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#YallQueda - Twitter Turns Mockingbird on Oregon Madness

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In what is already surely one of the most bizarre stories of 2016, the Malheur National Wildlife Reserve in Oregon is currently inaccessible to the public. Why, you ask? Well, because it's currently being partially occupied by armed, self-proclaimed militia. 'Say what', you muse? I'm afraid the motivation is no less confusing than the action, it's an act of protest against the imprisonment of 73-year-old Dwight Hammond Jr and his son, Steven. They were both sentenced to 5 years in prison on an arson charge after setting two fires that spread into federal territory.


Is that an unfair sentencing, particularly for a 73-year-old? Perhaps, a big factor in the argument seems to be that the federal government in Oregon are abusing their power. It's clearly a sensitive issue among the locals, as a few members of the neighboring Bundy family took it upon themselves to arm up, rope in some supporters and have since declared that they will not leave the wildlife park until the sentence is revisited and certain laws are reconsidered. The Hammonds, funnily enough, don't want anything to do with this, but over the course of the past few days it's ballooned into a full-blown standoff.


Local reporters have only been allowed to get within a certain distance of the refuge, but it appears that the few dozen occupiers are taking up most of their time putting American flags on things and wandering around the perimeter with their big guns on display. Naturally, social media has become a huge factor in this ongoing story, but not quite in the way you might think.


One of the most contentious issues is the media coverage, as many people, especially on Twitter, have accused news outlets of soft-serving the story. ABC News was the top target in this respect, summarising the standoff as a 'peaceful protest'. Given how ABC and many other outlets were more than happy to characterise the protests in Baltimore and Ferguson as 'riots' as soon as the term became even remotely applicable, this made a lot of people very unhappy.


The other comparison that the news appear to be shying away from is terrorism, mirroring the reluctance to describe the Charleston shooter as a terrorist because, as many suggested, he was white. Accordingly, Twitter has gone on the offensive, using the #YallQueda and #VanillaISIS hashtags as banners. The tweets range from humorous to biting to everything in between, but almost uniformly maintaining focus on the fact that this situation is being unfairly reported and represented, and that white privilege has a lot to do with that.


Even Bernie Sanders has gotten in on the act, sharing an image that compared the occupation to Tamir Rice, who was shot by police whilst standing in a local park holding a toy gun. However this occupation, or whatever you want to call it, turns out, it won't reflect well on the media, as this has became yet another example of their reluctance to apply to same rhetoric to violent white people as to others.



Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF


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#YallQueda - Twitter Turns Mockingbird on Oregon Madness Reviewed by Callum Davies on Thursday, January 07, 2016 Rating: 5

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