Remember Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher who defied the American government a few months back and staged an “armed resistance” against the American Bureau of Land Management when they came to collect cattle trespassing on federally owned public land? If you remember, the 67 year rancher wasn’t alone in his “stand,” thanks to social media, legions of far right, government hating militia types with cool nicknames and homemade uniforms and lots and lots of guns (like, A LOT) flocked to his cause and were fully prepared to shoot it out with the handful of federal agents that came to gather Bundy’s trespassing cattle. You may remember hearing Richard Mack, head of the ranch security (and a former sheriff), sharing the strategy to put women and children in the front lines if shooting started, so the media could capture images of the feds killing the human shield Bundy’s troops were hiding behind (we were obviously dealing with some stand up guys here). Remember who Bundy’s biggest friend was in those days? None other then FOX News host Sean Hannity, who praised Bundy and his gang after they pointed guns at the feds, calling them “heroes” and “Patriots.” In those days, FOX gave Bundy so much positive press that they were practically his media sponsors, at least until Cliven shared his views on race relations in the United States and sent Sean and co. running the other way as fast as they could.

Well Sean and FOX have been in the news again, this time with their coverage of the Ferguson demonstrations that have been going on the past two weeks following the police shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown. And as you can imagine, Hannity and FOX (as well as the rest of the far-right American media and have-been celebrities no one cares about any more like Kevin Sorbo) have been extremely . . . critical of the protestors, calling them thugs and criminals and feral animals. They’ve defended the officer who shot Brown (up to nine times in a possible execution style after the teen may have raised his hands in surrender during what may have been a jay walking stop) and have enthusiastically participated in the media’s smear campaign of the victim. Hell, they’ve pretty much lead the charge on putting the slain Brown on trial for his own death (the subtext being that he had it coming). So how, you may ask, can a “news” organization defend a rancher pointing guns at federal agents who have come to make good on a 20 year old debt but reflexively condemn protesters furious over the death of an unarmed teenager? Simple. Cliven was white while Brown and the majority of the protesters are black, and FOX’s “fair and balanced” approach to news is very, how shall we say, colour sensitive.

Back in April, Cliven Bundy was notified by the BLM they were coming to collect cattle illegally grazing on public land in the latest chapter of a long, million dollar dispute between the feds and the disgruntled rancher (Bundy had refused to pay grazing fees for over twenty years despite numerous court orders he comply). What it boiled down to is that Bundy stubbornly refused to obey a law he disagreed with Bundy made very dubious claims that his family had settled in the area before the particular legislation went into effect, somehow making him immune to the law). When it looked like the feds meant business, Cliven sent the flag up the social media pole asking for help and no shortage of heavily armed “patriots” flocked to his side chomping at the bit to shoot themselves some civil servants and get their kids and wives shot up on the front lines. Cliven was a watered down version of Timothy McVeigh in a cowboy hat. And FOX loved him, because he was standing up to an American government (lead by a black Democrat) and pointing weapons at government agents made them giddy with delight.

If you haven’t head of Ferguson over the past few weeks, you’ve probably been in a cave. To recap, white police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown during what was “an impeding traffic” stop (Browne may have been a suspect in a cigar store robbery, but Ferguson Police have admitted that Wilson never knew of the alleged theft and the store owner claims he never even called the police to report the incident). Several eye witnesses (most of whom were never interviewed by investigators) claim that Brown was killed at a distance that could have been up to 35 feet, some claiming he was shot in the back and with his arms raised. Wilson claims that he and Brown struggled for his gun and he shot the teenager in self-defence, but the autopsy, revealing that Brown had been shot between six to nine times (including twice in the face and once in the top of the head) has cast some doubt on his claim (though does not conclusively prove it false, either). Brown’s body was left uncovered in the street for over four hours before being removed. Ferguson’s population is roughly 70% black and all but three members of its police force are white, and not only has the resulting weeks of protest and strife revealed the institutionalized racism that still governs police interaction in the United States, but also the Ferguson PD’s lengthy history of racism (in 2009, Henry Davis, who was later exonerated of the crime he was arrested for, was beaten by four officers while he was in custody-and handcuffs-and was later charged with destroying police property for bleeding on their uniforms while he was being beaten) and the growing problems of police militarization (during the initial protests, when there was some looting and violence, the police not only broke out their riot gear, but also their fully automatic weapons and APCs). Dozens of protesters, a handful of journalists and a ninety-year old Holocaust survivor have been arrested (and some allegedly assaulted) while some officers have been caught on tape pointing loaded assault weapons at unarmed citizens, threatening to kill protesters and journalists alike and making increasingly racist remarks. Some officers have some very nasty skeletons exposed from their closets (past brutality, far right wing memberships, etc.).

What it boils down to is FOX News called white ranchers who pointed their weapons at federal law enforcement officers doing their job and following the law “patriots,” while calling the mostly black, mostly peaceful protesters in Ferguson criminals and animals for protesting the killing of an unarmed teenager in a city with a long history of racially motivated violence and thinly veiled segregation. Hannity drew a heap of criticism for his condescending and uninformed interview with Democratic committee woman Patricia Bynes last week (which drew a priceless look from Bynes) and FOX show host Janine Pirro threw two lawyers disagreeing with her regarding Ferguson off her show. Fox has even continued to include debunked “evidence” as part of their talking points, such as the fictional injuries Wilson is said to have suffered (including a broken orbital bone, which was proven to be false about sixteen seconds after it hit the new-sphere). If you still aren’t convinced, ask yourself, what if the protesters in Ferguson decided to exercise their Second Amendment rights to bear arms while they protested, just like many of Bundy’s supporters? You already know the answer. “Fair and Balanced” apparently only applies when you have the right colour of skin.

Shayne Kempton


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