On Saturday a group of armed militants took control of the headquarters of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Burns, Oregon. The takeover followed a 30-mile march from Malheur in support of father and son Dwight and Steve Hammond, two ranchers who are serving additional jail time after being re-sentenced for arson on federal property back in early-and-mid-2000s.
Ammon Bundy, the son of notorious Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, is leading the occupation. Bundy has some very vocal followers online, especially on a Facebook page that purports to be the official page of the Bundy Ranch. However, a survey of blogs, forums, and Facebook pages associated with would-be militiamen and government resistance groups indicates that not everyone on the "militia internet" is thrilled with the actions Bundy and his followers are taking.
Stewart Rhodes, president of anti-government group Oath Keepers, preemptively condemned Bundy's plans ahead of the original protest. On Friday Rhodes wrote on the Oath Keepers website that "at the least, Ammon is sending out confusing and contradictory messages of what he is asking people to do, and at the worst, he is planning on going far beyond a mere protest, and intends some form of armed direct action," which would be in contradiction to what the Hammonds purportedly want. (Bundy insists in a video posted January 1 that he was in touch with the Hammonds).
Mike Vanderboegh, another big figure on the militia internet, is also skeptical of Bundy and the standoff. Vanderboegh is the founder of the "Three Percent Movement," which vehemently opposes new gun laws. In a post yesterday on "Sipsey Street Irregulars," his blog, Vanderboegh wrote the following:
Bundy and the others (including several people whom are widely suspected of being federal provocateurs) have indeed written a check that they expect the rest of us to cash in our own blood in a ghastly civil war. Yet we cannot allow the federal government to take advantage of this perfect propaganda opportunity that they have apparently spent such effort contriving and use deadly force on the occupiers without response.
Vanderboegh certainly considers the federal government the bigger threat, and also writes that "[w]e must get across to the Feds that if they do not end this peacefully, if they go for a dynamic raid that gets people killed, that they will start a national conflagration." However, he also thinks "that the government has an absolute duty to see that the situation ends without violence," and that people shouldn't "ANSWER THE SIREN CALL AND GO [to Malheur]" (emphasis his).
Meanwhile, on militia-related Facebook pages and forums, there are mixed feelings on the situation. A page called American Militia has been posting news items about the standoff and has received muted approval. The threepercenter.org forum had several threads on the topic, before consolidation into one thread. One poster there suggested "a militia counter-op take care of this before it gets out of hand" and another wrote that "It seems these guys are shit stirring," comparing the occupiers to the Bureau of Land Management.
There is also support, though. One member said "Whether you believe the group in question motives are justified an episode like this was going to happen."
In general, though, there's also a great deal of suspicion of Bundy and his group's occupation. One poster on threepercenter said that they hope the situation isn't "a FED Orchestrated 'Fly Trap' with infiltrating federal agents masquerading as freedom fighters."
Meanwhile, in Christian American Patriots Militia, a closed Facebook group with 12,072 members, several members were suspicious, with one commenting that "Inviting everyone leads to infiltration," referring to Bundy's invitation to come join his cause. Another man agreed: "Exactly."
Ethan Chiel is a reporter for Fusion, writing mostly about the internet and technology. You can (and should) email him at firstname.lastname@example.org