Ruby Ridge: How Would Today’s Right-Wing Pundits Respond?

When I first saw the video of the McKinney pool party incident, my first instinct was “OK, there is no way anyone is going to defend this guy. This is horrifying. It’s a 14 year-old girl at a pool party! There is not a person on earth who could look at this and not feel absolutely sickened.”

I’ll be the first to admit it, I was wrong.

From comments on our site and Facebook page, to people on Twitter, to conservative sites like Breitbart, to pundits on Fox News–it was more than clear that a lot of people on the Right believed Officer Eric Casebolt was in the right, that his actions were justified and that the 14 year-old girl, crying for her mother, deserved whatever she got because she failed to listen and obey.

The sentiment was similar to the sentiments regarding the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Freddie Grey, etc.. Over, and over, and over again “You have to do what these officers say, if they’d obeyed the law, they would be alive now. These officers were afraid for their lives. They did what they had to do.”

After reading all the disturbing commentary regarding the McKinney Pool Party incident, two words popped into my head. I’m surprised they hadn’t before.

Ruby Ridge.

I don’t know how familiar people now are with the incident at Ruby Ridge. Maybe they are because that, along with the Waco Siege, are often pointed to, by conservative pundits, as prime examples of “the government overstepping their bounds.” Both were tragedies that should not have happened the way they did.

Really, really long story, as short as I can make it: Back in 1992, Randy Weaver and his family moved up to Ruby Ridge in Northern Idaho in preparation for the Apocalypse– which his wife, the religious leader of their family, had predicted was imminent. He went to some militia and Aryan Nations meetings where he met a guy who ended up being an FBI informant, whom he later interacted with on a number of occasions. The ATF claimed that Weaver sold this informant some sawed-off shotguns.

Weaver was approached by the ATF and asked to become an informant himself, and when he refused, a warrant was issued for his arrest for the sale of the guns. Weaver claimed that he had sold the informant regular guns and that he had shortened them himself. He was later indicted for making and owning (not selling) of sawed-off shotguns.

Then, one day, Randy Weaver and his wife Vickie were arrested by ATF agents who were posing as stranded motorists, and a date was set for his trial. He refused to appear in court and a bench warrant was issued for his arrest. The buck was then passed to the U.S. Marshal’s Service.

A lot of things happened from there, and many, if not most of those things were handled improperly. Randy Weaver and his family holed up in their house on Ruby Ridge and refused to come down to appear for trial, the U.S. Marshal’s service showed up and surrounded Ruby Ridge demanding that the Weavers surrender, which they refused to do. A lot of bad shit went down, the rules of engagement were written to allow deadly force–as the agents had been informed that Weaver and his family were crazy and dangerous and holed up in there with a lot of guns, and in the process, Weaver’s wife Vickie and their 14 year-old son Sammy were shot and killed.

Now, I certainly have very little in common with the Weavers politically and religiously, as well as morally. I can still say that the way this was handled was wrong. I will absolutely agree with conservatives on that point. Those people should not have died, and law enforcement was wrong. I am capable of recognizing when wrong has been done to someone whom I disagree with. Understanding that something terrible happened to someone I disagree with doesn’t make my own convictions any less valid.

But, I really do have to wonder–do the conservative pundits of today still think that what happened at Ruby Ridge was a tragedy, or have they changed their minds? Because if people who disobey the law, and who disobey officers of the law, deserve whatever they get, then did the Weavers deserve what they got? Randy Weaver and his family broke the law. They refused to come down from that hill, he refused to attend his trial, and they all refused to listen to officers of the law. Sammy was 14, the same age as the girl in the McKinney video. If she is “responsible” for her actions in “disobeying” an officer of the law, then was he?

The officers involved in the siege, and the sniper who killed Vickie and Sammy Weaver were also “in fear for their lives.” They believed that the Weavers were dangerous, mentally unbalanced and hoarding weapons. Does this mean they did nothing wrong? Should the Weavers have not been allowed to successfully sue the government for wrongful death?

I really want to know. If they’d like to change their stance on this and now start suggesting that the Weavers deserved what they got, and that the sniper who shot Vickie and Sammy Weaver was a Real American Hero, then fine. But they don’t get to have it both ways. I mean, an FBI agent was also killed in the siege, by Kevin Harris who was hiding out with the Weavers. Perhaps small government enthusiasts should have been more harshly criticized for not attending his funeral.

For over 20 years, militia types and small government advocates have cited Ruby Ridge as their reason for not trusting the government. Is it so hard for them to understand why many black people, who have been the target of a lot more police misconduct for many more years, might also not be hugely trusting of law enforcement?

What about the people killed in the Waco siege? They broke the law and disobeyed law officers too. Did they deserve what they got? Would Cliven Bundy have deserved it if disobeying the law led to him being killed by police officers?

If none of this is a race thing, then why are right-wingers so sympathetic to the Weavers, and not to any of the unarmed black people who have been mistreated or killed by police officers? If none of this is a race thing, as they keep insisting despite all evidence to the contrary, then why is Cliven Bundy a hero for disobeying the law?

Sorry, but there is absolutely a double standard here. If you believe that someone disobeying a law officer–even if they haven’t actually done anything wrong–deserves whatever they get, no matter how brutal, and you insist it’s not a “race thing”–then you have to apply that same logic when it happens to people on your side too.