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The Patriot Militia Movement Is United Only by Distrust of Feds

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By Hollee S. Temple and John Temple for The Conversation

The so-called patriot movement is grabbing headlines once again, as its members pledge to protect Trump supporters at the president’s campaign rallies across the country.

For the past three years, we have studied the rise of the patriots while reporting, writing and editing a nonfiction book, “Up In Arms: How the Bundy Family Hijacked Public Lands, Outfoxed the Federal Government and Ignited America’s Patriot Militia Movement .”

The Oath Keepers issued an alert for volunteers to patrol a Trump rally in Minneapolis. The patriot movement is a fragmented and fractious coalition of groups that distrust the federal government. Members believe the government is impeding their “ land rights, gun rights, freedom of speech and other liberties.”

As the book took shape and we talked about our reporting with friends and colleagues, most were dismissive of the people at the center of the story: Cliven and Ammon Bundy.

The Bundys are Mormon ranchers who became the movement’s guiding lights after the 2014 standoff at Bundy Ranch and 2016 occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Our friends and colleagues saw the Bundys and their supporters as “racist nut jobs” and nothing more.

As reporter Kevin Sullivan wrote in a 2016 story for the Washington Post, law enforcement agrees with this assessment, calling the patriots “dangerous, delusional and sometimes violent.”

While these descriptors certainly fit individual patriots, our take on the movement is less black and white. Here’s what we learned:

1. The so-called “patriot movement,” also known as the “patriot militia movement,” isn’t really a movement and is not made up entirely of militia members.

While movements are usually associated with a specific ideology or shared purpose, that’s not quite the case with the patriots. They are motivated by a varied and sometimes conflicting array of issues. Many focus on gun rights and immigration; others get riled up about privacy, taxes or government overreach. They disagree often and are united only by a general resentment of the federal government.

Even the patriots’ chosen name reflects the disjointed nature of their union. Because some anti-government groups were (and continue to be) associated with racist and anti-Semitic causes or violence, leaders adopted the “patriot” name for public relations purposes in the 1990s.

And many who identify as patriots support but do not officially belong to militias, which are organized paramilitary groups that believe they are the last line of defense against an overreaching federal government.

2. Each group has its own agenda, but they are united by a fear of environmental regulation.

The Bundys love to remind anyone who will listen that almost half of the landmass of the western states is controlled by the federal government.

The patriots have created a corresponding master theory about what they see as an unconstitutional land grab: A small group of global, ultra-wealthy people is purposely implementing environmental regulations and gun laws to make it impossible for rural Americans to earn a living or fight back.

Patriots believe those elites want the land, the gold, the oil and the coal for themselves.

In June, Oregon Republican lawmakers fled the State Capitol so there wouldn’t be the quorum needed to vote on a climate change bill that would have forced companies to adopt technologies to reduce overall pollution.

The legislation was extremely unpopular with rural voters and patriot militia groups who said they were guarding multiple senators who had holed up in Idaho. The Oregon State Capitol shut down amid fears that militia groups would cause chaos.

Cliven Bundy himself first clashed with the federal government in the early 1990s, when federal land agencies instituted new environmental regulations that would have made it financially impossible for him to continue ranching.

Cliven Bundy, before giving the keynote address to the state convention of the Independent American Party of Nevada, Feb. 23, 2018, in Sparks, Nevada. AP/Scott Sonner

Almost all of the other ranchers in his area sold their operations, but Cliven took another tack: He quit paying grazing fees to the federal government and declared that the feds shouldn’t own land in the first place. This set up the clash, two decades later, that made him a leader in the patriot movement.

3. Some groups are stubbornly bigoted, but others hate to be seen as racist.

Patriot groups tend to be nearly all white and mostly male, with at least one notable exception. We encountered only a handful of people of color during our reporting of “Up In Arms.” We also met many patriots who wished their organizations were more diverse, if only to better counter the perception of widespread racism in their ranks.

This is especially true for the Bundys. Weeks after the 2014 standoff, Cliven gave an infamous speech to his supporters about “the Negro,” suggesting that African Americans might have been better off under slavery. Politicians and media figures who formerly supported Bundy backed away en masse. 

A video of Cliven’s speech shows an old man who, however offensively, appears to be trying to embrace minority communities and bring them into the anti-federal government fold.

Some patriots have renounced racism and anti-Semitism, seeing those as drags on their more-popular pro-gun and anti-federal government messages. That said, we witnessed an uptick in anti-Muslim and anti-Latino online activity among individual patriots, especially after Trump’s election.

4. Patriots are not all Trump supporters.

A few months after Trump took office, we witnessed an argument at a patriot gathering over one man unfurling a Trump flag. No matter how much Trump seemed to share the patriots’ loathing of the federal government, he was now that government’s leader, and certain purists couldn’t abide it.

The Bundys have a complex relationship with Trump. In 2014, when he was still a developer and reality TV star, Trump announced his allegiance with what Fox News had labeled “Team Cliven Bundy.”

“I like (Cliven’s) spirit, his spunk,” Trump said on Sean Hannity’s show, “and I like the people that – you know, they’re so loyal…”

But during the 2016 campaign, Cliven, a devout Mormon, was disturbed by political advertisements that showed Trump speaking crudely about women and seemingly mocking a disabled reporter.

On the other hand, Trump supported the Second Amendment and exhibited disdain for the federal government. In November 2016, the Bundy Ranch blog posted a somewhat oblique Trump endorsement, a picture of Cliven on horseback hoisting the Stars and Stripes under the superimposed words: “Blow your ‘Trumpence!’ VOTE! VOTE! VOTE!”

But two years later, Cliven’s son, Ammon, surprised many when he disavowed Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric.

Complex makeup

As the patriot movement returns to the public eye, it is important to understand that its members’ political views – including a profound distrust of government and environmental regulations – have a long history in the U.S.

Further, those views are not monolithic. Many of their ideas are from the fringe of political debate. But during the time we spent talking to patriots, we found that, despite public perceptions, few appeared to be mentally ill or outwardly racist. Instead, their grievances and principles stem from a range of motivations, personal circumstances and political philosophies.

The Conversation publishes knowledge-based journalism that is responsible, ethical and supported by evidence from academics and researchers in order to inform public debate with facts, clarity and insight into society’s biggest problems.

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Environment

Changes Brought On by Coronavirus May Help Tackle Climate Change

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Photo by DESIGNECOLOGIST

by Glen Peters for The Conversation

Stock markets around the world had some of their worst performance in decades this past week, well surpassing that of the global financial crisis in 2008. Restrictions in the free movement of people is disrupting economic activity across the world as measures to control the coronavirus roll out.

There is a strong link between economic activity and global carbon dioxide emissions, due to the dominance of fossil fuel sources of energy. This coupling suggests we might be in for an unexpected surprise due to the coronavirus pandemic: a slowdown of carbon dioxide emissions due to reduced energy consumption.

Based on new projections for economic growth in 2020, we suggest the impact of the coronavirus might significantly curb global emissions.

The effect is likely to be less pronounced than during the global financial crisis (GFC). And emissions declines in response to past economic crises suggest a rapid recovery of emissions when the pandemic is over.

But prudent spending of economic stimulus measures, and a permanent adoption of new work behaviours, could influence how emissions evolve in future.

Global fossil CO2 emissions (vertical axis) have grown together with economic activity (horizontal axis) over extended periods of time. Glen Peters/CICERO

The world in crisis

In just a few short months, millions of people have been put into quarantine and regions locked down to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Around the world events are being cancelled and travel plans dropped. A growing number of universities, schools and workplaces have closed and some workers are choosing to work from home if they can.

Even the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has cancelled a critically important meeting and will instead hold it virtually.

The International Energy Agency had already predicted oil use would drop in 2020, and this was before an oil price war emerged between Saudi Arabia and Russia.

The unprecedented coronavirus lockdown in China led to an estimated 25% reduction in energy use and emissions over a two-week period compared to previous years (mostly due to a drop in electricity use, industrial production and transport). This is enough to shave one percentage point growth off China’s emissions in 2020. Reductions are also being observed in Italy, and are likely to spread across Europe as lockdowns become more widespread.

The emission-intensive airline industry, covering 2.6% of global carbon dioxide emissions (both national and international), is in freefall. It may take months, if not years, for people to return to air travel given that coronavirus may linger for several seasons.

Given these economic upheavals, it is becoming increasingly likely that global carbon dioxide emissions will drop in 2020.

Global air travel is down significantly as a result of the pandemic. Andy Rain/EPA

Coronavirus is not the GFC

Leading authorities have revised down economic forecasts as a result of the pandemic, but so far forecasts still indicate the global economy will grow in 2020. For example, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) downgraded estimates of global growth in 2020 from 3% (made in November 2019) to 2.4% (made in March 2020). The International Monetary Fund has indicated similar declines, with an update due next month.

Assuming the carbon efficiency of the global economy improves in line with the 10-year average of 2.5% per year, the OECD’s post-coronavirus growth projection implies carbon dioxide emissions may decline 0.3% in 2020 (including a leap year adjustment).

But the GFC experience indicates that the carbon efficiency of the global economy may improve much more slowly during a crisis. If this happens in 2020 because of the coronavirus, carbon dioxide emissions still could grow.

A decomposition of CO2 emissions growth into economic growth (orange) and carbon efficiency improvements (green) to estimate future emissions based on OECD economic growth projections. Glen Peters/CICERO

Under the worst-case OECD forecast the global economy in 2020 could grow as little as 1.5%. All else equal, we calculate this would lead to a 1.2% decline in carbon dioxide emissions in 2020.

This drop is comparable to the GFC, which in 2009 led to a 0.1% drop in global GDP and a 1.2% drop in emissions. So far, neither the OECD or International Monetary Fund have suggested coronavirus will take global GDP into the red.

The emissions rebound

The GFC prompted big, swift stimulus packages from governments around the world, leading to a 5.1% rebound in global emissions in 2010, well above the long-term average.

Previous financial shocks, such as the collapse of the former Soviet Union or the 1970s and 1980s oil crises, also had periods with lower or negative growth, but growth soon returned. At best, a financial crisis delays emissions growth a few years. Structural changes may happen, such as the shift to nuclear energy after the oil crises, but evidence suggests emissions continue to grow.

Global fossil CO2 emissions (in Gigatons or billions of tonnes of CO2) and carbon intensity of world Gross Domestic Product (grams of CO2 per $US, 2000), with the most important financial crises. Global Carbon Project

The economic legacy of the coronavirus might also be very different to the GFC. It looks more like a slow burner, with a drop in productivity over an extended period rather than widespread job losses in the short term.

Looking to the future

The coronavirus pandemic will not turn around the long-term upward trend in global emissions. But governments around the world are announcing economic stimulus measures, and they way they’re spent may affect how emissions evolve in future.

There is an opportunity to invest the stimulus money in structural changes leading to reduced emissions after economic growth returns, such as further development of clean technologies.

Fewer people are expected to use public transport during the coronavirus outbreak. Steven Saphore/AAP

Also, the coronavirus has forced new working-from-home habits that limit commuting, and a broader adoption of online meetings to reduce the need for long-haul business flights. This raises the prospect of long-term emissions reductions should these new work behaviours persist beyond the current global emergency.

The coronavirus is, of course, an international crisis, and a personal tragedy for those who have lost, and will lose, loved ones. But with good planning, 2020 could be the year that global emissions peak (though the same was said after the GFC).

That said, past economic shocks might not be a great analogue for the coronavirus pandemic, which is unprecedented in modern human history and has a long way to go.


Glen Peters is Research Director, Center for International Climate and Environment Research – Oslo.

The Conversation publishes knowledge-based journalism that is responsible, ethical and supported by evidence from academics and researchers in order to inform public debate with facts, clarity and insight into society’s biggest problems.

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Community

WeHo Annual Arbor Day Celebration Plummer Park – Mar 21

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WEST HOLLYWOOD — The City of West Hollywood invites community members to join staff and City Councilmembers for a tree planting ceremony in Plummer Park as part of the annual Arbor Day celebration.

Arbor Day is a special day that is set aside throughout the world to raise awareness of trees and the important role that they play in our environment.

People throughout the world take part in tree planting events and other celebrations of trees and the role that they play in our environment.

The first American Arbor Day was originated in Nebraska City, Nebraska by J. Sterling Morton. On April 10, 1872, an estimated one million trees were planted in Nebraska.

Saturday, March 21, 2020 at 9 a.m. at the Parkway on N. Vista Street on the West Side of Plummer Park, located at 7377 Santa Monica Boulevard.

For more information, please contact Debbie Gonzalez at (323) 848-3116 or dgonzalez@weho.org.

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Environment

House Passes Schiff’s Rim of the Valley Corridor Preservation Act

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WASHINGTON D.C. – Rep. Adam Schiff has applauded the bipartisan passage of The Rim of the Valley Corridor Preservation Act, which would add more than 191,000 acres of the Rim of the Valley Corridor to the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA). The bill passed the House on a bipartisan basis with 231 Yeas and 183 Nays

Schiff first introduced this legislation in 2017, and Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris introduced companion legislation in the Senate. It recently passed out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on a bipartisan basis.

To view a map of the proposed expansion under the Rim of the Valley Corridor Preservation Act, click here

“I am thrilled that the House of Representatives has passed the Rim of the Valley Corridor Preservation Act, legislation I have championed for nearly 20 years,” Congressman Schiff said. “Preservation of the open space in our communities is not only good for our environment, wildlife, and ecosystems, but it is beneficial for the health and well-being of residents of all ages. The Rim of the Valley corridor is an area of striking and breathtaking natural beauty, and we must do whatever we can to preserve that beauty for the benefit of LA residents, the millions each year who visit, and for generations to come.”

“Today’s vote in the House is a win for the Rim of the Valley Corridor and the millions of Los Angeles County residents living in the surrounding communities,” said Senator Feinstein. “Preserving this unspoiled terrain will protect sensitive habitat for California wildlife and open space to benefit local economies. I am glad that Congressman Schiff was able to pass it in the House and look forward to doing the same here in the Senate, where it has already advanced out of committee.”

“The Rim of the Valley corridor is home to some of Southern California’s most beautiful wildlife and landscapes,” said Senator Harris. “That is why we must take immediate steps to protect this area’s habitats and natural resources. I am grateful to Congressman Schiff for his leadership on this issue and I applaud the House of Representatives for prioritizing the preservation of this area so it can be enjoyed by future generations. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate to get this bill across the finish line.”

The proposed expansion is based on a six-year study of the region completed by the National Park Service in 2015. This legislation would expand the SMMNRA to include many, but not all, of the land included in the study. The lands included within the expansion will be known as the Rim of the Valley Unit and stretches from the Simi Hills and Santa Susanas to the Verdugos and on to the San Gabriel Mountains. The bill will enable NPS and the local community to better protect natural resources and habitats, and provide members of the community with improved access to nature for recreational and educational purposes.

To view the fact sheet about the legislation, click here.

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