In their own words, Ammon Bundy and other co-conspirators have made it clear that the reasons for seizing a government building in a Federal Wildlife Reserve in Oregon involve a significant level of paranoia and a conspiracist worldview. In a press conference aired on FoxNews and posted on Facebook via FoxNews anchor Megan Kelly, Ammon Bundy says the reason for occupying Malheur National Wildlife Reserve is to “restore and defend the Constitution.” These words, when considered critically, expose the levels of confusion, paranoia and hypocrisy inherent in what is only the latest in a long standing feud between the Bundy Family and the rule of law.
What may first come off as a valorous point, a defense of the Constitution, is really a subtext for the much more malignant strain of extremist political thought referred to collectively as the Sovereign Citizen Movement. This movement, with roots in the White Supremacist Movement, has become increasingly prevalent among other extremist groups since the early 2000s. To put it in concise fashion, sovereign citizens do not believe that laws apply to them. A quote from SPLC’s James Timothy Turner further explains:
The contemporary sovereign belief system is based on a decades-old conspiracy theory. At some point in history, sovereigns believe, the American government set up by the founding fathers — with a legal system the sovereigns refer to as “common law” — was secretly replaced by a new government system based on admiralty law, the law of the sea and international commerce. Under common law, or so they believe, the sovereigns would be free men. Under admiralty law, they are slaves, and secret government forces have a vested interest in keeping them that way. Some sovereigns believe this perfidious change occurred during the Civil War, while others blame the events of 1933, when the U.S. abandoned the gold standard.
When Ammon Bundy claims that he will “restore and defend the Constitution” he is hearkening back to the conspiracy theory that says that the Constitution has been secretly circumvented, a hallmark of the Sovereign Citizen Movement. Another hallmark of SCM is psuedo-political double-speak often meant to seem legitimate while still thoroughly unaware of the current interpretation of the law; one prime example of this is Ammon’s brother, Ryan Bundy, explaining how U.S. States are really independent sovereign nations (in the video below).
For More Information on Sovereign Citizen Movement Rhetoric: