Monday, May 5, 2014

Rancher fails to live up to the hype

The news media make heroes — don't doubt it. The media have made heroes since Homer extolled bravery of Achilles and Hector. But rarely have the media made a more unlikely hero than Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy.

This is a man who has been grazing his cattle on federal lands for decades and has refused to pay grazing fees. The accumulated fees and fines he owes the government for use of federal lands exceeds $1 million. Thousands of other ranchers using federal lands for grazing their cattle have paid their fees, but Bundy asserts that he doesn't owe the U.S. government any grazing fees. In fact, he claims that he doesn't even recognize the U.S. government.

Despite not "recognizing" the federal government, Bundy has paraded around on horseback waving an American flag. He also called in a "militia" of armed men who brandished firearms and threatened to shoot federal officials sent to round up Bundy's illegally grazing cattle and serve papers on Bundy himself. Fox News, in particular, has touted Bundy's "courageous" stand against federal oppression. A U.S. senator called him "a patriot." Since when has failing to pay your bills been patriotic?

Bundy's undoing was not the result of some sudden realization that this guy is a publicity-seeking paranoid egotist. It was, instead, the result of his openly expressed racist views in an interview. Bundy, it seems, is not only angry at the federal government; he's also angry at African-Americans, the poor and a federal bureaucracy that provides aid to the poor. What we have is not a hero or a patriot but a tragic figure undone by his own hubris.

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