A group of armed men hostile to the federal government occupied a building at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Burns, Oregon, on Saturday night. The exact number of men is unclear: they claim to have over 100 on site; those on the scene believe it to be closer to 12. What is not in dispute is that these men are armed, and they will use force if necessary: One of the armed men, Ammon Bundy, told CNN “if force is used against us, we would defend ourselves.”
But, he added, “We are not terrorists.”
So far, the media is largely in agreement with Bundy – the men are armed, they are hostile to the federal government, they are willing to use force – yet the mainstream media has yet to use the word “terrorist.” The men have largely been termed “militiamen” (Reuters), “protesters” (the Washington Post), or “activists” (The New York Times) by prominent media outlets, not terrorists. And, despite the overt presence of weapons and threat of force, the occupation is often described as peaceful.
Peaceful protest in Oregon rancher arson case followed by building takeover at national wildlife refuge: https://t.co/nsIKxQlyIu
— The Associated Press (@AP) January 3, 2016
Law enforcement, too, is taking a cautious approach to the occupation. Officials have not tried to meet the occupiers’ demands or to close in on them. No effort is being made to prevent the occupiers from coming and going at will. This relatively lenient treatment by media and law enforcement has caused some on social media to ask: what if the armed men had been black or Muslim? Shortly after the occupation, writer Elon James White started the hashtag #OregonUnderAttack, to contrast the relatively non-alarmist media coverage to how he would expect media to react if the occupiers were not white. “The first hashtag was #OregonStandoff. I didn’t think that actually captured what was happening. If PoC (people of color) did this To read more, continue to the next page.