Friday, January 8, 2016

Note to Ammon Bundy

This might be the time.

If there's an opportunity to walk away with some level of immunity, take it.

For a protest to achieve its desired PR result, you've got to be able to present your issue in a way that resonates positively with a majority of the public.

In the Oregon situation, this doesn't seem to be the case.

Ranching is a volatile industry, dependent on several variables (rainfall; feed, fertilizer and fuel costs; disease, predation, and consumer demand).  Historically, generations of ranchers have mitigated the cost of feeding their livestock by grazing their herds on open, or public, lands.  The subject of  grazing lands and range wars has fueled many western movies.

Today, though, relatively few Americans have much understanding or appreciation for the ranching way of life.  Many of the commenters on news articles speak of ranchers as being recipients of agricultural welfare if their livestock graze on public lands.  While there is some basis for this interpretation, it should also be recognized that - in the main - ranchers are grazing their livestock on lands that have traditionally been open for the opportunity, and have subsequently been acquired by the US Government and had grazing fees imposed or increased.  The view that ranchers should compete with each other for purchasing grazing property is probably fair enough, but when they are competing with the United States Treasury, the playing field is a bit uneven, and it becomes a bitter, or even toxic, pill.

Nonetheless, unless all of the major media outlets start running marathon wall-to-wall Louis L'Amour or Zane Grey telecasts, there's likely little resonance with the public regarding Mr. Bundy and his compadres, and even the locals are not enamored of the protest.  He would do well to negotiate for as much immunity as he can and walk away peacefully, and deal with the rest in a court of law later.  For its part, the government would also do well to offer reasonable immunities, even though some will get their noses out of joint about perceptions of 'white privilege' or whatnot.  But far better to take some lumps than to end up with a Ruby Ridge or Mt. Carmel redux.

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