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Public Theology: Oregonian Reporter Glorifies a Mormon Extremist and Domestic Terrorist
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Oregonian Reporter Glorifies a Mormon Extremist and Domestic Terrorist
The libertarian editors of Portland's largest paper have published a poorly written puff piece about Lavoy Finicum who helped lead the Malheur Refuge take-over. Carli Brosseau should be embarrassed.

By Ed Knudson

The Oregonian, the largest paper in Oregon, is now run by people who claim to be "libertarian" in their political philosophy. This is the political viewpoint of most of the right-wing radio talk show hosts who talk all day about how terrible the federal government is. It is an "easy" viewpoint because it doesn't take much thought to simply attack everything government does. And it is a viewpoint which local businessmen like because they tend to dislike the rules governments force them to follow even if those rules protect the air and water and protect consumers from being defrauded or protect people from dying in fires and so forth. No, it is easy to hate the government if you don't think about things and what sort of life we want to share together in the community.

Libertarianism is so far from reality that the only way to sell it in the public context is to associate it with loose talk about abstract freedom, romantic sentimentalism, or nostalgia for some golden past cowboy age which never existed.

That is just what an Oregonian reporter has done. That reporter has written an obsequious front page article about Lavoy Finicum, the armed thug who was shot last week outside Burns, Oregon, where he had been a leader and spokesperson in the illegal take-over of an immensely popular and important federal wildlife refuge in the high desert area of the state. The reporter, Carli Brosseau, apparently wants to make sure the paper's editors know she agrees with their libertarian philosophy.

The article doesn't just talk about Finicum's funeral. It glorifies him. I couldn't believe it. As I read I was looking for some indication that this reporter knew what had gone on in Burns. But nowhere does Brosseau say what was really happening in Burns, that Finicum helped to terrorize and harrass the citizens of Burns and Harney County to the point that they were holding demonstrations and putting up billboards telling Finicum and his militia buddies to get the hell out of town.

I had gone to Burns myself early last week and interviewed people there including a local pastor. He told me the town felt under siege, that armed militia even stood at the sides of the entrance to the local Safeway store watching people enter and leave as if they were the actual legal power in town. As I went about town I saw lots of armed men wearing military-type outfits parading around with their guns pretending to be important. Did Ms. Brosseau say anything about this terrorism of Finicum and his friends against the people of Burns? Not a word.

She rather praised him in the highest terms here in the west, calling him a "devout cowboy." The title of her online article was "Oregon occupation spokesman LaVoy Finicum remembered as devout cowboy with a touch of mischief." Yes, that is the term, "a touch of mischief" as if it is nothing at all to come into a place where you have not been invited, start telling people that they have to change their legal system and that officials elected by the local people have to do what these outsiders want. Or Else. Or else they must reckon with the guns carried by these outsiders. This was not just a "touch of mischief," it is domestic terrorism. The guns are threatening. Do what we want or you will be sorry. That's the message of the guns.

These thugs took over a federal facility and used their firearms to threaten federal authority. They should not be glorified. In fact it is outrageous that this article could have been printed, and on the front page in the printed edition with the headline: "Finicum remembered as a constitutional cowboy".

Carli Brosseau should publish a public apology to the people of Oregon for writing something so completely against the wishes of the people most affected, the people of Harney County.

What I particularly objected to was her attribution to Finicum of a halo of religious commitment and constitutionalism associated with the cowboy image. She writes:
Before the services began, some members of the crowd whispered about eagles that had been seen flying near an American flag and an unmarked plane that they called "typical FBI stuff." Dan Black came from Kingman, Arizona. He didn't know Finicum, but is a fellow Mormon. "I just wanted to feel the spirit here," he said. Black said he holds a belief he considers to be in sync with Finicum's: that the U.S. Constitution was inspired by God. "The founders bequeathed principles to us that are eternal," he said.
This is ridiculous sentimentalism, even the eagles fly for Finicum. I cannot believe a reporter would write stuff like this and then leave out the terror caused by Finicum in the minds and hearts of people of all ages in the town of Burns.

Brosseau should have considered this in the The New Republic before writing her article:
Of course, not all Mormons agree with the Bundys’ interpretation of Mormon theology, or their crusade against the United States government. During the 2014 standoff between Cliven Bundy and federal agents in Nevada, Brigham Young University professor Quin Monson labeled the ranchers’ views “far on the fringes” of Mormon practice, and argued that they contravene current doctrine on obedience to secular laws. Fellow Mormon Glenn Beck also criticized Bundy’s interpretation of scripture during the standoff, claiming genuine Mormon practice must be non-violent:
Brosseau has built up an image of a religious cowboy living in a mental fantasy land created from a Mormonism associated with libertarianism. By writing this way Brusseau is thus actually promoting this type of gun-slinging behavior. It is she who will be partly responsible when the next domestic terrorist gets killed for such silly behavior which his Mormon Church, actually, did not condone.

Brosseau misses the fundamental reality about Finicum. He was not even a cowboy living in fantasy land. He was a Mormon extremist. Read this article by Jason Wilson to understand the religious fundamentalism in the Mormon tradition that dominated the mind of Lavoy Finicum. Cowboy fantasy doesn't explain Finicum. A better analogy is the Muslim extremists like ISIS who are engaging in brutal and systemic violence in the Middle East. It is Lavoy Finicum who believes in the power of gun violence to the extent of being willing to die for false beliefs instead of choosing to be responsible to his family.

The people of Burns, Oregon, do not share the Mormon fundamentalism of Finicum and Ammon Bundy and others in the militia movement. The people of Oregon do not share such faith. Carli Brusseau was not telling much truth in the way she wrote her article but rather just trying to prop up the false libertarian beliefs of her bosses. She should learn that for a journalist integrity in telling truth is more important than being obsequious to one's bosses.

But, of course, they were the ones, her editors, who published this badly written, puff piece of a Mormon extremist and domestic terrorist. Oregonians are becoming more and more irritated and outraged at this paper.

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Date Added: 2/7/2016 Date Revised: 2/7/2016 11:31:50 PM

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