Wednesday, January 27, 2016
The Oregon standoff: Let's not jump to conclusions
Sadly, the activist occupation of a wildlife refuge in Oregon turned deadly last night, with one of the occupiers killed and one injured during a law enforcement traffic stop that resulted in the arrest of the leaders of the group. Of course, there were immediate claims from 'eye-witnesses' that the authorities had 'murdered' the dead man by shooting him while his hands were up and he was trying to surrender. Unfortunately, those 'eye-witnesses' were themselves members or supporters of the activist group. That automatically means that their comments alone, unsupported by any hard evidence, cannot be accepted prima facie as unbiased or objective. They may be true; they may not. We simply don't know for sure.
Inevitably, in high-profile, high-pressure, emotionally charged situations like this, there will be attempts made to manipulate facts, events and perceptions. This is true of both sides. The 'official' line will be that they acted against 'lawbreakers' and 'scofflaws'. The activist line is that they acted against 'jackbooted thugs' or 'unconstitutional overreach by government', or something of the kind. Both sides' declarations must be taken with a substantial pinch of salt. After the events at Ruby Ridge and Waco, one certainly can't unreservedly accept the Federal government's explanations without solid confirmatory evidence (such as, for example, that provided by dash or body cameras); and given that the Hammond family in Oregon have publicly stated that they did not ask the activists to become involved in their case, and the latter do not speak for them, we certainly can't accept the activists' perspective as Gospel truth either. As far as the principals of the original problem are concerned, they're unwanted intruders, seeking to turn an unrelated matter into publicity for their cause.
At this time, we simply don't know the truth of what happened last night. Until we do - and until confirmatory evidence is available, one way or the other - it's important not to overreact. Rushing to judgment will serve only to inflame the situation.