Placing the Militia Occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Harney County, Oregon
This intervention examines the recent militia take-over and occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Oregon. There is no consensus on how to place the group. Some commentators suggest the group is white supremacist. Others argue that it is animated by its members’ Mormon faith. Still others emphasize the group’s grievances with the Bureau of Land Management. I argue here that the Oregon militia’s politics cannot be understood with reference to one single identity position. I use recent work in geography on the role of white supremacy and settler colonialism as a jumping off point for this argument. While I agree that the logics of white settler colonialism are present in the Oregon standoff, I argue that we also need to focus on the anti-government rhetoric through which they are funneled and expressed. This rhetoric provides a veneer of legitimacy to the movement by obscuring the race and class based interests that underpin the movement’s goals. It also allows the movement’s ideas to have greater resonance in and reverberate across the political mainstream in these anti-government times.
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