Nevada: Early Lessons of Bunkerville

by | Apr 15, 2014

Bundy Protest

The rush and rapidity of events in Bunkerville, Nevada surprised and cheered many, and there is a lot to learn from this case.

It’s too soon to know the long-term impact of people standing up against armed federales last week, but here are some early takeaways.

Location matters. This insurrection, brought on by federal government arrogance and greed, happened in part because people could get there, physically and intellectually. Wide open rangeland (for hardy cattle and 100 year old turtles) physically and visually juxtaposed with the artificial stupidity of “free speech zones,” domesticated citizens penned in by red government tape, tell a story without words, history lessons, or politics. The imagery brings to mind the words of one of my favorite heroes, “[T]he truth is, there is something terribly wrong with this country, isn’t there? Cruelty and injustice, intolerance and oppression. And where once you had the freedom to object, to think and speak as you saw fit, you now have censors and systems of surveillance coercing your conformity and soliciting your submission.”

Sifters like Drudge and Alex Jones are of enormous value in the struggle for human liberty. I use Jeff Deist’s phraseology here because it is so perfect. These market-driven and individualist information selectors, empowered by the low cost of the Internet and its associated technology, shared information in real time, live-streaming government actions and reactions, while providing the needed context of history, politics, economics, religion and culture, directly to people, not through their unions, their political parties, or their employers or their churches. The search for the “truth” can be activated and shared across state lines and political party prejudice. With timely information and honest context, government missteps and abuse can captivate and compel and even organize instant armies.

Sparks cause fires, and fires can radically change landscapes. But the humble spark that invites sympathy may be more powerful than other even more deserving sparks. Who doesn’t love family farmers, dogies on the range, and even a poor mistreated turtle? The lockdown of Boston a year ago was highly offensive, illegal in any constitutional sense, and chock-full of federalized law enforcement excess and abuse. Actual truth about every aspect of the backpack bombers has proven hard to get, to this day. Yet, because the government abuse was presented as justified, and was delivered with shock and awe, it succeeded as a practice run for Any City, USA. The thousands of innocent citizens in Boston who had their rights abused were also faceless and unsympathetic. Apparently, no puppies or kittens were harmed during the collective violation of their owners. Contrast this to what the feds did and intended to do to the Bundy family and their cows and calves. Property lines mattered, the victims had faces, children and traditions, and innocent mothers, children and cattle were caught in the threatened crossfire. The turtle situation also mattered, as news about how the government really treats endangered species boiled and bubbled across the Internet. The favor-trading and rent-seeking of state and federal politicians and their financiers were also exposed. The facts conspired to reveal the face of evil in the bland spineless government officials, in steely-eyed government snipers targeting unarmed Americans should they step out of line, in jackbooted government thugs and their machines itching for total dominance.

Simplicity is not 100% necessary in a spontaneous revolution, or any other kind. The Bundy case is not legally simple, and it has been over twenty years in the making. One could easily make the case, as the feds clearly rationalized, that the Bundys’ knew this was coming, they had to pay the demanded fines, and that public land is for public, re: “governmental” uses, as defined by whatever appropriate bureaucrat is in charge this decade, often as directed by bought-and-paid-for Senators and Congressmen. Given how much of Nevada is already considered federal property, it wouldn’t have been unreasonable to expect that average Americans would agree with the government position. Perhaps they did – but the tireless and fed up minority not only did not agree, because of the location, information and empathy, they showed up, like mushrooms after a spring rain, it must have seemed. Mechanistic calculations failed the bureaucrats, and a certain spirit of shared spontaneous sacrifice of brothers and sisters prevailed. Putting aside their own lives for the moment, and standing together, without violence but with an unusual and praiseworthy commitment to justice – this little army accomplished a great thing. Was it just property rights defense, or a simple reaction to an ugly power grab by a bristling state security apparatus? Or was this fight many things to many people, all arriving at the same place and frame of mind from various religious, constitutional, political, economic and cultural perspectives and interpretations?

Location, broad access to real-time information, a humble sympathetic spark illuminating a multifaceted and even complex problem of justice – these four ingredients seemed present in Bunkerville. Like the similar sounding Battle of Bunker Hill, the first battle of Bunkerville also illustrates that a weaker and inexperienced group opposed to tyranny can prevail against (or deliver a Pyrrhic victory to) the well-armed existent power structure. The BLM drawback will be publicly presented as a “good government” victory. In fact the federales and the politicians are already busy with their post-game analysis.

In their analysis, I believe they will determine that, 1) location matters (and hence must be carefully selected and controlled); 2) information is a domestic battleground and if messages cannot be managed, then technology and access should be; 3) empathy must be created and controlled (either for the government position, or for some government-controlled and friendly vector) and; 4) a more effective surveillance state, with better “mood” research, citizen tracking and list-keeping must be created, in order to prevent future “losses” such as at Bunkerville last week. Until we can shut down the printing presses at the Fed, the incessant borrowing, and the outrageous taxation in this troubled country, we cannot stop the state from more carefully choosing and hiding their mistreatment of citizens and their property. We will be unable to reverse the pre-emptive criminalization of every person in the country that is the fundamental driving purpose of the surveillance state.

As with the British Army in 1775, the state’s institutions sow the seeds of their own destruction. Inflation, crushing debt, and rats leaving the sinking ship will conspire towards ultimate collapse. As Bunkerville publicly demonstrated, we the people can peaceably help this process along. The state will call it reform, transformation, or even rehabilitation, even as politicians begin to scramble to “lead” the leaders of this liberty and justice movement. The state will shrink, in influence at first, as we have seen, then in physical presence, cohesiveness, and consumption. We will call it victory, and tell our children instructive fables of evil statist monsters. God bless the Bundys and their friends, and all of us. It has started!

Reprinted with permission from LRC.


  • Karen Kwiatkowski

    Karen is an American activist and commentator. She is a retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel whose assignments included duties as a Pentagon desk officer and a variety of roles for the National Security Agency. Since retiring, she has become a noted critic of the U.S. government's involvement in Iraq.

    View all posts