past 15 years. While pro-gun organizations have been very adept at exploiting mass shootings and the electoral process to further their agenda, a growing plurality in surveys view the open-carry/stand your ground/guns everywhere proponents very similarly to these militiamen in Oregon, and wonder if pictures like this don't suggest American society has gone completely insane on the issue. 

Sidebar: my favorite part of the Texas open carry law is the subsection that addresses certain prohibitions at correctional institutions, including "firearms may not be carried within 1000 feet of the execution chamber (Huntsville unit) on the day of a death penalty (sic)." Why? Shouldn't the inmate or his family have a chance to stand their ground and defend him from what is otherwise a state-sponsored homicide?

Hmmm...there's that pesky labeling theory again, pointing out what we call these things (terrorists, protesters, militiamen, Yokel Haram) is entirely subjective and amounts to who has the power to impose the label.  And in our society, it is the power-elite (via Big Media) who impose the label, and minorities, the poor, and the otherwise powerless who are labeled.

It's also subjective in the sense that most people never have to confront the tragedy of gun violence in society on a personal level. It's all very esoteric, othered, and run through the political and entertainment filter from the comfort of your living room, and the wild west fantasy in your head where you're the hero with the gun, saving the day. 

You wanna see one person who does have to confront the violence, whose job it is to comfort the victim's families, whose been doing it hundreds of times over the past seven years...Newtown, Aurora, Charleston, San Bernardino)? Watch the president break down this morning, announcing new gun control initiatives (as I've written previously, you're gonna miss Mr. Spock when he's gone; and yes I know Spock never cried, except that one time, right? The spores? C'mon!).

And then watch the reaction later today: more guns, more violence, more armed standoffs, more mass shootings.  Don't forget: every sensible call for gun control gets turned into "Obama's gonna take yer guns!" because it's fundamentally good for business.

Kind of ironic, if you think about it: the issue is framed as a Constitutional power grab or 2nd Amendment matter, when in reality, it's just another way the power-elite screw the masses by scaring them into plonking down millions more $$ on guns and ammo they don't need. P. T. Barnum, we hardly knew ye.

Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

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