20 Years After Ruby Ridge, Newspapers and Hatewatch Groups Can't Quite Bring Themselves to Fully Describe the Government Screw-Up

As Jesse Walker noted earlier, it's been two decades since the standoff at Ruby Ridge, Idaho; that snowballing disaster that stemmed from what was supposed to be a minor weapons charge against Randy Weaver.

Twenty years after FBI sniper Lon Horiuchi shot her mother in the head in front of her, eldest Weaver daughter Sara is more at ease, greatly thanks to her born again Christianity. Getting over that loss, as well as the death of her little brother — shot by a U.S. marshal the day before her mother was killed —took her many years, but she seems to be at peace.

After reading various optimistic news reports on Sara's progress, it's frustrating, though not surprising, that the usual anti-anti-government suspects quoted in these articles about Ruby Ridge are so unwilling to admit to the level of negligence involved in the FBI's dealing with one little family. Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which is currently ironically defending itsself against charges that its description of the Family Research Council as a hate group is what inspired alleged shooter Floyd Lee Corkins II to wound a security guard there last week, is quoted in several stories on the anniversary. In one,  Potok declares that "Ruby Ridge was the opening shot of a new era of anti-government hatred not seen since the Civil War" which is a bit offensive, to spin a tragedy where people died into a mere sign-post for the rise of '90s boogie-men militia groups. But that is what happened to both Ruby Ridge and Waco, which is certainly another thing on which to (greatly) blame Timothy McVeigh. Sara Weaver says she was, and continues to be, horrified that McVeigh used her family's tragedy, and that of the Branch Davidians, to justify killing 165 people. That's bad enough, but in so many mentions of the tragedy, it feels like McVeigh's actions completely drowned out the injustices that inspired them. Now, to be angry about Waco and Ruby Ridge is to be painted with the SPLC and the Anti-Defamation League and other hatewatch groups' broad brushes.

This Spokesman-Review editorial notes that law enforcement overreaction helped cause the tragedy at Ruby Ridge, and Waco, eventually leading to McVeigh's attempted "revenge" at Oklahoma City. Yet, is it intellectually honest to describe the matriarch of the family as dying in "a second burst of gunfire" when, if not certain about all the details, we're quite certain that FBI sniper Horiuchi shot Vicky Weaver in the head while she held her youngest child? Why detail the family and Northern Idaho's unpleasant ties with racist groups, but wave over the details of who died and exactly how? This vagueness is not uncommon when talking about both Waco and Ruby Ridge, but it's frustrating every time, especially when contrasted with the societal obsession towards remembering soldiers and cops who died in the line of duty. 

Still, the most jaw-droopingly clunky summary of The Meaning Of All This comes from Daryl Johnson, author of a forthcoming book about right wing threats, with a forward by the SPLC's Potok. Johnson is currently in private terrorism consulting, but he used to do a similar job for the FBI and the ATF. And either their rhetoric really rubbed off on him, or the author of this Idaho Spokesman-Review piece forgot that the key to writing is not to use the same word over and over again. The word chosen by both, unsurprisingly, was "extremist." And Reason readers will be pleased to know that not only is being peeved about Ruby Ridge the sign of such radicalism— so is worrying over:

what some describe as a militarization of law enforcement at all levels, including federal agencies.

“For American extremists, the siege at Ruby Ridge symbolizes the ‘militarized police state,’” said [Johnson].

Johnson is the author of a soon-to-be released book, “Right Wing Resurgence,” that addresses how, in his opinion, domestic extremist threats aren’t being taken seriously enough at the highest levels in the U.S. government. He owns a private consulting firm, DT Analytics, that monitors domestic extremist activity and provides specialized training to law enforcement.

The U.S. government, through its Department of Homeland Security in particular, Johnson said, “has unintentionally fostered, and even solidified, Orwellian conspiracies concerning an overzealous, oppressive federal government and its perceived willingness to kill to ensure citizen compliance.”

“In the minds of modern-day extremists, (Homeland Security) has enhanced the lethal capability of many underfunded, small-town police forces through its grant programs,” Johnson said.

Using federal grants, state and local law enforcement agencies have been able to buy expensive equipment and training that are “commonly associated with the military,” he said.

“Extremists view such a security buildup as a continuation of the Ruby Ridge legacy,” Johnson said.

That legacy is a continuing drumbeat for extremists and white supremacists who recruit with the message of “big government versus the little guy” and “the government set me up,” Johnson said.

These extremist ideas continue as messages and even recruiting themes among various radical groups in the United States, he said.

Reason covered Ruby Ridge way back in the day. We're also the sorts of extremists who heavily cover the militarization of police, entirely free of scare quotes.

By the way, for my money, the best summation of Ruby Ridge is still Jess Walter's Ruby Ridge: The Truth and Tragedy of the Randy Weaver Family. No punches are pulled when it comes to the family's racist inclinations, but more importantly, the government's criminal negligence and cover-up are described by Walter in excellent, damning detail.

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  • R C Dean||

    I must be one of them extremists, because everything Johnson says they believe strikes me as self-evidently true:

    (Homeland Security) has enhanced the lethal capability of many underfunded, small-town police forces through its grant programs

    security buildup as a continuation of the Ruby Ridge legacy

    the message of “big government versus the little guy” and “the government set me up,”

    an overzealous, oppressive federal government and its perceived willingness to kill to ensure citizen compliance.”

  • WTF||

    I agree; I'm finding it difficult to see what is wrong about any of those points.

  • sarcasmic||

    Simply using the term "self-evident" makes you an extremist.

    Next you'll be saying that we have "natural rights" or some other extreme right wing nonsense.

    Why do you hate the children?

  • Anomalous||

    I must be dangerous if I think there should be limits on government.

  • WTF||

    GAHHHH...you are not of The Body!

  • Pound. Head. On. Desk.||

    Landru! Landru! Guide us!

  • WTF||

    "O-ba-ma! O-ba-ma!"

  • Tman||

    "I think we have more machinery of government than is necessary, too many parasites living on the labor of the industrious."
    --Thomas Jefferson, violent Terrorist and noted Militant

  • Brutus||

    RC, are you implying that SWAT raids on suspected student loan fraudsters by Dept. of Education stormtroopers are somehow not justified?

  • Drake||

    I was skimming the article and assumed that it these were a list of facts.

  • LauraB||

    Thanks for the Ruby Ridge book recommendation. Do you know of one on Waco that you think is good?

  • Lucy Steigerwald||

    The below-mentioned documentary "Waco: The Rules of Engagement" is a must-see. Book-wise, I don't know of an all-around great study, really. Read lots of bits and pieces.

  • Brutus||

    I read "Every Knee Shall Bow," and it was pretty good. It's more narrative than scholarly, but a good read nonetheless.

  • Brutus||

    Oops, sorry, I thought you were looking for a RR book, not Waco.

  • Lucy Steigerwald||

    The book I mention at the end of my post is just the updated version of that! So that's the Ruby Ridge one to stick with, I think. Though Reason loyalties should make me stick to Alan Bock's, I never got 'round to it.

  • JD the elder||

    Dick Reavis's "The Ashes of Waco" is a pretty good one.

  • Paul.||

    Second that. That's is an excellent documentary.

  • Spoonman.||

    For American extremists, the siege at Ruby Ridge symbolizes the ‘militarized police state,’

    Maybe that's because the siege at Ruby Ridge exemplified the actions of a militarized police state.

    I like the quote of the alternate juror from the linked Reason article - Ruby Ridge is like hearing Santa isn't real. The authors Lucy cites are the kids who stuck their fingers in their ears and bawled "SANTA IS REAL SHUT UP SHUT UP!"

  • Paul.||

    Santa is far more real then the threat of a guy in a remote cabin espousing separation of the races to his TV in the middle of the night.

  • ||

    He owns a private consulting firm, DT Analytics, that monitors domestic extremist activity and provides specialized training to law enforcement.

    DING DING DING...follow the money.

    If you want to get really, really angry, watch Waco: The Rules of Engagement. Admittedly, it's biased, but if you don't want to see Chuck Schumer killed by a Gorn in some sort of arena after watching it, there's something wrong with you.

  • Lucy Steigerwald||

    "Rule of Engagement" IS biased and I don't know that I am sure of everything it presents, but it makes me doubt the real story even more than I might. It's the more credible version of the tinfoil hat wearers' "just asking questions!" refrain.

    And yes, I didn't actually know all the other reasons to loath Schumer, so my first experience with him is not the nanny state-loving media whore, but the self-righteous twerp who is baffled that anyone could suggest that the government did anything wrong at Waco.

  • ||

    As a former New Yorker, I had far too much exposure to the abject scum that is Schumer. And Elliot Spitzer, who I got to watch firsthand as he became the "sheriff of Wall Street". And as a CT native, I also got to see Dick Blumenthal, the blueblood version of Spitzer.

    There are a lot of absolute shitheads out there. We're kind of fucked.

  • ||

    EVERYBODY WHO KNOWS ANYTHING KNOWS FLASHBANGS CAN'T CAUSE FIRES

  • WTF||

    Except if they land on a sleeping child, who then needs to be shot to stop the screaming.

  • ||

    Fuck, dude.

  • Chloe||

    Well at least in that case the cop was charged with manslaughter

  • Paul.||

    Police Special Response Team acted out of line when they conducted a raid on the family home of Aiyana Jones, who was severely burned and then killed by an officer's bullet. She died Sunday.

    "This type of activity by a police force is unacceptable in America," Fieger said at a news conference in his office.

    Fieger... that fucking extremist.

  • Paul.||

    And wait, what is this passive voice shit being used by the CNN Wire staff?

    "Killed by an officer's bullet?"

    Isn't that like saying someone was killed by a neighbor's pitbull?

    "The bullet exited the officer's gun, flying dangerously through the air, the bullet entered the child's body, severely injuring her. She later died from lack of oxygen to the brain."

  • ||

    Relevant RAGEBONER footage.

  • Brutus||

    I wanted to see Schumer on the business end of a Gorn dagger before I watched W:TRoE.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Yes, Schumer deserves to be Gornholed.

  • WTF||

    "Ssstop resisssting, Schumerrr...I will be ssswift and merccccifulll....."

  • Brett L||

    Walker: Texas Ranger of Evil?

  • ||

    I am writing a book about how German-style lagers are underappreciated and why every beer geek should be drinking more of them. Coincidentally, I own a private consulting firm, ClubMedSux Fermentation Specialists, that provides guidance for start-up breweries looking to specialize in German-style lagers. Please quote me as an unbiased source as to why breweries and beer geeks who don't regularly brew or purchase lagers are a bunch of extremist idiots.

  • robc||

    Speaking of things that arent lagers, did you see my g+ post about the abomination of a brew I have going now?

    I have no idea what it is.

  • ||

    Belgian ginger farmhouse wheat.

  • Tamfang||

    I don't even like beer. I am a threat to the very fabric of reality.

  • Brutus||

    We're also the sorts of extremists who heavily cover the militarization of police, entirely free of scare quotes.

    See, this only proves that a raid by heavily-armed men on your "compound" (aka your home) will be entirely justifiable as you are clearly an extremist.

  • Chloe||

    I now have an image in my head of heavily armed feds storming into the Reason's office in DC.

  • Brutus||

    It's only a matter of time, really. Stand by for the official listing of Reason as a hate group by the SPLC, and gird your loins.

  • ||

    One of the reasons I liked REAMDE so much was that the crazy Idaho survivalists ended up being the heroes and defeating the terrorists. I chalk that up to my ingrained sympathy for the Weavers.

  • Brett L||

    Neal definitely has a soft-spot for crusty white folk who don't believe the gummint has their best interest at heart.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Potok declares that "Ruby Ridge was the opening shot of a new era of anti-government hatred not seen since the Civil War"

    Wrong. The Rebs weren't anti-government; they were anti-Republican, which is why they went off a formed their own government in fairly short order just a few miles from the capitol where the Republicans held power.

  • John Thacker||

    And also why they completely violated states' rights in North Carolina and elsewhere, and of course violated the rights of peaceable mountain folk that didn't want to be involved in their stupid war, like the Free State of Winston.

  • gritzly||

    LOL. Winston County. That place is weird. I get to travel there occasionally as part of my job.

  • Applederry||

    One of the most frustrating things to me about the Ruby Ridge aftermath is that neither the government nor its fellators will admit that the government acted precisely in a way that confirmed the family's anti-government beliefs, which subsequently sparked the militia movement they hate and fear so much into a firestorm.

    And the rules of engagement? I've never heard anyone come close to try and justify those (from those few people who actually try). The Men In Charge simply decided that the Weaver family needed to die. Vicki and Sam were murdered by the State. Full stop.

  • lightning||

    What is scary is that dislike of a person's views are still being used to take their life and their liberty. I truthfully could care less is the entire Weaver family were dressed in clan robes at the time the FBI showed up and owned 20 AR-15's. The first amendment specifically allows for not only the holding of various views, but the expression of them. As far as I know, you are also allowed to own as many firearms as you want as long as they are legal and you follow applicable state/federal law. As long as you don't steal my stuff, assault me, kill me, or make any other attempts at taking my liberty, you are free to be a loud mouth nut case. The fact that people are still being victimized by the government for their beliefs is more horrifying than a long gunman shooting up a theater. Why? Because those nut jobs are either caught or killed at that time. The government simply moves on the the next target unempeded. They have limitless time, money, and resources at their disposal to take your liberty. That is what makes them more dangerous.

  • Killazontherun||

    When one ventures forth to fight Potok's, take good care that you do not become a Potok in so doing.

  • Paul.||

    The largest injustice that followed the Waco raid was Clinton's refusal to accept Janet Reno's resignation.

  • Tejicano||

    Given that we inhabit an imperfect world I accept that there simply will be racists. So what better situation than for them to willingly take themselves out of society? For the fed to manufacture a reason to go up there and do anything about it just underlines the stupidity of the fed's intentions.

  • Thomas||

    "Johnson is the author of a soon-to-be released book, “Right Wing Resurgence,” that addresses how, in his opinion, domestic extremist threats aren’t being taken seriously enough at the highest levels in the U.S. government."

    He's right. We should've taken Ruby Ridge and Waco WAY more seriously. It's people like him who helped get rid of the Communist "extremists" in the Palmer Raids, the Mormon "extremists" in the Short Creek raid, and the homosexual "extremists" in the Stonewall raid. Thank you Daryl Johnson, those were all high points in American history that we should strive to repeat.

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