Oregon Protesters and ISIS Not in the Same Ballpark

The yokels in Oregon are not like ISIS. They are not the same. They are not similar. They are not in the same ballpark.

To assert otherwise is to misunderstand a potentially volatile form of political protest and to permit oneself to feel oh-so superior.

ISIS beheads men on camera, enslaves women, rapes boys, forces 12-year-old girls into marriage, and purges the countryside of Iraqi Christians, Shia Muslims, Kurds, and other so-called infidels.

These are crimes against humanity–and God.

The militiamen say they want to overthrow the government but they choose to do so in the middle of nowhere. They are armed, sure, but again–way out in the sticks. Taking control of an unoccupied wildlife refuge is not the same as taking control of a city occupied by tens of thousands of residents and businesses. Protesting the prison sentence of a couple of ranchers is not the same as proclaiming a religious state based on mass death.

As long as I am bothering to make clear distinctions–saying that yay-hoo cowboys are not the same as ISIS is also not the same thing as defending militias, state’s rights, anti-government paranoia, white privilege, or gun-loving machismo. Some of these are worth defending but I’m not doing that right now. What I am saying is that all of the issues, ideologies, and principles embraced by the militiaman, and projected onto them, are so far not the same as suicidal Sunni death-dealers. This should be obvious.

There is much to say about the media’s kid-gloved treatment of Bundy & Co. vis-a-vis its harsher treatment of Black Lives Matter and other battles for greater equality, freedom, and justice. There is much to say about law enforcement’s equally unequal approach to white men with guns. Both are fair game. But I don’t see much merit in comparing Americans, however repugnant their views and politics, to those who’d see America destroyed.

Indeed, I suspect much of this narrative is fueled by elite white liberals who have no experience with guns and who want to be seen attacking unsophisticated, under-educated rural white men who are oblivious to their own immense socio-economic privilege. OK, fine. More power to them.

But comparing them to ISIS, as I said, isn’t going to help anyone achieve greater liberty, equality or justice. What might help, however, is another kind of battle–the battle for the right of non-whites to mount their own forms of peaceful armed protest. That might strain even the most tolerant liberal.

John Stoehr

John Stoehr is a Washington Monthly contributing writer.