When a group of self-declared militiamen raided and seized the federal buildings on the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon, many on the left called for the federal government to immediately shut it down, even though the trespassers are well-armed and clearly eager to turn into martyrs for the incoherent right-wing cause they stand for.
So far, however, the government shows no interest in giving the militia the violent showdown they long for, instead seeming content to wait them out, secure in the knowledge that this particular bunch of idiots are not the hard asses they pretend to be and will likely get cold or bored and leave on their own soon enough, tails tucked neatly between their legs.
It turns out that this is the best possible decision federal authorities could have made. In fact, it's increasingly clear that this clown show is, if anything, a huge gift to liberals. Every day that these yahoos are out there, they expose how empty and stupid the myth of the "rugged individual" that the right so romanticizes really is. Instead, we get to see that these supposedly rugged individuals are, in reality, extremely silly people who are mostly there to play dress-up, engage in fantasies of self-importance, and beg the government to give them free money so they can get rich.
All liberals need to do to make the cause of Western "libertarianism" look stupid is to sit back and let these Oregon militiamen keep making fools of themselves.
The only big action that the militia has taken, besides doing a bunch of news conferences where they play at a being tough guys, is tearing down a fence put up to keep privately owned cattle from grazing on public lands. This action was meant to drive home their main demand, which is for the federal government to give ranchers across the West free land to graze cattle with.
It's hard to overstate how ridiculous and incoherent this demand is. These men are, to the last one, pretty hard-line conservatives, with ringleader Ammon Bundy being a registered Republican and Tea Party sympathizer. In other words, these are people who want to dismantle the social safety net and resent the federal government providing basic life necessities to people in need, such as food, shelter and healthcare.
But while they resent every bite of food going into a poor child's mouth, they are threatening a violent standoff on the grounds that the taxpayers should be feeding their cows for free. And let's be clear, this isn't a "cow rights" issue. They want the taxpayers to feed their cows, but rest assured, they plan to keep all the profits off selling the cows we fattened up for them. It's the equivalent of a car company asking the government to simply give them the steel for free to make cars.
Their ability to make themselves look bad isn't just limited to exposing the naked greed and entitlement underlying their demands. They're also reminding the public that they live in a fantasy world and their stunt is little more than an opportunity for a big game of Let's Play Pretend.
The game may have started by playing at being soldiers, but now it's morphed, as these childhood games often do. Now they're play-acting being a court of law.
Bruce Doucette, who has the best name ever for someone who is involved in this, is the owner of a computer shop in Denver. But he's declared himself a "U.S. Superior Court" judge, with a courtroom no doubt in Imaginary Land and a law degree from the law school of Narnia. He claims he'll be convening a secret "grand jury" to charge federal officials with a crime, and I'm sure that, with the authority vested in him by the Wizard of Oz, he'll come up with some fanciful charges.
If they keep at it, by next week they'll be running around with broken branches in their hands, claiming they are going to cast magic spells to curse President Obama and turn him into a kitty cat.
Unsurprisingly, such stable-minded individuals have also gotten into a bunch of interpersonal drama that helps drive home the point that these are deeply unserious people. The militiaman tasked with fundraising online, Joe Oshaugnessy, was accused by another militiaman, Cai Irvin, of using all the money to buy booze for himself. Oshaughnessy denies the charges, but admits that he's fighting with the people who are still inside the compound.
Unfortunately, not all the drama is as funny. People who live in the area, especially those who work at the refuge, are reporting that strange people are harassing them, according to the New York Times. Another group of outsiders, calling themselves Veterans on Patrol, showed up at the refuge, claiming they were there to rescue the women and children. But the people playing soldiers inside were not happy with the people pretending to be white knights outside, a scuffle broke out, and one of the self-appointed rescuers of the women and children (who are just family members of the militiamen) got punched in the face and had to go to the hospital.
Having these militiamen using government resources to play their game of pretending to be soldiers is costing a lot of money, and not just in the government property they've destroyed. Not only is the refuge closed, but so are area schools. The county has also had to beef up security, due to the harassment and abuse these armed idiots are dishing out to the locals. Between leave pay, security costs and lost tourist income, Think Progress estimates that the cost of these men's big game of playing pretend is more than $130,000 a day.
Not that it should be any surprise that the same men who think the taxpayers should make them rich by feeding their cows for free would turn around and make us foot the extremely expensive bill so they can pretend they are tough guys in the woods for a couple of weeks.
The good news is that they seem to be getting bored and have indicated that they're going to announce departure plans soon. While rushing the compound and running the risk of a shootout — especially with children around — is a bad idea, hopefully once they leave, the government will immediately arrest everyone involved. Playing revolutionary is fun, but if you disrupt people's lives and force the taxpayer to foot the bill for your silly game, you deserve to see the inside of a jail cell.