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From Victim to Villain, the Cliven Bundy Story

Public perception of Cliven Bundy, especially on social media, steadily and rapidly falling.

Rancher Cliven Bundy speaks at a protest area near Bunkerville, Nev. Wednesday, April 16, 2014. (AP Photo/Las Vegas Review-Journal, John Locher)

Like all other freedom minded Americans, I was initially enraged by the Bureau of Land Management's treatment of a small family ranch about an hour outside of Las Vegas.

Why would a government agency send armed agents, K-9 units, and snipers to enforce restrictions on some cows eating grass on federal land in the middle of nowhere? I didn't know, but like many others running on limited early information, I jumped on the Cliven Bundy bandwagon.

My tweets and Facebook posts were critical of the BLM's heavy-handedness and show of force at what appeared to be nothing more than a civil dispute over grazing fees. I bought into the now disproven theories about Harry Reid wanting the land for a Chinese solar deal, and engaged in the clichés of drug dealers and muggers getting wrist slapped, while this hard-working rancher faced certain death Waco or Ruby Ridge style.

Embattled Bunkerville rancher Cliven Bundy, left, and his son Dave Bundy talk to a reporter on the corner of North Las Vegas Boulevard and East Stewart Avenue in downtown Las Vegas Monday, April 7, 2014. The 37-year-old Dave Bundy was taken into custody by federal agents on Sunday afternoon along state Route 170 near Mesquite. He was released Monday after being issued citations for failing to disperse and resisting arrest. The Bureau of Land Management has begun to round up what they call "trespass cattle" that rancher Cliven Bundy has been grazing in the Gold Butte area 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas.(AP Photo/Las Vegas Review-Journal, K.M. Cannon) AP Photo/Las Vegas Review-Journal, K.M. Cannon Embattled Bunkerville rancher Cliven Bundy, left, and his son Dave Bundy talk to a reporter on the corner of North Las Vegas Boulevard and East Stewart Avenue in downtown Las Vegas Monday, April 7, 2014. The 37-year-old Dave Bundy was taken into custody by federal agents on Sunday afternoon along state Route 170 near Mesquite. He was released Monday after being issued citations for failing to disperse and resisting arrest. The Bureau of Land Management has begun to round up what they call "trespass cattle" that rancher Cliven Bundy has been grazing in the Gold Butte area 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas.(AP Photo/Las Vegas Review-Journal, K.M. Cannon)

How wrong I, and many others were.

As the days and weeks went on, and I began conducting a deeper analysis of the situation, my opinion began to change. With each passing day, Bundy no longer seemed a victim to me.

His main argument was what solidified my opinion of the man. Bundy argued that he did not pay his fees because his family worked that land before the BLM was created, and he did not recognize the authority of the BLM. I immediately recognized this as a fallacy when I looked at it through the lens of my background as a former Police Officer with the New York City Police Department.

By Cliven Bundy's logic, someone whose family had settled in New York City prior to 1845 (the year the NYPD was formed) was free to run red lights with impunity and not recognize the NYPD's authority because their ancestors had used those roads before the red lights or an NYPD to enforce them existed. It was then I realized just how ludicrous Bundy's defense of his actions was.

A supporter of the Bundy family flies the American flag after the Bureau of Land Management agreed to release the Bundy's cattle near Bunkerville, Nev. April 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Las Vegas Review-Journal, Jason Bean) A supporter of the Bundy family flies the American flag after the Bureau of Land Management agreed to release the Bundy's cattle near Bunkerville, Nev. April 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Las Vegas Review-Journal, Jason Bean)

But I'm an objective guy and an ethical analyst, so giving Bundy some benefit of the doubt, I set out to see what other Americans felt about his situation and him as a person. What I found was that Bundy has gone from victim to villain in the eyes of most Americans.

PsyID conducted analyses of social media chatter on the Bundy situation and found an evolution much like my own. Those who were initially supportive of Bundy turned against him as more information became available.

Analyzing #BundyRanch, we initially saw overwhelming support for Bundy and his family, with extreme vitriol directed at the BLM and federal government. Fair minded and rational people saw Bundy as a small family business trying to survive while the big bad federal government was determined to shut him down and kill his cattle in the process. It was a classic David and Goliath story, with America literally praying for David to win.

Cracks began to appear as facts emerged, and Americans realized they were essentially excusing the bad behavior of Bundy because of the worse behavior of the BLM. Many began to feel that the BLM wasn't the one engaging the worse behavior.

#BundyRanch chatter evolved from blind cheerleading for Bundy into common sense debates on the facts.

Range Showdown

Was Bundy in arrears and violation of court orders? Why hadn't he paid grazing fees in 20 years when other ranchers had? Many engaging on Twitter were posting references to federal statutes and other legal decisions on grazing rights and fees that didn't favor Bundy.

One of the most prevalent discussions trending across all social media platforms was the favorable outcome for the Hage family against the abuses of the BLM. Initially this was a boon for Bundy, garnering him support as it appeared a federal judge had already ruled on this issue and Bundy was certain to prevail. However, when those opining read into the Hage case and decision, there was one glaring difference between Hage and Bundy. Hage paid his fees and obtained the proper permits. The BLM lost because Hage had done everything right, but the BLM kept changing the goal post. A federal judge saw the injustice and decided for Hage.

Hage's case actually began to work against Bundy on social media. Bundy became more of a scofflaw trying to ride the coattails of honest fee paying ranchers like Hage, while using the media to evoke sympathy for his refusal to pay the fees.

Then The Militia Came

In mid April, Glenn Beck wrote a piece on Facebook calling for a peaceful resolution to the Bundy situation, and correctly pointed out that there were those showing up at the Bundy ranch looking for a fight. Glenn was criticized in the comments on his Facebook post by those who felt that violence was necessary.

We then conducted analyses for Glenn which proved he was right.

There were small but vocal anti-government factions calling for violence and using the Bundy situation for their own gain. It seemed that they were hoping for an armed conflict with the federal government. At the time, it appeared that Bundy was an unwitting pawn whose primary interest was keeping his cattle safe, and his family business operational.

Supporters prepare to rally for Cliven Bundy at the Bundy ranch near Bunkerville Nev. Monday, April 7, 2014. The Bureau of Land Management has begun to round up what they call "trespass cattle" that rancher Cliven Bundy has been grazing in the Gold Butte area 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Las Vegas Review-Journal, John Locher) AP Photo/Las Vegas Review-Journal, John Locher Supporters prepare to rally for Cliven Bundy at the Bundy ranch near Bunkerville Nev. Monday, April 7, 2014. The Bureau of Land Management has begun to round up what they call "trespass cattle" that rancher Cliven Bundy has been grazing in the Gold Butte area 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Las Vegas Review-Journal, John Locher)

Now that appears to not be the case. With each passing day, and each statement from Bundy, it appears he is the one inviting in the groups advocating violence. Bundy now travels with an armed security detail, and hasn't called for those promoting violence to stand down.

This is not going unnoticed on social media.

Except for that same small anti-government faction, Bundy is no longer perceived as a pure victim. Most find him and the BLM equally at fault. Bundy for not paying the required fees, and the BLM for escalating a situation far beyond the point it ever should have been. Most importantly, the anti-government groups supporting Bundy call for violence and display blatant racism. Calls for the government to shoot illegal aliens of color crossing the border instead of Bundy's cattle are just an example of their chatter.

Most fair-minded intelligent Americans who initially supported Bundy on social media want no part of this. Their exodus from Team Bundy has been swift. Bundy has aligned himself with a toxic element and his public relations are suffering as a result. Combine that with the law not being on his side, and Bundy has gone from victim to villain in a few short weeks.

The last straw for many of Bundy's remaining supporters will most likely be his comments on African-Americans to the New York Times. According to Cliven Bundy:

"I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro...And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom."

Glenn Beck on the radio this morning called for Americans to abandon their support of Cliven Bundy after these statements came to light. I have to agree. Those Americans still supporting Bundy will have to decide for themselves.

TheBlaze contributor channel supports an open discourse on a range of views. The opinions expressed in this channel are solely those of each individual author.

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