Thanks, Guys

by J.D. Tuccille

Hypocrites they may be, nutty too, and doomed in the end -- that’s all true of the Freemen. With their unique reading of common law, aspirations towards central-bank-on-an-acre status, and willingness to criticize the government while accepting federal handouts they hand pro-government apologists a handy target and make it easy for lazy journalists to paint anybody concerned by government excess with the brush of cranky conspiracy theorists. But there is one great service that the Freemen have provided during the roughly two-months-and-counting siege of their Montana ranch: They’ve kept 100-odd FBI agents out of mischief.

Of course, it’s not a service that the Freemen meant to offer, and many of the beneficiaries are folks who occupy a less than sterling place in the Freemen’s world view. But intentional or not, the 100 FBI agents enjoying the fresh air and beauty of rural Montana have been denied the opportunity to persecute minorities, lure recovering addicts out of drug rehab for the sake of an easy arrest, or raid the studios of renowned photographers in a futile search for kiddy porn. They haven’t set-up any big city mayors, or rousted a single member of an unpopular religious sect, or even lobbied for even more intrusive wiretap powers than they currently possess. They haven’t committed any of the nasty, unsavory, and downright murderous acts documented by James Bovard in his excellent book Lost Rights. Barely perceptibly, the United States has become a slightly easier place to live since the Freemen decided to hole-up on their ranch and the FBI threw up their tents and barbecues to wait 'em out.

Of course, the FBI is not the worst agency that D.C. -- let alone government in general -- has to offer in the States. The BATF, the DEA, the Border Patrol, and the police departments of Los Angeles, New Orleans, Boston, and New York City all have a stronger propensity for entrapping, framing, assaulting, murdering, and ruining the days of people they just don’t like. The New Orleans Police Department, in particular, has obviously been sending its officers for training at the General Pinochet School of Third World Police Work. And they’ve been taking their lessons to heart. But let’s give the folks at the FBI all due credit -- when they step over the line, they do so in the most professional manner possible. No back-alley kidney massage for the Bureau, nope, these are the guys who spied on Martin Luther King, infiltrated sandal-and-bead-clad peace-in-Central-America groups, and took out Vicki Weaver and the Branch Davidians in technicolor. Headline material all.

So, quite despite themselves, the Freemen have finally done something of value. Bad checks, bad legal theory, and all-around bad neighbor policy aside, they’ve preoccupied a bunch of gung-ho Bureau boys and kept them camped out in low-stress surroundings that just might mellow 'em a little when the agents decide that they’ve had just about enough of Montana’s western-style hospitality. At least, let’s hope the federal boys get mellowed out by their stay in Big Sky country, 'cuz the bodies tend to start piling up when the feds get itchy.

But even if J. Edgar’s heirs lose patience tomorrow, we'll still have benefitted from two months of relative calm. So to the Freeman I can honestly say: Guys, you’re nuts -- don't ever come around my neighborhood. But thanks.

Ah well, and so much for the power of argument. So back you go to Full Automatic or to my home page.

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