by Alex Storm @alexstormtmt
The media has been fairly quiet about the standoff in Oregon, where an armed militia is occupying the main building of a wildlife refuge. Most news sources report that several government agencies are involved and that the feds are urging patience. There are a few self-made videos circulating on alternative media sites that show members of the militia saying ‘goodbye for good’ to their friends and family. There are also a slew of sites reporting on the hilarious tweets (#Y’allQueda and #VanillaISIS) that came out after the militia asked its supporters to use the hashtag #OregonUnderAttack. What’s lacking though in all these news reports is the insane fear that’s typically generated with any public disturbance involving non-white people.
The standoff in Oregon is being handled differently, not only in the media, but also by the government agencies involved. The National Guard was called in to help manage the protests in Ferguson and Baltimore. A state of emergency was called in multiple states as a result of peaceful protests. The news media reported 24/7 on the unrest as citizens protested against police brutality and injustice. People across the country were glued to their TVs, watching and waiting for something bad to happen among the hundreds of unarmed protesters walking with their hands up in Ferguson, Los Angeles, Denver, Chicago, New York, and many other cities.
Meanwhile, a large group of white men with guns took over a building, and it seems that the only people who are afraid are the citizens of the nearby town. They closed all of their schools out of fear for their children’s safety, but all the media is reporting on is what the group wants, their history, how they are getting their basic needs met, and how they’re staying warm. They are not reporting on them as dangerous civilians who are looking for trouble.
People who protested against police brutality and injustice across the United States in 2015 were almost entirely unarmed, because they knew they would be confronted by police armed with tear gas, tasers, tanks, body armor, batons, and guns. Those protesters were well aware of the danger they were placing themselves in so that they could have a voice against injustice, and despite their peaceful protests, they were still treated as a massive threat by the news media and the authorities.
Besides a lack of weapons, there are several other marked differences between those protesters and the armed men who occupied this building in Oregon. The obvious difference is that the militia in Oregon is composed of white, landowning men, which means that they are automatically approached with respect. Remember that time in American history where only white, landowning men could vote? Another huge difference is that they are staging their siege in a rural area. They are surrounded by people who know them, even if they are not sympathetic to their cause. The militiamen know the chief of police and are asking for his support. This is very different than the police who herd protesters in cities, and who are set up as diametrically opposed to them, when in fact they could guarantee more peaceful protests by working together.
Finally, the media is not focused on the fact that these men are armed and have sieged a building. They are focused on what the men want and why. There was steady frustration expressed from many of the protest movements in the past year, because the media focused on the protesters, rather than their causes. A quick comparison of the headlines from this action, compared with those from all the other protests of 2015 shows a stark difference. The headlines of articles about the protests of 2015 use frightening, threatening language, while those about the Oregon protest use words like patience, peaceful, and listen.
The media is handling the siege in Oregon as if the men who are taking a stand for their rights are reasonable, patriotic, and respectable. The people who stood up for their rights in cities should have been treated the same way by the media and government authorities. Compared to an armed militia occupying a building, a few hundred unarmed folks who walked with signs and sang songs should most certainly have looked harmless and have been given an equal, if not louder, voice.