For commentators who claim to despise lawlessness and who have attacked the Obama administration for allegedly feeding disorder and politicizing it, conservatives were quick to embrace a lawless Nevada rancher who for two decades has refused to pay federal grazing fees on public land and is now promoting his cattle crusade as a war against the federal government.
According to the right wing media, paying the obvious penalty for openly refusing to obey the law for decades suddenly translates into victimhood for rancher Cliven Bundy and "harassment" by the government, as conservative commentator Dana Loesch tried to spin away Bundy's contempt for law and order.
Aside from ignoring the law, Bundy and his armed, anti-government supporters have repeatedly threatened violence and fanned the flames of confrontation with revolutionary, insurrectionist rhetoric, like declaring a "Range War." ("Serious bloodshed was narrowly avoided," the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported last week from the site of the flash point.)
All of the incendiary rhetoric and the loaded allegations about a tyrannical government has been marketed and promoted by Fox News and the rest of the conservative media, which claims to revere America as a nation of laws; the same Fox News that declared war on Occupy Wall Street protesters in 2011 and condemned them for being lawless. ("Domestic terrorists"!)
But now, suddenly the rules of engagement have shifted. Bundy is a right-wing hero and a massive Fox News flip-flop has taken place.
The facts of the Bundy case are not in dispute.
Since 1993, Bundy has refused to pay grazing fees for his use of 600,000 acres of public land. Bundy does not recognize the unambiguous authority of the federal government to administer the lands. In July 2013, a federal court ordered the defiant rancher to remove his cattle from the land or they would be confiscated to pay off the $1 million in fees and trespassing fines Bundy owes. He disobeyed, and confiscation of the cows began last week, before being halted because of the Bureau of Land Management's "serious concerns about the safety of employees and members of the public."
Even Fox's Megyn Kelly conceded that legally, Bundy "doesn't have a leg to stand on."
Nonetheless, the stampede of support for lawbreaker Bundy has been nearly all encompassing on the right. National Review Online's Kevin Williamson called the presence of armed agents "inflammatory" and condemned the government's actions as a "siege," while The Drudge Report recklessly hyped the growing fear of a violent standoff between anti-government militia members and federal forces.
On Fox, Sean Heannity has served as ringmaster for the insurrectionist circus that unfolded in Nevada and Hannity has clearly singled out law enforcement as the enemy. "Not once did Hannity mention concern for the well-being of law enforcement officials," noted the Fox-watching site NewsHounds. "Not once did Hannity discuss the federal government without demonizing them and suggesting that they were behaving in a criminal, fascist manner that deserved to be fought."
Yet that's the same Hannity who's been part of the right-wing campaign to denounce Obama for being outside the law; for his alleged "pattern of lawlessness."
"Obama's Politicized, Lawless Executive Branch," was the headline to David Limbaugh's TownHall.com column just last week. "Obama Adds Irrationality To Lawlessness -- While Threatening Prosecution," came from National Review Online's Andrew McCarthy this winter. ("It is wearying to catalogue President Obama's lawlessness," he complained.)
And from Rush Limbaugh in February [emphasis added]:
What do we do to stop somebody as lawless, some president as lawless this? What do we do? Nobody knows. Nobody knows what to do. Nobody knows how to stop him giving away money. Nobody knows how to beat him giving away money. Nobody knows how to deal with a guy who makes up the law every day as he gets up. We've never confronted this before. We've never had a president who is so lawless. We've never had a president who is so unconcerned with the Constitution.
That central attack theme has been repeated hundreds (thousands?) of times across the right-wing media since Obama was first sworn in and has come to define the conservative opposition to Obama: The current President of the United States, who happens to be an attorney and a former law school professor, shows no obedience to American laws or its courts, which is why Fox News, for instance, has repeatedly wondered if Obama should be impeached for his alleged lawbreaking.
Someone so arrogantly lawless that he pays no mind to U.S. jurisprudence? Kind of like a Nevada rancher who's been in open defiance for more than 20 years and views himself as being immune to federal law?
How can you tell the embrace of Bundy and his lawbreaking crusade is so obviously driven by partisan politics? Just recall the Occupy Wall Street movement and how conservative pundits uniformly howled their indignation. Why? Because left-leaning activists were breaking the law.
At National Review, editor Rich Lowry warned, "It's become clear during the past few weeks that there is a lawlessness at the heart of Occupy Wall Street."
Lowry was amazed at how activists refused to obey orders from police:
When asked to do something by an officer of the law, the instinct of most people is to comply, especially if they are violating a rule. The instinct of many of the Occupy protesters is to resist, then inflate their arrests or clashes with the police into a monumental struggle with the forces of oppression.
Keep in mind Lowy's claim that "most people" comply with officers of the law while watching this clip from a Nevada confrontation over the weekend, dubbed a "Ranch Riot" by a Bundy sympathizer. In it, pretesters not only fail to comply with "officers of the law," would-be militia members rain down epithets on law enforcement officials, denouncing various officers as being a "terrorist," "loser," "chickenshit," and a "fucking pussy." (Lots of the name calling starts at the 5:00 mark.)
It's safe to say Sean Hannity would have started hyperventilating on-air if he ever got his hands on a profanity-laced, anti-police Occupy Wall Street clip like the one that came in from Nevada. (Anarchists!) But suddenly at Fox, anti-government loudmouths who condemn law enforcement officials as chickenshits are the ones being cheered and depicted as freedom fighters.
So much for law-and-order at Fox News.