FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Rationality of the Malheur Gunmen: Fighting for the White Future of This Country

by

The Malheur gunmen are not crazy. They act logically out of a long-standing rationality in the United States. And the future of the country hangs in the balance.

The right wing has made increasing noise about the federal government owning lands, particularly in western states like Nevada and Oregon where the feds own 85% and 53% respectively. The complainers argue that government ownership infringes on American free enterprise based on private property. But federal ownership is radically different than private ownership. The feds own this land mostly because its private ownership would be tremendously unprofitable. In other words, federal ownership is a huge subsidy to private interests making profits from these lands. Federal ownership makes private profit possible. The ranchers at the heart of the Malheur conflict, for instance, lease federal grazing lands for pennies on the dollar.

A major aspect of the violent seizing of Malheur, then, centers on the distribution model of these federal subsidies. Should they prioritize the interests of the large resource extraction multinationals? Or should they primarily serve the needs of the manifest destiny frontiersmen? Seen in this way, this is an old conflict at the racist heart of the United States. Poor white men could enjoy their God given right to property through dragging their families into the backwoods and pushing the frontier of the country, therein conditioning the land for eventual corporate exploitation. Communism for white men eventually led to socialism for corporations.

This conflict therein seems to lie between two right wing factions. Why doesn’t the right wing splinter under the pressure? The answer is that the less powerful faction is a well-paid – if not always well-heeled – creature of its much more powerful counterpart. Since the seventeenth century, resource allocation has occurred through white supremacist patriarchal structures, rewarding and reinforcing these cultural practices as the most rational way to succeed. The colonial planter class avoided insurrection while insuring a labor supply through granting small, though historically new, privileges to poor former indentured servants of European origin. The Southern aristocracy upped the ante in a bid to preserve their status during the Civil War. The federal granting of homestead rights to the white trash of the day mobilized this dynamic westward, diffusing post-war tensions by allowing rapacious speculators the lion’s share of spoils. These practices became canonized in law, with some of the more vile rulings eventually repealed – though without compensation for damage done – such as the notorious Dred Scot finding that “Neither Dred Scott nor any other person of African descent had any citizenship rights which were binding on white American society.” Yet some rulings still stand as the law of the land such as John Marshall’s so called Indian Opinions that found, among other things, that white possession of land by whatever means confers ownership.

In all these instances, white male citizenship depended upon the subordination of all other sectors of society. And the upper classes acquired a dedicated, culturally based police force to fight for an elitist structured society. The paradigm holds that white men must boldly fight for their unique entitlements not just as a personal battle for proprietary privileges, but as a patriotic struggle for the benefit of society, preserving the core form of organization that has brought us this far. They therein counter other claims based on distinct rationalities such as equality before the law, equality of opportunity, or scientific inquiry. White women must directly serve this cause, while darker hued folk enjoy the options of bondage, incarceration, or genocide.

This brings us to the armed taking of Malheur. As many others have pointed out, the upsurge in right wing militarism is associated with the relative decline in the fortunes of white men from their more entitled past – lower income, poorer job prospects, even deteriorating health. Rather than a petulant lashing out, however, these actions, while extreme, emerge from well-established and well-structured practices in this country. In other words, these militants are not irrational crazies. Their actions are highly rational. But they are based on a rationality of white male privilege driving the fortunes of the country.

The wellbeing of all but a tiny sector of society has deteriorated over the past forty years, generating diverse forms of discontent. Appeasing armed white men would prove a timeworn solution: empowering shock troops to make all other groups inured to their plight – or at least more afraid of trying to bring change. Indeed, these extremists may have a better chance at success than other groups operating out of different rationalities, such as fairness, equality, or even preserving capitalism. But any appeasement will strengthen the white supremacist rationalities of society. The solution to the Malheur gunmen and their various copycats rests in disempowering them by employing non-white supremacist rationalities to undo the past forty years of inequality and corporate impunity. This is actually not such a huge challenge, with signs of it all around us. Widespread cynicism about change, however, helps empower the status quo. The Malheur gunmen are doing something, are you?

Arthur Scarritt is an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at Boise State University. He is the author of Racial Spoils From Native Soils: How Neoliberalism Steals Indigenous Lands in Highland Peru.

More articles by:
June 27, 2016
Robin Hahnel
Brexit: Establishment Freak Out
James Bradley
Omar’s Motive
Gregory Wilpert – Michael Hudson
How Western Military Interventions Shaped the Brexit Vote
Leonard Peltier
41 Years Since Jumping Bull (But 500 Years of Trauma)
Rev. William Alberts
Orlando: the Latest Victim of Radicalizing American Imperialism
Patrick Cockburn
Brexiteers Have Much in Common With Arab Spring Protesters
Franklin Lamb
How 100 Syrians, 200 Russians and 11 Dogs Out-Witted ISIS and Saved Palmyra
John Grant
Omar Mateen: The Answers are All Around Us
Dean Baker
In the Wake of Brexit Will the EU Finally Turn Away From Austerity?
Ralph Nader
The IRS and the Self-Minimization of Congressman Jason Chaffetz
Johan Galtung
Goodbye UK, Goodbye Great Britain: What Next?
Martha Pskowski
Detained in Dilley: Deportation and Asylum in Texas
Binoy Kampmark
Headaches of Empire: Brexit’s Effect on the United States
Dave Lindorff
Honest Election System Needed to Defeat Ruling Elite
Louisa Willcox
Delisting Grizzly Bears to Save the Endangered Species Act?
Jason Holland
The Tragedy of Nothing
Jeffrey St. Clair
Revolution Reconsidered: a Fragment (Guest Starring Bernard Sanders in the Role of Robespierre)
Weekend Edition
June 24, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
A Blow for Peace and Democracy: Why the British Said No to Europe
Pepe Escobar
Goodbye to All That: Why the UK Left the EU
Michael Hudson
Revolts of the Debtors: From Socrates to Ibn Khaldun
Andrew Levine
Summer Spectaculars: Prelude to a Tea Party?
Kshama Sawant
Beyond Bernie: Still Not With Her
Mike Whitney
¡Basta Ya, Brussels! British Voters Reject EU Corporate Slavestate
Tariq Ali
Panic in the House: Brexit as Revolt Against the Political Establishment
Paul Street
Miranda, Obama, and Hamilton: an Orwellian Ménage à Trois for the Neoliberal Age
Ellen Brown
The War on Weed is Winding Down, But Will Monsanto Emerge the Winner?
Gary Leupp
Why God Created the Two-Party System
Conn Hallinan
Brexit Vote: a Very British Affair (But Spain May Rock the Continent)
Ruth Fowler
England, My England
Jeffrey St. Clair
Lines Written on the Occasion of Bernie Sanders’ Announcement of His Intention to Vote for Hillary Clinton
Norman Pollack
Fissures in World Capitalism: the British Vote
Paul Bentley
Mercenary Logic: 12 Dead in Kabul
Binoy Kampmark
Parting Is Such Sweet Joy: Brexit Prevails!
Elliot Sperber
Show Me Your Papers: Supreme Court Legalizes Arbitrary Searches
Jan Oberg
The Brexit Shock: Now It’s All Up in the Air
Nauman Sadiq
Brexit: a Victory for Britain’s Working Class
Brian Cloughley
Murder by Drone: Killing Taxi Drivers in the Name of Freedom
Ramzy Baroud
How Israel Uses Water as a Weapon of War
Brad Evans – Henry Giroux
The Violence of Forgetting
Ben Debney
Homophobia and the Conservative Victim Complex
Margaret Kimberley
The Orlando Massacre and US Foreign Policy
David Rosen
Americans Work Too Long for Too Little
Murray Dobbin
Do We Really Want a War With Russia?
Kathy Kelly
What’s at Stake
Louis Yako
I Have Nothing “Newsworthy” to Report this Week
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail