When Cliven Bundy and some of his followers staged a public-lands standoff against federal agents back in 2014, they were already power users on several social media platforms. While militia groups have often utilized chat rooms and newsletters for outreach, they are now harnessing the instant power of social media to spread their message. This is done in four ways.
Although social media has been around for over a decade, livestreaming is a relatively new addition. Facebook Live made it possible for anyone to report anything at any time. The Bundy trial is being largely ignored by mainstream media outlets, leaving the door open for independent reporting by members of the group. Andrea Olson-Parker, who is married to one of the men on trial, recites court proceedings mixed in with her own comments at the end of each day.
The Bundys, along with many other militia groups, do not trust politicians, the court system and the mainstream media. Using social media to get their message out allows them to bypass traditional outlets and connect instantly with other activists. A person close the Bundy clan, Shauna Cox, said that it is important to get information from someone you know and trust because that is what people will believe and follow. She added that social media is a powerful tool for recruitment.
More and more of those who identify as right wing claim to not trust the media. The Bundy situation proves there is a big information divide, and the chasm may be even larger than the one over politics. University of Nevada, Las Vegas student Erika Schumacher said that in the current climate, no one trusts anyone else, and people are more likely to believe the words of someone they can identify with. Schumacher was working with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) when the Bundy standoff took place. While the militia was getting its message heard via social media, the BLM spoke only to the mainstream media. She said because of that disconnect, they never got ahead of the situation, which she found frustrating.
Several wives of the men on trial have used social media to send emotional appeals to their followers. The messages have mainly focused on family life with one wife reading a letter she wrote in the Secretary of the Interior. While the Bundy family and others consider themselves protectors of the Constitution, others view their social media tactics as propaganda. What is clear is that they are not happy with the status quo and seek to change it any way they can.
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