The Manson Family of Oregon

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So the guys up in Oregon — you know, the guys holed up in the government building with all the guns and dildos? After a three week occupation, they finally got what they wanted: a shootout with the cops and the FBI. One of their guys is dead and another is wounded, and Ammon Bundy, the leader of the protest, or occupation, or whatever you want to call it is in custody with five of his comrades. Not comrades, that’s suggests communists, which these dudes emphatically are NOT. Brothers in arms, let’s go with that. Anyway, they’re in jail.

A lot of people are saying that this protest was pointless, that it accomplished nothing, that its stated goal — getting the federal government to surrender all public lands back to “the people,” whatever that means — was wildly unrealistic and never remotely achievable, and certainly not by occupying a building in the middle of nowhere.

They did succeed, of course, in stirring up a lot of weird, unfocused negative sentiment against the government in comments sections around the Internet, but fell short of their real goal: to provoke the government into provoking an anti-government uprising.

For a day or two, only the broadest strokes of the story were known: after a traffic stop of the vehicle Bundy was riding in — you get to take breaks from occupying a building? — brought Bundy and a few of his people into the custody of the FBI, LaVoy Finicum, one of Bundy’s lieutenants driving a second vehicle, was shot and killed. The Twitter account of the Bundy ranch was quick to comment:

Though eyewitnesses, including one of the other people in the Bundy caravan, leaked word to the press that Finicum had tried to evade a roadblock and was shot while charging the cops, those inclined toward Liberty called that another lie and insisted that Finicum was shot with his hands in the air.

Supporters of the Bundy cause still holed up at the refuge seemed to believe that an attack by the government was imminent, and called for ex-military members to come and “fight for your country… if they stop you from getting here, KILL THEM!”

As of this writing, two days later, that attack has not come and I would be very surprised if it does; if the Feds had any intention of attacking the refuge, I think they would have done it two weeks ago. Through his lawyer, Bundy released a statement asking the FBI to allow his followers to leave peacefully, but that statement was soon contradicted by the Bundys’ Twitter feed:

Judging by the comments on the various news stories about this, a lot of people agreed: Bundy would never do anything as cowardly and unpatriotic as de-escalating the situation. That statement they read must have been a fake, and though a troubling number of Internet commenters seemed certain that Brave Patriots everywhere were loading their rifles and heading for Oregon to enlist in the War Against Tyranny, as of this writing that has not actually happened.

After another day, the FBI released a video of the shooting, which showed the vehicle trying to evade the roadblock, getting stuck in the snow, and the driver first trying to run, then when surrounded by police, reaching into his jacket for his gun — twice — and then shot.

Finicum had been Internet-famous for a day or two before he was killed, thanks to an interview he gave to local TV promising to resist arrest and professing he’d rather die than be arrested.

This would certainly undermine any suggestion that Finicum might have been reaching into his coat for a stick of gum. (Interesting, by the way, that the same people who blow off police shootings of citizens under different circumstances by saying “if a cop tells you to do something you do it” and “innocent people don’t run” seemed to be largely the same people who are outraged by what happened here and cheering on the Bundys’ gun-waving promises to resist arrest. Remind me who the cop-haters are again?)

Before the video of the shooting was released, supporters of the occupation were unmoved by Finicum’s promise to resist arrest, and they probably won’t be moved by the video of him actually doing it, because they’ve finally got what they wanted out of this whole thing: a narrative where a Brave Patriot was gunned down by a tyrannical government. It was enough to land Bundy and pals in jail for the next 20 to life, but it wasn’t enough to start the new civil war they so desperately want.

The whole thing sort of reminds me of the Manson Family.

Back in 1969, Charlie Manson had it all. He and his army of willing young women had seized a ranch in Death Valley from an old blind man through the irresistible power of group sex. He had guys stealing cars for him, stealing drugs for him, stealing money for him. He had dozens of people hanging on his every demented word and pretending to love his weird campfire songs. He was in hippie heaven. He should have been happy.

But it wasn’t enough for Charlie. He wanted the whole world. He spun yarns around the campfire about Helter Skelter, the coming race war when the black man was eventually, inevitably going to rise up and kill whitey. Charlie told his people that when the war came, they’d hide in the desert until after the blacks had taken over and things calmed down, and then just as the blacks were realizing how difficult running the world really is, The Family and their inherently superior white intellects would emerge from hiding and peacefully relieve the overmatched blacks of the burden of command.

I think we can agree this was a solid plan.

But Charlie got impatient. The race war was not happening, and without the race war Charlie was just a smelly hippie with a lot of drug debts. So rather than wait around for the war to start, Charlie got some of the girls to go kick things off by killing a bunch of people with knives and writing on the walls with their blood, which would (obviously) indicate to the police and the world that the murderers were black. This was some seriously fucked up shit, but unfortunately for Charlie nobody saw any racial dimension in the crime, and it did not start the race war that Charlie was so certain was imminent. Helter Skelter did not come, and pretty soon he and the girls were all on Death Row.

That is exactly what happened here. These militia assholes are so certain that a civil war is coming, they took over that place and they waited for the legions of like-minded Brave Patriots willing to Die For Their Country to join them. But like Charlie, they got tired of waiting for the war to start, so they provoked the enemy. Driving into the snow to avoid a roadblock is not as dramatic a gesture as writing ‘PIG’ in a B-movie actress’s blood, but the intent is the same: to speed up the outcome they see as inevitable. But once again, the cult leader badly misread the climate of the times. Helter Skelter is not coming.

Sorry, Charlie.

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